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Narrative Itinerary

Dear Trinity students and teachers,

Can you believe that you will arrive in China in less than a week? Rosalyn and I could not be more excited to meet all of you and embark on our adventure together in Beijing and Sichuan! For now, I would like to share with you all a narrative itinerary of our course, which gives a day-by-day outline of where we will be going, who we will be meeting, and what we will be seeing. Please note that we do like to leave space in the itinerary to keep things flexible in case of weather or other unforeseen circumstances, but in general, this will be the layout of our course. Looking forward to meeting all of you in a few short days! Here is our narrative itinerary:

Day 1: Wednesday, June 20

After arriving to the Beijing International Airport in the afternoon, we will take a bus together to the Kou family home in at the foot of the Great Wall for orientation and group goal-setting. Here we will stay with Kou family who will teach us to cook traditional Chinese food and host us in their humble and rustic farmhouse. In the evening, we will share our first meal as a group together and begin to share individual and group goals for the trip, followed by an early night to sleep.


Day 2: Thursday, June 21

During our first full day in-country, we will dive into a rugged hike up through a scrub forest to a picturesque and dilapidated section of the Great Wall to conduct orientation and group-forming activities. Atop the great wall, we will orient to important health and safety guidelines and build a group culture that maximizes student leadership and collective buy-in. After lunch, we return from the quietness of Xiangshuihu to the massive metropolis of Beijing to explore the historical icons and cultural pluralism of modern China. Our base for this portion of the trip will be the Qianmen neighborhood, renowned for its winding hutongs and bustling night markets.


Day 3: Friday, June 22

During our two-week exploration of the theme of “center and periphery,” this is about as “central” as it gets. Starting at the ancient entrance to the former old city wall, Qianmen, we will gradually make our way through the old city’s central axis, traversing the Forbidden City and Jingshan park, until arriving to the end of the axis at the Bell and Drum towers. As we explore each different site, we will return to this idea of “center and periphery” to discuss the centuries of cultural exchange and that have made Beijing what it is today.


Day 4: Saturday, June 23

An early flight westward will take us to China’s breadbasket, the wild and wonderful province of Sichuan. From here, we will dive directly into the homestay portion of the program in the small riverside village of Linshi outside of Chengdu. This will be the most rugged portion of our trip, but will provide us an invaluable glimpse into the daily life of farmers in rural China and their perspectives on the country’s continued change and development. During our time in Linshi village, we will also partner with local NGO “Urban Rivers Association” to learn more about the village’s water management and the ongoing struggle to maintain ecological integrity amidst massive economic and industrial growth.


Day 5: Sunday, June 24

After our first evening with homestays, we will continue to orient ourselves to both the spatial layout and daily life of the village. We will begin the morning activities with a village mapping project and finish with an introduction to the village river and cleanup efforts led by local volunteers. In the afternoon, we will partner with the residents of Linshi community to paint a mural for the village to show our gratitude to the community for hosting us. We will finish off the day by helping to cook dinner, assisting with chores, and spending time with our homestay families.


Day 6: Monday, June 25

In preparation for our return to Chengdu, we will spend the morning diving into issues of Tibetan identity, history, and culture as well as the politics of ethnicity in China more broadly. Before lunch, we will also come together to plan lessons and games for a visit to Linshi village elementary school. In the afternoon, we will connect with local elementary school students by leading activities in English, as well as learning games and songs from these children in Chinese. After our last dinner with homestay families, we will gather together in the evening for a mid-course ceremony to share what we have learned so far and what we hope to accomplish before the end of the course.


Day 7: Tuesday, June 26

After several days working and living with our homestay families and exploring local river ecology, we will make our way to the village’s water source in Dujiangyan, a UNESCO-recognized irrigation system with over 2500 years of history. In the afternoon, we will make a stop at Huashang High School, where we will partner with local school students in a recycling service project and learn to make local Sichuanese dishes in school’s culinary education center. After enjoying what we cooked for dinner, we will travel to the Xinnanmen neighborhood of Chengdu and transition to the fast pace of one of China’s largest cities.


Day 8: Wednesday, June 27

Arriving into the Provincial capital, we will first explore the ethnic and religious diversity of Chengdu through a morning scavenger hunt in People’s Park. In the afternoon, we will explore the theme of “center and periphery” through the lens of food in an interactive discussion with the founders of Chengdu Food Tours. To finish off the day, we will walk to the nearby Taiguli commercial center, where towering skyscrapers are juxtaposed against humble Qing-dynasty temples and marketplaces.


Day 9: Thursday, June 28

The focus of this day will be to gain a deeper understanding of the many facets of Tibetan identity and culture through exploration of Chengdu’s Tibetan neighborhood or “Little Lhasa.” We will start the day with a visit to the Tibetan Hotel for a Tibetan tea ceremony and tour of the hotel’s gallery of Tibetan art and jewelry. In the afternoon, we will explore Chengdu’s Tibetan neighborhood with our guide Huatse Gyal, an expert on Tibetan issues and PhD student in Anthropology at the University of Michigan. We will end the day with souvenir shopping and delicious street food at Jinli Street, one of Chengdu’s most renowned night markets.


Day 10: Friday, June 29

A trip to Chengdu is not complete without a visit to the city’s Panda Research Center, which will be our destination for the entire morning. In addition to observing these cuddly bears, we will also talk about the history of China’s “panda diplomacy” and how pandas became a national symbol for China. In the afternoon, we will visit the city’s famous “wide and narrow alleys” and discuss the complex history of this neighborhood, which has been home to Manchu warriors, Nationalist generals, factory workers in the early communist period, and now some of the trendiest restaurants and shops in Chengdu. We will end our day with Chengdu hotpot for dinner, a Sichuan specialty.


Day 11: Saturday, June 30

Our final expedition for the course will be westward to the sacred Taoist mountain Emeishan, where we hike to serene temples and create space for reflection and course wrap-up. During this transference phase of the course, we reflect inward on how the course has impacted ourselves and our community and begin to look forward to how we might integrate our experience back home. The day will begin with an early ride on the high-speed rail train to Emei, followed by a journey up a cable car to the top of the mountain. From there, we will hike down from Jinding peak to our guesthouse for transference activities and group discussions.


Day 12: Sunday, July 1

We will spend the last full day of our course reflecting on our experience over the past 12 days. We will talk about our favorite memories, how our conceptions of China have changed, and what we hope to take home from this experience. Between discussions, we will hike to different temples scattered around Emei national park such as Baoguosi and Wannian Temple, some of the most renowned Buddhist temples in all of China. After a full day of hiking and reflection, we will take the train back to Chengdu for the last night before our departure.