Journey to Butuo – The Fu Hui Foundation and the lives that it’s changed

CHINA GCELE 2015

To say that this trip to China has been the greatest most impactful experience of my life would be an understatement. How do you begin to tell the story of a journey that has changed so many lives? Not just of the college students and teachers who participated in this experience, but of the children who we worked with and who have had a chance at a better life through the Fu Hui Educational foundation.

The Whole Group
The Whole Group

Into the Mountains…

The car ride into the mountains from Xichang to Butuo was rocky, to say the least. The rugged roads were extremely bumpy and winding through the most gorgeous landscapes. We passed villages filled with houses mostly of the same build, marked with the Yi emblem. Female villagers (and even some children) walked by with big woven baskets from working in the fields. Livestock seemed to roam freely and children (from infancy up) in groups or alone were also on the sides of the road, seeming to be taking care of each other, an image most of us can’t comprehend. Men were seen sitting in groups on the sides of the streets in conversation while women were weaving intricate coats that we’d see other villagers sporting. I asked one of the Volunteers Sylvia why it was almost all women I saw working and she advised me that men were more privileged in the Yi society, and therefore didn’t need to work, a fact that not only baffled me by it’s inequality but also by the economic stress it must cause.

Hardworking women and children of Butuo
Hardworking women and children of Butuo

Home Visits…

On our first day in the mountains we went on home visits to some of the Fu hui students homes, which would result in being one of our most emotional days of the trip. Seeing the living conditions of their homes was eye opening, there was no plumbing, no electricity, a bed shared by 3 was a luxury, a roof made of straw that leaked when it rained, all things we take for granted back home. The home I visited was of a girl named Sai Zi (pronounced Sigh-Zuh) who’s Grandmother was raising her and her older brother, after her father died and her mother was remarried and moved away. The Grandmother was moved to tears and brought many of us to tears in return, we told her what a great job she had been doing raising her grandchildren. When she was given some eggs (a valuble commodity to the Yi people) she offered one to Sai Zi and one to her neighbour, a gesture so generous of someone with so little. 

Inside Sai Zi's home with her Grandmother and Brother
Inside Sai Zi’s home with her Grandmother and Brother

Walking back to the school holding Sai Zi’s hand, I didn’t want to let go, I wanted to bring her home with me to have a better life, but I knew it wasn’t my place, that through Fu Hui she was getting an education and a chance for a better life. A chance I pray her brother gets as well, as he’s unsponsored and less likely to escape the hardships that his elders had.

Not wanting to let go
Not wanting to let go
With Sai Zi and her brother
With Sai Zi and her brother

That same day, gathered in a circle we learned and danced with the Fu hui students their traditional Yi dance. It felt amazing and welcoming to be able to share that with the children. All of these activities helped prepare us for what was to come, our whole purpose of this journey to China: to run the empowerment camps. And now that we were aquainted with the children and understood their backrounds, another part of our journey was about to begin.

Dancing the Yi traditional dance
Dancing the Yi traditional dance

Stay tuned for Part 2…

By Julia Frankling

Hello from China! 你好 !

It’s been more than a month since I came to Beijing, China. It is my second time to be here, but not as a tourist anymore. I am doing my internship program in one of the companies that Centennial College is working with – China Forestry Holdings (you can check more about them on their website – http://www.chinaforestryholdings.com). I am exciting to be here and work with them; everyone is so friendly and nice. My workplace is located in the financial part of Beijing, where you can meet a lot of foreigners and see extremely high buildings.

I will tell you more about my free time. I was extremely lucky; I was on the vacation for 12 days, because of Chinese New Year, so I had time to explore Beijing a bit more.

The first place that I’ve visited is the Temple of Heaven. It really looks like a heaven, breathtaking view from the high point of the temple. The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and was described as «a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations».

(At that day it was extremely crowded (I guess is always crowded), as you can see it on the picture)

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(With one of my colleagues – Caitlin)

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The second place that I’ve visited is Tiananmen Square. This place is more popular, than Temple of Heaven. Used as a massive meeting place since its creation, its flatness is contrasted by the 38-meter high Monument to the People’s Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.

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That’s it for now, but still more to come! Once again thank you, Centennial College for giving me this opportunity!

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me: kvaseva@hotmail.com.

Off to see the world!!!

Over the weekend, I decided to go out of GuangZhou to visit other attraction areas. I went to Shen Zhen to see the Windows of the World (WOW). This is one of the attractions that I said to myself “oh my god, this is a must see!” I finally decided to go over the weekend because if I don’t then I will not have any other time to go. Since I will be returning back to Canada in 2 weeks, it will be very busy for me from now until then, so I don’t know when I’ll have the time to go see WOW. I have already made plans for the next 2 weekends so the only time I had was last weekend.

Although it was planned very last minute to go WOW with my co-worker, but we still had an amazing time! Too bad we only went for a day trip, it would be nice if I could actually stay there for 2 days, that way I can see other places in Shen Zhen as well. Unfortunately, I had to work on Sunday so we went on Sat morning and came home that night. It took about 2 hours to arrive at our destination (1.5 hour on the train from GuangZhou to ShenZhen + 30 mins on the subway). It was quite a journey getting there but I think it was worth it.

What is Windows of the World you ask? It’s essentially an attraction area that has miniature sculptures of famous places around the world such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Pyramids from Egypt. They also had Niagara Falls and the Statue of Liberty which I did not visit because I thought at the time, since I live in Canada, there is no need for me to see them. However, after I came home, I kind of regretted that I did not go through the park thoroughly. A big factor that resulted in my decision was because the shoes I was wearing on that day were not completely comfortable so after walking for a while, my feet were hurting like crazy!

When I visited the Pyramids, I paid $20RMB to sit on a camel to take pictures. It was a well spent $20 because I got a really priceless photo! At first, I thought it was a fake camel because it was standing there so still, but afterwards, I was startled because it started moving! Anyway, there was one photo where I’m sitting on the camel and I’m “supposedly” be in “Egypt” but then the cameraman also got the “Eiffel tower” in the picture! And what’s funnier is that the camel is smiling! Well, to me it looks like its smiling because you can see the teeth! I found it quite amusing.

After coming back home, I was exhausted so I went to bed and the next day I went to work. My legs were hurting for 2 days from the combination of all the walking and the uncomfortable shoes.

Tip: When going out to somewhere that requires a lot of walking, wear comfortable shoes!!!

To see more pictures taken at the Windows of the World, visit www.photobucket.com/mchen27-wow

Purchasing online? Forget about it!

All I wanted to do was to purchase some little items on “TaoBao” which is the Chinese version of eBay. I never knew buying online can be so frustrating and complicated! I understand that it is the way it is because of security issues since there are many hackers trying to steal identity and personal information online… but I didn’t know it could be so complicated! The reason why I wanted to create the account was so I can buy things online without having to trouble others to buy for me! Most stores on TaoBao only accept PayPal as a method of payment so I also had to create a Chinese PayPal account. It was an incredibly complicated process!!! They asked for my ID number either from passport, or your citizen ID number. Once I created the account, I thought it could be like PayPal where we could add in our credit card number and everything will be great. BUT, I can’t add my credit card because the credit card MUST be issued by a China bank! They don’t accept other cards! So I thought I will input my china bank card instead, but I still can’t do that because I need to input my ID number! But this time, it HAD to be a Chinese citizen ID number! It was such a long complicated process and since I cannot read Chinese, it made everything longer because I need to copy and paste everything into Google translate in order to understand what information is required.

Pros:

–          Unlike eBay, we are able to “chat” with the merchants to answer any questions we may have if they appear online. We do not need to wait a day or two to receive a respond from the seller. I love this idea of how we can just talk to them instantly! eBay should really introduce this feature! I think it will be great and beneficial for everyone!

–          Everything online is so cheap! Literally. The neck pillow I bought in Canada cost me about $20, however, I found the SAME pillow for only  $5 CAD.

–          Shipping is extremely fast! I order something online, and it arrives the NEXT day! And that’s not even express mail!!!

–          Able to pay cash once the product arrives! All you need to do is to submit your order, and once the item arrive then you pay for it! That’s awesome! I would love it if we have that in Canada!

Cons:

–          Very user Unfriendly

–          Require too much personal information such as ID numbers and passport numbers etc.

–          ONLY accept credit cards issued by China banks!

In the end, I still had no other choice but to ask my co-worker to pay for me online and then I pay her back in cash. So if you are ever coming to china and wanting to purchase online, you must find someone to purchase for you otherwise, you will have a HARD time trying to purchase anything online! Possibly not even be able to purchase actually!

Canton Tower!

I never expected myself to say that I want to go up the Canton Tower! Having worked 4 years at the CN Tower, to me going up these towers were not a big deal. However, something about the Canton Tower fascinated me making me actually wanting and looking forward to go up! I have finally decided to go up last week on a random day last Wednesday. To my surprise, I spent quite a few hours up at the tower enjoying the beautiful view. However, I subconsciously started to compare the both towers: CN Tower & Canton Tower.

  1. The moment I stepped into the elevator, I noticed that there were operators! Everyone got in the elevator and the employee stood outside and told someone to press a button to go up to the 83rd floor
  2. There was hardly any staff around the observation levels to guide you or to even answer any of our questions, so if you have a question… you better hope that its nothing related to the tower! Otherwise, it will be pretty hard to find someone to answer that question!
  3. The tower lacks customer service! It surprises me because I know a lot of places in China have very poor customer service, but to see that even Canton Tower lack customer service was a little bit of a disappointment for me. I entered the tower expecting the service to be like CN Tower, but I was shocked that it was nothing compare to it.

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the tower very much. They have many different options for tickets and of course, I choose to buy the best ticket that includes all the observation decks as well as 2 attractions: Bubble Train and a mini drop zone! When I arrived to go on the bubble train, the manager pulled me out of the line since he saw my wristband that includes the mini drop zone, he told me to do that first. So I took his advice and went on the drop zone. I was speechless. We went up high (not as high as drop zone) but as we were going up, I can see the whole city right beneath my eyes and it was just an incredible sight! Just when you are too focused on the beauty of the city, the drop you back down in a heartbeat!

After that, since the bubble train line did not subside, I decided to go up to the highest observation deck, which is at the 488m mark. It was an outdoor observation area. When I went up, there was no one else up there except for me. I felt like VIP being up there by myself. I found the peace and joy being up at that point by myself. The view was spectacular and the wind was blowing into my face and I really have no words to describe that feeling. It was actually quite windy up there but it was a nice breeze. It was such a peaceful moment. Not much later, other became came up and it was about time for me to head back down to the bubble train.

Wind blowing at my hair at the highest observation deck!

I couldn’t wait to get on the bubble train since it was solely the reason that has drawn my attention to go up the tower. It took us around the tower, 360 degrees giving us a panoramic view of the city. I must say, the thing that I was looking forward to do the most, was a little bit disappointing for me. The view was beautiful; don’t get me wrong, just the fact that there was no air condition inside the bubble was very unappealing to me. There was a fan however; it was still hot and humid inside.

Mailing at the TOP OF THE WORLD! =D

Overall, it was a great experience and I did not feel that my money was wasted! I bought lots of souvenirs and gifts from the tower because I felt that it is something unique to give as a gift. I mean… there’s nothing in china that we cannot get in Canada. So I decided to buy all the gifts for my friends and family from the tower. It represents china, and most of all, it represented the city that I was working in! So it will be a great piece of memory! Also, what I really liked is the fact that the ticket itself is a post card! If you live in china, you are able to mail the postcard anywhere in china for free. But in order to send the postcard overseas, you will need to pay about $6 RMB which is $1 CAD to send the postcards overseas.

P.S.

If you’re interested in viewing more pictures from the tower, you can visit the link below!

www.photobucket.com/mchen27-cantontower

Free picture that was included in my ticket package 🙂

Long Weekend Chimelong Park

It’s the end of the long weekend… seems so short! I met up with my friend and his cousins and since his cousins wanted to go to the amusement park, we went to the Chimelong Water Park. This park is separated into 3 separate parks: Amusement Park, Safari Park and Water Park. We were supposed to go to the Amusement park on Friday but we weren’t able to because it rained that day. It actually rained the whole weekend! But that didn’t stop us from going to the water park on Saturday. The rain would start and stop, and it really didn’t matter much since we were going to get wet anyway so that didn’t really affect us much. The only thing that made it unbearable was the wind! Since we were already wet, it was really cold. Other than that, the park was average. I thought it would be really fun because I’ve heard a lot of good comments about the park. Bottom line, I think Wild Water Kingdom is better!

Cheesecake Town

It’s the start of the Dragon Boat Festival long weekend today! So my coworker and I decided to get a manicure. We went to eat dinner first after work then walked to the nail salon where she usually get her nails done. But once we got there… they were all busy so we weren’t able to do our nails. If we wanted to wait, we would need to wait 1.5h! So we went to the place where I get my nails done. Usually they have 3 people working… but for some reason there was only 1! I’m so puzzled why there are so many people getting their nails done!!! Is it because its raining? So that’s why people decide to do their nails? Anyway, while we were walking to the bus stop, we happen to walk by a cake store called Cheesecake Town. According to my coworker, this place has really good cheesecake, so I bought one home with me! I bought a mango mousse cake, the design of the cake look so cute! I couldn’t help but buy this one! It taste really good too!

Watson’s Grand Opening

When I was coming home from work yesterday night, I noticed that the Watson’s store opened! I’ve been waiting for their opening for a while now since I saw the advertisement that they will be opening near my location. So it finally opened yesterday and I couldn’t help but go inside to take a look at what they have. For those of you who don’t know, Watson’s is like a Walgreens and Shoppers Drug Mart. So I went in and looked around and I bought a lot of little things for no reason just because they looked cute and also it was hello kitty! So I couldn’t resist, so I made the purchase! 😀

First Week in Guangzhou: Chinese and North American culture

After spending the first week here in Guangzhou, I realized that there is a very gap between Chinese and North American culture. In Canada, people take their time doing everything, enjoying the nature etc. but here everyone is always in such a hurry.

One of the thing that is very different is when eating in food courts. Usually when we are done eating we empty the trays and stack them nicely on top of each other. However, in Guangzhou, we are suppose to just leave it in the table and someone will come and clean up the table once you leave. If you do try and clean it they will actually get mad at you!

First Day in Guangzhou!

First day in Guangzhou! First Impression:  it is actually very much like Toronto! A lot of apartments and shops. Everything is walking distance!

Here are some travel tips when coming to Guangzhou or actually traveling anywhere international:

1) Always get an aisle seat on the plane: you can get up and walk whenever you want that way you don’t need to bother the person next to you in order to get up

2) You should buy a neck pillow for when your on the plane. It really does help a lot!

3) When coming to china, always bring Canadian cash. DO NOT bring travelers checks. These people look at them as if they never seen one before! Took me about 1h to get everything done at the bank!