Weekend trip to Mountain Lake in New Jersey – Day 2

My Sunday morning starts with playing with Benny. He is already 14 years old. Look at his eyes – full of gentleness and love

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Today’s breakfast!

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Went out to walk Benny and Milo with the hostess. Now I know that walking dogs is not that easy. They both are very strong. More often than not, they just drag me to run along.

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I noticed this beautiful scene while I was walking the dogs. Out of nowhere, my hometown Korla in Xinjiang (the Uygur region) came across my mind. The views are actually different in the 2 places – Xinjiang is a desert area and has no big green land, but they both look very spacious and you can barely spot the end of the horizon.

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Brunch time. The same rule: one family brings one dish.

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To possess eyes which can discover the beautiful thing is more valuable than to possess the beautiful thing itself.

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The program today is to make pumpkin lanterns. Halloween is coming. First, cut out the top of the pumpkin. You have to place the knife at a 45 degree angle , do you know why? (Don’t laugh at me my American friends – I know this is very junior level question to you-☺

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Then, find a pattern you like from the graphic book. Use a roller to transfer the pattern onto the pumpkin. The roller reminds me of the roller used for clothing pattern cutting – they share the exact same theory.

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You can tell from this procedure who often cooks, and who does not. I did not even touch the pumpkin and was just taking photos. My mom always wonders how I have managed to feed myself in all these years when I am travelling.

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This is a professor in Department of International Relations at Shanghai Tongji University. He ‘suffered’ a while to cut out the pattern. Easier said than done. The pumpkin skin is so thick…

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The pattern cut out by the professor and the young girl. None of us knows what this pattern actually represents?

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Blue sky, warm sun, green trees and the golden autumn leaves, plus a group of energetic friends from all over the world – can you feel my happiness? I almost fell asleep in the warm sunshine!

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This is what the finished pumpkin lanterns look like.

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The little girl – Biyan’s mother is only 5 years older than me. Well! C’est la vie!

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With another 2 Fulbrighters!

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Trip to Brazil VI: Glimpses of Brazilian cities and countryside

Sometimes you don’t need to go to hot sight seeing spots to understand a city. The street scenes already tell you much about the local culture and life.

In Brazil, street art is everywhere. You can see the strong Brazilian features in these photos of street art in Sao Paulo – free, passionate and vibrant.

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Street art in Caxias. Every single piece is simply stunning!

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Here below is a photo where the street art blends perfectly well with the Brazilian youth.

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The topography in Caxias is very similar to that in Hong Kong Island. There are many slopes and some are pretty steep. I wouldn’t be able to drive on this type of road.

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A square and a bus stop in Caxias. The bus stop is nicer than it is in China 🙂

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On Sept 2, after lecture, I went to another small town with Carol Garcia, Franklin and Ludmila Paz. Most of the early immigrants to Brazil were from Europe, so the town looks very European style. Again, color is everywhere in Brazil! Brazilians’ passion for nature can be fully seen from their use of colors. All the colors are very vibrant, pure and saturated.

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Countryside in Brazil. Seems to me that one of the major differences between China and other developed countries lies in the development of sub-urban area and the countryside. Hardware and facilities in macro cities like Beijing and Shanghai maybe even better / newer than those in NY, London and Tokyo. However, when it comes to the villages and countryside, the scene becomes totally different.

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Although Brazil might not do better than China in economic development, its small towns look much more developed.

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Southern towns in Brazil specialize in winemaking. There are many vineyards and wineries of different scales. Seems like people in the towns live quite a quality life. That is why the future economic growth of China will mostly rely on the development of sub-urban areas and countryside.

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Trip to Brazil III – Local Fashion Brands

A local Brazilian brand – Havaiana, who started business from flip-flops. Color is everywhere in Brazil – all vibrant, bold and energetic. From the colors you can tell how much Brazilian people love the nature. Chinese designers also love nature but their work show a very different taste of ‘nature’. We tend to show the nature in a more ‘peaceful’ form (as opposed to the Brazilian’s ‘active’ form) – our colors are more neutral (other than vibrant) – black, white, grey, dark blue… It is interesting to see how different nation translates the same object (phenomenon) in different cultural context. As I said yesterday food and houses in Sao Paulo are expensive, but clothes/shoes here are relatively cheaper than they are in China. Very good values for money!

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This is a local prestige designer’s store, just like McQueen’s position in Europe.

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A Beachwear store.

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Stay quite a while in this sunglasses store. Very cool sunglasses and watches. Some of the designs are exclusive to this store only. I was so tempted into them.

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Trip to Brazil II – My Public Speech in a Local Gallery

Today our journey started from this cute gallery. Carol invited nearly 20 media friends to this small private welcome party (again, my dear sister – thank you soooooooo much for the wonderful arrangement). What do you think of our pose?

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The exterior side of the gallery.

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Inside of the gallery.

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It is my first time to give a talk in a gallery – and I really enjoyed the artistic environment.

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Enjoying the paintings in the gallery. The price of Brazilian painters’ works rises very rapidly in the international market.

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This is a collection of Oriental female painting made by local Brazilian artists. These are wonderful works except that their noses look too high for me – most of our noses are flat.

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Trip to Brazil I – Local Food and Colorful Houses

This is a vintage-style shop and restaurant. They sell almost everything that you need for daily life.

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The decorations on the celling

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The combination of dried fish and table cloth.

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Guess what is this (not the lamp)?

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Living expense in Sao Paulo is not low at all. Very much like Shanghai – everything is expensive though people’s average income is still low.

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The kitchen.

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Sao Paulo is a green city, plants are everywhere

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Just like many European countries, Sao Paulo has a mix of historical buildings and contemporary ones. The house price here is also surprisingly high – just like Shanghai and Beijing. I told Carol that in China no individual owns any land and our ownership of the house is 70 years – in theory 70 years later the house may not belong to us anymore (more like we rent the land from the government for 70 years). I don’t think the government will take back the house 70 years later, most probably we still have to pay certain cost in order to sustain our ownership of the house.

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Just like in USA, cemeteries often locate next to the residence community in Brazil. In China we never live next to cemeteries as they are seen as ‘bad luck’. This is a catholic cemetery. The richer the owner is the taller and magnificent the tomb is. This is same in China – nature of human being. Btw, the cemeteries in China are also very expensive – we say ‘too expensive to die’.

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Street art in Sao Paulo. You still can see these paintings carrying very strong Brazilian features – free, passionate and vibrant.

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Most artists do the street arts for free. There are so many talented artists in the world but so few people are willing to pay for arts.

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Colorful houses are everywhere in Brazil.

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My Amazing Paintball Game Today

I tried paintball today and had lots of fun. The only challenge was the heat. The temperature is in fact pretty moderate, quite suitable for playing this type of game. But with the mask on my face and a heavy gun in my hand, I kept sweating while I squat and hid behind the defense wall.

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Do I look cool? Military experts recognize instantly that I am a novice. Everyone else wear either camouflage clothing or jackets in dark colors. Only I and another man wore in white color. We are the most observable targets in the ‘battle’. Having said that, all I did was to stay in the last row. I shot randomly although I never knew whether I hit the target or not. Those who were in the front line normally “die” quickly. I ‘survived’ couple of times because I never moved-J Well, I am not a positive stereotype in this case. Once in a real battle, you should act like a real hero.

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The ‘gift’ from the ‘battle’ – the blues on my legs.

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Look at our “enemies”! Are you discussing the strategy for the battle?

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The “battlefields” are isolated and surrounded by the nets.

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Looking at this amazing tattoo. This is David from Myanmar. The one on the arm is the image of Guan Yin (budda). The one on his back is a tribal totem of Cambodia. He finally allowed me to take the picture of his back after I ‘begged’ him a few times.

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The man on the left is David and the man on the right is an active soldier of US army. Well, do I look like renmin jiefang jun (Chinese liberation army)?

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A sweet photo of a mother and her son. After a long time of observation, now I declare that black people have the best skins – I never see wrinkles on their faces.

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A photo with two cute kids.

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Two cool guys.

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I admit that I am not a good ‘soldier’ because I withdrew from the ‘battle’ before it was ended. I just felt too hot and I am very sensitive to pain. So I just hang around and eventually came across with these cute baby rabbits – they look like rats!

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Fashion II

I arrive in Philadelphia today.

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The weather in east coast changes like this. I felt like I needed to wear a feathered coat yesterday but I am wearing a T-shirt today. Spring is so short and summer finally comes.

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The new trend now is riding a bike instead of driving a car, which is both healthy and environmental friendly.

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I come to Philly to attend a luxury management conference. One advantage academic study has over doing business is that doing academic study allows me to travel around the world and make friends with people from different institutions as long as your thesis or topic is attractive enough. Big companies can also make you travel around the world for free but most people you meet are those working in the same industry. Compared to this, doing academic study is more multiple. Another feature of international fashion study is that people of this subject are still focusing on clothes in China while here you can meet scholars doing laws, sociology, anthropology, management, engineering and even psychology besides fashion. The feature of interdisciplinary study is more obvious.

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Philly University also has department of fashion. I come across students from Dong Hua. Their university has exchange programs here. According to the teachers, students from Dong Hua are very hardworking and careful in their working. Basically those I met coming abroad to study fashion are all excellent. Well done.

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Sustainable fashion is getting more and more popular in the United States. This series of textiles are made from handmade organic cotton. Almost all people in this industry I met are working on products in similar area. And  my electronic magazine Ethical and Fashion will also launch the English version with the of several foreign friends. Thank my Lord for all your guidance.

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The designer for this series is a professor from Medical School in Harvard. Interesting, right? His interest in textiles dates back to the time when he went to Africa for field study on infectious diseases. He discovered that there were many interesting local handmade textiles and then he started to learn by himself. I find the wider one’s interdisciplinary study is, the more innovative it is.

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Zara is the biggest garment retailing store in the world. Its inditex CEO’s management strategy is to promote internal competitiveness continuously. Its several brands all work on their own without sharing spending on management and administration. Traditional companies would share spending if belong to one host company, like sharing office. warehouse and administration. But inditex requires complete independence and even competence.

There are several tendency of the development of luxury market. The first is individualized products – especially with the development of 3D technology which enables individualized products. The second is the use of high technology, especially the quick development of internet. The third is the balance between heritage and innovation.

According to one survey, Americans have regarded LV, Chanel, Hermes as aspirational luxury brands, almost the best one could own. Then comes Gucci and Coach, which are considered as affordable luxury. But what is affordable luxury? If it is affordable is it still luxury? Poor Gucci has been so different from its glorious past.

Luxury industry now has a tendency to become too accessible. Some brands which is not regarded as luxury by classical brands now also claim to be luxury. This makes those classical brands very annoyed. For real luxuries, there are several requirements which are necessary. The first is the culture and value accumulated through history and tradition. This is nothing like a simple slogan on magazines and Internet. However, at the same time, luxury brands have to adapt itself to the development of market. This is why many old European brands die out over years. They stick to their so-called value too rigidly. Second is the rarity of the material and technique. Luxury brands all have their special material supply chain. Now they also require unique manufacturing skills and the combination with high technology. The last part is high-end customer service. Designing is obviously very important but now designing has become so irreplaceable in every aspect of the society that it is no longer exclusive to luxury.

From my point of view, in 20 years, competitiveness only depends on two parts – creativity and execution. Many big companies stop when developed to certain stage. Part of the reason is that their success in the past restricts their mind – too dependent on past successful experience. For example, when the industry changes from traditional retailing mode to Internet retailing service, many traditional companies would be left behind. This is not the problem of changing method but rather changing settled notion and ways of thinking. But the most difficult thing for one to change is how to think. In addition, when one company reaches certain scale, the execution will inevitably slow down. As a consequence, there are few big companies surviving for a long time. Most foreign companies lasting for a long time are those medium size controlled by one family. But such companies in China are also hard to survive. People do not have enough tolerance. Brothers, relatives and even couples could turn against each other for money. If so, who else can tolerate and trust. Also Chinese are in lack of security and goal for future development.

Washington DC

White house. I‘m pretty sure many of our municipal governmental offices are more magnificent than this one but… Power has nothing to do with the physical building.

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There is a vast green land between the Capitol hill and the monument ~ the national mall. People play sports, vend small items here. A fun place for family.

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One of the scenes I like mostly in the cities. You often see people running on the streets. In my view, body is part of social class. If you don’t agree, please still stay calm.

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Heroes in the history, although we don’t know their names. I just remembered a debate we had in high school~who created the history? The individual leaders or multitudes? Most of time we only remember the names of a few, what about those ‘normal’ people? I don’t know why, when I saw these statues what jumped into mt head was ‘the progression of our civilization is built on the loss of many lives. ‘ That is why if I had a son I would never send him to battle. I don’t care whatsoever the so-called ‘honor ‘ is. Again if u do not agree, stay calm.

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This photo of the statue of President Washington is taken in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. President Washington refused his colleagues’ suggestions of him establishing a military government after he led the troops of American people winning the Independent War against Great Britain. Instead, he retired from his position and returned home to be a peasant. He thought swords and guns should be used only for the pursuit of liberty. Once people won their liberty, there was no use for swords and guns any more. The artist is intended to remind the descendants with this statue that the minority should never monopolize power and they should learn to give up power at proper time like what President Washington did.

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The lady in this painting is holding a withered rose in her hand, surrounded by presents given by her pursuers. She looks at the withered rose, which indicates the fact that one day, her beauty would also disappear like the rose. But where would her love rest then?

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The painter painted his wife and daughter in this painting. However, he left his wife after this painting due to the fact that he fell in love with another woman. As a consequence, the wife in the painting turned back her face, unwilling to look at the painter. At the same time, his daughter’s eyes are filled with concern, doubts and sorrow.

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The writer, Henry Adam, sponsors this sculpture to memorize his wife who committed suicide. But Henry Adam never admitted that the work was done for her. The sculptor shows the relationship between life and death through this work. He intentionally blurs the gender – it is hard to tell whether this is a male or a female.

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Until today, I get to know the fact that this famous design of “LOVE” is made by Rober Idianns. The designer also had not imagined that this work should achieve such commercial success. It is widely used in Christmas cards and wrap-up paper. Due to the fact that the designer did not register for copyright, he made not a single dollar from the tremendous commercial success.

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This designer, Andy Warhol, as well as this work of Marilyn Monroe might be the most familiarized names.

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Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania (2)

Amish people also hang their laundry outside the door, haha! It’s quite similar to Chinese families but not American families. When Amish girls reach 16 – 18, and boys 20 – 22, they will decide whether or not they will receive sacrament. In addition to traditional Christian ceremonies, they must also vow to a series of principles, including the prohibition of premarital sex. Amish people can choose whether or to they will receive the sacrament, but once they do, they must live up to their vows. In circumstances when Amish people break the vows, they will receive punishments such as being isolated by everyone else. Do you think such punishment works?

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Amish people can also choose to live a urban life. When Amish people reach adulthood, their parents will ask about their life choice. In a survey conducted more than 10 years ago, about 2 in every 10 Amish people wish to live in the city. According to a recent survey…… guess how the situation has changed?

 

Amish girls’ and boys’ clothing. There are not many varieties in styles because Amish people believe in simplicity. Boys all wear black trousers with braces and shirts. They wear western suits with ties when they go to Church on Sunday, as to show their respect to God. Amish dressing styles resist any kind of modern element, for example, they only use bottoms but not zips, and only monochromatic clothing but never chromatic ones. All girls wear dresses with aprons, fixed by pins. It looks kind of dogmatic to me; after all, pins are not so safe especially for girls’ clothing.

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Amish people live up to the principle of simplicity even when they decorate their houses. There is only basic furniture, but no television. Fully decorated curtains show that the house owner is not married. Having no television doesn’t mean they receive no information from the outside world; everyday Amish people listen to the radio to learn about the world.

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Amish people rely on kerosene lamp rather than electricity. They invented this “mobile gas holder” to ensure safety as well as energy saving.

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They travel by carriage rather than car. I saw quite a few carriages on the road. Felt like they were living a medieval rural life.

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Night acitivity with local community. The performance was achieved by innovative representatives from every country. In the end, those of us from China sang the song “Jasmine Flower”, accompanied by a gorgeous young man playing piano. I didn’t really remember any other lyrics except the first line……Oooops

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These two aged lady and gentleman welcomed us into the community. Out of their love for God, they voluntarily received guests from around the world. They could have just stayed at home and enjoyed their life, but they chose to spend five tiring days with a group of people from diverse backgrounds, making sure everyone was safe and happy. They only wish that God’s Gospel travelled to more people!

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This guy is from Taiwan, and the girl from Mainland China. Before the performance started we invited him to join us in performance since they were such a small group, but he rejected the invitation without any hesitation. Surprisingly, he introduced himself on stage by saying “I’m from Taiwan and this girl is from Mainland China. You guys all know how complicated the situation is between us, so I’d like to invite this lady to perform with me.”

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This girl is from Saudi Arabia. She tried hard to change the general stereotype that women in Arabic world have an extremely low social status. She said that in her country, women’s life is just the same as women in any other country – they receive equal opportunity in education and career development; they can also hang out with their friends on the street and drive a car. Even the clothing aren’t so different, except that they must cover the head with a scarf.

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Fellows from Japan introduced the Japanese “Toilet Culture”. According to them, it would be a complete enjoyment to use a Japanese toilet: you will be welcomed by music as you enter the toilet, more music as you sit down, and you will be washed with warm water when you finish. Haha!

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A Pakistani man who lived in Israel. I asked him about the their relationship with Jewish people, and he said there was no problem at all living with Jewish people. Politicians and the media retorted their real relationship, maximizing the negative influence while neglecting the positive news. Although I knew that they shared a common ancestor Abraham, I only learned today that their languages, Hebrew and Arabic, are kind of closely related too.

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Egyptian girl talking about current situation in Egypt. Unfortunately my mind was wandering for a few minutes and I didn’t remember anything……

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Linguistic teacher from Russia. He read Pushkin’s poems in Russian. “I loved you one day.”

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Mountain Joy, three hours away from New York by train. A villa in that area costs around 150 – 200 grands. The price is so attractive, compared with that in China. No wonder so many Chinese people are buying estates here. My landlady bought a mobile house for only 70 grands — and it’s permanent property rights! The small town looks like a great place for vocation and retirement!

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Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania (1)

Arrived in Pennsylvania. Spent Thanksgiving here. Travelled with 40 people from over 10 different countries. In my host family lived a old lady who lived in awe of God. She spent the hardest days of her life with a strong faith in God, bringing up four kids all by herself. Life treated her with hardships, yet I saw no complaint but only joy and gratitude in her.

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Spent Thanksgiving in my host family in Pennsylvania. It was the first time I spent Thanksgiving in an American family. We had turkeys, corns, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Many Chinese people hold the traditional view that we do the best in performing our obligations to our aged parents, but from what I have seen, most Americans also take very good care of their family, even better than some Chinese people these days. It really warmed my heart when the old lady placed her head on her son’s shoulder when we were watching tv.

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Roofed bridge. Guess why they roofed the bridge?

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Amish kids. Amish people migranted from the Netherlands to the new world in early 16th century. Back then the United States of America were yet to be established. For hundreds of years, Amish people have lived as a self-contained community, resisting any type of modernization and urbanization. There is no electricity in an Amish family. They have their own educational institutions and (Christian) churches, as well as their own communities. Amish communities are agriculture based, but it doesn’t mean that they are broke. Most Amish families actually have a quite deep pocket, but they believe in living a simple life.
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Weather forecasting in Amish communities
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Shops owned by Amish people. Most of the products here are for tourists. Their own clothing are not as colorful.
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Amish people’s school. Most Amish schools are pretty small because it’s community-based. There are no more than 20 kids in total, and kids from the same grade sit in a row. A bit similar to the primary schools in Chinese countryside, where the teachers teach kids from more than one grade. The students study English, German, Literature, History and Maths. Amish schools offer education until the 8th grade, so if you wish to continue studying, you have go somewhere else. But most Amish people are satisfied with this amount of education because they find it enough for an agriculture-based community. They only pursue higher degrees if they want to be a lawyer, doctor, or what not
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But don’t think that Amish people have low standards for social behaviors just because they receive limited education. On the contrary, their educational system is quite well-established. Amish children also do better in exams than kids from other public schools. This is because of the high quality of Amish teachers, and the fact that students in higher grades keep reviewing what they have learned in previous years because they sit in the same classroom with younger students.
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