Fake Stuff – updated

Nicky Coutinho, veteran of the 2012 program, recently updated the video that he and Shanel Tage did on the knockoff market in China.

It’s good to see the continuing impact of their experiences in the Davidson in China program continue on in their academic career.

Silk Orders at the South Bund

bohannan-Wanderlust_2013-1The sound of a sewing machine rumbling reminds me of my mother. My mother, Ivy, works as tailor in a local boutique in Durham, NC. As a child, I could usually find my mother in her sewing room working on her clients’ clothes or a sewing project for fun. Many of the garments my sister and I wore growing up were custom made by my mom. My mother sewed us many things, including, smoking dresses, bedspreads, and Halloween costumes. She would often bring my sister and me along to shop for buttons, zippers, and thread. While walking through the fabric store, my hands would move across the endless rows of fabric rolls; cotton, fleece, polyester, leather, silk and satin.

For more, click here.

(This is an article written by Chai Lu Bohannan, as part of the 2013 Wanderlust magazine published by the Dean Rusk Center for International Studies).


When I came to China I had the goals of improving my language ability, experiencing new things, and learning as much as possible about what real daily life is like for Chinese people. I have gotten that and so much more out of my four months here. The countless people I’ve met in Shanghai and other places around China have each provided their own unique window through which I have seen the reality of their lives. I have gotten the chance to see amazing sights, try amazing food, and simply appreciate living in a truly foreign environment.

I must say that participating in FDANSO, the street dance group at Fudan University, has been the highlight of my experience in Shanghai. Never before have I been in such an environment, one where I knew exceptionally little about what was happening, what was being said, or how things operated. But I quickly learned how to make friends, and through those friendships I was able to understand what being a young person in China is like.

The dancers in that organization are the reason I am thankful to have been in Shanghai, and I feel truly privileged to have been allowed to join them. I learned a great deal about how to work with people, how to communicate, and how to let certain things go. I learned I do not need to know everything that is going on at every moment. I learned that as people we all have similar pressures. And, perhaps most importantly, I learned that sometimes the most meaningful communication happens independent of verbal language. When I was dancing with everyone, or when I taught them a phrase that I choreographed, there were no words that could substitute for the message that needed to be delivered. That’s why I have so much belief in the power of dance. In those moments our language barrier was lifted, and we could share the experience of performing as one group, as opposed to just being a bunch of Chinese people and me, the white guy.

Even given all the challenges, all the struggles, and all of the yearning for the familiar, I can say that leaving is especially bittersweet. I feel like it has been so long since I’ve lived in the world that I knew. But what I’ve come to understand is that being here did not exile me, it’s just made “my world” bigger. I go back to the United States now with a better understanding of the realities of modern China and a new appreciation for our increasingly global culture. Not to mention a few new dance moves.

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. :’(

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!