Sunday, May 31, 2015

Day 20: A Beautiful Day in Bishan, Anhui

Picture 1: Group photo at Bishan Avant-Garde Bookstore;
Picture 2: Silkworm!
Picture 3: Dong Laoshi holding mulberry leaves, the "baby food" for the silkworms
Picture 4: Hike in Mr. Qian's mountain
Picture 5: Diving from atop the "Flying Stone"飞来石 
Picture 6-8: Dinner at Mr. Qian's house
Picture 9: "Mutual Aid" in action 
Picture 10-11: mountain and rice field on the way to Mr. Qian's house

Today we explored the amazing rural village of Bishan (碧山) in Anhui (安徽) province. The air was clear and the day was beautiful! We were all so excited to set out on our jam-packed schedule to explore a very new and different part of China that none of us has ever been to. We started our day with breakfast at our inn, Tailai Village Inn with yummy foods such as bread and peanut butter from yesterday's breakfast, youtiao (fried dough), and hard boiled tea eggs (yes, tea eggs; they are sweet and delicious)! After our breakfast, we has a guided tour of Bishan by Mr. Wang, Souchang (汪寿昌). From the tour of Bishan, I noticed that there are a lot of crops that farmers grow all around the village. These crops include corn, cabbage, rape seeds, rice and many more. The village dated back to 221 B.C., with many old-styled buildings standing. Mr. Wang showed us around various buildings that the village has. One of the buildings that stood out to me the most was the library. It was mostly for the children who stayed in the village while their parents are in the city working as migrant workers. It was an amazing place where the children can come and read quietly and can take back some books to their home if they so choose to. The library is comprised of books all donated by generous patrons. During the tour, he also mentioned the population of the village. The villahe contains 800 families and 2000 people. There are 541 people all over 60. At the end of the tour, he took us to a bookstore called Avant-Garde, which is a branch from the Avant-Garde bookstore in Nanjing. The bookstore has an amazing feel to it. There are many types of books from art, philosophy to Anhui history and rural reconstruction. Mr. Wang gave us a talk in the second-floor cafe of the bookstore. He showed us postcards with designs that he drew himself. The designs he chose to draw are inspired by different environmental influences and historical landmarks in Bishan. Later, a bunch of my friends and I bought the postcards he showed us and he signed them for us! It is always exciting to get something signed by the author/artist. I really admire his designs and am glad I got the postcards and signature to keep as a great memory of this trip.

After the tour, we were supposed to go to a tofu workshop. However, that plan did not fall through, so we went to see silkworms! We had to be very clean to be able to be even near the silkworms. The silkworms are very sensitive to their environment, so anyone with any perfume, sunscreen and bug spray (obviously) on had to wash themselves before they could touch the worms. I did not wash myself, so I saw the worms from afar. Suddenly, the owners of the silkworm gave us some silkworms as pets! Everyone was so excited. The owners even gave us a few gigantic mulberry leaves as food for the silkworms. I was able to touch a silkworm and held it with my barehands. It was very fuzzy and soft, which was not what I expected. I think I was able to get over my fear of bugs a little bit from this trip. I also wonder how long we can keep the silkworms alive. Hopefully a long time!

After seeing the silkworms, we had a huge lunch at Biyun Inn. All the food served were so good! Everyone at the table gobbled the food right up, nothing remained. As usual, the atmosphere was bright and fun, with loud laughs at every moment. It is meals like these where I see how much a meal is an essential part of Chinese culture. Meals in China is when people gather together in harmony and bond. With every meal in China, I can tell that everyone in the dialogue is getting closer and closer with each other.

After our lunch, we went to visit the School of Tillers ( 理农馆 ) to hear a talk by the founder, Ou Ning (欧宁) on "The New Chinese Ruralism". Ou Ning is an amazing artist, editor, graphic designer and rural advocate. He talked about how villages are disappearing because of the large-scale urbanization and modernization of cities. He has a project, called the Bishan Project, to help preserve the Bishan traditions and old culture from this rapid urbanization. One of his interesting philosophies was his support of anarchy into the village government. He believes that the idea of mutual aid, of people helping each other no matter what their social status is, will be good for the community. I was inspired by how much care he has for the village and how much support he gives to the village in order for its culture to remain intact.

After Ou Ning's talk came one of the most exciting events of the day. We walked through Bishan to visit Mr. Qian Shi'an's (钱时安)'s home. We hiked up on Mr. Qian's mountain, which he bought after he retired at the age of 55. So far he has planted 600 trees on the mountain, many of varying species. The mountain was beautiful and it was amazing to see so many different trees. The most exciting part happened with Mr. Qian and Dong Lao Shi climbed onto a very tall rock. They then told everyone else to climb on as well. At first I was worried, how was everyone going to fit on that rock? But as I climbed up, I saw people starting to walk into a different path of rocks on a river. It looked like we were going on a detour to explore the river! We jumped from rock to rock, some even climbed all the way to the top of an extremely tall rock! We took a lot of pictures and had a blast! Afterwards, we continued to hike the mountain until we reach the stopping point and headed back to Mr. Qian's house to have dinner! The dinner was amazing. It was full of unique and dslicious food. Along with Mr. Qian, we were joined by Mr. Wang from our guided tour, Mr. Ou and two of Mr. Ou's fellow workers. Again I felt the harmony, happiness and bond during the meal. It was another delightful meal full of laughter with very entertaining and interesting guests. We ate for hours and watched the sky go from yellow with light until it was black with darkness. 

The dinner was the last event of the day. We went back to our inn happy with bulging tummies. But of course, we had to make a quick stop at the convenience store to pick up ice cream! There's always room for desserts. And now it is truly the end of our day. Today was an extremely busy day, but everyone highly enjoyed each activities. I cannot wait to see what other exciting things we will experience in the future. However, it's going to be hard to beat the beautiful day we had at Bishan, Anhui.

See ya!
Jessica X.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day 19: The Unbeatable Day that Ended with a Bang

I woke up this morning after the most comfortable night of sleep I have had so far, surrounded by the warm and pleasant scent of incense burning in our room. It was very dark when we arrived late last night, so when I looked out of the window for the first time this morning, I saw that our inn was completely surrounded by breathtaking mountains wrapped delicately in a light fog. Words cannot describe the beauty of Chengkan Village in Anhui, the village we spent the night in after a long day on the train. I'm fairly well traveled, but I can say that Chengkan is probably the most gorgeous and serene place I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. I went downstairs to meet the others for a breakfast that consisted of yogurt, toast, taro buns, adorable red bean buns sculpted to look like teddy bear faces, and more perfectly ripe loquats than we could ever hope to finish. We set out soon after for a village tour led by our super cute tour guide, April. 

Walking around Chengkan made me feel like I was in a dream. I couldn't keep myself from thinking about how wonderful life would be to just live off the land with such a close community surrounded by rivers, stone bridges, 1,800 year old architecture, and luscious green mountains. We visited many traditional village homes, and learned about the ancient lifestyle of the villagers in Anhui. I could probably go on typing about the beauty of Chengkan all day, but since I have so much more to blog about, I'll just leave you all with some photos. No magnitude of pictures, however, could ever do the landscape or the people of the village any justice. I was, of course, sad to leave Chengkan so soon, but I was left with a thirst to explore the ins and outs of Bishan, the village where we will be spending the next two nights. 

My first thought after arriving in Bishan was that we truly were in the absolute middle of nowhere. Outside of the relatively small village, there is not a single other sign of civilization as far as the eye can see. We unloaded our bags at the hotel, and then Jessica and I decided to explore the small streets of Bishan. The very first thing we saw after leaving our hotel was a man, using only a long stick, herding somewhere around 200 geese down the road. I was flabbergasted. Every single goose was exactly in line, and not a single one wandered away from the group or strayed from where the man was leading them. I started laughing, as this villager was just going about his business while herding hundreds of geese like there was absolutely nothing strange about it. The night only got better from there, and little did I know that the smile that the goose herder originally put on my face would not leave my cheeks for hours. 

We ate a group dinner at the hotel, and Dong Laoshi told us that she had a surprise for us that evening. We made our way outside after the sun had gone down, and were all standing in a group when all of the sudden there was a huge bang from behind us. We turned around saw fireworks lighting up the beautifully clear night sky. As the fireworks were going off, Dong Laoshi ran up to us with her hands full of sparklers. We spend the next ten minutes laughing and dancing to the multicolored lights of the Chinese sparklers. When the sparklers ran out, Dong Laoshi gave us yet another surprise. She led us to the little park, where all of the locals were dancing, playing games, and having a village-wide night of fun. All generations were there and enjoying the music, from elderly men and women watching the dancing to toddlers running around and playing tag. It didn't take long before we jumped right in with the dancing and tried our best to follow along. Dancing with the locals was probably my highlight of the trip so far, as it was just so amazing to have them accept us, smile and laugh with us, and teach us how to dance to their music. 

After probably close to an hour under the light of the stars, dancing away with the villagers of Bishan, we decided to head back for the night. I am more excited than I could ever express in this blog post to wake up tomorrow morning and experience this village all over again. This has been one of the most memorable days of my life, and I can't wait to see what adventures tomorrow brings. 

- Sierra S.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 18: Going to Anhui

The morning today started with snoozed alarm clocks and uneaten breakfast. After a late night of studying, I decided to sleep for a few more precious moments before heading to my first and only Chinese midterm. Language learning has never been my forte, but I've found that the immersion and immense focus on improving my blatant illiteracy of my native tongue has helped an immense amount. Consequently, I'm sure that I at least didn't fail my exam.
I had to rush to my room afterwards to haphazardly pack, because today was the beginning of our weekend trip to Anhui! Unfortunately Dong Laoshi wasn't able to persuade the weather to cooperate like she usually can - the rain poured unforgivingly as we ate lunch, stocked up on snacks, and somehow caught cabs to the train station.
The Nanjing train station was much nicer than the sweaty mess that was the Beijing station. I remember the pushy rush of Beijing's station, as well as a gigantic meat cleaver that security had confiscated from a clueless man's luggage. Needless to say, I appreciated the relative peace in Nanjing. The metal detectors at this station seemed commotionless and and almost decorative. Plus, some of us actually managed to find seats in the waiting area. Not all of us, mind you. The squat toilets have really allowed us to practice crouching on a whim.
The train itself was very acceptable, with more walk space than I expected. The air conditioning worked wonderfully which I really believe was the defining factor of the train car's pleasantness. We chatted, napped, snacked, and told ourselves that we should have been writing journals and doing more readings. Periodically train attendants would come by, loudly announcing the sale of various beverages, fruit, and mysterious shrink-wrapped products. At one point a woman with a speaker system strapped to her body demonstrated a ShamWow type cloth product and tried to sell them to passengers. That was definitely strange.
The scenery outside became more and more rural, with wet plots of various crops and paddy-type land that I could only identify as farm-like and muddy. It was actually quite pretty, and peaceful to stare at until it became too dark to see outside.
We finally arrived at the right station at almost 10 pm, all of us achy and famished from the long ride. It immediately struck me that Anhui air might be cleaner, but it is also so filled with moisture that it felt like I was sucking in steam. Our new guide April picked us up and brought us to a little noodle restaurant nearby where we had a quick and much needed dinner. We then boarded nicest, cleanest, newest coach bus that I have ever had the pleasure to ride in while April proceeded to teach us a few things about this unique province. Of course I was most interested in her spiel about food, in which she described Anhui's cuisine as darker with more soy sauce, saltier, and quite spicy and flavorful.
We arrived at the hotel and were astounded by how beautiful the decor was. Everything about this place screams Chinese, especially rural older China, including the beds, many of the decorations, and the fact that I believe this inn is simply very old. It may be old, but it's also very nice, with furnished beds and a TV and pretty okay Wifi. One thing that I am struggling with though are the ping pong ball-sized spiders that are just hanging out on lots of the walls. I'm not sure how well my arachnophobia will let me sleep tonight...
Today was mostly a traveling day, and I am pretty excited for the hike tomorrow morning. April mentioned that Anhui's mountains inspired some of the scenery in the Avatar movie, so I expect tons of exquisite beauty that will make up for the horror of giant (killer) spiders. Hopefully the rain will let up and allow us to fully explore!

Alice G.

Day 17: Artists on the Rise

​Today is the day that marks that we’ve been through half of our language classes here at Nanjing University! As usual, we had language classes from 8AM to 12PM and language pledge from 8AM to 6PM to practice Mandarin. However, today’s language class was especially memorable because we finally meshed with the kids in our class from Canada. All of us went out to grab lunch together and Northeastern kids had the opportunity to connect with the Waterloo kids. We talked about the similarities and differences between our two worlds and how things we’ve been through are so similar. It was refreshing to meet new people, be on the same page, and exchange individual experiences and lessons we learned from our study abroad thus far in China. In addition, the random restaurant we stumbled into had amazing food and prices (only 12Qua or about $2US!!). 

Following lunch, we had language partners to go to. I have to admit I was not that excited to meet with my language partner because I was already so overwhelmed by language classes Monday to Friday for four hours each. However, as soon as I began my session with my language partner, time flew by. I learned how to use the new words we learned in class through dialogue and flashcards. Honestly, I feel like I’m learning the language faster than I’ve ever had before.  

​After language partners, I went back to my room to rest up and spend some time doing homework and reviewing the chapters. At 5:30, a bunch of us went to a Classic Chinese Style Restaurant (which was completely random again). I had rice in soup with beef belly and vegetables, and everyone else got stir-fry noodles. The rice in soup reminded me of home because my mom would love to mix the two (it apparently goes down better and is a comfort food). The noodles were a perfect blend of salt and MSG. Something I love about Nanjing is that you can walk anywhere you want without a plan, and ultimately end up somewhere awesome with lots to eat and do. Also since food in Nanjing is so affordable, you don’t really have to worry how much you’re going to spend. 

Following dinner, we ran back to Nanjing University just in time for our second Calligraphy class. Last class, we practiced “Seal style” and this week we’re doing “Clerical Style.” Seal Style is a more ancient method for writing and has more rounded characters. Meanwhile, Clerical Style is a more recent style and has characters with sharper edges. Our calligraphy LaoShi told us that Chinese is written from right to left and from top to bottom. We began writing four character idioms with our name on the left on several sheets of practice paper. When we felt ready, we would begin painting on the “Sen Ge” paper, or the final masterpiece. It’s nerve wreaking to write on such a piece of paper since one can only create a dozen in a year. I began the final piece by folding the paper in the layout (the wrinkles disappear when framed). I was extra careful with each “hun (horizontal stroke)” and “Na (downward stroke);” remembering to breathe through each stroke. I had a difficult time trying to put a “Goose tail” on each character. Ultimately I messed up some parts of the characters and my name almost bled through the paper. LaoShi finished the canvas off with two stamps and it was done. 

Caton B., Andy, Jared R., and I then went to McDonalds to get some ice cream. We finished the night off with some homework and reviewing. Northeastern huskies are resting up tonight, excited for tomorrow’s language class and our trip to Anhui!!!

- Michelle F.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day 16: An Awesome Day

I woke up at 6:30, hit the snooze button once then got up to start my day. It may seem like a normal day in the life of a NanDa student, but today was one of a kind because it's my birthday! 

I got to class at 8, my professor made the class sing happy birthday in Chinese to me which was kind of embarrassing. Then we started today's lesson, which was on birthdays. I learned how to say happy birthday, birthday cake, birthday song, and birthday wish so I'm all prepared for the rest of my day. 

After class, my friends and I went to Bellini's to celebrate. It's an Italian restaurant, so it wasn't very China of us to go there, but pizzas are half price on Wednesday so it was totally worth it. After lunch we had a little break, then everyone met with their language partners for two hours of Chinese practice and lesson review. After an hour of working on grammar and tones,  my language partner decided to take a few of us on a field trip to the grocery store down the street. It was pouring out so after about 5 seconds in the rain, we decided the grocery store was too far so we just ducked into a convenience store. Even if it didn't have the huge slabs of meat and giant piles of fruit, it was still pretty cool. I wanted to try something new, so I asked my language partner to pick something out for me. She got me some weird candy made of eggs, I can't really tell if I like it or not but it's definitely something new. 

Our field trip ended at 4 and I said goodbye to my language partner, then went to the lobby to wait for our surprise event at 4:30. It turned out to be a tiny birthday party for me in the cafeteria of the dorm. The whole Dialogue crew was there and Jen bought a cake to celebrate, and even though I had failed at cutting slices for everyone and they were all totally messed up, it was an awesome surprise (: they sang for me in front of the whole cafeteria, which was even more embarrassing than in class this morning, then Malia smashed a piece of cake in my face. 

After I finished cleaning the frosting out of my eyebrows, Caton, Andy, Michelle and I all studied for a while and listened to Beyoncé.  At 7, we left for Indian food, which I've never eaten before. I totally regret not eating Indian food for 20 years, because it was incredible and I want to eat it every day for the rest of my life now. I kind of feel like I'm betraying China by eating Italian and Indian food today, but it's my birthday so I don't feel too bad. This was my first birthday away from home and I spent it on the opposite side of the world, but it was actually really awesome.

- Jared R.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 15: A Not So Typical Tuesday

Today, as usual, we all attended classes from 8AM to 12PM, had a two-hour break, and then had tutoring sessions with our language partners. We’re all definitely falling into a routine. We all wake up around 7, and we all get street food breakfast: Chinese style pancake wraps 煎饼 jian bing, tea eggs (eggs that have been boiled in soy sauce, tea, and star anise) 茶叶蛋cha ye dan, yogurt 酸奶 suan nai (literally translating to “sour milk”) and soybean milk 豆浆 dou jiang. Breakfast averages around 6 yuan, equivalent to 1 US dollar. As we eat our college affordable, yet filling breakfast, we sit on the steps in front of our hotel, quietly chatting with each other, usually yawning and mentally preparing for the day. 

At about 7:55, we get up, and begin to shuffle to class. Throughout our morning classes, we get a 10-20 minute break each hour. During this time, we’ll either take a quick nap, search for wifi, or mingle with each other and other students. After class, and before our language intensive sessions, we’re free to do whatever we want. 

Today, Cindy, Christine and I visited a cat café, about a 10-minute walk away. I heard that Jared R. and Michelle also visited the café later that evening. The café was adorable, with cute and dainty pastries, and cats everywhere. There was a beautiful Siamese cat, two cats with the grumpiest faces I have ever seen and three hand size kittens, to list a few. The café was their playground with toys and cat shelves everywhere. The girls and I had so much fun, ooh-ing and ah-ing over the cats and their antics. We headed back to the school around 2 for our language tutoring. This is everyone’s second week working with our language partners. Suffice it to say, we have all grown a lot closer and are learning even more. We are all improving our Chinese communication abilities, and I have heard that some students look forward to studying with their language partners.

After tutoring, I personally had the privilege of having a local student take me to an allegedly famous restaurant. This student just so happened to strike up a conversation with me the other day, because she recognized that I was a foreigner and wants to improve her English. While on our way to the restaurant, I definitely worried a little: what if she wants to extort money from me (there are quite a few locals in touristy areas who will show you around for a small tip that you won’t know about until after you’ve finished the tour), or what if she brings me to some place alone to do something unthinkable? But I calmed myself down because she seemed sincere. We talked about everything one would normally talk about, her family, her boyfriend, her major, her hobbies, etc. And the trip was worth it. We ate this delicious fish soup with rice, these salty green beans stir fried with mounds of garlic, and this sweet and sour pork, very similar to America’s version, except crispier. This restaurant is so famous that it is only open for two hours every day, with only 16 available seats. The chefs and workers know they will make money, so they take their time, preparing quality food; they don’t care how many people they serve, they only want to do minimal work. The employers also supposedly take vacations whenever they want, closing the restaurant during those times. I was so envious of that carefree lifestyle, I told my new friend, “I’m going to quit school and work here instead!”

At the end of the day, I realized that no matter where one is in the world, humanity will always exist. It doesn’t hurt to be wary because there are some people who do have bad intentions, but there are many more people who have good intentions; people who are just as interested in our culture and lifestyle as we are theirs. I strongly recommend venturing out of our comfort zones for experiences that we will never forget. It’s easy to be anxious in a foreign country, but if we’re open minded, unexpected events can occur. I really hope other students in our dialogue program can experience a similar opportunity as I did. They make an ordinary Tuesday much less mundane.

- Malia B.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 14: “Have You Eaten Yet?”

In western culture, the common greeting is "how are you?" but in Chinese culture, "have you eaten yet?" is the common greeting. Today's cooking class and lecture on Chinese culture through the lens of food emphasized the importance of food in China.

Before the food, however, we had our usual four hours of Chinese class at Nanjing University (南大). My class is a four-person, all-girls group, which allows for lots of speaking opportunities. During the first two hours, we discussed our family tree and the new vocabulary for the chapter. In Chinese, there are very specific terms for family members. While I have already learned the various titles twice, I have yet to really "learn" this, as it is quite confusing. The beauty of such a small class, however, is that we all had time to share our family tree and use the vocabulary in a real-life situation. My classmates and I enjoyed this as learning the characters is one thing, but actually knowing how to use the words in conversation is another. 

Instead of our usual time with language partners in the afternoon, we traveled to the Nanjing Jinling Secondary Vocational School for our first of two cooking classes. We were greeted by the school's principal, provost, president and top teachers � the school went all out for having Americans at their school. Our first activity was watching a video about the school; we learned there are five majors (auto mechanic, media, cooking, flight stewardess and cosmetology) among the three campuses in Nanjing. We were at the tourism and cooking campus which has 1,500 students. Since the government places an emphasis on the vocational schools, it is fully supported, just like any other public high school. The entrance exam is the same high school test (中考) that Chinese students must take to enter high school. The difference from this vocational school from a normal high school is that a lower score is required for acceptance. 

Next, one of the teachers taught us about Chinese food and the four different cuisines that are present in the country. Each geographical area has its specialties and reasoning for the ingredients used. While it was very interesting information, we all were very excited to begin learning to cook. An award-winning teacher demonstrated how to make meat buns and vegetable buns (包子). Her buns looked picture perfect and she set the bar very high. Some of the culinary students, ranging in age from 16-20, helped us make our own buns. It took us awhile to get the correct technique down � make the dough thin enough, place the right amount of vegetables in the middle, and pinch the dough correctly to close the bun � but regardless of how they looked, the buns all tasted delicious. 
After the buns, we learned how to make glutinous rice balls (汤圆) filled with red bean paste. The school had already prepared four varieties of dough for us � plain, chocolate, green tea and custard. We had to take the dough, insert the red bean paste, and roll the ball to hide the filling. The balls are boiled, and then eaten. When the students helping me brought the dessert to our table, I was very excited and smiled while eating my first bite. Dong Laoshi captured the moment, pointing out this was the first time I laughed while eating food in China. It's exciting to know that you made something tasty that was freshly boiled, so as to kill most of the germs. I am still getting used to no soap anywhere, including the culinary school kitchen. We all really enjoyed our time, especially because we got to talk with students our own age while making delicious food. As we were leaving, we took many pictures with our new friends, many of whom I am guessing have had limited interaction with foreigners.

Our evening activity was a talk by Professor Wu, a distinguished Muslim scholar who teaches at Nanjing University. He is very controversial as he does not just say what the government wants him to say and he does not believe everything that the majority of Muslims believe. He feels like he is walking his own path, like an animal with wings who doesn't fit in on the land nor in the air. Professor Wu said he looks to the Han government and the Muslims to collaborate and for progress, but neither want to work together to make changes. As a result, he is neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the future. His main focus was on how food is such an integral part of Chinese society, mentioning that many of the words for cooking have distinct meanings when the characters are broken down. Professor Wu also told us where to find the best tasting roast duck, as Nanjing's best food is duck. Over 20 million ducks are consumed every year in Nanjing. 

Today was a very busy day with Chinese class, cooking class and a lecture, but it was very informative and allowed us to learn in many different settings. Without our language partners today, we have lots of studying to finish on our own tonight. Good night!

- Jessica G.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 13: Nanjing In Its Entirety

Nine of us woke up for another early start this morning for the Nanjing bike tour at 9 am. It was a very exciting experience for us, for many of us felt constrained to the areas close by to Nanjing University, so this bike tour allowed us to travel to the boundaries of Nanjing and even past the city wall. The bike ride was definitely an interesting experience because of the high amount of traffic in China. Dong Laoshi immediately fore-warned us in the morning that this is not a typical bike tour in America where it is peaceful and quiet around us. While there are usually bike lanes laid out around the city, it is still very hard to maneuver around traffic because many Chinese locals prefer riding bikes or motorcycles to cars. Nonetheless, we quickly got used to the traffic and became bike experts, swiftly moving between and around other forms of traffic. 
The bike tour itself was very relaxing and not too strenuous, although we all got a very good morning workout. We biked to Zhongshan Ling (Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Mauseleum), a beautiful park that is right outside Nanjing. The views around us in the park were beautiful; it was a nice change from the fast pace and high rises of the main city. When we finally arrived at the pit stop near the park, Dong Laoshi treated us to ice cream and slushies! We were all very hungry by then; nine of us devoured two pineapple slushies and three banana splits with banana, chocolate, and taro ice cream flavors. Afterwards, we slowly made it back to the busy area of Nanjing and passed by the Nanjing Library, the Sun Yat-Sen statue, XinJieKou (a famous shopping area), and other landmarks. I am proud to say that I am slowly getting used to the layout of this city!
After the bike tour, we got ready for the main activity of the day—scavenger hunt around Nanjing! Since this is a food-based dialogue, we did this scavenger hunt in proper food fashion; we hunted down local delicacies of Nanjing, from duck blood soup to “smelly” tofu. We split up into teams of threes and fours, and this scavenger hunt was very important to us because the winners would earn a full body massage for one hour. We were given three hours from 2 pm to 5 pm to try to find as many items on the list given, and these items ranged beyond from food items too, such as sitting in the driver’s seat of a public bus and getting answers to fun facts about Nanjing. When I first glanced at these items, I was unsure how this scavenger hunt could even be possible. Many Chinese locals questioned our actions, for we were foreign kids trying to coherently piece our Chinese together while also doing questionable tasks. One of the tasks even included putting your hands in a tank of live eel or frogs! The amount of strange tasks we had to complete truly tested our creative thinking skills and teamwork. However, despite having to go through constant running and confusion, I think that we definitely learned how to effectively navigate throughout Nanjing, which is important since we are spending majority of our time in this city. Jessica G., Jessica X., Andy, and Sierra won the massages in the end, so we’ll be waiting to see how their massages go! 
After this exercise filled day, we are all pretty exhausted, but we’re looking forward to new and exciting activities that are coming this week!

Cindy W.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day 12: Weekend 1!

Today was our first Saturday in Nanjing! The day still started at 8 though. To continue learning about halal food, we went to dim sum at a halal restaurant with Professor Wu of Nanjing University. He’s a renowned expert on halal food in China and a government official. When Dong Laoshi called the restaurant to make a reservation, they told her we were out of luck. But as soon as she mentioned Professor Wu, though, they set aside a private room for us. Apparently the restaurant commissioned his autograph for its name. Unfortunately I wasn’t sitting at his table, so I couldn’t catch much of what he was saying, but he’s going with us to culinary school next week, which I think we’re all looking forward to. The food itself was great. We were all tired, but it was definitely worth it.
After that we had a break for a few hours. The main event of the day was a visit to the Nanjing Massacre Museum. When we walked in we were met with a sign listing everything not allowed inside. We couldn’t even take our water in! We could put it on a table to pick it up on the way out, but we decided to pass on that. 
A little background: in December of 1937 the Japanese army started a six-week raid on Nanjing. Chinese soldiers surrendered to escape slaughter, assuming they would be treated fairly as prisoners of war. This was not the case. Japanese soldiers quickly divided their captives into groups of 100-200 and killed them. Some were lined up, then first line was beheaded, and the second line forced to dispose of their bodies, only to be beheaded themselves. They grew tired of burying the bodies and ran out of fuel to cremate them, so they dumped them in mass graves and in the river. They didn’t stop there though. They proceeded to destroy the town, raping women and killing civilians. 
The museum was extremely powerful. The entrance line went along a series of statues depicting suffering people. They were rough with jagged edges, which made them all the more jarring. We walked downstairs into a dark cave-like room, where signs started the beginning of the story. The museum was a continuous dark path that told the narrative all the way up to survivors and present-day historical work. The second floor of the museum was a bit less depressing. It told about the time after the Massacre up to the end of WWII and current Japanese-Sino relations. After the museum, we walked through the burial grounds. The readings reminded me a lot of readings about the Holocaust, but I didn’t realize the exhibits would affect me as strongly as concentration camps I’ve visited. We walked through a beautiful courtyard, but as soon as we went inside, we were met with an open archaeological dig with human skeletons. It was shocking. Even worse, many people ignored the signs requesting silence and respect and were making jokes and taking selfies. It was a powerful experience, but it’s an important part of history and I’m glad we went. 
I think tonight will be pretty calm—most of us have quite a bit of work to do, and we have a long day tomorrow!

​Jared O.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Day 11: Exploring Islam Culture in Nanjing

Pict. 1 A chocolate halal pastry purchased from the food vendors
Pict. 2 Some of us in front of one of the temples!
Pict. 3 An essay commemorating the reconstruction of the mosque written by a Chinese Muslim scholar, Prof. Wu, who is going to take us to a halal breakfast tomorrow morning!
Pict. 4 entrance gate of Jingjue Mosque
Pict. 5 & 6 Dialogue with Mr. Jiang, the secretary general of the Nanjing Islam Association, and Ms. Yang, the woman imam working in the mosque​
Pict. 7 Mr. Jiang and Ms. Yang at the mosque

Everyone survived Week One of classes!  Compared to the past few days, today seemed like a breeze since we did not have to follow the Language Pledge or meet with our language partners.  From 8-12 we had classes.  Many students had an exam in one of their classes but I was lucky enough not to!  In one of my classes we even had a small party because it was a girl’s birthday. She made an Armenian style cake for us all to try that was delicious! 

After classes got out we all headed to the Nanjing Metro.  For many of us it was the first time using public transportation in Nanjing.  The station was extremely innovative.  Instead of getting a paper ticket, you received a reusable plastic token.  The carts are all air conditioned and as you pass through tunnels commercials and advertisements play on the wall.  It was much nicer than the T in Boston!  I was surprised how full the train was at one in the afternoon.  After a few stops we got off; thankfully we did not have to change lines.  

It was just a short walk to the Jingjue Mosque.  The street to the Mosque was lined with food vendors selling halal food.  When we entered the Mosque the midday prayer had just ended so we were able to explore.  We learned that on Fridays roughly 400 foreigners come to the Mosque to pray.  After walking around for a bit we headed to the restaurant next store where we experienced authentic, Chinese halal cuisine.  Dong Laoshi had ordered a feast for us!  We had pot stickers, vegetable noodles, and wonton soup just to name a few.  The pot stickers were the biggest hit! 

​After filling up on the halal food we started our tour of the Mosque. Islam was brought to Nanjing nearly nine hundred years ago when the founder of the Ming Dynasty gained power by the help of Muslim generals and 100,000 Muslim soldiers.  The Jingjue Mosque is over six hundred years old!  It was established during the Ming Dynasty in 1405 when the Emperor at the time ordered it be built.  You can tell that it was sponsored by an Emperor because the entrance gate has five dragons on it.  The Mosque’s design was exquisite.  It is an elegant blend of two different cultures; the architecture comes from the Ming and Qing Dynasty which is why the Mosque has a courtyard setup unlike a traditional Islamic mosque.  

In our dialogue we learned that Chinese Confucianism and Islamic belief were integrated smoothly.  Unlike other religions in China, Islam has had very few hurdles to overcome largely because Confucianism and Islam are so cohesive.  This is due to Liu, a Chinese Muslim scholar, who studied at the Jingjue Mosque.  He translated the Koran into Chinese and solved the problem of assimilating two very different cultures and religions.  From our tour and dialogue we learned an enormous amount of information about Islam in China and halal food.  Before getting back on the metro we all bought halal bread from the food vendors.  There were many options like scallion bread, sesame seed and red bean that were all delicious.  

Without class tomorrow we are all looking forward to going out and experiencing the Nanjing nightlife!

-Caton B.