As we eagerly await your introductions here on the Yak board, we wanted to present you and your families with a tentative itinerary for your summer in China!
Note—this itinerary will change. The intended flexibility allows us to travel with the locals, to off-the-beaten-path locations that often do not have fixed bus schedules. It also enables us as instructors to use the core curriculum and program components to create a course that is based on both our passions and your interests. As we get to know all of you, we will be able to create an educational experience that takes into account the unique nature of each group, rather than asking groups to fit into an impersonal schedule of sites and activities. Expect and prepare to embrace occasions when you will not know the changes happening beyond the next few days, and trust that as we reevaluate and readjust the itinerary, it is with the intention of supporting an evolving you, as well as your increasing ownership of the course.
That said, we are excited to share with you a general overview for this summer:
Beijing Area Orientation: 6/30-7/3
On June 28th, you will arrive in LA and meet the rest of the group and your instructors! We will spend some time orienting you to the program and the journey which lies ahead. In the early morning of the 29th we will fly out of LAX and begin the first leg of our trip. On June 30th morning time, we will land in Beijing, gather our bags and then head to a quiet spot outside of the ciry to begin our Orientation. In beautiful surroundings, we will go over all of the need-to-knows, program components, and China-specific information, and set down strong foundations for a supportive and successful group dynamic.
After Orientation, we will leave at least half day for the group to explore Beijing, the capital of China. Tian’anmen Square and Temple of Heaven are both destinations the group may decide to visit. We may divide into a few smaller groups depending on everyone’s interests..
Zhaotong Homestay: 7/3-7/17
We will head to our first homestay on July 3rd. That day we will take an early flight from Beijing and arrive in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province around noon. From there, we’ll board a bus for the 4-5 hour ride to Zhaotong County. Yes, it will be a long day for us. Each of you will meet your homestay parents that night and start your amazing 2-week rural homestay experience. We will meet our Chinese language teachers and start our Chinese class on the following day. Moreover, we will learn more about the Miao ethnic group, meet interesting speakers, and explore the surrounding hills by foot. Get ready for an experience that you are likely to remember for a lifetime!
Let us share a bit more about this village: This ethnically Miao village has about 140 families. Ethnic identity in China is a complicated topic (which we’ll be learning more about), but the Miao people here are part of the same larger ethnic group we know as Hmong in the US and one of more than 30 different ethnic groups in Yunnan. Although some people here speak the Miao language, in addition to Mandarin, the way they speak Mandarin is actually less accented and easier to understand than the way people speak Mandarin in some ethnically Han villages in Yunnan. As with most villages in China today, many younger adults from this village leave for work in urban areas during parts of the year, and you may notice higher numbers of kids and older folks. There is an elementary (primary) school here with two grades and roughly 20 students, and meals are subsidized by the government. Recently, families here received money from the government to build new houses, therefore the whole village is full of new houses. The average income of each family is about ¥3000 (around $435) per year. The villagers grow vegetables and raise chickens or pigs. During July, the average temperature is about 20 degrees.
Travel/trekking in Dali: 7/18-7/23
Following this will be our travel and trekking time in Dali, a city located 1.5 hours by high speed train from Kunming, where we will spend 4-5 days. Dali is famous for its natural surroundings including the Cang Mountains and Er Lake. We are going to trek a few famous routes in the Cang Mountains and enjoy Er Lake in various ways. Dali is also called “the only utopian city in China”. There are thousands of new immigrants from big cities who chose Dali as a place to settle down, and to build different communities in this 4th tier city. We will also visit Dali Eco House, a centre promoting Zero Waste and Minimalism Lifestyle and Caitian Farm, a school promoting organic farming. The group will visit several villages and meet very interesting people there.
Kunming Homestay: 7/24-8/5
Our urban homestay will be in Kunming, the “Spring City”, in Yunnan province. We will reunite with our language teachers and continue our language classes every day. In the afternoon, you will kick off your Independent Study Projects (ISPs) and instructors will facilitate lessons and excursions based on your interests. Kunming is a city with all kinds of talented people and traditions and we believe you will find a project here you are excited about diving into.
Kunming Area Transference: 8/5-8/7
We will gradually slow things down as we travel to the final destination of our trip – a location near Kunming, where we’ll spend a quiet last few days reflecting on our travels, doing a lot of hugging, and preparing for the the journey home.
We hope this tentative itinerary has whet your appetites. There’s so much more to come in these 6 weeks than can ever be put into words.
We hope you’re as ready and excited as we are!
Ian, Maddie, Patricia