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Our Independant Study Projects

In addition to studying the Chinese language, each one of us has chosen an element of Chinese culture and tradition to delve into in what is called an ISP (Independent Study Project). Below you’ll find a short paragraph from some students about their experience and newfound knowledge.

Ian: These past few weeks have been spent studying Jie Quan Dao with several friends. Our classes usually consist of learning different elements and then practicing them on each other through pads or sparring. Some more memorable moments include napping in the sparring cage, Theo being kneed (unintentionally, I am assured) in the nuts by Tessa, and all of teacher Zen’s creative English insults he has ran past us.

Tessa: I’ve been learning how to kick butt (and Theo’s nuts). I am taking Jie Quan Dao classes with my friends Ian and Theo, learning under our hilarious teacher how to properly attack our opponent and defend ourselves. We learn new forms each day, practicing on pads, each other, and occasionally step into the cage (with disco lights to add to the intensity).

Julia: I have been putting my REI experience to work as an (unpaid) intern in an outdoor goods store in downtown Kunming. Though Kunming’s outdoor scene is unfortunately not that active on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-3pm, I’ve really enjoyed being able to explain the names and functions of the same outdoor equipment I use in America in Chinese. And, most importantly, learning how to make gourmet coffee with camping stoves is always a good time.

Sandra: I’ve been learning how to play the hulusi. The hulusi is a traditional Dai instrument that looks kind of like a recorder with a small gourd on top of it, but sounds like a wooden flute. While learning how to play the instrument, my teacher also taught me how to read jianpu music, which uses numbers rather than a staff with notes like I’m used to. I recently got good enough to duet with my teacher to some very ethereal sounding Chinese background music. I can’t wait to bring my hulusi to Xishuangbanna so that I can learn new Dai music with our homestay families.

Ron: Twice a week, the group’s five aspiring chefs are crammed into a 12 foot x 4 foot take-out kitchen to learn how to make delicious Chinese dishes from a pair of local cooks. Even though the hours of cutting, wedging, gossiping, frying, laughing, baking, slicing, and (eventually) eating are fun, educational, and delicious, what makes the cooking ISP one of a kind is when our squad attempts to independently cook some of the dishes we’ve learned for our entire group.

We hit up the bustling market below our program house for vegetables and spices and the neighborhood’s larger grocery store for meats and less common ingredients; we struggle with the program house’s dysfunctional stove and lack of pot lids; we desperately try to remember the order the ingredients go into the pot; and we argue over how to pronounce obscure Chinese ingredients (notably, “star anise”). And at the end of this chaotic weekly ordeal, we serve our creation to the group! We’ve gotten positive reviews on our food so far, and are considering starting to charge for our services!

Laureen: I suppose this is a fitting Yak post as my mother keeps telling me that the only news she gets is about what foods I’ve been eating….. Regardless, I’ve been a member of the Get Fat Quick ISP (a.k.a. Cooking) along with Ron, Joey, Elly, and Sam. Here’s a quick tasty veggie dish I learned from my homestay mother: In a wok (obviously) put in a little oil, sizzle some minced garlic, add diced red pepper(seeds removed), throw in some sliced okra (I think… it looks and smells like okra… but I’ve seen some exotic ingredients here so I can’t be sure), add half a coffee cup-ish of water, a couple spoons of soy sauce and some salt. Make sure you mix and stir the whole time and voila!