Author Archive for Steven Day

17
Jun
15

Junior Year Abroad

When talking about study abroad, sometimes I share with students that “my father did his junior year abroad in Korea.” Reactions vary. With the popularity of the current “Korean wave,” some students feel that his experience must have been pretty “cool.” Others show little interest at all. Few, if any, figure out that his “junior year abroad” in Korea was actually a stint in the US Army during the Korean War. He was, in fact, drafted and served while pursuing his B.S. degree at the University of Minnesota. Although my mother gently encouraged him to share his experience with family as he got older, my father never did before passing away in November 2011. There were only bits of factual information we had gleaned over the years. He traveled to and from Korea on a troop ship, stopping in Yokohama en route. The winters were cold and miserable. The food was awful. There were few very laughs, unlike depictions from the TV series M*A*S*H (Altman’s movie version seemed closer to the experience according to my father).

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Broken Bridge over the Yalü

It’s highly problematic, of course, to associate military service overseas with study abroad. But during our recent trip to Dandong 丹东, China, which lies on the Yalü river 鸭绿江 across from North Korea, I could not help but think about how different my father’s experience must have been while stationed on the peninsula. Here I was with a group of students and my colleague traveling on a comfortable bus to the border. There are still obvious reminders of the war, such as the “Resist America, Aid Korea” 抗美援朝 museum in Dandong and the Broken Bridge 断桥, which was bombed in 1951 but still stands today, spanning just over half way across the Yalü River from the Chinese side. But our trip was safe, fun, and touristy. We got very close to the border on both the ground at the Eastern Great Wall and during the Yalü River boat cruise. We even had the opportunity for “illicit” contact with citizens of the DPRK. Halfway through the river cruise, our tour boat stopped and a black North Korean skiff pulled up beside us to offer “forbidden” North Korean goods for sale. I made my purchase using American dollars, which are in high demand on the black market there.  Continue reading ‘Junior Year Abroad’

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01
Jun
15

Here we go again…

In what has become an annual ritual, once again we’re back in China with a group of Benedictine students. Actually, this year we have two groups at our host and partner institution, Shenyang University of Architecture 沈阳建筑大学 (and three total in China this summer counting Dr. Joel Ostrow’s Model UN delegation, which traveled to Beijing and Xi’an).

The China Pollination Project is continuing research on pollinator diversity in China, which began last year thanks to support from the Freeman Foundation and ASIANetwork. Shenyang University of Architecture invited us back this summer and is paying for room, board, and local sightseeing for all our students. This year’s CPP team includes: Amy Klingbiel, Ann Pendergast, Katie Vittal, Rachel Warren, Annie White, and Jermeen El-Zabet. More about the Benedictine University Pollination Project, including student blogs, can be found here. We have support to continue the project summer 2016 thanks to a Benedictine University internal grant and continued support from Shenyang University of Architecture. More information forthcoming later this summer on the project site. Please let Dr. Cheryl Heinz know of any prospective students for the program. Early fall, students can apply online through the project website.

A second group of students as well as the CPP team are learning about Chinese language and culture through special summer courses offered by Shenyang University of Architecture, whose Office of International Education created the program exclusively for our students. Jade Beadle, Ashley Dvorak, Jake Kennedy, Faryal Mushtaq, and Felipe Rangel III (as well as CPP member Jermeen) traveled with me through Hong Kong and Beijing en route to Shenyang. With continued support from Shenyang University of Architecture, we also plan to continue the short-term classes here summer 2016. Please spread the word.

With Cheryl’s parting post last year, it seems that we have come full circle on this blog; picking up where we left off, charting familiar waters yet making many new discoveries, which we hope to share with you here along the way.

21
Jun
14

Up, On, Over: Experiencing the Great Wall

Although I have visited the Great Wall many times, including both the eastern and western termini at Shanhaiguan 山海关 and Jiayuguan 嘉峪关 respectively, I have never quite experienced it like this before. Our research team is staying in a farmhouse at the foot of the Wall in Beigou Village 北沟村. From our patio, we have an unobstructed view of the Wall at Mutianyu 慕田峪. It is said that many of the residents here in Beigou and neighboring villages are descendants of Ming dynasty (1368-1644) laborers who built this section of the Wall, which links up to Juyongguan to the west and Gubeikou to the east.

Yesterday, it was a beautiful morning in Beigou Village; clear skies and clean air. We started our research by going into a valley that eventually leads up to the Wall. Mr. Cao, our host in the farmhouse, told us we may have better luck finding pollinators up there since the locals use pesticides around the village and in the valley below. After spending nearly two hours doing observations, we decided to make an attempt on the south face. After getting off a narrow paved road, we started our climb, which was well marked with arrows and dots painted on rocks, on a muddy path up the steep slope and to the Wall above us several hundred meters. At one point, we lost sight of the Wall on our ascent. It suddenly re-appeared after the final turn of a switch back on the path. At this point, I was in front and announced that we had arrived. The students behind me were rather skeptical, until they made that final turn and saw, too, before us all the foot of the Great Wall. It was a splendid sight, especially after our brisk climb up.

Ah, almost there.

Ah, almost there.

Of course, the way we had ascended meant that we still needed to get on to the Wall after climbing up to it. There was no official entrance where we had ended up. Obviously, there was only one way: we had to climb up and over the Wall to get on it. Now, this may sound rather daunting. Wasn’t the Wall constructed precisely to prevent such breaches? How could a group of seven docile pollinator researchers scale such a rampart? Continue reading ‘Up, On, Over: Experiencing the Great Wall’

14
Jun
14

You Must Not Be This Tall to Ride (the yak)

I handed over a well-worn 10 yuan note (US $1.60) for a ride and approached the yak. Its handler guided me to the side of the hirsute bovine (the name in Chinese, 牦牛, is homophonous with “fur ox”). When I prepared to mount, the yak backed away several paces, presumably apprehensive of such a large foreigner climbing into its saddle. The handler, a young lady of the Qiang 羌 ethnicity that populates this region of Sichuan, told me that her yak was somewhat skittish around strangers. No problem. I had ridden horses before and knew how to get my foot in the stirrup and throw my other leg over the saddle—even if my mount was moving. On my second attempt, the handler suddenly shouted, “no, no, no” as I put my foot in the stirrup. But hadn’t I paid the 10 yuan for a ride? No. The handler told me I was too large for her precious, white yak. So, I only ended up getting a photo op next to the beast.

"No ride for you!"

“No ride for you!”

Continue reading ‘You Must Not Be This Tall to Ride (the yak)’

21
May
14

Open-air polyglot karaoke

Open-air polyglot karaoke

Harjot Sangha performs a Punjabi song and dance for the group touring Nankai University.

21
May
14

Nankai University Group Photo

Nankai University Group Photo

With Nankai’s most famous alumnus, Zhou Enlai.

21
May
14

Tianjin and Nankai University

Monday 19 May, we traveled from Beijing to Tianjin 天津 by high-speed rail. The 120 kilometer journey took us only 40 minutes, as the G-2017 reached speeds of nearly 300/kph. Total price: $9 US.

While in Tianjin, China’s fourth-largest city (and one of four municipalities not under any provincial control) we were treated most hospitably by Nankai University 南开大学 (est. 1919), which is one of the top schools in China. Students from the translation program gave us a campus tour, which included a sharing of songs by the lake. We enjoyed two songs sung in Chinese by one of our guides, Sofia, a number is Spanish by Monica Echeverria (Alvernia), a song in English by Ericka Robinson, one in Arabic by Hanan Salim, and a Punjabi song and dance routine by Harjot Sangha. Wow. We have some talented students musically and linguistically.

Because my dissertation research was on wartime Chinese literature (1937-1949), I was especially interested in the Nankai bell, which was cast to commemorate the destruction of the campus by the Japanese in 1937, and the Southwest United University 西南联合大学 stele. Southwest United was made up of three top-tier schools (Peking University 北京大学, Tsinghua University 清华大学, and Nankai University) that had to relocate during the second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945). SWU finally settled in Kunming 昆明, Yunnan Province 云南 in the far southwest of the country. According to writer WANG Zengqi 汪曾祺 (1920-1997), the environment there was vibrant intellectually and offered opportunities for scholarly and artistic undertakings that probably would not have been possible had the three schools remained separate back in Beijing and Tianjin.

After a delicious lunch with an abundance of dishes, Professor LIU Ming delivered a lecture on globalization and the current world economic situation. Later in the afternoon, we visited “Old Culture Street,” which is a 1980s reconstruction of an old hutong (alleys) area of the city. It is now a commercial district selling souvenirs from contemporary edifices built in a mock style of late-imperial architecture. Tim shared with me our former Fulbright FLTA, Helen Feng’s, story about growing up in this area. Upon returning to her old neighborhood, which had been razed to make way for this Disnified “Main Street” with Chinese characteristics, the only vestige of Helen’s home was an old tree that she used to climb as a child.

The day concluded with a evening stroll around the old Italian district. In the 19th century, Tianjin was also a treaty port city. After the second Opium war and ratification of the Treaty of Tianjin (1860), the city was opened to foreign trade. The Italians came late to the imperialist party, around the end of the 19th century. They did not miss the Boxer Rebellion, however. The Boxers controlled much of the city around the beginning of the twentieth century. In the 1920s, the Japanese concession area was the refuge of Puyi, the last Chinese emperor. Today, the Italy concession is one of the best preserved of all the former concession areas in the city.

From Tianjin, we took an overnight sleeper train to Dalian, where we are now enjoying some cooler weather. Tomorrow, we’re off on a tour of the port, the Jinshitan campus of Dalian Nationalities University, our host in Dalian, and an American joint venture company here. Douglas (GUO Jiulin 郭九林) will be our guide for the day. We look forward to having Douglas on campus this fall as a visiting professor and artist in residence (calligraphy). As always, Mark (ZHANG Zhigang 张志刚) has been most helpful in arranging things for Benedictine University.

Steven