The Chinese saying goes that “It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.” In accordance with that saying, 17 Upper School Chinese language students spent two weeks during interim visiting the Yunnan Province in China. There, they immersed themselves in the culture by experiencing both rural and urban life. From looking at the stars in small villages, to discovering the “immediate sense of the unknown,” here are two accounts from the students’ perspective:
Arianna Goldman, CA ‘17
From day one, authenticity and immersion greeted us on every turn. Squat toilets and boiled water inspired many stories and much laughter. The individual scavenger hunt in Kunming was a favorite adventure of mine because of the immediate sense of the unknown. Our challenge was to find the location written in Chinese on the given card using the mode of transportation listed, and to immerse yourself into the local culture. Armed with our Chinese and what we had learned about the city in the past few days, our group dispersed in opposite directions. After speaking to and deciphering some heavily-accented Chinese and hand gestures (and one nice lady who happened to speak English!), I found my way onto the correct, jam-packed bus and to my designated mystery location. From the bus stop, I stood in front of a side street covered with tarps and blankets hanging from trees. Tables upon tables in the fresh air filled with people of all ages under the colorful coverings. It was slightly intimidating at first, but as I stepped into the midst of tables, I found myself in a warm, friendly Mahjiang center with people playing Mahjiang and cards everywhere. A few steps into the center, a group of three people asked if I was interested in joining their game. I was happily surprised, so with a smile, I nodded eagerly and asked if they would teach me. With my new friends laughing — with me and at me — they tried to teach me Mahjiang while speaking only Chinese. They were patient, and friendly, and lots of fun. Despite being a foreigner, they welcomed me and made me feel like a “local.” As our game came to an end, I said “zai jian” and made the trek back to the program house, where everyone was buzzing with stories from their adventures.
When I think of my CA China experience, I think of adventure. I think of making delicious dumplings with my homestay family and trying to eat rice noodles with chopsticks, hoping to land them in my mouth instead of my lap. I think of learning Mahjiang with the locals and performing Tai Chi with a master. These are just a few of the memories that remind me of an unforgettable trip.