White privilege is a real, and saddening, phenomenon in many developing countries where people of Caucasian descent are treated in a different way than those of other descent. In China, this is clearly seen in all matters of daily life. Even in Shanghai, a city with a huge international presence, people of different races are treated differently, as well as different from Chinese locals. Sadly, foreigners in China still operate as if fixed within a tier system. Yet that system is not organized by country of origin, it is strictly constructed through color of skin. Those with white skin are treated with best, making up the most privileged tier. Those with darker skin, such as Latinos or African Americans, are given a second tier status. Lastly, Chinese locals are disrespectfully placed in the third tier.
In China, white preference is clearly showcased in beauty standards. Unlike in the US, in China skin color is not a sensitive topic, instead it is a bluntly discussed topic. Chinese people try hard to keep their skin as pale and white as possible, because in China whiter skin is a symbol of high status. Chinese people will carry around special umbrellas to keep the sun from darkening their skin, put on skin whitening creams, and wear long pants and shirts in the heat of the summer to protect their skin. Aside from skin, people in China also believe that Western eyes are the epitome of beauty, and many will get plastic surgery to change their appearance to be more similar to that of Westerners. For example, in China the most common plastic surgery is a surgery to pull back your eyelids, making the eyes bigger and rounder. Chinese women are naturally beautiful, and it is upsetting to me to walk around and see all the fake eyelids on the streets.
...continue reading "White Privilege in China"
Shanghai is a very international city, and therefore I have the exciting opportunity to interact with people from all over the world. As well as interacting with Chinese people every day, the international community in Shanghai makes it very easy for us “foreigners” to meet and share experiences. On one hand, these interactions have mainly been positive. On the other hand, I have gotten many mixed reactions to my being American. Most Mexicans I have met here have come off very offensive until I told them I didn’t vote for Trump. A lot of Europeans just shake their heads when they hear I am from the United States and proceed to emphasize their intellectual and moral superiority.
Chinese people have a broad spectrum of views on Americans. Government propaganda, over the years, has worked to highlight the worst of US life, which sadly now they have a lot of material to work with. For example, Trump’s whirlwind election and subsequent first 100 days in China are widely broadcasted in China, whereas Obama’s wasn’t. In addition, news of racial prejudice and violence against minorities is also present in China, to the point where I even had a Chinese person tell me he hated African Americans because he wanted to be welcoming and thought I did too because I was American. Some other weird conceptions of Americans include: we work out too much. Our staple food is McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Every person is in a fraternity. We think we are the best in the world.
Chinese people are also fascinated by some of the knowledge we have about China. When I was in Beijing last summer, my teacher was shocked to find out we had any idea that the Tiananmen Protests occurred. Many Chinese are also stupefied to learn that I am really interested in learning their language. Most younger people in China have had more exposure to the international world and are less surprised by the things that Americans do. A lot of them use VPNs, have very liberal values, and easily laugh and mingle among foreigners.
...continue reading "How China sees US"
When I decided I wanted to study abroad I knew right away that it would be South America, and either Chile or Argentina would have to be my destination. So once I settled on Chile and got comfortable in Santiago, I knew I wanted to take an opportunity to visit Argentina if I could. So when a good deal came up on a flight, me and three friends decided to just go for it. We stayed in an Airbnb and made a vague itinerary with any much packed into 3 days as possible.
I had been told that Argentina was very unique from other countries in Latin America and I wanted to test that for myself, so I made some observations to compare with my experiences in Chile!
- The Spanish - Chilean's have notoriously bad Spanish with a lot of slang words and a strong accent. Argentines also speak with a unique accent where they make the "ll" or "Y" sounds into almost a J. But generally I found it pretty easy to understand them.
- The cities - Buenos Aires is by far more modern and European than Santiago. The streets are very wide, there are many monuments and statues and theres a lot of free wifi!
- Food - Neither country is very well known for their cuisine. But Chile boasts good seafood and wine while Argentina has pizza and Italian food (from its Italian immigrants) as well as great meat. Great might be an understatement since I had the best steak in the universe.
- Argentines tend to be taller and more European/Italian looking, take that as you will.
- Mood - Chileans are very down to earth, and welcoming of foreigners (since they are a very isolated country). On the other hand Argentines consider themselves to be better than the rest of Latin America and are not impressed by US citizens since they get so many tourists.
- Natural beauty - Santiago has is surrounded by the Andes mountain and have Buenos Aires beat no question - but I have been told the rest of Argentina is very naturally beautiful.
- Overall - In general both cities are super interesting, with rich histories and struggles. We were able to see amazing art and culture and eat some great food.
...continue reading "Not Crying in Argentina"
This weekend I went on one of the most challenging excursions of my life – hiking through Wuyuan, China’s mountainous rural landscape. Me and two other classmates hiked 50 miles over the course of 2 days in one of China’s most beautiful areas, got lost over 100 times, and even accidentally ended up climbing a mountain into a different province than what Wuyuan was in. It was an amazing, yet tiring, experience, and taught me a lot – not only about how far I could push myself, but also about Chinese rural life.
...continue reading "Trekking Through Rural China"
This has been a very busy, exciting and exhausting couple of days! I just got back from a weekend trip to Pucon! Pucón is a town in central Chile's Lake District, lying on Lake Villarrica next to the snow-capped Villarrica volcano. Pucon is an adventure tourism hub, and is renowned for access to hiking trails, white-water rafting and kayaking as well as skiing and snowboarding, amazing natural hot springs and most importantly the trek to the top of the Villerrica Volcano!
Villarrica is the most active volcano in Chile, and top three most active in the world, with its more recent eruption being just a couple years ago in 2015. Trekking Villarrica is usually one of the major draws for backpackers and adventures who come to Pucon and even Chile in general. The trek to the crater / summit of Villarrica takes 4-6 hours of steep uphill climb and using an ice axe to break summit a frozen glacier with ice falling down around you. The climb is considered somewhat dangerous and tourists have been hurt or even killed in the task. So regulations have now changed requiring any non-expert hiker to hire a guide or tour company and shortening the amount of time allowed for the climb.
So being the inexperienced climbers that we are, we did some research (not enough) and booked the hike with a local tour company. On the night before our 6:30am start time I made the mistake of doing some more research into the difficulty of the hike and honestly I started to panic. Before coming to Chile, I have hiked maybe three times in my life and never in conditions like this. I like to work out and be adventurous but I am also very nervous about failure and this has sometimes kept me back from trying things which don't come naturally to me. (Also I just really hate the cold, so ice glacier did not sound too appealing).
...continue reading "Ain’t no volcano high enough"
Shanghai, like many Chinese cities, is known for its skyscraper forests and busy downtowns. In the United States, we usually think that a city is composed of the downtown area and suburbs. China does not have what we would usually consider “suburbs”. As China underwent its rapid developmental race, people rushed to live downtown in the big cities. Huge apartment buildings were constructed to hold the increasing population of the east coast. Yet in this rush to put up some of the tallest buildings in the world, Chinese cities never developed a gradual transition from city to rural area. The “suburb” is not a concept in China the way it is in the US.
...continue reading "Suburbs of Shanghai"
Midterm season is upon me, and my hunt for the perfect café is on. Luckily, Shanghai seems to have been influenced heavily by its French colonizers, and has a bustling café culture. There are cafés everywhere, not just downtown in the European Quarters. Interestingly, a lot of these cafes try to mimic European style cafes, with croissants and cheesecake.
But, instead of like other “Western” restaurants that try to serve Italian or French food, the baked goods in the cafés are absolutely delicious. Shanghai has absolutely amazing cheesecake, it’s light and fluffier than the cheesecake found in the States. However, all of these cafes have a great Chinese twist, they sell intricate teas that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. A big trend in China now is fruit teas, teas that are made from a mix of dried fruit and flowers. They are served in clear pots, and are not only sweet and wonderful tasting, but also look fascinating.
Because midterms at Fudan University are a lot like finals at GW (where everything is in one week), I have recently spent a lot of time in cafés. Here are a few of my favorite:
Pain Chaud. Pain Chaud is interesting because it’s part of a restaurant complex that includes a bar and an Italian restaurant. Despite the fact that was created specifically to target international students at Fudan, the café has really great croissants. It’s also located in the middle of a street that I would call “old China”, where trash, peddlars, dust and crumbling buildings dominate. So, this café is an interesting mix, but close to my apartment and a good place to work with good pastry and free lemon water.
...continue reading "Shanghai’s Cafe Culture"
Very exciting update here in Chile!! Just last night I got to experience my first ever earthquake!! Since arriving here there have been a couple of small tremors but nothing worth writing home about. Until on Saturday night the 22nd of April there was a 6.2 quake with an epicenter in Valparaiso. 6.2 would generally be considered a pretty serious earthquake.
The scale for measuring earthquake (The Richter Scale) classifies them 1-10 and each number illustrates exponential worsening. 6-7 level is considered to be a strong quake. However, in Chile they say that this scale is very different. Chile is one for the most earthquake prone countries in the world and the location of the largest quake on record, a 9.5, in Valdivia, Chile in 1960. Chileans will proudly tell you that well in order places anything over a 5 point earthquake is something to talk about, here you need to hit at least 7 to make it on anyone’s radar.
The reason that Chilean’s have their own scale is how prepared they are in this country for earthquake. Since the devastating quake in Valparaiso in the 1800s hundreds when much of the city was leveled the Chileans have focused on building more sustainable structures. They are very careful with construction to build with materials that flexible rather than rigid allowing the buildings to sway rather than break. This is a very impressive engineering feat and it was been enacted very effectively throughout the country, especially considering that Chile is not considered fully developed.
But Chileans have not only focused on good construction but on educating their citizens, after the earth quake of 2010 about 500 deaths were reports, and while that number is significantly smaller than it would have been in a country which was less prepared it was in great part due to a lack of education. Many people by the beaches did not know to expect the possibility of a tsunami and thus stayed out by the ocean as it receded and were killed when the wave came in. Since there was has been a significant focus on education and in the most recent over 8 point quake in 2011, there were only 11 deaths total. A truly impressive number.
...continue reading "What's Shaking in Chile"
This week I went to one of China’s most famous and beautiful tourist attractions, the ancient water village of Zhouzhuang. This water village, also known as the “Venice of the East”, is an quiet, small, ancient village built atop a lake inlet outside Suzhou, a city in Jiangsu province. In my opinion, the name “Venice of the East” is a bit of a misnomer because the only thing that ZhouZhuang has in common with the large European city is its canal structure. Unlike Venice, with its multiple story tall buildings, ZhouZhuang portrays a serene, almost pastoral-like paradise. The villages’ canals and houses are shadowed by weeping willows, and the air is filled with smells of roasting pork sprinkled with mouth-watering spices. Although ZhouZhuang is kind of built up like a tourist trap, it is not crowded, and the day we went was beautiful and sunny so the overpriced food and yelling hagglers put no damper or stress on our visit.
Getting to ZhouZhuang itself was neither hectic nor troublesome, we simply took a tourist bus from Shanghai there and back. The route was only 2 hours and passed through what can only be described as “Chinese suburbs”. When people think of China, they normally think of the giant, busy cities and ancient architecture, but are not familiar with what may lie in between. On our way to ZhouZhuang, we passed by multiple story houses clumped together, rice fields, busy downtown areas with flea markets, a few apartment buildings, and many factories. In order to reduce pollution in its large cities, the Chinese government has been working to move factories outside of its sprawling metropolitan areas like Shanghai and Beijing. As the weather was beautiful and the trees green, it was surprising to drive by civil defense manufacturing factories on our way to the ancient water villages.
...continue reading "The Floating Village"
Now I am not actually sure if that is a real nick name for Valpo or not but I really think it is should be. Valparaiso is a Chilean port city which is famous for its steep funiculars, the incredible street art and the numerous colorful, clifftop homes. Valparaiso was also once home to the Nobel Prizing winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. As one of only two noble prize winners from Chile Neruda is something of a national hero, and several of his houses and other important buildings have been turned into wonderful museums and monuments to him.
The city of Valparaiso and its sister beach town of Vina del Mar are very important to any Santiago study abroad experience. At first glance Santiago could sometimes be mistaken for many other modern cities in Europe and North America. It is large and busy, a bit dirty (but less so than NYC) and generally seems pretty modern and westernized. If you don't know where to look you might miss the history. Valparaiso on the other hand allows you to see more of the art and culture of staring you right in the face. And it is so close to Santiago that it will surely be visited by and exchange student. You can get to either Valpo or Vina from Santiago in just a quick 90 minute bus right that costs between $5 and $10 US Dollars.
Since I have been in Santiago (about 8 weeks) I was hearing so much about other people's trips to Valparaiso. i had made it out to the beach at Vina but Valpo was very much lacking in my life. So on Friday morning I fought against my impending cold and we dragged our selves through Semana Santa (Easter Weekend) traffic to Valpo.
...continue reading "Valparaiso: City of Colors"