Photo of the Week
China Semester, Spring 2014
Photo Title


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    [post_content] => Just a little something that I put together during transference. I'll keep it short just so you get the idea.

On the thirteenth week of Dragons my instructor gave to me:

Thirteen weeks in total,

Twelve animal zodiacs,

Eleven random strangers,

Ten quai for food,

Nine core values,

Eight Chinese trigrams,

Seven weeks of travel,

Six drivers driving,

Five pillars of Islam,

Four noble truths,

Three hour discussions,

Two awesome guides,

And far too many activities.
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China Semester, Spring 2014

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Thirteen Weeks of Dragons

Oliver T. Urbanowicz,China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Just a little something that I put together during transference. I’ll keep it short just so you get the idea. On the thirteenth week of Dragons my instructor gave to me: Thirteen weeks in total, Twelve animal zodiacs, Eleven random strangers, Ten quai for food, Nine core values, Eight Chinese trigrams, Seven weeks of travel, […]

Posted On

05/11/14

Author

Oliver T. Urbanowicz

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    [post_content] => The dusty winds from the northwest blow sporadically through the city of Beijing. They pass over ancient monuments and modern skyscrapers alike, and bite through the clothes of the legions of a growing population. With force they hit the alleys, the vast hutongs of Beijing, picking up more speed and more dust before exiting towards what I can only imagine is the open ocean. It is these winds that drive some people in to the hostel in which we are staying and others to the yellow street-lamp lit seats outside.

The Leo Hostel rests on one of these narrow alleys, coming off a six lane road. About half way down, and surrounded by squat, one-story, concrete buildings smashed together and broken only by other, even smaller, alleys, the hostel is a beautiful structure that radiates warmth and Western music, drawing travelers from all over like the proverbial moths to the flame. Although it has only two floors, it is a library for countless stories whose testimonies are written on the walls in chalk. These stories are collected there, held shortly, then are released back into the world along the different paths of its temporary residents.

As our journey comes to a close and we make our final preparations and purchases for the return home, I can wish for no better place at which to simply be, and no better starting point for all the winds and stories that lie ahead.
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China Semester, Spring 2014

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What the Wind brought

Oliver T. Urbanpwicz,China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

The dusty winds from the northwest blow sporadically through the city of Beijing. They pass over ancient monuments and modern skyscrapers alike, and bite through the clothes of the legions of a growing population. With force they hit the alleys, the vast hutongs of Beijing, picking up more speed and more dust before exiting towards […]

Posted On

05/11/14

Author

Oliver T. Urbanpwicz

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    [post_date] => 2014-05-11 07:52:05
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There is a beautiful, steady rain falling in Beijing today. The hutongs (alleyways) are slightly flooded, the rain creating rings in the surface, the light is a dull blue - making everything feel quite surreal.
Our Spring group, your children and loved ones have now boarded the plane and are returning to you, to the next chapter of this journey. These students are returning to both coasts, one off  to Japan another to Australia. Some of them are just having a quick sojourn at home, only to leave again on another adventure; Hong Kong, Hawaii, Mexico.
They are excited to return and we are honored to know each of them, to watch and wonder, 'where will they go next? What will they do?
China has been so very much. A great myriad, a swinging pendulum of sights and experiences. Slowly, it will take shape in each of us.
Thank you for an amazing three months.
希望大家安全到家,睡上一觉,等醒来之后好好和家人和朋友聊聊在中国的三个月。我相信大家都会受益匪浅。
Zhu hao, 祝好
Amy, Parker and Rebecca
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Xie Xie, Zai Jian – students on their flight

Rebecca, Parker and Amy,China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

There is a beautiful, steady rain falling in Beijing today. The hutongs (alleyways) are slightly flooded, the rain creating rings in the surface, the light is a dull blue – making everything feel quite surreal. Our Spring group, your children and loved ones have now boarded the plane and are returning to you, to the […]

Posted On

05/11/14

Author

Rebecca, Parker and Amy

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    [post_content] => “A big country, the High Plains. It’s the kind of place that can make a man feel small, which is the way a man should feel when his roof is the sky. But to be small out there is not to be insignificant. For some, it is to possess the intuitive inability to see oneself in scale – a gift so often denied those who dwell under conventional roofs in the city of man.”  – from an out of print Sierra Club book America’s High Plains

The plains are one of my spiritual landscapes. I spend a lot of time in South Dakota, where, in the right light and wind, the grasslands still take on the look of the sea. The expanse, the way the earth cedes to the sky in a perfect distinct horizon give me the feeling of an open air cathedral, a world without limits, a sense of my finite nature.

A cowboy near the badlands once asked me how much I think it costs to make a collect call to God. I studied his easy regard. “Free,” he said, “This is God’s Country.” I told him I understood, that the landscape opened my heart right up.

Well, if China has a heartland, we found it. First in Qinghai province, on the Tibetan plateau, where plains in every direction give way to reverent mountains that, moving south and west, turn into the Himalayas. When we arrived by bus in very ashen industrial city an hour from our village homestay, we couldn’t yet have fathomed the pristine nature of the plains. Driving outside the city in small cars, listening to Tibetan tunes, I felt completely and suddenly at home; expanse, grass, horses and horned sheep grazing, sky, sky, sky. China had taken me aback once again.

We were welcomed into our hosts beautiful home behind walls. It was traditional Tibetan style, similar to the North American Indian’s longhouse but each home with a windowed face, a glass conservatory as foyer. A formal sitting room awaited us, with sweet Yak tea, little plates of sweets and baskets of fresh breads. The kitchen was intimate, warm, womblike, with Yak dung pellets feeding two stoves. The surrounding village was earthen brown, with the occasional structure, something like a May pole, covered in prayer flags, pointing heavenward. As I took an evening stroll I felt the privileged sense of being at once at home and a guest. We had just camped three nights with our Tibetan guide, Gonku, and after hearing his stories, suddenly the Tibet / China narrative not only had a pulse, but was breathing, windswept and as complex as any one of us with a face. The landscape of the plains and the warmth of the kitchen and our hosts had me quickly falling in love with this place – and this was all before dinner. It is such a gift to be offered the impression of home while on the road, and in my case, with only the language of my humanity to communicate.

The next day we walked an hour outside of town to a Tibetan horse derby, where several of the local villages had brought their best stallions to race. The horses were wrapped in colourful fabrics and adorned with ornate headdresses and saddles. Here, in Tibetan cowboy country, we were just as entertaining to the throngs of strong-jawed men as they were to us. There were so many elements of this scene that again brought me back to the Dakota plains. The horse culture, faces, colours and hairstyles all felt evocative of the Lakota Sioux. In history too, their stories have similar through lines – nomadic roots, the revered Yak and our American bison, occupation, exchange, colonization, the clash between living in harmony with the natural world and the push for development; the confusion of not knowing how to strike a balance between those two in the 21st century.
As we sat together on the grasses, watching the horses and people, playing with the children, their story felt closer than ever.

Our host, a Tibetan aunty with two long grey braids that connect at her mid-back filled up my soup bowl four times that night. I ate it all and didn’t want to leave the warmth of the kitchen or wash off the smell of horses and feeling of being sun kissed at 10,000 feet. A landscape and political story that had once been for me as simple as ‘Free Tibet,’ was building in context; a complex relationship with China that goes back 1500 years, multiple provinces and visions, a disconnect between the idea of development and its effects on lives and land, the taste of Yak butter and meat, prayer flags in the wind, a deep spiritual practice, the Tibetan plateau, and sky, sky, sky. Without the distinct voices of the people we met along the way my understanding would have remained simplistic, now, because of sharing fire-cooked meat and listening closely, my understanding of this region of China was developing around and inside me.

When we left the Tibetan plateau after a few days, I felt the same way that I usually feel when I depart from South Dakota – with an open heart and a lot of questions. I want to know why more people don’t know the present and historical realities of our heartland? What does it mean to be developed? When can I return? We hear a curated version of history in our classrooms; we romanticize the traditions of Native Americans and Tibetans, we try to keep it simple. But it’s not that easy. We’re all human, and made up of elaborate interwoven threads of ancestry, nationhood, belief and our own unique life path. It takes knowing someone, looking into their eyes and listening, to even begin to glean the story. And the landscape, like the history, is seasonal and harsh; there are countless sides and dimensions to the narrative. The grasslands call me back again and again. There might not be answers in God’s country, but out there under the big sky my questions have a clearer ring, and I remember how much I still have to learn.
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Home on the Plains

Rebecca Thom,Picture of the Week, China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

“A big country, the High Plains. It’s the kind of place that can make a man feel small, which is the way a man should feel when his roof is the sky. But to be small out there is not to be insignificant. For some, it is to possess the intuitive inability to see oneself […]

Posted On

05/7/14

Author

Rebecca Thom

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    [post_date] => 2014-05-05 11:34:35
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    [post_content] => I remember when I was first considering coming on this trip, I read everything I could possibly find on the Dragons website. I read pages describing this trip and other trips, but perhaps most informative was the yak board. To see what other students said when they were in the experience was invaluable. After deciding to come, as the time crept closer, I kept checking the yak board in the hopes that I might be able to start the experience early by reading more about it. Because some posts were at the top of the list, I happened to read them more in a somewhat desperate attempt to get more insight into the epic experience I was about to embark upon.

Now, I realize, having spent almost 3 months in China, this post might be among the last few posts, and therefore, the first few posts a prospective Dragons student might see.

In many ways, this trip has come full circle. What were once indicative of beginnings, like being in an airport for instance, now indicate that the trip is drawing to a close.

I remember orientation like it was yesterday. Yet we've all learned and have grown so much in the past 3 months that it almost doesn't make sense that it's only been that short amount of time.

But perhaps that airport isn't so much of an ending. When one door closes, another one opens. Perhaps it isn't that the trip is ending - everything else is just beginning.
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China Semester, Spring 2014

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Full Circle

James Robinson,China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

I remember when I was first considering coming on this trip, I read everything I could possibly find on the Dragons website. I read pages describing this trip and other trips, but perhaps most informative was the yak board. To see what other students said when they were in the experience was invaluable. After deciding […]

Posted On

05/5/14

Author

James Robinson

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    [post_date] => 2014-05-05 11:33:34
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    [post_content] => 
As we hiked up the holy mountain, the only thing in greater abundance than the prayer flags were small, square pieces of paper. “What are these?” we asked our guide. “Wind horses,” he explained. Each had prayers printed on it in Tibetan and a “wind horse” drawn in the center. After finally reaching the summit, we caught our breath, noticing the incense smell from a furnace-like incense burner. The silence was pierced by a loud cry. Turning, we watched in awe as our guide threw wind horses into the air. The strong mountain wind carried the bits of paper (and our prayers) up into the sky. We had been camping in for only two nights, but as I’ve learned to expect and look forward to, only a couple more nights brought a host of new experiences. We picked up camp (literally) and moved to a rural Tibetan homestay. As if the experience wasn’t interesting enough already, we happened to arrive at a very opportune time. The next day would bring one of the village’s few horse races held each year. That morning, we ate breakfast and set off for the races. The scene there was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Against one of the most beautiful landscapes I’d ever seen, hundreds of Tibetan men gathered to socialize, race their horses, and bet on the outcome. China isn’t really known for its abundance of freedom, but that day watching people race horses bareback conveyed one of the strongest feelings of boundless freedom I’ve ever seen. On a completely flat landscape (aside from the equally beautiful snow-covered mountains in the distance), the horses raced 2.5 kilometers in a straight line. Since our first steps among the hills outside Kunming, we’ve been running head first into new experiences and new challenges. According to Chinese tradition, horses bring good fortune, new things, and a spirit of adventure. This is the year of the horse. Though we head closer and closer to the end of our time in China, I think our time of adventure and good fortune is just beginning. [post_title] => Wind Horses [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wind-horses-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-03 10:16:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-03 17:16:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://wheretherebedragons.com/?p=100494 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 30 [name] => Picture of the Week [slug] => picture-of-the-week [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 30 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 483 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 1 [cat_ID] => 30 [category_count] => 483 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Picture of the Week [category_nicename] => picture-of-the-week [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/picture-of-the-week/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 187 [name] => China Semester, Spring 2014 [slug] => china-semester-spring-2014 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 187 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 238 [count] => 83 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9.1 [cat_ID] => 187 [category_count] => 83 [category_description] => [cat_name] => China Semester, Spring 2014 [category_nicename] => china-semester-spring-2014 [category_parent] => 238 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/spring-2014/china-semester-spring-2014/ ) ) [category_links] => Picture of the Week, China Semester, Spring 2014 )
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Wind Horses

James Robinson,Picture of the Week, China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

As we hiked up the holy mountain, the only thing in greater abundance than the prayer flags were small, square pieces of paper. “What are these?” we asked our guide. “Wind horses,” he explained. Each had prayers printed on it in Tibetan and a “wind horse” drawn in the center. After finally reaching the summit, […]

Posted On

05/5/14

Author

James Robinson

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-30 16:10:03
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-30 22:10:03
    [post_content] => This is just a quick update from a little place in Hailaer.  We made it all safely off the 18 hour and 39 hour train rides.  Our final 29 hour train ride begins on May 1st at 3pm.  We spent four days in Hohhot wandering around the city exploring temples and a wonderful free museum!  As an evening night of fun we all splurged to see Captain America: Winter Soldier, in 3d, in English!  It was quite fun.  On the 26th we celebrated Parker's birthday (one of our instructors!!)  Yesterday we spent the day in the grasslands exploring and eating lamb.  Today is a bit slower in preparation for the train ride to Beijing tomorrow.  As expedition draws to a close, we are all tired and looking forward to a few days in Beijing before transference begins.

It's sad to know that only 10/11 days remain in our 3 months adventure through China.

Yak to you soon! (hopefully others will as well :) )

Kira
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China Semester, Spring 2014

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update on expedition

Kira Schubot,China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

This is just a quick update from a little place in Hailaer.  We made it all safely off the 18 hour and 39 hour train rides.  Our final 29 hour train ride begins on May 1st at 3pm.  We spent four days in Hohhot wandering around the city exploring temples and a wonderful free museum! […]

Posted On

04/30/14

Author

Kira Schubot

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-22 10:43:56
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    [post_content] => Hey everyone!

We are now 10 weeks into our course and expedition begins on 4/22/2014!  Our last few days have been spent in Dunhuang and we will start our x-phase in ZhangYe

4/22 - We arrive in Zhangye around 2am before departing to Alashanyouqi for the giant sand dunes.

4/23 - We will spend the night near the sand dunes and another morning exploring the area.

4/24 - We take an 18 hour train ride from Zhangye to Hohhot.

4/25 - 2am arrival in Hohhot.

4/26 - Day in Hohhot.

4/27 - We take a 38 hour train ride from Hohhot to Hairlar at 9:20pm!

4/28 - We're still on the train.

4/29 - We arrive in Hairlar and spend the next few days exploring the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

5/1 - We will take a 29 hour train ride from Hairlar to Beijing.  We arrive in Beijing at 9pm China time.

 

The Instructors have said that this expedition is the most ambitious one they've ever heard.  We will be going to Inner Mongolia - a place no recent China Dragons trip has explored in depth before.  Talk to you all on the flip side!

Kira
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China Semester, Spring 2014

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Expedition begins!

Kira Schubot,China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Hey everyone! We are now 10 weeks into our course and expedition begins on 4/22/2014!  Our last few days have been spent in Dunhuang and we will start our x-phase in ZhangYe 4/22 – We arrive in Zhangye around 2am before departing to Alashanyouqi for the giant sand dunes. 4/23 – We will spend the […]

Posted On

04/22/14

Author

Kira Schubot

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View post

Play Date

Alexa Boghosian,Picture of the Week, China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Rebecca and her new friend playing at the horse races

Posted On

04/22/14

Author

Alexa Boghosian

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Finish Line

Alexa Boghosian,Picture of the Week, China Semester, Spring 2014

Description

A rider crosses the finish line of the 2 km race.  Gongku (our guide) and I bet on horse 13, considered a lucky number by Tibetans, and won 90 kuai each!

Posted On

04/22/14

Author

Alexa Boghosian

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