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2 posts from November 2009


September 20 - Cultural Activities

Our students are most active in exploring the city of Beijing.  We visit museums, theme parks like the Nationality Park, and performances.  Beijing has little difference than other large modern cities in the world with highrises, financial district, coffee shops, tea houses, and shopping malls.  Since our program focuses on cultural and ethnic studies, we often visit places with China’s ethnic minority populations.  In the meantime we also spend time viewing museum displays for instructional purposes of learning about how the state represents its minority population in public.  Admittedly the U.S. has race issue, but China definitely lacks multiculturalism in the true sense.  Ethnic minorities always appear coloful and cheeful in Chinese media as if their social function were only for public show.  Fortunately our students have opportunities to make friends with  students from Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongolian and other regions.  They have learned quickly this sharp contrast between what is performed by the state and what is the actual lived experience.


August 30 - Orientation



For this semester’s orientation we spent a few days at Cun-di-xia, a village outside the city of Beijing.  Cun-dix-xia is known as a historical fortress.  Its sons in the ancient past were great soldiers and warriors for emperors.  It was rarely heard of until Chen Kaige, a renowned contemporary film director, made a film at the village.  Now many households began their tourist venture like other parts of China.  This type of village-based tourism is known in China as “cultural tourism” or wenhua-luyou.  It does generate income for local residents but may not fully satisfy tourists especially North Americans and Europeans who are interested in having authentic experience with traditional styles of living.  Regardless of the modern intrusion deeply into traditional way of being, I thoroughly enjoyed the stay along with my new students from the U.S.  The host family was exceedingly friendly.  We were given large bedrooms.  The dining area is in the yard but nicely shaded.  The landlady made great corn bread.  I very much miss bread in general.  My apartment does not have an oven.  Otherwise I would bake my own bread.  I learned the baking skill while I was a grad student.  I had the habit of baking bread while writing my dissertation.  The landlady’s bread brought back much of my nostalgia.  I love taking photos but this time I brought with wrong film.  Instead of regular Kodak Portra (100ASA and 400ASA), I picked 64T Tungsten, slow speed film for interior photography.  Well, this is the price of rushing myself.  On the other hand, I fully enjoyed the time with our students and at the village.