Day 2 in Lijiang, by Joel Peña ’16

8:30 am: boarded the buses to visit Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the most scenic and telling sites concerning water in Yunnan province.  2 hours till our destination.  As the closest parts of the city became increasingly modern, the traditional buildings that remained, broken-down and open for lease, created a sharp contrast.  And soon, buildings and roads gave way to construction sites and dirt roads still to be paved, and gradually, all traces of civilization faded away to woodlands.

9:45 am: stopped at a rest stop at a bend of the Yangtze river.  From there, we got our first real view of the river and saw firsthand the orange-red hue of the water. 

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11:00 am: arrived at the Gorge.  Excited, we all set out on the hour long hike not really sure what to expect.  As we kept walking alongside the river, we were gradually all blown away by the size and grandeur of the Gorge.  And yet to many of us, I’m sure, the unclean color of the river contrasted painfully with the beauty of the surrounding Gorge. 

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12:15 pm: reached the end of the Gorge.  As we headed down from the path, clear water from the mountains trickled down on our left.  Yet, as the water passed beneath whatever bridge we were on, the water joined the river and turned bright orange red.  What was even more frightening, however, was how much trash there was in the river itself.  Bottles, plastic, and even someone’s backpack littered where the stream from the mountains met with the main river itself. 

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1:15 pm: we arrived back at the entrance. Set off for Shigu village, an important village in Chinese history in the Yunnan province.

2:24 pm: almost died.  The roads to the village changed from the newly constructed highways to unpaved dirt ones.  Due to this fact, the trip to the village was quite exciting; the many potholes and unevenness on the road made us appreciate our skilled drivers even more.  I’d be lying if I said that our ride in the vehicle didn’t remind me of some rollercoasters I’d been on before.

3:00 pm: reached Shigu Village.  While there, we had a pretty good lunch and then we were all given some free time to either relax by the river or explore the village.  Some groups took this time to just take a break from the hustle and bustle of the day while others made the trek up to the monument marking the historical significance of the village.

4:20 pm: left for hotel.

5:30 pm: arrived back at hotel.  Most pods dispersed to finish their videos and relax after a long day.

6:30 pm: my group left for the old town of Lijiang for dinner and to explore.

9:30 pm: arrived back at the hotel.  When my group got back, we ran into a group of locals teaching and showcasing some traditional Naxi dances.  Shamelessly, most of my group joined in and after a few confused moments, were able to catch on really quickly.  Honestly, this was one of my favorite moments of the trip mainly because of the personal connection that I was able to feel to the Naxi people, no matter how superficial learning this local dance may have been. It was truly quite powerful. 

10:00 pm: Sleep (or so we pretend).

Do Talk to Strangers?, by Jo Pandji ’16

“你知道纪念碑在哪儿吗?” Alex’s question was met with a look of enthusiasm from the elderly storekeeper’s previously blank face. Nodding vigorously, he stands up from his stool and waves us over, beckoning us to follow him into a remote alley. I stare nervously as Alex, Fadzi, Ms. Nef, Rosa and Maddie start heading in his direction, unsure if we should be following a stranger into such an isolated path. However, in the name of cultural immersion and exciting travel experiences, I strengthened my resolve and tightened my backpack straps, following in their footsteps.  

This is not sketchy at all. My courage quickly crumbles as we continue onto a narrow pathway. There are very few people sparsely dotting the cobbled steps, standing idly outside the dark empty houses that flanked each side. Every bone in my body tells me to stop and turn back as I force myself up the steps. I look uneasily at Fadzi and Alex, unsure if we should follow this man any further. Meanwhile, he decides to engage me in conversation. 

“你们从哪儿?” He asks whilst looking back, about ten steps ahead of us. I answer his question half-heartedly, searching anxiously for any sign of the monument. We have been walking for a while, and it is nowhere in sight. 

This isn’t safe. We should turn back. Now. 


Just as I am about to call our little adventure off, something catches my eye in the distance. It was the edge of a pagoda roof, glinting grey in the sunlight. I gasp in excitement and sheer relief as I sprint up the path and under the vibrant red and blue patterns carved into its wooden interior. We make our way up to the monument, which stood on an elevated fort-like structure. A bronze figure of a soldier looming over a beggar, the monument seems to rise above 石鼓 (Shi Gu), overlooking the town. 

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Pagoda roof.

All of my previous worries wash away as I lean on the cool stone railing, taking in the baby blue sky, the crisp white clouds floating above lush green mountains. The traditional houses that seemed so eerie now simply look calm and comforting, their exquisite roofs and white weathered walls sprawling across the town as a peaceful atmosphere envelopes the rustic scene. 

Behind me, I hear Alex’s camera softly clicking, trying to capture the picturesque view. Ms. Nef holds a bright pink iPhone steady as Rosa and Maddie move to pose, eyes wrinkled and cheeks glowing. 

“啊,很好。你们照一下。再见!” The elderly man smiles, looking genuinely pleased by our enthusiasm. We sang a chorus of 谢谢s as he waves and walks away, leaving us to enjoy the scenery. I close my eyes for a moment, breathing in the fresh air. 

“Worth it?” A voice asks. I open my eyes to find Fadzi right next to me, donning a bright smile on her face. I grin back, nodding. 

“Worth it.”

A panoramic view.
A panoramic view. (Click to enlarge.)

Train Ride to/from Lijiang, by Kelly Sheng ’17

There’s something amazing about waking up to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda at 5:40 in the morning on a moving train with three of your BASK friends cramped together in one cabin. I haven’t been on a Chinese sleeper train (or any sleeper train, actually) since I was a kid, but the good memories of playing cards, eating sunflower seeds and stuffing myself with overpriced ramen has remained in the back of my mind for ages. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to revisit this tiny piece of my childhood that I couldn’t seem to forget. On the way from Kunming to Lijiang, we slept for most of the ride, but not before playing several rounds of cards (of which I lost the majority of). The ride back, however, was much earlier in the day, which gave us more time to explore the train and hang out. Despite the disappointment I felt when discovering that the train’s cafe was out of most of their menu’s items, my friends and I still got to try their fried rice, chocolate cake, spinach, zucchini soup and goose.

Personally, I spent a majority of my time working on my pod’s music video. Others played video games, blasted music (at a train-appropriate volume), talked, or ate food. After completing the majority of the video, I tried taking time-lapse videos out a cabin window – only to discover that my timing was incredibly poor. Just as I finished working on our project, the train started to pass through a very mountainous area, which resulted in tunnels after tunnels. Each time lapse only ended up being a few seconds long, if not less, before we moved right into a pitch-black tunnel. Though it was disappointing that I didn’t get the time-lapse I wanted, the scenic view from the train was incredible to look at, especially since we didn’t get the chance to see it on the way to Lijiang, as everything was dark.

It’s a relief to be back in Kunming, though; this hotel has surprisingly started to feel like home to me.

Kunming Scavenger Hunt, by Fadzi Gambiza ’16

July 23rd, 2015

This Sunday afternoon, all the students were told we would be participating in a scavenger hunt. Now, when I heard we would be doing a scavenger hunt, I was thinking that we would leisurely be looking around Kunming for famous buildings and a couple of city hotspots. HAH! Good one, Fadzi! What we did was actually the opposite.

The day started out with all the students being separated into their research pods, pretty routine stuff. Each group was then given 100 yuan. This was one of my favorite parts of the day. Who doesn’t like free money?! We boarded the buses, which took us down to the center of Kunming. One of our teachers, Yan Laoshi, then gave all the groups a set of missions to complete. He then told us we must find our way back to the bus by 7 pm to an undisclosed location, which only could be figured out by completing the other missions. To make things even better, he said if we didn’t get back to the bus, our group would have find our own way back to the hotel. However, each group had two adult chaperones with them in case of any emergencies. But, they were not allowed to help us. So, off we went.

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All throughout the day, students were running around Kunming completing a range of simple, complicated, and funny missions. We were asked to go to a historical museum and find a specific artifact. We went to Green lake park and had to figure out the greatest number of boat rides we could take for the smallest amount of money in a 1 hour time frame. Yes, that was as confusing as it sounds. We had to take selfies in inflatable tubes on the lake.  We had to buy souvenirs, find and eat at specific restaurants, and learn different words in Chinese. These are just a few examples of the things we had to do, but I think you see that this wasn’t your typical hunt. However, the students from China in our groups definitely played a huge part in helping us navigate the city. Luckily, by 7 pm all the groups arrived back to the bus. Although we were a bit tired (exhausted), I feel we all were pretty proud that we found our way back.

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Overall, I thought that this was one of the best days at Bask so far. This wasn’t just because my team won the scavenger hunt (GO Team Yulong Mountain!!), but the day was a great bonding experience for all of the groups. In addition, as many people say, there is no better way of exploring a city than by getting lost in it with friends.

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I want to give a huge shout out to Yan Laoshi, Shang Laoshi, and all the teachers who helped with the scavenger hunt. This was an enjoyable day where we got to experience Chinese culture first hand and understand more about the city we are studying.

First Days in Kunming, by Mika Curran ’17

大家好! That means Hello Everyone! Today was our first full day in Kunming, which is a large city in the Yunnan province. Our hotel, which is comprised of a total of 4 floors, is literally right next to the school in which we are taking classes. It is just a short five minute walk to the gated campus. The school is very indoor-outdoor themed with the doors of the classrooms opening out right onto open hallways.

After breakfast at the hotel, we started out the day with morning exercises in the school’s gymnasium. “Morning exercises” were led by the Chinese students. They are best described as a choreographed dance with the purpose of stretching. Following the dance, we were paired with our language and culture partner, basically a chinese student that was matched to us based on Cai Laoshi’s interviews. Upon meeting our LCP’s we were split into two seperate groups, the H’s and the O’s. Why these letters? Give it a thought and I’ll tell you at the end.

Anyways, we had two 90 minute classes, snack time, and then another class. After the third class, we had lunch. Lunch was served in the hotel and then we would have our last class. The classes alternate based off of your group but there are five different kinds: Chemistry, Biology, Economics, Ethics, and Language.

After our last class we went back to the gymanasium and played indoor games due to the on and off rainy weather. Games included badmitten, soccer, basketball, and ping pong. After sports we had free time during you could walk to the local mall or go back to the hotel.

After dinner, which we ate in the hotel, and we had study hours from 8-10 during which we worked with our partners on the homework assigned that day.

P.S. O group H group… *cough cough* H2O