Updates from August, 2011 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • grenphi 8:52 am on August 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, , extracurricular,   

    A New Era-南京第一的巴西柔術道場 


    If you pay attention to martial arts these days, you probably know that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a big deal. In the U.S., it’s been a revolution that has rightfully made grappling a priority for many martial artists. Over the past year I’ve fallen in love with this style, and have taken the few opportunities to learn that have been available. I was hoping to practice BJJ regularly in Nanjing (with a population of 6.8 million, I thought there HAD to be a BJJ scene). But, after some research and talking with a training partner who travels regularly to China, all I had to work with was club in Shanghai and a vague connection to a student club at one of the two university campuses. Recently, however, that all changed…

    Fred Greenall, with his coinstructor Alex (who’s last name currently escapes me), has opened the first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club in Nanjing. Since August 15 of this year he’s been teaching BJJ in a 7th floor gym near the Zhujianglu metro exit. I happened to find him while searching through online forums for nearby martial arts opportunities. Coming accross one of his posts was the best stroke of luck I’ve had in China yet.

    I managed to go to a training session, and had a fantastic time. Travel abroad can be a bit lonely and stressful for the first week, so it was nice to go do something I love with some awesome people. I plan to continue training with Fred and Alex  throughout my stay here. The student club no longer exists, so Fred’s club takes the responsibility of being the new beginning for BJJ in Nanjing. If the club is successful, it could bring about a new era in martial arts training for the entire city. I hope it does.

    Up above, you’ll see a small gallery of the gym and the group we had that day. The club currently doesn’t have a lot of members or expensive equipment, but it’s looking to grow. In the group picture, the tall white man with the shaved head and red shorts is Fred. The man in the black shirt and shorts on his left is Alex. I apologize for the poor picture quality, but at the moment, all photos are still being taken with my ipod. I used some editing to ameliorate the quality, but to little effect.

    Dojos have been homes away from home for me for quite a while. So now, even thousands of miles from Central New York, I’ve got a home. I hope that the other asiapod bloggers will be able to share in this fortune in their travels.

    Best of luck,


    • HMJ 6:24 pm on September 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      You’re making great connections! Do you know how BJJ came to China? And is there the same level of soul-searching and tension in the Chinese martial arts community over the introduction of grappling as there seems to be in the US?

  • viennamf 9:32 pm on August 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    From Brats to Sushi 

    Studying abroad in Japan has been my dream since childhood so when I arrive in Nagoya on Thursday I will be fulfilling a goal I set in grade school.  This will not be my first time in Japan, however. Last year I was honored to spend two weeks in Tokyo through the Tanaka Foundation’s Technos International Week Program (that might not be the exact name of the program but I was never clear on the real title).  The next three and half months will be very different from those two weeks, but I am glad I that I have had some introduction into real Japanese culture.  It makes living in a different culture a little less overwhelming and I already know I love the food.

    How have I prepared for my study abroad experience in Japan? I think the right answer would be that I spent the summer intensively studying Japanese and advanced kanji and reading all kinds of books about Japanese culture.  That would probably have been a great thing to do.  But I didn’t do that.  Instead I moved to Wisconsin for the summer–Madison, Wisconsin to be exact.  I live in a very small town in Upstate New York and I go to school nearby so I really needed to get out of New York all together and, according to my boyfriend, Madison was the place to go.  So, at the end of May off we went to live in that strange place known as the Midwest for three and a half months, knowing no one and having no guarantee of employment or enjoyment.  But everything worked out far better than I could have hoped.  Within a week I had two jobs (waitressing is a great skill) and was quickly falling in love with the city.  By the end of the first month I had picked up local slang (bubbler for drinking fountain), enjoying local festivities (Brat Fest and various anti-Scott Walker protests) and had began to adapt to the local cuisine of microbrews, bratwurst, and deep-fried cheese curds.  I worked hard and I got to know the downtown capitol district of Madison very well.

    Obviously spending the summer in Wisconsin is vastly different from spending a semester studying abroad in Japan but I think it did prepare me for living in a totally new and unknown area where I know very few people and very little about the area.  I proved to myself that I could pack up and go somewhere entirely new and thrive.  Not that this means that living in Japan is going to be easy now that I have lived in Wisconsin, but I think that it will help a little (although my cheese curd withdrawal is going to be intense).

    As I write this blog entry, I am fifteen hours away from departure for Japan.  I am nervous, overwhelmed, and excited.  There are things I wish I had had a chance to accomplish before I left but I won’t be able to.  There is still packing to be done (well, repacking at this point) and last minute details to iron out.  But I don’t really plan on sleeping so I should be fine.

    In addition to doing coursework in Japan, I will also be doing a service project for the Gilman International Scholarship Program.  I am honored to be one of the recipients of the scholarship and my project will be on the lives of Japanese women.  I plan to do video and audio interviews with young Japanese women about their lives, education, and career plans and turn it into a short video to present on campus next semester. I am really excited about this project and I’m sure I will end up blogging about it.

    Since I really need to get back to packing (and this is a really long post) I am going to condense the rest of the things (mostly ridiculous) I am worried about and excited about into a list:

    Worried About:

    -Being on time to classes


    -Losing my luggage

    -Not having enough money


    Excited About:

    -Japanese food 24/7

    -Boss coffee

    -Living in Japan

    -Learning to cook Japanese food

    -Meeting new people


    -Living with a host family

    -100 other little things I can’t think of right now

    So that’s all for now.  More to come soon!


    • DougReilly 7:35 pm on August 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      It took me a long time to apply my travel philosophy to my own country…I like how you’re starting with that. You’re going to do great! What’s Boss coffee….a brand or just really good coffee, and if the latter, I didn’t know Japan was known for good coffee. Doug

  • Hannah 5:37 pm on August 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , hong_kong,   

    Not quite China 

    A long time ago, in a country that is now far away, I made the decision to take a short trip to Hong Kong before going to Beijing, China for the semester. Having completed my first full day here, my only regret is not planning a longer trip. I’m going to express myself in the form of a list because I feel like that’s what I have been doing all day: making mental notes on why Hong Kong is awesome.

    1.  Arrival- I arrived at my hotel in Wan Chai after a 16 hour plane ride, and a near 3 hour bus trip from the airport (due to heavy traffic). Needless to say, I was not in the greatest mindset when I arrived. But then I was greeted by the friendly staff. And escorted to my room (number 2525 on the 25th floor- how cool is that?). And so began my journey.

    2. Exploring- It was already evening when I had deposited everything in my room.  My first stroll out of the lobby was not promising at all. I turned left, I turned right, and I couldn’t find anything but highway. It was frustrating, and the hotel had a restaurant that was calling to me. It was tempting to turn back into the hotel haven- but going abroad isn’t staying in a hotel. I decided to follow the crowds, and eventually I made it. It took some creepy tunnels (different kind of subway), remembering to look left when crossing the street (cars drive on the other side here), and getting lost, but I finally found the street of shops. And it was so worth it.

    3. Dinner1- Decided on a Japanese Sushi bar. They had sushi, dumplings, and waiters that don’t speak English or Mandarin. I discovered this after the waiter lectured me in Cantonese when I said ‘thank you’ in Mandarin. It was a friendly lecture.  Downloading of Cantonese language apps onto the iTouch to commence when I get back to the hotel.

    4. Cantonese-

    Phrases that the Lingopal iTouch app does not have: check; food; how much?; delicious; hotel; good;  you’re welcome.

    Phrases that the Lingopal iTouch app does have: I’m a dolphin trainer; I’d be willing to learn Cantonese to get to know you; I like puppies, long walks on the beach, and reading French poetry in the moonlight.

    …Okay then.

    5. Hotel at night- My room overlooks an enormous cemetery. Less creepy at night.

    Hotel View at night

    Hotel View during the day

    6. Morning- Waking up at 8am thanks to time change means a very long day- a good thing on a short trip. I find the authentic market where locals buy fruits, veggies, and so much fresh fish and meat. It’s beautiful. No one is speaking English. I see produce and fish that I have only seen on the Travel Channel before. The fish are so fresh they are still wiggling around on the counter.

    Fruit at the market

    7. Afternoon- I take the shuttle from my hotel to Times Square. Over 8,000 miles away from home, and it’s weird to be in a place that actually is kind of like the Manhattan Times Square. I find Red Pepper after wondering around aimlessly- the best way to find things. It was a casual looking restaurant. Of course, it’s the quiet ones that sneak up on you- The food was delicious (dried sauteed string beans and pork, thanks for asking), but the tea was fantastic. Lychee tea. My favorite. As I expressed my gratitude to my waiter, he asked where I was from. When I said New York, he told me that he had worked on Broadway and 31st for years. Thanks for the amazing meal Ricky.

    8. Dinner2- Not as exciting as lunch. Wandered around Wan Chai for three hours in 95 degree heat, finally lowering standards to any place with air conditioning. They had individual televisions in front of the seats for single eaters- the future of fast food dining?

    9. Tomorrow- Today, I walked around with the locals. Tomorrow, I am booked on a sight seeing tour. I am so excited to be one of those tourists taking pictures of everything.

    10. Home- Slightly worried about New York in a hurricane/tropical storm, and looking at the sunny skies all day is guilt inducing. My high school has been turned into a shelter, and parts of my town are being evacuated. Hopefully members of my Beijing program will be able to fly out soon, as the airports are still shut down.

    Thanks for hanging on for this very long post. It’s been a long day, but a fun one.


    • Sue Jessica 6:21 pm on August 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I loved that you had a good first day, and Ricky sounds very nice and friend able. I was disappointed to read that dinner wasn’t good. It kind of reminds me of when we go to Villa Maria or the Tavern and we’re disappointed.
      Keep having fun, xo
      ❤ Sue

    • Juliet Habjan Boisselle 12:46 am on August 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Hannah! These pictures are such a treat on such a grey and gloomy day here. Thanks for sharing (all from the iTouch?). Can’t wait to see more!

    • Yi Lei 5:47 pm on August 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Oh my gosh I can’t believe you are already in china now!
      Have fun in one of my favorite cities~
      I miiiiss you!

  • grenphi 6:05 am on August 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , fitness,   

    Welcome to the Gym 

    The great thing about jet lag is that when it’s time for a 6:00 a.m. workout, I’ve been up for three hours already.

    Up above is a gallery of the fitness area near my dorm. Unfortunately, due to internet issues, I was not able to get them in order, but I’ll explain for you what’s going on. The picture of the man in the blue shirt isn’t from the gym. He was a nice man who sold me a pair of Kung Fu shoes. I felt like including him because he was a cool guy. I bought the Kung Fu shoes after seeing the man in gold wearing a pair and looking very comfortable.

    Until today, I’d never seen a Chinese person work out. I’ve only seen one Chinese person who looked fairly muscular since I’ve gotten to Nanjing. Combined with all the smoking and dangerous driving, I could have sworn that health and wellness was not a huge priority here.

    That’s why this fitness area was a huge shock. I discovered it empty on our campus tour one evening, and thought that’s how it would remain. But, when I went there at 5:30 a.m., it was packed. Not only was it packed, but it was packed with people who were much older than I was. There were some people my age on the basketball court and playing badminton, but that was it. However, what was more shocking than the retiree dominated demographic was the fact that the large majority of them were in good fantastic shape. I was repeatedly outclassed on the pull-up bar by men 3 times my age. Many of the grandmothers were flexible enough to kick me in the face. There were a few older men who worked out without shirts, and their 6 packs were better than most of the college students I know. Some of these people were performing exercises I had never even seen before.

    I’m not sure what their success is attributed to, but I did recognize some fundamental differences in training philosophy. The first thing I noticed was that their exercises incorporated the entire body. There was not, as their often is in the US, the concept of isolating muscle groups. These practitioners were using their whole bodies in every exercise, and the results were visible in their casual movements. They were comfortable and moved very fluidly. The second thing that was visible was an absence of explosiveness. They didn’t overstrain their bodies or try to perform 110%. They worked very hard, but they did so at a pace. Finally, I managed to recognize that many of the people exercising were performing limbering movements lined out in Mr. Bisio’s book “Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth“, while few were doing simple static stretching. This is encouraging as I continue to use his book as a resource.

    I’ve never seen so many old people moving, chatting, and living with so much energy and vitality. Until now, this kind of movement and, dare I say it, youthfulness at old age was stuff of legend for me. It was reserved for the stories of old kung fu masters, the Gracie family, and legendary fighters such as Randy Couture who won a UFC title at 43 (definitely not elderly, but well beyond what is considered “prime”).

    Many of the people in my group have taken to going drinking and clubbing. While they are nice people, I will leave them to their night time parties for now. At 6 am, this is where I will be, and I will need my sleep.


    • HMJ 10:04 pm on August 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Pics of the shoes?

    • HMJ 5:37 pm on August 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thx! Are you getting emails and Skype messages?

      • grenphi 8:39 pm on August 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I am receiving emails, but not skype messages.

    • Juliet Habjan Boisselle 12:54 am on August 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Love your use of the strike-out text for emphasis. Keep ’em coming. Great reads for this middle-ager up with a toddler at 5:30 am 🙂

  • Tatianna Jasmine 9:40 pm on August 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fruit, Polish, ,   

    Pink Polish and Fruit Talk 

    This summer has been most eventful. Internships, beach days (very few), movies, friends and family sums up the many things that kept me occupied. However, the most memorable experience for me thus far was a simple trip to the nail salon.

    It was time for a much needed manicure, my new manicurist warned me about the dangers of cutting your cuticles instead of pushing them back. As many times as I had been to this particular salon, I had never been serviced by this particular person. He welcomed me into his station, and got straight to work. He and I joked about which colors would look good on me, and which would not. We both settled for a burst of orange and pink tones. This color is much more vibrant in person. I have learned that many colors, people, places and things are always much more vibrant when experienced up close and personal.

    My manicure was complete and my new friend was handling a business transaction with a colleague. I did not know that this salon was owned by a Vietnamese family until this point. Instantly I recognized the language they were speaking- I had been teaching myself simple Vietnamese phrases. I decided that although my manicure was done, I wanted to learn more about my new friend. I joined him as he took a break from work, and asked if he wouldn’t mind chatting for a bit. I was in for a real treat! We practiced some of my spoken Vietnamese, and he told me about his home town near the Mekong Delta. I was so happy to have the opportunity to experience some of Vietnam here in my own hometown. Although I love my vibrant pink polish, it was not as memorable as the fruit talk.

    He gave me a list of places to eat, mostly mom and pop kinds of restaurants. Then he pulled out a fruit called Longan. He handed me one, and told me that they were most commonly found in the south near Saigon. The outside of the fruit was rough and shell like. This reminded me of a Qenepa- a similar fruit found mostly in the Caribbean. I cracked it open, and the inside was as if I had peeled a green grape. Just one bite, and my mouth was filled with juice that tasted like a melon. I was fascinated- a fruit I had never been exposed to, resembled so many of the fruits I have been accustomed to eating. After having a few more Longans, I thanked my new friend for spending time with me during his busy work day and headed back home.

    I am so grateful to have had this experience. As I walked home, my heart smiled. I was suddenly super eager  to board my flight on September 4th, and I began counting down the days. Today I continue my count down…10 days left. See you soon Vietnam.

    • TJ
    • DougReilly 7:26 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Great story and great that you took the opportunity to engage them with your Vietnamese! You’ve already begun to travel. Did you happen to get a snapshot of them with your ipod? 😉

    • Juliet Habjan Boisselle 12:50 am on August 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I really enjoyed reading this story. Your description of eating the longan reminds me of my first encounter with lychee. My Vietnamese sister-in-law and her family introduced me to the fruit a few years ago and they were amazing — and, curiously, hard to describe to others — such luscious, unexpected juice inside a tough exterior! Now I want to find a longan to compare!

  • Tatianna Jasmine 2:57 pm on August 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    You Got Some Guts 

    The countdown begins, in less than 10 days I will be departing from New York City, and arriving in Saigon, Vietnam. According to an older colleague, I  “got some guts.” Many people were surprised by my decision to study abroad in Vietnam and not a super touristy European country. But that’s just it, I’m not a tourist. I am a sponge, seeking to soak up the ways of life that still exists outside of the western capitalist mind. Studying anthropology has helped me realize my true passion, culture. So, when I encounter a confused, even terrified reaction from people… I smile. I smile at them because I want my words to enter their thoughts in a positive light, and hopefully induce a new way of thinking. When I am asked “why Vietnam?”, I respond with “why not Vietnam?” Of course the most popular response is the war. According to Webster, war is defined as a period of conflict between nations or states. What is a nation? What is a state? A nation is a group of people united through common decent, history, culture, or language. A state is a governed entity; people who may not consider themselves as part of the same nation are sometimes bordered into the same state. However, at the core of both entities is none other than the human species. If all human beings recognized each other as such- and were treated equally to one another- our planet would be a step closer to sustainability and peace. So, why Vietnam? Because there are groups of people with a common history, culture, and language that I am interested in learning about.  Maybe I do have some guts, or maybe its not necessarily a surplus of guts, but just the right amount. Enough guts to live amongst my fellow homo sapiens, and learn to respect their way of life- even if we [America] was once at war with them.

    • Tatianna Jasmine {TJ}
    • DougReilly 7:24 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      When I was first considering coming to work at HWS, I was telling a particularly jaded middle-aged American ex-patriate that I would have the chance to go to Vietnam. He snarled, wide-eyed: “Most of my generation was trying to avoid that!” I decided at that point I really wanted to go to Vietnam, and that I really didn’t want to be a long-term expatriate. But anyway, “going to Vietnam” certainly has different connotations depending on if you’re talking to a vet, draft-avoider, a Vietnamese-American or another person too young to remember the conflict.

    • To Thu Tra 1:49 pm on August 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I had a similar experience being a Vietnamese student in the US. When I first came to HWS, on my fight to Rochester, I sat next to a vet and he asked me how did it feel to come here and how did Vietnamese people think of American. It struck me how deep the impression of the war still imposed on my country. If you search book about Vietnam on Amazon, many of them are about the Vietnam war with images of a Vietnam from decades ago. To us, the war is the past. We move on and have a present, war-less and developing economically. My parents generation’s never talk about it with grudges. They send me to study in the US, have many of my American friends over for dinner and even plan to visit to States someday. That fact encourages me to work hard to introduce to people the Vietnam that I was born and raised in.

  • grenphi 7:19 pm on August 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Change, , , ,   

    Stress Wellington 

    Wow, a lot happened in 3 months.

    As hoped, I’ve changed a lot since May. For the most part, I’m healthier, happier, and I have a much more positive attitude about my life. That by itself is a success. But, I’ve also managed to meet some of my other goals. I worked 3 jobs this summer, and managed to at least offset some travel costs (if nothing else, I got paid to be busy). I was able to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Karate this summer, so my conditioning has greatly improved. I’m mentally more prepared for conflict now than ever before. I’ve also managed the transition out of vegetarianism fairly smoothly. Overall, I feel fairly prepared for the semester in Nanjing.

    Where I haven’t progressed as much as I would have liked has been in my Chinese. 3 jobs and martial arts became overwhelming at times, so I didn’t study as much as I wanted. I also haven’t focused as much on simplified characters as I would have liked, and I haven’t been using as much audio material as initially planned. I have been using the “DianHua” app on the iPod, and the study function has proven incredibly useful. However, this hasn’t been a replacement for time lost.

    I’m now just a few days out from my departure on the 24th, and oddly, I’m rather calm (minus perhaps the series of muscle tension injuries I’ve been keeping at bay with self-administered acupressure massage and Qi Gong this last week). However, just a few days ago I was extremely worried about the trip. A few people tried to help by telling me study abroad would be “great” and so on, but that didn’t do much. It wasn’t until I thought back to the past two years of school that I became calm. I made a list in my head of all the things I am not currently doing as I go to China that I have done in the past two years. It goes something like this:

    I am not going through personal trauma.
    I am not helping someone else out of their personal trauma.
    I don’t believe I am at a great risk of losing my own life.
    I have little reason to believe someone close to me is at risk of losing theirs’.
    I am not responsible for someone else’s survival or personal safety.
    I am not breaking someone’s heart.

    I’m just going to China.

    This will probably be far from the hardest thing I’ve done, although there will definitely be struggles. Who knows what will happen once I get there.

    I don’t really know how to end this post, so I’ll leave the readers with a quote. I learned this from the Venerable Tenzin Yignyen during my Tibetan Mandala course. I meditate on it when the world starts getting to me.

    “I learn more tolerance from my enemies than I do from my friends”

    Best of luck to my fellow Asiapod bloggers and everybody returning to school.


    • DougReilly 3:50 pm on August 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for posting, and it’s been great to hear your thoughts as you get ready to undertake your journey. I like your sense of perspective and the window into the mental process you’re giving us. It reminds me of the mental process I go through as an airplane takes off (which causes me a bit of distress!): I think about the statistics of flying (it’s staggeringly safe), imagine a set of dice with a million sides each and consider that I never get the number I want when I only have six-sided dice! Then I relax, consider myself lucky to be in such a machine, and then accept that I might die, but am not really likely to. But if I did, I certainly couldn’t complain about my life thus far. I have several exercises like this that takes me through the flight. I don’t mind the distress, really, it makes the first steps on new soil so much more appreciated!

    • HMJ 2:06 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Getting your chat messages; mine are stuck, marked as “pending.” ❤

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