Tag Archives: China

An Introduction to the Chinese Hotpot – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

An Introduction to the Chinese Hotpot – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[The hot pot broths]

In China, going out to eat is a beloved activity that occurs on a regular basis. One of the most popular options is heading out to a hot pot place. As the name hot pot suggests, this style of cuisine is essentially a soup-centric style of fondue: you dip an assortment of food mix-ins into boiling pots of broth. It has a long and esteemed position in Chinese culture that spans about 1,000 years. While the details of its origin story are not entirely clear, many credit the Mongols for the creation of hot pot. In fact, one colorful anecdote claims:

[During an episode of the Mongolian Invasion of China, a few Mongol horsemen]…were so bent on conquest that they couldn’t be bothered to carry cooking utensils. Many didn’t even bother to carry food, since the villages they were conquering usually provided everything they needed. Story has it that eventually the Mongolians found themselves facing the Great Wall of China with no idea of how they might cross it. They settled down for a siege, but soon became hungry. None of the riders had cooking utensils, so they eventually decided to boil some water in a helmet. Bits of food were tossed in until they were cooked, and the hot pot was born. (akm20myonmi, 2016).

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[Vera, Bree, Gao Sheng, and I having hot pot together.]

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[Hot pot meat and seafood mix-ins]

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[Hot pot vegetable]

Whether that story is legitimate or just a legend, hotpot quickly caught on in China and developed into an extremely popular form of cuisine that is still widely enjoyed today. However, it is not a simple meal to prepare; rather, hotpot features a series of steps that need to be completed before indulging in it. When a group of people goes out for hotpot, they must first order a few big pots of broth (in my own experiences, my friends and I usually picked a tomato-based broth and a spicy broth heaving over with peppers). The dining table come equipped with burners, so once the broths arrive, the group of diners lets them sit on the burners until they start to boil. While they wait for that to happen (because as the old mantra says, “a watched pot never boils”), they select their food mix-ins and dipping sauces. They can choose a huge assortment of foods to have with their hot pot; their options range from greens and vegetables, thin slices of meat, seafood, tofu, noodles, dumplings, breads…really, the sky is the limit. Similarly, they can customize the dipping sauces by brewing together creative concoctions at a sauce bar. Ingredients for dipping sauces include tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chives, and even more garnishes that truly allow them to be mix-and-match maestros. Once the food mix-ins and sauces are gathered, the group plops the foodstuffs into the boiling broths until they are thoroughly cooked through. Then they pick up the submerged foods with chopsticks or spoons, dip them in their tailor-made sauces, and then gobble them up. They rinse and repeat this process, often with the accompaniment of white rice and plum juice to counteract excessive spiciness, until all the food runs out or the diners become too full to finish everything off (the latter scenario is much more common).

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[Hot pot tofu, bread, and noodle mix-ins]

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[Hot pot dried noodles]

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[White rice and a bowl of dipping sauce]

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[PLUM JUICE!!!]

Hotpot is a very fun meal to eat due to its limitless possibilities, as every visit offers the opportunity to try new broths, new food mix-ins, and create new sauces. But even more than that, it serves as a great social activity. Hot pot works much better with large groups of people in order to vary the types and quantities of the ingredients, and is just simply a great way to bring people together to chat and catch up while they eat delicious food together. I personally had several wonderful opportunities to share hot pot with several of my closest friends, which served as some of the best bonding experiences during my time in China. I hope that many more people, whether in China or elsewhere, can further learn about and engage in this tradition so that they can try new food while making great friends!

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[The dipping sauce bar: truly an embarrassment of riches]

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[The hot pot is boiled and ready to be eaten!]

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[Cheesy hot pot: an intriguing spin on traditional hotpot]

Works Consulted

akm20myonmi. “10 Unique Facts To Know About Chinese Hot Pot. Tabelog.us.TABElog. 10 March 08, 2016. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.tabelog.us/articles/10-unique-facts-to-know-about-chinese-hot-pot.

Vogel, Mark R. “HOT POT!” FoodReference.com. March 24, 2010. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.foodreference.com/html/chinese-hot-pot-a310.html.

Wu, Annie. “Chinese Hotpot — A Popular Chinese Dish You Should Try.” Chinahighlights.com. China Highlights. July 21, 2016. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/hotpot.htm.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Chinese Table – Food, Customs, Traditions, Identities – by Mariya Taberko. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Chinese Table – Food, Customs, Traditions, Identities – by Mariya Taberko. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[Image 1] Hot pot (火锅 huo3 guo1) seems to be everyone’s favorite meal, particularly on special occasions.

During my time studying Chinese in Beijing, our program would take each class to a local restaurant after the weekly Friday exam, and would treat us to lunch while we chatted with our classmates and teachers about things outside of course material. Because my class and the class directly above mine both had a mere two students each, we joined forces on Fridays and invited two office staff members, bringing our group total to about eight people every week. For every Chinese table, we would designate a different student to select a restaurant and reserve seats for our group—this way, we got to try all sorts of new foods from different parts of China. This is especially significant because in China, every region has its own distinct specialties, flavors, or even cooking methods, (their 特色 te4 se4). This is obviously different from restaurants in the US, where the variety comes not from different regions in America, but rather different nations’ cuisines.

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[Image 2] Just one portion of one week’s Chinese table meal. This particular restaurant’s specialty is donkey meat!

I particularly love the Chinese table tradition at our program. Not only for the delicious (and free!) food, but especially because I get a chance to really get to know my teachers, and talk about all sorts of topics. And I mean, all sorts. Obviously in the beginning, when our Chinese was more limited, our conversations were much more simple. Towards the end of the program, we were able to move past topics such as “my hometown’s weather”, and cover more complicated areas of conversation, (such as instructions on how to prepare certain foods, or our future career aspirations, etc.).

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[Image 3] One week’s busy schedule forced us to bring Chinese table into the classroom! Even take-away meals can be shared.

Chinese food culture really lends itself to things like Chinese table. In the United States, when
you go to a restaurant with a friend, you each order a separate dish, typically with individual sides included. In China, if you go out with friends, you each order what you want, and you share what you ordered with the table, (if you’re in a bigger group there is usually a lazy susan involved). For a typical meal, you would order a bigger meat dish, and some ?? (su4 cai4), or veggie dishes (these can be hot or cold, and are usually side dishes). Finally, each person can choose to order a small bowl of rice to go along with his or her meal.

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[Image 4] You can usually tell you’re at a Peking duck restaurant by the chopstick holders.

Though each Friday’s meal was unique and delicious, my favorite meal was from our last Chinese table. Since our class saved up quite a bit from our weekly restaurant budget, our teachers thought we should go somewhere special for the last Chinese table. After throwing around some ideas, we finally decided on a local Peking duck restaurant.

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[Image 5] Sitting around this beautiful spread of delicious food, we reflected on our growth since the last time we all ate Peking duck together, during our very first Chinese table in Beijing.

Mariya Taberko, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Global Studies – 2017

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The “Moscow of the Far East”: An Introduction to Harbin, China – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The “Moscow of the Far East”: An Introduction to Harbin, China – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[The Saint Sophia Cathedral, a former Russian Orthodox church-turned-city museum that serves as Harbin’s most recognizable landmark.]

Towering onion dome cathedrals and Stalinist spires…matryoshka nesting dolls and tins of caviar sitting in shop windows…broad streets, or prospekti, criss-crossing an urban landscape…

Based on these descriptions, one would assume that this place would be the most Russian of Russian cities. However, these are actually some of the key sights to see in Harbin, a city located in the northernmost throes of China! Harbin, the capital of China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province, offers a fish-out-of-water experience and a standout highlight of any expedition into China.

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[A mountain of matryoshka Russian nesting dolls for sale.]

The city of Harbin as it is known today dates back to the end of the 19th century – a spring chicken as far as most Chinese cities are concerned! The Russian Empire was consolidating ownership of its Siberian reaches via the Trans-Siberian Railroad and wanted a shortcut route to Vladivostok, its key Pacific port. The Qing Empire ruling China at that time granted Russia permission to build the Chinese Eastern Railway in its territory. Construction lasted from 1897-1901 and during that time, hundreds of Russian workers and railroad personnel settled in the area. They ultimately decided to remain there even after they finished building the railway. Noting Harbin’s steady growth following this settlement, China declared Harbin an “open city” in order to further promote trade opportunities. Hundreds of immigrants, chiefly from Russia but from other countries as well, flocked to Harbin to help and build up this rising economic centre. Harbin also offered a safe haven for people under persecution, and thus groups such as Eastern European Jews and Russian dissidents of the Bolshevik regime relocated to Harbin as a place of refuge. The influx of people and businesses helped Harbin carve out an identity as an eclectic and bustling city; nicknames such as “the Paris of the Far East” and the “Moscow of the Orient” provide further testament to its cosmopolitan reputation.

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[A monument to Mao Zedong and other key figures in the foundation of the People’s Republic of China .]

However, these glory days were not meant to last. China’s regional neighbor Japan had been demonstrating its imperial expansionist ambitions and invaded northeastern China in the 1930s. Japanese occupation proved devastating for Harbin; the Japanese army’s control of the city’s transportation hubs was a massive blow for its economy. Additionally, thousands of residents in and near Harbin fell victim to Japanese biological warfare experiments that were being tested at this time. After the Japanese were expelled from Harbin following their defeat in WWII, members of the Chinese Communist Party entered the area and Harbin became a key base for Communist forces during the Chinese Civil War. After the Communists’ victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Harbin returned to Chinese rule and began a new chapter in its history.

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[A red lantern in the window of an ice castle.]

Over the next few decades, the Chinese population of Harbin substantially increased as the Chinese government promoted it as a base of heavy industry. Simultaneously, the Russian population steeply declined due to mass outward migrations to escape Japanese and Chinese control, Soviet deportations, etc. In terms of cultural and demographic terms, Harbin today is much less ethnically diverse than in times prior. Despite these significant changes in Harbin’s make-up, the influence of Russian culture is still clearly evident in several aspects of day-to-day life, such as architecture, monuments, merchandise and foodstuffs, etc. Furthermore, while Russian and Chinese influences are most predominantly visible in Harbin, other cultures have further added to the city’s cosmopolitan flair. The Harbin Jewish New Synagogue Museum is the most prominent remainder of the Harbin Jewish community’s legacy. The city features the Daowai Mosque, and ethnic Uyghur and Hui people that form part of China’s Islamic minority operate several restaurants and noodle shops. The streets are dotted with Thai, Korean, and Mongolian restaurants, and the city even features an ornate Indian Quarter! All of these details blend into the background of the cityscape yet offer tantalizing hints to the mosaic that is Harbin’s identity. With all of these factors in mind, Harbin is a centre of multicultural synthesis in China and a very worthwhile place to explore further in depth!

Works Consulted

China Briefing Media. China Briefing’s Business Guide to Beijing and North-East China. China Briefing Media, 2006. Accessed April 25, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=M2TvFN9DmqkC&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211 &dq=harbinopencity&source=bl&ots=EkeKrpus6W&sig=uPf5JqrwgsG_8TPF76 Vi3paHcUc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0x_3hn6fMAhXDYqYKHbgMBKc 4ChDoAQgcMAA#v=onepage&q=harbinopen city&f=false.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Harbin”, accessed April 24, 2016, http://global.britannica.com/place/Harbin.

“Harbin Travel Guide.” Travel China Guide. Accessed April 24, 2016. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/heilongjiang/harbin/.

King, R. Todd. “Harbin’s History.” RToddKing.com. 2005. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.rtoddking.com/chinawin2005_hb_hi.htm.

Song, Candice. “Harbin History.” ChinaHighlights. July 28, 2014. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.chinahighlights.com/harbin/history.htm.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Macau, China – Portuguese in China (and the World)? The Lusophonia Festival in Macau – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Macau, China – Portuguese in China (and the World)? The Lusophonia Festival in Macau – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Carmen Miranda

[A Brazilian mannequin dressed similarly to national icon Carmen Miranda]

Entry_to_Lusophonia

[The brightly lit entryway to Lusophonia]

Macau, one of China’s key special administrative centers that is nestled close to the country’s southeastern Guangdong Province, is most famous (or infamous) for its behemoth gambling industry. Yet beside the glitzy façade of being China’s answer to Las Vegas, Macau has a deeply complex yet fascinating history. It had actually been under Portuguese colonial rule for hundreds of years, and the influence is still heavily visible on the city’s make-up. Bilingual Chinese (Cantonese) and Portuguese language signs dot the city streets. Plus, with Macau’s narrow cobblestone streets and countless cafes serving olive tapanades and wine and cheese platters, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you were not in Lisbon.

Mozambican_Statues

[Statues and carvings at the Mozambique booth]

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[My friends Abi, Tony, and I at Lusophonia]

Macau further displays its Portuguese heritage with Lusophonia, an annual celebration of all things Portuguese and/or Portuguese-influenced. The event features a series of activities, such as music and dance shows and tug-of-war competitions, to create a festive yet relaxed atmosphere. My friends and I first toured an early 20th century Macanese house museum, which showcased the combination of Cantonese and Portuguese cultural influences in small, mundane details. For example, the house featured several displays of saints and religious figures arranged and decorated on small tables in several rooms of the house. While this is not an unheard of practice in Catholicism, the way that some of them were arranged in the Macanese house, along with the side decorations (i.e. fruits, candles, etc.), seemed reminiscent of the numerous Cantonese and Chinese traditional ancestral shrines that I had previously encountered. After checking out the museum and musing on what it showed about the history of Macau, we headed to the biggest draw of the event: the food and craft vendors. They represented a spectrum of goodies from Portuguese-speaking nations all over the world. Like most people, I easily recognized the Brazilian stand, but was really surprised to see the geographic range of countries represented. The booths included everything from Mozambique (a country situated on the east coast of Africa), Sao Tome and Principe (an island off the west coast of Africa), and Timor-Leste (a Maritime Southeast Asian nation that only gained sovereignty from Indonesia in 2002). We circled around and took in the sights, smells, and tastes, munching on Macanese egg tarts and Brazilian chocolate truffles while we admired Mozambican wood statues and Timorese batiks…and making one too many pilgrimages to the free sangria being offered at the Portugal stand. After thoroughly checking everything out, we made our way back to Zhuhai and Mainland China, having felt sufficiently satisfied to learn a bit more about Macau and its identity.

Canto_China_Home_Shrine_2

[A more traditionally Cantonese/ Chinese home shrine]

Macau_Catholic_Mary_Shrine

[A more traditionally Portuguese Catholic home shrine]

Taipa_Museum_Exterior

[The exterior of the Taipa-Houses Museum]

Taipa_Museum_Home

[Interior of the Taipa Houses-Museum, a turn-of-the-century Portuguese-Macanese home]

Looking back at the event, I harbor a bit of mixed feelings. At first I thought it was a fun and frothy way to honor Portuguese culture. Afterwards, I realized that Lusophonia could be seen as a celebration of colonialism. Despite the potentially negative implications, the plain reality is that many of these countries have been historically influenced by Portugal (by both force and free will), and that interaction is heavily visible in their cultures and practices today. Thus, I think the event wanted to emphasize the countries’ contemporary identities and introduce people to places they may have never known much about otherwise—thus serving as a springboard to learn more about all the facets of these nations as a whole. All in all, the event not only served as a light history and socio-cultural lesson, but also was probably a better way to get acquainted with Macau than losing all of our money at the slots machines. And for that, we extend a hearty “Obrigado (Thank you)”! to the Lusophonia experience!

Tug_of_War

[Tug-of-war!]

Ruins_St.Paul_Macau

[The iconic Ruins of St. Paul in Macau]

Canto_China_Shrine

[A more traditionally Cantonese/ Chinese home shrine]

Marin Ekstrom serves as senior editor for The North Star Reports


Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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“Don’t Cry for Me, Minnesota”: A Farewell to My Home State – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

“Don’t Cry for Me, Minnesota”: A Farewell to My Home State – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

MarinMN1

My college graduation coincided with the exciting news that I received a teaching assistantship in Zhuhai, China, for the 2015-2016 academic year. I was not only happy to actually have employment (at least in the short-term), but I looked forward to living and working abroad and learning more about Zhuhai, the Guangdong Province, and China as a whole.

MarinMN2

However, this sense of excitement has a flipside: given that I will be in Zhuhai for ten months, it made me reevaluate my love for my own “homeland”: Minnesota, USA. Strangely enough, I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about embracing my American identity. I admire many aspects of the USA, such as its can-do pioneering spirit, and try to realize the freedoms and privileges that I received (and receive) solely based on my American citizenship. However, due to the USA’s controversial history (especially its maltreatment of Native Americans, African Americans, and other frequently marginalized groups) and stereotypes that emphasize “American exceptionalism”, I am sometimes wary of being considered an arrogant, ignorant, and hypocritical person due to my nationality.

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My relationship with my home state, Minnesota, is much more loving and uncomplicated than the one with my home country. I feel that, for better or for worse, Minnesota is often portrayed as a much more polite, modest, hard-working, and friendlier microcosm of the USA. Since I feel that these traits better reflect my personality, and I have noticed that many of my family, friends, and coworkers possess these characteristics as well, I am much more accepting towards my Minnesotan-ness. Furthermore, my upbringing and life experiences highlighted the beauty of life in Minnesota. In school, we learned about the rich indigenous cultures and traditions of the Dakota and Ojibwe. My own family heritage consists of Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish immigrants who came to Minnesota and toiled hard to build better lives for themselves; these groups, and others, have made Minnesota an intriguing blend of cultural diversity. I grew up surrounded by lush pine forests, rocky cliffs, and the sparkling blue waters of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and lived to the rhythm of trains and ore carriers hauling off iron ore on Lake Superior. For these reasons and so many more, I recognize how much Minnesota has shaped my personality, values, and overall being, and this has given me a deep love for my home state.

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Despite my Minnesotan patriotism, I’ve also been born with a great sense of curiosity and interest in other cultures and sense of wanderlust. Thus, I feel that it is time to move on and explore the rest of our great big Earth. As I approach my Zhuhai journey and the opportunity to adopt a Guangdong-ian/ Chinese spirit, it feels a tad bittersweet to leave behind my dear state. I will miss Minnesota and everything that I associate with it: agates, Judy Garland, Prince, Trampled By Turtles, Peanuts, highly literate cities, the Aerial Lift Bridge, Split Rock Lighthouse, Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox, the world’s largest ball of twine, wild rice, lefse, injera…the list goes on and on (though I won’t miss its long, Arctic winters). However, I will find new opportunities and passions in Zhuhai, China, and beyond, and while I will always be a Minnesotan at heart, I can’t wait to see how these traveling experiences contribute to the mosaic of my personality.

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Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Forty — Tianjin, China, Home Again

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Forty — Tianjin, China, Home Again

By Erin Monroe
Update 13: Home Again

I understand myself well enough to know that when it’s time for something to end and something else to begin, I get sentimental and reminiscent. Before you keep reading I should warn you that this is one of those times. My study abroad program in Tianjin has ended and now as I write, I have been home almost a week. I have a little over two weeks at home and then I will return to school to start my fall semester.

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It feels the same as it always has to sit here on this futon, hearing my mom, dad, and brother move about the house. It would seem as though nothing has changed until I remember that this house and my family is perhaps the one constant in my life. Now that I’m home again the last three months seemed to have whizzed by. Coming home to the U.S., I feel like China is a world away. Here are a few things that I learned this summer.

Firstly, I learned a ton of Chinese. For ten weeks, five days per week, I was in the classroom every morning for four hours. In addition to lecture and discussion, I also had one hour per day of a one-on-one session with a tutor, and my classmates and I had various activities to attend throughout the program. Many hours of our “free time” were left up to individual study and working on homework. All too often I wasn’t sure if I was actually storing the Chinese I learned every day in my long-term memory or if I was just remembering it for Friday’s test. I’m still not so sure, but with all the Mandarin I have learned, I have also gathered that it will be years and years of study and practice before I can consider myself “fluent”. Still, I hope to one day achieve some higher level of fluency.

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Secondly, the people around me have much more of an influence on me than I originally thought. Call it peer pressure, which can be either positive or negative, but I can’t deny that the people I spend time with have an effect on me to some extent. In this study abroad program, me and the forty other students in the program occupied about a floor and a half of an international hotel. I was fortunate to have a wonderful roommate, Emma, and having a good roommate can make all the difference. Especially since we spent so much time in our hotel rooms—it was not only where we slept, but also where we studied (which, if I haven’t gotten across, was a huge chunk of our time). Similar to living in a dormitory hallway, we all got to know each other very well over the course of three months. With our limited Chinese, we could only fluently communicate with each other as there were rarely other native English speakers living in the hotel. Forty students living in such close proximity, occasionally under stress, and only able to communicate fluently with each other caused solid friendships to form, drama and arguments, and a sort of comradery because we were all in the same situation that our family and friends back in the U.S. could not completely relate to. Additionally, when I traveled on my week-long break, I met people from all around the world—Australia, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany—all on their own travels. As I learned about these countries, traveling, living, and working in other countries no longer seems like an impossible dream.

Finally, possibly the most important thing I learned is that I have very few ideas about what I want to do with my future. Do I want to live and work in China after graduation? Will I ever become fluent in Chinese? What do I want to do? I don’t know how to answer these questions. Before coming to China, I was fairly sure about fields I wanted to work in after graduation. Now, after a whirlwind summer in China, I feel like I’m starting back at the beginning. Upon realizing this, I went on a frantic internship and career hunt on the computer, trying to ask myself what I liked and what I didn’t like. After coming home, I’ve calmed down, taken a breath, and I’m trying to look at my experience in China objectively. As I am now halfway through my college career, this is not the time to make set-in-stone decisions about my future. There’s no way I can figure it all out by Google-searching and taking career-personality tests. This is the time to explore, try things out, work hard and yet make time to enjoy it all. Anyway, it’s not really the beginning. I’m not starting from zero—with all the classes I’ve taken, jobs I’m had, the work I’ve done and the people I’ve met, I learn more about myself every day. All of this chisels the broad spectrum of possibilities down as I discover what I like to do, and equally as important, what I don’t like to do. Every experience I have molds me a little more each time into the person I am meant to be.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-Six — Tianjin, China, The Silk Market

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-Six — Tianjin, China, The Silk Market

By Erin Monroe
Update 12: The Silk Market

When I heard there was a place called “the Silk Market” in Beijing, I imagined a series of narrow alleyways with merchandise stacked on tables, an overwhelming crowd, and people yelling at you from all directions trying to sell you things. In reality, the Silk Market is an enormous indoor mall. It’s very clean and organized and because I went on a Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t too busy. Many of my classmates went there on day trips to shop and pick up gifts to bring back to the U.S. and they told me to check it out. There are at least six floors in the mall and it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Beijing for foreigners.

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The silk at the Silk Market is gorgeous and comes in many different varieties. Each floor is full of small shops and there was a whole floor dedicated to silk—scarves, ties, traditional outfits for men and women, and more. One friend knew a bit more about silk than I did; he asked the vendor to show us she was selling real silk. She pulled a lighter out of pocket, pulled a small thread from the corner of the scarf, and lit it. The thread burnt right away and left a blackish gray residue. My friend immediately smelled the dark residue and announced that it was indeed genuine silk. She explained that silk is a fiber, and when burned, will smell just like burning hair. Any girl who has ever curled or straightened her hair and held the iron in a little too long will be familiar with this smell. As long as the fabric has this smell, it is real silk.

The Silk Market has much more than silk. There are bags and luggage, jewelry, shoes and clothes of any kind and style, watches, suits and tailor shops, calligraphy brushes and ink, fans and chopsticks. You can buy sunglasses and regular glasses; if you have your glasses with you, they scan them to find the prescription, and put the prescription in your new glasses in under an hour. The market has every sort of name-brand you can imagine. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Rolex and other high-end brands are right next to brands you might recognize on a daily basis like Toms, Converse, and Nike. The thing is, almost all of them are fake.

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It is important to check the quality of each product here. I was looking at the jade necklaces and my friend picked up the jade, held it in her hand for a moment, then put it down and walked out of the store. She informed me that the jade was actually plastic—she could tell because of the weight. Jade, as a gem, would have been heavier. Out of curiosity, we took a look at the “Rolex” watches. For those that know Rolex watches, the second hand moves smoothly across the watches’ face, but these watches’ second hands ticked for every second. This is a minute detail, and I would never have noticed it myself not being at all familiar with Rolex watches. Other differences were more obvious—the buttons on the watch were plastic and didn’t function at all.

Because the products are almost all knock-offs, the price is not set in stone. As the customer, you offer one price, they argue for a higher. It goes back and forth. Bargaining is a common thing in China, and my friend, who is Chinese, gave me some advice. If you feel the price is still too high, you can begin to walk away. If the salesman yells after you and stops you to offer a still lower price, you can get lower. If they don’t yell after you, then it means they wouldn’t have made any profit with that price. Bargaining can be frustrating, but it is worth the effort to get such low prices. Although I knew walking into the Silk Market that the brands were knock-offs, I still did not expect the prices to be so low.

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As an inexperienced bargainer, I find it much more entertaining to watch someone else bargain that to bargain myself. Vendors will set a higher price for foreigners who they feel have more money and don’t know how to bargain well. Furthermore, most foreigners don’t speak Chinese and may be more easily fooled. Needless to say, I felt more comfortable leaving some of the bargaining to my Chinese friend. I wanted to buy a pair of Toms shoes and I let my friend bargain for me. It went something like this:

Cashier: 270 Yuan, 270 only.
Friend: No no no, she is a student! A good student!
Cashier: Fine, fine. 200 Yuan, 200.
Friend: Too expensive, 75, 75.
Cashier: 75? Really?
Friend: She is an especially good student, a fantastic student!

The conversation went on like that while I stood there feeling simultaneously flattered and embarrassed. In the end, I got the shoes for 85 Yuan, just under $14.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-Three — Tianjin, China, Hiking in the Rice Terraces

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-Three — Tianjin, China, Hiking in the Rice Terraces

By Erin Monroe, Update 11: Hiking in the Rice Terraces

When I was in Guilin, the international hostel I stayed at organized a trip to the rice terraces a three-hour drive outside the city. My two friends were not able to go so I traveled with four other enthusiastic travelers from the hostel. All together there was one American (me), an Australian couple, a man from Portugal, and a woman from Spain. We rode in a van driven by a friendly Chinese man who knew the area.

We left at eight o’clock in the morning. As it turned out, the driver didn’t speak a word of English, and the rest of the group didn’t speak Chinese, so I became the interpreter for the day. The three hour drive from the hostel to the rice terraces was windy and bumpy and felt like a roller coaster. We drove through hills and past streams and rivers until the driver dropped us off at a village and told us he would pick us up at another village called Ping’An in four hours. We bought some water from a vendor and went on our way up the path.

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The rice terraces are beautiful, and not even a high-quality panoramic camera would be able to capture the magnificence and intricacy of the rice terraces and the hills embedded with small villages. The trail mostly consisted of steep stone stairs winding up and down. Paths would fork in different directions, each leading to different villages. As you can see in the picture, multiple small villages can be seen from one viewpoint. The villages looked very similar to each other, each containing large buildings constructed of wood. It rains often here and the rice fields were blanketed with a hazy mist.

After hiking on the trail from village to village for about two hours, we stopped for lunch at a hostel set into the hill. We continued hiking after lunch and continued to follow the signs from village to village, until there were no more signs. It was left up to us to ask for directions from people walking the opposite way and this is how we discovered we were going in the wrong direction. Once we realized we were lost, we had no choice but to return the way we came until we got back on the right track to Ping’An. This was a little frustrating for the group and added an additional 2.5 hours to our trek for a nearly 7 hour hike. Frankly, it was exhausting, and although I exercise regularly, I was not in this kind of hiking shape.

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Furthermore, the sandwich I packed from the hostel had egg in it, which evidently does not keep well stashed in a bag for half a day because I experienced some food poisoning. I felt much better after it was out of my system. I debated leaving this gross detail out, but all the details of the day added up to the total feeling of accomplishment at the end of the trek. (Also, let’s admit it, everyone’s been there.) There was a point in the trip everyone reached when we were all tired and aggravated and wanted to quit and stop. Still, there’s no quitting in the middle of the rice fields, and the only option was to push through and persevere. I knew if I was hiking with my dad that day, he would’ve said this kind of thing “builds character”, though I’m pretty sure I have enough character to last me a while.

Upon accepting the idea that we just needed to keep going until we got there, and that we would eventually reach Ping’An, I was able to enjoy myself much more. The farther we went, there were less and less tourists on the path and more locals. There was a traditional hairstyle that women in the area wore where they grow their hair long and wrap it around their heads multiple times. Along the way they call out to tourists that they’ll let down their hair and let you take a picture with them for a fee. Although I was curious at just how long their hair actually was, I opted to save my money that day and didn’t fall into that particular tourist trap. Honey sugar was also sold along the way, as were beautiful handmade embroidered hand bags and jewelry.

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When you read about places to travel, you hear about the tranquility of the scene, the feeling of being one with nature, etc. While it’s true, the scene in front of me was beautiful, I believe what makes an experience great is the people you spend it with. This applies to school and work as much as it applies to travel. Good traveling companions make food poisoning, exhaustion, and getting lost seem insignificant in an otherwise great day. Surrounded by the quintessential rice terraces of China, I learned a lot about Australia, Portugal, and Spain from my traveling companions. We got to know each other well for formerly being complete strangers and spent a total of thirteen hours together that day. If I hadn’t spent the day with Carrie, Tony, Maria, and Manwell, I wouldn’t have felt the same sense of achievement and joy that evening as I watched the sun set over the rice terraces.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty — Tianjin, China, Traveling to Guilin and Zhangjiajie

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty — Tianjin, China, Traveling to Guilin and Zhangjiajie

By Erin Monroe, Update 10: Traveling to Guilin and Zhangjiajie

As I mentioned in my update last week, I took a ten-day trip with my two friends for our vacation from school in the middle of July. We traveled south to Guilin and Zhangjiajie. My vacation was packed full—full of traveling on buses, trains, planes, taxis, and subways along with walking, climbing, and hiking through rice terraces, mountains, national parks and cities. It felt like the theme of the week was to see how tired we could make ourselves by the end of every day and to see and do as much as we could. I didn’t want to leave China with regrets thinking “I wish I would’ve done. . .” so I tried to take advantage of this opportunity as much as possible. The first stop was to the city of Guilin.

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When I received a scholarship in the spring and found I was able to go on the study abroad trip, one of my Chinese discussion section teachers immediately told me to go to Guilin if I ever got the chance. I have to say, it was a marvelous recommendation. Guilin is famous for its beautiful karsts peaks just outside of the city and around the nearby villages such as Yang Shou. On Saturday, the first day of our vacation, we rode a bamboo raft down the Li River which is surrounded by these peaks. In fact, the picture on the 20 Yuan bill is a scene taken from these mountains. This area is a big draw for tourists, both domestic and international, and the locals definitely play off of this fact. I was lured into a tourist trap where I dressed up in traditional clothing and had my picture taken in front of the mountains. The view really is a gorgeous sight and many wedding photos are taken here as well. My favorite day was spent in the rice terraces, which is a three hour bus ride outside of Guilin. This was the hardest and most exhausting day of all with the hiking, heat, humidity, and getting lost, but the most worthwhile experience of my trip and requires its own space to be described in further detail next week.

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After touring Guilin and the surrounding areas, we took a sleeper train to Zhangjiajie. This city is most known for Tianmen Mountain. It was such a gradually rising mountain and when it did steepen it was too steep to free climb, so it was necessary to take a cable car up. There’s a walkway high up on the side of the mountain with different paths to follow and different sights for tourists to visit. The sides are so steep they could fairly be described as cliffs. Although there was a railing on the walkway, I didn’t dare lean over it and I felt a nervous buzz in my veins at being so high up. Whenever I took a picture I had a silly suspicion that gravity would betray me and the atmosphere would suck my camera out of my hand and over the cliff.

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As we walked around, we saw various tourist attractions. For one section of the path, red strips of plastic ribbon were being sold for 2 Yuan. Tourists buy a ribbon and write their hopes and wishes on the ribbon, then tie it to a tree branch somewhere on the mountain. I bought one and wrote some good wishes for my family back home. On another section of the path, the walkway was thick glass so one could look down and see only the forest hundreds or possibly thousands of feet below. This part of the path is known as “the Walk of Faith.” It was slightly nerve-wracking and many were giddy with excitement at being able to see open space below with the illusion of walking on air. My friend Marissa had chosen this as a destination because she’s working on breaking her fear of heights. She successfully completed the walk of faith and is one step close to conquering her fear.

As we walked further and further along the pathway, the grand mass of tourists thinned out considerably. The path was fairly flat and easy to walk, and then steepened slightly to climb higher up the mountain. At one of the peaks, we reached a temple. Although this temple is rarely used for religious practice anymore and is now more of a tourist attraction, there is still a certain atmosphere that comes along with being in a place of worship. I’ve felt the same sense of tranquility in mosques, churches, and temples alike; it was lovely to be in a place away from all the cameras and crowds. It was a quiet place comprised of multiple buildings filled with tall statues of Buddha. Between the buildings were courtyards with wooden raised holders filled with sand with sticks of incense burning to remember loved ones who have passed.

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After we headed back Tianmen Mountain and returned to our hotel, I felt like the vacation was over. The mountain seemed to be the grand finale and the end to a great trip. I still had another full day, and then on Saturday night I flew out of Zhangjiajie to Beijing. On Sunday, through a series of subway and train rides, I was back in Tianjin, and it was good to be back at my home-away-from-home.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-Eight, Tianjin, China, Trains

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-Eight, Tianjin, China, Trains

By Erin Monroe
Update 9: Trains

My study abroad program in China is a total of eleven weeks: ten of which are spent intensively learning Chinese at an accelerated rate (two semesters of language learning compressed into ten weeks) and one week of vacation to do whatever I like and go wherever I choose. Last week was my vacation, and I traveled with two friends to Southern China—specifically Guilin and Zhangjiajie.

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I had an absolutely wonderful time and I feel I can honestly classify my vacation as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The two cities I went to were gorgeous and bustling with nature surrounding both—rice terraces, mountains, lakes, rivers, and more. There’s so much to be said that I don’t believe I could fairly cover all of it in one update. One aspect of my trip in particular was much different than I expected it to be, mostly because I did not hold any expectations good or bad.

Trains. It’s a mode of transportation that everyone knows of, but varies so much across the world and even within countries. I have taken trains in the U.S.A., but in my hometown of Duluth there is only the tourist train that goes up the scenic North Shore along Lake Superior and its purpose is not solely a means of transportation. In China, the first train I took was the high-speed train from Tianjin to Beijing. The distance between these two cities is approximately a three-hour bus ride, but on a high-speed train the length of time shrinks to only thirty minutes. It was fast, convenient, and a smooth pleasant experience. I erroneously assumed all train rides would be this easy.

On my vacation last week, my friends and I were traveling eastward from Guilin to Zhangjiajie which is a lengthy distance and requires a layover to switch trains in Liu Zhou. The first train ride, from Guilin to Liu Zhou, was about three hours long. For some unknown reason, my friends’ seats were right next to each other, while my assigned seat was a few rows back. The train station was hectic. Everyone was pushing and shoving to get on the train, and I wasn’t sure why everyone was so frantic to get on the train first because I knew there was no way the train was going to pull away while people were still trying to board. When I boarded the train, I soon found out. By the time I had reached my assigned seat, a man was already seated there and all the seats around were full. I showed him my ticket, with the seat number, and he reluctantly gave me the seat, and then moved his 3 stacked bags of grain in front of me. I discovered what many might already know, but I wasn’t previously aware that people could still purchase train tickets last minute even if all the seats were taken. Perhaps I should’ve stood to let him remain in the seat, but I’m not familiar with proper train etiquette.

That train ride was uncomfortable for a few reasons. One, there were very very few foreigners, and apparently foreigners don’t frequent the area as there was a hefty amount of relentless staring. I stuck out like a light bulb so I tried to distract myself by reading, but the man with the grain stood over me and stared down for three hours so I didn’t even finish the first chapter. The second reason the journey was a little uncomfortable was because of the lack of space. I could only face sideways with one leg in the aisle and the other bent with my knee to my chest because of the space the grain occupied. The train was set up so that three chairs are facing three chairs and people store their belongings on the overhead shelf, between the chairs, on their laps, and in the aisle.

The train, just like a city bus, stops many times along the way to let passengers off. There was no overhead voice or message system to let passengers know which stop was which, but people seemed to know exactly when to get off, so I gathered that many people frequently traveled this route. As more and more people disembarked and there was more space, the stress and cramped feeling gradually dissolved and the mood became significantly lighter. People talked and joked more with each other and it felt like there was a sort of comradery among the passengers. When I asked the girl across the aisle if she knew when it would be my stop, five or six people around leaned in to hear the foreigner speak. Their attitude toward me loosened a bit when they heard I was speaking in Chinese. I’ve found that people are much warmer and willing to help when you speak to them in Chinese, and I’ve heard that this applies in many other foreign countries as well. It’s important to make the effort to adapt—“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

After an hour-long layover, my friends and I boarded the sleeper train—an eleven-hour train ride (from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.) from Liu Zhou to our destination, Zhangjiajie. The choices for the overnight sleeper train in order from cheapest to most expensive were hard-seat, hard-sleeper, and soft-sleeper. The hard-seat option is just what it sounds like: hard seats that don’t allow for a good sleep if any. The hard-sleepers are beds in compartments with six beds to a compartment, each bunk stacked three beds high. There are no doors to the hard-sleeper compartments, so there is no privacy on this portion of the train. As for the soft-sleepers, the most expensive but also the most comfortable option, there are compartments with closing doors and two bunks, stacked two high in each compartment, for a total of four beds per compartment. Unlike the previous train, no tickets are sold for the hard-sleeper and soft-sleeper sections as soon as the beds are all full.

I opted for the middle option, the hard-sleeper, and I was assigned a middle bunk. Although the bed was narrow, I found it to be very comfortable and I slept like a rock. It was wonderful.

All in all, though my experience with trains varies greatly every time, I would definitely choose to take a train again in China. Typically the trains are convenient, cheaper than flying, and take less time that driving a car or taking a bus. Although my comfort-level was up and down for every ride, I think it’s is largely due to cultural differences. As I’ve mentioned previously, personal space is not as high a priority in China as it is in America. I believe this is simply because China’s massive population does not allow for as much space, especially when it comes to transportation.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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