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Archive for November, 2010

Enclosed is a copy of my term paper, on Chinese energy policy. It’s an incredibly interesting subject – I hope you enjoy the read.

Chinese Energy Policy .pdf

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Thanksgiving in China, was an interesting holiday. All classes, aside from Chinese, were canceled for the day. Some of the students organized a game of football, as there really weren’t any games we could watch. After three months of eating with chopsticks at nearly every meal it was a welcomed break to enjoy a fantastic traditional American feast. All of our professors were there (see the picture of most of my Chinese class), it was a nice break to have some traditional American food…

It was quite bizarre, but it will be a Thanksgiving that I never forget.

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One thing living in China for the past three months has taught me is you cannot make broad, sweeping generalizations about a country as vast and diverse as this one. That being said, it is generally assumed that the nation’s top universities are in Beijing. My host school, the University of International Business and Economics (simplified Chinese:对外经济贸易大学 pinyin: Duiwai Jingji Maoyi Daxue), is ranked among the top institutions in Beijing. It hosts over 11,000 students from across the world, though most of those students are studying the language and taking courses in English. There are over 7,000 undergraduates studying here, and they will be the focus of today’s post.

UIBE is home to the largest dormitory in Asia,;10,000 girls live in one ten story building – five to a room. Generally they will have the same roommates all four years of study. Electricity is shut off at 11pm in the dorms, so you will find that many students are forced to leave campus to find a place to study; usually students take between 9 and 15 courses each semester. Every night as I walk home from class, going to my luxurious two person apartment I have to reflect upon how lucky Western students are. In my building live several professors, and Chinese students cannot believe how large our rooms are. As I walk home from class every night I see male students walking across campus to the shower building, most wearing only a bathrobe in the bitter cold.

Living in such cramped quarters does not afford students much, if any, privacy. Couples have very little opportunity to be alone together, especially as men are not allowed into the girl’s dorm. But in the entrepreneurial spirit that is so common across this country a solution has been presented; outside virtually every college in China are a slew of hotels – offering hourly rates. It’s rather funny seeing couples quickly walking away trying to make as if they’re coming form a nearby restaurant and not the hotel.

I have a number of qualms with the educational system in this country, but my biggest issue is how poorly students are treated. Even at UIBE, which is a top school, students are crammed into rooms that an American college freshman would turn his nose up at. Despite the poor conditions, every student I speak with considers themselves fortunate to be here. Many in China do not have the opportunity to study at the undergraduate level.

To get into college in China you must complete the Gao Kao, a three day exam covers every subject they have studied in high school, and your score determines to what schools you may apply. Even a single point deviation from a school’s score range destroys your chance of attending. Once this hurdle is passed your family must come up with the money to pay for school (about $2500 a year); China has no student loans, and mortgages are uncommon, if your family cannot pay out of pocket your chance at a college education is gone. Life as a student (high school and college) is extremely stressful, and its no wonder that suicide is the leading cause of death for that age group.

Life as an undergrad in China is challenging, to say the least. But I doubt a student would give up this opportunity for anything in the world (except to study in a Western University).

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Single’s Day

November the 11th, 11.11, is an unofficial holiday to celebrate being single. The date was chosen because it has 4 ones, so I assume next year’s single’s day will be especially important (2011.11.11). As far as I can tell it is a time for single friends to go out to dinner together, and to enjoy the tasty treat known as pocky – a wafer stick coated in chocolate.

Translated from Chinese the name of the holiday literally means "bare sticks holiday".

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On October 30th we departed for Guilin, via a 24 hour train ride. Guilin is located in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, it is known for its karst peaks and proximity to the Li River.

The karst peaks play an important role in global culture, inspiring scenery for movies from Star Wars to Avatar. They are huge limestone formations, which were formed when this area was under water. They continue to be shaped by acidic rain.

We arrived in Guilin and enjoyed Halloween at a local club. The locals were all dressed up, and the bar put on a great Thriller reenactment. It was a great way to spend the holiday.

We took a bus the next morning to Dazhai Village, this area is known for its Rice Terraced Fields. I spent about two hours walking through the fields, it was a beautiful site. These fields took the Yao people over 650 years to build, starting in the 11th century. It was an ingenious solution to be able to cultivate the side of a hill.

The Yao people are one of the 55 recognized ethnic minorities in China. They number over 2 million, and populate South-western China. They are known for their traditional embroidery skills, but their main sources of revenue today are agriculture and tourism.

The next day we stayed at a hot spring resort. There were a series of hot springs ranging from 35-50 degrees Celsius (95-120F). There was one special pool, which you could pay extra for; it was called the “Dr. Fish Pool”. For 80rmb you could sit in this pool as long as you wish – and have a school of fish eat the dead skin off your body. It was a very odd sensation; they almost felt like small cats licking you. And you had better watch out for fish trying to swim up your trunks…

On November 3rd we traveled to Yangshuo – the most popular tourist destination in China. The first night we were there we took a cruise down the Li River and watched a show of the traditional Cormorant fishing technique; where a string is tied around the bird’s neck so they can get the fish out of the water but not eat it.

The next day I spent kayaking along the Li River, and tried the local specialty – beer fish. The following day I went mountain biking to Moon hill, and climbed the 800 steps to the peak. We then biked to a mud cave; I will get the pictures soon to upload.

Yangshuo has a number of bars and clubs. It is full of westerners looking to see rural China. If you ever find yourself there I highly recommend checking out Monkey Jane’s rooftop bar and hostel. They have nightly beer pong tournaments (it almost felt like being in America)…

The trip proved to be a much needed reprieve from Beijing, to breath fresh air and enjoy the warm weather was really the highlight of the trip.

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