Back to

Our Updated Itinerary

Day 1: Thursday, July 26th

After settling in and dropping off bags at the Home Inn Plus hotel in downtown Kunming, we will gather in the lobby to make our way to beautiful Green Lake Park for orientation activities and goal-setting for the course. In the afternoon we will explore the ancient Yuantong Temple, built over 800 years ago in the Yuan Dynasty. After a session of walking meditation and discussion on Buddhist history in the temple, we will enjoy a delicious Chinese dinner together. We will finish our first day with an opening ceremony.

Day 2: Friday, July 27

Our second morning will begin with a talk from the Director of the School for International Studies (SIT) in China, who will share with us her reflections on teaching China and how we can better teach about this complex, immense, and rapidly changing place to our students. After a group lunch of classic Yunnan cuisine, the afternoon will be dedicated to independent study projects (ISPs). We will reconvene for dinner at a local Dai restaurant serving popular dishes from Xishuangbanna such as pineapple sticky rice, barbecue, and coconut milk desserts. After dinner there will be an optional traditional Chinese massage.

Day 3: Saturday, July 28

In the morning, we will travel to the outskirts of Kunming to Qiongzhu (Bamboo) Temple. This Buddhist Temple was established during the Yuan dynasty and has been burned down and reconstructed several times. From there we will travel to Goo’day Permaculture Center in a small Yi Village in the hills above Kunming. At Goo’day we will learn about rural to urban migration in China, as well as the growing “back to the land” and sustainability movement. We’ll eat delicious farm-to-table, home-cooked cuisine and visit the permaculture farm.

Day 4: Sunday, July 29

Our fourth day we will visit Kunming’s largest tea market to learn about the history of Pu’er and to get a sense of how the tea industry has contributed to Yunnan’s economic growth and development historically and today. After drinking our fill, we will continue our ISPs and reconvene for dinner. In the evening we will explore Green Lake Park, a center for traditional Chinese music, dancing, and martial arts.

Day 5: Monday, July 30

On this day we will learn about how the importance of Chinese medicine in China through discussions with a local practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. One of the most famous traditional Chinese medicines from Yunnan is Yunnan Baiyao, a hemostatic powdered medicine famous for being carried by the Vietcong to stop bleeding during the Vietnam War. After discussing TCM as it is practiced in China today, we will travel out of the city to visit the Yunnan Ethnic Minority Village Park. Think of this as Yunnan’s EPCOT: within this one theme park, there are 26 small “model villages” for each of the 26 ethnic minorities in the province. During our time in the park, we will explore China’s portrayal of ethnic minorities and discuss the impacts of tourism on ethnic minority culture. Two primary “villages” of interest to us will be the Tibetan and the Naxi (the ethnic minority of our rural homestay in Nanyao village). Some questions that we will explore during our visit include: How is minority culture re-created and re-imagined within the confines of this theme park? Where does this theme park fall short, and where does it succeed, in educating visitors about the traditions of Yunnan’s ethnic minorities? How can we connect this back to our own experiences with ethnic and racial understanding in our home countries? In the evening we will share a dinner of traditional Chinese hot pot and then head to the train station to catch our overnight train to Lijiang.

Day 6: Tuesday, July 31st

After five days in the bustling metropolis of Kunming, we begin our exploration of Yunnan’s ancient Naxi Kingdom. We will spend the morning exploring the town of Lijiang, an ancient stop on the Tea-Horse Trail granted UNESCO World Heritage status for its stunning architecture and winding alleys. After a morning and lunch in the old town, we will make our way to Nanyao village for our three-day rural homestay. We will orient ourselves to the village and spend the evening with our new families.


Day 7: Wednesday, August 1

After our first evening in Nanyao and breakfast with our homestay families, we will begin the day by considering the potentials and pitfalls of service learning in a community like Nanyao that is not our own. After the lesson we will have continued time to explore the community and have lunch with our homestay families. In the afternoon we will be treated to a performance and lesson on Dongba music. Dongba is a term that refers to the arts, culture, music, and writing of the Naxi people.

Day 8: Thursday, August 2

On this third morning in Nanyao, we we will consider issues of human rights, economic development, and cultural preservation in Tibetan areas of China. In the afternoon we will visit Zhiyun (in Chinese, “pointing to the clouds”) Temple, a Tibetan Lamasery constructed in 1727. After exploring the beautiful temple grounds at the foot of Lijiang’s green mountains, we familiarize ourselves with Tibetan Buddhist iconography and consider the implications of morning discussion. In the evening, we will return to Nanyao for a final dinner with our homestay families.

Day 9: Friday, August 3

This morning we will depart for the Lijiang airport for our flight to Chengdu. After settling into our hotel, we will begin our explorations of this city by learning about its history and ethnic diversity through its food and spices. In the evening we will walk Chengdu’s waterways and explore the potentials and pitfalls of rapid economic development.

Day 10: Saturday, August 4

Our second day in Chengdu we will begin the day by competing in a scavenger hunt across the city. After lunch we will learn from Tibetan entrepreneurs about how they are reimagining business and their roles as China’s economy continues to grow. We will continue to consider the impacts of development and the potential of individuals like these entrepreneurs to shape their own destiny.

Day 11: Sunday, August 5

We will depart this morning for the Panda Reserve to learn more about one of China’s most endangered special, the Panda. We will learn from Sarah Bexell, Director of the Center for Human Animal Connection, about environmental challenges in China and the importance of human action to making the shifts necessary for our shared future. In the afternoon we will travel to the sacred mountain of Emei where we will spend the next few days hiking and reflecting about our experiences over the past 11 days.

Day 12: Monday, August 6

We will begin the day by hiking together in the beautiful alpine environment that surrounds us. We will talk about our favorite memories, how our conceptions of China have changed, and what we hope to take home from this experience. We will also share how we intend to shift our own teaching practice and take solo time to reflect on how this experience has changed us.

Day 13: Tuesday, August 7

In the morning we will hold our final course debrief and then travel back to Chengdu for a final day of exploration, shopping, and eating. In the evening we will hold a final celebratory dinner together and prepare for departure home.