Friday Photo: Millican, Oregon

My sister and I spent the better part of this week traversing the western United States on our drive home from a family reunion in Oregon. The timing of the reunion coincided with my mom’s 90th birthday. We all gathered outside of Bend, the city where she grew up.

My mom (aka Gracie) was born in Westbrook, MN in 1927. In 1931, when she was just four years old, she and her 3 siblings and her parents climbed into a Model A and headed west.  Their destination was Bend, Oregon, where her father had accepted a call to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church.

Even though she was very young when she made the trip, she still has quite a few memories of the drive. One story she told us was of stopping at a “town” in the Oregon desert, east of Bend called Millican. “There was just one building,” she told us. “I remember it because we all thought it was so funny that a town would only have one building.”

On Monday, as my sister and I were driving across the Oregon desert (my mom and brother-in-law having left by plane earlier in the day), we were on the look-out for the one-building “town” of Millican. Sure enough, it was there, only the establishment that may or may not have been there in 1931 was definitely closed! Why it is listed on the map is a mystery.

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And if you ever have the chance to drive across the desert of eastern Oregon, do it! It’s gorgeous!

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We are back home now, and declare the two weeks of birthday celebrations officially over!

 

Birthday Cards

My mom (aka “Gracie”) turned 90 on April 22. To help her celebrate the big occasion, my sister and I launched a campaign for her to receive 90 birthday cards. By the end of the day on the 22nd, she had received 136!!!

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We had a lovely brunch with family and a few friends on Saturday morning. In the afternoon, we made arrangements for her to go for a ride in a “big rig.” (Thanks, Al!)

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This week, we are on a “birthday road trip” back to the place where she grew up — Bend, Oregon. As you can see, this 90-year old isn’t about to slow down!

Related posts: 

Happy Birthday, Gracie! Here are 9 Things You May Not Know About Her

A Birthday Fit for an Empress

Birthday Tour

Happy Birthday, Gracie!

Happy Birthday, Mom

The Chinese Student Bubble

The numbers are impressive: there are now more than 328,000 Chinese students in universities across the United States. When the first wave of students came in the 1980’s, they were mostly visiting scholars (professors). Now the students coming are undergrads, and in many cases high school students.

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What is it like for Chinese students on a campus in the US? A reporter from The Economist recently spent time exploring the lives of Chinese students at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Her story, Alienation 101 is sobering description of what is commonly known as an “expat bubble:”

At Iowa, as at many other American universities, the influx happened so fast that students, both Chinese and American, have had little time to adjust. As a consequence, what could have been a meaningful cultural encounter can feel instead like a lost opportunity. The Chinese population is so large that it forms a separate world. Many Chinese speak only Mandarin, study only with other Chinese, attend only Chinese-organised events – and show off luxury cars in Chinese-only auto clubs. The Chinese government and Christian groups may vie for their hearts and minds. But few others show much interest, and most Chinese students end up floating in a bubble disconnected from the very educational realms they had hoped to inhabit. “It takes a lot of courage to go out of your comfort zone,” Sophie says. “And a lot of students on both sides never even try.”

Writing about the role of Chinese student associations, she writes:

The Chinese students aren’t really disengaged, however. They are just immersed in a world that is largely invisible to the rest of the university. At its centre is the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), funded and monitored by the consulate in Chicago. Its structure even mimics the Communist hierarchy, with a “propaganda department” and a tight circle of leaders tacitly approved by the consulate. It puts on four big events each year aimed almost exclusively at Chinese students, including a Lunar New Year gala marking the biggest holiday in China. Last November, Mingjian attended a CSSA “speed dating” show in which male students in tuxes declared their love for female students in flouncy dresses, with nearly 300 students egging them on. It was conducted entirely in Mandarin.

One of CSSA’s main purposes is to make students aware that Beijing is watching over them. A Communist Party directive last year exhorted members to “assemble the broad numbers of students abroad as a positive patriotic energy”.

She also looks into the Christian ministries that reach out to the Chinese students:

Sophie Fan was given a harder sell that first night in Iowa, riding with the talkative young evangelist from the airport. By the time he dropped her off at her dorm, she felt compelled to promise that she would come to a Bridges International ice-breaker party. Sophie longed for American friends, and if Christianity was such a big part of American culture, what harm was there in learning more? Her Chinese classmates, she found, were less interested in engaging with locals. “I have roommates who are afraid to talk to Americans,” she says, “and I ask them, ‘What’s the point of coming all the way to America if you’re not going to talk to anybody here?’”

Unlike other foreign students, many Chinese haven’t been shaped by any one faith, which can make them more receptive to new ideas. Christian groups also make sure to pad their missionary work with free food, friendship and American culture. “Most Chinese students aren’t looking for spirituality,” says Pearl Chu, a senior bio-chemistry major who is a devout Christian. “They go because these American students are reaching out to them, talking and listening. I think Christian groups have done more than the university to integrate Chinese students.”

The entire article is a must-read.

And if there are Chinese students in your community, are there ways you can be reaching out to them?

Image credit: Welcome to Iowa City, by Adam Simmons, via Flickr

Casting a Bell

Each time I discovered an old bell in China, I found myself wondering “how in the world did it get here?” They were, after all, from the United States, Russia, France, and Germany.

I didn’t give much thought to how the giant bells were made. So when I ran across this video recently, I was dumbfounded. I had no idea of what was involved in casting a big bell. Now I have an even greater appreciation for them! (email readers, go here to see the video)

This is a fast-motion clip from a German documentary about bell-casting. The entire documentary can be found here; but take note: it’s in German!

 

Casting a Bell

In my book The Bells Are Not Silent, I write about the origin of the use of bells in the church:

Catholic tradition has it that the first time bells would have been heard in a church was in the Roman city of Nola, near modern-day Naples. Saint Paulinas, the Bishop of Nola, initially used them to call the monks to worship. Pope Sabinianus approved them to call parishioners to mass in the seventh century, and in the eighth century they were being used at Requiem Masses. By the ninth century, bells were being rung from churches in towns and hamlets all over the Europe.

One of the oldest foundries casting bells is the Marinelli Bell Foundry, in Agnone.

Campane Marinelli foundry has a very long history; the first bell was made around the year one thousand and since then their work has been a long sequence of success and honors. One of the most significant honor that the foundry can boast, is the possibility to use the Papal Arm Coast in their production; it was Pope Pio XI in 1924 to grant the privilege to the foundry. Campane Marinelli foundry, considered to be the oldest foundry in the world, is located in Agnone (Agnéune in the local dialect), a small Italian town of 5,200 inhabitants in the province of Isernia in Molise.

Here’s a short video about the history of the foundry: (email readers, go here to see the video)

Something tells me I’m going to need to make a research trip to Italy!

Friday Photo: Chairs

Six years ago this week I was in Shanghai. I don’t remember why, but I do remember wandering some of streets of the old city where I spotted these little chairs lined up outside a business. Just sunning themselves on a warm Spring day.

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Two things have always puzzled me: who put them there and why?

China By the Numbers

On March 5, Premier Li Keqiang delivered the 2016 government work report at the opening session of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing. As government work reports go, it follows a very strict script: listing of all the glorious accomplishments of the past year and then setting forth all the glorious things that the government will accomplish this year. And of course it has all happened under the glorious leadership of the Communist Party with Chairman Xi Jinping as the core.

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I waded through the English translation of the entire 18,000-character report (so you don’t have to), and pulled out some of the key numbers Premier Li listed for the past year:

4.02%                        registered urban unemployment

5.6%                           decline in sulfur emissions

6.7%                           economic growth

1900 km                    new high speed rail lines

6700 km                    new expressways

290,000km                rural roads

5.5 million km            fiber optic cables

15,000                         new businesses added daily

6 million                     dilapidated urban homes renovated

12.4 million                reduction in people living in rural poverty areas

13.4 million                new urban jobs

21.3 million                growth in the number of students from poor rural areas enrolled in universities

120 million                overseas trips

340 million                new 4G mobile subscribers

The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time has posted links to the original report as well as their translation. You can find them all here. There are also links to other reports as well.

Here is a round-up of other articles covering and analyzing this year’s National People’s Congress:

Words Count: Chinese State of the Nation Speech All About the ‘Party’(March 5, 2017, China Real Time)
The Chinese government’s annual policy blueprint runs more than 18,000 Chinese characters. Only a fraction of them are necessary to grasp this year’s theme: a dramatic emphasis on the Communist Party, in particular its leader.

China begins annual political sessions with synchronized tea pouring and the shadow of a leadership shuffle (March 5, 2017, The Los Angeles Times)
The National People’s Congress, a largely ceremonial body, sticks to a script and proceeds like an overly choreographed play — down to servers’ synchronized pouring of tea. But officials are working even harder this year to praise their boss and make sure nothing goes wrong. The reason: A leadership shakeup this fall could lay the foundation for President Xi Jinping to extend his years in power.

The Pomp and Politics of China’s Annual Congress (March 7, 2017, Bloomberg)
The National People’s Congress is many things. It’s China’s top legislative body and a rubber stamp for policies hammered out behind closed doors by the ruling Communist Party. It’s the only time each year that many top officials in the world’s second-biggest economy face the press. Above all, it’s a master class in orchestration.

China’s political propaganda gets a digital makeover (March 14, 2017, BBC)
China has been trying and failing for years to get its people, especially its young people, to care about its political system. Could it now be close to working out how to do just this?

If you’re into all the nitty-gritty details, check out the special section on the Xinhua News Agency website, which includes this graphic depicting the accomplishments of 2016:

Here’s a graphic representation of the accomplishments, courtesy of Xinhua News Agency:

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Once this event is over, preparations will kick into high gear for the next big meeting in October: The 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

That’s the important one!

Related Posts:

New Regulations in the Works?

Do’s and Don’t’s

Image credit: by Ding Zhou, via Flickr

Note: This post originally appeared at ChinaSource.

The Language Tree

I love language and infographics, so when I ran across this fantastic infographic depicting the  major non-Asian world languages, I couldn’t resist. Here’s how it is described on the Matador Network:

The manner in which languages evolve over time is immensely complex, and can be kind of difficult to understand. So linguists like to visually represent languages as a tree. Like most academic diagrams, the tree is usually a fairly dull thing to look at, but Finnish-Swedish webcomic artist Minna Sundberg has put together this spectacularly beautiful depiction of where the world’s Nordic languages originally came from.

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It’s more than an infographic; it’s a piece of art.

Would love to see a similar one for Asian languages!

Related Posts:

What Languages Are Spoken in China?

Chinese Language Learning Infographic

My Favorite Language Learning Quotes

 

Image source: Matador Network