There was no better way to start 2012 than an amazing two week trip to Yunnan Province, where the largest number of Chinese ethnic minority groups reside. On the day of Chinese New Year, around 60 IES students hopped onto a 39 hours train and ready to start the adventure. Here was our busy plan: Kunming--Dali--Tiger Leap Gorge--Shangrila--Napa Village--Lijiang.
Kunming was one of my favorite places to be. During our two days stayed there, several fellow IES friends and I had twice danced in the Green Lake Park with local elders and other tourists and kicking Jianzi with little children. And not to forget about the delicious Over-the-Bridge Noodle we had, where ten plates of vegetables and meats combined together to make a single bowl of noodle soup.
Hiking Tiger Leap Gorge was also a big highlight and a proud accomplishment of the group. The 28 switchback hike was physically demanding, but the beautiful scenery, the horses and donkeys, and the people we encountered along the way made it all worth the while.
We also had the opportunity to stay with Tibetan families in Napa Village nearby Shangrila for several days, where we observed and learned Tibetan culture personally. My hosted family introduced traditional Tibetan food that I had never even heard of before, such as buttered tea (酥油茶),"zamba," and Tibetan hotpot. I also had the luck of participating in my host father's 36 year old birthday celebration that lasted whole day and night long where I met and interacted with different relatives of the family. It definitely felt great to immerse myself into a new culture and built connections with local people. During our last night there, the students and host families had a huge party together and many fellow students and I dressed up in Tibetan dresses. It was lots of fun!
The Yunnan trip was in many ways fantastic! The students bonded throughout the adventure, sharing our "laduzi" stories and helping each other bargain for low prices. By the end of the trip, I felt so much closer to my friends and classmates! The trip provided the opportunity for me to experience things I have never done before, like hiking Tiger Leap Gorge for two days and learning about Tibetan culture. The trip also made me more adventurous, flexible, and culturally aware as a person and those qualities are very helpful as I continue to adapt to China. The Yunnan trip was a unique experience full of learning and FUN! I want to do it again!