Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Jamaica - Education Department

Want to experience a trip that helps you grow as a professional, partake in tourist activities, assist a community in need, AND not break the bank all at the same time? The Education Department Jamaica Trip is the trip for you!

During this one week study abroad trip we stayed at a Methodist church's dorm in Falmouth, Jamaica. The staff there cooked three meals a day for us, did all of our laundry, and walked us to and from local places (they were AMAZING). Every day, we went to Falmouth All Age School and taught some kiddos! Each student was paired with a teacher and we got the chance to spend the entire week with them! From the Jamaican teachers, we experienced nothing but respect and open arms - we loved coming to work with them every day! The kids were so great about welcoming us as well. They helped us to better understand Patois (Jamaican slang) and we helped them with their academic studies. The school was right off of the ocean and every single day was filled with beauty! At the end of the week, each CC student packed up a suitcase of donated school supplies that we flew with us from the US. Each suitcase was packed for our own specific teacher. On Friday afternoon, we brought all the goodies to Falmouth All Age and gave them to our classes. There was no better feeling than to be able to help out these teachers/students, who so obviously deserved it!

After school was when our group got to go see some tourist attractions. These attractions included...

  • Dunn's Fall River 

  • Luminous Lagoon
    • (not pictured because only the naked eye can truly perceive the beauty of the glistening waters)
  • Martha Brae

  • The very last day of our trip, we stayed at a Jamaican resort! It was beautiful there and it was so nice to be able to relax and enjoy ourselves after a long, busy week of working! This beautiful country and the people will forever hold a special place in my heart. Going on this study abroad trip was one of the best decisions I've ever made. 

    I will end this post with a quote from the teacher I was paired with, Mrs. McLean. 

    "You have to make a difference. You cannot just teach to teach. You have to want to change the world. When you help a child, the world is a better place."

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Food in China?

So, a big part of every travel and study trip is eating--not just for the obvious reasons, but because so much of a culture is carried in its food.  That said, food is also one of the things that travelers tend to worry about.  When I texted my friend Roz about this summer excursion to China, her immediate response was "Just don't eat the food."  When pressed, she said "avoid the fish eyes."  I would say that's a given, but then, at that pleasant outdoor cafe in Greece, when the guide ordered up the fried whole fish, and said, "just start by biting through the head," well, I did, and was a bit glad I had an ouzo chaser.  And in a Mekong market, the two Australian dudes I was with decided it would be fun to do shots of the rice whiskey liquor in which any number of dead snakes were coiled up, and, eh, I had to go along.  So, fish eyes, maybe.

I have been to Taiwan, and loved the food there, even the mass-quantity, super-crowded, pushy hotel buffet breakfasts, but more, wandering around at night eating "street food" from all the booths.  Often, I would just watch the people and booth, then wander up, say one (holding up one finger), and holding out a handful of change.  Lots of interesting results.  

Here's a slightly long video of street food in Xian.  I want to do this:

So, I'm up for food adventures in China, though I expect surprises.  That is, I don't expect food there to be too much like the food in Chinese-American restaurants here.  Here's one website that surveys the basics.  It sounds like the expected staples of rice, noodles, tofu, with a variety of meats and veggies.  They say that pork is the most popular meat, and there are eggs in quite a few dishes.  Though not all chicken eggs.  I've raised geese and ducks before and eaten those eggs, and yes, some difference, if nothing else, that goose eggs aren't just a bad math score, but are enormous.
Food in China is also strongly regional, so I hope we get to experience the differences in the three cities we will visit (and that we have good enough wi-fi there to report as we go).  I did a quick look for food in Beijing.  Try this site.  Roast duck, Chinese dumplings, "Jing Jiang Rou Si--Shredded Pork in Beijing Sauce"--ummm.  The recommended Donkey Burger?
Originating in the city of Baoding in northern Hebei province, Beijing has adopted the donkey burger (驴肉火烧 lǘròu huǒshāo /lyoo-roh hwor-shaow/) as its own. Restaurants offering this dish serve a number of different donkey meals, however the one to try is the donkey burger. Shredded donkey meat is served in a piping-hot, crunchy bun with a green pepper relish.
This dish isn’t recommended solely for its novelty value. The contrast between the succulent meat, crunchy bun and sweet relish make it incredibly tasty and you are unlikely to stop at one. Look out for a big 驴肉 (donkey meat) sign clearly visible on the front of all restaurants offering this meat.
Well, um, maybe.

One other venue that will surprise my fellow travelers--I'm interested in visiting a KFC in China.  Surprising, because?  Oh, I'm that guy who scorns students and others who get homesick for McDonalds and sneak off for a Big Mac the first chance they get.  I'd have their stomachs pumped immediately, given the authority.  Though when the whining became too loud on a CC trip to Egypt, I did ask the guide to administer some American food, so she lined up a visit to a local TGIF.  Which I innocently boycotted, sitting out in the not pleasant Cairo sun, drinking warm water and eating a stale roll I'd kept from breakfast.  Guilt is a useful tool.

But KFC.  Someone recently told me it was worth the venture into the global corporate estate, since the food choices there would be--unexpected.  I recently had a speaker in a class who talked about similar KFC adaptations in her native Pakistan, so I'm willing to give this credence.  Check this article:  "KFC's Explosive Growth in China."  A lot of business model information, for those of you into that, but then this comment from an executive there:
"One of the lessons I take away from this case is that to do China, you have to do China," says Shelman. "It's a large, complex, and dynamic market that deserves single-minded attention." That attitude extends from the boardroom of Yum! Brands to the menus in KFC restaurants. A small number of items would be familiar to Western visitors—mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, fried bone-in chicken—but most would not. The Chinese KFC menu may include fried dough sticks, egg tarts (which Shelman raves are "to die for"), shrimp burgers, and soymilk drinks, as well as foods tailored to the tastes of specific regions within China.
The large selection of menu items is meant to appeal to the Chinese style of eating, in which groups of people share several dishes. But it's also part of the "New Fast Food" initiative Su developed in 2005 in response to concerns about the role of fast-food restaurants in the obesity epidemic—concerns that he shares and takes responsibility for. "We have been too greedy, too shortsighted," Su said, referring to the traditional high- volume, low-choice fast-food model.
Interesting, including the detail that the chicken there will only be dark meat.  Better already.

What of course will not be ok on this trip is if Explorica chooses the most objectionable route and feeds the whiny Americans French fries and burgers for our predetermined meals--something that occasionally happens on these tours.  Something I always noisily and in writing object to...

later, bob  

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The Moon Project

The moon has been one of the most important elements of inspiration in Chinese poetry. Chinese people, especially the poets worship the moon and have magnified the moon in countless poems. In many of them, the moon is the emotion carrier of the yearnings towards purity and beauty, the longings for family and love. (Chinese-at-ease

Here are a couple of moon-themed Chinese poems you should know. Both poems are from Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), a period which witnessed the flourishing of Chinese poems.

Quiet Night Thoughts” (静夜思) by poet, Li Bai (李白, 701–762 AD). Li Bai, as Bob mentioned, is one of the most prominent Chinese poets from his own time till present days. His works are full of passion, imagination and also elegance. Even today, his “Quiet Night Thoughts” is one of the must-know and it is often one of the first poems learned by children.

I wake, and moonbeams play around my bed,
Glittering like hoar-frost to my wandering eyes;
Up towards the glorious moon I raised my head,
Then lay me down — and thoughts of home arise.

Looking At The Moon And Thinking Of One Far Away” (望月怀远) by another Tang poet, Zhang Jiuling (张九龄, 675-740 AD). Apart from being a noted poet, Zhang Jiuling was also a prominent minister and scholar of the Tang Dynasty, serving as chancellor at his time.

The moon, grown full now over the sea,
Brightening the whole of heaven,
Brings to separated hearts
The long thoughtfulness of night….
It is no darker though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer though I put on my coat.
So I leave my message with the moon
And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams

“Leave my message with the moon.” Such a lovely thought. And artists Olafur Eliasson and Ai Weiwei gave us an opportunity to do just that. Which brings me to the main reason for this post.

The Moon Project - The Mission: Draw on the moon!

Artists Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson's collaborative art project, Moon, creates a shared online canvas, allowing a global audience to leave their individual mark in the form of drawings. 

‘moon’ is a digital canvas, which invites individuals to draw on its surface, whether it be a phrase, a doodle, a thought, a greeting — your mark acting as a catalyst for further communication between you and the rest of the universe, whoever is out there. (Chin)

It is a place where people from anywhere on Earth can connect through drawing. It exists beyond the art world, beyond borders, beyond traditional ideas of authorship and value.

“Turn nothing into something – make a drawing, make a mark. Connect with others through this space of imagination. Look at other people’s drawings and share them with the world. Be part of the growing community to see how creative expression transcends external borders and internal constraints. We are in this world together. Ideas, wind, and air no one can stop. […]mark the passage from nothing to something and from thinking into doing. Leave your fingerprint and see the shared moon grow as others reach out too. Let’s show the world that together our marks matter. Creativity defies boundaries.” – Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson

Ai Weiwei stated: “The moon, like the Internet, in many ways exists beyond the reach and control of the government, and thus provides a perfect metaphor for their experiment in mass mobilization. “It’s the idea that the moon represents something unconscious from society” Eliasson also mentioned that, “The moon is interesting because it’s a not yet habitable space so it’s a fantastic place to put your dreams." … “The moon is really about a feeling we have of space, in that it doesn’t have any boundaries. Doesn’t have any walls. Doesn’t have any religious boundaries, or political boundaries” (vice creators)

“From any point of view, the moon carries our imagination. Any culture, history, or religion can sense that,” says Ai. “But the scientific landing showed it’s just cold rock there, which quickly destroyed all of the beautiful ideas and imagination people had about the moon.”

I’m not sure I agree. The moon still holds plenty of magic and poetic mystery for me. But their Moon project is pretty cool.

Check it out! Moon

More info:

Ai Weiwei is the most famous Chinese artist living today. He is involved in art, design, sculpture, architecture, curating, photography, writing, film, and social, political, and cultural criticism. His activities are mainly focused on freedom of expression and ways to support human rights and social justice.

Ai Weiwei's father was Ai Qing, one of China's most renowned poets. 1958 he and his family was exiled to farms in northeast China, and then in 1959 transferred to Xinjiang by the Communist authorities. During the period of the Cultural Revolution he was forced to work daily cleaning the communal toilets for his village of about 200 people. This had an effect on Ai.

Be sure to take a look at his extensive body of work.

·      www.aiweiwei.com

·      Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry film on vimeo

·      Ai Weiwei

·      Ai Weiwei on Poetry

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Three Perfections: The "Soundless Poem"

Have you ever wondered why Chinese paintings have writing in them? Did the painter do the writing or was it someone else? And if so, who? What does it say? Did the painter deliberately leave room for it? How did painting, poetry and calligraphy merge into this beautiful art form?

The Three perfections is the gathering of poets, calligraphers, and painters to create an artwork in ancient China. The resulting product would be a painting that would include the work of a calligrapher to write a poem.

Legend holds that the Tang Dynasty poets Du Fu and Li Bai (see Bob’s post below) were the first to introduce the combination of painting and poetry into one artwork. However, according to Pang, painting was not equated with poetry until the eleventh century, in the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127). Scholars who were versed in poetry and calligraphy adopted painting as a vehicle of self-expression. (Pang)

The merging of poetry and painting became so valued that artists at the Northern Song Imperial Painting Academy included the integration of poetry and painting. Painters would be given old poems to paint. For instance, how would you paint:

Treading the flowers returning home,
Horse hooves are fragrant.

This practice of painting old poems as a method of learning this tradition was called painting "poetic ideas," shi’i.

According to Leni Rubinstein, great paintings were not just used to decorate walls and match the couch, they were meant to inspire and cultivate the personalities of the individuals participating. They would be shown at gatherings as a sort of "live painting con­cert," or perhaps hung on a wall for a short while for a special occasion, or sent as a "letter" to a good friend.

A poet would write a poem inspired by a painting, a painter paint a poem-or com­pose a poem, then paint-and maybe put the poem on the painting. In this way, there developed the beautiful and unique idea: "a painting within the poem, a poem within the painting.

As a result, a common expression emerged, the "soundless poem," to describe how one might experience a painting with sound, sight, smell, touch, and emotions. Painting was regarded as ‘silent poetry’, and poetry as ‘painting with sound’. And adding to the interplay between poetry and painting was the was the third perfection, calligraphy.

Here are some symbols seen in Chinese paintings. The development of the Chinese characters for “mountain”  (shan) [top] and “water” (shui) [bottom] is shown from left to right. The concepts of “stillness” and “movement” are conveyed through the forms of the characters themselves. (Calligraphy by Dr. Kenneth Chang) 

In Confucian philosophy, mountains are an image of calm stillness, and water, of movement and change-hence, of the complementary concepts of Being and Becoming. Thus, the skilled artist can use his works to address and portray the trans­formations and subtleties of the universe.
This is a rich tradition in Chinese painting and I’ve just scratched the surface here.

Here’s an essay and website if you'd like to read more.

Three Perfections: Poetry, Calligraphy and Painting in Chinese Art

Be prepared, Bob and I might just break out the brushes, ink, and paper and have you all create your own soundless poems!

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Li Bai

Hi, everyone.

 I mentioned before the poet Li Bai (Li Po, in older spellings), and while I know most of you immediately ran off and looked up both him and his poetry, I thought I'd add a bit.  Li Bai is probably my favorite Chinese poet, certainly favorite in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

A quick overview of his life
Li Bai was born in 701, the exact location of his birth is unknown but it is believed to be in Central Asia. Some believe he was born in Suiye which is now Kyrgyzstan. There is a story that his mother had a dream of a falling white star and then fell pregnant with him. This gave rise to a myth that he was a fallen immortal who had come to Earth.
When Li Bai was a young child his family was moved to Sichuan in secret by his father. He remained here until his mid-twenties. His memoirs suggest that he was a gifted swordsman and martial artist. He claimed to have killed several men by the time he was twenty.
Upon reaching his mid-twenties he set sail on Yangzi River and began life as a wanderer. He married the grand-daughter of a former ruler of China, gave away much of his wealth and met famous people. He became a celebrity himself and continued to travel. He joined up with a group of other poets who also enjoyed writing about and drinking wine.
Li Bai was considered a genius and became a friend and adviser to the Emperor. When war broke out and the Emperor was removed a power vacuum was created. Li Bai made an attempt to seize power, he was unsuccessful and sentenced to death. A general who Li Bai had befriended and helped many years earlier intervened on his behalf and he was exiled instead. 
He continued his nomadic lifestyle... but traveled much shorter distances. He was to be named the Registrar of the Left Commandant’s office by the new Emperor in 762 but he died before news of this reached him... A romantic story suggests that he died whilst trying to embrace the reflection of the moon in a lake.
Well, that tale of his death opens to looking at one of his very famous poems, "Drinking Alone by Moonlight"

If that isn't quite as exciting as it should be, here's a page with dozens of translations.  And here's a link to several other of his poems and various translations.   

Try out a bit of this amazing poet!  I plan to be that irritating guy on the bus who keeps asking the hapless guide about such things.  Join in...

later, bob

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Advice for Those Considering Studying Abroad

Advice for Those Considering Studying Abroad

Exploring London 

I came home from a semester of studying abroad in England three weeks ago, and I can honestly say the experience changed my life.  Not only did I learn so much and make some amazing memories, but my time abroad challenged, developed, and grew me like no other experience ever has.
 I wish every college student could study abroad and if you have ever thought about it but are still hesitant, this blog post is written for you.  Here are my top three pieces of advice for the perspective study abroad student.

#1: Go for it!
Seriously, I cannot recommend studying abroad enough! I have always loved to travel and usually jump at any opportunity to see more of the world, but strangely, studying abroad had never crossed my mind (or if it did, I never considered it seriously).  The first reason I initially shied away from studying abroad was because it meant traveling alone and living in a foreign place—away from the security of home, family, and friends—for months.  The unknowns (would I get really homesick? What if I wanted to come home after a month but was stuck somewhere I didn’t want to be? Would it be safe?) kept me from pursuing it.  I can happily say that those fears were unfounded and while I did experience some homesickness (which is totally natural and not anything to be afraid of), I truly loved my time in England, felt completely safe and welcome there, and was genuinely sad to leave.

#2: Don’t Let Money Matters Stop You
Another big factor that initially scared me away from studying abroad was finances. Buying across-the-world plane tickets, taking months off my job, increased tuition rates (because I was taking online courses with Columbia prior to studying abroad so the tuition was more), and extra expenses that come with traveling and setting up life in a new country all made it seem daunting and non-attainable.  But thanks to one of my professors at Columbia (who encouraged me to apply for scholarships and not be afraid of student loans since it would be worth every penny—and she was right!) I pushed through these concerns and determined to find ways to make a semester abroad a financial possibility.  
                                                                                  By the River Tiber in Rome

If you would love to study abroad but think it sounds impossible because of finances, I would first encourage you to apply for Columbia’s study abroad scholarship, and also, go online and search for other study abroad scholarships since there are many different organizations and programs that award scholarships to students.  Usually you will need to write an essay to enter as an applicant and often the deadlines are several months before the semester, so start your search early and apply for as many as you can.   I was fortunate to receive a couple of scholarships from Columbia which helped ease the financial load immensely.  Ultimately, if you want to study abroad and are committed to proactively looking for tactics to make it financially feasible, you’ll find a way.  

                                                                                                Outside the Colosseum 

#3:  Think of it as Education on Steroids (in other words, you'll learn a lot!)
As I said at the beginning of the post, I learned so much while studying abroad, the least of this being in a classroom setting.  Although I did learn a lot from the classes I took and had some remarkable professors, the adventure of living abroad (classes aside) enriched me and changed me in ways that I had not expected. Traveling alone (not just in the UK but throughout Europe as well) and adapting to different cultures boosted my overall confidence—I realized that I’m a lot more capable than I usually give myself credit for!  Getting lost in Lisbon on a rainy night, dealing with domineering taxi drivers in Italy that don’t speak English, navigating the crazy-crowded subway system in Rome, staying in hostels in London and Lagos, and making friends with people from all over the world are just a few of the many experiences that challenged and grew me. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything (even the ones that were stressful and a bit scary at the time!) because they helped me become a more confident, compassionate, and complete person.
     Living in England also helped me settle on what I want to do with my life after graduation.  I knew before studying abroad that I wanted to travel in the future somehow, but this experience fueled my desire to not only see as much of the world as I can, but also find a way to incorporate living abroad into my career.  I have decided now to use my English degree, coupled with a TEFL certificate, to teach English abroad one day in the future.

If you’ve thought about studying abroad in the past or are considering it now for the first time, take my advice and go for it—I promise you won’t regret it!
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