Author Archives: Matt '10

Looking Back and Forward

This semester has blossomed into something undeniably wonderful. A few weeks ago, I turned in the final draft of my economics thesis. I wrote 126 pages on the interdisciplinary psychology-economics concept of loss aversion. The concept essentially says that people weigh losses heavier than comparable gains. I took this concept, which I first discovered in a Financial Markets class, and applied it to my love of sports economics. I expanded on a study by two Wharton Business School professors who applied the concept to golf. Other than the Wharton paper, no other research has been done in this fashion. (read about the Wharton study in the New York Times) My research held true to the theory. In general, I found that professional golfers tend to exert more effort when faced with losses. While an interesting finding on the surface to golf fans, this work’s broader implications stretch to the growing field of behavioral economics. They actually tell us quite a bit about how experienced people, competing for high stakes act when facing losses and gains. I won’t delve too deep, but it elicits countless thoughts about how we as humans approach our very own reference points. I was able to turn in a paper than I am incredibly proud of and believe may help inspire future research in this area.

With that finished, I have moved on to the countless other activities and obligations that will keep me busy until graduation. I am a co-chair for our end of the year music festival, Llamapalooza, still working hard at the admissions office, and still running the student radio station. To make this semester even more fun, I have accepted a job offer at DraftFCB (the company I blogged about in a previous post). Last week, I also heard from Northwestern’s Medill School that I have been admitted into their Integrated Marketing and Communications Masters program for the fall of 2011 with an option to defer until fall of 2012. I am extremely grateful for the good fortune coming my way lately. Interestingly, I find myself almost more busy right now having finished classes and thesis. Everyday is a new challenge to keep things moving on the numerous projects I seem to have gotten myself involved in.

At the same time, I am taking extreme joy in having the time to speak to people, read about people’s adventures here on the CC Blog (see Madison’s post), and find out what the rest of the CC world is doing right now. So many exciting things continue to evolve that it is almost hard to keep up. I’ll be posting in the next month about a lot of these things. One such endeavor that has me hooked right now is a new arts and culture blog specifically designed for the CC community that a handful of students have just launched. They are calling themselves the Colorado College Block Partie – find them at www.ccblockpartie.com. They are starting to generate some interesting content from the folks who started the site, but it seems that the hope is that it can become an online gathering place for the entire CC community. The SOCC and CC Block Partie are starting to work together to plan some interesting exchanges of content and ideas. Look for fun things to come.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cm0t2Gpdvs[/youtube]

This great explosion of arts and culture has me reminiscing about some of the fantastic stuff I have seen and experienced throughout my time at CC. I apologize for getting a bit nostalgic here (after all, I only get two more months of being a CC student). One such piece I found the other day on YouTube – it is the intro to the Film Festival here at CC from a couple years ago. I fondly remember laughing hysterically at this introductory film that satirized the CC student and experience so well. While obviously an exaggeration, it played off the truth in a fun and playful way. It is always good to be able to laugh at yourself sometimes.

Winter Break – A Taste of the “Real World”

This winter break was a bit different than the last three. Last year at this time, I was preparing to jet off to Beijing, China and explore parts of the world I never imagined experiencing. This break I faced the fact that I graduate from Colorado College in four months. My situation is a bit odd: because of AP classes and the rapid completion of my major, I am finished with classes at CC. I will spend the next month finishing my senior economics thesis. After that, I will occupy my time leading to graduation with work at the admissions office, KRCC – The SOCC, as well as helping plan our end of the year music and arts festival, Llamapalooza. (More blogs on all of that stuff in the future)

With all of this in mind, the last few months have been full of exploring what options are available for post-graduation. At the beginning of December I participated in a SLAC (Selective Liberal Arts Consortium) recruiting day in Chicago. At the recruiting day, I interviewed with an ad/marketing agency, DraftFCB, and an Americorps program with The Schuler Foundation. Both turned out to be quite fruitful. After the first interviews, I continued in the process with Schuler only to hear last week that I have been offered a position. Schuler sets up students like myself with scholar coach positions where we mentor high school students. The program focuses on bright students who might be first generation college students or otherwise might not have the means or background to know that they could attend a four-year university or college. The position is a one year commitment in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

DraftFCB conducted two interviews at the recruiting day and invited me back for a full day at the agency on January 12th. I spent the day at Draft’s enormous office in downtown Chicago interviewing with six different VP’s at the company. DraftFCB is a giant ad/marketing agency with clients such as S.C. Johnson, Kraft Foods, and MillerCoors. I am applying for  an entry level account management position where I would act as a point person/project person for a particular account. Essentially, I would be the communicator between clients, creatives, and others on the team. I had a blast at the company despite being absolutely exhausted from so many interviews. Draft seems like a great place to work – full of energy and creativity all while in a relaxed but professional environment. I felt positive coming out of the day – like I had impressed a few folks. Most of the students interviewing that day were from University of Chicago or Northwestern. One might think they’d have a leg up at a Chicago office, however, I found that the fact that I was a bit different offered me a chance to really impress people. Not to mention I was able to explain the block plan in almost every interview and subsequently relate it back to the project based work I would do in account management.

Interestingly, DraftFCB and Schuler are essentially polar opposites. Still, they both appeal to the communication, relationship building side of me. I am also exploring some options with other marketing firms in Chicago as well as a graduate program in Integrated Marketing and Communications at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. The “real world” is quickly approaching, but it isn’t seeming so bad! The hard part now is deciding where I want to be. For now, I am waiting to hear back from DraftFCB until I make any further decisions. Below you’ll find links to DraftFCB and Schuler’s websites.

DraftFCB

Schuler Family Foundation

Brined, Grilled, and Devoured

Turkey waiting for the grill

Turkey waiting for the grill

This Thanksgiving, neither my brother or I went home to Chicago for the weekend. My brother was just beginning finals season for the fall semester of his second year at DU law school, and I would be traveling home the following weekend for a job interview and graduate school visit. So, we held Thanksgiving at my brothers place in Denver with a friend from CC and my brother’s dog.

The big question was how we would do dinner. Do we make a traditional turkey feast? Do we go low key and just make something simple? Do we relieve the stress completely by ordering in or even going out somewhere? When one is a senior in college, thinking about the life ahead where there are no dining halls or meal plans, cooking such a momentous and grand feast as Thanksgiving dinner comes as the type of challenge that needs tackling. Despite the absence of a meal plan last year as well as this year and my growing cooking abilities, this was still the perfect opportunity for my brother and me to test our “real-world” prowess.

We decided that in order to do this, we must do it right. That meant cooking enough food to feed about 15 people despite really only feeding three mouths. So, we took on the task of making all of the necessary side dishes along with cooking a 12 lb. turkey. Once we had decided what we were cooking, the next step was thinking about how we would cook everything. It was unanimous that the turkey must be done on the Weber charcoal grill. My dad sent us a video of Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass instructing folks on how to brine and grill a turkey. We followed Kass’ directions and brined overnight in a mixture of apple juice, salt, rosemary, sage, and thyme. The next morning, we removed the turkey from the brining bag and prepped it for the grill.

While we prepped the turkey and the grill, my brother continued the parade of side dishes in the kitchen. He prepared a green

Turkey in the brine bag going into the refrigerator

Turkey in the brine bag going into the refrigerator

A little charred on the edges, but it tasted SO good.

A little charred on the edges, but it tasted SO good.

bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potatoes, a cranberry crumble, and mashed potatoes. His girlfriend, gone for the holiday, had prepared a tomato pie for us as well. To top it all off, my grandmother, sad that my brother and I would not be joining the family in Chicago, ordered an apple and pecan pie from a local Denver bakery. When I say we had enough to feed maybe 15 – I’m not kidding.

The bird was miraculous. After about 2.5 hours, we had a juicy, tasty, and well-cooked turkey. We proceeded to stuff ourselves to the point of explosion, yet still had enough to feed each of us for the next week (which is exactly what happened). After a long day of cooking and enjoying a beautiful Colorado day, I could not have been more proud. I think sometimes we underestimate the things that we are capable of.

turkey2

Going Back A Bit

I finally had time (or rather the motivation) this week to upload a film of mine to YouTube. Last fall, I made a documentary film for an advanced filmmaking class. The film explored a notorious hiking trail here in Colorado Springs, The Manitou Incline. I believe I have, and maybe some other bloggers here, mentioned the Incline in other posts. The Incline is a set of old railway ties that ascends Mt. Manitou at the base of Pikes Peak. The ties stretch for about 1 mile and 2,000 vertical feet. It is an unbelievably strenuous workout. The trail is popular with a diverse group of people from around Colorado and is used almost everyday. Despite its popularity, the trail is actually illegal to do. My film covers what the Incline is, the history behind it, and the current land issues. The film’s facts may be outdated seeing as it was filmed about one year ago, however, I have not heard any updated news recently about the land issues. See the video (in two parts) below.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPlaNYGBdlU

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKMB9LpeJH4

The fun part about this film for me is that it somewhat exemplifies why I came to a liberal arts college (as cliche as that might sound). I absolutely love the fact that I will graduate from Colorado College as an Economics major with a solid documentary film to my name. In fact, the councilman in the film asked to use it in his efforts to work out land issues surrounding the trail. Nearing the end of my time at CC forces me to reflect, and this film is one of the things I am most proud of. It is just one example of the numerous other areas, outside of my major, which I have been afforded the chance to explore while here.

I encourage anyone and everyone to check out The Colorado College YouTube Channel. You’ll find countless great student films there.

Movin’ on Up

The old studio at KRCC - it had it's charm!

The old studio at KRCC - it had it's charm!

We are now in the seventh week of The SOCC (The Sound of Colorado College) broadcasting from an entirely new location… Loomis Hall. For anyone who doesn’t know, The SOCC is Colorado College’s new student-run radio station. We began making noise in the spring of 2008, when our studio was located in the basement of KRCC’s Weber studios. You may ask what the difference between KRCC and The SOCC is. KRCC is Colorado College’s radio station and has been for the past 60 years or so. A few decades ago, KRCC began its transformation from a purely student-run college radio station into a professionally operated NPR affiliate. Today, KRCC’s licensee is still held by the college, but little student participation took place until a few years ago. In 2008, KRCC finished the purchase and upgrade to three HD channels on the regular 91.5 FM signal. HD radio, simply digital radio, is still terrestrial radio – no subscription is required. All you need is a new HD radio. To bring back extensive student involvement, KRCC gave HD3 to the students at Colorado College to do with it as they saw fit.

Today, The SOCC (KRCC-HD3) now broadcasts on the HD3 broadcast as well as over the internet at WWW.THESOCC.ORG. Run by three student staff members, The SOCC has around 50 volunteer DJs who man the station from Noon-2AM, seven days of the week. Some highlights of the 2009-2010 school year include an enormous crop of new DJs, the CC Debate Team Hour, and the continuation of some popular shows run by DJs who have been with the station since its inception.

Our new studio just after countertops and shelving were installed

Our new studio just after countertops and shelving were installed

As mentioned at the outset, The SOCC recently moved studios. We started in the dark, somewhat smelly basement of KRCC. This summer I worked with multiple folks on campus and at KRCC to initiate a move that had been discussed last semester while I was in China. Things came together, and now we are succesfully broadcasting from a small room off the Loomis Hall lobby.

The move has done wonders for The SOCC’s exposure to the campus and community. Before, people would often be surprised when told that we have a new student station. I think I can confidently say that most students, faculty, and staff have at least heard of The SOCC by now. It has been a personal pleasure working to bring something like this to the forefront of the CC community. Community radio is alive and well, even in this age where television and the internet seem to rule the communication stage. My goal is to make The SOCC as much a part of a Colorado College students daily routine as visiting Worner Center to check a mail box. As we grow and build upon our previous experience, I have no doubt that The SOCC will make a name for itself. Our move to this new central location is a great start. While it is sad leaving the folks who have nutured us through our infancy, it is time for us to try and walk on our own. KRCC will continue to keep us afloat through our struggles, but I am excited to see what we can do on our own a bit.

Check out our website to get more info and see a program schedule. Also, listen in over the Internet by clicking on the “listen now” links on the top left of our web page. Click the logo below to visit our site….

SOCC-Logo

The first car load of equipment installed this summer in the new space

The first car load of equipment installed this summer in the new space

Vinyl, decorations, and little bit of character begin to fill in the new studio!

Vinyl, decorations, and little bit of character begin to fill in the new studio!

Last stop…

Harry on the sleeper bus out of Deqin - a bit of a tight squeeze

Harry on the sleeper bus out of Deqin - a bit of a tight squeeze

My last post covered what turned out to be one of the highlights of my almost four months in China. After an incredibly unique experience hiking to Yubeng, Harry and I split from the rest of our small group. At this point, I truly faced the reality that I would leave China in only a few days. My feelings were varied. I felt excited to see my family, friends, and enjoy some of the foods I so strongly missed. I also felt sad knowing that this was the last time, hopefully not for too long, that I would be with some of these people I had experienced so much with. I had already said goodbye to those friends in my program who hadn’t continued to Yubeng with us, but now I had to say goodbye to everyone but Harry. I had plenty of time to contemplate this on the 20+ hour sleeper bus ride we had to take out of Deqin to Kunming. Once in Kunming , Harry and I would board a plane to Guilin.

While on that sleeper bus, in the midst of trying to dodge the smelly feet of my fellow passengers, somehow making my little “bunk” as comfortable as possible, and keeping my body alert for flying spit from the top bunks, I had plenty of time to reflect on my time with the people that I had become so close to. It surprised me initially how strong the friendships were between all of us. How did we become life-long friends in four months? I attribute the closeness to many things. Of course, there was the obvious: we spent four months in a completely foreign land trying to feel our ways together. I still believe though, that we had sought each other out among the 60 or so people in the program for a reason. We were a diverse group, but one that seemed to understand each other and where we were coming from. At the same time, it was clear that our time abroad meant similar things for all of us. We were there to expand our understanding of how large the world really was, meet new people, and step outside of our comfort zones. We have stayed in touch since returning home and have already planned a little reunion in Washington D.C. this October. More on that when it happens…

My final days in China were perhaps the most fun and relaxed of any. Harry and I arrived in Guilin where we stayed the night before heading out to

Scenery leaving on a bamboo boat from Xingping to Yangshuo on the Li River

Scenery leaving on a bamboo boat from Xingping to Yangshuo on the Li River

Yangshuo the following day. Our hostel in Yangshuo was about as entertaining as they come. The staff was playful and excited the entire time. The hostel was filled with travelers from all corners of the globe. We spent out nights on the roof-top bar of the hostel socializing and sharing traveling stories. During the days, we roamed the overly tourist streets of Yangshuo and picking different far off adventures to take. The karst scenery along the Li River in Yangshuo was the most dream-like scenery we had seen in China.

Our best adventures came from renting bicycles to roam the surrounding areas. Harry and I spent one day biking out into the middle of rural villages and fields. Drudging through muddy paths and fields, we reached a bridge (I believe it was the Dragon Bridge). This was one of those final moments in China where I was able to see things I could only imagine being a part of. Standing on the bridge, looking over bamboo rafts in the river below the shadowy peaks, my mind wandered to my return home. In all honesty my mind had been wandering frequently to that. Again, mixes of emotions were present. I think I was most enamored by the fact that in only a day or two I would be thousands of miles away. I was quick to realize the amazing privilege I had been given in being able to see this part of the world. From the support I received from friends and family to the availability of resources I had to do this trip. I still am thankful to so many people for the chance I had. I think I reached a place where I realized I had given so much to every moment in China, and these last few could not be any different.

View from the Dragon Bridge

View from the Dragon Bridge

I spent the last days in Yangshuo completely satisfied. Satisfied with the time I had spent, the place I was, and with my return home. Harry and I made a few good friends in Yangshuo, who thanks to the Internet we can still keep in touch with via facebook.

Harry and I finally boarded our last train in Guilin only a few days after arriving. We spent about 19 hours together before arriving back in Beijing. When we got back, we found a few friends still in Beijing and ate our final meal at our favorite restaurant near Beida – West Gate. I spent that night in a hotel before boarding my plane back to Chicago.

I left China with so much more than I had come with. It all may sound cliche, but going abroad naturally will teach you things. Among many things, I think I came away with an excitement for new things and an appreciation for the familiar. I have been lucky enough to share my stories and times here on this blog, but I look forward to hearing the stories from others. Whether they are stories from abroad, here at home, or the same old stories I’ve heard hundreds of times.

Thank you to everyone who has read these and commented. Thank you to everyone here at Colorado College who made this possible. I look forward to all the great stories that will get shared here this year!

A site from one of our bike rides

A view from one of our bike rides

Finishing up China

Since my last post here, a lot has happened. I am back in Colorado Springs and have been since the beginning of July. Among other things, I have moved into a new apartment, begun my training at the Admissions Office for my job this fall, met with my advisor about my Economics thesis, overseeing The Sound of Colorado College’s move to a new studio on campus, and spent plenty of time speaking to numerous folks about my post graduation plans. Life is

Monks at the largest Tibetan temple in Yunan Province. We visited this while in Shangri-la.

Monks at the largest Tibetan temple in Yunan Province. We visited this while in Shangri-la.

busy, but good. It is good to be back State-side. Before I launch into blogging about the summer, let me finish up my trip to China.

My final week in China was perhaps the most incredible of all. My last post was from Lijiang in the Yunan province. From Lijiang three friends and I separated from our program’s trip to finish on our own schedule. Our route took us from Lijiang to Shangri-La (only named that because the Chinese government wanted to create a tourist attraction). The town is also known as Zhongdian, but the area is noted as being very close to the Shangri-La described in the book, The Lost Horizon. From here we took a bus though winding mountain roads to Deqin. Deqin is about 80% Tibetan and going through a decent amount of construction despite the remote nature of the place.

Tashi's Mountain Lodge in Reringka village outside of Deqin.

Tashi's Mountain Lodge in Reringka village outside of Deqin.

We stayed 15 minutes outside of Deqin at Tashi’s Mountain Lodge. Tashi’s is a foreign trekker friendly guest house in a recently renovated Tibetan home. We arrived to find a beautifully rugged place that was run at the time by a couple from Italy, Phillip and Silvia. The two had stopped there a few weeks ago to find a job and ended up abandoned by the Tashi’s local staff who had retreated for a few months to the mountains to collect caterpillars that were supposedly full of medicinal value. From Tashi’s, we gathered information on a trek to a remote village, Yubeng, not accessible by road.

We payed a driver to take us to Xidang where the trail head for Yubeng is. We stayed a night with a Tibetan family in Xidang. Our host was a friendly older couple who spoke a Tibetan dialect. We communicated with hand gestures. The next day we began our 6-7 hour hike to Yubeng. The trail was surprisingly full of trekkers and locals. We had to hike over a mountain before we could drop down into Yubeng. Although cloudy, the top (before our descent into the village) was one of the most rewarding moments of my life. The magical scenery combined with the warmth of the Tibetan people gave me a whole new sense of China.

Our host in Xidang. We didn't know how to say her name, but she seemed to respond to the last part which sounded like "de ma."

Our host in Xidang. We didn't know how to say her name, but she seemed to respond to the last part which sounded like "de ma."

We stayed that night in Yubeng under two peaks that were unlike anything I had ever seen. As one visitor to Tashi’s had described, “It is mountain paradise.” Words are hard to find when thinking about this place. I will let a few pictures tell the story. At the same time, this is not a place I want to spoil with too many pictures for those that ever make it there.

Yubeng borders the official Tibetan Autonomous Region. The two peaks we slept beneath in Yubeng (as well as the larger, Kawa Karpa, which is not visible from Yubeng) are considered by many to be the guardians of the Himalayas. Kawa Karpa is a holy mountain and visited frequently by monks. From here, my friend Harry and I seperated from our other two friends, Liz and Allyssa. We moved onto much more travelled locations in Guilin and Yangshuo.

To be continued…

At the top of the hike to Yubeng

At the top of the hike to Yubeng

Me overlooking parts of Xidang. Very, very green!

Me overlooking parts of Xidang. Very, very green!

Among the prayer flags near the top of the hike into Yubeng

Among the prayer flags near the top of the hike into Yubeng

A look at lower Yubeng below the peaks

A look at lower Yubeng below the peaks

One of the guardian peaks of the Himalayas. This one is called Shenyufeng (6054 meters)

One of the guardian peaks of the Himalayas. This one is called Shenyufeng (6054 meters)

The first Tibetan we met in Yubeng - joyful and wearing a Jordan shirt. Being from Chicago I was happy to see my hometown hero's influence reached this far!

The first Tibetan we met in Yubeng - joyful and wearing a Jordan shirt. Being from Chicago I was happy to see my hometown hero's influence reached this far!

The trip of a lifetime

Night market in Xi'an. This place was extremely busy and full of people.

Night market in Xi'an. This place was extremely busy and really fun to walk around with lots of shops and food.

Once again, China has kept me so unbelievable occupied that it has been almost impossible to get a dull moment to sit down to write here. I am currently on my three week trip throughout China. We are currently staying in Lijiang – an old town in the Yunan province. Yunan is known for being the home of many of the ethnic minorities in China. Our trip has taken us to some amazing spots in China. So far, we have seen: the Terra-Cotta Warriors, the giant pandas and the Panda Research center in Chengdu, some of the muslim culture in Xi’an, and the largest buddha in the world in Leshan. Because of limited time and the wealth of information to share, I will post a series of pictures here instead of writing in depth on each place. I could write for days to be honest.

Some thoughts on the trip so far:

China is an unbelievable diverse, large, and fascinating place. Having only been on the road for about one week, we have seen some of the most major tourist spots in the country. I am consistently amazed at what I see. I am also noticing the large amount of Chinese tourists. With China’s economic boom, it seems that people here are traveling very frequently.

Thus far, it is really difficult to choose my favorite place on this trip. My favorite town is by far Lijiang. We are staying in the old town. While it is covered in gift shops and Chinese tourists, it is completely charming. It makes you feel as if you are seeing China hundreds of years ago.

Unfortunately, my camera broke while in Leshan. Thus, I do not have any pictures yet to post here from Lijiang. A friend is gathering some for me, but those may not be posted until my return to the States. My return is less that two weeks away. It seems that time has flown over here. I will likely have some time to post a few more stories and pictures once I am back. Until then, enjoy these pictures and hopefully one more post from this trip.

The giant pandas during feeding time and me. These guys were hilarious. Laziest animals on Earth.

The giant pandas during feeding time and me. These guys were hilarious. Laziest animals on Earth.

For 100RMB you could hold a Red Panda. They look like raccoons, but are adorable.

For 100RMB you could hold a Red Panda. They look like raccoons, but are adorable.

the largest buddha in the world. It was HUGE!

the largest buddha in the world. It was HUGE!

Chicken-shaped dumplings in Xi'an. They didn't taste that good, but they looked cool.

Chicken-shaped dumplings in Xi'an. They didn't taste that good, but they looked cool.

Me in pit 1 at the Terr-Cotta Warriors. Just FYI - I wasn't listening to music there. I had no other place for my headphones from the bus ride!

Me in pit 1 at the Terr-Cotta Warriors. Just FYI - I wasn't listening to music there. I had no other place for my headphones from the bus ride!

So much to do, so much to say

On the field in the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium

On the field in the Bird's Nest - the main Olympic Stadium

I finally just posted a blog I have been thinking about for weeks now. Read it below – it was a really funny story about Easter here in China.

On that same line, there are so many stories and adventures I want to share with everyone who reads this blog. For a few reasons, I have not been able to post as much as I would like recently: namely, my flash drive with a back log of finished pieces got erased recently; there are too many amazing things happening for me to get them all down on paper; and, I am having trouble keeping myself seated a chair in front of the computer!

A major distraction lately has been both the weather and the quickly approaching end to our semester here. The weather has been better and better here in Beijing, which makes it hard to stay inside too much. As our semester comes to a close that means two things: I need to get done all the stuff in Beijing I wanted to do before May 2nd and we are gearing up for a three week excursion throughout China. The first two weeks will be with our program, but the final ten days or so will just be with a few friends. Over the course of the three weeks I will visit Xian, Chengdu, and most of the Yunan province. When we seperate from the program, my friends and I will travel to Shangri-la and then Deqin, which borders Tibet. We will take an excusion to a secluded village, Yubeng, at the base of one of Tibets holliest mountains. We will then travel to Yangshuo in the central part of China and then back to Beijing. My mind is scattered to say the least.

So, please hang in there as I get stories in order to share with you all here. For now, I’ll let my pictures tell some stories.

Shaolin kung-fu monks. We took a trip to the Shaolin Temple - the home of Kung Fu.

Shaolin kung-fu monks. We took a trip to the Shaolin Temple - the home of Kung Fu.

Me in front of one of the enormous Longmen Grottoes. This is the largest Buddha we saw there. Breathtaking!

Me in front of one of the enormous Longmen Grottoes. This is the largest Buddha we saw there. Breathtaking!

Watching the sunrise after a night of sleeping on the Great Wall of China

Watching the sunrise after a night of sleeping on the Great Wall of China

My Chinese teacher and me posing for a picture on a weekend trip.

My Chinese teacher and me posing for a picture on a weekend trip.

Outside the Water Cube - where Phelps set amazing world records

Outside the Water Cube - where Phelps set amazing world records

A total tourist picture, but how could I resist! This place was much smaller than you'd imagine

A total tourist picture, but how could I resist! This place was much smaller than you'd imagine.

Bunnies don’t lay eggs

A couple of weeks ago I had the most enlightening conversation with a fellow employee at work, Bill. Bill and I ate lunch together one of the Thursdays that I was at work. We took the elevator down from the 5th floor of HanWei Plaza to the second basement level where the building’s cafeteria was waiting for us. On the way, we began talking as we frequently do about our past week or plans for the upcoming weekend. We had to halt the conversation for a moment as we entered the cafeteria to fill our trays with piles of interesting Chinese cafeteria food and rice (I tend to take extra servings of rice).

We sat down and continued our talk. Bill alerted me that the upcoming weekend was a Chinese Holiday – tomb-sweeping day. He explained that he would go with his family on Sunday to the graves of his elder family members and “sweep” their tombs. The holiday is meant to allow people a day to clean their deceased loved ones’ graves and pay their respects. Not everyone in China actually follows through with the tradition of the holiday, but everyone gets the Monday after the weekend off of work. Bill explained that it was only recently made into a national holiday.

His story inspired me to mention that Easter Sunday would be the following weekend. I asked Bill if he knew anything about Easter. He said he did and gave me back the watered down religious significance of the holiday. Though not prescribed to any religion, Bill understood the significance of the story of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. He then asked me what most American do on that day. Without hesitation I began to describe some of the common Easter traditions that my family practices: egg coloring, Easter egg hunts, giving chocolate, and eating a meal with the extended family. As I described some of this, Bill stared at me with the most confused look.

He asked me, “So, do you eat these eggs.” I laughed and said, “Well, no. We just color them, hide them, and then look for them.” As I said this, I began to realize this was somewhat of an odd tradition. Bill’s face said the same thing as my thoughts. Eggs make sense since they represent fertility and birth. Looking for them seems to have some relation to the story of Jesus’ resurrection. I then explained that little children are told that the “Easter Bunny” hides the eggs. This raised Bills eyebrows even more. He said, “Bunny’s don’t lay eggs. Why a bunny?” I had nothing. Why a bunny? What a great question. I would later research this. I told him I didn’t understand it, but it was kind of like Santa Clause. I’m not sure if that really helped.

I then added that we often exchange chocolate on Easter, especially chocolate bunnies. Bill responded, “So this is like Valentines Day. Why do Americans like chocolate so much?” I had to laugh. Again, I was slightly perplexed at my own cultural traditions. I could only shrug my shoulders. With that we mostly concluded our talk and went back to eating our rice and mush.

I discovered, through some extensive reading on Wikipedia, that the bunny has significance in old folktales from Germany. The nests that hares would build resembled those of a certain bird. Thus, it was written into some folktales that hares laid eggs. Somehow this worked its way into the Easter tradition.

Bill’s ignorance with respect to American cultural traditions was a blessing. It helped me look back at my family and myself. It mostly made me laugh at the absurdity of some traditions we have. Nonetheless, it provided a new perspective for me.

Wikipedia article on the Easter Bunny: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Bunny