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  • melinthemiddle 6:48 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Posts from the Fall: Chinese Thanksgiving 

    Originally written: 11/25/12


    Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This was my first time spending Thanksgiving away from home, so I tried to make the day special in a way that can only happen in China. At first, I nearly forgot that it was Thanksgiving at all. I went to class in the morning like any other Thursday and remembered just before lunch that it was Thanksgiving. I quickly called a few friends and put together the perfect holiday plans.  Four hours later, the festivities began.  It started with a few classmates and I going to a small on-campus park and playing a makeshift game of football.

    For Thanksgiving dinner, a group of us went out to eat at a nearby restaurant. I’m afraid that turkey is very hard to come by in China, so our Thanksgiving dinner consisted of sweet and sour fish, kung pao chicken, snow peas, hot spiced string beans, sweet buns, and eggplant in soy sauce. For dessert, we ordered a dish of potatoes covered in a caramelized sugar sauce (potatoes that are sweet, get it? Sweet potatoes! Great traditional Thanksgiving food!).

    On Black Friday, I went out to the Hutongs with my tutor and classmate. A Hutong is like an alleyway, except instead of being formed by tall buildings, they are formed by one story homes that are crammed together. Many people live there, but you can also find some small shops.  They are now considered to be the historical parts of Beijing and are surrounded by stores, restaurants, bars, and other attractions. We went there and walked around, tried some of the local food, and toured they area by rickshaw.  We spent a full 7 hours there! I’m so thankful for the chance to have such awesome experiences like this!

    I guess I should mention this as well: while trying out the local foods, my tutor suggested I try a very famous dish: cow stomach. While everyone else back at home enjoyed turkey and potatoes for Thanksgiving, I got to chew on a strip of cow intestinal lining. Yum? Haha just kidding. It was gross. But hey, at least I tried it!

    I’d like to shout out to my friends and family back in the US. I hope everyone enjoyed watching (and playing) football, eating pumpkin pie, and watching the parade!

    • jhboisselle 5:58 pm on October 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      testing adding a reply comment

  • melinthemiddle 6:29 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , dance   

    Posts from the Fall: Shall we Dance? 

    Originally written: 12/24/12

    This past week was full of dancing! On Thursday, I saw the Chinese ballet 红色娘子军 hongse niangzi jun “The Red Detachment of Women.” This ballet has an interesting political history and was one of the ballets featured in the movie “Mao’s Last Dancer.” I haven’t seen a ballet in a loooonnngg time, so I was very excited to see this performance.

    “The Red Detachment of Women.”

    On Friday, I had a very cool experience, but first I need to tell you some background information: about three weeks ago, my classmate invited me to join her in going to dinner with two young Tibetan women whom she met near the neighboring university. Tibet is the region in Western China that borders the Himalayan Mountains and India. The people who live there are Tibetans, a minority ethnic group in China. These two young women had come from Tibet to Beijing in order to study English at a university here. We had dinner at an authentic Tibetan restaurant, which was little more than an apartment that was equipped with a small kitchen, a couple of tables, and a few chairs. As we spoke over dinner, I began to learn these women’s stories and why they wanted to learn English. “Everyone in the world, I think, will be speaking English, so it will be very useful to learn,” said one of the women, “besides, I love English!!”

    The passion and dedication these women had for learning and studying English is astounding and inspiring. On top of that, they have totally adorable personalities! One of them is a huge Beyonce fan; the other one is very outgoing and quick to make friends. They invited me to go with them to a Friday night dance at the neighboring university, so I agreed to go. It was not what I expected.

    Usually when people talk about going out dancing on a Friday evening, I tend to think of loud hip-hop/techno music and strobe lights. This Friday, however, there were no strobe lights and no pop music. Instead, we gathered in an outdoor court yard where traditional Tibetan music was being blasted from a laptop connected to an amplifier. There, everyone danced in a circle around the computer in traditional Tibetan fashion. My Tibetan friends guided me through the steps: 4 steps forward, tap the right foot, tap the left foot, spin in a circle, 4 steps backwards, step and turn, REPEAT. Each dance was a different combination of these basic steps with maybe a hop or a stomp thrown in. There were nearly 100 people there dancing! Most of them were Tibetan and knew the dances and the songs fairly well. Needless to say, I was the only foreigner there. Going to this dance is definitely one of my favorite experiences so far, it is such a unique experience that could not have been replicated anywhere else. I plan to go back next Friday and the Friday after that so that I can practice and become the best Tibetan Dancer that Ballston Spa, NY has ever seen.

    My final dance story is about Saturday morning. My other classmate recently became friends with the person who teaches a ballroom dance class at the gym on Saturday mornings. I went along with her last Saturday to see what it was like. The first half of the class was spent learning the steps to a basic waltz without a partner. After about an hour of practice on our own, the teacher announced that we would next move onto dancing with a partner. No sooner did he finish saying this than did one of the boys in the class ask to be my partner. I was very surprised. Back in the US, I am NEVER the first girl picked for a dance… this is probably because I rarely ever go to dances…but whatever, that’s not the point! I was surprised to have been picked first to dance out of all the girls there who had been attending this class throughout the semester and who clearly knew what they were doing better than I did. The classmate who I came to dance with (who also acquired a dance partner rather quickly) told me her theory: we look very different from everyone in the room, we are clearly foreign. That means that people are curious about us; what language do we speak, what country do we come from, and why did we come to China?

    I believe this theory to be true, or at least it was supported by the conversation I had with my dance partner as we practiced our waltz. He asked me where I was from, where I studied Chinese, how long I would be here, what did I think of China, etc. It appears to me that many Chinese people, even those in Beijing, are still not used to seeing foreigners. I’m sure as China continues to grow, the number of travelers and students who go there will steadily increase and locals will eventually get used to seeing people from all over the world in their city. Until then, I think I will enjoy the fact that if I ever choose to take more ballroom dance classes in China, I won’t have to worry about not having a dance partner.

  • kimuchee 2:26 pm on December 25, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , different languages, , , ,   

    Lessons Learned 

    1) Communication is an amazing thing.

    Being in a country that speaks a language with absolutely no connection to yours except a couple of loan words can be quite a frustrating experience. I took understanding a person and having a person understand me for granted. It sounds silly but the fact that you can understand me now and the ideas that I am trying to portray is a beautiful thing. But when someone finally does understand me I get this ridiculous elation. It’s like my eyes have just been opened to the fact that the human species is amazing. That there are different languages and cultures is amazing. I wish I could find words that could express this enlightenment properly but unfortunately I wasn’t gifted with the power of eloquence.

    While on this trip I’ve also had a new-found respect for those people from non-English countries that attend our school, whether it be for a semester or four years. Talking about complicated concepts in a language that you were not born with is no joke!

    2) Distance makes the Heart grow fonder.

    This has proven to be true throughout my college experience in regards to my family and has proven to be even more true in Japan where I am away from my family and friends. I have resolved to go back and really make sure to treasure those bonds that I do have and to put effort into every relationship that I engage in.

    3) Try everything, even when it makes you queasy.

    My first adventure with queasy inducing food in japan has been with natto. Natto is essentially fermented beans with soy sauce. I had been warned about the dish and had been crazy to try it ever since. Of course it was everything  they said it would be. Stinky and Cheese link. I was told then that it is and acquired taste and most Japanese young people don’t like it. Needless to say I didn’t like the food but my host family found pleasure in my willingness to try out new foods. My second adventure was with a dish called Sukiyaki. This dish consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef) which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside tofu, cabbage, mushrooms, and other miscellaneous delicious things. It doesn’t sound bad does it? Imagine my surprise when my host family proceeded to show me how to eat it. I  could feel my eyes getting nigger as they went on to scramble a raw egg in their bowl and dip the meat and vegetables in before eating them. That had to be one of my biggest adventures and I was well rewarded for my effort! It was absolutely delicious!!! I just couldn’t think too much about the fact that I was eating raw egg or I would start to feel queasy.

    4) Traveling is beautiful.

    There are of course difficult times that you experience when traveling but for all of those experiences there are three times as much wonderful experiences. After a while you even being to appreciate the tough times because they make the wonderful times stand out even more. You meet all kinds of people as well! I can’t ever see myself getting tired of the thrill that comes from traveling.

    5) Japanese is hard.

    Of course I knew this before my trip to Japan but studying Japanese and being fluent in Japanese are two completely different things, but on this trip I have come to realize that becoming fluent in Japanese is now a goal in my life. It is something that I wish to pursue no matter what career I ultimately end up choosing. The director of JCMU told us in our opening ceremony that the way you can tell if you have become fluent in a language is if you can understand their jokes. Not only do you understand the grammar, and vocabulary, but you understand the culture behind the joke as well. This is the measurement that I wish to abide by. Until I can understand jokes in Japanese I don’t want to stop learning it!

  • explorewithasmile 3:08 pm on December 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Sunset in Sihanoukville 

    Sunset in Sihanoukville

    Taken on my way back to Sihanoukville from Koh Rong Samloem, an island off the coast of Cambodia, via boat.

  • kimuchee 1:24 am on December 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anime, , , latin american culture, music   

    Mi Bachata En Fukuoka (My Bachata in Fukuoka) 

    Sekai Itchi Hatsukoi (The World’s Greatest First Love). I believe that this phrase adequately represents my relationship with Japanese language and culture. My love for Japan really blossomed during my childhood years. I can still recall the countless days I would wake up at 6AM during middle school just to watch Sailor Moon.

    Through watching ridiculous amounts of anime (Japanese animation) I found that this strange world called Japan was extremely beautiful. From their attention to detail, to their meticulous cleaning habits, to the pink sakura trees, I just couldn’t get enough. It seemed so different from the world of Latin American culture that I was so used to. One of the happiest moments of my life was when I realized that a very famous Dominican artist named Juan Luis Guerra made a song dedicated to his visit to Japan. It is called “Bachata en Fukuoka.” Never in a million years would I have thought that these two completely separate worlds of mine would collide and work so well together. But to hear him speak Japanese in a bachata, a genre of music that originated in Dominican Republic,  warmed my heart. All I could think was: “I’m not alone! There is a native of Dominican Republic that loves Japanese culture like I do!” Here is the link to the music video:

    And so I decided that my last few days in Japan would be spent in Fukuoka. I took the Shinkansen bullet train from Maibara and arrived there in 4 hours. The first thing that I realized was that it was much warmer than Hikone. (Thank goodness for that it’s freezing over there!) The second thing I realized was that they have a different way of speaking over here! I had just gotten used to hearing Kansai-ben in Hikone, only to come to realize that it is completely different from Fukuoka-ben. Needless to say I was surprised upon getting there.

    The reason why I really wanted to go there besides the sight-seeing was so that I could play that song and be in Fukuoka. When I actually did play the song, it was very surreal. “How many times have I wished this?”, I thought to myself. It was an amazing moment for me. And it was the best way that I could end my trip in Japan.

    My love for Japan has only grown since my childhood years and through my history and Japanese classes I have come to appreciate it even more. Don’t get me wrong though, it has not been a walk in the park.  We have been through some rough patches and there have been times where I wanted to quit but like all love it required hard work and dedication. I have been dedicated to my studies of Japan since my first year at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and I have no intention of stopping.

    Japan, I am sincerely going to miss you.

    Now, off to South Korea!!! 🙂

  • explorewithasmile 1:36 pm on December 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    It Finally Feels Like Vacation 

    After touring the capital, I traveled south to Sihanoukville – a popular beach community. It is filled with tourists, foreigners, backpackers of the like especially since it is around the holidays. The beach is stunning, the people are incredibly nice and the parties are great!

    Picture 1- Sunset on the Ochheuteal Beach
    Picture 2 – A view from my beach chair
    Picture 3 – Me and a friend I made getting a chance to play with the fire tricks at a party on the beach




    • Ellen 2:29 pm on December 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Oh no! You’ve just open the door for someone to remind you (one more time!) how he learned to EAT fire.

  • explorewithasmile 1:29 pm on December 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Exploring Phnom Penh 

    I spent a day and a half touring Phnom Penh doing most of the tourist spots. It is similar to Ho Chi Minh City as far as modernization, but has the historical and political building that are in Hanoi. In short, Phnom Penh has the best of both worlds, what a city!

    Picture 1 – Cambodia Vietnam Friendship Monument
    Picture 2 – The King (massive image) in pfront of Royal Palace
    Picture 3 – Cambodian Independence Monument




    • Ellen 2:25 pm on December 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Beautiful structures. I’ll admit my ignorance of Cambodia’s history. Can you fill us in when you get a chance?

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