Saturday, September 22, 2018

Canterbury to Columbia: Surprisingly Similar

As an international student, many people ask me where I am from and, after I say the US, they naturally ask what it's like or how it's different from Canterbury. It's actually difficult for me to describe because, even though I haven't traveled much (within the US even) and haven't really known much different, and even though this is an entirely new country across the ocean, it doesn't really feel all that different. Even the accents - people are always asking about the British accent - but even that isn't overly noticeable. I noticed it a bit at first and every once in a while it strikes me, but, for the most part, it sounds normal. Part of it is because I've been decently immersed in British culture prior - I've read a lot of British literature and seen several British shows - so there hasn't been much that's surprised me. And part of it is because I don't think there really are that many major differences. Originally, we adopted our culture from them, and then, as we grew, we've become such a dominant culture that the rest of the world is adopting ours.

England is a first-world, Western country with more than just a shared language. Actually, one of the first things I noticed was how similar we are. They listen to largely the same music; they have television and radio programs like ours; they advertise like us; they even have several American brands (Asdas, which is Walmart; Aldis; H&M; Starbucks; Subway; McDonalds). And they have local brands that imitate ours (instead of Starbucks, they have Costas).

In fact, Canterbury is even more like Columbia because it's a small town that's enlarged by being a university center. Because of all the students, it becomes busier. Half the population is students, and the permanent inhabitants are mostly families, which affects what sorts of businesses are here. It has the bustling air of a big city and some of its layout and benefits, with public transport and taxis, but it is still a small town - or a small city simulating a large one. But it doesn't have the modern architecture of big cities with towering office buildings and skyscrapers. It doesn't attract innovators or innovations; it adopts them in time, but it doesn't produce them - and, in this way, it is a bit different from Columbia, because Columbia isn't a major hub, but it does have a number of startups and small entrepreneurs. It isn't as expensive as large cities. It feels like I've come to the British version of Columbia.

One of the main and most obvious differences, though, is its history. I told my hostess that I was surprised they grant students free access to the Cathedral year-long, and she said it's because they have so many tourists, mainly Americans, that they don't need to charge students. And, at night, the inside is closed to the public, but the grounds are open and free to everyone. Even the townhouses have a more quaint architecture to them. They have a beautiful blend of progressive modernity and ancient history that coalesces, rather than clashes.

Photo Credit
Because they're so close to the European continent, most of them have traveled to many different countries and fairly cheaply, which I'm a bit jealous of. The US is so large that the mainland contains four time zones, five including Alaska. From the UK to Russia is only three. So, for us to travel around in the same country is the same as for them to travel around the Continent to multiple countries, experiencing different cultures, cuisines, languages, and histories. I am a bit jealous of that.

The other differences are much smaller. They smoke a lot. We do too, but much more with vaping, with less aroma and litter. And I think they actually dress more liberally than we do.

Photo Credit
The housing is different here too. We mostly live in apartment buildings or have our own houses and private lots with space in front, back, and on the sides, but they mostly have townhouses, each self-contained and individual but all conjoined together, side-by-side. They have front and backyards, but they're smaller and no outside area to go back and forth. In the halls (or dormitories), they are much more like apartment buildings. They're arranged suite style, so students each have their own rooms, and then they share a common bathroom or two, living space, and kitchen.

So when people ask me to describe where I'm from and how it's different, I don't have much to tell them. There are differences, but I've noticed more similarities

Friday, September 21, 2018

Columbia to Canterbury


I called home the other night, and everyone was asking what it's like in Canterbury.

Walking through City Centre is like walking into a fairytale. It reminds me of the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast (my favorite because it's a princess who reads!). I recalled that early scene when Belle is walking through town to the bookstore. Canterbury is a  beautiful blend of history and modernity. It has thrived through the centuries, so it has a quaint, traditional air without feeling decayed or outdated. It feels like you're visiting the past but not stepping back into it. There are old, brick shoppes and modern office buildings. The streets and sidewalks are cobblestoned but bustle with cars and buses.

It's actually a lot like Columbia as a small, student city. Because it has so many schools and universities (University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, King's School - to name a few), it imitates the large city vibe with lots of pedestrians walking everywhere, buses and taxis always transporting, and two trains going in and out all day. Most of the inhabitants are students or families.

As a university city, a large portion of the population is international. It's England, but there are many visitors from all over the world. Some study for just a few weeks, some for years, and some to live here permanently. People ask me about hearing the British accent, but I hear foreign tongues and global accents just as much. There are shops and cafes advertising cultural shops advertising British paraphernalia and cuisine, but there are also Thai groceries, American candies, and French boutiques.

Walking through City Centre is like the "little town" Belle sings about, but they also have Westgate Gardens, which feel like a fairytale in a very different way. There are large willow trees, a river, bridges, outlooks, and rock walls. It's a little oasis from city life with the fresh feeling of autumn as school begins



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Japan

I arrived on Wednesday around lunchtime. I didn't get to my apartment here until almost 8 in the evening. By that time I was slightly grumpy. I had been in a plane for 21 hours and sitting in airports for an additional 12. I was exhausted and in desperate need of a shower and nap. I have since done both of those and feel better.

There have been so many firsts. I had never set foot in an airport before, much less flown, so that was an adventure. Turns out I don't mind flying. I slept most of the flights, although the sleep wasn't particularly restful. It was also the first time out of the country. There was a layover in Taipei, so now I've been in three countries. I had never seen the ocean either.

There are many differences that I've noticed in my almost 24 hours here. It is quieter. For being a city about the size of Columbia, I assumed there would be city sounds. The cars are quiet, there's no sounds of people talking when the window is open, even though many people walk or bike. My apartment sits between two auto repair shops and even they aren't loud. I find it odd. The trash here has to be separated in three ways, which will take some getting used to. The bathroom set up also is interesting. The toilet seat is heated which will be nice in the winter. The bath and shower are separate ,but in the same room. There is a sink and mirror in this room as well. To quote the meme, "I am confusion," but I'm enjoying observing and experiencing the differences.

I haven't gotten to do much exploring since it's raining today, but I look forward to that.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Getting Orientated

I arrived Saturday afternoon, had registration Sunday, and just began orientation today (Monday). It probably seems like rather a lot all at once, but I’m glad of it, because it keeps me busy. I think the bigger issue is having time. When I’m not busy, I start to feel more lonely and miss home, but, when I’m busy, I’m distracted and occupied. It’s been a good balance – not too much to be overwhelming and exhausting but not too little either. And, because I don’t have an overly pressing schedule this early, I can take my time to familiarize myself with the city and newness better, get more comfortable. 

I was nervous for orientation, because, in America, we have all sorts of wild events and games that I hate, but, here, it’s more calm and conducive to my introverted type. We have lots of free time to chat and get to know each other better. The events are more like social gatherings, so we go to different places – like the Student Center or a pub – where there are activities available, but they’re not pressed on you like in America. They’re available for you to join at your own will, and then you can meet more people like you. Otherwise, you can mingle and meet people that way. 

I think it’s a better system. I was more capable approaching people, and there was more opportunity to talk without disruption. There’s a lot of free time, so sometimes conversations got stilted and ran out, but that also helped us move on and meet more people and find more things to do together. It’s much more fun exploring the city with other people than alone – and it was safer. I used to wish I’d arrived earlier to travel to more of England and even the Continent, but I think it will be better, cheaper, and safer with others. It's still early and rough, but it's smoothing out better

The Comforts of Homestay

It’s my first time away from home, and it’s in an entirely new country for the next several months. I don’t know anyone, and I’ve only just arrived yesterday. I was feeling a bit low. People would probably say I’m homesick, lonely, overwhelmed, jet-lagged, and experiencing culture shock; I'm not sure.

Regardless, my hostess noticed I was a bit low – I’ve been in my room a lot, slept a lot, haven’t eaten – and she was lovely. She came and comforted me, and then she brought me up hot chocolate and a granola bar; I think she worried that I haven't been eating much. She gave me some time alone to sip the cocoa and eat, and then we began chatting when I took the mug downstairs to wash. She made me toast, which was sweet – the homestay really only provides breakfast. And we began talking a lot. 

We talked for an hour or more. She told me lots about herself, her family, pets, her one holiday 4 years ago to the Caribbean with her youngest Jessica (where they swam with stingrays in the ocean), her work and homestays. We talked about movies, music, and then books. She’s reading books from the same authoress I enjoy (Cathy Glass), and she showed me. She’s lent me a couple that I haven’t read plus another that’s similar and sounds good. I feel much better now. Maybe I was a bit lonely and homesick and overwhelmed – I don’t know – but I feel much better, and I’m very grateful to her

Humanity in the Hectic


I’m living with a host for the semester, but, two days before leaving, I found out that she wouldn’t be available to meet me at the airport or the station; I would have to arrange transport and meet her at the house. I’ve never traveled alone and never internationally, so I wasn’t really prepared.


The airports were manageable but, after landing in London and getting my passport stamped, I was a bit more frazzled. I wasn’t scared, really, and it wouldn’t have been so bad but for managing the large luggage bags. (I cursed myself for packing so much!) 

I was supposed to pick up pre-paid train tickets, but I couldn’t find the kiosk – they were all for buying new ones – and no one seemed to be able to help me. I’d walked a long ways down to the underground, was sent back up, sent in circles, and then directed back down again. I was so frustrated because I knew I could figure it out, but the luggage was weighing me down, and I was miserably sore. That was the beginning of a mildly hectic journey that was a bit rough but really made me appreciate humanity again. I work in retail, and it’s not just the angry customers but also the ones that lie, accuse, steal. I get cynical about the state of humanity, and then I was also cynical because of numerous warnings about pickpocketers, traffickers, etc. But, on my little journey, I found the best in humanity instead 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The 3 Things I Will Miss Most

Tomorrow, I leave for England, to study at Canterbury Christ Church for a semester. I haven't been outside of the United States since I was a baby, and I've only flown on a plane one other time. I've never left home before, and now I'm going to travel to another country alone.

People ask me if I'm nervous, but, strangely enough, I'm really not, which is especially unusual for me, because I worry about everything. And I think the reason is that I haven't really been focusing on what's coming up as much as what I'm leaving behind - not in a sad way but appreciatively. They say you don't appreciate a good thing until it's gone, and maybe that's true, but I'm trying to appreciate right now. 

I made a little list of the 3 things I'll miss most when I'm gone. (I'll miss the people most - family and friends, especially - but everyone misses the people most, so I'm not listing them).

The weather. We've had amazing weather these past few days, and I live out in the country with a beautiful backyard. My mother is an amazing gardener, and we don't have the nuisance of city traffic, so I love sitting outside while working on things. I also love rain, though, so I think I'll enjoy drizzily, English weather.

Knitting. My mother taught me how to knit several years ago, and I recently began again. One of my favorite things is to knit with her while watching television. It's a soothing pastime that's very different from anything else I do. I just picked it up again, and now I'm setting it back down again just as quickly.

Our wood-burning stove. We have a cozy wood-burning stove downstairs, and one of my favorite things to do during winter is cuddling up by it with a cup of hot cocoa and a book (or homework, but that wasn't so fun). Or my mom and I would watch television on the couch with the fire going. I loved the cold outside, so I could snuggle by the warm fire.
Most people, including me sometimes, think that living at home during college is embarrassing and distasteful, but it's also something to be grateful for. I've shared some very special times with my family these past few years. I don't want to live at home forever - soon, I will move out - but I want to appreciate every part of it that's left. When I was a child, I was too anxious to grow up and be an adult. Now, I don't want to run away from adulthood and responsibility, but I also don't want to throw away what I have and be ungrateful. I will always be my parents' child, and they will always care for me

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Chinese Paper-Cutting


Hello, all! When I look back on our trip to China (which is happening quite frequently, as we’re all finally posting our pictures!), one experience in particular stood out to me. Do you all remember when we went to an art museum to learn some basic calligraphy? Before we went in to the ‘classroom’ for our lesson, we got the opportunity to look around and learn a bit about more traditional styles of Chinese art. Among my favorites of these art styles was Chinese paper-cutting – which I’d never actually heard of before, or even seen pictures of online.

With this art form, scissors or an engraving knife are used to cut delicate, detailed shapes into paper, often depicting elegant motifs or scenes from everyday life (such as portrayals of flowers and plants or weddings). Nowadays, modern technologies are also used to create paper-cuttings, although the more traditional methods still hold precedence.

Paper-cuttings serve as decorations for many different events or areas of life, ranging from interior décor in the home to festivities such as birthday celebrations, and are also occasionally utilized in prayer.

Here are a few of my favorites of the paper-cuttings we got a chance to see!






Chinese Paper-Cut. (2017). Retrieved from The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/chinese-paper-cut-00219

Monday, July 9, 2018

Capsule hotel in Osaka airport

When I first arrived at the Osaka airport, I had 18 hours before I was scheduled to be picked up I arrived at night and had a 24 hour flight so naturally I was tired, I was told to go to a capsule hotel by one of the professors at Shiga University when I emailed them that I would be in the airport for a long period of time. I looked up images on Google and honestly I was a bit spectacle because it looked like a sightly bigger dog kennel. But I was tired and wanted to lay down I found a capsule hotel in the airport. I have to say it was very comfortable I was surprised when I looked up and seen a plasma screen TV up on the wall they also provided a shirt and shorts to sleep in and slippers to walk around in. The showers  included full size face wash, body wash and shampoo it was nothing like the small travel-size shampoos and body washes that the hotels in the United States offer. I really enjoyed my stay!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Hikone-jo Castle

A week ago I had the pleasure of visiting Hikone-jo Castle. The castle was home to the Ii family who were pilars of the Edo Shogunate government. The castle was built using materials from Mt. Hikone also known as Konki castle. One of the unique features of the castle is the way the stone walls were built using Koto rhyolites. While at the museum we saw robes worn to tea ceremonies, samurai gear and swords. We also visited the garden and the souvenir shop.







Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Food in Japan- Charvonne Johnson

I'm a foodie and I have to say that Japan has the best ice cream and sushi, I haven't eaten a food I didn't enjoy, I will post later with more dept about the food here in a later post and also the ramen you buy from grocery stores in Japan is every college student dream! One of my favorite grocery stores in Japan is called Valor. The 5th picture is a picture of the food in the cafeteria at the university I attend in Japan.



Sunday, July 1, 2018

Food Safety in China

Hey Everyone,

I don't know about everyone else, but I am still sleeping a lot more than I did prior to the trip.  It hasn't been unusual for me to sleep until twelve on weekends.  I am sure part of it is jetlag and part of it is exhaustion from the trip.  Anyways, I wanted to touch base about some thing I learned in China.

The first is that the lack of health standards with food and beverage locations is far different than what we experience here.  Amazingly, I did not get sick at all while I was over there.  To my best recollection, I don't think anyone had any issues with the food.  The main reason for this is most likely due to our ages.  Everyone that was there was in a healthy immune state in respect to age.  However, elderly people and younger people would not have faired the same.  This is a common characteristic and needs to be taken into account in future travels.  Also, everyone seemed to be healthy prior to and during the trip other than Addison's migraine, which is not an influential condition to the immune system.  Another reason for our sustained health is probably just dumb luck.

If I had run into these forms of food and beverage vendors in the United States, I would have gone screeching for the door.  Maybe not in college or with enough alcohol in my system but any other time of course.  I think a major reason my reaction was not the same in China was due to the sense of relaxation associated with a vacation to another country.  Also, it probably was due to the regular existence of these forms of vendors, and the presence of so many other people frequenting these locations play.  In the United States, these types of shops are few and far between, which prevents them from normalizing to the same extent they were in China.

I don't know if anyone noticed, but I did not see any postings for health department standards and ratings in any of these locations.  I am sure the lack of visibility to this form of generally accepted scoring lowers consumer standards immensely.  In the United States, if I see a rating lower than a ninety, I begin to get skeptical about the food service standards.  Part of this is due to my background in food service and knowing the amount of violations it takes to get these scores.  If most people actually knew how much a restaurant can get away with because of a lazy health inspector, it would make them cringe.  Given what I know about standards over here, I really do wonder what went on in China's food and beverage vendors.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the food safety standards for Chinese Vendors see below:

https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/china-an-overview-of-the-new-food-safety-law/ 

Thanks to everyone for an amazing trip.  I can't wait for the Galapagos Islands.

Jason Alpert

Long lost anime

Years ago an anime called Case Closed aired in the United States, this particular anime is very special to me because it's the first anime I watched as a child and is also the anime that got me interested in Japan. Sadly they stopped airing episodes in the United States, but new episodes are still airing in Japan, you can imagine my excitement when I walked into a uniform store for kids and saw this!



Friday, June 29, 2018

Honkoji Temple - Charvonne Johnson

Today in Japan I went to Honkoji Temple, I meet a priest who first explained the reason he became a priest. 25 years ago his father passed away leaving him to take care of his mother along with his wife, two sons and daughter, he worked as a business man for 20 years and a High School teacher for 30 years, when his children got married and moved out he then had more free time and he became a priest. The temple is over 100 years old, but got remodeled 10 years ago. There are 75 members that the priest visits at their homes and once a month the members go to the temple and read the book of Buddha, but everyone is welcome to visit the temple. I meditated and bowed towards Buddha. The priest also shared a poem written by a 25 year old woman who committed suicide, after her death one of her teachers found a book of her poems. The temple is made out of real gold and Cherokee wood.






Thursday, June 28, 2018

Being Healthy


Whew! Is everyone else as glad to be settled at home as I am? I had an amazing time, but I’m glad to have adjusted back to my normal schedule. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten days since we got back.
One of the most common things I’ve been asked, since getting back, is whether the air was very bad where we were staying. I did not end up having a noticeable issue with the air quality myself (I did get a migraine, but those are common for me when my sleep schedule was disrupted), but it isn’t surprising that there is a substantial air quality issue in China itself. As so much of the population resides in densely packed urban areas and technology and industry have been developing rapidly over a short period of time, air pollution is an unfortunate side effect.
China itself is surprisingly health-conscious. In my reading before we left for the trip, I read some about the societal emphasis on caring for elder’s health, but there wasn’t much information on the societal structure towards health and care across all age groups. Being in China, I noticed many habits that the U.S. could pick up from China to help our own health crisis.
One of these habits is the diet based away from sugar-heavy foods. While our meals were huge while we were there, most of them focused on flavor and texture instead of being sweet or greasy, like many American foods. Furthermore, the U.S. can stand to move away from such meat heavy diets—while the foods that were given to us had a significant amount of meats, I noticed that many other people didn’t rely on meats as their primary source of protein. This is ideal for a country with a large population residing away from livestock areas. As the U.S. is looking at a similar urban movement (albeit significantly more slow-paced), we may need to take cues from other countries about our food consumption.
Another one of these habits is exercise as a form of social engagement (this is a topic I journaled about while on our trip). While America has some ‘social’ exercise or movement groups, like Aquacise and Yoga In The Park, the groups are less engaged towards differing age, gender, and economic demographics. In America, these exercise groups are often seen as a ‘necessary evil’ towards healthy behavior. In China, people who exercise socially seem to genuinely enjoy the behavior. The inclusion of exercise equipment and areas to all seniors without payment helps to both encourage healthy behaviors in the aging population, but also to help negate some of the classist issues that plague U.S. health struggles.
Lastly, the engagement of the aging community is so important, and we only got a glimpse of it. Socially engaging the elderly is shown to lessen depression, physically engaging them can delay osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and heart issues, and mentally engaging them can help to delay dementia and other mental issues. In the visits we took to different historical sites, it was common to see aging people playing games, taking walks, and talking with each other. It was incredible to see people of all ages mingling and helping each other and themselves, and creating these spaces is one area where the U.S. can learn from China.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Price Discrimination in Chinese Markets

Hello Everyone,

I can't believe it's already been a week since we got back from China.  I hope everybody's jet lag is dying down.  I was taking mid-afternoon naps until Saturday.  I am sure everybody remembers the unique experience we all had in the Chinese markets.  It was far different than what we are used to here.  However, the economic principle behind their system of haggling is very common even in the United States.


The principle used in the Chinese markets is price discrimination.  Price discrimination is a method of altering the price to fit a given situation in order to take advantage of optimal demand.  We see it all the time in our everyday life.  Ever been to a matinee movie or go on a student night?  These are forms of price discrimination.  For lower income students, these times are money-savers.  Many students might not even go see a movie if it wasn't for these times.

So a question you may ask is why doesn't everybody take advantage of these times.  For many, the price difference is not substantial enough to give up seeing a Friday or Saturday night movie.  The fact that the price is more during these times is inconsequential to this decision.  These individuals will go see a movie regardless of the price.


Movie theatres have figured out that they can increase the amount of customers they serve by offering this deal.  Furthermore, these money conscious buyers will go during the day and on nights where the theatre is not very busy.  This eliminates the possibility of opportunity costs forming from the discount.  For those that do not know, opportunity cost are the next best alternative in economics.  If the movie theatre was packed with normal patrons on a student night, any normal patrons turned away due to sold out shows is an opportunity cost for the theatre.  However, having student night on slower nights when the shows do not sell out leaves no opportunity cost.  It simply increases sales.

The price given for the matinee or student night is always enough to cover any variable costs.  This allows the tickets sold to contribute towards the fixed cost of the theatre.  In most cases, these prices do not cover all of the fixed costs.  This represents the an economic contribution margin.  The business cannot sell at this price all the time, but it can do it part of the time.


Now back to the Chinese markets, the sellers in these markets price their items high.  From their view, any person that can afford to pay these prices will do so without much effort.  People with lower incomes and budgets are more likely to haggle the price down to meet their income or budget constraints.  (And there is also people like me who just have fun haggling and seeing how low we can get them.)

  • The first goal of the markets is to sell your supply quickly and turn it over.  
  • The second goal is sell for higher prices on average than you could just setting a price with traditional supply and demand curves.

The method the Chinese markets use is the most efficient market other than a purely competitive environment.  Purely competitive markets carry no product differentiations.  Agricultural markets such as grain and produce are good examples of this.  What we saw in the Chinese markets was very close to perfect price discrimination or 1st degree price discrimination.  2nd degree price discrimination refers to selling in bulk or discriminating by quantity bought.  3rd degree price discrimination refers to dividing the market into defined groups, such as seniors, adults, and children with movie tickets.

For more information on price discrimination see: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/price_discrimination.asp 

Anyways, I hope everyone else found the trip as engaging as I did.  I loved seeing this principle play in this way.  This is probably why I enjoyed haggling so much.  I can't wait for the next trip.

Jason Alpert
   

Sunday, June 3, 2018

“Somethin' tells me it's all happening at the zoo”


Somethin' tells me it's all happening at the zoo 

I've decided to post a picture of adorable Giant Pandas, because… well, pandas! Too cute! Plus, we're going to see the pandas while we are in Beijing!



According to the Travel China Guide, “Giant Pandas are classified to be an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to the official report based on 1999-2000 census, There are 1,590 that live in the wild in their natural habitats. The number was pessimistically estimated as 1,000 several years ago.”

The Beijing Zoo is one of the few places one can see these amazing creatures. I am sure we will have a wonderful time. 

The World Wildlife Fund has an interesting page on Giant Pandas. A few interesting facts from WWF website:
Pandas live mainly in bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat from 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, a formidable task for which they use their enlarged wrist bones that function as opposable thumbs.

A newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter.

Pandas play a crucial role in the bamboo forests where they roam by spreading seeds and facilitating growth of vegetation.

China’s Yangtze Basin region, which holds the panda’s primary habitat, is the geographic and economic heart of [China]. Roads and railroads are increasingly fragmenting the forest, which isolates panda populations and prevents mating.

Forest destruction also reduces pandas’ access to the bamboo they need to survive. The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, but only around 61% of the country’s panda population is protected by these reserves.

Maybe we can all adopt a panda while we're there!


Paul Simon. “At the Zoo” 1968.  At the Zoo lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Migration and Bacteria


Hello everyone! We’re less than a week away from our departure, and I for one couldn’t be more excited. I’ve starting the process of getting my suitcase and carry-on in order, and gathering all those last-minute bits like bandaids and earbuds. 
I’ve also been doing some reading about the culture and recent changes in China. I’ve been reading Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler and China In The 21st Century by Jeffrey Wasserstrom. They’ve both been really interesting reads. I was particularly interested by Hessler’s discussion of the movement of people from rural china to the larger cities, in an incredibly wide-spread voluntary migration. Coming from a small town myself and pursuing a medical degree, I’ve seen first hand the push on professionals to return to rural areas after their education and work there, which Oracle Bones discusses a little. China is shifting from a primarily rural-based nation into a city-based one, which I’m interested in getting to see when we’re there. China In The 21st Century is a really interesting read if you’re looking at a more academic look at the changing landscape of politics and culture in China.
On a more personal note, I’ve recently gone and gotten the last vaccination I needed to be ready for our trip, and was really interested by the tips given by the Center for Disease Control for reducing the likelihood of sickness while abroad. I wanted to share some of these with you all (when it comes down to it, medicine and biology will always be my first interests). The areas where we’ll be traveling will be pretty warm, but the CDC still recommends wearing long sleeves and pants whenever possible, to minimize the likelihood of being bit by any furry things or creepy-crawlies. While cities may not be as likely to have insect vectors, animals can also carry infections. On the topic of infections, I’m sure most of you are familiar with traveler’s illness. Leaving your own accustomed bacterial fields and entering another (like leaving the U.S. and going to China) may create a bad gut reaction, where you obtain new bacteria that aren’t part of your own internal system, and your body tries to flush the new bacteria out. It’s great engineering by your body, but it does tend to make travel nasty! I’d recommend everyone check out the CDC’s page on China travel and read up on prevention methods and safety. I’m hoping for no issues so we can all enjoy learning about China’s culture first-hand and China’s potential health risks second-hand from the CDC.
Less than a week to go and we’re getting down to the wire! Are you all feeling nervous, excited, or a mix of the two? I’d be ready to get on the plane tomorrow, if I had the option. I’m ready to go!

Addison McGuire

Health Information for Travelers to China. (2018). Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/china

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