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Following is a sample itinerary for Dragons' “Silk Road: Linking People and Traditions” summer program. Our sample itineraries are based on past courses; in order to meet instructor team goals, as well as the goals and interests of particular student groups, itineraries are subject to change. Please keep an eye on the course's Yak board for additional itinerary-related postings and updates.

Week One:
Orientation in L.A. Fly to Beijing; catch a connecting flight to the fabled Silk Road oasis of Kashgar in China’s northwesterly Xinjiang Province. Visit Kashgar’s open-air Sunday Bazaar, where for centuries traders from all across Central Asia have gathered to buy and sell silk, carpets, medicine, spices and livestock; learn about Islam and Muslim culture while marveling at Id Kah Mosque; lose yourself in the narrow, winding alleyways of Kashgar’s traditional “old town” neighborhoods; visit silk, carpet, and musical instrument workshops; dine at the former British and Russian consulates and learn about the role that foreigners have played in the political history of Xinjiang; attend classes on a variety of topics, including Uyghur language and culture, Chinese and Central Asian history, development issues, traditional medicine, and environmental issues; explore conceptions of race and national identity; attend performances of traditional Uyghur music and dance. Decide on Independent Study Project topics and begin work.

Week Two:
Rugged travel and trekking along the Karakoram Highway. Hike glaciated valleys and mountains of the Pamir range, using camels as pack animals; camp amid small herding communities at the base of sacred Mt. Muztagh-Ata; join Kyrgyz nomads in their yurts for a feast of homemade bread, handmade spicy noodles and fresh yak milk. Travel deeper to Tashkorgan, the last Chinese outpost along the Karakoram Highway before Pakistan; explore ethnic Tajik culture and ruins of ancient forts; return to Kashgar.

Week Three:
Home-stays, ancient ruins and desert oases. Travel by train from Kashgar to Turpan an oasis on the edge of the vast Taklamakan Desert. In Turpan, visit the 2000 year-old ruins of the ancient Buddhist city of Jiaohe; begin study of Buddhist philosophy, history, and art. Visit the elegant Emin Minaret; further exploration of Islamic culture. Make friends and sample local delicacies at Turpan’s lively night market. Enjoy home-stays in a traditional Uyghur village just outside of Turpan. Experience the joys and hardships of village life while harvesting melons and grapes; learning to make traditional Uyghur dishes such as samsa and lamian and sleeping out under the stars to escape the searing desert heat; visit the Tuyoq Mazaar, an important Muslim pilgrimage site.

Weeks Four and Five:
Tibetan communities and Buddhism. Travel by train to Dunhuang, Gansu. Marvel at the stunning Mogao Caves, the largest repository of Buddhist art in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; camp out amongst towering sand dunes. Climb from the deserts of Gansu to the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai Province. Enter Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures and enjoy home-stays with Tibetan families; trek and camp amongst Himalayan peaks; visit a major Buddhist monastery and continue study of Buddhism and ethnic minority issues; collaborate with local development workers on a small service project; teach English at a local school; explore China’s tumultuous relationship with its ethnic minority populations.

Week Six:
Return to Beijing. Marvel at architectural wonders such as the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, traditional hutong neighborhoods, and Olympic Village sites. Hike and camp along a remote section of the Great Wall. Enjoy feasts of Peking duck and Mongolian hotpot. Final banquet, Independent Study Project presentations, and end-of-program celebration.

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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Silk Road: Sample Itinerary

Dragons Administration,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

Following is a sample itinerary for Dragons’ “Silk Road: Linking People and Traditions” summer program. Our sample itineraries are based on past courses; in order to meet instructor team goals, as well as the goals and interests of particular student groups, itineraries are subject to change. Please keep an eye on the course’s Yak board […]

Posted On

10/15/08

Author

Dragons Administration

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As I parted ways with all of you either in front of a residential Beijing night sky or the florescent lights of an Olympic T3 airport, there was a distinct churning of bitter and sweet. The end was a fast forward button one of us accidentally sat on and here we are, our final group split, and I wonder what you are experiencing in your individual realities as I work to grasp populous Shanghai once more. Thank you for coming on this journey to explode the myth of China, to travel through so many disparate regions and lives all within one gigantic border, and working to explode those borders with our newfound understanding. Thank you for loving each other and playing together, for being mostly good, for always recovering, for giving irreplacable time from your lives. Can't wait to see you guys again, out there, somewhere, very very soon.

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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A Shock of Culture

Shan Shi,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

As I parted ways with all of you either in front of a residential Beijing night sky or the florescent lights of an Olympic T3 airport, there was a distinct churning of bitter and sweet. The end was a fast forward button one of us accidentally sat on and here we are, our final group […]

Posted On

08/9/08

Author

Shan Shi

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The Silk Road Xi'an crew returned to Beijing today. After a day of reflection on the Great Wall and a night of Hui food and internet, we will reunite with the group at Shan's place in SE Beijing. We are happy at the prospect of being back together but sad that in one day our great adventure in China will come to a close.

Alena

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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Back in Beijing!

Alena Bartoli,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

The Silk Road Xi’an crew returned to Beijing today. After a day of reflection on the Great Wall and a night of Hui food and internet, we will reunite with the group at Shan’s place in SE Beijing. We are happy at the prospect of being back together but sad that in one day our […]

Posted On

08/6/08

Author

Alena Bartoli

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The Xi'an portion of our trip will conclude tonight as we board a short twelve hour (yes, short--after the 20 hour bus ride to Xining from Dunhuang, everything seems short) overnight train to the pulsing Olympic city of Beijing. I can confidently declare (and I'm sure the other two students who accompanied me to Xi'an can attest to this too) that having completed this final phase of our trip, we have been acquainted with all threads of modern China's intricate--and oftentimes disconcerting--tapestry. Whereas our visit the Kashgar Sunday Market five weeks ago thrusted us into a frustrating mass of solely Uyghur-speaking humanity screaming posh posh (which roughly translates to "get out of the way unless you'd like to be trampled by an oncoming caravan of livestock), Xi'an's largely English-proficient population greeted us with soft conversation ("Hello--where are you from?"). Whereas our Turpan homestay families garnered the majority of their income from grape cultivation, our Xi'an homestay families were engaged in high-profile government and real estate development occupations. Whereas the Kyrgyz families that we encountered in the Pamirs relied on motorcycles for the sake of transport, many Xi'an residents shuttle around in new BMWs and other pricey imports. Whereas the call to prayer trumped all background noise in the plaza outside of the Great Mosque of Xining, the people of Xi'an blast the ultra-ubiquitous "Beijing Huan Ying Ni" (Beijing welcomes you)--evidnece of China's exuberance surrounding the upcoming Olympics.

I don't have sufficient time to discuss the details of our daily endeavors (a quick overview: we've seen the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Temple of the City Gods, the Great Mosque, Tang Paradise Park, the ruins of the Banpo Neolithic Village, the Drum and Bell Towers, and we've circled the Ming-era city wall on bikes), but each day has been saturated with interesting experiences.

Off to Beijing,

Jonathan Kaufman

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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Farewell to Xi’an

Jonathan Kaufman,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

The Xi’an portion of our trip will conclude tonight as we board a short twelve hour (yes, short–after the 20 hour bus ride to Xining from Dunhuang, everything seems short) overnight train to the pulsing Olympic city of Beijing. I can confidently declare (and I’m sure the other two students who accompanied me to Xi’an […]

Posted On

08/5/08

Author

Jonathan Kaufman

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Basketball, both as an activity and as a social convention, is one of the biggest additions America has given to Tibetan youth culture. Therefore, it is only fitting that one of the most important things to happen to me in Tibet should happen on a basketball court.

Two days ago, my host brother invited my roomate Eric and myself to play basketball with him and his friends. I am terrible at basketball, and the fact that Yushu is 3.5 kilometers above my home in London did not help. I was completely out of breath after the first game, and could hardly run after the second. There were, however, have two very important factors that allowed me to save some face. First of all, most Tibetans learn to play basketball by watching hip-hop music videos, so they can do trick shots, but have very poor fundamentals. This meant that I was a useful member of the team because I knew how to pass and how to shoot baisic shots from inside the key. Secondly, my team was blessed. My team of three included a Lama of a monestary in Lhasa who was in Yushu visiting his family. He was just as bad at basketball as I was, except he had a great jump shot which accounted for most of our teams points.

The good thing about being on a bad basketball team, at least from an altitude point of view, is that you get to sit out alot while the two good teams slug it out. It was during these timeouts that I actually got to know jumpshot Lama. The only word that can really describe him is goofy. During our times out he asked me, through the translation of my Tibetan friend Dylan, what are the best universities in America to learn how to be a movie star. I answered as best I could that movie stars usually don't learn to be stars in university, and that movie stardom is not always a by product of talent, but I don't think he understood. His eyes did however light up when I mentioned that people in the West really like kung fu movies, so perhaps I was helpful after all.

We went back to Justin's house to rest and recouperate after 2 hours of exhausting on and off basketball. while Justin, Dylan, Eric, and I drank tea and watched American music videos discussion turned to our friend Connor, who had been given a Tibetan name. Justin explained that in Tibetan culture, parents don't give children their names, but instead they are given by a Lama of a monestary. Eric and I explained that we too wanted Tibetan names, and Justin said he knew a Lama who would be able to help. We pestered him for two days untill finally, today he called the Lama he knew. This afternoon he took us back to the basketball court where we played two days ago. There we met none other than Jumpshot Lama. After giving him our birthdays he gave us our new names. mine is Tashi Doudop, which translates to "good luck". He then took our katas (ceremonial white prayer scarves that we had bought for the occasion), blessed them, and gaves them back to us. He also gave us ceremonial mobile phone ornaments, but I think that that is a personal touch as opposed to a ceremonial neccesity.

The naming ceramony more than anything else represents my acceptance into both my host family and into Tibetan culture as a whole, it is a profoundly important moment in any Tibetans life, and I am glad that both Justin and Jumpshot Lama thought highly enough of me to allow me to get a Tibetan name. It is an experience I will never forget.

Tashi Doudop (Noah Guiney)

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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My Basketball Baptism by Jumpshot Lama

Noah Guiney,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

Basketball, both as an activity and as a social convention, is one of the biggest additions America has given to Tibetan youth culture. Therefore, it is only fitting that one of the most important things to happen to me in Tibet should happen on a basketball court. Two days ago, my host brother invited my […]

Posted On

08/4/08

Author

Noah Guiney

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Dearest family and/or extended famly,

I am in China. Suprise! Yes, I know its a shocker but I thought yall should know the reason for my extended absence. But in all seriousness, I'm having what some would call the time of their lives. But to meI wish for more expierencesof this sort to occur throughout the entiretyof my life not just a little time. At this moment I'm in Yushu Tibet and just returned from a picknick that was had once and only once we hiked up this mountain right on the side of town. I really am thinking that I'm going to start having monthly hikes to maybe mississippi or elsewhere. So, I know this is short but I just wanted to give a little check in to everyone. I miss yall and want to tell everything about my travels once I get back.

Later,

Hope

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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Greatings and Salutations

Hope Watson,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

Dearest family and/or extended famly, I am in China. Suprise! Yes, I know its a shocker but I thought yall should know the reason for my extended absence. But in all seriousness, I’m having what some would call the time of their lives. But to meI wish for more expierencesof this sort to occur throughout […]

Posted On

08/3/08

Author

Hope Watson

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We've been in Xi'an now for three and a half days and I am constantly amazed by the wealth of culture and contrasts that we encounter. Bettina, Jon and Amy are in their second full day of homestays - both of the homestay families are wealthy, small Han Chinese families and provide a stark contrast to our homestay with a large extended Uighur family in Xinjiang. The city also provides contrast between ancient tradition and impending Westernization. The Subway located next to our hostel is a 10 minute walk from Xi'an's Great Mosque, built in 742 AD! Yesterday we observed local Hui men learning Quranic recitation and afterwards browsed for North Face knock-offs in the Muslim Quarter! The group is enjoying our visit to Xi'an, the historical end and beginning to the Silk Road - as we head into the final week of our course, we find ourselves experiencing geographical, historical and cultural closure to our journey!

This afternoon we are off on an exciting adventure as foreign spokespeople for a Chinese car exhibition!

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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From the Heart of China!

Alena Bartoli,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

We’ve been in Xi’an now for three and a half days and I am constantly amazed by the wealth of culture and contrasts that we encounter. Bettina, Jon and Amy are in their second full day of homestays – both of the homestay families are wealthy, small Han Chinese families and provide a stark contrast […]

Posted On

08/2/08

Author

Alena Bartoli

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    [post_date] => 2008-07-31 00:00:00
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Yushu is a crazy place. It is Tibet in all but name (it is part of Qinghai province, not the Tibetan autonomous region) and is one of the last bastions of true Tibetan culture left in China. TheTibetans themselves are what makes this place so crazy. Many of the nomads dress like Clint Eastwood in "The Good The Bad And The Ugly", huge cowboy hats and big ponchos. They also carry big knives and ride around town on beat-up chinese motorcycles. The people from the town have two basic styles. The adult men dress like greasers with big leather coats and tight jeans. The Teenagers dress like hip hop dancers. They have baseball caps worn at a 45 degree angle to there face, fake diamond earings in one ear, baggy jeans and skateboarding sneakers (these dress styles also apply to the monks, though they have to work their red robes into their dress code). The young people here also listen to lots of American hip-hop and rap, with Akon, Snoop Dogg, and 50 Cent being particular favourites. Tibetans also happen to be universally some of the kindest and most welcoming people I have ever met. I am staying in the house of one of the best dressed Tibetan hip-hopsters, and although I have only known him for a day he already treats my roomate Eric and myself like brothers. They also love to sing and dance and have picnics in the valleys that surround town. I have only been here from a day and a half, so I cant really add any more information about Yushu, but from what I've seen, I know I am going to fall in love with the place.

Noah Guiney

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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Cowboys in Yushu

Noah Guiney,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

Yushu is a crazy place. It is Tibet in all but name (it is part of Qinghai province, not the Tibetan autonomous region) and is one of the last bastions of true Tibetan culture left in China. TheTibetans themselves are what makes this place so crazy. Many of the nomads dress like Clint Eastwood in […]

Posted On

07/31/08

Author

Noah Guiney

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The Silk Road Program split again yesterday - one group of9 students led by Shan Shi, Peter Adams and newinstructor Chay Grangerheaded to the Tibetan town of Yushu in southern Qinghai, while Alena Bartoli leads three other intrepid explorers to Xi'an, the terminus of the ancient Silk Road.

Tomorrow we are off to visit the terracotta warriors and in the evening we will begin our second Chinese homestay experience.

Best wishes from the heart of China!

Alena

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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What? Another Silk Road Split?!

Alena Bartoli,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

The Silk Road Program split again yesterday – one group of9 students led by Shan Shi, Peter Adams and newinstructor Chay Grangerheaded to the Tibetan town of Yushu in southern Qinghai, while Alena Bartoli leads three other intrepid explorers to Xi’an, the terminus of the ancient Silk Road. Tomorrow we are off to visit the […]

Posted On

07/30/08

Author

Alena Bartoli

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Hi,

After asomewhat ineterminable twelve hour train ride from Xining (on the foot of the Tibetan Plateau), the four of us that were unable to venture to Yushu have arrived in Xi'an. Known as Chang'an during its time as the capital of the Celestial Empire (the city's significance as a cosmopolitan center peaked from 600 to 1200 CE during the Tang and Song Dynasties before the Mongol invaders of the Yuan Dynastymoved the capial to Beijing), this population center historically stood as an allegory of transition for those who visited it. ForpastSilk Road travellers, it simultaneously posedan end and a beginning. For those who were heading to Persia, India, the Middle East, or the Mediterranean, Chang'an marked the start of a journey to the Western world and the end of Imperial China. For those who were transporting goods into the Middle Kingdom, Chang'an presented the end of their cross-cultural journey and the start of a sojourn in Imperial China.

It is thus unsurprising that for the four of us, too--our group, I should probably mention, is composed of me, Bettina, Amy and Alena (instructor)--Xi'an is both a conclusion and a beginning. For one, our time with the rest of the Silk Road group came to a sort of end in Xining. Although we will reunite for a few nights after they return from the Tibetan Plateau, the emotions associated with departure from one another certainly existed as we parted ways yesterday. Our Xi'an arrival furthermore represents the end of our time in minority-dominated China. Having spent weeks in the presence of the Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, and Hui, it is strange to beimmersed inan overwhelming Han Chinesemajority. Nonetheless, Xi'an will offer us numerous invigorating beginnings. Despite variations in our Mandarin speaking abilities, we will all commence a formal study of Chinese that will offer us the capability to communicate (however brusquely) with over 1.2 billion people.Each of uswill also embark on homestays withHan Chinese families. This will offer us insight into thegeneral nature of urban Chinese life, which is valuablesimply by virtue of thefact thathundreds of millions of Chinese people--a number that grows significantly each day--live in significant cosmopolitan centers. So, despite the bitterness of the conclusion of oneportion of our trip, we are all thrilled to launch into this new phase.

BecuaseI'm our official "group communicator," I plan to keep posting updates about our travels. A bit of foreshadowing: we're heading out for a full-day tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors tomorrow, which is among the most remarkable and historically-pertinent highlights of China. We're incredibly excited!

Until later,

Jonathan

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Silk Road, Summer 2008

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Transitions

Jonathan Kaufman,Silk Road, Summer 2008

Description

Hi, After asomewhat ineterminable twelve hour train ride from Xining (on the foot of the Tibetan Plateau), the four of us that were unable to venture to Yushu have arrived in Xi’an. Known as Chang’an during its time as the capital of the Celestial Empire (the city’s significance as a cosmopolitan center peaked from 600 […]

Posted On

07/30/08

Author

Jonathan Kaufman

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