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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.

     
  • melinthemiddle 5:27 pm on November 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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     Asiapod Challenge 6 posted on behalf of Melissa… 

     

     (A play written by Melissa Hosek, based on a true story)

    (Scene 1: Setting the Scene)

    ~I am sitting in the lobby of the on-campus hotel. A little old woman sits down on the sofa across the way from me. She had just come inside after walking around in the crisp autumn air and is wearing her winter coat, silk scarf, and sunglasses .  My American and Japanese classmates sit next to me on the lobby sofa as we discuss our class movie project.

    American Classmate: “Uh oh, my computer 没点了 (my computer just died).

    Me: “Now how are we going to finish the movie?”

    American Classmate: “Maybe we can go to Nyoki’s room, his dorm is nearby.”

    ~He turns to our other classmate, Nyoki, who is from Japan and speaks very little English.

    American classmate: “我们可不可以在你的宿舍里继续拍电影?(Can we continue making the movie in your dorm?)”

    Japanese Classmate: “可以! (Sure!)”

    ~American and Japanese Classmates exit the scene.  I decide to stay behind and wait for another classmate to arrive.

    Scene 2: The Dialogue Begins.

    ~ The old woman stares at my classmates and I. She is probably wondering “who are the foreigners and why can they speak Chinese?”

    ~I move to sit next to her.

    Me: “你好“(Hello!)

    Beijing Woman 1:“你好, 你是哪个国家的呢?” (Hello, which country are you from?)

    Me:“我是美国人” (I am American)

    Beijing Woman 1: “真的吗?你现在离你的家很远。 你想念你的妈妈吧。“(Really? You are quite far from home. You must miss your mother, don’t you?”

    Me:“对,我想念她。”(Yes, I miss her.)

    Beijing Woman 1:“你为什么在这儿?你是学生吗?”(Why are you here [in Beijing]? Are you a student?)

    Me:“是。 我在这里学习中文。” (Yes, I am studying Chinese here.)

    Beijing Woman 1:“你的中文说很好。 你在北京呆好久吗?” (You Chinese is pretty good! Have you been in Beijing for a long time?)

    Me:“我只在北京呆了一个学期了。”(I am only in Beijing for one semester)

    Beijing Woman 1:“那你很想你的妈妈把?” (Ah, I’m sure you miss your mother, right?)

    Me:“对,我很想她。”(Yes, I miss her a lot)

    Beijing Woman 1:“你的家里人是多少?” (How many people are in your family?)

    Me:“我的家有五口人:妈妈、爸爸、哥哥、弟弟和我”(My family has 5 people: My mom, dad, older brother, younger brother, and me)

    Beijing Woman 1:“唯一个女儿吧?那你肯定是你妈妈的宝贝儿。你今年多大??” (You are the only daughter then! You surely must be your Mother’s [favorite] baby! How old are you?)

    ~Another Beijing Woman sits down beside Beijing Woman 1.

    Me:“20 岁“(20 years old)

    ~Beijing Woman 1 turns to Beijing Woman 2 sitting beside her .

    Beijing Woman 1: “看这个宝贝儿,20岁, 呆在北大学习汉语“。 (Look at this baby! 20 years old, and staying at Peking University to study Chinese!)

    Beijing Woman 2“小宝贝儿! 我今年60,70 岁左右。” (What a small baby! I’m 60 or 70 years old this year!)

    Me: “您们俩为什么在这家宾馆里? 您们在等朋友吗?” (Why are you two here at the hotel? Are you waiting for a friend?)

    Beijing Woman 2: 我们刚吃完了午饭, 来这儿休息一下, 外面太冷了。 (We just finished eating lunch. We came here [inside] to rest a bit, it’s too cold outside)

    Me: 对, 北京的天气越来越冷了。 请问, 我可不可以拍您们照片?“(Yes, the weather in Beijing is getting colder and colder. Excuse me, could I take your picture?)

    Beijing Woman 1:“我们这么老!为什么要拍我们的照片?” (But we’re so old! Why would you want to take a picture of us?)

    Me:“回国以后我想给我妈妈介绍一下您们俩。”(When I go home, I want to tell my mother about you.)

    Beijing Woman 1“好的好的。 你可以告诉你的妈妈你认识了两个老北京太太。”(Ok, Ok. You can tell your mother that you met two old Beijing wives)

    ~I pull out my camera and take a picture of the two women.

    Me: “好的。 谢谢您们”(Ok, thank you!)

    Beijing Woman 1:“不客气。 好。 我们走吧。 再见宝贝儿!” (You’re welcome. Ok, we have to go now. Goodbye baby!)

    ~They Exit. End Scene.

    ~Fin. 

     
  • melinthemiddle 12:27 am on October 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Challenge Four: Monk in Luoyang 

    This posting is from Melissa Hosek:

    I have attached to this posting a picture I took in the city of Luoyang at a Buddhist Temple. CIEE took us to this temple to explore and learn about Buddhism. After our official tour, they let us explore on our own. While most of my classmates went to the shopping center in the front of the temple, I decided to walk down a small sidewalk and go deeper into the heart of the temple. I thought I heard running water ahead, like from a stream or small waterfall, so I decided to cross over a stone bridge in search of the water source. When I arrived at the other side of the bridge, I looked over the edge to see what I had just crossed over and this is what I saw. This Monk is pretty young, maybe 20 years old. He is washing his clothes outside of his bedroom, which is located in a small stone cabin under the bridge. I wonder what his life must be like.

     

    Monk in Luoyang washing clothes.

     
    • Jennifer 2:26 pm on October 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Melissa! I love this photo and the story of your exploration that accompanies it. There is something about it that grabs me that I can’t articulate. It’s a great photo.

    • Hannah 6:38 pm on October 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I loved Luoyang! This picture is amazing, it shows that Luoyang is more than just a tourist destination

    • DougReilly 3:24 pm on October 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Melissa,
      It is a nice photograph, the different point of view is refreshing. Isn’t it interesting how far we travel sometimes and yet we still can only glimpse things that are just out of reach to us? I’ve thought this a thousand times…what’s it like inside that family’s apartment, what does that fish seller go home to at night…hopefully at least a few times you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and actually get to cross that last little border.
      Doug

  • melinthemiddle 1:00 pm on October 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Challenge #2 Signs & Billboards 

    This posting is from Melissa Hosek.


    I found this graffiti on a building located by Wuming Hu, the on-campus lake. The building was covered with prayers and wishes from students and prospective students; some asking for help getting accepted into Peking University,others asking for good luck on exams and their futures. I translated this particular piece of graffiti to mean “I hope my daughter or son will be accepted to Peking University.” I wonder if this was written by a current student or by a future parent who visited he campus. Whichever case it may be, I am impressed by the devotion and loyalty of these graffiti artists have for Peking University. I feel so lucky that I get to spend a semester here.

     
    • DougReilly 1:34 pm on October 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I like “Tony was here” in the middle. Very Zen.

    • Hannah 6:34 pm on October 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      My favorite part about Weiming Hu (未名湖) is the literal translation- “The lake without a name”
      As in, the name of the lake is ‘nameless lake’

      also the stone boat.

    • Kristyna Bronner 12:21 pm on October 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Wow this is great! It definitely gives you a sense of how lucky you are to be attending your university! Maybe you should leave your own grafitti before the end of the semester…

  • melinthemiddle 2:26 pm on September 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , great wall, , ,   

    "Footsteps" – Melissa Hosek 

    The Great Wall

    “Footsteps”

    My steps on old steps

    Are not the only ones to step

    On China’s Great Wall.

     
  • melinthemiddle 4:22 pm on September 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Chinese parents/Meeting Mao/Silly Tourist– From Melissa 

    Hi all Asiapod readers! I’m posting this on behalf of Melissa Hosek, who is having difficulties getting into wordpress due to being in China. She will be able to see comments on this, however, so if you enjoy this feel free to leave a note for her!

    -Hannah

    Chinese parents/Meeting Mao/Silly Tourist

    I have officially been in China for a few days, I have not written anything yet because I’ve been very busy with Orientation. When I’m not sitting in lectures or touring the campus, I’m busy sleeping (trying to get over jet lag) or shopping for basic necessities. Here are some highlights of my experience so far:

    Chinese Parents:

    My parents and brother brought me to the airport on Sunday for my direct flight to Beijing. It was a bit difficult for me to leave my family (I get homesick easily), but I knew things would get easier once I arrived in Beijing. When I got on the plane, I sat down in a seat next to a Chinese couple who looked to be the same age as my parents. They didn’t assume that I spoke Mandarin, but they figured it out after I commented in Chinese how I’m too short to fit my carry-on bag in the overhead compartment. They began to ask me questions. The man had a booming voice and spoke to me very slowly and clearly so that I could understand. The woman would point to things and tell me the Chinese name for them (for example: “cloud” “airport” “plane” “seat,” etc.) They only spoke broken English, so our conversations were mainly in Chinese. They told me how they were returning home after dropping their son off in Philadelphia for his first year of college. They also told me all they knew about Beijing: what food to eat, what safety precautions I should take, what the weather was like, etc. As our 13 hour flight wore on, I thought about this couple a lot. It was difficult for me to leave my family and friends for just one semester of study abroad, how difficult was it for them to leave their son in the US for a whole year? When we arrived at Beijing Airport, they directed me through immigration and customs and showed me where to claim my luggage. I was so grateful; it’s pretty disorienting to arrive in a non-English speaking country! They offered to help me with my bags and made sure I made contact with my study abroad group, it was like they were my parents away from home. As we said goodbye and parted ways, I couldn’t help but feel that they treated me the way they hoped Americans would treat their son, with patience and understanding that a new country and culture can be confusing.

    Meeting Mao

    Two days ago we went to Tiananmen Square. The square is not as wide open as I thought it would be. There are new green spaces and velvet ropes that block off a lot of areas from the public. Regardless, it is still a huge place with lots of people. Mao’s Mausoleum was in the Square along with some other grand buildings. Inside the Mausoleum lies Mao Zedong’s (a famous Chinese political leader) preserved body. I don’t know if it’s because of time or because of the chemicals they used to preserve him, but Mao’s skin is Oompa-Loompa-orange. Other than that, he looks exactly like the pictures I’ve seen in textbooks. Even though I know it’s really his body, I still can’t grasp the concept that I was so close to this very influential historical figure.

    Silly Tourist:

    Sometimes I am a tourist: taking pictures of buildings, asking for directions, going to famous sites…but other times I feel like a tourist attraction. It is very common for a random Chinese person to take a picture of my classmates and me as we tour around the city. It is even more common for people to stare at us. At first it was a bit awkward, but now we make a game out of it. If we see someone staring at us, we’ll wave or shout out “你好朋友!” (Nihao pengyou) which means “hello friend.”  Sometimes when we find a person taking a photo of us, one of my classmates will run up to the person and very obviously take an up-close picture of them. This is a rare event though; usually we like to pose for the picture. Somewhere in Beijing, there are a dozen or so locals who have a picture of a group of silly group of American students waving and making peace signs at them.

     
    • jhboisselle 4:32 pm on September 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Melissa, What a touching story. Thanks for taking the time to tell it. We all miss you here but are very excited for you!

    • DougReilly 4:46 pm on September 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I think it’s awesome that you studied your abroad experience as soon as you got on the plane, and that you were already reaching out with your language skills. The curiosity of locals that you describe in your second story is another opportunity to get to know people. Both portents or a good semester ahead—and lots of improvement in conversational Mandarin!

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