qiān lǐ zhī xíng，shǐ yú zú xià
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
In less than a month, we will embark on our summer adventures together. As we eagerly await your introductions here on the Yak Board, we want to present you and your families and friends with a tentative itinerary for our summer course in China! It will continue to change—as your instructors work with local contacts, book transportation and get to know you better from your application materials—but the main components will remain the same. We’ve thought hard about this itinerary, and we know it will set you up to interact with amazing mentors, to learn a bunch of practical Chinese, to see beautiful places, to struggle through discomfort, to challenge your concept of what China is about, and to enrich your life. We invite you to be part of something that will be educational, transformative, adventurous, challenging, and fun for both you and the communities we interact with.
Our aim is to help each and every student achieve their goals and for us to foster an environment that enables you all to grow as individuals, on every level. Each of you will have a personal journey, but each of those journeys will intersect with Dragons’ curriculum, which seeks to engage the ideas of Global Citizenship, Awareness of Self, and Leadership & Skill Building (fondly known as GAL). Each destination, itinerary decision, activity, and discussion is chosen in part to engage with GAL. This framework is one of the things that will allow you to transform a collection of experiences in China into meaningful learning about the world and your place in it.
Again, this itinerary is subject to change. This flexibility is one of the things that’s going to make our course awesome and like no other course that’s come before or will come after. You aren’t purchasing a package tour. You’re being invited to participate deeply in moments in time in unique places with people we have long-term relationships with. You’re being invited to share people’s homes and people’s lives and to experience all the adventure that entails. This is a great opportunity, and we can’t wait to be part of it with you. So here it goes!
June 28th/29th: Los Angeles 洛杉矶
Arrive in LA and meet the rest of the group and your instructors! We will spend some time orienting you to the program and what lies ahead. In the evening (technically, early morning of the 29th) we will fly out of LAX and begin the first part of our journey to the Middle Kingdom.
June 30th: Beijing 北京
Transit in Shanghai before we will land in Beijing, the capital city of China in the afternoon. We’ll take our first steps into China together, gather our bags, and then head a little way outside of Beijing to begin our orientation.
July 1st – July 3rd: Beijing area 北京近郊 (Orientation)
As we recover from jet lag, we’ll get ourselves ready for the journey to come. Apart from some survival Chinese lessons, this is the space for us to lay the foundation to build a supportive group culture, learn about how to best stay safe and healthy in China, and discuss the kind of participation we need to model in order to derive as much as we can from such a short, intense collection of experiences.
Afternoon July 3nd – July 13th: Kunming 昆明 (Urban Home Stay)
On the afternoon of July 3rd, we will fly to Kunming and settle you into your urban home stay. You will start your urban home stay experience that night. From July 4th to July 13th, days will look like this:
We’ll begin the days with short meetings at our Kunming Program House followed by intensive Chinese lessons with professional Chinese teachers. The group will be split into relevant language levels. After class, you’ll have lunch at all the best local spots.
Afternoons will be dedicated to your ISPs, guest lectures as well as group and solo excursions. Our time in Kunming will be short, but some possible things to explore are Tea Ceremony, calligraphy, Kung Fu, traditional musical instruments, Chinese cooking and more!
Evenings will be spent with your home-stay families cooking, helping out, cracking jokes, and watching TV. We may also arrange some activities.
In Kunming you will be with your home-stay families and they absolutely love taking you to various cool spots in and around the city or just having you participate in their busy lives.
July 13th – July 23nd: Lashihai 拉市海 (Rural Homestay)
Next we will head over to a village in the Lashihai area and begin our rural home stay. The contrast between Kunming and the village will be stark, and your ideas about what China is will again be turned on their heads. In the village, we’ll observe a very different way of living and embrace more peaceful and quiet times of the village life.
Your mornings will begin early and be spent taking intensive language classes with the same language teachers you had in Kunming. Following language classes, you will return home to your home stays and practice your new language skills over lunch with your lovely families.
You’ll spend your time practicing new language skills, hanging out with your families (possibly working in the fields), organizing pick-up basketball or soccer games, and wandering the village. The pace of life will be slower here, and you’ll need to work to remain engaged with locals even when struggling to understand the local dialect of Mandarin. You won’t always know what’s going on, and sometimes it will seem like nothing at all is happening. But it’s within these seemingly empty moments that you begin to understand and participate in others’ realities. Keep your eyes and ears open and keep yourself motivated to learn and you’ll benefit immensely from our time in the village.
We will also have lectures, guest speakers, and other activities that will help us learn about life in rural China more generally. What are the challenges people face? What do kids dream of? How do people make a living? What is their relationship with nature? What is the local political structure? How do people find their way in a small corner in China, a vast country in the middle of an era of unbelievable, blisteringly fast change? Start thinking about the questions you want to ask.
Return to your home-stay families for a thoughtfully prepared evening meal and spend your evenings in their company.
23rd July – 25th July: Tiger Leaping Gorge 虎跳峡 (Hike)
At a maximum depth of approximately 3,790 meters from river to mountain peak, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world. The inhabitants of the gorge are primarily the indigenous Naxi people, who live in a handful of small hamlets. Legend says that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point (still 25 meters wide), hence the name. We will be following the hunter’s path and see some of the most spectacular scenery that Yunnan has to offer.
July 25rd – July 28th: Kunming (Transference)
After our hike, we will spend the last few days of our trip in the outskirts of Kunming as we reflect on our experiences together in the final segment of our journey, transference.
Transference is like orientation in reverse. Rather than preparing us to engage deeply in experiences, transference helps us process those experiences and connect them to our lives beyond the course. We will reflect on our experiences, talk about ways in which we can take what we have learned home with us, give and receive feedback, hike up to an unrestored section of the wall, and enjoy each other’s company. Hopefully some of the pieces of the puzzle will start to fit together and a picture of your time in China will emerge. We’ll try help you take that picture and place it within the collage of the rest of your life so that this trip continues to be part of you even when it’s just a memory.
July 28th: Fly home
Return to the United States to begin a whole new set of adventures!
Now that you have an idea of how the course will pan out, and some of the areas we will be traveling through, check in soon for other posts on packing for this itinerary, appropriate clothing, home stay gifts, pre-course assignments, and more! Be sure to post any questions right here and please post a self-introduction when you get the chance!
For your convenience, here is a brief breakdown of the tentative itinerary:
6/30, 3:35 PM: Arrival to Beijing
7/1 – 7/3: Orientation Outside of Beijing
7/3: Flight From Beijing to Kunming
7/3 – 7/13: Kunming Urban Homestay
7/13 – 7/23: Nanyao Village Rural Homestay
7/23 – 7/28: Short Trek, Transference Outside of Kunming
7/28: 9:35 AM: Depart Kunming
Tindy, Avery, and Marcus