To paraphrase Maya Angelou, all god's children -- especially those about to embark on a "comprehensive"journey throughChina! -- need traveling shoes. (And sunscreen.) This summer's course will take us from China's massive urban centers to its remote villages, across the length and breadth of an enormous and ancient country. We will encounter diverse landscapes and cultures, and each of us will meet and befriend remarkable people. I'm thrilled to be preparing for these travels together!
I grew up in New York City, but made my home in Beijingafter graduating fromcollege in 2007. I spent the next year studying and traveling throughout China on a Fulbright research grant, and eventually came to feel "at home" anywhere I had a bed, a meal, and good company -- and there was excellent company to be had everywhere. Contrary to expectations, I found that my travels were not interludes in comradeship and serious joy; rather, I made friends of my fellow travelers, and the road became the inn.
A summer spent navigatingChina's varied landscapes, languages, and cultures offers many opportunities for insight. I encourage all of you to accept and embrace the possibility that encounters with the diverse peoples and traditions ofthisextraordinarycountry may lead you to challenge some ofyour ownmost basic assumptions, both trivial and profound. China may capture your imagination, defy your understanding, delight and confuse and appall and enchant you.
"The heart will make room," writes Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai, "like a table opening its wings." In a distantcountry, among strangers,I haveexperienced ultimately the shock of recognition; I have learned that, across every boundary of environment and life experience, our similarities are greater than our differences. As you dream and pack and prepare for your journey this summer, as you assess your goals and expectations, I hope that you will open yourselves to experiences not only of profound cultural differences, but also of common humanity and common cause. For the parents and siblings of your homestay families,for the teachers and travelers you will meet along the way, for each other -- let the heart make room.
If you are curious about suggested readings on topics of interest beyond what is provided in the Course Preparation Manual, I encourage you to post your questions. A couple of recommendations I'll toss out here are the film "Getting Home" (Luoye gui gen), directed by Zhang Yang and starring comedian Zhao Benshan; the short story "On the Road at Eighteen" (Shiba sui chumen yuanxing) by Yu Hua, translated by Andrew F. Jones and collected in The Past and the Punishments; and, for those interested in the study of Buddhism, the Samannaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Homeless Life, collected in The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya by Maurice Walshe.
My feet tug at the floor And my head sways to my shoulder Sometimes when I watch trees sway, From the window or the door. I shall set forth for somewhere, I shall make the reckless choice Some day when they are in voice And tossing so as to scare The white clouds over them on. I shall have less to say, But I shall be gone.
Emma Kaplan,China Comprehensive Survey, Summer 2009
Hello all! by Emma Kaplan Instructor May 16, 2009 Greetings! To paraphrase Maya Angelou, all god’s children — especially those about to embark on a "comprehensive"journey throughChina! — need traveling shoes. (And sunscreen.) This summer’s course will take us from China’s massive urban centers to its remote villages, across the length and breadth of an […]
Welcome to the Where There Be Dragons Yak Yak bulletin board for the Summer 2009 Thailand: Spirit of Greng Jai program! As you’ll soon discover, this board is a valuable forum for self-introductions, for building community, and for addressing any and all questions that arise during the upcoming months.
Until the start of your course in June, this will be THE place to find important notices related to your course’s development and itinerary design. It’ll also be the place to learn about your fellow students and instructors. So please, post a personal introduction! It may reflect any number of things about you, like: your interests, reasons for choosing Dragons, independent study considerations, or any other thought or inspiration. Please also consider posting your packing and prep-related questions here. Don’t be shy - if you have a question, it’s likely that someone else in your group has been wondering the same thing!! Your instructors have a lot of experience and many, many tips that they’re excited to share with you. So please, ask away.
Setting up the Yak board, in many ways, marks the start of your course. It’s the first step in establishing the community that will support you throughout the journey that lies ahead. Together, you will learn to walk, dress, eat, talk and think in an entirely new way. You will see landscapes that will cause your jaw to drop, and meet people that will touch, change and inspire your life forever. Although your course’s official start date is still many weeks away, we would like to remind you that your adventure actually began the day you made the choice to join Dragons. Choosing to make your dream a reality took immense amounts of courage, and all of us congratulate you on taking that first, and most important, step.
Welcome to Dragons. We’re excited to share in your adventure!
Hello! Welcome to the Where There Be Dragons Yak Yak bulletin board for the Summer 2009 Thailand: Spirit of Greng Jai program! As you’ll soon discover, this board is a valuable forum for self-introductions, for building community, and for addressing any and all questions that arise during the upcoming months. Until the start of your […]