Whin’s Trip to China

Where I went, how it was, who I met.

Photos, and I’m back!

Hey all,

A big thank you to Mom for posting blogs for me– China and WordPress did not agree on much. I’ll post the rest about my travels soon. I’m still getting over jetlag!

Here are some photos from my trip. I took over six hundred fifty!

Whew. I’ll highlight some of the photos in later posts.

It’s good to be back, but it seems pretty surreal here. I had to readjust to using a fork. The other day, a guy came up to me in the mall and offered me a trial size chicken teriyaki as a part of a promotion for the store he worked at. My boyfriend told him “Thanks man, I’m good.” I totally ignored him. Matt asked me why I’d been rude to the guy, and it hit me then that this is America, not China, and if I talk to someone offering me something, they’re not going to chase me down the street trying to get me to buy it. Oops. Sorry, guy at the mall.


August 23, 2008 Posted by | china, dong, tibet, zaidang | , , , | Leave a comment


Hey all– hope everything is going well! Shangri La is gorgeous & it rains a lot. We have visited a monastery and have seen the monks and heard them chant. It sent shivers down my spine!

On Sunday we visited Snow Mountain which is 12 thousand odd feet high. It was definitely the highest up I've ever been. We had to take a scary lift up there. Fortunately for my fear of heights Cory kept us in stitches the whole time. He’s like a George Carlin. I got a bit altitude sick at the top & my camera battery died, but Ally got some great shots.

Yesterday we got down to business. Josh & I spent the afternoon mapping out the Old City while the others canvassed hospitals and observed passers-by. Today we have a translator and hope to talk to some shopkeepers.

Miss you guys. Hope all is well. I’m feeling amazing.

August 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Check this out! Pictures! Shangri La has wireless. πŸ™‚ It’s a cool 54 degrees Farenheit here- feels amazing. Our accomodations are amazing too- like little ski chalets. This should be fun.

August 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More Updates

Back from dinner. Where did I leave off?

We learned a lot from our studies of the Dong people. Apparently, most people enjoy living in the village, and while they may have to go out to look for work, many come back. It is a very family-centric atmosphere. They are all very close. The little girls are all in the choir, and they sang fantastically. We never sang that good in church choir. We also got a private concert from three women who had gone out to a singing competition in another province. It was breathtaking. They hit notes that probably wouldn’t be recorded on the video camera. I did video the little girls singing. I want to post photos and video, but this computer refuses to recognize my card. Oh well.

The Dong sing about everything. We heard mostly greeting songs and drinking songs, but we also heard a courtship song. Our translator Nerissa sang a courtship song to our guide Weixian, and he responded favorably! How cute! They are a good match, and she is currently spending some time with his family.

Most of the Dong who live in the village are farmers. They also raise livestock, and we often saw our lunch and dinner being butchered in the kitchen. What an experience. Ally and I once came upon a woman walking her pig one morning. She’d poke him with a stick and he’d automatically go wherever she wanted. The crops of the villagers are raised in terraced fields on the mountainsides. It is very picturesque! Monday morning, the head teacher of the school took us out to his pear orchard. Those were some of the best pears I’ve ever tasted. We stood there, peeling pears and looking over the village, and I must say it was the best Monday morning I’ve ever had in my whole life.

The restrooms were quite an experience. After using the household restroom once, we all deferred to using the school restroom…. talk about hole in the ground! I will never complain about a portapotty again. I would have given my eyeteeth for one. Despite that, life was pretty idyllic. We’d wander about with one or more of our translators, learning a little Dong and talking to families and playing with the children. I taught our host family’s three year old daughter to use my camera, and she took better photos than I did! The kids are all so cute! The same little girl started crying and running after us when we left. Needless to say, we had become good friends with the childpack. Amanda taught them all their ABC’s, and Monday night she sat in a throng of children at the drum tower, all of them singing ABC’s for more than an hour. The drum tower is the central meeting place for the Dong. They all meet there to, as some older men said, “make important decisions” (we never quite found out what they were), play cards, or socialize.

The only other complaints were the tiny chairs and the lack of sleep. We got used to the sleep problem eventually, as most of our lack was accredited to fear of rats, creepy crawlies, and the chicken who roosted behind our wall and talked to herself all night. The tiny chairs, however, were painful beyond words. They are stools that sit no further than a foot off the ground, and the Dong use them for everything. My rear end would start complaining whenever I looked at one, and at the end of the trip we were all sitting on the floor to eat. The tables are short, as well. I went in for a traditional Chinese massage here in Kunming, and the guy pressed on my lower back and my whole spine sounded like a row of gunshots. I feel much better now.

At the same time that we were learning Dong, we were teaching our translators more English. Weixian knows a lot of English, more than he lets on, but he is a perfectionist (he is a teacher of Dong in another school) and refuses to speak English unless it is grammatically perfect. We taught him a lot of funny words, and Nerissa as well. He took to saying “Wonderful” while holding up all five curled fingers. This is in response to Nerissa, who often holds up the “V for victory” two fingers. He took it to mean extremely good if all five fingers are used. Cute, right? Nerissa has an infectious laugh, and she and Amanda became fast friends. Whenever we needed to find them in the village, we would listen for their twin giggles echoing across the village. They woke up a villager or two on their nightly trips to the bathroom. She and Weixian taught us a lot of Dong words and phrases.

Note that the last letter in each word is a tone letter, and is not pronounced. The Dong have nine tones in their language, c, x, s, l, p, t, v, k, and h, which affect how you would say the word.

hello: nyac lail
delicious: lail jil
if it is delicous, eat more of it: lail jil, jil gunge nyil
to drink (cheers): umx kuaot
to get drunk (Nerissa): deil kuaot
cucumber: gueel
girl: lagx miegs / lagx beix
boy: lagx banl / lagx hank
you’re welcome: meec yuv jens
I’m full: yaoc jeengx yangx
yes: jangs
no: mec / bix (or not)
goodbye: seik bail / bail loh
food: jil
potato: yangcyil
tomato: haix queec
I/me/my: yaoc
don’t bother me: bix naox yaoc
what’s your name?: Nyac guanl mangc
my name is: yaoc guanl ____.
rice: oux
how/why: weex noux

Our other translators were Wang and Sun. Wang is a geography teacher in another village. He mostly stayed in the background. Sun is a very animated 17-year-old from Rong Jiang area. He was kicked out of his parents’ house when his grandfather moved in with them, and now rents a room. He attends university for music, and has a gorgeous voice. We kept saying we wanted to import him into the US and get him a record deal. Josh has his demo CD. I started calling him Little Brother because he reminds me a lot of Evan. Our nicknames for Nerissa were Giggles and Sunshine, the latter because when we taught her about moonshine, she exclaims, “Like the opposite of sunshine!” Weixian we called Smile, because he is very quiet, but did a lot of smiling (and also because he had one hell of a time pronouncing the word.) Nerissa nicknamed me Silent, probably because I didn’t laugh like a hyena all the time, while she and Amanda were constantly in giggle fits.

Not many of the Dong have been out of the village. The elderly mostly said they had never been, and if they needed anything, would send someone else in the family. With the new road, more and more younger people are venturing out. There are three small shops in the village that sell the basics. Most of the children would buy snacks. Some of the women had been out for singing competitions, including our host’s daughters. The host that the girls stayed with was the old headmaster. One day for lunch two Communist police officers came and ate. It was kind of tense.

July 29 we left the village in the early afternoon. It was pretty tearful. The vans came up to get us. By then we were all missing showers very much, and upon getting to Rong Jiang, I took a very long shower until the hot water ran out. Some of us, myself included, had contracted colds while in the village, probably from lack of sanitation. My ears were draining and I had a chest full of gunk, so that shower felt awesome. We slept for the rest of the day and into the next morning, where we said a tearful goodbye to Nerissa and Weixian and boarded the bus for another hellish eight hours. Wang had slipped out sometime the night before, and we hadn’t realized he’d gone.

This bus ride, I got smart, or dumb, and took a couple of Ambien to make it go faster. I did nap some, but apparently I spent most of the trip either staring intently at Josh and Ally or babbling at Sun about nothing in particular. Scott, who I was sitting by, pretty much tuned me out. He (Dr. Henson) is my new hero. He’s so laid back and worldly, and knows how to have fun while at the same time being serious. He exclaimed during our party at one point, “It is a good professor’s duty to get his students drunk!” and subsequently took a shot of rice wine with me. At the same time, he is very together and knowledgeable, and knows how to get in and out of a variety of situations. Case in point: The umbrella disaster.

When we arrived in Guiyang again, we headed out to Chinese Wal Mart for cough medicine. This Wal Mart was reminiscent of the Louvre (I thought of Evan again) with big glass pyramids over it. We rented umbrellas because it rained some. After dinner, the umbrella I was holding broke at the handle. The ladies at the front hotel desk threw an absolute wobbly over it. Scott was intent on getting our deposit back, and told those ladies exactly how it was (with Sun’s help). It was hilarious. We were all (the ladies included) laughing hysterically by the end of it.

We said another tearful goodbye to Sun, and headed to bed. This morning we got up and caught our flight to Kunming. Kunming is amazing. It is beautiful, clean, quiet, and everything that Shanghai wasn’t. We had lunch at a little pub and then Amanda and I hit the spa. We both got fantastic Chinese acupressure massages, and then she got reflexology done while I had a pedicure. I feel amazing, and it was about ten US dollars in total. Can’t beat that, truly.

Well, some more people want the computers, so I’d better get off of here. I believe I caught up to where we are currently. Tomorrow we board a flight to Diqing and get to Shangri La. I’m excited! So, until the next time I find an internet connection,

August 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Updates from Kunming

Whew, it’s been a while without internet. When I left off, we were getting ready to board a flight to Guiyang.

July 25-26
The flight was the bumpiest one I’d ever been on! I admit I was kind of praying for my life, haha. One of our translators, Sun, Scott’s friend Prolo, and our guide Weixian met us at the Guiyang airport and took us to the Guiyang Sport Hotel, which was a bit seedy but okay. Prolo got us checked in and then we went to Chinese Wal Mart, which was quite an experience. It was two stories, with food on top and everything else below. I got myself a small bag to carry things around in, but had a problem when paying. Apparently, Visa is not everywhere you want to be. 😦 Ohwell. I paid with cash.

We then had a long and delicious dinner at a Chinese-style restaurant where they bring out a bunch of dishes and we pick what we want off of them. We had a long meeting with the translators, Prolo, and Scott’s other friend Jacob, who works closely with the Dong people. Then it was time for a short meeting and bed.

The next morning, Ally, Josh, Cory, and I went out to get photos around Guiyang. Ally about got us arrested (not) when she took a photo of a person who did not want his photo taken. We then trooped out to the bus, where the bus driver promptly called me fat and threw a fit over our bags. He was a bit of a pompous twit. That and an eight hour bus ride meant that I was ready to beat the hell out of him by the end of it. The bus ride featured a great eight hour DVD of Chinese variety shows. We kept the iPods turned up high, especially since the stupid driver had an obsession with blowing his horn at five second intervals. It was a bumpy and rough ride, and while none of the Americans threw up, many Chinese did.

Upon arriving in Rong Jiang, we met our other two translators, Nerissa and Wang. We stayed the night in the Rong Jiang Hotel and ate dinner. We had singing at dinner, and you all will be very proud to know that I sang. So ha. We then returned to the hotel for a cold shower and sleep.

July 27
After a bumpy 4-wheeling trip up a mountain on which our second driver had multiple difficulties withΒ  mud puddles, we arrived in the village. I can’t even hope to begin to describe the village correctly. It was a dirt road with wooden structures. Chickens and dogs run around everywhere and it smells faintly of cow and pig. The people wear colorful clothing and the children run in adorable packs. On the way up we learned a little Dong from Sun, and could say “Nyac lail” which means hello, and “Lail jil” which means delicious, in keeping with the food. After a lunch with our host families, which included tables and chairs VERY low to the ground, we dropped our stuff off and began interviewing families. It is very poor in the village, but EVERYONE has a television. The government subsidized satellite dishes, but most people watch Dong songs and operas. That night, we all had a drinking party in which we learned the phrase “Umx kuaot” which means Cheers. We used that phrase a lot in drinking the traditional Dong rice wine, which we taught them the word “moonshine” for. πŸ™‚ Amanda and I got very happy and made good drinking friends. Apparently another tradition is to sing and present the wine to a friend, and I sang “Viva Colonia” to get Sun to drink. He is Evan’s age and is very funny. Then a whole horde of little girls came and gave us an amazing concert. πŸ™‚ We taught them the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

The next day, with a miraculous absence of hangover and sleep (the roosters crow all night) we spent most of the day interviewing people. When I get more time (I only have 30 minutes and they want to go to lunch) I will write more about the village interviews. Probably tonight (it is shortly before 2pm here, and I know is 2am at home).

We are now (July 31) in Kunming on our way to Shangri La. This hotel has computer access, so I will get on later tonight. I miss you all and hope all are well.

August 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hotpot Chicken



Yesterday we had a massive hike around Shanghai. We first walked to the Jade Buddha temple, which is gorgeous! There were so many idols and holy things to look at– I felt a little bad being there when so many people were worshipping and we were just wandering around staring. We had to get some money before we got to go into the temple though, and one of the shop owners dragged us to a bank and then dragged us back to her shop, where we bought some fans to placate her. This trip will definitely be a weightloss solution– it is SO hot here. After the Jade Buddha, we made our way to the metro and got to People’s Square, which is ringed by huge modern buildings. We went to an art museum and ate lunch there, which was a… cultural experience. It was a hotpot restaurant, and no one spoke English. Fortunately, by pointing and making noises we managed to get something…. which was most of a chicken. There were chicken FEET in our hotpot. Ally ate one. After that experience, we figured out how to get to the Bund area, which is one of the technological and historical areas of the city. The tallest tower in the world is across the river. We decided we were pretty tired, and went back to the hostel for a nap before dinner. Dinner was at a cute little restaurant where the guy spoke English and was so excited about showing us the best things he had to eat. We all ordered the same thing, but he came out with six different dishes because he didn’t want us to leave without sampling everything! We also went to a pastry shop afterwards. I thought the pastries were good, but Josh described them as tasting “like someone tore open a couch cushion and poured some stale chocolate milk on it.” Oh well. I’m waiting for breakfast now, and after that we’ll go to the airport and head to Guiyang. Hope you’re all doing well!


July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Safely in Shanghai

This place is amazing. It is currently six in the morning, I know, I never get up that early, but jet lag has me in its hold. We got to Chicago, had our layover, and then got on a thirteen hour flight to Shanghai. I thought I was going to go stir crazy! That was the longest flight Ive ever been on. Youll have to excuse my lack of punctuation, but I havent figured out this keyboard yet. While we were flying, we passed over the north pole and saw the glaciers. They were gorgeous– I got pictures! I tried to take some sleeping pills and just pass out, but I could really only sleep for a few hours, if that. Some of my diary entries from when I was in the throes of Ambien hallucinations are pretty funny.

Finally we landed in Shanghai. This is when the fun began. We went running around the airport trying to figure out where the bus station was. After figuring it out, we boarded a two-hour busride to the locale of our hostel. This was our first glimpse of the city, and it was amazing. We got to see everything from the high rises to the low budget housing. The driving habits of the Shanghai locals is interesting. Apparently almost anything goes. Our driver wove the huge charter bus through traffic, honking at pedestrians and sometimes pulling onto the sidewalk to pass people. People on motorbikes paid no attention to traffic signals and just went wherever and whenever they pleased. Eventually we safely made it to Zhongshan Park, the end of the busroute. Then we had to figure out where to go from there.

If I learned anything from yesterday, it is that the Chinese are very helpful to foreigners. Often we would just be standing there with a blank look on our faces and some soul would come up and start talking away and pointing at our map. Some people even led us along alleyways and twisty turny streets to where we were trying to reach. It was truly amazing. One lady led us down a street where a policeman almost ran us over, and she ignored him and kept going, talking away about something or other. All I really know for Mandarin is “Shen shen”, which apparently means Thank You. Eventually after a very hot walk through the city, we found our hostel. Thank goodness!

The weather here is so humid it makes Tennessee feel dry as a bone. I was sweating my little head off yesterday. We tour around the city today, with a large bottle of water in hand. Apparently the tap water is supposed to be safe, but we were cautioned to buy water anyway.

Our hostel sits squat among many high-rise apartments. People hang their laundry outside via a pulley system on long rods extending off of the back porch. Dinner was good– there is a restaurant inside the hostel. I had sweet and sour pork and rice. Yum! They even had milk, which tasted amazing. After dinner we all went back to our rooms and passed out. Ally and I were both up early– she at three and I at five forty five. Amanda is still fast asleep, lucky dog. Breakfast is free, so we are waiting for the restaurant to open.

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Almost Ready to Go

A lot has happened since I wrote last.

I was trying to post using my iPaq mobile, which I am taking on the trip, but I’m out of practice using it and merely ended up deleting my posts a few times. So in frustration, I’m back on the laptop. 😦

We’ve had a change of plans. The Tibetan police told both our translators and our hosts in Kangding that they were to have nothing to do with us. This is a problem, obviously. We don’t want to run the risk of getting our hosts in trouble, nor do we want to get kicked out of Tibet or get nothing done on our research. So we’re reverting back to an earlier plan of going to Shangri La instead. Shangri La will stretch our budget and we don’t have translators, but it’s a more tourist-friendly area that we should be able to get some research out of. Not to mention it’s a cool place!

Shangri La was originally a fictional place in the book Lost Horizon by James Hilton. The place was actually made by the Chinese government in Tibet, mostly as a tourist trap. While it is a far cry from our Tibetan village, we will have the chance to interview Tibetans who have made the switch from rural living to catering to the consumer culture.

Ally and I are working on getting tickets to see the 2008 Equestrian Olympic Games at Hong Kong. We’ll be there for the second-day Team Dressage event, which is very exciting! I found a good price on tickets, but since we leave Tuesday the issue is getting them. Fortunately, I’m going to try to get them couriered to our Hong Kong hotel so that they are there when we arrive. I really hope it works out!

I have my bag all packed. It was a tight squeeze after all, but everything is in there! The worst part is the 3 oz-1qt bag rule. How am I supposed to fit three weeks worth of shampoo and conditioner into that? Answer: tightly.

I’ll be headed to my parents’ house tomorrow night to drop off my car, so this may be the last post I do until Tuesday morning at the airport. I just bought a new 2gig SD card, so I should have plenty of room for pictures.

I’m getting so excited!

July 20, 2008 Posted by | china | , , , , | 1 Comment


I had a minor heart attack this morning when I couldn’t find my passport. Fortunately, I’d had a bout of intelligence and had already packed it. Whew.

Our flight leaves out next Tuesday at 6am… I don’t know how awake I’ll be… I’m taking my little PDA, so hopefully I’ll be able to blog some. I don’t know how internet connections work over there with these things.

I need to go by a store and grab some last minute things like camping toilet paper. How exciting! I also need to get my camera back from my neighbor, who borrowed it.

I’ve had a bout of lethargy lately which has been bothering me. I don’t do well in midsummer because of the heat (I’m a human furnace), so I admit to being a bit worried about hiking around in a hot area. I’ve also been diagnosed as hypothyroid about a month ago, so I’m still adjusting to my T4 levels on this new medication. I’m hoping it kicks in sooner rather than later so my energy level goes up.

I bought a lot of protein bars to eat if needed. We’re supposed to be very careful about what we eat over there. Dr. Henson says that as long as it’s cooked, it’s fine. We’re bringing Cipro however in case someone’s guts throw a wobbly. Due to water cleanliness (rather, lack thereof) drinking water will also have to be carried with us. It’ll be a culinary experience.

I got a new backpack to go on this trip. None of mine were well-suited to going on a three week hike. I went to River Sports in Knoxville and found a great backpack. It’s a Mountain Hardwear Iguana, and I like it because it has a pocket in front for my other shoes. It’s large enough so that I’ll be able to fit everything in there, but small enough so that I can actually carry it!

My new backpack

My new backpack, photo courtesy River Sports

July 16, 2008 Posted by | china | , , , , | Leave a comment

Going to China

I’m headed to China for three weeks on July 22. I got the opportunity through my college and ASIANetwork, an organization that gives grants for Asian studies at liberal arts schools. I am going with four other students and one professor, Scott Henson.

The main idea of this trip is to study the effects of globalization on the Dong and Tibetan people. The Dong people are one of 56 minorities recognized by the People’s Republic of China. They are mostly centered around the borders of the Guizhou, Hunan, and Guangxi provinces. We will be visiting a village around the Liping area in the Guizhou province, called Zaidang.

In Tibet, we will be visiting a village called Tagong. If it is held, we will also go to the Litang Horse festival.

Within these villages, we’ll be interviewing villagers with the help of translators. We’ll split into groups of two, one guy and one girl, and go across the village. We each have different areas we’ll be asking questions about. My area is technology and communications, so I’ll be asking about how people communicate using phones, computers, and television. Tagong is more modern than Zaidang, so we expect to find a lot of interesting information about the differences.

I’m really excited about this trip! Its going to broaden my horizons when it comes to my cultural knowledge. I don’t know much about Asian cultures, so this will really be a great experience for me. I love international travel, so this opportunity is amazing.

Dr. Henson will have his computer on the trip, so hopefully I’ll be able to blog some when we’re in larger cities. Until then, I’ll be providing more information about the cultures we’ll be seeing.

July 15, 2008 Posted by | china, dong, tagong, tibet, zaidang | , , , , , | Leave a comment