Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Great Wall - Last day in Beijing

Our last day in Beijing was jammed packed but full of excitement and anticipation as we were going out to see the Great Wall today!  We started off the tour with a trip out to the Ming Tombs and the Spirit Way.  This is a tomb designed by one of the last emperors of the Ming Dynasty that was built.  We had a chance to quickly tour only one of the tombs because on our way out to the tombs, our bus was involved in a fender-bender.  As I was sitting in the front, I saw that the car infront of us slammed on it's break for no apparent reason.  Our tour guide said that in Beijing, people can sometimes bribe a police officer to get a drivers license in order to cirmumvent the lengthy process of learning how to drive.  The tour guide said that the man driving the car in front of us was a new driver and had just bought his car (a Chevrolet SUV of some type).  Poor man, our bus had minor damage, but the whole back of his SUV was smashed.  After waiting for about 1 hour we changed buses and continued on our trip out to the Ming Tomb. 

The Ming Tombs had a very European feel to the design.  I wondered if this emperor toured Europe and wanted to design his eternal resting place to mimic the avenues of Europe.  The Spirit Way is a long 2+ km way that is lined with weeping whillows and statues of all sorts of animals and giant soldiers guarding the way.  At the beginning of this long avenue is a giant turtle that is meant to signify longevity. 


After this, you enter the actual tomb.  Although there are several emperors buried in the area, the largest of the tombs is the one we visited.  The following pictures show how big of an area these tombs are.

After our quick visit to the tombs, we stopped at another government run Cloissone factory.  I had no idea that people actually have to hammer out, cut, and place each small part of copper and fix it on the vase. Then, another person has to fill it in with the different color paints/glazes.  The process seemed very detailed and an art form all to itself.  No wonder the prizes were so high! 

We ended the day by climbing the Great Wall. The steps were uneven, and worn by the number of visitors that the wall sees each year. I couldn't help but pause and remember what our tour guide said about the wall also being the largest tomb ever built. This is because as the wall was being built, workers who died while building it were entumbed in the actual wall. Although the day was cloudy and cold, it added a peaceful and serene feel to the visit. Many of us climbed up into the top of the towers through a very narrow and steep stair case and took some pretty great pictures of the surrounding country side. To think that this structure is the only man-made structure that can be seen by the naked eye from space seemed incredible. Although I went up to the second tower, many of the students went much further. I felt it was an honor being able to visit this area, take a moment to honor the people who died making the wall, and have a chance to climb the structure without being rushed or crowded like I have been told it is during the summer months. What a fantastic ending to a great trip!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Beijing, China - Day 3 by Kiara Revilla

Monday 1/28/2013

Today was by no means a busy day but it was definitely an eventful day. We started out with the luxury of getting up a little later then usual (meeting at 9:30!). Our breakfast was the usual mix of fried rice, toast, and fried duck eggs. The first stop was the art district. With our early start most if the streets were deserted and we got to look around all by ourselves. The streets were filled with modern art as well as traditional Chinese art. You could see things from graffiti of a giant squid on the walls as well as men in black to statues if giant caged dinosaurs and sharks devouring chairs. It was fun to walk around and I wish we had more time to explore the vastness of it.

Our next stop was our last and most exciting official stop of the day. All dressed up we made our way to the embassy. The process turned out to be a little bit difficult. We got to the front gate and first turned over our passports to get our visitor passes. Next we went through security which is a lot like airport security only here when you turn over your electronics you don't get them until you leave. So sadly we progressed on short our cameras but plus some escorts. The embassy itself was set up very uniquely. It was kind of a hybrid of a jail and a maze. They told us this was partly due to the fact that the building needed to be able to withstand a bomb. The interior design was beautiful, there was no shortage of art on the walls. One of my personal favorites, and I think many others, was the bathrooms! They were perfectly western completed with western toilets, toilet paper, and dyson hand blades. Since we were a little early we were able to stop at the commissary and pick up some favorite foods that we haven't seen in a month. I personally got some flaming hot Cheetos. Our escort next brought us up to see the medical clinic. This clinic was basically the same kind of clinic that we are used to seeing back home. It was interesting to compare and talk to a nurse that works there. But we had to run to make it to our appointment on time.

We made it to our conference room and all excitedly waited around the table. After a few minutes of patiently waiting Ambassador Gary Locke made his entrance. He politely asked about our trip thus far and our studies abroad. Then with a change if pace he talked to us about how western presence and practice of medicine is greatly needed in a place like China. He attested to the poor set up of the healthcare system and how it needs some work. He gave an example that if you walk into a hospital and you are having a heart attack you will not receive health care until you have paid for the service. Yes, if you are a citizen you will have health insurance but the coverage is minimal and the patients almost always have to pay cash up front for services. It was a unique experience that we are all very grateful for. We got the pleasure to talk to him about PLU. He praised our school and applauded us for going to a liberal arts school. He too felt that it is so important to receive a broad education to help you become a world citizen. We obviously agreed with him. To conclude our visit we pulled our PLU banner out and took a picture with him (which we will hopefully be receiving in a couple of weeks once it makes its way through security to us). I feel very lucky for the opportunity for an experience like this. It was a great way to start the wrap up of our trip.

-Kiara Revilla

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Beth Iovino Blog

In the morning, our group toured a traditional Buddhist temple called the Lamu Temple.  The temple holds a Guinness World Record for having the largest Buddha carved out of a single piece of wood. 

Our group then toured another silk factory where we were shown the raw material used to make the silk products and given a demonstration on the quality of the products produced in a government factory.  One of the interesting aspects we learned is that the cocoon that the moth makes is really hard when dry.  However, they boil it for over 2 hours to get it soft.  This way the pupa inside can be removed and the silk stretched out on a wooden mold shown below. 

We then drove to a government pearl factory where we were shown how to tell the difference between a real pearl and a fake pearl.  Real pearls when rubbed together make a pearl powder.  We also learned that it takes over 3 years to have an oyster ready to produce pearls and each oyster can produce more than 30+ pearls!

Our next stop was at the oldest part of Beijing where we were given a tour via a rickshaw ride.  During this ride, we passed a frozen river where we joined the locals out on the ice for some great photos. 


After dinner, the group took in a Kung Fu show.  The stunts and acrobatics were amazing.  The show demonstrated the dedication needed to acquire and build the skills required in this ancient art form.  Several of the students took advantage of the opportunity to take photos with the Kung Fu artists featured in the show. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blog 1/25/2013 Annalisa Pedersen

Today we arrived in Beijing. We have heard many things about Beijing. The shopping reputation had mixed reviews, some said it was good and some bad. The women are supposed to be less beautiful and stylish then Chengdu. Apartments are supposed to be enormously expensive. Our first tour guide, Lisa, told us that Beijing is known as the largest parking lot in the world.
We also heard and worried about the pollution levels. The news has been reporting that pollution levels in Beijing are currently at record high. As we got off the plane the smog did not appear to be worse then what we have seen. But after a few hours many of us are complaining of gunk in our throats. People are not wearing masks as much as Xian, which is surprising. Many of us are wearing masks.

Beijing does feel more modernized and less foreign. We see more other foreign people and we are stared at much less. From what we have seen so far there are more English speakers.
Our hotel was nice, a pleasant change from our less nice (but not awful) room accommodations in Chengdu. The wifi is a perfect connection. Speaking with family members on a clear connection is a relief.
Our dinner was fantastic. The chicken and beef tasted normal like home. Beijing food feels more western and less spicy. Some of us are excited and some are disappointed.

After dinner we went to another opera. Our favorite parts were the plate spinners and the Kung foo. There were pictures on the wall of many important political figures that had been there before.

Annalisa Pedersen

Day 1 Beijing by Angela Kern

Our first full day in Beijing was undeniably busy; we were going, going, going all day long. We got to sleep in until about 8:30 and didn't leave until nine. I was practically grateful because we haven't really had a moment to catch our breaths since we landed in Xi'an, it's just been one thing after another without any breaks in between. Being constantly busy is, if a little draining, something I wouldn't trade for the world! We have had so many opportunities to experience unique and exciting adventures, I'm glad to say that we have hit most of the things you're supposed to do here as well as experiencing many unique moments.
 When we arrived at our first stop, Tienanmen Square, I was in awe. The history of the place makes standing in the middle of the square overwhelming. Everyone is bustling and taking photos on the same ground where deadly fights fought for entertainment during the Ming and Ching dynasties, where hundreds of college students were killed during the ten year cultural revolution. I grew up hearing about the bravery of those young adults and I know that Tienanmen was the focal point of the cultural revolution here in China. The dark history of the square is starkly contrasted by the capitalist attitude that now predominates. Everyone was either selling or buying something there, not surprising for China. I liked the juxtaposition, it allowed you to really visualize the modern, past, and ancient China. China is definitely a mixture of the two; you find the latest architecture in the entire world right next to sites with enough history that people travel from all over the world to see them.
 From the square we entered the Forbidden City where the emperor stayed during the later Chinese dynasties. It was incredibly large. The enormous city was built with 9999.5 rooms because heaven was said to have 10,000 rooms. Although the emperor thought he was close to the status of a good, he didn't want to offend them by having the same number of rooms in his house. He was also a little paranoid and built a 50 meter most and an impenetrable most around his city to keep invaders out. He even built the ground of the city 7 meters deep of brick precariously placed so they would collapse of an assassin tried to dig under the city. Most emperors had between 10,000 and 20,000 concubines at any given time. No other men were allowed to have relations with these women, and as an added precaution, the emperor only employed eunuchs. The city was very private and as you walk further back, it becomes more private. In the front, the emperor would entertain audiences, but in the back only his favorite concubines could stay. The whole universe pretty much revolved around this  emperor.

All of the buildings were very beautiful and the time were elegant. We mostly saw rooms meant for concubines and were told that the emperor hardly ever slept in his own (larger) room; he had an affinity for the grandiose.
 The Forbidden City want exactly what I was expecting, but it was awe-inspiring if simply for the fact that it let us better understand the dynamics of the royalty in ancient China.
 Next we made our way to the Temple of Heaven. It's another Buddhist temple, but it was much bigger and more ornate than what we've seen previously. There was a pavilion with nine tears leading up to a white circular platform. If you stand in the middle of it, legend says that you get to make one wish. I won't tell you all what my wish was, but I think this one may work because the power of Buddha was behind it. The walkway up to the main temple had a granite row up the middle of it. During dynastic China, only the emperor could walk straight up the middle. We all walked up that way and felt very regal. The actual temple was definitely the coolest ones I've seen yet. It was designed so that the monks could talk to each other at opposite ends of the temple courtyard. The wall around the temple is circular and you can hear people from the opposite end, about 200 meters away, when they are talking in a normal voice. The temple itself was similar to the others we've been to, with the obligatory big statue of Buddha in the middle. These temples are incredibly beautiful and serene.
 After the temple, we went to an acrobat show. It was incredible! All of the people were so talented, I can't figure out why they didn't all go to the Olympics. Seriously, they were doing tricks that I had never even thought of. One guy balanced on a ladder with another guy and a little girl on his back. He then proceeded to pick up two other little girls while balancing solely on his two small metal ends of the ladder. There was another whole group of girls twirling the plates. They spun plates on long sticks and did tricks, never letting even one plate fall. They climbed on each other, did walk-overs, and one girl bent over backwards to grab a flower out of a bucket with her teeth. There was a couple that did the ribbon dancing like they do in Los Vegas where they have two thick banners of silk coming from the ceiling and the dancers wrap themselves in it and then fly over the stage while dancing. It was beautiful to watch, but a little frightening, too. There was one point where the woman wrapped a rope around her neck and then was hoisted into the air while spinning at about a thousand rpms. The most amazing of all, though, was the motorcycles in the big round cage. These crazy Chinese people rode their motorcycles in a round cage and fit five motorcycles in there. Every time they came out to add another bike, the entire audience went insane! They were certainly dare devils.  We had one more show left, a traditional Beijing opera. While I'm glad I had the chance to try it, Beijing opera certainly is not for everyone. After watching the insane motocross, the shrill and slow-moving opera was an altogether different experience. We all really liked the fact that there were subtitles in English! The actors were really talented. One of the stories was about a sword fight in the dark. Both men were turning flips and practicing complicated sword play while singing, it was impressive. The opera was worth going...once.
Beijing is a huge city full of life, there is just so much to see. I can't wait to see more of the city and explore the area.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blog Rose and Meilea Jan 20-24th

            Sunday, January 20th, we headed out from the hotel and spa at 8am. We made our first stop at a Buddhist.The temple was set in a forest area with rocks and trees. We had a short walk from the parking lot toward the temple. At the temple there were altars set up for various gods and Buddha. There were different temple buildings which were on different levels that ascended up. At one of the areas there was a monk tending the altar and some of us gave a donation then we got a gift. Most of us got a CD with music of the monks chanting. They played some of the music over a speaker and it was very peaceful and relaxing. After we finished at the temple we headed to a tour of a factory. Barb was friends with the owner of the company back in the US. She was able to set up a tour of the factory were they made organic pesticides and food preservatives. The factory was large and had many different buildings for offices and processing of products. After the tour we had lunch then headed to the silk factory. We were able to have a tour and learn about how silk was made from silk worms.


   Monday January 21st, we had lecture with Dr. Peng in the morning and he lectured on Tuina or massage techniques. The lecture focused on kneading and percussion manipulations. We were able to practice massage techniques on each other which is an enjoyable experience. While practicing our techniques for massage Dr. Peng a.k.a Tuina master would share words of wisdom like "relax" and "no pain no gain". The massage in China are different from US ones because they us lots more force in massage and pain is a positive sensation. In the afternoon lecture we had Dr. Zhang and she lecture on acupuncture. We were able to practice insertion of the needles. The instructor gave us some napkins and acupuncture needles to practices our techniques. It is important to hold the needle properly and insert needle at the right angle. We all enjoyed the hands on learning.


            Tuesday January 22nd, we had clinical in the morning in Tuina (massage) and acupuncture clinics. We split up into our different clinical groups and observed various clinics treating patients with massage and acupuncture. In clinical we were able to receive and practice acupuncture on fellow students. In the afternoon we had lecture with Dr. Peng and the lecture focused on TCM therapies like moxibustion, cupping, and ear acupuncture. Before lecture we had the opportunity to practice acupuncture on each other. Moxibustion is a therapy where a plant herb is burned over the skin directly or indirectly. This therapy is meant to warm meridians, disperse cold,support yang, and resolve stagnation of the blood. Cupping is a therapy method which uses  a jar or cup is attached to the skin surface to cause local suction through negative pressure created by heat. Ear acupuncture or otopuncture is a therapy method using small needle or herb patches on ear to stimulate otopoints.

                        Wednesday January 23rd, we had a short day only with a morning lecture which was a continuation of Tuina massage techniques. The majority of the lecture consisted of hands on learning and practicing the techniques on one another. Following the morning lecture we all got together to celebrate Angela's birthday at a local karaoke restaurant. We enjoyed a few hours of signing songs of all kinds and eating a delicious birthday cake ordered specially for the birthday girl. After the celebration, everyone went their separate ways to eat dinner, journal, and read for the next day's lecture.

            Thursday January 24th, was our last day of learning about traditional Chinese medicine and we finished it up with another lecture about Tuina massage techniques. It was a great end to our class time here in Chengdu. Closing ceremony was in the afternoon following lunch and was a time that many of us could not believe to have come so soon. It felt like just yesterday that we all sat in the same room for opening ceremony, so to be back in the same spot was a bittersweet feeling. The professors and coordinators of our program surprised us with a CD gift of pictures from our entire stay at the university. Everyone was very appreciate to receive such a meaningful gift that captured the memories we will keep forever from this trip. Each student was also awarded a certificate of completion for the course and was involved in many more pictures to capture our last moments in Chengdu. Following the closing ceremony, everyone got in their last minute shopping at the local shops and then  headed off to pack up their belongings and abundance of souvenirs that were purchased during our stay. We altogether pretty much bought out China and will be bringing it home with us to say the least.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Stephen Koistinen

      After an eventful first 2 weeks being in China I've already learned so much. Experiencing the differences between American and Chinese societies and lifestyles has been the most interesting part. It's been such an incredible trip so far and we are only halfway through!
We started off this week with something that everyone was looking forward to: the Chengdu Panda Research Center! As we drove away from the city, we were able to get a little bit of rest before we arrived at the center. Still, it was apparent after the first half hour that there was a significant difference between the city of Chengdu and the more rural areas. After passing construction areas and broken down buildings for several minutes we ended passing endless fields of crops and dirt that seemed a little desolate, which makes sense with the seasonal weather. As we passed through the ever-present smog, we finally, reached the facility and got an idea of just how large the center was. It felt more like a zoo than a research facility! While areas of the place were under construction, we everyone was bright-eyed at the forests of bamboo planted specifically for the facility. Through the front gates and we were already seeing one of the buildings that held a museum and gift shop full of panda dolls, hats, sweaters, and other knick-knacks. We hopped on little trolleys that took us through the giant sanctuary to where the main pandas were held. The ride felt somewhat like the beginning of Jurassic Park, without all of the deadly dinosaurs. Once we arrived at the end of the ride, we were able to already see several pandas in their own ideal environments, that catered to all the needs of the pandas, including food, shelter, trees to climb, water to drink and caretakers to help them bathe and to play with them.
      The first one we saw was actually getting washed by one of the caretakers and right after putting the cub down, it walked over to a nearby tree and began to climb it! Everyone, myself included got our cameras out as fast as we could and snapped several pictures of the little guy. After a minute or so, he climbed back down and went off to get a drink in his little watering hole. As we moved on we spotted several adult pandas in a slightly larger area, all of which seemed to be living up to their reputations for being the laziest kind of bear. They were scattered, some laying on large decks made of large bamboo rickets, while others were up balancing in the trees. From here, we were able to see a small indoor facility with cages, play pens, and incubators for baby pandas to be handled by professional veterinarians that work specifically with pandas. Sadly, we didn't see any newborns while we were there, since they more often breed during the early spring and give birth in the late summer and early fall. From here, we went down towards another area of the park, where a small indoor theater showed a short documentary of panda lifestyle, eating habits, breeding and birthing has evolved over the last few millennia and discussed how the Chengdu research center came about and how well it treats the incoming pandas and what breakthroughs they've made over the last several years, especially in the process of breeding and artificial breeding of the pandas to continue their existence and save them from extinction. After the short film, we wander through to the other main group of animals, also called the "red pandas" due to their red fur, though they look more like a raccoon than a panda bear. Technically, they aren't even in the same taxonomic family as the panda! After we wander a bit more and saw the small lake that held several colorful Gobi fish and black swans, we were able to have a quick lunch at the bamboo-themed restaurant within the center. Even some of the food we bought had parts of the bamboo plants that pandas ate, in order to feel more authentic. Overall, the food and experience was fun and memorable. Sadly, due to the degree in panda populations and dwindling amounts of funding they were getting from the government, the facility was charging people 2400 yuan, equal to roughly 400 American dollars to be ale to get their picture taken while holding a young panda cub, which none of the students could afford. After we left the research center, with souvenirs and gifts bought and packed in our bags, we headed on our way back to Chengdu, but not before taking a quick stop at one of the local markets for some sight-seeing and bartering. After a few hours we headed back to our hotel and relaxed for the night.
      The next morning, we started off class bright and early, with lectures about the etiology and pathology of diseases within the bounds of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This discussed some very vague factors, such as "Wind, Summer-Heat, Dampness, Cold, Dryness, and Fire." While these seem like just words to us, rather than actual pathogens that could causes disease, many people within the population believe in the theories of TCM. It was also discussed that internal injury can occur from the overwhelming of specific emotions, such as joy, sadness, grief, or fright. After learning these concepts, we began learning about acupuncture and its entire theory. While it was difficult understanding our interpreter who was speaking for the teacher, the stuff that we were learning about acupoints and moxibustion was extremely interesting and very complex. It is easy to say we all left class a bit frazzled from that lecture.
      We decided it would be best to get some food that reminded us of home. So after a few blocks of walking we found the supermarket and a local McDonald's and scarfed down on some burgers and fries! I have to say, they definitely hit the spot.
      The next day, we spent the morning in clinicals, where my group was able to see each kind of TCM procedure, including acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal paste, massaging, and cupping. All of these techniques were used over the course of several different patients between the in-patient and out-patient area of the acupuncture clinic behind the hospital. It was truly incredible to see patients that suffered from paralysis and Bell's palsy being treated with these alternative treatments that are becoming more and more common throughout the world. We saw a single older patient, a man that appeared to be in his late 50's, who received several different treatments within an hour of the previous one, including moxibustion, acupuncture, herbal paste, and even vitamin injections into his face. It was actually one of my first experiences in a clinic, being able to see patients being worked with directly, since I am not truly a nursing student, which was an incredible opportunity within itself. During the last few minutes of our time in the out-patient area, we had one of the students who had been practicing acupuncture for the last few years to place a needle into each of our hands since we had never experienced it yet. The feeling was very odd, to say the least. It did not hurt piercing the skin, but it did give off a feeling that the area it was poking had swelled within my hand.
After our lunch break, we returned to a new professor who discussed to us the various meridians and collaterals within the body. This was by far the most difficult lecture that we've had during our stay in Chengdu, not only for the fact that the material was much more in depth than previous lectures, but also the trouble that we were having with the interpreters trying to keep up with the professor's pace of teaching.
      On Wednesday, we woke up to darkness in our hotel from the power being shut off, which, we were told, was done so that they could check all the electrical wiring in the building. Whatever the case was, we arrived a few minutes late to the bus, as we were spending the day at one of the first government-funded nursing homes in Chengdu, which housed fifty senior citizens, though it could hold up to a hundred. After receiving a warm welcome, our one of our professors, Dr. Guerrero, gave a lecture on the comparisons of Eastern and Western medical care toward the elderly for the next several decades. It was nice to see information being offered to the nursing staff that may help them in the coming years as health care may change in China. After her lecture, we were able to walk around the facility and receive some first-hand accounts by the seniors on how comfortably they were living. From what it sounds like, they had a fairly well-established relationship with the workers and nurses there. They all said that they were treated very well and still had an amount of independence that they were happy to have. After this point, we were able to play table tennis in the recreational area with some of the staff and then go to get some previews of the moxibustion and foot bathing techniques that they use for the elderly people there. It felt that they were being treated very well and were enjoying their time there while receiving some well-deserved care when required. Eventually we were able to buy a few trinkets from the facility before leaving for the hotel. We still have a long trip ahead of us, and I can't wait to return home with all of these incredible stories and items of memorabilia!