Monthly Archives: March 2019

Headed for home

We are currently en route to the airport, and on our way home. We were thrilled to try jian bing this morning, a typical Beijing breakfast, which Laura L., a current Miss Porter’s student at home in Beijing for spring break, was kind enough to bring for us with her family. After breakfast, we packed our bags and headed to the mall to get one last bubble tea run in before we returned to RDFZ one final time to grab our luggage and hit the road.

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We’ve had an incredibly rich and engaging two weeks here in Beijing, and we want to take this time to share some of our reflections and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

“I learned that it was a lot easier than I thought it would be to make connections across the language barrier. Even though none of us speak Chinese, we were able to find someone that lives here [in Beijing] that we were able to connect with.” -Jackie M.

“I have realized the importance the people I love have in my life. On our trip I had my ups and downs and I know that I wouldn’t be able to get through any of it if I didn’t have my closest friends with me. I learned that, holy cow, I am so lucky to have the friends that I have and I never really realized how scary it is for me to be alone. My biggest takeaways will be the new friendships I made and the friendships I had that grew stronger. I promise it’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later.” -Lila C.

“I travel a lot and I’ve been on a lot of trips with groups, and I think this group really helped me to realize who I am within a group and be there for other people instead of just being there for myself. I think I’ve grown enough on other trips to be able to be there for others who need that, and I think that’s really helpful for others and myself.” -Ella W.

“Something I’ve learned on this trip is not that I like being alone, but sometimes I think it’s important to build in time for yourself to reflect and think about your goals – just a minimal amount of time to think, clear your headspace, see where you’re at and what you need to accomplish.” -Laura G.

“Something I’ve learned is how different the life is here and how different the classes are that I went to, but I also learned that different can be a good thing. When I was at my homestay I learned how different my family was and how their lifestyle is different. Different can be a good thing because it made me appreciate what I have at home.” -Ana B.

“My biggest takeaway from this trip was probably that if you’re with the right people, you can really get through anything and make anything fun. Everything will be okay if you’re surrounded by the best people or the right people in that situation, and I feel like I had that on this trip. Even going into it, not only was my group the right people for me and helped me get through a lot of things here, but also people I met on the trip became the right people. I guess my biggest takeaway was how the people you’re surrounded by can make or break your trip, and for China it made the trip ten times better.” -Kyla G.

“Even though it sounds cheesy, I learned that no matter how far you travel there’s always a sense of home. I also learned that you never really know what you’re going to find, so you can’t base everything off of a judgment or an expectation. You need to accept sometimes that you’re wrong in order to have a good time.” -Melina B.

“I think one of the things that I learned is that not everything has to go perfectly to have a perfect or great trip. It’s all of the little mishaps that end up being the funniest and most rewarding, and ultimately the stuff that brings you closer and that you remember later on.” -Callie G.

We are so proud of this group and are looking forward to returning to Farmington!

The final countdown

Today was our second day at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. Our day was filled with more workshops where we learned about the different therapies used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. We learned about moxibustion, which is a type of therapy that uses the moxa herb, also known as the Chinese mugwort leaf. Moxibustion is thought to stimulate energy and release negative energy. It can also help maintain one’s health and treat diseases. After asking the doctors our questions, what surprised me about this form of treatment and all of the others in TCM is that these theories were discovered thousands of years ago and have not been significantly updated or changed.

One other type of therapy that we learned about is Tuina. This therapy is very similar to a massage. It is used to relieve pain and loosen muscles. It was very interesting because we learned some specific techniques on how to give a massage which I found very useful.

After getting to practice some of these traditional Chinese treatments, we headed to our farewell dinner where we met our guide at RDFZ, Carol. It was very sad saying goodbye when the dinner came to an end because she really cared about us throughout our time here and put much effort into making it a memorable experience.

On that note, it is sad to say that today was also our final day in Beijing, but I think most of us are ready to get back to Farmington after the long day of traveling that lies ahead of us. I think my favorite part overall was seeing the Great Wall the very first day. Even though we were all a little tired from the flight the previous day, it was definitely a great way to start the trip.

This whole trip has been so special and I could not have asked for a better group or teachers. We all have gotten closer each day and really bonded, so today was a little emotional knowing that it was our last full day together as a group in China. One thing that I will take with me as I go home is how thankful I am for the life that was given to me. After experiencing a homestay during this trip and realizing how different the lifestyle is here, it forced me to think about how to embrace the different. Even though it was a little bit of a struggle, I can take away that I am so appreciative for my family and the privileges that I have.

Even though our time in Beijing has come to an end, I am so grateful to have had this incredible experience and to be surrounded by such great people.

-Ana B.

Photographs from the last day of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Workshop

Please click on the links below to view the photographs of our group participating in a workshop at the University of Beijing School of Medicine, in which they learned about the history and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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Learning about Traditional Chinese Medicine & Finding Farmington in Beijing

Today’s day started off early. Early, meaning right at midnight to wish my roommate Ana a happy birthday (China time). We dedicated today to not only celebrating Ana’s 17th, but also to introducing and experiencing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

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With our trip coming to an end, as well as finishing all of our excursions, today provided a different environment and scenery to our trip. We arrived in the morning at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and made our way up to the third floor where we were welcomed with open arms. Prior to the seminar, I viewed TCM as a somewhat antiquated practice still used to this day. After speaking to Mr. Wang, I learned what traditional medicine really meant to China. The impression I got was that the doctors would rather demonstrate their treatment than use words to describe it. Therapies such as acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and Tuina (massaging) were demonstrated for our group, and we were able to experience the massage firsthand. Personally, my favorite station was the massage because it reminded me of home and it felt amazing. In TCM, they use the tongue and pulse to diagnose points of pain and pressure. What I found most surprising was how many interpretations they can get from one pulse. Not only do the doctors rely on the complexion of their patients, but they also connect their practice to the paired symbols of yin and yang. This shows how deeply rooted spirituality and philosophy is in their culture and practice.

After our long day of learning, we went to a reception hosted by Porter’s nearby for Ancients, new girls who will come to Farmington next year, current students and their families, and others, all connected to MPS. Throughout my experience in China, there have been many times when I felt out of place, but being at this dinner made me feel a part of the community. Even though many of the attendees were strangers to me, Porter’s overlapped our differences and bridged everyone together. It reminded me how large of a network Porter’s carries and how meaningful the school is to others globally. Although being thousands of miles from Farmington, I still felt the unity that Porter’s provides.

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In conclusion, today was filled with birthday wishes, new learning, and reminders of home. Today proved to me that no matter how far away you are, you can always be reminded of where you come from and help you associate yourself with others.

-Kyla G.

At the heart of the city

Please click on the links to view the photographs.

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Today we ventured into the heart of Beijing, to the Forbidden City. We first went to Tian’anmen Square, which is just south of the Forbidden City, and learned about Tian’anmen Tower, an important symbol of the Chinese Communist party. Then we ventured through the immense Forbidden City, which was built in 1420 and served as the emperor’s main residence.

After lunch, we learned about 5 main types of tea found in China: black, green, fruit, fujian, and jasmine tea. Each tea has a different purpose, for example, some tea is good for your skin, helps you sleep, or wakes you up. You drink them at different times of the day depending on the purpose. Tea has many different meanings to people depending on what they drink it for, and it is also very traditional and ties them back to their ancestors. It is all very natural, for example the black tea is ground up leaves that are compressed and stored away for many years, and the longer you store it the more bitter it tastes. The fruit tea was personally my favorite because it was so sweet and had a lot of sugary fruits. The black tea smelled really good because there were dried roses in it. And the Fujian tea was smooth and then sweet at the end, and had to be poured from a clay pot to absorb the essence of the tea.

Later, we went to the Temple of Heaven, a site that was very different from the temples we have visited in the past. The rain was very refreshing after a few hot days and drove away all the crowds, so we could focus on the scenery and artwork. We entered the temple on small walking paths through rectangular patches of trees. The temple was round and had similar artwork to past temples we’ve seen. The rectangular structures represented things on earth, and the circles represented the heavens. Emperors would come here to pray for a good harvest in the following year. Religion, spirituality, and worship are huge to the traditions in China. They have a deep spiritual connection with the history of China, and it guides them throughout their daily lives and shapes who they are. It bonds people together and is why many people return day after day to do exercise at the temple or to be surrounded by others.

Last, we went to a pearl market near the Temple of Heaven. Here are some lessons learned throughout the day in navigating a Beijing market:

  • Bargaining: A new skill many of us had to learn over the last couple days. The men and women operating the stores put a lot of pressure on the consumers to negotiate the price, and often they wanted us to pay substantially more than the price the item was made for. This is very different from any experience in the United States because all the prices are usually set in advance. The bargaining allows us to practice the mission statement at Porter’s by being bold and resourceful. It says a lot about the economy of China, because they things were so cheaply made. The sellers did not seem like they enjoyed their job, because they were constantly fighting with people for their own income. Some of the things at the store included pearls, Gucci backpacks, Supreme sweatshirts, and jade. All things you would assume to be expensive were fake and they attempted to sell it at the same price. The sellers were aggressive and would corner you when you were trying on shoes, or grab your arm as you were walking by. We learned strategies as we went along and some of us were better than others about being stubborn and never overpaying. Overall, bargaining was an experience I am grateful to have had, as stressful as it was.
  • Buying Jade: Jade, today I learned, is very traditional in Chinese jewelry. Many girls have the Chinese symbol for Jade in their name because it represents beauty and purity. The emerald green stone can be used in any type of jewelry and according to Confucianism the stone symbolizes virtue.

We are off tomorrow to the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, where we will learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine and its uses today. Stay tuned!

-Laura G.

 

To the city center

Please click on the links below to see the photographs.

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Today we went on an excursion to many places all around the city of Beijing. In the morning, we explored the Lama and Confucius Temples located in the inner ring of Beijing. There, we had the chance to learn about the history of Buddhism and Daoism, two of the religions that are most commonly practiced in China. Learning about their importance really changed our perspectives of how religion shapes the atmosphere of different countries. We got to view and take part in the traditional practice of burning incense. Buddhism and Daoism are based around the idea of giving and receiving, and also the idea of eternal life and the eventual achieving of nirvana. After visiting temples in the morning, we headed to lunch where we ate shared plated with the traditional lazy susan-style table. Our group then had the opportunity to tour a popular Hutong, also located in the inner most ring of Beijing. There, we learned about the style of living that everyday people carry out and what the ideal household looks like.

After many tours and temples, it came time for everyone’s favorite part… shopping! We visited Qianmen Street and Liulichang Culture Street, where we were given free time to explore and learn about the atmosphere and the old gates of Beijing. At Qianmen Street, we witnessed both the old and the new come together and divide the street in two. Modern shops were often selling the same goods and foods, while old shops were more traditional and often had more unique handmade objects available for purchase. The culture street was by far the most immersive part of the day. We traveled along the street that sold all handmade paintings and jewelry, where we had our first opportunity to bargain. This was our group’s favorite part of the day because we felt so engaged with the local people of Beijing.

Afterward, we ate dinner at a restaurant that specializes in dumplings. It was delicious! We got a special surprise after dinner, where we got the chance to explore another Hutong with many shops and foods. My favorite part, along with many others in my group, was eating churros with ice cream and Nutella that my host student had showed me previously. After being stuffed full with food, we all rode the subway home and called it a night. It was a super fun day touring around Beijing.

-Melina B

Appreciating the arts

Please click on the links below to see photographs.

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Lila Conners shares her reflection of the day:

This morning we all returned from our homestays in time for Monday classes with our host students. Since most of our host students are generally part of RDFZ but are not part of the ICC school, where classes are taught in English, our classes today were taught in Chinese. As observers we got to instead compare the lecture-like classroom at RDFZ with the round table discussion at Porter’s. After classes we attended a flag raising ceremony. It was very cool to see the patriotism represented at the school. We were introduced as a group by the Principal of RDFZ in front of the student body of 6,000+.

After the flag raising ceremony we had traditional Chinese painting class. In the class, we painted traditional Chinese orchids on fans. We all managed to put our own creative spin on the design. After painting we had lunch and then a soccer game against the girls soccer team at RDFZ. We had so much fun bonding with girls and getting some exercise in. Ella took a few tumbles and we happened to catch it on camera. I will be sure to have that video linked below once our media is back up and running. After the soccer game we got changed back into our uniform and headed to Chinese dough modeling. We made cute pandas! Our teacher then made an outstanding bird. The teacher mentioned that the flour used in the modeling clay is the same type of flour used to make traditional Chinese noodles. After dough modeling we headed to a Chinese calligraphy class. Traditional Chinese calligraphy dates back to the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC- 1046 BC). Over many years Chinese calligraphy has evolved into many different forms. We all got to practice writing the word “China” in calligraphy with ink and calligraphy brushes.

After a long day of classes we all got to sit back and enjoy traditional Chinese hotpot – boiling seasoned water where thinly sliced meat and veggies can be added to the pot and cooked quickly. It was delicious! For dessert, Jackie and Cate took us to a restaurant that serves the most lovely and beautiful tea I have ever seen – Cherry blossom tea. It was a perfect way to end Jackie’s birthday and an awesome day!

Tomorrow we venture into Beijing to see the sights. Stay tuned!

Home away from home

Please click on the links below to see photographs.

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 Today was our students’ second and last full day of the homestay experience. We are excited to see them tomorrow and to hear more about their adventures from the weekend! Here are some more highlights.

“The highlight of my day today was probably making dumplings with Betty, Tony, Mel, Cynthia and her parents. Rather than feeling like a tourist, making this typical Chinese dish along side my host student and others made me feel a part of a family. It also was super fun and helped me to really get to know Tony, Cynthia and Betty. Dumplings, being so important to Chinese culture and cuisine, really connected me to Beijing and its history as well as Cynthia’s family and friends.” -Kyla G.

“I went to Zizhuyuan Park. It was really beautiful and there were a lot of people.” -Jackie M.

“My highlight today was going to 798. It was really cool and I loved exploring all the different artwork. I was able to take a lot of pictures and also do some shopping.” -Ana B.

“One of my highlights today was having dinner at the same restaurant we had lunch with Annie Zhao. It was such a coincidence, but I loved the soup dumplings at this restaurant so I had no complaints. After dinner I got to see the CCTV building all lit up at night. A perfect way to end my homestay. I am going to miss Joy and her family but I am excited to see my pals again!” -Lila C.

“I loved the art district. It was so colorful and artsy. There was an album store with every singer you could think of! I bought my family some souvenirs (so if you’re reading this mom, dad, and Aidan, get excited!). I also learned how to make dumplings! So yummy!” -Callie G.

“The highlight of my day was really getting to know my family and traditions better. Meeting their family friends and making dumplings was truly a special way to become immersed into the culture. After learning to cook all of the dinner, I got the chance to sit down with my student and her friend Tony and discuss what life is like in China, a truly eye-opening experience.” -Mel B.

“I went to the 798 art district today and it was just so incredible. It was also my host family’s first time going and that made it even more amazing because they were experiencing everything for the first time also. My host family has been so kind and giving to me and I am so glad to know them and I look forward to staying in contact with them when I get home.” -Ella W.

“The highlight of my day was the beautiful hike we went on. I got to learn all about the ancient temples and the tensions between China and Japan during WW2. The statues were really cool and very old. I loved the art work it reminded me a lot of the Summer Palace. The view was gorgeous and I got to see a lot of blossom trees; the most popular trees in China.” -Laura G.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow as we return to classes at RDFZ!

Embracing the homestay

Please click on the links below to see photographs.

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Today our students spent their first full day with their host students and host families. We are spread out all across Beijing, connecting with our hosts and seeing and trying new things. Here are some highlights our students have sent!

“My highlight today was going out to lunch at the mall. The mall was similar yet very different than the mall in the US. Everything was new to me and it was also very big. My host family brought me to a restaurant there that is known for duck. I really enjoyed the duck and I also loved the ice cream that my host student got me afterwards!” -Ana B.

“When I got back from my many adventures today, going to the Beijing Zoo, the mall, and a hot pot restaurant, my host family taught me how to play a traditional Chinese tile game called Mahjong. I played this game for a few hours and I am just starting to get the hang of it, but I am so glad to have this opportunity to be fully immersed in the culture of China and I am truly grateful to my host family for being so welcoming and kind.” -Ella W.

“I am struggling to choose just one highlight so I’m going to do a few. I love my host family so much. Sarah and Monica (they are twins) tried to teach me some traditional dances and I got to make tea with them. They also brought me to get hot pot where I got to try duck blood and tongue. It was good, but I still like beef. Also at the restaurant they had a performance and I got to be a part of it!” -Callie G.

“My highlight of the day was eating breakfast with my host family and having my host student’s dad talk about tea. He brought out a specialty platter for tea and we had green tea and flower tea. He taught me so much including the history of each tea and when you drink certain types of tea and how many times you can use the tea. He also explained the cultural significance of tea and why so many people love it. I was very grateful for the time he spent with me and I look forward to different types of tea to try tomorrow morning.” -Laura G.

“My highlight was getting to know both my host student, my family, and the city of Beijing. It was so much fun to walk all over the city and meet all my host student’s friends. We went to the oldest part and went through all the shops, temples, lakes, and even a cat cafe with 2 cheetahs and 40 cats. The best part was getting to try all these traditional foods that we saw and that her family cooked. My favorite was churros with vanilla ice cream and Nutella! Such a fun day in Beijing!!” -Melina B.

“The highlight of my day today was walking around the shops and enjoying the views from a little area in the center of Beijing. It was hard to pick just one part that stood out because not only was the food really good but also watching the scenery of my surroundings change as night approached was incredible. All the colorful lights and glow-in-the-dark toys guided us out. It was a good day overall.” -Kyla G.

“My highlight was going to the top of the CCTV tower the tallest building in Beijing) and having a view of the city by night.” -Jackie M.

Stay tuned to hear even more about their adventures tomorrow!