Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Yunnan Cultural Trip January 5-11, 2012

Day 1:
January 5th, 5 AM wake up call. Since I usually wake up late on weekends getting up early seemed hard but as soon as the 5 AM alarm went off, I got up super fast and started to get ready. My hostdad was very generous and agreed to take me to the airport that morning. We got to the airport around 6:40 AM and I met up with Giulia and Anna there. We had the same flight there and back because we booked out flights together. The flight wasn’t too bad because I was with the two of them and since the flight was four hours with a stopover in Changsha, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Yunnan is located south of China. Hence the name Yunnan, “nan” or “  means south in Chinese.  The capital of the Provence is Kunming. When we arrived in Kunming we saw a man holding up an “AFS” sign so we went over to him with our luggage and met up a group of other AFSers from Shanghai. We all went over to a little bus that took us to our airport and a lot of us caught up on the bus. It was interesting to hear so many languages on that bus from German to Italian to Japanese to Chinese and back to English. Since we were still in China, Kunming just seemed like any other place in China but even though it looked the same, there were many differences that I later noticed throughout the week. So today was mainly about picking up people from the airport bringing them back to the hotel and checking in because most people were arriving at scattered times. Since we were the first ones to arrive we were able to choose our roommates and go up to our rooms and settle in, but we were told not to settle in too much because we were going to be moving locations and hotels every day and every night! The AFS staff told us we were allowed to walk around the city for a while and be back before a certain time so we went out for a while before coming back to the hotel.

Going out in Kunming was very different than in Nanjing because in Kunming I guess a lot of the locals are not used to seeing foreigners so they stare right at you. You know in America if you accidently “caught somebody’s eye”, you would automatically turn away right? Right….well in China it is the complete opposite. In China they will stare at you, for as long as they can, no hesitation. In Kunming, since they aren’t used to seeing any foreigners they kept on staring at us in amusement. They would literally walk right up to us and just stand there, staring. It was quite funny actually. I noticed that people in Kunming’s skin is a lot darker than the people upper south also. They also dress differently, the way they dress is known as the “Naxi Culture”. The Naxi ethnic group has a population of over 250,000 people and is divided into two dialect groups.  There is an Eastern one and a Western one located in Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet provinces. The Naxi ethnic group is actually very interesting because they have their own written language that actual look like pictographs. It includes over 1,400 characters. The Naxi group also has a distinctive traditional style of clothing. Most of their clothing is very bright and colorful. They usually wear black, white or blue and their clothing is embroidered with flower patterns on collars sleeves and front (which bring out the bright colors) They wear a sheep skin cape over their shoulders with seven round embroidered discs that represent seven stars. The cape is mainly used to prevent chaging when carrying baskets on their backs. Married women and unmarried women have an indication so that men know whether or not to talk to them. Married women comb their hair into a bun and wear a round cap and unmarried women wear their hair in braids coiled on the back of their head and wear a handkerchief cap. Men and women carry around large baskets on their backs, they have straps like a western-style backpack. In these baskets, they can carry vegetables, children, laundry and sometimes even very heavy things like bricks.
Naxi Clothing!

We all went to the fifth floor for dinner (which was buffet style), but the food was not too good. At dinner, the AFS staff explained to us the schedule for the trip and handed out papers that showed up the schedule. The rest of the first day and night was basically getting together with everyone and talking and room-hopping all night long. It was definitely very nice to see everyone again!
Hotel Room! What do you guys think?
Beautiful Sunset at the end of the day

Cute baby we saw when we were walking around the area!

Day 2:

6AM wake up call! YES! Haha totally kidding…of course that is way too early for us teenagers but we had to get up so we did. My roommate was Lauren for the whole trip, she was my roommate when I was first coming to China. We first roomed in LA and then in Beijing so it felt like old times. Getting up we had to pack our things and get ready to check-out. Today’s schedule was to visit the “stone forest park”, have a mid-term orientation and go to “Chu Xiong City” by bus.  We basically went to a different city by bus everyday and that meant a lot of time spent on the bus. Everyday there was a tour guide that explained things to us using English and Chinese, sometimes even Chinglish.

Gorgeous Stone forest park
The Stone Forest Park was absolutely beautiful! The beauty I saw over there was definitely a different type of beauty I was used to seeing back home. Also another good thing in Yunnan was that there were blue skies everyday! (In Nanjing there are barely any blue skies, just cloudy, polluted skies).  
Stone Forest Park

A little bus took us around the Stone Forest Park, it dropped us off at every nice tourist spot and we were able to take many pictures as we went around. At one point we were able to walk around the park and see ponds, little temples and more stones!

the little bus that took us around!
After the Stone Forest Park we all headed over to the bus and we took an hour bus ride to a restaurant. Again, the food wasn't so good but after lunch we had a mid-term orientation. We were split up in different groups based on different provences. We mainly talked about school-life, communication, home/host-family, and how we are adjusting to the cultural differences and such. We all had the same type of insight on things but as we all know we are experiences life in China but we all go through a different type of experience. After lunch we headed onto the bus again and headed to our next city, Chu Xiong. Once we got there, it was already dinner time, we had dinner and then checked into a new hotel.

Day 3:

Day 3's schedule was to go to "Da Li" city by bus and visit Da Li Ancient City. Today was another long bus ride. Heading over to Da Li we got stuck in traffic that was backed up for 24 hours the night before and was still backed up when we had arrived. We had no way out of the traffic because there were cars and trucks in front and in the back of us and there was a stone wall in the middle of the lane so we couldn't u-turn so all we could do was wait. There were no bathrooms or anywhere to buy food on that road so we all just got out of the bus and started walking around. We probably waited for a good two hours but then the traffic started to move again! The bus ride to Da Li was probably four hours. Of course we had bathroom and snack breaks here and there but being on a bus for so long is so tiring! When we were going to Da Li, someone from the Naxi Ethnic group came onto our bus as a tour guide and was talking to us about this city and historical events. We drove through the Old City which is known for the "Foreigners Street" so we were told we would be coming here later on. The first thing we did when we arrived in Da Li City was ate lunch. Everyday was the same, we would always go to a cafeteria/restaurant type of place with Chinese tables that seat maybe 12 people per table, the dishes go in the middle of the table and it spins around. The food was never delicious but it was passable. After lunch, we headed to a little area that was like a temple and inside the temple we watched a little act put together, and they also gave us three types of teas; first one was normal, the second one was sweet with ginger and the third one was bitter. 
The Temple

Inside the temple, it was bigger than it seemed!

Little act we watched

Three teas. The first one: Good, Second one: Passable, Third One: ...No

After this we headed over to Da Li Aincient City, which was very interesting!
This was the entrance into the Aincient City
When we walked inside there were many shops that sold silver bracelets, cloth, antiques, backpacks, hats, and a bunch of other things!
Interesting hats! they actually open up and close, they are made out of paper

Earings made in Da Li

Nice cloth blankets
Da Li Aincient City was very interesting, there were a lot of people and a lot of the things were very cheap also! We came across a Belgium Waffle place that got a lot of business from the AFS students. The guy making the waffles was an actual Belgium guy so it was cool :P After we got our waffles, it was by time we left the city and headed over to grab dinner and head over to the hotel. Dinner was the same as usual and afterwards heading to the hotel was alright, the hotel was actually....interesting...I'm pretty sure it was haunted because I kept hearing things and seeing things. So did a couple other people. I saw something then as soon as I opened the door the "person" that I saw was happened a couple times....sp0ookyYyyyy! At least we were here for only one night though! 

Day 4:

Day four and five was going to take place in Li Jiang City so we were going to stay in this hotel for two nights, and it was a four star hotel! The bus ride was again, long of course but on the bus we had a lot to look at and sight see, we saw mountains, houses and a bunch of nature based sights. The mountain was most beautiful, with snow! 

Li Jiang Ancient City was another very nice city. 
Beautiful skies also!

Once we got there we were allowed to roam around by ourselves and with friends and we just had to meet at the starting point at a certain time. Exploring was interesting, we came across a lot of the same types of stores that we saw back in Da Li but it had some different stores aswell, I saw a couple thai stores and also a Bob marley store! The food area was interesting also but they had bugs on a stick! People actually ate them...and I actually happened to try a maggot o_O It was very disgusting BUT! My friend said "Emma, Close your eyes. You trust me right? Open your mouth" haha but thankfully it tasted somewhat good, actually it tasted like a french fry, not going to lie! But after I found out it was a bug I freaked out!! Never again....hahahah but that wasn't even bad compared to what other types of bug they were selling! 
mmmmm magggoooootttss!

They were still alive! Yuck o_o

FISH! with eyeball...o_O
In the Ancient city we also saw some elderly dancing in a circle in interesting costumes and there were also some horses! A lot of the people (that were dressed up) didn't look Chinese..they looked more like they were from Tibet or somewhere from that area from a tribe...but then again, Yunnan is very close to that area. 

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Day 5:

We spent another day in Li Jiang on the 5th but we went to go see a show "Impression of Li Jiang" and we also vistited Li Jiang Ancient City and Dong Ba Area. We had another early morning wakeup call, but we got to sleep for an extra 30 minutes today! 

In the morning we headed over to to a little area to look around, to be honest I didn't know where we were, mainly because today I overslept, woke up late, had to pack my things in the morning because we were checking out AND on top of all of that I was sick :( But wherever we were, it was cold and seemed kind of like a mini museum. They had things like different tribes homes where we could see how they live and there was dry corn outside and such. Here they had a beautiful view of the snow mountain!
Beautiful, The mountain and sky. -no edits
Spanish friend and I! 
After we were in this area for a while, we headed over to go see the show "Impressions of Li Jiang". When we entered, the stage was so big! I was not expecting it to be outside either but it was very cool how the stage was positioned so that the snow mountain was right behind it, like the background of the show. Once the show started I was amazed at the ammount of people in the cast! That was another thing that I was not expecting. 

Within the show, there were Naxi girls carrying baskets and there were also many horses!! A lot of men on horses came out at one point and it was very impressive. There was no real talking in this show, it was mostly dancing and chanting. 

After watching Impressions of Li Jiang, we had lunch at the canteen there. The food was by far, the worst so my Japanese friend, Nori and I went over to the little store next door and shared a cup noodle. After lunch we all headed onto the bus and went to the Dong Ba area. We had some time to look around and admire the sights. Though at this point, a lot of us were very tired so there was a lot of standing around and taking photos, but it was very beautiful.
AFS at Dong Ba Area
The reflection on the water looks so cool!

Once again, we were on the bus heading over to dinner! When we arrived at the dinner area, we were first split up into groups, divided into different provences and we were told we had to give a little performance whether its a song or skit. So we had about 30 minutes to arrange something per group. It was somewhat fun but I was feeling sick so I wasn't really down to do much. Our group had many different ethnic groups: Japanese, Thai, Italian, German, American so we all sang a song in Chinese and sang the same song in our own languages. The other groups sang songs like YMCA or "baby" by Justin Bieber. It was a good laugh. After this we had dinner! It wasn't very appetizing when we found chicken feet and a chicken head at the bottom of our soup (We had hot-pot, usually it is good when we get to choose our own foods to put inside). This soup was a chicken broth :P haha.

Whatsup Chicken Feet?
After dinner we went back to the hotel, a lot of my friends went out at night but this night I had to stay home because I was feeling a fever coming on. It felt nice to just sit back and relax for that night though. A couple of my friends came over to my room to keep me company at night which was nice of them. I had to pack my things for the next morning because we were checking out. Even though I stayed in this night, I ended up sleeping pretty late. 

Day 7:

Getting up the next morning was hard from the lack of sleep I got, and this day my sickness had kicked in. I felt had a fever, cough, stuffed nose....all the symptoms of a regular cold and on top of that, I looked amazzzzinnnng.....(I hope you sense the sarcasm there). Anyhow, I was lucky because today we had a very loooong bus ride back to Kunming.....12 hours on a bus, here we come! Not even kidding, the bus ride took us a total of 12 hours to drive back to Kunming. So the whole week was a 12 hour drive broken down daily so it didn't seem so long, but going back seemed like an eternity! Probably because I was sick and being in a bus all day feels like you're trapped (but I guess its the same kind of idea on a plane). Of course we had stops every hour to the bathroom and a little supermarket to buy some snacks. Sometimes we even stopped at little fruit vendors they have in China to buy some fruits and water. I wasn't the only one that was sick, I beleive the sickness was spreading and a lot of people were getting sick and then getting other people sick. We were driving in the mountains for such a long time also, it felt like forever. Heading back to Kunming brought back some thoughts and memories that I had made when we were going the oppostie direction when we were heading to the destinations. 

Basically, the longest bus ride ever. Lunch and dinner stop wasn't too good either because I was a weakling and being sick and traveling is a bad combination, don't do it!!

When we got back Kunming, we headed over to the same hotel we went to when we first arrived in Kunming. My roommate was also very sick but we had different symptoms. My good friend, Agustin came in at night to care for us. He even made us cold towels because we had fevers! I'm so glad he was there haha

Yeah....laying in bed with fevers, with our cold towels on our heads! THANK YOU AGUSTIN!
That night, Lauren and I went to bed early because we were sick :(

Day 8: 

Lauren had a 5AM wakeup call because her flight was at 7AM but I was able to sleep-in until 11AM. My flight was at 6:30 PM so I had a lot of time. In the morning, I still had a fever and was not feeling too well. My friend, Giulia came in and brought me some breakfast and two glasses of water. She told some of the AFS Staff that I wasn't feeling well so they came in and gave me some fever reducing medicine, which made me feel a lot better! At 11:30 I got out of bed and got ready to checkout by 12. I went down to the lobby and checked out. I said goodbye to the people leaving but it wasn't too sad because I was positive that I would somehow see them again! I was heading to the airport at around 3PM so I had a couple hours to spare. Agustin and I walked around for a while, then came back because I had to sit down. Time flew by and it was 3PM already! It was time for the Nanjing and Harbin people to leave. An AFS staff member took us to the airport and we all checked in together. We said goodbye to the people heading to Harbin and afterwards Anna, Giulia and I went to eat some food, went to the bathroom and headed back to the gate by 6. When we got back it said that our flight was delayed!!! 

Our dissapointed faces at the "Delayed Flight"
Thankfully, our flight was only delayed one hour and time went by fast. It was already time to say goodbye to Yunnan :( The flight back was pretty relaxed. And we ended up arriving in Nanjing at 11:30 PM. I was glad that my hostdad was willing to come pick me up at such a late time! 

I had such a great time in Yunnan, it was so beautiful and it was great seeing all of my friends once again! I hope I can have another fun experience like this with the other AFS students!!

I have another trip on the 21st to Hong Kong! I am so excited about that too!! 

This is definitely a great way to start off the new year :)

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