After watching "The Snowflake & The Rose"

I just went to see the theater production of a group of Hampshire students, and I am totally amazed! I would strongly recommend everyone, especially those first years to go and see it. We are not allowed to graduate without seeing at least ten of Hampshire's student plays.

My love for Hampshire is build on such kinds of magical encounters. I randomly came to the performance, without a reservation. And I am totally captivated by the story, the creativity, the set-up, the circus and the passion of everyone involve in the show. Everyone in this college is passionate about some unique things in a unique way. I also think the admission office should introduce these Hampshire students' projects to prospective students. These are the best representation of Hampshire's spirit.


Before the New Semester

Tomorrow is a new start. I need to spend a couple of hours tonight to get balance.

This winter break is one of the best. Actually, I have always learned a lot during my breaks and vacations. There is no difference between inside and outside of classroom.

This time, it is my first new year in US and the first big trip on this continent. It has been very rewarding and entertaining, including the concussion on the last day.

I have to say this: OPRA rocks! Without Hampshire's Outdoor Program, my life here would be much less exciting. Sometimes I think I have learned more with OPRA than in real classroom. OPRA strengthened my love of nature and team spirit, and it revived a lot of dreams of mine. The OPRA instructors are the treasure of Hampshire.

On our OPRA Winter Extravaganzawinter trip, we are lucky enough to have a very nice and interesting group. I've learned a lot from them, and I missed them a lot these days. Now I don't have to think about who is the cook crew tonight, but I also missed the fun of cooking or watching others cook for me. For 14 days, we drive together, play Pictionary together, cook and wash dishes together, climbed Mt. Washington together, played ice-hockey and witnessed a real Canadian hockey fist fight, ate smoked meat, Korean food and Oreo from three different countries...

On the last day I had a concussion, and for the first time in my life I was sent into a hospital by an ambulance. It was very fun indeed, and they even put a oxygen mask on my face in the ambulance as I enjoyed the siren. It smells a bit weird though.

The French nurse asked me to "make pee-pee" as I was lying on my back. That was unforgettable. The bill is $1500 in the end, no discount for students. But I think I'm lucky to have the accident on the last night of the trip, not the very beginning.

That 14 days of winter sports was really intense, and it makes me so sad when it is all over. And it makes me think: when did I became so sentimental?

Travels never ends. I'm preparing for the next one.

I finished reading the first half of "Lun Yu". Confucius is such a great master. It is a great pity that these days, the ancient classics are no more included in Chinese schools, but I believe it will come back soon.

When I look ahead, the new semester will be very exciting. I'm taking around five courses, and I have several projects to work on. The main theme is still politics and economics, especially international economics. I hope that I could find my entrance to the real world. Tomorrow I'm going to Smith College to take two courses, and it feels great to be able to speak German again. I will pick up German and go even further. I want to speak German as fluently as English. I will definitely go back to Germany in the coming years, before it's too late =)


Message from Avatar

I went to watch Avatar tonight. The film is visually powerful. Maybe the plot is a bit predictable, but I think it is sending out a very good message. The human arrogance, the army, the corporations, the lack of respect and understanding of nature... The film should be premiere at the Copenhagen summit.

Our culture now is not even tolerant enough to accommodate different religions and races, what if one day we really face some other intelligence on other planet? I hope we don't make such discoveries because we are not well prepared to face them. Our culture is not that advanced or tolerant to live with other intelligent species.

When I was watching Avatar, I think I was watching a history film, a history of colonialism and imperialism. But native Americans don't have flying dragons, so they were removed.

I support China's policy of developing its economy first. When you don't have the hard power, you can't persuade others by talking about morals. Several decades ago, if China don't have nuclear bomb, US and Russia won't sit down with you at the same table. You have to be strong enough first. And then you can carry out your own rules and do what is right. So power comes ahead of anything else! But superpowers always tend to abuse the power. So we are still looking for a solution, a balance.


Coming back to Hampshire College

It feels so good to be back again. After more than half a month of sleeping on the floor, in a sleeping bag, in a hostel or on the couch, I can finally sleep on my Hampshire bed again.

I know how the hot shower works, I can do all my laundry using all the five wash machines, I can eat ice-cream from Saga... This just makes me feel relax again.

I settled down today, and I will do some work tomorrow. On the 5th, I will prepare for my next trip to Main and Quebec, and the following day I will go on my second part of the voyage during my first winter break on this continent.

I need to have a good rest and eat a lot of healthy food in oder to get enough reserve in my body for the coming skiing trip.


Conclusion of my days in New York City

My 17-day adventure in New York City has ended perfectly. In one word: what a life!

I spend most of my time on museums, shows and just walking around the city. Simply walking around is not only healthy, but also full of surprises. There are artists around every corner, in every subway station, even in the subway. They make New York really New York. Now I feel like that I can write a personal tour guide or give advices to other tourists.

On average, I have spend $70 per day, which is really good. At least $25 will go to food. There are transportation, admission tickets, living in a hostel, and most importantly, tickets for different shows.

During my stay in New York, I have been to four Broadway Musicals (Mama Mia, Fela, Memphis, South Pacific), two live comedy, two concerts from the New York Philharmonic (one of them is "Salute to Vienna", the American version of New Year Concert), one Ballet "The Nutcracker" from the New York Ballet, and three operas in the Metropolitan Opera, which is magnificent! Two of the operas (Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier) are from Richard Strauss and were sung in German. So all together, they are 12 world class shows in 17 days. It was AMAZING!

And I went to a couple of museums. Like many others, my favorite one is the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. The finest human creations in such a high concentration. It was just dazzling, and I can't keep my mouth close for 7 hours.

On the contrary, modern arts still close its door to me. I went to the Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art, but I find it hard to appreciate most of the works there. It will come.

I have learned, a lot. Here are some points that I find very interesting.

1. Money

As a student, I have more time than I have money. Sometimes I spend more than an hour running up and down the streets to find the cheapest opera ticket. It has been a great experience and a free microeconomics lesson. The delight of making wise business decision is overwhelming! Just ask a few more people in the box office, I can save fifty dollar and get the best seat for a world class concert. It's not really saving money that makes me happy. It's the real battles, negotiations, strategies and maneuvers that makes me glad. If I just go and stand in line and buy full price ticket, I wouldn't really enjoy the shows as much as I had.

These days, I work closely with different banks, ATMs, and personal financial issues. It's very exciting! I have to decide whether I should use credit card or cash, whether I should sell my Euro for US Dollar or keep it, whether I should pay my bill today or let the balance roll over to next month. "Timing" has been proved to be a crucial factor. If I find the "rhythm" of money and do transactions according to it, I will have enough liquidity all the time. Although in small amounts, these practices and transactions are real, and it affects my living standard in this crazy city. For example, one day I forgot to keep enough cash on me, so I can't even buy a hot dog on the street. I had to run through several blocks to find a place that accepts credit card---McDonald's.

Besides timing, "asking" is also very important. Always ask, and ask for information from different sources. Information is money!

2. Speaking German

I'm very glad that I spend a year as an exchange student in German before I come to America. And I'm very glad that I speak basic German relatively fluently right now. These days, there are so many tourists from Germany, partly because the Euro is worth more than US dollar, therefore it is even cheaper for Europeans to spend their holidays in USA. I'm always excited to hear German on New York Street, and I go up to them and talk. This turned out to be one of the most rewarding things. When we speak German together, we are like old friends meeting again in a foreign city. I made a lot of German friends, and I got to practice German and get familiar with all different German dialects.

I always get complimented on my German and accents, which makes me feel great =) This is also my motivation to practice more.

Speaking Chinese as mother tune is my privilege. Chinese is such an unusual and beautiful language. It offers a different way to think. And for five thousand year, Chinese people have been recording their philosophies, history, poetry, etc with Chinese language. When I speak Chinese, I gain access to one of the richest treasure of human wisdom and intelligence.

Speaking English is a must. It gives me great convenience, but it's not an advantage.

Speaking German is like a hobby of mine. I've had such a lovely experience in Germany, so whenever I speak German, I feel like that I am experiencing again those nice moments. Speaking German is also my advantage, not only in business, but also in intellectual world. So many great work that form modern world is written in German. So many operas are sung in German, so many books are published in German...

Language is really a bridge and a bond.

3. Time Management

For travelers, time management is very crucial to their experience. This is a grand strategy thing. I have to take into account many issues, like how is the weather in the coming days, how popular is the site, when are they opened and when they have discount tickets, where are they located, what is the most efficient route and so on. And I always have to think about where I can find good and cheap restaurant and where to lay my big luggage and sleeping bag.

My experience is: I must plan, but don't plan too much. Good plans save time and money and makes the trip more enjoyable. But too much planning is just a burden because things change always. The Statue of Liberty may close due to terrorist threat, and the weather forecast may be misleading. So always have a plan B, and have a good book with you.

4. Modern Times: laptop, internet, Google, online banking, Starbucks...

I find it hard to imagine a situation without my laptop and a internet. At least once I day, I take my lovely netbook and walk into a Starbucks, get online and use Google Maps to get direction, and then log on to Online Banking to pay bills and do budgeting. This is really efficient, but sometimes addictive. I don't want to lose my ability to survive without electronics.

And Starbucks, they are just everywhere! They are not cheap, but offer good, standardized environment and free, fast Wifi. They must be making so much money because no matter which Starbucks I enter, the room is always full of people. The logo of Starbucks has been deeply rooted in people's heart. Sometimes, it serves as a oasis in the wild city. When I see the green mermaid, I feel relaxed at once as if I'm meeting a reliable old friend.

I don't know anything about coffee, and I always order green tea from Starbucks. But there business has been very successful. However, sometime the shops are too crowded, too loud and there are some poor people use it as a refugee.

5. Sponsorship

All of the museums and theaters have a big board near the entrance to show who the benefactors are. The Met Opera even have names on the back of each seat.

I think this is a great system, but maybe the government should also cover a bit of the cost. Indeed, without these great shows, New York is not as alive.

What I found really interesting is reading through the long list of sponsors. Among the greatest sponsors are Rockefeller and his wife, Morgan, Carnegie, Mellon... When we look at industries, it is very obvious that banks are the single biggest sponsor group of all shows and museums in New York City.

The list of sponsors are usually several pages long. Donations range from thousand to billion dollar. I'm really impressed that there are so many people supporting the art and events they love. For the banks and big companies, they are doing a great advertisement for themselves. Honestly, my impression of banks really changes a lot after this visit to New York.

Another interesting thing is that many Japanese companies are very generous and active sponsors to all different kinds of places and events in New York. I have to say that they have been successful in building their image in America. And look at Time Square's crystal ball: right beneath it, is a Japanese company. On the New Year's Eve, the eyes of the whole world turned to Time Square and watched the ball come closer and closer to the advertisement of a Japanese company. They must have paid a bloody amount of money, but it's worth it.

6. Looking at China and Japan in USA

The "Sponsorship" and advertisement lead me to the following comparison of China and Japan.

When I was visiting the Metropolitan Museum, I heard quite a lot of people asked: "where is the Japanese hall?" But I've heard no one asking anything about China. I was curious, and I went to see both the Chinese hall and the Japanese hall, and now I know why.

China has a much richer and longer story than Japan, but the Chinese Hall in Met Museum is really disorganized. There are no themes or proper display. The hall looked almost like a flee market. On the contrary, the Japanese hall is made into a special exhibition. I can see that they spend a lot of energy in displaying their culture. And the sarcastic thing is that, the subtitle of the Japanese Hall said something like "5000 year old Japanese history and art." At the entrance of the hall, there is a piece of note from the Met Museum, saying thanks to Japanese companies and Government of their effort and support. Obviously, Japanese government and corporations are doing the job.

Japan has a small story, but they tell it very well. They tell the story so well that all Americans know it. China has a big story, but no one tells it.

Walking around the street of New York, I see Japan everywhere. Their engagement and operations have been very deep and successful. They has established their own brands and standards. On the contrary, Chinese presence in New York is just Chinese restaurant and Chinatown.

Even the Chinatown is not doing a good advertisement. I visited the Chinatown is Manhattan, and I was very disappointed. But this also represent a good business opportunity. Now China has a lot to learn from Japan.

OK, I will stop here because I need to pack my bag for my next trip to Maine and Quebec, skiing and snowshoeing and so on =)

New Year at New York City & dreams

No, I actually didn't go to Time Square to watch the ball come down. It was cold and wet and dangerous =)

I saw the "Nutcracker" at New York City Ballet on New Year's Eve. It was so enjoyable! My mind was very much purified.

In the past week, I have spent most of my time (and money) at Lincoln center. Two operas at Metropolitan Opera, two concerts from New York Philharmonic, one Ballet and one musical. Going to these performances has been one of my best investments!

My Hampshire student ID has been the most powerful license for me because as I student, I can get discount tickets everywhere. This is a great system because students are the future (performers, audience and benefactors), and they can't afford the high prices now. This is an angel investment in the future generation.

SO many things have happened, and sometimes things happen so fast that I don't have enough time to think about them. And these days, I didn't write enough, so a lot of thoughts might be lost.

I have had some interesting dreams these nights, and some old memories came back to me, things that I would never remember when I am awake. Some old dreams reappeared in my mind. Like one night I had a dream that I am flying just like swimming in the air. The feeling is so real that I get very confused when I woke up. Maybe I'm more awake and clear when I am dreaming.

I like dreams, and I have a lot of dreams. This might meant that my sleep is not very deep, but I would accept this trade-off. Wonderful things happen when I am dreaming. And when I'm dreaming, I'm living another life. So I'm alive 24 hours a day!

When we dream, we forget about reality. When we wake up, we forget about our dreams. There are just a few situations where dream and reality meet.

I realized a lot of things from dreaming, and I learned a lot from my dreams. Sometimes I'm really impressed by what I have said or done in my dreams. I give better speeches in dreams.

When I'm dreaming, I have less control over my consciousness, so I can see my true self better. I can see what has really been troubling me, what's really deep inside of me. And I accomplish great things in dreams, and those scenes give me inspiration for the day.

In my world, there is no boundary between dream and reality. They are both me, at least part of me.