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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
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    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.

  • jhboisselle 3:05 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    The Fight for Dokdo 

    This posting is from Chelsea Gannon:

    While doing some “touristy” shopping in Insadong, one of the interesting but most heavily tourist-trodden locations in Seoul, the group I was walking with and I were stopped by a group of school girls collecting a “survey” for an assignment of public opinion of the rightful ownership of Dokdo. Dokdo, a small seemingly insignificant rock island between Japan and South Korea has long been the subject of territorial dispute between the two nations. The girls carried around signs reading “Dokdo is our country” in Korean and “Our Dokdo” in English, as well as handed out candy to all who were willing to put a checkmark next to South Korea as the rightful owner of the island rather than Japan.

    I found this appearance particularly interesting because it showed the prevalence such territorial land disputes plays in contemporary Korean politics and relations.  Additionally, one member of my group jested with the girls in Korean about sharing the island with Japan, to which he was met with absolute disgust. While it is true these girls were only as small subset of the population, it struck me as immensely interesting the power education can play in youth’s perception of current issues, particularly in a situation founded on such a tumultuous history between Japan and Korea.

  • jhboisselle 3:03 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Couple Clothing 

    This posting is from Chelsea Gannon:

    One “culture shocking” aspect of South Korean life I encountered was couples. Not only are there immense numbers of couples, but large cultural supports for the prevalence of these pairs. In Korean dramas and movies, love and dating is an incredibly popular subject.  Additionally, gender roles within these relationships are rather strictly defined with girls often acting cutesy and innocent, a trait known as “aegyo”, and the boys acting authoritative, strong, and as the caretaker of their girlfriends. With such a prominent role of couples, a culture has developed where each engages in “normal” activities such as the men carrying their girlfriend’s purses or most interestingly wearing matching accessories or clothing. More often than not, couple items are shoes or shirts, but it was not uncommon to see couples decked out in matching gear including shoes, full outfits, and bags. In extreme cases, couples would wear even matching nail polish. While this phenomenon was highly prevalent throughout Seoul, we witnessed extensive numbers of couple items due to the sheer number of Koreans we encountered on a daily basis. Couples, both dating and married, even purchased matching “USA Pavilion” cowboy hats and t shirts from our gift store, specifically asking if a certain item had one for the other gender so that it was “couple wear”. Although I couldn’t take photos while working, I was able to snap a few while on my breaks or off days, and I’ve posted them below:


  • jhboisselle 2:59 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Yeosu Bay and Mosageum Beach 

    This posting is from Chelsea Gannon:

    Yeosu was selected as the location for the 2012 World Expo with the theme of Living Oceans and Coasts because of its tropical -like environment and picturesque coastline. However, Yeosu was also picked for its industrial and economical ties to the sea. Because of this Yeosu has been a particularly interesting place to explore; full of beautiful beaches but also indications of Yeosu’s industrial significance.
    On one of the local beaches I’ve visited often, Mosageum Beach, is famous for it’s black sand. It is a small but pleasant beach with coarse, dark grey sand nestled between a cement jetty and jagged green hillside. The water is vibrant teal on sunny days (despite the grey hue in the picture) and spotted with small fishing boats and in the distance, with oil tankers waiting to be loaded with petroleum. The picture below is of Yeosu bay, which I took from a ferry to a nearby town.

    beach1 beach2

  • jhboisselle 2:56 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Yeosu’s Market 

    market1 This posting is from Chelsea Gannon:

    Fruits and vegetables are incredibly expensive (I have bought a single carrot for 3 dollars and seen watermelons priced at 30) so today  I decided to go to the local market rather than the standard grocery store in hopes of finding some lower prices. Not only did I find vegetables for reasonable prices (still pricy compared to the states- but no where near as mind blowingly high) I had a lot of fun exploring and talking with the ajumas.

    market6  market4 market3

    The meat section of the market was a little less enjoyable and I was nearly run over by an ajosshi pushing a cart of halved pig carcasses.


  • jhboisselle 2:47 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    양념오리한마리 (Marinated Duck) 

    This posting is on behalf of Chelsea Gannon:

    My favorite style of Korean restuarant is Barbeque, which involves using the hot griddle or grill over hot coals at your table and cooking your own order of meat. Tonight for dinner, two of my friends and I went out and ordered 800g of marinated duck for 30,000 KRW, which converts to around $27 (under $10 a person!).

    While our griddle heated up, the ajuma brought out an array of side dishes: kimchi, garlic, anchovies, cucumber kimchi, pickled sesame leaves, two kinds of sauces, rice, and lettuce leaves for wrapping.

    Pretty soon she brought out the duck.


    All of the ingredients in the final product!!


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