As part of the culture excursions to enhance the study of Chinese society, the UD NSLIY visited the Great Wall on August 7. Inspired by the Chinese familiar saying “You are not a hero unless you have successfully climbed the Great Wall,” all the students made hard efforts to reach the summit of the Mutianyu Great Wall, one of the most spectacular and physically challenging parts of the Great Wall. “It’s indeed great!” Bryce Fan was quoted as saying.
On August 6, the students visited the Olympic Village and were impressed by the grandiose of Bird’s Nest and Water Cubic (China’s National Swimming Pool).
On August 9 the students met with Wang Bin, one of the renowned filmmakers in China. As one of the most successful screenplay writers in the country, Wang Bin has collaborated with world-famous film director Zhang Yimou to produce such influential films as “Ju Dou,” “To Live,” “Raise the Red Lantern,” “Not One Less,” “Hero”, and “Fearless.” The students discussed Wang’s films, with particular reference to “Hero.” Wang Bin commented on contemporary Chinese films, the relation between films and society, the problematic of recent Chinese movies, as well as his prediction of what Chinese films will be like in the years to come. It was a lively gathering!
On July 31, the UD NSLIY students had a cross-cultural gathering with a group of the United Nations officials and diplomats, who were visiting Xiamen University, to share their experience of Chinese learning and their insights about Chinese culture and society. The students staged a joyful performance, all in Chinese, about their life in China, which attracted a large audience from campus community. The gathering was televised by Xiamen TV Station on the evening of July 31 in its prime time.
One of the important features of the UD NSLIY is “Buddy Activity,” during which our students meet with Chinese students from local high schools twice a week to chat about differences and similarities between American and Chinese schools, their dreams and learn Chinese dances, songs, paintings, etc. On July 28, “buddies” met again to discuss Peking Opera and learned to paint Peking Opera masks and make puppet figures for “shadow play,” a traditional theatrical form popular in southern Fujian province. They truly had a lot of fun!
Painting a Peking Opera mask
Pose with Peking Opera masks
Shadow Puppet is fanscinating
By Ann Williams
July 22, 2015
“我不知道，我听不懂，请再说一遍,” (I don’t know, I don’t understand, can you please repeat?) is what I feel I am saying over and over again! However, lots of laughter, lots of hand gestures, and lots of patience from both me and my incredible host family are helping break through the language barrier. This barrier is actually considerably easy to ignore, if you can avoid stressing out about getting your meaning across and instead focus on the great times you are having together, whether you’re playing cards, making dumplings, or giving gifts, as NSLI-Y students have done the past two days with their host families. Yesterday our Chinese parents welcomed us with open arms and today has been no different as they continue to bend over backwards to make sure we’re comfortable.
Even though we part in the afternoon, NSLI-Y students come together again each day in the morning starting with class and ending with tutoring. This week, we are learning paper cutting, calligraphy, and the popular Little Apple dance that stormed Chinese media not too long ago. These activities are not only incredibly fun but also add more depth to our intense learning of everything about Chinese culture. NSLI-Y students definitely feel, now more than ever, as if they are definitely a part of China while they stay with their host families.
In the second day of this new lifestyle, while many things are new and different, on more than one occasion I was struck with a strange familiarity of my own home in America. When my host mom brought out bokchoy as a dish of my delicious welcome feast yesterday, I discovered she had prepared it exactly as my own mother does—sautéed with garlic. After we ate, we sat in the living room and talked together—about my hometown, my family, and about how hard my host dad’s dialect is to understand. Even though I was struggling to understand half of what what was being said, I felt a strange comfort in being together and laughing and joking, just as I would in my own home. The language barrier did not block any of the welcome that my new family was giving me. I continue to be excited every day for a chance to practice what I’m learning and observe and discover even more about China, a place I am so unfamiliar with but strangely, feels like home.
David and Andy proudly show their paper cutting works-in-progress
Caroline and her host sister smile happily
Henry watches intently as his family helps him make tea.
By Anna Rempe
July 26, 2015
After a week in homestay, I have become accustomed to my family’s routine. When I joined this program, I assumed that I would only have one sibling, but I soon discovered that I had been lucky enough to join a family that had two adorable (evidence below) girls! The eldest has a lot of patience with my inability to understand her a good portion of the time. My host parents have been unbelievably kind. I am sure feeding a vegetarian has not been the most convenient for them, but they have excelled at preparing dishes.
At first, awkward lulls in conversation occurred frequently: I did not know what to say or what to ask – even if I could use English. However, conversation has become less awkward, excluding the times when I cannot understand what they say, and we have had many interesting discussions. They told me of their interest in moving to California and asked many questions about America and American schools. Although I certainly spoke in choppy sentences with horrendous grammar, they understood my meaning. This has forced me to think of creative ways to explain what I do not understand which has undoubtedly improved my Charade skills. On the way to school, I often ask my dad how to say something I see. After saying the Chinese word, he asks me how to say it in English. Together we have improved our vocabulary.
While I frequently talked to my parents and older sister, the younger sister took a while to warm up to me. Although she frequently talked with her sister, she rarely spoke directly to me. However, one day while beginning my homework in my bedroom, my youngest sister peeked around the corner into my room. She hesitated outside, until I told her to come sit on my bed. She seemed upset, but would not explain why. I asked her if she wanted to hear some of the Chinese story I had to read for homework. After a while, she still seemed upset, so I asked her if she wished to draw. A few stars in she returned to her cheerful self and proceeded to introduce me to her many stuffed animals – one featured in the picture above. Later, she showed me a card she had received for her birthday. I think we bonded over our ability to read the characters for happy birthday, and inability to read the rest of the card.
Although I learned in the most uncomfortable way the meaning of 蚊子 wen2 zi (mosquito), I truly wish I could stay in this home longer.
Homestay is an important component of the UD NSLIY Summer Institute. The two-week homestay (July 20-August 6) helps students experience the everyday life of ordinary Chinese people on first-hand basis. Located within a 10-20 minutes distance from Xiamen University, the host families were carefully selected and screened. The cross-cultural experience features, among others, “at-home Chinese tutoring”, interactive cultural activities, “cultural chats”, “a bite of Chinese food culture”, “meeting with people in the neighborhood”, etc. “It’s indeed an excellent activity,” student Samara Schuman was quoted as saying.
Lion Dance is a traditional folk dance in Chinese culture. Often performed on holidays, it adds festivity and joyfulness to cultural events. In partnership with Lion Dance Club of Xiamen University, on July 24 UD NSLIY organized a special workshop for the students to learn how to dance. Curious yet enthusiastic about this important aspect of Chinese folk performing arts, all the students fully engaged in the one-hour workshop, learning how to jump gracefully and keep a rhythmic movement. Difficult though Lion Dance is, our students proved to be quick learners and were able to perform some basic dance patterns, winning applaud from the audience.
After two and a half weeks of residing only a five minute walk from the picturesque seaside, today we were able to visit one of Xiamen’s renowned beaches. After a morning of testing in our Intermediate 2 class and the Chinese culture/history class in the afternoon, we headed out on a bus for a short drive to one of the best local beaches. Students were able to enjoy the view, walk along the shore, and joyfully play games such as volleyball and soccer. There were tons of people scattered all over the beach and it was nice to see everyone enjoying their day in the water despite the overcast weather. We everyone truly had a lot of fun on the beach! Even once it began to rain and we had to leave, we were able to enjoy local shops and restaurants across the street from Xiamen University as we had our last night out as a group before moving in with our home stay families tomorrow. After dinner, we came back to the dorms to pack all our things and prepare to meet and move in with our host families tomorrow afternoon. Everyone is very excited to spend the next two weeks immersed in Chinese culture with their new families and practice their Chinese and we all look forward to the new experience.
Wu Laoshi was teaching us in Intermediate 2 Mandarin Class.
Students playing soccer on the beach
I got it!
I am a Kungfu Master!
To help the UD NSLI-Y students understand Chinese culture in its complexity and diversity, on July 12 we organized a cultural excursion to the city of Quanzhou, the starting point of the ancient maritime Silk Road. Located about one hour away from Xiamen, the ancient town of Quanzhou, whose history dates back to the Song (960-1279) and Yuan dynasties (1271-1368), is where the renowned ancient maritime Silk Road started. In the early days, because of all the trade that was taking place in this region, many different cultures (Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam) were meshed together and contributed to the cultural diversity of the area. Students visited the famous Maritime Museum and were impressed by its rich collection of artifacts of different cultures. “This was especially interesting to me,” Anna Williams said, “as even though America houses so many people of so many different backgrounds, I would rarely be able to find this fascinating mingling of religions.”
UD NSLI-Y visiting the renowned Maritime Museum in Quanzhou
the Maritime Museum in Quanzhou
“Doing community service feels great.”
On July 14 UD NSLI-Y students helped the Xiamen University campus organize its student bike parking: picking up the bicycles that had fallen over everywhere. Since it is commonplace for Chinese college students to travel to and from class on bicycles and since there are so many bicycles, which park extremely close together, they often get knocked over like a trail of dominos knocking each other over one by one. The fallen bicycles have caused a lot of inconvenience to passengers on campus. Anthony Abinanti was quoted as saying “Doing community service feels great. Since we have been the foreigners who have bombarded the Xiamen campus with our bright blue shirts, it is nice to show the locals how great of a group of students we are.”
Caroline and Stefan were picking up the fallen bikes on campus.
Samara, Isaac, and Adrien were picking up the fallen bikes on campus.
“Doing community service feels great.”
By Anna Williams
July 13, 2015
While the typical name for America is the “melting pot” of the world, NSLI-Y students today were able to witness a very unique melting pot of cultures right here in China—in Quanzhou. Quanzhou was one of the major harbor cities of the Song (960-1279) and Yuan dynasties (1271-1368) and the starting point of the silk road. Because of all the trade that was taking place in this region, so many different aspects of culture were meshed together and contributed to the cultural diversity of the area. NSLI-Y’s first stop today was the Maritime Museum which we learned was 海洋博物馆 in Chinese.
Students at the entrance of the Maritime Museum in Quanzhou
Gabe and Scott viewing the model of an ancient ship
The museum showed Christian stone cuttings such as tombstones that not only had the typical Christian symbol of a cross, but also of a lotus flower, a Buddhist design, and other Daoist and Islamic symbols. This was especially interesting to me as even though America houses so many people of so many different backgrounds, I would rarely be able to find this fascinating mingling of religions. We also learned while in the museum that in ancient times, China contributed greatly to the field of shipbuilding and at one point possessed the greatest variety of boats in the entire world. Quanzhou was the perfect place to turn back time and witness the marvels of nautical achievements that were made so long ago. NSLI-Y students definitely felt as if they were a part of this enchanting time in China’s culture.
Stefan and Matt posing with Ibn Battuta