Cheryl’s last post here, for now

It’s the end of the trip. I’ve been gently restricted to stay at the hotel all day, right before leaving, I don’t feel very well. Not the way I planned to end the trip. But, like field work, life doesn’t always go exactly according to plan.

Tomorrow will be an exceeding long day for myself and our five students. We will wake up in Beijing, perhaps collect a bit more data, pack all of our things, and make our way to the airport. We’ll say goodbye for now to Steven, who won’t be making the journey home just yet, and board a plane that almost seems magical. When you look at your ticket, the flight only takes 20 minutes. Sadly, the total time on the plane will exceed 13 hours (I didn’t say it was good magic). But, we will both leave Beijing and arrive in Chicago on Tuesday, gaining the day we lost on our journey here. At the other end is home — my husband and kids, my students’ parents, siblings, and families. We haven’t seen them in four weeks, except for the occassional (or regular) video chat. But, I look forward to the hugs my boys will have for me…

The past four weeks have been incredible. We have collected data in four provinces, traveled by plane, bus, taxi, subway, van, foot, and more. We climbed many of the steps of the Great Wall,

Some of the steps of the Great Wall, in the vicinity of Mutianyu

Some of the steps of the Great Wall, in the vicinity of Mutianyu


and of the astonishingly beautiful Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong, and what may be the world’s largest water cave at Benxi, as well as pedestrian overpasses in Chengu and Beijing, and many a subway (sometimes with suitcases in tow).

The project isn’t over yet. Data were collected in Rite-in-the-Rain (TM) yellow notebooks, and still needs to be entered into the Excel spreadsheets I sent to all over a week ago (but not everyone has access to Excel here). The students will tentatively present to the Natural Sciences Summer Research Program on Wednesday 2 July, so we’ll be sharing some things quickly, but data analyses will take me time *after* I get data from all 6 of my coworkers here. Conclusions will take even longer.

This was my very first study abroad trip with students. There are things I would do differently next time, but that’s no different than the rest of my teaching. The long plane ride home and the coming days will give me time to reflect privately, and later, Steven and I can compare notes. Of course, we’ve also been doing this along the way. Our students will hopefully continue to reflect on what this journey has done for them. Of course, with time comes perspective. But, I don’t want this to be my last such trip–and will be working for ways to keep this project moving forward.

Transitions are always bittersweet. There’s so much more we could do here, and we hope to be able to do so. But it will soon time to say goodbye to a place that is becoming ever so slightly more familiar, despite the language barrier that looms ever high above me. Of course, I don’t do so well at leaving challenges unattended…

One of our last group pictures.

One of our last group pictures. There are many, many more!


Goodbye — but only for now.



5 Responses to “Cheryl’s last post here, for now”

  1. June 23, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I’ve really enjoyed following your blog, Cheryl (and Steven’s as well)! It’s something I look forward to in the mornings as I watch our baby sleep and sip my coffee. If the July 2 presentations are open to non-science faculty, I would love to attend, schedule permitting. Perhaps one day I too will coordinate a study abroad experience for students. This is inspirational!

  2. June 23, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    It’s been a pleasure collaborating the past month, Cheryl. It has gone by so quickly. I wish you all a safe trip back to Chicago. Loved ones are awaiting your return.

    • 3 butterflydoc
      June 23, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      Likewise, Steven! I think this collaboration has been both productive and enjoyable, and together we were able to give the students what I hope they realize is an incredible experience! I could not have done this without you–and I’d like to think that my knowledge was useful, too!

  3. June 23, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Wishing the group a safe journey home … and hope you are feeling much better now Cheryl. I’ve enjoyed the blog posts, too, as well as the gorgeous photos. Next best thing to being there!

    Safe home now!

    • 5 butterflydoc
      June 24, 2014 at 1:00 am

      Thank you, Joan! I have many more pictures than I have shared in posts here — from home, I will try to put a reasonable number into the China gallery.

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