1. What has been the most adventurous thing that you’ve done on the trip so far?
Erika: Definitely trying all the interesting foods here. I’m not usually that adventurous when it comes to food, but so far we have eaten fermented eggs, yak meat, yak cheese, and unidentifiable meat that is cut up with all the bone in it… even the black sesame dumplings that we ate for breakfast this morning.
Kaitlyn: I think one of the most nerve-wracking and adventurous things that I’ve done in my time here was the drive to the nunnery. It was a long drive (almost two hours) and I was in the back of the van, which didn’t have any functional seat-belts. Towards the end of the drive, we were going up switchbacks with very little clearance from the edge – which was absolutely terrifying. Only one car could fit on these switchbacks so imagine my surprise when I saw that there was another car coming from the other direction that passed us!
2. What was the most interesting post-dinner lecture?
Erika: I think my favorite lecture was when Kalli (our Assistant Program Director) was talking about the different social norms and values between the US and this region (Yunnan Province). It was interesting to me because it was not something I had ever really thought about. During that lecture, she also had us rank different values (such as harmony, efficiency, success, etc.) from most to least important in American culture, and then she showed us the most to least important list in Chinese culture. It was amazing to see how different they were, and how much these differences in values was reflected in the local culture.
Kaitlyn: I’d have to say learning about CERS and their involvement in the yak cheese project. It was pretty cool because I’m staying in the Cheese House, which was where they originally experimented with the process of making yak cheese. After the lecture, we got to try some yak cheese! It was actually really good and tasted pretty similar to regular (cow) cheese – except for the texture, which was a little grainier than regular cheese.
3. What has been the most challenging adjustment since getting here?
Erika: Probably having limited access to communicating with family members and friends due to restrictions on Wi-Fi and Internet access here and also the 15-hour time difference.
Kaitlyn: The most challenging adjustment since getting here has been not being able to speak Chinese. It’s been really tough to communicate with the locals, but I have been surprised at how well communicating through non-verbal cues has worked, both with the kids and adults. In addition, I’ve tried to learn a little bit of Chinese, but it has proven fairly difficult because of the large emphasis on tones and pronunciation that I haven’t gotten accustomed to yet.
4. What has been your favorite camp activity/lesson?
Erika: My favorite camp activity was makeshift indoor bowling with the kids. Since we couldn’t play outside because it was raining, we lined up a bunch of empty plastic water bottles and let the kids try to knock them over by rolling a volleyball. They get really into the game and it’s cool to watch them get so excited about something so simple.
Kaitlyn: I really enjoyed going on the short hike with the kids. We organized the hike to be a flower-picking contest, where the group with the largest variety of flowers after the hike won. It worked extremely well and was fun to see how energetic and engaged the students were in finding and picking the flowers; it was an added bonus that we got to take the flowers they had picked and put them in lovely vase arrangements afterwards.
5. What was your motivation for coming to China?
Erika: I had multiple teammates go on ACE trips last year and they all highly recommended it. I had also never been out of the country, and I never thought I would have the opportunity to travel abroad in college due to timing restrictions of being a student-athlete. The CERS center sounded super interesting and the timing worked out well with my schedule, so I decided to go for it!
Kaitlyn: One of my teammates, Becky, went to ACE in Vietnam last year. She absolutely loved the experience and was trying to get some of the team to apply for the ACE program this year. Plus, I had never been to Asia before and I wanted to go since I thought that I would get a really good sense of the culture. Also, the China trip stood out to me because of the environmental sustainability component; I’ve always been really passionate about the environment, so this trip seemed like a great fit for me.
6. What are you looking forward to most for the rest of the trip?
Erika: I’m looking forward to continuing to develop relationships with all the kids at camp and watching them put on a talent show for us at the end of camp.
Kaitlyn: I’ve really enjoyed working with the kids during the camp, but I have to say I’m most excited to explore more of Shangri-La during the last couple days of the trip. We will have the opportunity to go into Old Town and I’m really excited to see all the local shops. I’m also really excited to go into the yak cheese store there and see all of the different types of yak cheese that CERS has been a part of making.