We write from Kunming as we settle into homestays and language classes. Students remarked this morning that they can’t believe we’ve only known each other for a week as we’ve already settled into group norms and feel connecting with one another.
The start of every Dragons course is always a bit of a whirlwind with the introduction to a new and potentially unfamiliar place and culture as well as the formation of a group of students and instructors. We started the course with two quick days in Beijing where we spent time orienting students to Chinese culture, trying delicious local dishes, including Beijing’s famous Peking duck! We did activities involving personal sharing to get to know one another beyond small talk. We spent a big chunk of time going over how to be safe and healthy during our time here and strategics for self care.
While our time in Beijing was brief students had to opportunity to see Tiananmen Square (from afar), ride the metro, participate in a scavenger hunt, practice sword martial arts, Tai Chi & Qi Gong with locals, explore local markets, and chat with both American and Chinese graduate students.
After our quick stay in Beijing we traveled two hours north to Gubeikou which is a town located near an unrestored part of the Great Wall. We took an epic hike up to a less travelled part of the Great Wall and explored and basked in it’s awe-inspiring beauty.
We were excited to escape the heat of Beijing and relax in a more rural area. Here we also continued orientation activities – students created what we call “life maps” where we asked them to think of the ten most impactful or memorable moments/experiences in their life. Each student took a creative and expressive approach to their life map and then shared with the group.
We closed orientation with the follow reading:
By: Oriah Mountain Dreamer
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
We are impressed with the group culture that has formed; one that is very supportive, adventurous, independent, and excited. We arrived in Kunming on the 4th and students have now finished their second Mandarin class and spent their second night at their homestay. Today they will also begin their independent study project (ISP)! During the next week in Kunming students will have a little more access to the internet and will have some, although limited space to be in touch with home. We are also encouraging them to post on the Yak board – keep your eyes peeled!
Until next time!
Avery, Tindy, & Marcus
The photo attached is an image of the Kunming skyline from our program house!