Photo of the Week
China Comprehensive 4-week
Photo Title


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    [post_date] => 2014-07-30 09:19:06
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Dear Friends and Family Back at Home and Elsewhere, We've seen and digested a lot: from the fertile rice patties of Yunnan to the alpine forests of the Tibetan plateau and the vast deserts of Dunhuang. We've encountered Hui, Uigher, Tibetan, and Han peoples -- university students, LGBT and environmental activists, and even a living Buddha! For all of us, this has been a personal and developmental journey. An exploration into group dynamics and leadership, into physical and personal boundaries and conceptions of travel and lifestyle. Yet the trip has also afforded us insights into the scale, diversity, and complexity of contemporary China. In our last stages of transit between various airports (Beijing, Hong Kong, LA and others), we took a poll of the group to check in on our shifting perceptions throughout the course of the trip. We'e included snippets of each student's thoughts below. Personally, as a member of the instructor team, I was delighted to see the questioning and probing nature of the students' responses. Several students pointed to new understandings of the limits of their knowledge of the diversity and vastness of the country. These discoveries thrill me because they present open doors for further exploration and inquiry. They reflect a perhaps newfound depth of observation that shows an embrace of the challenges and frustration of trying to comprehend and grasp a new culture, society, and civilization. Throughout the course of our transference (Dragons code word for our "wrap up" process at the end of the course) on the rugged stone slopes and an old sentinel tower of the Great Wall, we engaged in a group discussion about our discoveries and challenges throughout the duration of the course. We considered how our adventure this month has laid a groundwork for future journeys, paths we will embark on individually and with the continued support of the strong community we have formed. We'd like to share some of our retrospective observations with all of you as an invitation to join us on this continued endeavor of exploring China and ourselves. Yours, Mike and the China Comp Team What is a misconception that you had about China that has been dispelled or challenged over the course of this trip? "I thought that religion was barely existent in China since government is so powerful and controlling"-Shelby Marcus "I was under the impression that four weeks is more than enough time to experience and even understand the gigantic, complex, and beautiful country that is China. I now realize that even four years isn't a sufficient amount of time to undertake such a Herculean task." -Caroline Blanton "I was previously under the impression that Chinese culture was largely uniform, with few significant variations across the country's geography." - Matthew Katz "The Tibetan struggle was not as large of an issue as it is."- Krishna Doodnauth "I had thought that behavioral norms would be similar, but I was surprised at how little etiquette there was in public" - Sofia Lurati "I didn't have the right conception about the way land is occupied in China" - Martina Basile "Entering the course, I was under the impression that in four weeks I could go travel and discover the essence of China; instead, however, I realized that there is no singular 'essence' and that understanding the diverse reality of China will take much more than a month" - Louise Tisch "Previous to the course, I had pictured Chinese culture as representative of how Chinese people act in public. I realized, especially during the home stay, that this was only a superficial view and that the Chinese also have a very strong sense of community that is not often found in the US." - Morgan Peirce "At first I thought I would leave the trip having a good understanding of China because I thought the culture would be pretty much the same throughout. But two parts of China may be completely different from each other." Roarke Martin "I was surprised by the amount of western influence. Whether it be from seeing english translations on store signs, or watching The Voice (of China) with my Tibetan homestay family, I felt at home more than I thought I would." - Rob Irwin "Before the course, I had not realized the major cultural differences between different groups within China." - Ryan Berger How have you been impacted by the discussions, the itinerary, or the experiences that we have had on this trip? "Seeing the rural areas of China has changed my whole perception of China. Spending the two past summers in Beijing had only exposed me to a different China than the one I encountered in Yunnan, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu provinces." - Shelby Marcus "Walking around the Labrang Monastery and walking with elderly people still devoting their time to their very energy consuming religion" - Krishna Doodnauth "Staying at a monastery and seeing how monks live made me think about the fact that we don't actually need all the superficial stuff we have at home to be happy" - Sofia Lurati "I started seeing China from another perspective, as well as my surroundings back home" - Martina Basile "Having such a large degree of independence--especially on the student led expedition to Dunhuang-- in a completely foreign place allowed me to mature in ways that were not possible back home" - Mattthew Katz "Looking at the different forms of diversity that exist within China and how diversity is received culturally and politically has led me to reassess the ways diversity exists in my own community" - Louise Tisch "I think staying with my homestay family in Tongren taught me to value community in a way that is unfortunately very rare in the U.S. I hope this value is something that I can bring home with me and incorporate into my life in D.C." - Caroline Blanton "I realized that it is one thing to read or study a culture and another thing to experience it first hand. It is necessary to be apart and active in a certain culture to truly understand it. Experiencing Buddhism through the temples and rituals allowed me to understand Chinese culture on a deeper level than I would have just by reading about it." - Morgan Peirce "Seeing how community is treated in China makes me think that community could strengthen a country." Roarke Martin "The best way of getting to understand a foreign place is by throwing yourself in completely." -Rob Irwin "I have learned and been impacted the most by being able to just wander around where I am and experience life there first hand." - Ryan Berger What should friends and family know about me when I return home? "First thing you should know is my first, second, and third meal will be pizza and pasta. I would consider froyo for the fourth meal. Then I would like to hit a pinata with a sledge hammer. zaijian pengyous" -Shelby Marcus "That I am coming back with a better knowledge of being a traveller and a citizen of the world"- Krishna Doodnauth "They should know that this experience made me more conscious about differences in cultures and even more willing to travel around the world as a learner and not as a simple tourist" - Sofia Lurati "They should know and understand that my view of 'trips' in general has changed and that I am looking forward to modify their conceptions based on my experiences " - Martina Basile "Friends and family should know that my appreciation for simple luxuries, like warm running water and eating fruit without peeling it, has grown; at the same time, however, I'm more aware of how superfluous these everyday conveniences can be" - Louise Tisch "I am no longer satisfied with my old style of touristy travel since travel should be experiencing the differences of the places visited, not trying to find the similarities." - Morgan Peirce "Before I left this trip, I was unsure why people wanted to stay in unfree and/or poor countries. But now I can see why." - Roarke Martin "I'm far more able to function without the luxuries of a more developed country. Hot showers, tap water, and internet don't mean quite as much to me anymore." - Rob Irwin "I am coming home with a far greater appreciation for everyday things that are often taken for granted, but also the improved ability to function without these things." - Ryan Berger "I will come home with a greater faith in the power of community and less dependence on the material goods that take away from those bonds" - Matthew Katz "They should know that I'm coming home with a mission: to find the beauty and excitement in my everyday life. This was something that was practically effortless in China, but may be more challenging when I slip back into my old routines." - Caroline Blanton [post_title] => Final Words from China Comp [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => final-words-china-comp [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-02 10:49:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-02 17:49:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://wheretherebedragons.com/?p=107393 [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] => 162 [name] => China Comprehensive 4-week [slug] => china-comprehensive-4-week-summer-2014 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 162 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 254 [count] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8.1 [cat_ID] => 162 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => [cat_name] => China Comprehensive 4-week [category_nicename] => china-comprehensive-4-week-summer-2014 [category_parent] => 254 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/summer-2014/china-comprehensive-4-week-summer-2014/ ) ) [category_links] => Picture of the Week, China Comprehensive 4-week )
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Final Words from China Comp

Michael Leibenluft,Picture of the Week, China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

Dear Friends and Family Back at Home and Elsewhere, We’ve seen and digested a lot: from the fertile rice patties of Yunnan to the alpine forests of the Tibetan plateau and the vast deserts of Dunhuang. We’ve encountered Hui, Uigher, Tibetan, and Han peoples — university students, LGBT and environmental activists, and even a living […]

Posted On

07/30/14

Author

Michael Leibenluft

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    [post_content] => All students have landed safely in LA! Wishing everyone a happy reunion with family and friends. Best regards, Jody
    [post_title] => Landed in LA!
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China Comprehensive 4-week

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Landed in LA!

Jody Segar,China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

All students have landed safely in LA! Wishing everyone a happy reunion with family and friends. Best regards, Jody

Posted On

07/28/14

Author

Jody Segar

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    [post_date] => 2014-07-27 18:15:25
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    [post_content] => Hello Family & Friends,

All China Comprehensive Students have cleared security and are waiting to board/boarding in Beijing as of this posting. Wishing everyone a safe and smooth trip home after a wonderful four weeks! Many thanks to all of our great students, parents, and instructors Parker, Mike, and Long Yun! Best regards from Boulder, Jody Segar
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China Comprehensive 4-week

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All China Comprehensive Students have cleared security and are waiting to board/boarding in Beijing

Jody Segar,China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

Hello Family & Friends, All China Comprehensive Students have cleared security and are waiting to board/boarding in Beijing as of this posting. Wishing everyone a safe and smooth trip home after a wonderful four weeks! Many thanks to all of our great students, parents, and instructors Parker, Mike, and Long Yun! Best regards from Boulder, […]

Posted On

07/27/14

Author

Jody Segar

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    [post_date] => 2014-07-25 11:59:54
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    [post_content] => Dear China Comprehensive Students & Families,

 

This weekend marks the end of our China Comprehensive summer program and students will soon be boarding their planes and return home to share their tales of adventure with each of you.  We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival!

 

Below is a reminder of the return group flight information for your reference.  Starting on Saturday, 7/26, should you need any assistance during student travel days (outside of normal office hours), please call our Admin cell phone for assistance: 303-921-6078, or email: update@wheretherebedragons.com. During office hours (M-F, 9:00am-5:00pm M.S.T.) please continue to use our parent line at:800-982-9203 ext. 130.

 Returning Flight: 

July 28th, 2014 

Dragon Air #905

Depart: Beijing (PEK) 8:00am

Arrive: Hong Kong (HKG) 11:40am

July 28th, 2014 

Cathay Pacific #884

Depart: Hong Kong (HKG) 12:55pm

Arrive: Los Angeles (LAX) 11:10am

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China Comprehensive 4-week

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China Comprehensive Return Flight Reminder

Eva Vanek,China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

Dear China Comprehensive Students & Families,   This weekend marks the end of our China Comprehensive summer program and students will soon be boarding their planes and return home to share their tales of adventure with each of you.  We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival!   Below is a reminder of the return group […]

Posted On

07/25/14

Author

Eva Vanek

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    [post_content] => I've always loved a good lie. As the third of four children, I grew up in a house made of the good kind of chaos which has remained present even as we've grown and learned about fictitious things like "inside voices". To this day, I love the look of confusion and shock and horror on people's faces when I tell them that I'm the quietest in my family. No really. I am.

As the quietest, I developed unique ways to entertain myself. For as long as I can remember I've been an avid reader and writer of stories and have spent much of my time imagining "what ifs". Sometimes, they're fun and lead me down interesting paths: what if I spent a month of my summer in a foreign country where I don't speak the language? Other times, they get me into trouble. A fantastic semi-recent example of this would be a what-if whose false nature I didn't really share. Parker, one of our I-team members spent the first couple days of our trip in Shaxi fluffing, puffing, and sweating under a giant head of hair. I was struck by the brilliant idea of alleviating him of this problem. Who cares that I'd never cut hair before? What if I could?

Dragons is the type of program that asks its participants to push their boundaries and explore the world in ways both big and small. I decided to explore the career of a hairdresser. Of course, Parker didn't know that this was uncharted territory for me as I'd presented my two older brothers as far less vain, as boys who "let me cut their hair all the time." My brother had cut my hair once when I was 6. That was close enough, right?

About three snips in I realized that having one's hair cut countless times in your life does not qualify you to cut the hair of others. I admitted my dishonesty to my victim, and as my group members gathered around me, they tormented him with mythical bald spots. The process was oddly calming, for me, and I lost myself in layer after layer of quickly-disappearing blonde. Even though Parker hated my work and decided to get his head shaved the next day, the experience really set the tone of this trip for me. Yes, I was far away from home. Yes, I was going to learn a lot about myself and other cultures. But it was still summer and I could make hilarious memories. This trip has already taught me a lot about myself on a more spiritual level, but it's also a fantastic time.  At least, it is if you're the one cutting the hair.

 
    [post_title] => How to Win Over Your Instructor
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China Comprehensive 4-week

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How to Win Over Your Instructor

Audrey McDermott,China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

I’ve always loved a good lie. As the third of four children, I grew up in a house made of the good kind of chaos which has remained present even as we’ve grown and learned about fictitious things like “inside voices”. To this day, I love the look of confusion and shock and horror on […]

Posted On

07/25/14

Author

Audrey McDermott

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2014-07-21 10:18:20
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IMG_8301-300x225IMG_8317-300x225
 
Last night, six students (the others did karaoke) ventured into the desert on camel back. Once we arrived at our camp site, we ventured up the sand dunes for a small hike. Matt, Martina, and Mike (the big Ms) made it to the top of the sand dune, while Rob and I got stuck half way up in a sand storm. Our stomachs began to grumble and unsure of whether dinner would be served, we walked to a nearby campsite where Chinese college students were grilling. Unfortunately, after taking obligatory pictures for 20 minutes, our shi fu (tour guide) hailed us over before we could steal their food. Luckily, our shi fu gave us pretty yummy fang bian mian (instant noodles) and some shui guo (fruit). After dinner and watching the sun set over the beautiful dunes (wish I could have taken a picture but my camera broke in the sand storm), we ventured into the sand dunes in the pitch dark. With only moon light as our guide, we walked bare foot in the silky sand and rolled down hills (which was weirdly freeing). Some of us fell asleep in the sand (cough, cough Matt) and others made sand angels. We somehow made it back to our tents and fell asleep under yak blankets. 
 
Our shi fu woke us up at the crack of dawn (0600) to watch the sun rise over the sand dunes with coffee and watermelon in our hands. The view was indescribably beautiful, and even though I don't have a picture of it, I will never forget the tranquility of the moment. 
 
Funny Quotes: 
"This would look so pretty with an epidemic" -Martina (she meant panoramic) 
"Don't come near- we have weapons"- said I when peeing in the sand dune
"Did you put sock tan on your dating profile as a pro or a grow?" -Caroline to Mike
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Camel Trek

Shelby Marcus,Picture of the Week, China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

  Last night, six students (the others did karaoke) ventured into the desert on camel back. Once we arrived at our camp site, we ventured up the sand dunes for a small hike. Matt, Martina, and Mike (the big Ms) made it to the top of the sand dune, while Rob and I got stuck […]

Posted On

07/21/14

Author

Shelby Marcus

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    [post_date] => 2014-07-18 10:58:37
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    [post_content] => We left our homestays yesterday and I had a pretty good experience. I'm glad it was an individual homestay instead of a paired homestay so we could immerse ourselves in the culture more. My homestay had two parents, a grandmother and 4-5 kids (kids kept coming and going the whole time I was there!) I left the homestay with more questions than answers. I couldn't really tell why the parents married. They didn't really seem to have a strong enough emotional connection to have married from love. The homestays were VERY hospitable. They kept offering me food which was nice.
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China Comprehensive 4-week

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Homestay reflection

Roarke Martin,China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

We left our homestays yesterday and I had a pretty good experience. I’m glad it was an individual homestay instead of a paired homestay so we could immerse ourselves in the culture more. My homestay had two parents, a grandmother and 4-5 kids (kids kept coming and going the whole time I was there!) I […]

Posted On

07/18/14

Author

Roarke Martin

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    [post_content] => Currently, I'm sitting aboard a bus, somewhere between Xiahe and Tongren, energized and grinning. This morning, we left our hostel at 6:30AM and trudged, half-asleep, to the bus station before crashing into unsteady blue plastic chairs. Still bleary-eyed, we boarded the bus to Tongren.
We are two and a half hours into the journey, and have endured an unreasonably bumpy road and uncomfortable seats (though, to us, now seasoned travelers, this is nothing). Still, one might wonder why I am in such good spirits. When our bus paused (or broke down, we're not sure) in the middle of wide grasslands, we filed out to stretch our legs. Behind us, a dozen or so Tibetans followed. They promptly made themselves comfortable in the grass, forming a semi-circle around us. Expectantly, they waited for us to perform.
Suddenly, a man began to flail his long sleeves and hop around, gesturing at us to join him through body language. So, shyly at first, we began to copy. Dangling the sleeves of our jackets, we hopped and skipped and wiggled. As we "danced," I watched the faces of the Tibetans break into wide smiles an then quake with laughter. Though it was obvious that were laughing at us, and not with us, it brought me unexpected pleasure to make them happy.
Normally self-conscious, I am a reluctant dancer at home, avoiding "foolish" moves and shying from the dance floor if I suspect that others may be watching. However, hidden in the anonymity of the hills of western China, I relished in looking absurd. Watching an elderly woman exploded with laughter melted my inhibitions and kept me kicking my legs and shaking my arms with the honest intention of achieving absurdity. We continued to dance and dance, our numbers growing as fellow students wanted to join in. Dances like the hokey pokey or the hoe-down throw-down we're fished from childhood memory to be replicated for our audience, forming an impromptu show. Despite the language barrier, our silly body language was more than enough to communicate.
So here I am, back on the temporarily fixed bus, smiling because I made them smile, happy because I could let loose, far from eyes of those at home who I fear will judge me. Although I've felt it on a smaller scale, this was one of the first times that I realized the power of anonymity, the freedom of being halfway around the world.
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Dance Monkey Dance

Louise,Picture of the Week, China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

Currently, I’m sitting aboard a bus, somewhere between Xiahe and Tongren, energized and grinning. This morning, we left our hostel at 6:30AM and trudged, half-asleep, to the bus station before crashing into unsteady blue plastic chairs. Still bleary-eyed, we boarded the bus to Tongren. We are two and a half hours into the journey, and […]

Posted On

07/14/14

Author

Louise

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    [post_date] => 2014-07-10 12:18:44
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    [post_content] => We have just arrived in a Tibetan city called Xiahe, which is pretty poor. I enjoyed my time in Chengdu (which we left yesterday), it was an enjoyable city to stay in for a few days. We had a scavenger hunt with Chinese college students which was great. After that we went to a hotpot dinner with an LGBT advocate. He gave us interesting information about LGBT rights in China. To sum it up, he said LGBT rights in this country is a struggle. The more Mandarin you know, the better here.
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China Comprehensive 4-week

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Arriving in Xiahe

Roarke Martin,China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

We have just arrived in a Tibetan city called Xiahe, which is pretty poor. I enjoyed my time in Chengdu (which we left yesterday), it was an enjoyable city to stay in for a few days. We had a scavenger hunt with Chinese college students which was great. After that we went to a hotpot […]

Posted On

07/10/14

Author

Roarke Martin

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    [post_content] => One of the first topics discussed in Orientatiton is cultural differences between the USA and China: China's more conservative views in regards to feminism and LGBT issues, the differing structure of greetings, and the absence of the concept of personal space, to name a few. Sure I listened to and participated in this discussion, but the message wasn't really internalized until about 10 hours later. I thought I understood fully; locals had already taken pictures with and of us without permission, we'd seen bathroom stalls with no doors...I was confident that I knew exactly what the "different concepts of personal space" were. The same day as this conversation, July 2nd, also happened to be Martina's birthday. We marked this occasion with a decedant cake, covered with thick white, sickly-sweet frosting. After the suprise cake celebration had been concluded, many of us students decided to go for a walk. Our instructors suggested that we take the cake with us and attempt to kill two birds with one stone: dispose of the copious remaining amount of cake by giving it away and enter into conversations with locals. So, weilding the cake, I set out with my peers, hoping the universal love of cake would make up for my non-existant language skills. The first few people to whom I offered cake, communicating with my basic charades skills, refused. Just as my arm grew heavy and I was beginning to question why we'd brought the cake at all, we happened upon a middle aged man who appeared to be watching us. I went through my pantomime, preparing to be turned down again, while some of my friends who are more comfortable speaking Mandarin offered up the cake through their methods of clearer communication. To my great joy, he nodded and smiled! I held out the cake, expecting him to take the platter. Instead, he picked up the knife, took a slice that comprised of nearly a full quarter of the remaining cake and ate it in two bites directly from the knife. No other utensil necessary. Before I even had time to register what was happening, he swiped some frosting off of the top using his finger and stuck his hand, frosting and all, right into my mouth! Shocked, I stepped back quickly as a confused reaction to the sudden unsolicited invasion. However, my startled motion caused me to entirely lose balance and I watched as the cake tumbled through the air and landed directly on the man's jeans. The man was exceptionally nice about it, and with a smile quickly began licking the remaining cake of his pants. Finally, after much laughing and apologizing, I finally processed the morning's lesson: the cultural differences between the US and China are so great that I couldn't even anticipate what interactions that really disregard personal space are like. Yet, even now as I confidently believe that I get it, I know another iteration of  the cake man will come and demonstrate that all my new assumptions are wrong too.
    [post_title] => How Sweet Cultural Exchange Can Be
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How Sweet Cultural Exchange Can Be

Louise Tisch,China Comprehensive 4-week

Description

One of the first topics discussed in Orientatiton is cultural differences between the USA and China: China’s more conservative views in regards to feminism and LGBT issues, the differing structure of greetings, and the absence of the concept of personal space, to name a few. Sure I listened to and participated in this discussion, but […]

Posted On

07/10/14

Author

Louise Tisch

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