2015 Spring China External Programs IES Abroad Rachel Tristch

Home in Kunming

I feel as though I’ve finally settled in to what will be my home for roughly the next three months, and I’m relieved, to say the least. The first two weeks of classes have been a challenge, but I suppose that is to be expected when adjusting to new coursework while simultaneously adjusting to life in a completely foreign country. Move-in day was yesterday for the dorm students – we’d been staying at the university’s hotel while renovations were completed. The move went smoothly overall, as I’d kept all of my belongings in my suitcase while staying in the hotel. I’m happy to say I’ll now have a desk of my own at which to write my blog entries for the remainder of my time in Kunming.

We’ve all been busy with coursework lately, but we’ve had opportunities to get out and explore the city. The IES professors gave us all a scavenger hunt list of activities to complete, spread out in various spots around Kunming. My favorite place on the list was, of course, a restaurant. Lao Fangzi is a traditional Yunnanese restaurant, considered one of the best in Kunming. Finding it was difficult, because it’s set in a more remote location in the city near a cluster of old buildings currently under construction; I’m certain that if I hadn’t known it existed, I would never have stumbled upon it. Ordering a special rice dish was part of the scavenger hunt, which our team was happy to complete. The restaurant’s décor creates a traditional Chinese atmosphere with lots of bright red and gold hanging lanterns. It was an exciting experience, eating great food customary to Yunnan province with the charming scenery to match. The scavenger hunt was an opportunity for all of us to gain some more knowledge of the city, and to scope out places we can visit more throughout the semester.

The most pleasant aspect of this city I’ve been able to pick out so far is the generosity of its people. Although Philadelphia will always be a special place for me, I’ve found that the people here are much, much more willing to offer help to strangers. The difference in language has been the biggest barrier I’ve faced thus far, but even those who can’t speak a word of English are happy to help me when I’m lost. Everyone I’ve spoken with so far has been patient, not showing any frustration towards my broken attempts at Chinese. It’s put me a little more at ease in this new space, knowing that all I have to do is ask when I take a wrong turn, which I’ll admit has happened frequently.

Every morning, I walk up the steps from my dorm and out onto the street, and I pass an elderly woman sitting in her spot on the sidewalk selling Yunnanese-style bags and wallets. And each time she spots me, without fail, she speaks up and starts a conversation. Even when it’s just a hello, I am reminded of why this city is such a contented place to be. The calming personality of its people creates an atmosphere that makes me feel welcome and so glad to be here.


Like the rest of China, Kunming is slowly getting ready for the Chinese New Year with paper lanterns.
Like the rest of China, Kunming is slowly getting ready for the Chinese New Year with paper lanterns.
Lao Fangzi, considered one of the best Yunnanese restaurants in Kunming.
Lao Fangzi, considered one of the best Yunnanese restaurants in Kunming.

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