July 8, 2014
By Eri Aguilar
Our study of globalization at the margins has taken us through northern and western China. We stopped in Beijing (the national capital), Xi’an (a culturally significant ancient city that sits between China’s east and west), Lanzhou (the capital and largest city of Gansu Province in Northwest China), and lastly Dunhuang (a county-level city in northwestern Gansu Province). As we continued on a path deeper into China from the city of Beijing it became evident to me that we were entering the margins of China when the presence of skyscrapers was immensely reduced. Growing accustomed to being surprised I had high expectations for this trip.
Upon our arrival in the city of Beijing we made our way through the Tiananmen Square into the Forbidden City. The heat was tiring, but with every step I took through Tiananmen Square, I could feel my curiosity and enthusiasm overpower my feeling of exhaustion. It was incredible to contemplate that I was walking on the same land where one of China’s more controversial events occurred. I could envision the multitudes of students and common folks occupying the space to express their political opinions 25 years ago (in 1989). After walking through a metal detector, providing a fingerprint and gladly availing myself to a pat down I proceeded to enter the Forbidden City. At the gates of the Forbidden City I was stupefied at the sight of its architecture. The gates were truly magnificent with their 81 golden rivets shinning as the sunlight struck them.
Though there was forecast for rain, the Trojan family nevertheless decided to fight on and continue with our plan to climb the Great Wall. Not surprisingly a light drizzle evolved into a heavy downpour with rain droplets the size of water balloons! Fortunately, the heaviest segment of that storm came about the moment we reached the top of the Great Wall. Our tour guide expressed her skepticism in our abilities to persevere, but we all climbed up and made it down safely. As I felt the rain soak into my Air Force Jordan’s I could also feel a moment of spiritual replenishment when I stared down from the top of the Great Wall to our starting point and contemplated the effort that it must have taken to construct such a structure. The thought imbued me to continue striving towards building my own legacy. After climbing The Great Wall of China we had lunch and conveniently found a hand dryer that served as clothes dryer for the group.
The search for globalization at the margins of China exposed us to The Mogao Grottoes. It was incredible to have read about this site earlier in the week and to actually have the opportunity to study it trough firsthand experience. The article we covered in class gave us the context to better understand and appreciate the images and statues that were being preserved at this location. I was astounded when I tried to take in the 3rd biggest Buddha in the world. I had to adjust my head all the way back to be able to get a good view of the statue. Looking at the craftsmanship on the Buddha, I began to contemplate the patience that the artists must have possessed to be able to produce such detail. The location is so humongous that we could not see all of it because we ran out of time and also only some segments are open every season.
Spending a majority of my youth living the city life, I was taken away by the sight of Echoing Sand Dunes. Its postcard-like scenery makes it easy to step outside of reality for a moment. We had arrived early so the heat was not intolerable. I recall that my feet breaking though the warm sand gave me a soothing sensation and I will also never forget being so close to camels. We all had fun climbing up the sand dunes and either running or sliding down. Looking around I could envisage merchants interacting in this oasis along the Silk Road. I will never forget these experiences.
June 27, 2014
By Amanda Heston & Aissa Castillo
Exploring Lanzhou (Aissa Castillo)
After flying into Lanzhou, the group was understandably tired but determined to enjoy the mysterious wonders Lanzhou might have in store for us. Some were excited by the prospect that at last in the western area of China we might encounter the seedy margins. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the margins brought to you by a tour guide are never as seedy as you might imagine.
The group was able to enjoy an early outing exploring the area around the Yellow River. In this picture we are posed in front of the river, about to explore the area’s many Buddhist temples as well as the famed bird’s eye view of the city.
While climbing the many steps leading to the bird’s eye view of Lanzhou, the group was treated to a constructed water wall that actually offered passersby the opportunity to run behind to feel the spray of water. Most of the members of the group took advantage of this given the heat that surrounded us. (Some of us, including Professor Sheehan, resisted the impulse to run and simply walked across.)
After a 20 minute or so hike consisting mainly of stairs, the group was able to reach the top. We were treated to a panoramic view of Lanzhou and the Yellow River that made the steep hike more than worth the wait.
After returning from the bird’s eye view, the group was then taken to see the statue of the Mother River. This is a depiction of the river that was created in the 1980’s and many tourists come to take pictures with it and to absorb its cultural symbolism.
Still feeling the effects of our early flight departure and the multitude of steps that led to the bird’s eye view, many of us opted to take in the scenery of the river and enjoy a local shop’s offering of “Muslim Tea.” This was a delightfully refreshing concoction of longan, dried dates, tea, and rock sugar. For many of us this was a lull in a busy schedule that would see us all boarding a 14 hour sleeper train to Dunhuang before the night was over!
You might not think it by looking at the photo but this is the group directly off our sleeper train to Dunhuang, a sandy city in the Gobi Desert. I think it’s fair to say that sharing enclosed bunks, a few sinks, and one very suspicious squat toilet made us all a little closer together.