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October 10, 2011

Langzhong

On Oct. 2 we boarded a bus for a 2 ½ hour trip to Langzhong. In existence for more than two millennia, the small city has a picturesque, preserved/restored old quarter that attracts many visitors. The city is deemed to have an ideal feng shui location, nestled inside a meander of the Jialing River and with mountains and propitious stone formations surrounding it at four compass points. We had a nice meal before checking into our overnight lodging, an old wharf building. We joined the throngs of other visitors strolling about in a light rain to climb various towers, visit…

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October 1, 2011

Taiji

This week we’ll document Monday’s introduction to taiji, a form of exercise that many Chinese people engage in regularly. Passing through parks or other public spaces, our morning landscape is populated with groups or individuals moving through one of several popular series of motions generally described as taiji. Many practice this for its health and stress-reduction benefits. Others concentrate on its longer historical association with the martial arts. We had an excellent teacher who guided us through initial stretching exercises. Then, very patiently, she helped us through a series of 24 movements that constitute one of the most widely-practiced forms…

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September 24, 2011

Three Kingdoms

A cold snap had many of us shivering for most of this week. Language teachers helped us learn weather-related terms that distinguish among degrees of weather (rain shower, heavy rain, thunderstorm, etc.). The week’s lectures had us thinking about everything from education to geography to rural/urban issues in the New China. In our Friday afternoon group discussion we shared our observations about distinctions between private and public spheres in China and how these compare to distinctions we are used to back home. On Saturday morning, most of us gathered to hike up a slope of the ridge that marks the…

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September 19, 2011

We started out last week with an introduction to Chinese folk songs. After helping us practice two songs, we got to hear other songs performed by several highly-talented CWNU student singers. Other lectures this week covered the role of women in Chinese society, contemporary Chinese history, and an introduction to China’s 56 ethnic groups. In language classes, we got charts of the 500 most commonly-used Chinese characters. How many will we know four weeks from now? On Saturday morning, most of us headed to a farm outside Nanchong. A city bus took us to a town about an hour outside…

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September 12, 2011

Our first week of classes went by quickly.  Rain brought a welcome break in the extreme heat of our first days here.  We meet in the main classroom building on China West Normal University’s decade-old “new campus”.   Most of us arrive by public bus, usually a 20-35 minute ride.  Most mornings feature lectures on aspects of Chinese culture and history, often by professors from CWNU.  So far:  a  general introduction to Chinese cultural values, a look at the Spring & Autumn and Warring States periods in Chinese history (771-221 B.C.E.), and information about Chinese philosophy & religion.   We then join…

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September 12, 2011

We’ll start back with a few pictures from our Sept. 4 train ride from Chengdu to Nanchong.  After passing the security checks at the entrance of the train station, we funneled into the waiting area designated for our train.  There Becca seized an opportunity for cross-cultural learning and got a few tips on cross-stitch.  On the train, some enjoyed the countryside views out the window; others dozed.   With temperatures in the high 90s, we opted for the comfort of the Haigui center, ordering a lunch of fried rice from across the street, and studying  our maps while waiting for our…

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September 12, 2011

Continuing with activities from our first weekend: After Saturday’s lunch, we headed back to Tianfu Square in the center of Chengdu. There we met up with Chinese students and divided into four teams . We spent the next five-six hours with our Chinese hosts. Hopping on and off buses, walking streets broad and narrow, we sought out everything from bags of millet in a pet market, homemade candy, KTV (karaoke) establishments, flower markets, statues of historic persons (Mao was easy, Confucius also not bad, the poet Du Fu a bit harder). As we were observing Chengdu, Chengdu was also observing…

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September 12, 2011

Catching up with posts from our first weekend:  The bus from the airport took us right to our hostel, located in a bustling neighborhood marked by the touristy Jinli Alley, the Wu temple complex, Tibetan shops and many stores carrying Western brand name camping gear. The first evening we took a bus to a nearby park to observe the wide variety of evening activities there, including water-brush calligraphy, dancing, boating, board & card games, and many conversations. After supper, we went to Tianfu Square in the centre of Chengdu where Chairman Mao greeted us before we headed back to the…

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September 4, 2011

Host families

The first 48 hours in China were busy ones. This morning (Sunday) we boarded a fast train for Chengdu. We packed as much of our luggage as we could in Wang Ying’s minivan and then took a small fleet of taxis to the Haigui/Sea Turtle Language Learning Center. After a lunch of fried rice, a devotional and some singing, we got ready to meet our host families. This is a time of some trepidation on both sides, but we know that hundreds of other SSTers have preceded us with similar feelings. As the families began arriving, excitement replaced (at least…

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September 2, 2011

Safe arrival

Just a quick entry today: All 19 students arrived safely and on schedule in Chengdu. Jo-Ann and Joe were glad to see their smiles. Joining us at the airport and for the ride back to our hostel were our May term language teacher Betty Z. and her colleague Jeanette H. Both reside in Chengdu and helping enrich our first days in China. Today’s agenda: an afternoon nap, and some initial exploration. Tomorrow: a visit to the panda reserve and meeting with Chinese students who will help us learn to navigate public transportation.

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