Last day in Beijing

On June 14, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

Classes on the main campus.

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Like Riding a Bike

On June 14, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

By Tyler Soto ’16 Like riding a bike: Riding a bike and going on a journey are similar things such as you can’t go back and you’re always moving forward. We’ve all grown from this experience, it maybe be our language skill or even learning how to ride a bike. These are the experience that keep us moving forward and make us grow as a person. My experience was learning how to ride a bike on the ancient inner city wall in fifteen minutes. When we first arrived to the wall, I was nervous of not being able to do it and just standing on the sideline while everyone else had fun. I told my self that I am going to do it and thanks to Mr. Taylor, I did. I learned using a rusty old bike on an uneven wall under fifteen minutes. This single experience was one of the highlights on this trip for me. I was so happy to actually ride a bike and I realized that everything on this trip was a first for me. This was my first time out of the country and I couldn’t go back just like if I was riding a bike. This is just one of the many experiences that helped me grow on this trip. This journey personally for me has been an amazing experience with not a single regret in taking it. I’ve made new friendships with people that I would have never of imagine of knowing. I met someone new like my Host brother, who is a great guy, and I’ve built a stronger friendship with some of the other guys like my other host brother, Ethan. I’ve walked the Great Wall, biked on an ancient wall, barter at different markets.Overall, this was an amazing journey and I will end this with a quote that I found, “有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎?” (Is it not a joy to have friends from afar?)

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Hua Mountain

On June 12, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

 

Xi’an

On June 11, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

Bike riding around the city wall -rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty …and roughing it at our Xi’an hotel. Tomorrow we climb Huashan > Hua Mountain Sent from my iPhone

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Beijing: Boundaries Crossed

On June 8, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

By Calvin Liang -15 The city of Beijing is unlike any other city on the planet Earth. It is archaic, yet modern. It is culturally isolated, yet cosmopolitan. It is urban, and yet rural. Beijing represents the blending of boundaries and bridge between opposites. If you were to think of the city in a manner relevant to the local culture, you could go as far to say that Beijing is the perfect balance of yin and yang. Upon arrival in Beijing, it’s quick to notice the modern architecture of Beijing International Airport (PEK). It is, quite literally, one single vast ceiling that spans the whole airport. In fact, on the surface Beijing seems like any other cultural-turned-modern city, retrofitted with gleaming bright lights that pierce the dark night. Yet unlike other cities, Beijing has another side to it that embraces its culture and rich history. For example, take picture #1. This is a picture taken from the top of the drum tower, and it is of the tower that sits in Beihai Park not far from the Forbidden City. This was taken at a location in the middle of Beijing, where bustling traffic and towering skyscrapers are abound. Observe the space around the tower. You would say that the space is just about empty. Had there not been contextual information about the tower, you would probably assume that the tower was in a faraway countryside area. And yet, this piece of ancient architecture stands alone, in an area modernized in every possible aspect. Truly, a boundary crossed. The modern aspect of Beijing is not to be undermined, however. From the same point I took picture #1, I turned 900 to the right and took picture #2. In this picture, there are towers, skyscrapers, and all sorts of buildings popping up everywhere. The empty air around the tower in picture #1 is now filled with signs of urban development. The contrast between these two cities is an indication of how integrated the city of Beijing is between its cultural and industrial parts. Modern Beijing, the yin, is groundbreaking, growing, economical, global, and industrial. After China opened its gates to the world, the growth that the country has seen was unprecedented by the world. The people have created the fastest-growing economy in the world, and at the center of this powerhouse, is the capital city of Beijing. In the city of Beijing alone, there seems to be an endless stream of skyscrapers that covers the land. And with a population of 21 million and growing, the need for even more housing and construction to this already massive city is overwhelming. Now, the city of Beijing is one of the largest cities in the world, and a city that is one to visit. And from my visit so far, Modern Beijing has not disappointed. (Picture 3) On the other side of the spectrum Cultural Beijing, the yang, is beautiful, elegant, historical, mystifying, and individual. From the well-known Forbidden City and Great Wall to the lesser known Gong Wang Fu (Prince Gong’s Mansion) and Beihai Park, the cultural aesthetics of China make up the beauteous part of the city of Beijing. The elegance and awe-inspiring structures built by the dynasties thousands of years ago still stand today, and it boggles the mind on how these were built so long ago without our fancy construction tools and materials. The historical backgrounds of these locations serve to enhance the experience further. It passes the mind how a mere child could have run the entire country, or how the Forbidden City can hold exactly 9,999 rooms. But that sense of mystification is what truly defines the beauty of this culture. For a modernized city that has industrialized itself to the extreme, the amount of culture preserved and upheld is one of the most marvelous things that I have seen. Groundbreaking, beautiful, growing, elegant, economic, historical, global, mystifying, industrial, and individual. That is how I describe Beijing. It is a city unlike no other, a place that I think manages to fuse two aspects of life that in other places would never be possible. The growth of this city has stunned the world, and yet at the same time this city holds some of the richest cultural heritage globally. It’s a place that we have only scratched the surface of, and yet we feel as though we have learned the entire city. This is a city that I want to return to again, and again, and again. Because Beijing is the manifestation of Yin and Yang, where boundaries cross.

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Acquired Tastes

On June 8, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

By William Herold ’14 I’ve always had an aversion to the idea of “acquired tastes.” Originally hearing the idea refer to drinking wine, it always seemed illogical and impractical to me to do something one dislikes many times only in order to like it later. Why would something that few people enjoy the first time be a popular, or even accepted, practice? Only after running full force into a brick wall of cultural difference in Beijing and my concussion healing did I find the answer in those intimidating slivers of wood with which people all around the world struggle. Before this trip, I considered chopsticks, or kuàizi (筷子), to be completely antiquated. After years of battling slippery noodles, dry rice, and other utterly confusing Asian-type foods in Chinese restaurants around Phoenix, I usually just asked for a fork. I always wondered why, with such a rapidly changing environment, China would not change their choice of eating utensils. If the goal of eating is to transport food from the plate to my stomach, the fork is clearly superior to chopsticks. However, only while learning to use chopsticks over the duration of my trip to China have I realized that this assumption was entirely incorrect. The modern goal of eating is to nourish the soul, or hún (魂), with conversation, self-discipline, and poise. While the fork can quickly shovel copious amounts of greasy food down one’s throat, chopsticks can teach a quiet dignity when eating that is unattainable with a fork. Through practice, control, and patience, anyone can use chopsticks well. “Acquired tastes” suddenly seem logical because learning to like something over time is one way to learn different virtues. My trip to China came with all sorts of fantastic experiences, but the most pleasant surprise for me was that it solved several of my philosophical struggles like this idea. So I still think that wine is disgusting, but coming to Beijing helped me discover that chopsticks are the bomb.

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Transcending Religion

On June 8, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

By Max Waxman ’14 Last weekend I was fortunate enough to visit a Buddhist park with my host family. Immediately upon arrival I knew that I was in a special place. I walked through the gates and was awestruck by the beauty of the park. There were temples everywhere and the entire park was surrounded by greenery. It seemed to emit an aura of peacefulness. Right inside the main gate was a stone carving of an old man. On his head and in his hand there was a peach which in Chinese culture is supposed to symbolize old age and everything that comes with it, i.e. knowledge, work, etc. We then undertook the task of ascending to the uppermost section of the park to meet with one of the Buddhist masters. The change in elevation from bottom to top was similar to that of a small mountain. Along the hike the aroma of incense pervaded the air, which added to the peaceful atmosphere of the park. When we reached the master, I was surprised to see that he was a younger looking man. He looked to be in his thirties, had a shaved head, and was wearing a robe. We followed him inside a two room building. We all sat in one room which had about 8×8 feet dimensions. I believe that the other room was where he slept. We were not allowed to take pictures, which is unfortunate because the room was quite a sight. All along the walls were paintings and works of calligraphy. There was a table in the center of the room surrounded by two couches and a few stools. Finally, there were stone and wooden carvings all over the room. While there, Jason’s mom asked if the master would explain the concepts of Buddhism to me. Due to the language barrier, Jason (my host brother) acted as my translator, so some meaning may have been lost in translation, but I understood the gist of what was being said. One of the main beliefs of Buddhism is that of complete equality: of humans, animals, plants, etc. In theory I thought this was a good belief, but in practice I could not picture it as feasible. I think this belief was really a call to respect all life. Too often do humans neglect not only each other, but also the plants and animals around us, and the environment in which we all live. Another central Buddhist teaching which falls along similar lines is to treat others as you wish to be treated. This is an idea that I believe transcends any specific religion. It appears in Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity and most other religions, and it is often a central tenet of that particular religion. Simply put, the concept is to be a good person. You shouldn’t be focused solely on your own personal wants and desires, but should rather keep the wellbeing of others in mind when making decisions and acting. After the meeting we left to view a Buddhist ceremony. This was extremely interesting, although I really had no idea what was going on. A bunch of people gathered outside a room that had many of the monks in it. The monks then began to chant and ring bells and play drums. Whenever given the cue (which I couldn’t figure out), the people would bow and pray. Shortly before the end of the ceremony we left to eat lunch which was an experience in itself. We ate with many of the monks, in silence. Overall, this was an amazing experience. I was able to learn about a different religion, but what I mostly found were ideas that transcend religion. Whatever your beliefs, it only makes sense that you should keep others in mind. Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.

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“Beautiful Women and Talented Scholars”

On June 5, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

By Jackson Dangremond ’14 “Beautiful Women and Talented Scholars” In all things there are differences. The differences may be bold and vivid, while others might be dull and subtle. But the differences surrounding life in Shanghai and Tongli are obvious. Over the past weekend I was fortunate enough to visit Shanghai and Tongli with my host family. When I arrived in Shanghai the skyline amazed me. It is lined with an innumerable amount of skyscrapers. The city itself feels so modern and so western that at some points I felt as if I was back home in the United States. But that was not the case in Tongli. Tongli is a small silk village in the Tongli River Province of Shanghai. This village is home to many old imperial gardens that are over eight hundred years old. It felt like I was stepping through a time machine there. Everything was very traditional, even the transportation; each destination was reached by a small wooden boat. The contrasts between each could be best symbolized by the tour guides description of Tongli; “Beautiful Women and Talented Scholars.” I found this to be quite the contrast because of the qualities each entail. The “Beautiful Women” aspect holds the aesthetic characteristics often found in Shanghai. While “Talented Scholars” hold true to the tradition and way of thinking found in Tongli. The aesthetics of Shanghai are found in the: buildings, malls, and the people. In Tongli, tradition is found in: old restaurants, transportation, and the people. People play an important part in the formation of culture; I learned things from each side. The differences found on each side represent two different sides present in myself. On one hand there is a strong desire for luxury and material items. But on the other hand there is the desire to learn from the old and to retain knowledge from those that have walked through life before me. Regardless of the difference or desire, it is up to me to start walking.

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Mr. Wang’s Story

On June 5, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

By Jack Bruner ’15 As our China trip continues on with new places, new foods, and new people, I have started to take the time to reflect on what we have already seen. Of all things amazing things we have experienced, the single most significant thing to me was Mr. Wang’s story about his grandfather. On our second tour day in China we visited the Bell and Drum towers as well as some of the Hu Tong’s North of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Beforehand however, we ate lunch in a small home over 200 years old just meters away from the Bell Tower itself. The house was owned by Mr. Wang who prepared an amazing lunch for us. One of the dishes was many small orange meatballs that tasted really good. He then told us that his grandfather served these special meatballs to emperor Guangxi over 100 years ago. Guangxi was the last emperor of China. When Mr. Wang said this it really hit me, this is history. We are eating history, in a house full of history, in a city full of history. In a country of 1.3 billion citizens, people still have their stories, their history, and their “15 seconds of fame.” My initial thought was “oh, wow, that a cool story” but by the end of the day it had transformed into something entirely new. Everybody has a history no matter if you are a business man in Phoenix, a janitor in Los Angeles, or an elderly cook in the center of Old Beijing. It is up to us to realize it, and appreciate everyone for who they are and where they have come from in order to get a new perspective of the world in someone else’s shoes. Mr. Wang’s story is truly one of a kind, one in 1.3 billion. Reinforcing the overused phrase, “everybody is different”. Since then I have really tried to view situations and people from a perspective where they are an individual with an individual history.

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Mr. Wang’s Story

On June 4, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

By Jack Bruner ’15 As our China trip continues on with new places, new foods, and new people, I have started to take the time to reflect on what we have already seen. Of all things amazing things we have experienced, the single most significant thing to me was Mr. Wang’s story about his grandfather. On our second tour day in China we visited the Bell and Drum towers as well as some of the Hu Tong’s North of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Beforehand however, we ate lunch in a small home over 200 years old just meters away from the Bell Tower itself. The house was owned by Mr. Wang who prepared an amazing lunch for us. One of the dishes was many small orange meatballs that tasted really good. He then told us that his grandfather served these special meatballs to emperor Guangxi over 100 years ago. Guangxi was the last emperor of China. When Mr. Wang said this it really hit me, this is history. We are eating history, in a house full of history, in a city full of history. In a country of 1.3 billion citizens, people still have their stories, their history, and their “15 seconds of fame.” My initial thought was “oh, wow, that a cool story” but by the end of the day it had transformed into something entirely new. Everybody has a history no matter if you are a business man in Phoenix, a janitor in Los Angeles, or an elderly cook in the center of Old Beijing. It is up to us to realize it, and appreciate everyone for who they are and where they have come from in order to get a new perspective of the world in someone else’s shoes. Mr. Wang’s story is truly one of a kind, one in 1.3 billion. Reinforcing the overused phrase, “everybody is different”. Since then I have really tried to view situations and people from a perspective where they are an individual with an individual history.

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