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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013


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How odd it would be for a villager here, in the foothills of the Himalayas, to one day be called upon to provide a bed and serve meals to a group of American tourists who look and act so foreign. Nestled in the slopes of jagged mountains here in Yunnan Province, Bangdong Village is a remote mystery made up of people who speak their own dialect of Chinese and rarely travel further than a three hours walk. Houses are scattered across man-made terraces and gardens. Residents are almost completely self-sufficient with their land, working in the rice and tea fields daily to put food on their plates. Most residents here have never even seen the closest city (Lincang) which is three hours away by car. Instead of hundreds of cars rushing by every minute on the closest thing here to a street, there is one car or motorcycle every couple of hours. The predominant sounds of this village are wind, small  mountain streams, donkey calls, and the sounds of bells jangling around the necks of cows. Life is quiet and simple. 
 
And yet, we westerners show up in this village one evening and have the expectation to come in and live this basic lifestyle. We study the Chinese language, we make an effort to involve ourselves with the families as much as possible, and we are concious to present ourselves in a culturally appropriate way. And in doing so, our interactions become moments that touch us and bring our two very opposite cultures together. Each person, Chinese or not,  recognizes the sweetness of a smile, the glee each person gets from laughing, the silliness  and outgoingness it takes to try and act out the words we don't know how to say. In this homestay and all other homestays on this trip, I realize it really doesn't matter if my squat toilet is made up of nothing more than wooden planks lined up over a dirt hole or my shower is simply bucket water from the river. What matters is the mutual discovery that friendships can be formed in some of the most difficult of circumstances, and what we think of as an uncomfortable situation can easily be looked at in a different light. Through these experiences, we establish a global understanding that humanity  is interconnected. We can view our new friends here the same way that we can view our friends from home:  with joy and kindness and respect and compassion. 
We have one more day in this villlage, leaving people that I may never see again, but I walk forward in comfort because I know that our simple movements here in this village have touched people's lives. The same way that they have touched mine.
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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Our Last Homestay

Elise Emil,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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How odd it would be for a villager here, in the foothills of the Himalayas, to one day be called upon to provide a bed and serve meals to a group of American tourists who look and act so foreign. Nestled in the slopes of jagged mountains here in Yunnan Province, Bangdong Village is a […]

Posted On

04/28/13

Author

Elise Emil

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For 50 days since my last yak, the I team has wanted me to post another one.  With only 13 days left in the course, Here it is!

 

China Stuff! Homestay :), trek:(, etc.

 

Done! Enjoy!

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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A Yak As Requested

JAWS,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

For 50 days since my last yak, the I team has wanted me to post another one.  With only 13 days left in the course, Here it is!   China Stuff! Homestay :), trek:(, etc.   Done! Enjoy!

Posted On

04/28/13

Author

JAWS

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If you find yourself overlooking terraced mountain sides surrounded by tea trees and swirling clouds that paint the fresh blue sky breathtaking shapes of white and grey while standing on a basketball court shooting hoops with screaming children, your probably in Bong Dang village. Our third and final home stay was the shortest of them all but no less amazing by any means. On the contrary the view from my out house while moving my bowels in the morning could compete with any on this trip. Personal bias thrown in because I'm a sucker for mountains and cool fresh air. Albeit I'm from Texas and conditioned for the heat it is always nice to put on the jacket I've been lugging around or 3 months that has just been screaming to be used. My family makes tea, we drank tea, then some more tea, and then my sister got Chicken pox and Neal and I had to leave. Sad but I hear chicken pox is a serious matter when older than ten and apparently it's a different strand over here so I didn't argue much.  

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Third and final

Henry Manning,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

If you find yourself overlooking terraced mountain sides surrounded by tea trees and swirling clouds that paint the fresh blue sky breathtaking shapes of white and grey while standing on a basketball court shooting hoops with screaming children, your probably in Bong Dang village. Our third and final home stay was the shortest of them […]

Posted On

04/28/13

Author

Henry Manning

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It's hard to say goodbye to someone who doesn't know I exist, someone who has made such an impact on my life yet doesn't care one way or another whether I was there.  Someone who has pushed me along my journey, led the way through uncertainty, made me smile when I was sad, introduced me to some of the people I love most and carried me home so many times.  What do I say to that person when it's my last chance to be with her, if not forever then at the very least for a long while?  How do I express my gratitude when she rushes by me, going about her daily routine, being the force of nature that I know her as?  How can I get her to understand all that she has done for me and all that she means to me? 
I had my last conversation with Mother Mekong yesterday afternoon.  Standing knee deep in her frigid, rushing waters, I was lost.  She was my guiding force for so long, paving the way for me in these overwhelming, emotianally exhausting lands.  She helped me keep my feet on the ground, in her waters.  I didn't know how to part ways with her.  I couldn't simply turn my back on her after all she had done for me.  I had to take her with me, one way or another.  I needed a reminder of the lessons that she and the people along her banks taught me these last few months.  I wanted to keep her churning waters within me, in my heart and mind, even when we are a world apart.  I pulled my hair out of its ponytail and plunged my head into the current.  What better way to encapsulate the lessons she taught me than by bathing my mind in her one more time?  "'If there is magic in this world, it is in water,'" Marguerite said to us on the banks as the group spent a few last minutes remembering our mother river together.  In that one moment, my head engulfed in the frigidity, I soaked up the magic.  I sent every thought I had to the river, thanking her and letting her know I would never forget every moment I shared with her.  How grateful I am for her, and how I will forever fight to protect her.  To protect my river.  But she is not my river.  She protected me throughout my journey, looked after me as a mother does, pushed me through challenges like only a mother can.  She carried me through as no one else could.  I am hers, and forever will be.   
"To stick your hands into the river is to feel the cords that bind the earth together in one piece."
-Barry Lopez
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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Water, Magic

Katherine Krey,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who doesn’t know I exist, someone who has made such an impact on my life yet doesn’t care one way or another whether I was there.  Someone who has pushed me along my journey, led the way through uncertainty, made me smile when I was sad, introduced me […]

Posted On

04/28/13

Author

Katherine Krey

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Since coming to Bandong Village, everything has become clearer. The day of our arrival, my lungs gulped in waves of the crisp mountain air, cleansing every passage in my chest and filling my head with the smell of pine and tea leaves drying in the breeze. After my roommates and I settled into our small farm house atop one of the many hills that compose this village, we joined a few others on the roof of our pig pen to watch the setting sun smudge pinks, oranges, and purples across the faded blue sky above us. The view from this concrete slab reaches far beyond the village below, and grabs at the surrounding mountains like a greedy child reaching hungrily past the sprawling peaks, all the way to the edges of Tibet. On our third day in the village, we ventured down to once again join our Mother Mekong, which is not even visible from where our homes sit proudly above the clouds. The water was stunning, and clearer than I've ever seen in throughout our three months here in Southeast Asia. The strong current tugged at its smooth surface, sending rapid ripples of transparent blue across the hundreds of colored stones that covered the earthy soil. I can't help thinking that this fresh mountain air and glossy, halcyon water of our Mekong have together cleared my mind as well. When Marguerite prompted us to reflect on those we've met along our journey on the Mekong and what they have taught us in our time with them, I noticed how focused and sharp my thoughts were; it was so easy for me to access my memories of those we've met - Mara, Som, my Laos host mother, and the myriad others who have taught me so many lessons. Placing my leaf in the water, symbolizing my many thanks to those who've changed my life in the past three months, I could hear my thoughts echoing off the sleek surface of water pulsing around my ankles. Thank you for showing me how to love with more of myself. Thank you for welcoming me, and treating me as one of your own. Thank you for showing me how to live with joy, and to spread that joy to others. Thank you for teaching me to never be frugal with love or kindness, for it is never limited.

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Best Notes From The Field, Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Clarity

Louisa Kane,Best Notes From The Field, Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Since coming to Bandong Village, everything has become clearer. The day of our arrival, my lungs gulped in waves of the crisp mountain air, cleansing every passage in my chest and filling my head with the smell of pine and tea leaves drying in the breeze. After my roommates and I settled into our small […]

Posted On

04/28/13

Author

Louisa Kane

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Five Photos From the Last Five Days

William Maas,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Posted On

04/28/13

Author

William Maas

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If you would ever like to come visit me at my village home, I have prepared some directions for you to follow. After you drive approximately 3 hours out of Lin Cang, past the wild mountain views and row after row of terraces adorned with tea trees, you will arrive at Bang Dong Village. After following the windy road through the first part of the village, you will arrive at a basketball court. Walk along the road to the right of the bamboo bench. Listen for the clanging of cow bells before proceeding around the corner (the road is used by waterbuffalo, goats and cattle). As you make your way down the uneven dirt road, there will be a graveyard to your left and a beautiful mountain view on your right. Keep your eye out for a dead cactus on the right side of the road and turn right directly after it. Make your way down the steep narrow path and turn right when the trail comes to an end. Leap over the puddle, walk past the garden and carefully make your way through the cluster of little chicks pecking on the ground. You've made it to my village home! Now come sit, sip on tea, and let your worries slip away. 

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Address to my Village Home

Sarah England,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

If you would ever like to come visit me at my village home, I have prepared some directions for you to follow. After you drive approximately 3 hours out of Lin Cang, past the wild mountain views and row after row of terraces adorned with tea trees, you will arrive at Bang Dong Village. After […]

Posted On

04/28/13

Author

Sarah England

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Ni Hao Family and Friends,
 
We wanted to give you a quick update on our itinerary.  We are now living in the beautiful rural village of Bang Dong.  Surrounded by rice fields in the foothills of the Himalayas with our mighty Mekong surgiging in the valley below us! 
 
Now - April 27th: Bang Dong Village stay
April 28, 29: Dali
April 30th - May 3rd: Trekking near Dali
May 4th - May 8th: Transference in Shaxi
May 9th - May 12th: Finishing up in Kunming
 
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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Itinerary For China

Mekong Sages,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Ni Hao Family and Friends,   We wanted to give you a quick update on our itinerary.  We are now living in the beautiful rural village of Bang Dong.  Surrounded by rice fields in the foothills of the Himalayas with our mighty Mekong surgiging in the valley below us!    Now – April 27th: Bang […]

Posted On

04/24/13

Author

Mekong Sages

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Dear Parents,
We're all still alive. With the important news out of the way I guess I should enlighten ya'll about the next leg of the journey. For the past few days we have been residing in the lovely city of Jinghong, learning the lingo and getting use to chinese living. The food is amazing and the people are extremely welcoming, except when they're trying to push you out of the way in the bowzi (bread buns filled with different things) line, but as we have learned it's all part of the colorful chinese culture. To be honest I love the fact that boxing out commplete strangers in the name of expedience is an acceptable thing but I digress. This next leg will be our third and final x phase ( a student planned and lead trip through foriegn countries without driving our I team completely insane). We're leaving Jinghong on the 22nd for Lincang, only staying there for the one night becasue we start a homestay in a small village called Bangdong on the 23rd. I will walk you through a typical village day. There will be a service project and hike in here somewhere but I'll give you the "regular" schedule.
9:00 AM-9:30 AM Check in
9:30 AM-10:30 AM Language
10:30 AM-11:30 AM Student Lead Lesson
11:30 AM- 3:00 PM Lunch Break/Nap time/What ever floats you boat students or Instructors 
3:00 PM-4:00 PM Physical Activity/probably Yoga!
5:00 PM -7:30 PM Dinner Time/ Your Children should be bathing
7:30 PM -8:30 PM Life Story(does not happen everynight)
After=Sleep 
So a typical life day in our small village, if your not jealous of your children there's something wrong with you. Anyway we're in the village until the morning of the 28th, from Bangdong we travel to Dali where we'll spend two nights as we organize our 4 day trek through the foothills of the Hymalayas!  Our trek will end on the 3rd of May, we will sleep in Dali for one more night, from Dali we will move to Shaxi on the 4th. Thanks for listening, your Humble Servant/ Hand of the King.
 
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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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X Phase

Henry Manning,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Dear Parents, We’re all still alive. With the important news out of the way I guess I should enlighten ya’ll about the next leg of the journey. For the past few days we have been residing in the lovely city of Jinghong, learning the lingo and getting use to chinese living. The food is amazing […]

Posted On

04/21/13

Author

Henry Manning

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    [post_date] => 2013-04-20 00:00:00
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-04-20 06:00:00
    [post_content] => 

Ni Hao Everybody,

 

We wanted to let you all know that the very devistating earthquake that hit China yesterday was not near us.  The Mekong Crew is safe and sound in Jonghong.  The quake was in the province of Sichuan near Ya'an, a long ways away from us and no where near where we will venture.

 

We are sending love to all those affected and hope that rescure efforts are organized and underway.  

 

Much love,

Team Mekong 

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Earthquake Not Near Us

Hillary Sites,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Ni Hao Everybody,   We wanted to let you all know that the very devistating earthquake that hit China yesterday was not near us.  The Mekong Crew is safe and sound in Jonghong.  The quake was in the province of Sichuan near Ya’an, a long ways away from us and no where near where we […]

Posted On

04/20/13

Author

Hillary Sites

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