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2015 EXCHANGE GROUP UPDATE » This year's group left Boston on Tuesday, February 17. Check back here daily during their 8-week travels and studies for their latest blog posts!
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bubbling (Many Exclamation Points)


This past weekend the good folks at Hanggao had a lot on their plate: on Saturday, While we enjoyed the Xixi wetlands and their river pearls, the school was administering several sections of the Gaokao, or college entrance exam, and on Sunday, the student-run Sakura was to be held. Wode Tian! (My heavens)

Shakespearean Cues?


But old folks, many feign as they were dead;
Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead.

Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 5

Though it is highly unlikely that the Chinese government takes its cues from Shakespeare, in China women must retire at the age of 55, and the theory behind this mandate is that women who are 55 and older tire easily. Really? Walk through any public square in China and you will find more than enough evidence to easily debunk such a cockamamie idea. Everywhere there are women lined up in rows, dancing to music either played by live musicians or blasted from boom boxes. And they aren’t just dancing; they’re moving and grooving. Some of them even put John Travolta to shame.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hair Salon


Yesterday, in the evening, I went to get my hair cut at the local hair salon. When I held my forefinger and thumb a half inch apart to indicate how much I wanted taken off, it seems the stylist took me to mean that was how long I wanted my hair. Holy Eisenhower! Nevertheless, my hair will grow, and the experience was yet another adventure. I had heard there was a salon on an alley just off one of the lanes of the silk market, and I might have missed it but for the old fashioned barber’s pole outside the door. Inside, customers occupied each of the two chairs in front of mirrors, and beneath the mirrors were all the clipping and combing paraphernalia you’d find anywhere.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mastering Mahjong


Hello readers! Because our days are becoming more or less the same structurally, most of the blogs from now on will be about our thoughts on cultural happenings here in China rather than retellings of our adventures. We will have some more adventures, however, so stay tuned for those stories! If you do like tales of adventure and can’t wait for the ones to come, click the “next page” button located at the bottom of the blog homepage to scroll back to the blogs about our days of travel!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Saved by the Bell!


Dear readers, it has recently come to my attention that Ms. Alighieri and Ms. Viz have been encouraging their students to read our blogs and comment. Although the blog itself is blocked in China (why?!?), we receive email notifications informing us of your contributions. We are all very glad to hear from you and greatly appreciate you taking the time to read about our activities. Life at Hanggao is fun but if you'd like to hear about slightly more raucous and exciting adventures, we would highly recommend that you also check out older blog posts from the month when we were traveling. There, you shall find tales regarding "The Time I Flooded the Bathroom while Showering" (<-- this actually occurred more than once) as well as "The Time I Yakked in The Tour Van."

The Classroom


Rows of perfectly behaved, thoroughly attentive students ready to soak up anything you teach? That is a myth. As in many classes at DS, here at Hangzhou there are some students who are true scholars, many who want to learn and therefore apply themselves and one or two who cannot wait for the period to end. The classes are large—each numbers about 50 students—and it takes some time for everyone to settle down. One class took a little longer to start today, because at the beginning of this particular period, the school piped music into the classrooms to signal a time for the students to rest their eyes. I heard the music in classrooms down the hall, and as soon as it began, a girl in the class I was to teach jumped up to switch the music on in our classroom as well. Students took off their glasses and massaged their eyes in a uniform manner that clearly had been taught to them. I could tell that the music was about to end when they all opened their eyes, put their glasses back on and straightened in their seats. Some things in Hangzhou High School are still lockstep, but I am told that discipline is much more relaxed here now than it once was, and I believe it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Romantic Star Ferry Part Deux


Today was jam-packed; we visited a temple, wandered in the tea, and had our first views of West Lake. We started early, around 8 in the morning, to meet Rose, an English teacher here at Hanggao, friend of the Exchange, and universally renowned fashionista, our effervescent tour guide, Bobby, and Ezra, a young female student Lindsay invited to join us.

Dinner and a Show in Hangzhou


We're starting to get into a rhythm here in Hangzhou. Nik, Ola and I have completed a five-day school week with our host families, with whom we’ve become more or less comfortable living. I’ve become close to my host sister, Rich, because of her straightforward personality and her superb English skills. While her, as well as her classmate’s, English skills are great, they sometimes make it a hard to practice my Chinese because these students are so eager to practice their English with a native speaker. I’m learning to balance using English with them in return for Chinese lessons in return. My host parents are also using more Chinese with me by telling me what certain words mean in Chinglish, which I appreciate very much.



On Sunday, Steven Fang, a student who came to DS last year, and his mother took me out for lunch. Not just any lunch, it was Peking Duck, such a delicacy that you want to stretch the repast for as long as possible to enjoy every bit. And it wasn’t just the duck; it was a performance and a class. A chef came in with the duck to carve it into even slices and then taught us the proper way to place the duck slices, along with onion, hoisin sauce, and cucumber onto a very thin pancake, about six inches in diameter, and wrap the whole into a roll to be eaten in two bites. This process is repeated until the duck is gone, and between pancakes you sample other dishes, such as the sweet Osmanthus soup, a crab and doufu ragout and several vegetables. We were in our own dining room in Yi Jia Xian, a high-end restaurant on Baochu Road here in Hangzhou. Our little salon had an anteroom, to which Steven returned from time to time to search the cupboard for whatever was needed, be it more serving spoons, bowls or napkins. The atmosphere was a hard-to-achieve and wonderful combination of elegance and coziness, an ambiance that requires time and subtlety. Subtlety was, it turned out, the order of the day.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hangzhou Happenings


Now that we've been in Hangzhou for a few days, we are starting to get our bearings. In the mornings, I bike to school with my host sister. Although the roads are slightly calmer than those in Beijing or Xi'an, it's not by a lot. On our first day of biking, I faced what I thought was an immediate death at least 8 times during a 25 minute ride. I've come to realize that a public bus will never actually hit you, it will just pass you by a few centimeters. As for walking, the best method is to stick with the locals. What I usually do is I wait till I see a group of young adults and I just fall in step with them. There have been times when opposed to covertly following a couple across the street, I consider just linking arms with them or hopping on someone's back and being carried across.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We're Cheerleaders Now.


I woke up very excited for school. My host mother had set out an early morning banquet of dumplings, fruits, and soft-boiled eggs to fuel the academic pursuits she assumed would lay head for Charlie (my host bro) and me. While I'm sure Charlie had a feichang intellectual day, my education took a rather different direction.

Switching Gears


“There are a number of teachers here at Hangzhou who can forecast the weather by touching the walls of the school.” With this, William, the teacher who will be traveling to Dover in May, ran his hand along the tiles of the corridor wall, then turned to show me his wet palm. Sure enough, last night it poured. Buckets. And thundered with lightning and hail. This morning, everything was wet, inside and out. The corridors of the school buildings are arcades, open to the elements, and the floors everywhere are mopped regularly to clean away the dirt tracked in from the street. Since arriving in Hangzhou I’ve been told by many that this is the rainy season and that I should be ready for a downpour at any time. So far, it has rained heavily only at night, and I’ve been able to ride my bike to school each morning. I am getting accustomed to the dampness; fond of it actually, for the way it seems to bring out the songbirds.