Studying Abroad with my Paw

Check out my link above. It’s a brief showcase of pictures I took while studying in Beijing China.

People often ask me what my greatest experience was while in China studying. All of it! The entire experience was awesome. I learned, I laughed, I expanded my world knowledge… studying abroad in china has given me a profound insight into the Chinese culture, language, and social changes that are ongoing in China

Mashed Potatoes on a Monday morning

If my brain was a whole potato before studying Mandarin Chinese, it is now a mashed potato.  Luckily, I love mashed potatoes!  As I gear up to close out my first trip to mainland China, I would like to thank the Director, Resident Director, language teachers, tutors, language partners, professors, and the friends I have made since arriving in China.  我 很 高兴 认识 你们!Okay, so I am very happy to have met all of you.

Now, the goal is to continue to expand on my Chinese language and polish up on my Spanish which sometimes flies out in the middle of my Chinese.  One of my unforeseen benefits here in China is actually the amount of Spanish I was able to use.  There are many Spanish speakers here from places like Venezuela, Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and a few others.  Imagine my delight when I communicate in three different languages in one conversation to the same person.  It’s like watching my favorite team win the Super Bowl – A dream come true.  For the record, my football team has never one a Super Bowl (don’t want to hear it Pop).

Last week I went to a section of the Great Wall of China in Jinshanling.  this section is not frequented by tourist and now I know why. It was a bit of a challenge, but it was worth it in order to see the wall without the tourism feeling.

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The son of our host for the Great Wall.  They made us an amazing lunch at their home in a small catholic village.  The homemade cornbread was mmm-good.

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Here is a map.  Go east, but if you get lost, go west.  If your still lost, go east again.

 

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The winding stair mountains of the Great Wall.

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I couldn’t tell if it got foggy or if we were just that high up the mountain.  I think we were just up that high.

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Remember this little guy.  He has now been to the Great Wall.

 

I am well into my preparation for my capstone project which will discuss certain aspects dealing with Africans in China.  I still have two more papers for foreign policy and two for film class.  As well as final exams.  No sweat, it’s all in pursuit of adding more ingredients to my mashed potato.  It just dawned on me that I’m referring to myself as Mr. Potato Head.  Oh well, I’m too tired to rewrite this post and I have a couple of hours of studying still left to do before I roll up for the night.  Until next time.

 

 

 

LOST in Translation; Blurred by the pronunciation.

No pictures! 

While learning to speak, read and write Mandarin Chinese here in China, I have befriended a couple of language partners.  A language partner is someone you meet with and have casual conversations to practice your newly acquired language skills.  In return, they have the opportunity to practice English in a casual setting.   Here are some hiccups in the department of “What in the world are you trying to say?”

  • Dinner. Party of 5. All over 30 years old.  I have grown fond of a peanut dish here in Beijing.  While waiting for our food, I left our table to ask the staff a question.  When my dish arrived, no one was sure who it belonged to.  My Chinese friend yelled across the restaurant, “Maurice (Morris), you eat peanuts (mispronunciation; forgot the “T” sound)?”  Why is my name so difficult to pronounce?
  • Please say again?  One day I casually stated, “汉子 不容易 (hanzi bu rongyi).”  I meant to say, “汉字 不容易 (hanzi bu rongyi).” They sound similar, but the first means, “man not easy” while the second means, “Chinese characters not easy.”  I don’t think either is proper grammar.  A female language partner finally explained that although my statement hits the nail on the head, my audience may be lost in the translation.
  • Really!?  I often purchase a newspaper called the China Daily.  “我要每天 中国.”  One day the person at the stand couldn’t take it anymore.  Finally, she says, “stop, stop, stop!  say Zhongguo Ribao, not meitian zhongguo.”  Really?  I’ve been screwing that up for weeks.  I have been saying, “Everyday China” and not China Daily. 

I am officially less than 30 days away from boarding an airplane and heading back to the United States.  Someone asked me what is the first thing I will do when I return to the states.  The family stuff is obvious, but some of things I will do are: 

  1. Enjoy my new found respect for such things as the Freedom of Information Act, freedom of speech, and the use of an internet that doesn’t block every other website.
  2. Jambalaya Grits!  No one on this planet can make Jambalaya Grits like Marjoretta James.  I am actually crying a little bit right now.  Most of you from the south know what I’m talking about.  Mmmm, two biscuits on the side with white gravy or some Alaga syrup.  Mmmm…
  3. Gulf Shores, AL.  It is well documented in the book of Making Stuff Up that when the creator needed a break on the seventh day, he drove his truck to the beaches of Gulf Shores Alabama for some rest and relaxation.  I will do the same.
  4. Reclaim the Mancave!  I anticipate some resistance from the current occupiers.  However, I believe proper sanctions coupled with effective hard and soft power, I can achieve my objective within two weeks after my return.  my attempt at establishing a puppet regime to be my imperial hand and tongue has succumb to the greater influence of others.
  5. Kiss the dogs and pet the cat, or pet the dogs and kiss the cat.  I’m still on the fence about this last one. 

With less than 30 days remaining, it is time to really crack the whip on my capstone project and preparations for final exams.  My motivation for both could use a serious boost.  I did feel better yesterday about something.  When I arrived in China, I couldn’t say the number 8 in Chinese without first mentally going from 1 – 7.  The classes are hard, but the work is evident every time I text, order food, and converse in Chinese.  I have the hardest Chinese language teacher in mainland China, and a tutor that has zero tolerance for mispronunciations – I love it.  Classes in Sociology, Foreign Policy, and Chinese Film Genres have really shed light on China’s culture.  I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short Trip to the Emperor’s Summer Palace

No big deal, just a walk through a historical sight in China where the Emperor himself once hung out – no big deal.

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In the background is Kunming lake and parts of Longevity Hill.  The foreground – Go Jags!!

 

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This is called, “cracking up Chinese style.” The park covers roughly 742 acres and can be divided into four parts.  Kunming Lake, front hill, rear hill, and the courtyard.  I had this family in stitches.  All I said in Chinese was, “hey, little dog that’s mine. (Wai, Xiao gou na ge shi wode!!!!).”  I guess it was more the delivery and less the line.

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The construction of the summer palace started in 1750 as a grand spot for the Emperor’s family to rest.  After being severely damaged by the French, Empress Dowager Cixi reconstructed the area in 1888 with funds embezzled from China’s naval fund.  Supposedly Kunming Lake was going to be used for naval training (hence the boat), but it never happened.

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Tammy, a fellow Alliance student relaxing with Southpaw while having a snack.  The Summer Palace was open to the public in 1924 and is the largest royal park in China.  The park is roughly 9 miles from the center of Beijing, and full of natural beauty.

 

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For my overall opinion of The Summer Palace excursion, see the above picture.  I think we had a jumping good time.  See what I did just now?  We are jumping in the picture; I said we had…I think you get it.

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I’m watching the sun set in China.  I never thought I would say those words.

 

    – Maurice C.

 

Saturday living in Beijing; adventure begins at the end of our comfort zone

As midterms get smaller in my rear view mirror, I reflect on my Saturday adventures of traveling around Beijing.  First thing in the morning, after indulging my love of coffee, I like to show my appreciation for Skype by spending about an hour talking with my family back in The United States for no cost.  Family laughter and coffee are preludial to the start of everyday.  After family laughter and coffee, I head out to the Beijing subways where the contrast between laid back Mobile Alabama and Beijing China are clearly outlined.

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The first adventure on Saturday normally begins with an interesting subway ride.  The subway cars are sardine cans and we are the sardines packed in and vacuum sealed tight (the above picture is not that bad for Beijing).  When possible, it is a good idea to travel during off-peak hours.  Peak hour subway transit involves a lot of rubbing, bumping, racing, and chasing from subway line to subway line (you will know what everybody had for breakfast).

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This Saturday I took my friend Southpaw along for the excursion.  I don’t know if it’s his smile, his suave demeanor, or the fact that he is a small stuffed animal being toted around by a tall American, but he knows how to draw attention.

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Don’t look behind you; they are watching us.

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So, at our first stop, Southpaw posed for the camera and snapped it up at the Temple Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is a large park that involves a lot of walking.  It is a must stop for anyone spending a little time in this area of China.  I think I read every historical plaque I came across – from the Shang Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty.

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I find it fascinating to learn about a civilization that existed so long ago and what technology they used to survive and thrive.

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Four of the dynasties recently discussed in one of my classes I’m taking here in China – Shang, Zhou, Qin and Ming.  Fascinating for an information junkie like myself.

In case you are wondering, when I travel alone I am pinning all necessary communications on my limited ability to speak and read Chinese.  Patience and humility helps me get through the tough conversations.  Before leaving the temple, Southpaw snapped a final Temple of Heaven picture with a nice family and we headed to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

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If I would of had a few Southpaws to go around, this kid definitely would of got one.

Because of our last picture at the Temple of Heaven, half the population of China beat us to the Forbidden City.  There is not enough patience left in my body to stand in a line that has no beginning and no end.  We settled for a photo-op with the Forbidden City in the background, and a couple of impromptu photos to close out my second visit to the Forbidden City.

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Mao Zedong’s portrait at the main entrance to the Forbidden City.

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Across the street from Tiananmen Square just before some light shopping.  What’s missing in the picture is the cop that swatted the guy who jumped up behind Southie.  I didn’t need to speak perfect Mandarin Chinese to grasp that jumping up on the base of a light post is a no-no.  Only words I understood from the cop to the guy were, “You know” and “Do you have a problem?”   I responded indirectly with a smile, “No problem” in Chinese which got a smile out of the stone-faced cop at my ability to speak a little Chinese. The officer then asked me, “What is that (Southie) for?”  I responded, “Wode Meiguo daxue (My American University).”  Afterwards, he gave me a thumbs up and off he went.

I often light-shop in China.  I don’t plan to do any serious shopping until It is closer to the time for me to leave.  Some of the things you have to do to get a shop owner to lower his prices are a little unconventional, but if it works…

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This picture is actually from a week or two ago.  Another student wanted to know if I ever met a stranger because of my willingness to engage just about anyone I meet.  “No, all the strange people are in my family and I already know them.”

No Saturday is complete without finding a new place to enjoy some local cuisine, and today’s meal stop was nothing to brag about.  I’m not exactly sure where the meal went wrong, but I think the old gym sock might be the problem.  It took exactly two sips of the broth to convince me to push the meal away.  I accept responsibility for this gaffe.  As soon as I walked in the place, I was suspicious about the quality of service.  This goes back to a rule I have adopted about eating out, “When in doubt, walk back out”. I didn’t walk back out, so I ended up with a bad meal.  I made up for it by eating at the Paris Baquette which is located just down the street from the University.  It’s always nice to take a relaxing stroll through Tus Park just before heading back to Beijing Language and Cultural University.

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Tus Park.

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The Wall Street Bulls at Tus Park.

Now, I am comfortably settling in for a night of some light studying if there is such a thing when learning a foreign language.  Until the next blog post.

Okay! Pictures from the 8-day Yunnan Field Study Trip on 14 March 2014

Some of you have been impatiently waiting for me to post pictures from the field study trip to Yunnan Province. I did a short movie about the trip, but it has failed to load; so, here is my blog with a bunch of pics from Yunnan Province China.

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Welcome to Dali. This posters says…something. Living in a dormitory has made me miss the little things in life like bathroom tubs.

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Oh Dali, you had me at the sighting of a Tub. Rested and Cleaned up, it was time to go see what Dali was all about.

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I started with a freshly prepared meal. After dinner, it was time to tour the town.

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“He was arrested for wearing what,” would be the question if I brought this back to Alabama.  I would look like a giant lobster-man.

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Mountain back drop, streets with cascading waterfalls – I must be in Dali.

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Foreigner Street in the Town of Dali.  It’s written from right to left, the way chinese characters use to be read.  Look at the snow on the top of the mountain in the background.  Gorgeous.

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It was nice Dali, but it was time to head out to Shaxi Village. • Welcome to Shaxi Village. Enjoy your stay; WIFI is everywhere; we have good coffee; and the buildings have been here before the turn of the 1900s.

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His name was Lei Feng (1940 – 1962).  The story of Lei Feng tells of the socialist new man who believed in promoting frugality, volunteerism and communalism in China during the time of Mao Zedong.

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I really don’t have a comment for this picture except a feeling of, this is where the rubber should have hit the road. Yet, we were still in Shaxi.

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Shaxi Village Center.

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Shaxi’s red lamp district – so quiet I could hear a mouse fumbling in his cargo shorts for change. Goodnight Shaxi.

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Hopefully we all ate our Wheaties and were well hydrated.  We had arrived at our destination for a hike on a trail that ranks 6 out of 10 on the difficulty meter.  Tiger Leaping Gorge was a gorgeous stop with towering mountain peaks and deep gorges.  We stayed in this lovely guest house run by a nice family.

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Let the hike begin.  I think we were all pretty excited at the beginning of the hike.  And then the paths got narrower, the angles started getting a little steeper.

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We slid between this cutout on our way to the bottom of the gorge.  A lot of one syllable four letter words were uttered in Tiger Leaping Gorge as the terrain got more and more challenging.

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“What bridge? All I see are termites holding hands.”

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Finally reached the bottom.

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It was time to rest up because the fun part was about to begin; the steep climb out of the gorge.

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Finally, we made it back to the guest house. The hike lasted roughly six hours and was worth it even if it wore me slap out.  Nice to have visited Tiger Leaping Gorge. We had a big dinner followed by a night of mountain air, star filled skies, and a dog that sounded like he came straight from the movie, An American Werewolf in London. • If most of you remember from my wordy post concerning the 2nd half of the trip to Yunnan, I barely took a picture because I was sick and felt like I had been dragged through the mud. However, at breakfast in Xishuangbanna I did catch a picture of a mosquito doing who knows what to a piece of bread on the table.

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Now, in my bug-phobia brain the mosquito looked a little different than what you see above.  For example, courtesy of http://loscuatroojos.com, it looks like:

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Thank you for taking the time to skip and scan through my blog.  I hope you guys enjoyed the pictures.