The end! (of the beginning)

I can’t believe it’s already been a year! As I’m watching everyone pack and move their things out of the dorms, it seems like I was just watching everyone move in.

I’m still on campus right now, writing this a few days after classes have ended. I’m staying here over the summer, doing an internship that I’m really excited about! I’m going to be working with summer conferences, mainly setting up the Colorado College Summer Festival of the Arts

http://www.coloradocollege.edu/summerprograms/summerfestivalofthearts/

which looks amazing! Hopefully I’ll also get to catch the amazing performances, and attend some of the workshops that are happening.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Colorado Springs in the summer… so far 8th block has been beautiful (see gorgeous sunset below) and I’m thinking it can only get better.

Mountains at sunset

We definitely had some sunny days… (and silly days…) as the year wound down

Sunny 🙂

It was also remarkably hard to concentrate on the last couple of days of class as I was trying to study for my final in International Politics of the Middle East and North Africa! (A cool class that I would highly recommend. The best part was a peace summit simulation we ran for one day in the campus center where we each represented a different country — I was Israel, and like to think I worked out a pretty great peace treaty :D).

So in the last couple days my friends and I retreated to the Fishbowl (a building near the east side of campus where you can go and study, the windows are completely glass, so if you can’t be outside, at least you can pretend you are).

Lahya studying

And now I’m looking forward to a great summer ahead! I think the internship is going to keep me really busy, but I’m also planning to do lots of hiking and exploring in the Colorado area with my friends, and to jet off to my brother’s graduation on the east coast in June to see my family. The summer looks exciting… and I’m ready for it!

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!

Wait. Freshman year is [almost] over?

In LESS THAN A WEEK, I will no longer be a freshman.  Wait.  Did I just type that?  I will be done with my first year of college.  I never thought this would happen.

A rather short or long update (it’s all perception, you know).

This block I am in Inequality (my third class in the sociology department).  This particular course is taught by Jeff Livesay who is amazing.  On the first day of the block, Jeff (with his Mississippian accent) immediately dived into the topic material.  He immediately explained, “This class is about inequality.  More specifically, this is a course on class inequality.  The department teaches about gender and racial inequality, but this course doesn’t.”  I immediately thought, “this was the class I’ve been waiting for since I’ve arrived at CC.” It’s daunting to think that we live our lives in such routine without thinking beyond the “American Dream.”  Sure, I knew class inequality exists–just not to the levels of  inequality that this course explicitly criticizes.

RELAY FOR LIFE happened last Friday night!  Despite the rain and change of location to El Pomar gym, it was a fantastic event.  As part of the planning committee, I didn’t understand why were planning the event in October when the event wouldn’t take place until May.  I observed hundreds of CC students together at an event to “celebrate, remember, and fight back” (Relay For Life motto).  It was beautiful to see so many students walk the track from 7pm to 7am–they were devoted to see an end to this horrible disease.

In the back, there are luminaria bags that spell out CURE.

In the back, there are luminaria bags that spell out CURE.

This is the joint-team banner for our first lap!  Fanterriblastic!

This is the joint-team banner for our first lap! Fanterriblastic!

In TWO WEEKS, I will be in Paris!  I will be taking the Social History of Paris course this summer taught by Dean Susan Ashley and Tip Ragan.  I’ve been so focused on 8th block that I didn’t realize I will be in another country in fourteen days.  It’s absurd how quick a block goes.  Goodness, I should start thinking about packing…

Lastly, I have officially declared my major today!  Earlier, I wrote that I was in Inequality with Jeff Livesay.  Being in this class just made me realize that I NEEDED to be a Sociology major.  So this afternoon, I went to Jeff and asked him if he would be my new academic adviser in order to declare my major.  After an hour conversation about my future, plans at CC, plans for study abroad, I came out of Jeff’s office with a overwhelming sense of elation.  For some reason, this declaration of my major made me realize how much I loved my first year of college (the good and the bad) and CC. When choosing a college, I never thought I would major in Sociology.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until Paris–au revoir!

-Melissa

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.

What’s the weather like at Colorado College?

What’s the weather like at Colorado College? This is a good question, and a pretty common one. In Colorado Springs, sometimes it seems like its winter in the summer and summer in the winter, but it’s almost always bright and sunny. Something you might read coming into the Denver airport is that there are 300 days of sunshine a year!

However, I think the best way to explain the weather around Colorado College is to show it, not describe it. So, the following are movies and photos taken from my seventh block break (April 15th-19th), four days that I spent on campus, around Colorado Springs, and in Denver. Check it out for yourself!

First of all, this is a link to a 30 second video of the weather I took on the second day of block break.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er9dPmC6PUA

After a sunny morning on Thursday, it started hailing! (Which was fun to dance in) The sound in the background is the hail coming down. I have to mention that I took this video because I thought it was great that I could leave CC in the sunshine… drive to Denver in the fog… and return to a hailstorm!

Post-hailstorm, I went with a group of friend’s to a friend’s house in Colorado Springs. We woke up in the morning to this beautiful sight:

Friday morning!

Friday morning!

That evening after returning to campus we decided to avail ourselves of the snow and go sledding down a grassy hill that ended with the soccer field:

Me about to sled down the hill

Me about to sled down the hill

The funniest part was watching people go down the first time because they didn’t expect the bumps at the bottom!

Post-steps

Post-bumps

And finally on Sunday, the last day of block, it was beautiful. We biked to Old Colorado Springs, which is about 15 minutes away from the college and a nice little areas with lots of restaurants and shops. It was so hot we stopped for ice cream, and a little shopping.

It's very hot!

Hot and tired

Happy after ice cream

Friends: happy after ice cream

So there you go: Colorado weather. Now, this block break was pretty extreme: but generally the weather is never boring here! And overall there’s more sunshine and warm weather than anywhere else I’ve lived in North America.

When I attended high school in Singapore, which is very close to the equator, one of my stepfather’s favorite jokes to make when he called me was to ask me what the weather was like. The answer was always

EXACTLY the same!”

This never failed to amuse him.

Ah how the tables have turned!

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

The Best of Both Worlds

Hey Everyone,

It’s hard to believe this was the last block break in the year and there’s only three and a half weeks of school left.  I had the fortune of having break off from lacrosse which meant one thing: the mountains.  Because of lacrosse, I haven’t done much spring skiing in my day; however, this year was an exception.  I skied closing weekend which felt more like high-season skiing though with 23″ at A-Basin on friday and saturday.  Sunday was a warm, picture-perfect blue day. 

I started the morning off skiing Breckenridge.  It definately felt like a last hoorah for most skiers with snowballs flying in lift lines and live music in the middle of peak 7.  However, I decided it would be nice to take advantage of the good weather and get a few hours of fishing in the afternoon.  Heading down 24, I went up through 11 Mile Canyon above Lake George.  I’ve fished there a few times before but I was surprised at how beautiful the canyon is.  The river cuts right through the large boulders and walls spotted with pine trees and all sorts of wild life.  The water was perfectly clear which meant spot fishing for the hundreds of brown and rainbow trout was as easy as casting right above them.  What a great way to spend a sunday. 

When I was in Chile, they locals boasted that it was the only place in the world that you could ski and surf in the same day.  I didn’t get quite as far as the ocean, but I did manage to get my feet (or in this case my waders) wet. 

As the weather continues to warm and the lacrosse season begins to wind down, it’s time to put away my ski boots for another season and bring out my fishing boots.  I need to get more practice fly fishing before I head to Argentina abroad in July.  In any case, it seems that no matter the season, I find myself making more excuses to head into the mountains.   

Until next time,

Onward!

How I chose CC.

After hosting accepted students during the April 2nd and April 9th Open House, I started to reminisce about my college process.  It delights me to think this was just last year.

I’m not going to lie.  As a senior in high school, I did not have the slightest idea of where I wanted to attend college.  Many of my classmates had romanticized the idea of college.  Students applied to very prestigious universities with a major already in mind.  I DIDN’T.  Something was wrong with me.  I wasn’t looking forward to the college process-I had no clue for what I was looking for in a college.  My parents assumed that I was going to apply to the major universities in Oklahoma.  Nevertheless, my teachers, friends, and college counselor recommended that I look at other schools outside of Oklahoma.  While I did apply to three Oklahoma universities, I also applied to six more schools.  Researching colleges was overwhelming.  Did I want a school in a rural or urban location?  What is your ideal student body size?  Diversity?  Financial aid?  Majors? Campus life?

These questions opened up a lot possibilities for my future.  The thought of planning my future as a 17-year-old scared me.  My solution for this dilemma?  Apply to a wide range of schools to insure that come decision time, I would have many options.  I applied to the medical research university, the religious-affiliated university, the engineering university, the pre-law school; a few schools in the South, Southwest, North, Northeast, the West; schools with predominantly right or left political views; and of course, liberal art colleges.  Come acceptance/rejection time, I was accepted to all nine schools.  I didn’t expect that to happen, because I assumed that schools would essentially decide if I was a good match for them.  There was no way that I was a “good fit” for all nine schools.  I realized the most important aspect of my future necessitates an interdisciplinary and critical understanding of society.  A liberal arts education would definitely fulfill the expectations of my future.  To make matters more difficult, I applied to two liberal art colleges-one of course being Colorado College.

I visited both schools.  First, I visited CC and knew I loved it.  The other school wasn’t the right match for me.  Essentially, I knew that Colorado College was going to be my home for four years.

I wasn’t aware of this at the time, but I wanted to go to a school that truly believed in a “unique intellectual adventure.” This school is unique-there are few like this.  Where else are you able to submerse yourself in one class at a time?  Where else are you able to be a philosopher, an educator, a theologian, a sociologist, and a feminist within a span of a year?  This school is intellectual–I’ve been able to take courses that I never thought I would love or interests that I am passionate about.  Without the block plan, I would never be able to experiment with different courses, start friendships with everyone in my current block (despite differing opinions), or share a common love for knowledge.  Overall, it’s been an adventure. Undoubtedly.

Seriously, don’t ever apply to nine schools.  CC is awesome.

When I visited CC last year.  It was snowing and cold!

When I visited CC last year. It was snowing and cold!

The Meeting

After my spring break trip to Sanya, I returned to work on Tuesday. Within an hour of arriving at the office, Mr. Zhang was at my cubicle. He said, “Matt we need your help again.” Once again, Mr. Zhang was making me feel like 007. This time he just explained the situation at my cubicle: The intellectual property team (IP team) at Hylands needed to prepare for an important meeting the next morning. The meeting was with a potential corporate client. The IP team needed to convince this firm to hire Hylands for a potentially high profile IP case. The catch was the meeting would be held in English. So, Mr. Zhang asked if I could meet with his IP team so that they could practice their English and bounce ideas off of me.

We entered the meeting room and sat at the beautiful, large table. Mr. Zhang then explained to the group what we were doing. He said, “We are preparing for tomorrow’s meeting. I have asked Matt to attend and evaluate our English. If you have questions, please ask him. From now on, we will speak only in English.”

The International Trade team and me (not Mr. Zhang and his team, but I don't have a picture with them yet!)

The International Trade team and me (not Mr. Zhang and his team, but I don't have a picture with them yet!)

Mr. Zhang then asked his team to begin explaining the facts of the case that they knew. Because they had not been hired yet, they had been given limited information. They spent about twenty minutes working out how to explain the case in English. I did my best to make sure that they’re explanations were very clear. The case dealt with managers of a corporation who had deceived the firm to pull profits away from a pending deal. I will spare you the details.

Once the team had finished explaining the case, they began to discuss strategy for their short meeting. I offered some suggestions, which were received very well. The team continued to ask questions about how to phrase certain ideas and concepts.

Mr. Zhang then said he had one final thing he would like me to do. He wanted me to summarize, in my own words, the case that they had explained to me.

He said, “We just explained that to you in English, however, we do not think first in English. We think in Chinese and translate in our heads. You are the only one who thinks in English first. So, if we hear a summary of this case from someone who is thinking in English first, we will have a much better understanding.”

I found this fascinating. I spent the next ten minutes explaining the case. When I was finished the team seemed extremely happy and thankful. I realized that it must have made a huge difference to hear it from a native speaker’s mouth. With that, we concluded the meeting.

These experiences with Mr. Zhang have been fantastic. I have felt increasingly more useful to the firm because of this. I do not speak Chinese well, so when I started work here I assumed my usefulness to the firm wasn’t great. It seems that just being a native English speaker has great value here. It’s almost like I am Hylands’ secret weapon. Well, maybe not quite, but it’s fun to think so.

Baca!

This past week I had a chance to go to Baca for three days with my political science class Leadership and Governance. Baca is CC’s satellite campus about a 3 hour drive from Colorado Springs, in the beautiful San Luis Valley. It’s also right next to the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, where I hiked during my Priddy trip at the beginning of the year. It was fun to see the mountain I climbed from the other side!

The view on the drive from CC was gorgeous:

Sangre de Cristo mountains

I’d been to Baca once before on a spiritual retreat through Shove Chapel during third block break. This time was equally great — though we stayed in the townhouses instead of the lodge, which made it even better!

Our professor joked that you could major in Baca — well, in classes that went to Baca. There are some professors that regularly come down to Baca with their class, and not just professors of the social sciences. There is a physics professor that regularly brings his class down! I haven’t had the time since coming back to figure out if you really could do a major where you mainly went to Baca… but I’m very interested.

For the three days we were up there, we had a “leadership film festival” and watched a eclectic mix of movies including Norma Rae, Fog of War, and Twelve O’Clock High. It was really relaxing… we watched movies in the morning and in the afternoon went out and explored the surrounding area. One day, in the middle of a windstorm, we visited the sand dunes:

It was extremely windy. I felt like a character from Dune.

Despite the wind, we made it to the top of one of the dunes,  and used our cardboard boxes (taken from the nice people in Baca’s kitchen) to go sand dune surfing. It was wild!

Now, as I’m preparing to write my final paper for the course, I’m wishing I was still in Baca! And I’m still finding sand everywhere.