Dear Norfolk travelers, teachers, parents, and friends,
Hello! My name is Ming, and I’ll be one of the Dragons instructors on this summer’s Norfolk China program. I hope the group has had a smooth arrival into Beijing, where I am currently based as well, working on a Master’s program in sociology.
I joined Dragons as an instructor in the summer of 2015, and for two years led back-to-back summer and semester courses here in China. I’ve also worked from 2017-2018 as a support staff with the Princeton Bridge Year program (my eighth course), which brought me last May to the Buddhist grottoes of Dunhuang, and the westernmost tip of China, at the city of Kashgar, Xinjiang. Despite being born in China I have not spent an extensive amount of time here – my family moved to Singapore when I was six, and I spent fifteen years growing up in the island city-state. I went to the U.S. for college, and after graduating moved back to my childhood base in Chengdu, Sichuan, where I started working with a local environmental NGO, promoting an ecological village project. It was during my NGO work when I first worked with Dragons students as a local guide and environmental educator.
Traveling with Dragons has opened me up to the scale and diversity of China, and a rich multitude of experiences. Some of my fondest memories in Yunnan province, where a good chunk of this program will be based, include a home-stay appreciation and dance party with the Naxi grandmas of Jixiang Village; a hike through fresh snow, as we departed from the Yi village of Geladan; and Sunday service in the Tibetan village of Baihanluo, at a Catholic church standing since 1905, built using tiles and bricks transported via horseback from the Lancang (Mekong) Valley over 13,000 feet of Biluo Jokul. These experiences have been possible because of how closely Dragons programs move to the ground: we are placed in close proximity to people often on the peripheries, and gain the privilege of hearing what societal change, development, and local people’s cultural and natural environments mean for them. It also helps that we travel as a medium-sized group, which facilitates community-level cultural exchange that is hard to replicate on my personal travels, and of course makes for more varied offerings when we sit down for family-style meals. In our two weeks together I hope we will embrace both the ruggedness and the group aspect of our travels, and enjoy exploring the unknown and the uncomfortable together.
Can’t wait to meet the group in-person, in less than a week!