Archives for December 2012

What Davidson Doesn’t Teach

In our little “utopian” bubble, we all live harmoniously (lol).

When there is an issue, we discuss it in an intellectual manner.

We feel comfortable and secure; leaving our belongings in the Union, and our doors unlocked.

There’s no vulgarity:

No hacking up “luggies.”

No pissing on walls.

No bare asses exposed.

And while this is all fine and dandy, Davidson lacks an inexplicable charm that only Shanghai possesses.

Still, I must admit, I did have some trouble adapting initially. The cultural differences were stark. The ostensible lack of politeness and civility was definitely jarring (and still gets on my nerves to this day). Being an ambiguous spectacle wasn’t something took too kindly either.  Yet, regardless of what I had to get used to, my experiences in China has been much more than trivial nuisances.

Learning how to navigate independently around in an unfamiliar city was one of my top delights. Simply being able to walk, take the metro, bus, or taxi is an unbelievably liberating experience. Unlike “downtown” Davidson (consisting of half a block), or even downtown Charlotte (consisting of four buildings), I have the ability to walk fifteen, twenty minutes; or with 2 kuai, take a five-minute bus ride to Wujiaochang and hit the mall.

Which leads me to my MOST pleasurable past time…SHOPPING! As an international mecca for various industries, shopping centers are of course abundant. What I love about Shanghai shopping is that its not limited to your average mall experience you might find in the states. In these three months, I’ve not only improved my Chinese speaking and listening ability (how much so however is debatable), but also became fluent in the language of bargain.

Besides reaping the benefits of cosmopolitan living, I have thoroughly enjoyed and will miss the most, my food families! The Baozi Lady. Roger and his wife, the  Fried Rice/Fried Noodle Couple, and my play boy friend at CoCo’s, I will miss them the most. Although exchanges were minimal due to language barriers, our mutual appreciation for each other goes unobstructed. I visit them so often that they prepare my food before I even get the chance to order. While I’ve never expressed my love and appreciation for them before, I hope they know they and all of Shanghai will always have a place in my heart.

It’s going to be hard to let this all go. :’(

My Semi-Eco, Shanghainese Lifestyle

Trying to be environmentally mindful in a city like Shanghai takes a great deal of blind faith. It takes blind faith because almost every “recycling” or “sustainable” facility doesn’t look like that at all. In a country where I don’t speak the language or know much about local sustainability, I simply trust and hope that a few of my recyclables end up somewhere other than a landfill.

The air quality suffers in China, which means that my lungs suffer, too.

I lived in Davidson College’s Eco-House during my last academic year, so I had a relatively well-established routine in trying to be environmentally thoughtful. Of course, that routine was drastically changed when I arrived in Shanghai. In some ways, my carbon footprint has significantly increased, but in other ways, I have actually become more energy efficient while living in Shanghai.

Here’s an example of the advantages and disadvantages of an environmental lifestyle in Shanghai. In the United States, I carry around a CamelBak filled with tap water. In Shanghai, I carry around huge plastic bottles of mineralized water. The major downside is that I drink massive amounts of water, insane amounts of water according to my friends. I am always well-hydrated, so I amass piles of plastic bottles. I put them outside my apartment door with the rest of my trash, and I cross my fingers that the Tonghe employees throw them in with recycling. Or if walking on the street, I throw them into one of many old trash cans with two sections labeled “recycling” and “other waste.” I really do not know the ultimate outcome, though.

Fingers crossed that these get recycled.

Luckily, I am more energy efficient in other ways. For example, I hang-dry my clothes. The washing machines are not equipped to dry clothes, so like all the other nearby apartments, I dry my clothes on the porch or in my room. It saves energy, but I never actually started hang-drying my clothes until coming to Shanghai.

Hang-drying clothes is also a stylish way to decorate a dorm room.

Environmentalism is a complex topic for most developing countries, but especially for China. Shanghai had a global environmental spotlight for some time because Chongming Island was originally planned to be the world’s first purpose-built eco-city. As Chai Lu, Feng Ran, and I have researched throughout the semester, that eco-city has not come to fruition. Many of the environmental initiatives around Shanghai seem similar: they are great in theory but hardly executed in practice. Still, Chinese environmental efforts are definitely still active and on-going. My plastic water bottles might be plentiful, but I do believe that at least some of them are being recycled.

Yeeva Cheng delivers a paper at an international Hakka Studies conference

At an international conference titled “Hakka Cultural Diversity and Theory in Hakka Studies” held at Jiaying College in Meizhou Prefecture, Guangdong Province on December 6-10, 2012, Yeeva Cheng (’15) presented “Historical Trauma and Cultural Discontinuity in the Hakka Diaspora: The 1962 Internment of Indian Hakka and the Barriers to Political Mobilization.” The conference was attended by close to one hundred scholars from all over the world, mostly from various parts of Asia with sizable Hakka communities. The Hakka are a subset of the dominant Han ethnic group in China, with a distinct dialect, cultural system, cuisine, and history. They are characterized by their scattering as a diaspora, their historical relative gender equality, and their disproportionate representation in political leadership, educational attainments, and entrepreneurial spirit. Because of the paucity of research on the Indian Hakka community overall and the nature of the historical trauma, Cheng’s paper was well-received by the academic audience, and will be published in conference proceedings in the future. The abstract for Cheng’s paper can be found below.


During the 1962 border conflict between China and India, nearly three thousand Indian Chinese accused of being Communist sympathizers (many of whom were Hakka) were incarcerated in the Deoli Internment Camp in Rajasthan. Almost fifty years after the trauma faced by the Hakka Indian community, ex-internees who migrated to Canada and the United States formed the Association of India Deoli Camp Internees 1962 (AIDCI). Members of the Hakka Indian community have become prominent leaders in the group, largely due to kinship ties among members. While the formation of AIDCI seems to indicate a positive step forward for the Hakka community in terms of resolving this historical trauma, AIDCI struggles with three major factors: geography, time, and space. Geography has become a challenge as AIDCI members struggle to mobilize the diasporic community. Time is a struggle as AIDCI members consist mostly of senior citizens who fear that they will pass on before they receive an apology from the Indian government. And space has become a subsequent challenge of the issue of geography; while the Canadian Hakka community has remained close and active, they struggle with carving out a political space in which they can amplify AIDCI’s impact.
Based on interviews with ex-internees, the Deoli Internment Camp literature, and Cheng’s personal involvement in AIDCI, this paper will explore how generational displacement has limited the Hakka Indian community’s ability to mobilize politically and resolve the legacy of historical trauma. Despite finally finding a space for political action, Hakka survivors of the Indian internment camp must overcome their lack of education, the differences that come with an “interethnic” organization, and difficulty in communicating with new, assimilated generations (the children of ex-internees).

Taiwanese Scooters, by Chai Lu Bohannan and Alina Gomez

As part of their exploration of what makes Taipei different from Shanghai, Chai Lu and Ali made a video exploring a readily-seen feature of Taipei – the scooters and motorcycles of Taiwan. The Mods don’t have anything on this woman featured in this ethnographic short.

Christmas Around Shanghai

As I’m sure everyone in the States is reminded constantly, it’s the Christmas season! I am beyond excited to return home and celebrate with my family. Being in China for Thanksgiving was particularly hard, knowing that across the globe my extended family was gathering together and I was the absent one. But missing Christmas would just not be an option. I know a few international students here are staying until mid-January since they have to adhere to the Fudan University academic calendar, which has the semester ending at that time. But since I’m technically on the Davidson calendar, I’m coming home!

Recently I’ve tried to make the best out of being in China in terms of getting excited for the holiday season. I listen to Christmas music on my computer, bought a new sweater, and my friend hosted a really nice Christmas party in her apartment last night where we all played a game of Yankee Swap (they called it “White Elephant”). But nothing can compare to being in Maine this time of year.

But to be honest, there has been a sense of Christmas cheer around the city. I’ve seen a lot more Christmas decorations in Shanghai that I expected. By no means is it as significant of a holiday in China as in the U.S., but I’ve notice a plethora of signs, sales, and figures around the city that seem to suggest that the spirit of Christmas is alive and well in China, or at least Christmas consumerism!

In any case, it’s oddly comforting to see huge plastic trees around the mall and new holiday-themed red cups emerging from Starbucks. Even in the smallest of convenience stores they have messages of Christmas cheer. It’s getting me that much more excited to return to America. I’ll be home for Christmas!