Friday, April 30, 2010


I am currently in the Seattle airport awaiting my flight to Beijing. Unlike last year, where I flew into Los Angeles and had a 14-hour layover, my flight only has about a 2-hour layover and I'm in Seattle this time. I will not fly into Korea (like I did last year) - my flight goes directly from the US. It's kind of weird to think that the next time I set foot on land, I will be halfway across the world, in a different hemisphere, culture and time zone.

The picture above is not one that I took but it's exactly what I saw outside of my plane window - the beautiful snow-covered mountains of Washington. I woke up from a short nap to find the entire ground covered in bright white snow with the mountain peaks bulging from the surface of the earth. I miss mountains and am very excited to see them again in Asia... and hopefully climb one again this year!

I will arrive in Beijing around 4pm (4am USA time). Carrie and I will go right to our hotel at Peking University and then maybe out to dinner. I am still exhausted from finals week at school, so I am looking forward to getting some sleep eventually.

Not sure what my internet situation will be like in Beijing - I've been told I'll have it in my room - but I will try to update this blog as much and as soon as possible with pictures and adventure updates. It also depends what kinds of internet bans China has on Blogspot this year. One never knows.

Thanks for following and I'll write soon from CHINA!

Bon voyage,

23rd Birthday!

Yesterday, April 29th, was my 23rd birthday. My parents decorated the kitchen in red and yellow streamers in honor of my trip to China! It was perfect. September came over to pick me up for Chicago. She had decorated her car in streamers, window pain and Morgan balloons and even brought baseball hats and blue ribbon wigs for us to wear to the Cubs game we saw. Since my flight to China left Chicago at 8am this morning, we decided to spend the night in the city and also celebrate my birthday. We saw the Cubbies lose to Arizona, we went to the University of Michigan bar "Duffy's" and ate sushi/burgers/french fries/Funfetti cake all night. It was so much fun. Birthdays should always involve 2 days of partying with friends. It made leaving for China this morning extra difficult because we all had such a great time. Thanks again Mom, Dad, September, Caitlyn and Becky!! And thanks to everyone who called/wrote me birthday wishes. I had a wonderful day. 


Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Center for Chinese Studies Photo Contest

The Center for Chinese Studies just announced their theme for the 2010 Photo Contest: Imaging China. 
          "As a student, scholar, traveler, or artist, one’s views about China are constantly shifting. 
What will the future of China look like—what from the past will contribute to the fabric of tomorrow? How will innovation, politicization, and cultural trends affect everyday life next year, a decade from now, or well into the future?  Think about what’s next for towns and cities in China and what lies ahead for the environment, housing and jobs, family, and communication."  

I will have to be on the lookout for pictures that pertain to this theme. Thankfully, I should have my camera in my hands at all times for the work I'll already be doing. I was grateful to have 2 of my pictures as finalists for the 2009 contest (see previous entries for link and chosen photographs), so I am excited to be able to participate again this year! 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

1 week to go!

I'm a week away from leaving for China. Finals are well under way here at school, I'll leave Ann Arbor on April 28th, leave for Chicago on the 29th (my 23rd birthday) and then fly out the morning of the 30th. Everything is happening so fast - I have to be extra organized this year.

An update on what I'm doing this time in China:
For the first 16 days, I'll be in Beijing with Carrie photographing social work organizations in Beijing. On days when we do not have any meetings with the organizations, I will be taking day trips to the sites - Bird's Nest, Water Cube, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Hutongs, Temples, and mountains - to photograph my nature photos. There will be about 3 days in those first 2 weeks where I'll take the bullet train to Tianjin to photograph Larry and the GIEU team. Then, on May 15 and 16, Larry and Carrie will be holding a mini conference in Beijing about social work in the US and in China. Carrie is leaving for Shanghai after the conference and I will spend my remaining days (before I fly to Shanghai) in Tianjin with the GIEU team. I am hoping I'll be able to make a sneaky trip back to Yummy Food for some veggie pizza or chocolate covered banana pancakes.

I'll be in Shanghai from May 22-26. We'll visit the World Expo, some sites in the city and spend a night in Changshu - a rural city about 2 hours outside of Shanghai. Then, I fly to Hong Kong May 26-31st. I CANNOT WAIT for Hong Kong - my favorite city in the world. Larry wanted to work with some AIDS organizations in HK but we have yet to contact any. So I will use that time to go up in the mountains and see the Big Buddha again, spend some time in Kowloon, and take a day trip to Macau. MY friend Eric is no longer living in HK, he moved back to the US, so I will have to navigate the city by myself. I'm VERY EXCITED, though.

Not sure what the internet situation will be like this year overseas. It's very possible China still has a "ban" on the Blogspot website. If they do, I will have to find alternative ways of posting pictures and updates. I also will not be flying into Korea this year for a long layover like last summer. I'll fly from Seattle directly into Beijing - so no cool updates on the way over. However, on the way home on the 31st, I will be stopping in Tokyo!! (I heard the airport bathrooms are a must-see, so when I booked my ticket, I paid an extra $5 to stop in Tokyo instead of flying back to Korea. Can't wait!)

More to come in the month ahead! It will be interesting to compare trips this time having already been to the cities once before. While I'm sad I don't have the money to go back to Thailand this year, I know my adventure will be equally as exciting and memorable.

Thanks for following!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

CCS Photo Contest Link

Here is the link to the Center for Chinese Studies photo contest for 2009:

My pictures are the last 2 in the slideshow. While not a winner (sad, I know) I was a finalist! And I will get to keep my matted pictures after they make their rounds throughout Ann Arbor K-12 schools and various events on campus.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Center for Chinese Studies Photo Contest

The Center for Chinese Studies here at the University of Michigan holds an annual photo contest. This year, the theme was "China: Local/Global - Taking the world stage and making history at home and abroad." I entered some of my photos from my trip and these made it to the final round of judging! All of the finalists' pictures were on display in a public exhibit for the past 2 weeks. The pictures were blown up, matted and contained our paragraphs explaining how the photos incorporate the theme. Unfortunately, I did not win the contest but it was cool to have my pictures in an exhibit!

Back to China!!!

Ni hao! Great news! I am going BACK to China this summer to assist in this year's GIEU Tianjin trip! My position lies somewhere between student fellow and site leader and I will be assisting Dr. Larry Gant (the professor who led our trip last year) with the planning and execution for this year's excursion.

The focus of the group is nearly identical to what we did last year: Teaching conversational English to middle/high school and undergraduate students in Tianjin, China using the mediums of the fine arts. This year, however, the trip extends beyond Beijing and Tianjin to include Shanghai as well as Hong Kong. I AM BEYOND EXCITED.

The trip begins in Tianjin (about 2.5 hours southeast of Beijing) at Tianjin Normal University (TNU). We will teach for about 22 days in both the college and a local middle/high school. I will be leading the dance portion of the teaching modules again but with a greater focus on hip hop as both a teaching tool as well as a means of communication. I will also be instructing lessons on photography. Between teaching and classes in Tianjin, the group will take the bullet train back and forth to Beijing to site-see (I'm not sure what sites yet, but I'm sure it will include the Great Wall, Olympic Village, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, etc.). We will also experience traditional Chinese performances (opera, acrobatics, etc.) similar to last year, to develop a greater awareness and appreciation for ancient Chinese culture.

Post Tianjin, we will fly to Shanghai for about 5 days. We will go to the World Expo! ( The expo brings many countries together and is all about sustainable and harmonious urban living. Over 7 million visitors are expected to visit the expo between May 1-October 31, 2010. We are in the process of contacting the U.S. Representatives about volunteering at the U.S. Pavilion (! If we are granted permission to volunteer, this would be a HUGE opportunity for students to make international contacts, talk with people from all over the world and share our knowledge and experience on sustainability, team work, and health. I have absolutely no idea what we would do if we volunteered (it could be picking up trash for all I know) but the goal is to be involved in the expo with the U.S. Pavilion. In addition to the World Expo, we may volunteer at a few AIDS organizations in the local area. Activities are TBD. Also in Shanghai, we may take a day trip or two outside of the city to Hangzhou or Suzhou like I did last year. It gives a very different perspective of China as the rural parts are often extremely impoverished but contain a vast amount of beauty.

Following Shanghai, we will fly to Hong Kong!!! Hong Kong is quite possibly the best city in the entire world for its public transportation, food, friendly atmosphere, shopping and melting pot of cultures. I adore Hong Kong and am reveling in the opportunity to go back. We will stay in the city (probably in hostels) and work with AIDS organizations yet again. I'm not sure if we'll be using our fine arts modules to communicate or what exactly, but we'll spend the remaining 4-5 days working in the city.

From Hong Kong, I will fly home. No Thailand for me this year. I am still working to make up for the money I spent last year on my adventures. While I would give anything to go back to Thailand, because I feel like that country changed my life and world perspectives, I just do not have the money or time to make the money to go back right now. (I am, however, looking into a teaching program to teach English as a Second Language in Bangkok for a year after I graduate. Details to come in a year).

So that's it! Another 4 weeks in China this summer! I have a TON to do and plan between now and then but it will all be joy, I'm sure. While structurally, the trip is about 80% the same as it was for me last year, this year will give me a completely different perspective being on the leading side of it. I am excited for the challenge and welcome the undertaking with big, wide open arms.

Until next time,
Mo Chou

Tianjin is pretty far north in the country.

But it's not too far from Beijing. Especially when taking the bullet train at 150mph!

This summer, we're pretty much visiting the entire east/southeast side of the country - Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Hong Kong.