Email to Rory, July 6, 2009:
I woke up this morning and tried to call you, but to no avail. I tried to dial like normal, but the hotel phone seems to have a different protocall and everything is now in Mandarin and none of the hotel staff speaks English. Basically, I don’t know how to call out. I will have to check with one of the project leaders or interpreters today.
I was surprised that in Beijing and Xi’an pretty much everything had an English translation, like Spanish in the US, only much more so. English is everywhere in those two cities. Everyone certainly doesn’t speak it, bit you can muddle your way through. I think we are now in an area with a different dialect, if not possibly a different language? The language in China is pretty interesting. I have been working on figuring out the most common characters on signs so I can figure things out a little better. It has been an interesting exercise, especially since we were told before coming not to bother our interpereters with constant questions about the language. Getting that from 18 people can be a bit much I guess. So it has been interesting and a bit fun to use other means to figure it out.
We are now hanging out with a professor from CU Boulder who’s research is focused on this area. He is a geographer who studies identity and tourism. That is probably not the best explanation, and I will tell you more about it as I learn. Basically, we are looking at the ways the local villages have “reinvented” themselves for local Chinese tourism. With the growth of leisure time, lengthened holidays, and more income, local tourism has grown. We are currently in a hmong area, the Chinese ethnic group that seems to be big in Wisconsin.
I have to go get ready for the day now. I will try to find a way to call you or maybe even send out these emails. There is wireless in one corner of the lobby, but it appears to be unaffiliated with the hotel and all in Mandarin, so no clue how to use it. I will probably stick to writing you emails to send later and try to figure out how to call. I am really glad I am here and I am learning a lot.