We finished up a busy week of orientation in Dali with a visit to the Mekong River on Saturday, our first of several throughout the semester. We first had lunch in a small village that sits along the Mekong – fresh fish soup, and luckily lots of vegetable dishes for the vegetarians in the group. After lunch, we headed out on the river. The weather was perfect for being outside; you can see the sunny day we had in the pictures along with this post. In about a half-hour, we reached the Manwan Dam and hiked up the road to get a better view. This dam, one of five currently operating along the Mekong, has been troublesome for both locals and environmentalists working in the Mekong Delta. The dam and its environmental effects were the subject of most of our discussion that day. Due to security, however, we weren’t able to walk too close, and instead viewed the dam from the peak of its adjacent hill. After a few hours of hiking and discussion, we returned back to the village where our bus awaited to take us back to Kunming.
Our week in Dali was an incredible experience. I’ve already visited some of the scenery I’ve been dying to see since before leaving for China, and I’ve still got the rest of the spring semester to do some exploring! It was great first exposure to our time here with IES Abroad. We started getting more in depth with our class discussions, particularly with those about the environmental issues the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) currently faces. One thing I’ve learned thus far is that I’m a bit of an outsider within the IES group when it comes to knowledge in political science and environmentalism. As a computer science major, I’ve never had to think twice about how much a single dam can actually impact its surrounding environment. Perhaps you can imagine the eye-opening experience I had, having our first two-hour class discussion solely on dams along the Mekong. Now that we’ve had about a week’s worth of our Core class, which focuses on regionalism and environmental development in the GMS, I’m feeling a little nervous about how difficult this course will be for me. Nearly all of the students at IES Kunming study some form of political science or environmentalism, specializing in Southeast Asia. Maybe my knowledge isn’t up to par, but I want to keep an open mind throughout the semester. I know that this program will be an opportunity for me to branch out and learn in-depth about a topic I’ve never studied before.
We’re back at Yunnan University in Kunming now, and in our first week of classes. It feels as though the semester has officially begun, and I’m happy to have homework again, believe it or not. It’s been over a month since I last had any real work to do, and I get antsy when there’s nothing to keep me busy (and sane). I feel ready to settle into a regular routine again, and to see what the semester has in store.