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China

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Things You'd Know: The Heihe - Tongcheng Line

Proposed in 1934 by geographer Hu Huanyong, the Heihe-Tengchong line is not China’s newest highspeed rail line, but an interesting artifact of human geography. This line divides China roughly into two halves  in terms of geographic area (57% to the West, 43% to the East), but nearly all the population - a whopping 94% - resides to the East of the line. 
Impressive though these numbers may be, what’s perhaps more impressive is that despite having a population density lower than all but 27 countries, the western half of China would still be the 16th largest country in the world by population, just below Germany. 

As you can see from the map, China’s population density is highly concentrated between the Yellow River (黄河) to the north and the Yang-tze River (长江)to the Souh, as well as along the coast. The large red spot just east of the line represents a very fertile agricultural area sometimes referred to as “China’s breadbasket” and includes the megacities Chengdu and Chongqing.  Most of China’s West is arid, high up in the mountains, or both, making it difficult to sustain dense populations.

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Tip #4 For China: How to Call a Cab

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The internet may finally be putting an end to problems getting taxis in China: two new(ish) apps have made it possible to call a taxi to your spot in minutes via your smart phone. 嘀嘀打车 (Android and IOS)and 快的打车 (Android) allow users to input their destination either by text or by voice and sends that information to drivers nearby. After a driver accepts the call, the phone number and license plate of the driver is sent to the user. A little Chinese is required, but you can store commonly used addresses and send the request by text, so if a friend helps you set it up you can easily learn how to use it.

Although it may soon be difficult to get a cab without them, these apps saw slow growth since their release in 2012 – the entire city of Beijing had only 15 drivers using 嘀嘀打车 on the day it went online! The companies behind these apps offered cash bonuses to drivers who referred others to the app, and phone minutes to cover the significant data charges drivers incur, but it wasn’t until this year when they started offering 10 yuan discounts on taxi rides that the two apps really took off. 

Of course, there is the ever-present internet problem of how to make this service profitable. Both companies seem to be looking to incorporating online payments as a way to bring in revenue, but neither seems to have a coherent plan. The services are available in major cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou etc.) and are continuing to expand, so if they can ever turn a profit, they may be coming to Yuncheng very soon.

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Fact Friday: 56 Ethnicities, 56 Flowers

China has its own special way of celebrating diversity, but as the song referenced in the title suggests, China is home to a staggering array of ethnic diversity. Nothing you can say about 56 different cultural groups in two paragraphs could really communicate anything, so the only option is to go out there and experience it first hand. Popular destinations for cultural travel in China include Yunnan (Xishuang Bannna and Lijiang) and Guangxi (Yangshuo), which are very accessible but quite touristy. For people who want to get off the beaten track a bit, there are some better options. For Tibetan culture, Western Sichuan is actually a better choice than Tibet, as there are less restrictions both on you the traveler and on the local community. For Miao/Hmong people, Guizhou is working hard to attract tourists but is still full of amazing undeveloped places to visit, and the local culture is extremely hospitable (but be prepared to be drunk every day). Even further afield choices include Ningxia for an interesting mix of East and Central Asian cultures inhabited by the Hui people (Chinese Muslims), and the Nu and Dulong river valleys in the far west of Yunnan near the border with Myanmar. These latter two valleys are very hard to get to, but home to some of the smallest ethnic groups in the country (the Nu and Dulong respectively). If you do not fear the cold, legend has it the far Northeast still has nomadic herders of the reindeer variety. Any true China experience should include at least some time spent in minority areas. 

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Teacher Profile: Sean Hayes' Spring Festival Experience

Sean Hayes is currently teaching in Guangzhou. Like many AYC'ers he visited the Ice Festival in Harbin during his Spring Festival break, but by the time he left he was engaged! Read up on his magical proposal:

“I have a very interesting, and I think unique, story to tell about my Christmas and Spring Festival break.  I’m not sure if anyone at all except my own friends and family know this, but I’m very happy to share it with others who may become inspired by my story.  I recently took my girlfriend, who lives and works in Tianjin, on a trip to Harbin in the far north of China.  We had a marvelous time viewing all the sights, as well as visiting the famous Harbin Ice and Snow World, which was almost entirely composed of breathtaking ice sculptures.  Even the buildings were made out of ice!  It was amazing.  Even more amazing though is what happened in front of the Russian cathedral, St. Sophia’s, where my girlfriend of over two years became my new fiancé. Yes, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. It was like something out of a fairy tale.  Everything had been just perfect, right down to the falling snow and beautiful music being played by the church in the background.  After Harbin, there was my visit to my fiance’s home town were we spent the entire break visiting her extended family and telling everyone on her side the good news.  I enjoyed every moment of visiting my future Chinese family.  After our vacation, my fiancé and I returned to our respective cities to resume working.”

Congratulations to Sean Hayes and his new fiance! Who says that dreams can’t come true in China!

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Teacher Tuesday: Anitra Saddler

Like most AYCers, Anitra Saddler wanted a new experience. “I chose China as a way to branch out into the world,” she says. “I wanted to experience life that was different from my own.” She sought the exact opposite of her small town in Minnesota: Changsha, in Hunan Province, renowned for its spicy food and warm climate. “Here in China it has been a different beat I have to move to and learn how to adapt to day to day,” says Anitra. “I am sometimes frustrated with the new change of pace; however, I do not regret it for one moment.”

For many teachers, Anitra’s classes would have posed a huge problem. She encountered the same problems all foreign teachers have in China: huge class sizes of up to 40 kids, in her case all girls, and her students entered the room believing they could walk all over a foreign teacher. But for Anitra, who comes from a large family with many younger siblings, controlling her classroom has never been an issue. “The students are so used to being drilled by their teachers that they believe foreign teachers are the “easy fun class” and will try not to follow the rules,” Anitra says. “It is very important for them to know you want to have fun, but you are their teacher and rules MUST be followed.”

Another challenge Anitra faces is that she teaches a mixture classroom: half her students spoke English fluently, while half knew no English at all. “At times making lesson plans is a bit difficult due to the wide range of English abilities. However, I love the challenge! This gives me the opportunity to use multiple strategies, learning aids, and so on to engage the students.” Anitra’s effort pays off: she loves her students and her students love her, constantly approaching her for hugs and presenting her with gifts. But she doesn’t get a swelled head; instead, she is reflective. “The older children are more difficult to bring them out of their comfort zone. They are afraid of losing face!!! The younger children most of the time can’t get enough. Making the class fun and new, keeps everyone interested and willing to explore outside the norm.”

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Contest Winners!

Congratulations to the AYC Photo-Essay and Video competition winners! We will be showcasing all of the submissions for the contest over the next few weeks, so be sure to check-in here to see what it’s like living in China with AYC! You can view all entries here: on.fb.me/1kesX7P

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Photo-Essay Contest

The Winners of the 2013-2014 AYC Photo-Essay Contest:
 First Place Winner: Andrew Ebanks (picture on left)
Second Place Winners: Isaak Tarek, Lindsey Pointer, and Arielle Strafford
Third Place Winner: Brecken Byron, Jessica Gourdet, Jaline King, William O'Brian and Linda Wang

Video Contest Winners

The winners of the 2013-2014 AYC Video Contest:
First Place Winner: Michael Peterson (picture on right)
Second Place Winners: Mackey Landy, Richelle Gamlam, and Kirsten Ourada 
Third Place Winners: Victoria Evans, Evan Deal McDaniels, Ilyse Liffreing, Daniel Ward, and Rachel Smith  

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Happiness of Spring in Yichang, China

lindsey413:

Spring has come to Yichang! We were blessed with two beautiful sunny weekends in a row, during which I was able to fit in three great hiking excursions to a few cool new places around Yichang (including Wenfo Shan- a sacred Buddhist mountain with a temple on top) and a trip out to the countryside with a few of my third grade students, Kay Kay, and Salina to see the beautiful Oriental Cherry trees in bloom. My classes the last two weeks have consisted of various excuses to take the kids outside for some time running in the sun, and mandatory classroom dance parties. To top it all off, my mom sent me the most amazing care package full of all sorts of vegetarian-surviving-in-China-goodies and I’ve been eating like a granola chick queen. So things have been pretty dang good! 

The spring has always been my favorite season. In part definitely because of my birthday, but there is also something about things warming up, coming alive again, that awakens me. Winter was difficult here between the inescapable cold outside and inside and barely ever seeing the sun through the smog and fog. For a girl raised on 365 days of Colorado sunshine, it just wasn’t easy. But at last, the sun has returned! 

Sun worship makes a lot of sense to me. Of course there is the joy when it rises each morning, and the woeful longing of “please don’t go!” when each evening I watch it disappear behind the hills, leaving traces of light strewn across the Yangtze river. Then there’s the vitamin D factor and whatever happy chemicals are released in your brain as that sunshine soaks into your skin. But there is also something else about it, something about being in sunshine evokes a sort of liminal space for me. The penetration of the sun’s beams melts illusive boundaries of my skin and I catch a glimpse of that ultimate unity with the universe. Suddenly it is all too clear that I can just be. And better yet, I can just be happy, I don’t have to wait for anything to make me feel happiness, because it is just a choice I am making. “If you want to be happy,….” becomes “If you want to, be happy.” 

As always, John Denver says it best. Sunshine almost always makes me high! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybeke7_d1zE

And here’s a song called Happy that I played during first and second grade dance parties last week! Great video too!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM

Check out participant Lindsey Pointer’s post about the happiness of Spring in Yichang, China!

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AYC\'s Video and Photo-Essay Contest

lindsey413:

About a month ago, I wrote a photo essay comparing living in China to popping out of the womb (and it even rhymes!) for a competition through Ameson. If I get enough votes, I could win a trip to Yunnan, which would soothe my aching mountain girl heart. If you have a minute, please check it out and vote. Thank you!

Check out Lindsay’s post for the AYC photo-essay contest!

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20 countries and 5 continents during their Spring Festival

This year AYC participants visited almost 20 countries and 5 continents during their Spring Festival vacation. Spring Festival is a celebration of the Chinese New Year where students and teachers get anywhere from 2 weeks - 2 months vacation time to celebrate the New Year, and the participants this year used that time for travel!

This year AYC participants visited almost 20 countries and 5 continents during their Spring Festival vacation. Spring Festival is a celebration of the Chinese New Year where students and teachers get anywhere from 2 weeks - 2 months vacation time to celebrate the New Year, and the participants this year used that time for travel!

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The Voice: Winter 2014

Be sure to check out the inaugural issue of the Voice, Amesons print newspaper which is published once per semester. Featuring diverse stories about AYC participants all over China such as AYC'ers giving back, classroom projects and much more. The Newspaper also features endorsement letters from Congressmen!

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