Congressional Award Exploration Write-up on Chinese Culture and Language

The questions and instructions found in the Congressional Award record book are written in blue. My writing is in black.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. My Goal
  3. Instructions
  4. Preparation
  5. Documented Experiences in Itinerary Format
  6. Reflections and Comments

Introduction

I was going to use the Congressional Award (CA) exploration trips to dabble into a variety of cultures and histories. I dedicated my first CA exploration trip to learning about black history in February, and I had planed another CA exploration trip to learn about women’s history in March. Then, the coronavirus hit, and I needed to do a two-day CA exploration trip in order to submit my silver certificate packet. Instead, I decided to use the extra free time to plan out a week-long CA exploration trip. I knew I would be leaving for college in the fall, and I knew my schedule would be tight. So, I decided that I should do my CA exploration trip this summer (2020).


The coronavirus caused a lot of tension in the United States. Some people did not believe the coronavirus was a threat and would cough as a joke. Others believed that Chinese exchange students were voluntarily infected with coronavirus, so that they could infect American students; these people created a lot of unnecessary racial tension that will take awhile to dispel.

There were three Chinese exchange students in my graduating class. I was good friends with one of them–Theo. Theo was worried about his family in China because not much was known about the virus except for the fact that it spread easily. With the coronavirus jokes, insults, and the increasingly hostile treatment of Asians in the United States, I could see that the coronavirus was not a nonchalant matter to Theo. He raised $10,000 to help get masks to China, and gave a presentation to the upper school.

Theo is in a blue shirt and khaki pants (left). I am in a pink shirt and white shorts (right).

This made me think about China as a whole. China has one of the largest GDP’s in the world, and its presence on the global stage only grows stronger. That being said, China should be taken seriously, and it would cause serious problems if non-Asian Americans were to alienate Chinese people. Although I do not understand global trade and politics, I know that these things will be effected if the United States renews its discrimination against Chinese people. I also know that alienating Chinese people in the United States will hurt many Asian people because anyone that looks Chinese (ex: has an epicanthic fold) could be effected by coronavirus-based racism.

Unfortunately, many Chinese students residing in the United States have been treated unfairly by non-Asian Americans. For example, Chinese students have been accused of purposefully spreading diseases to American students. These claims have made it difficult for Chinese students to get the emotional support they need in order to cope the effects of the coronavirus.

Although the coronavirus has hurt everyone, I fear that there will be new racist beliefs forced on to Asian students in the United States. As a result, it is important to acknowledge that these ideas could have serious impact in all student’s social and academic lives.

I am not well-versed on diversity issues, but I know that I form friendships with people that I can relate to in some way. Mutual knowledge helps form connections, and by using mutual knowledge, I think non-Asian students will be able to relate better with their Asian peers. If non-Asian students have some appreciation or knowledge of an Asian culture, there is potential for long lasting connections that can withstand politics and coronavirus racism.

In other words, I think if non-Asian students take an interest in elements of Asian cultures–K-POP, philosophy, skin care, literature, Quranic or Buddhist studies, or television dramas–non-Asian students will be able to appreciate their Asian peers more. This is exactly what I hope to accomplish with my CA exploration trip.

My Goal

My goal for this CA exploration trip is to learn about Chinese athletic activities, language, and food.

Instructions

Use these questions to guide your Expedition/Exploration write-up. Your write-up should read like a journal entry and provide a detailed account of your trip from start to finish. This should include planning and preparation notes, your planned itinerary, and a detailed day-by-day account of your actual activity. Remember, we can only review what is submitted. Be as thorough as possible about your experience and provide a glimpse into what you learned.

Preparation

Duration: Gold Level Exploration Project Length – 4 CONSECUTIVE Overnights – (5 Days/4 Nights). In order to count one (1) day of activity, you should be able to show at least 6-8 hours exploring the unique environment or culture.

How did you plan or prepare for this activity? Be as detailed as possible indicating your initiative. Did you investigate and schedule your travel options? Did you research varying venues or locations? Did you coordinate with anyone before your arrival? How did you make your trip or activity happen? If you worked with a group, how did you make this trip happen for you? How did you leave your mark?

July, 2020

July 1 – 4

I have been using Duolingo for while now; I have a 30-day practicing streak. It is a great app for learning how to read Chinese and for learning Chinese sentence structures.

Unfortunately, Duolingo does not do a good job of teaching students how to actually recall information because they use pre-made blocks for answers. In addition, Duolingo does not cover writing or pronunciation.

Since I do not know any Chinese-fluent people who would be available to tutor me throughout the trip, I tried to find some apps that would help me with pronunciation, speaking, and writing.

I found an app called Tandem, which connects native Chinese speakers with native English speakers. The native Chinese speakers teach Chinese to the native English speakers, and vice versa.

Look to July 18 to see the other apps I downloaded.

Note: Although it looks like I found the perfect app for everything, I tested around thirty different language-learning apps. Most of them had very good reviews, but I personally did not like most of the apps. The apps I listed above we my favorites.

July 2

I got the travel dates approved by parents. My trip will start on July 19, and end on July 26. My trip will start of in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I will be driving down to Moorestown, New Jersey to pick up my father at the car repair. Then, I will drive back up to Philadelphia. No activities will be done on July 19 or July 26. In other words, all of my activities are planned to take place between July 20 and July 25 inclusively.

July 5

I looked at how I could expand my knowledge of Chinese at my university. I found that my university offers a multitude of Chinese language classes. I also asked my university’s Reddit page if students liked the Chinese program. I got tons of positive feedback and professor recommendation. Hopefully I can take a Chinese class when I get to school this fall.

I also looked at my university’s study abroad programs. Unfortunately, there were not many opportunities I was interested in, so I decided to look at other universities’ winter break programs. I was able to find four winter break trips that focus on Chinese language.

July 7

I sent an email to the Great Philadelphia Asian Culture Center (GPACC) and the Main Line Chinese Culture Center (MLCCC) requesting a student interviewee. Here is a copy of that email:

Hi there, 

My name is Olivia Gallucci, and I am a first-year college student. I am doing a congressional award project on Chinese culture, and I was wondering if I could interview a high school or college attending member of [GPACC/MLCCC] over the phone. The interview would take 10-20 minutes, and would take place between July 20 to July 25. 

If a member of [GPACC/MLCCC] would be willing to do the phone interview, please respond to this email. I would greatly appreciate it. Here are the questions I would ask during the interview:

1) What do you treasure most about modern day Chinese (or Chinese-American) culture?

2) Benefits of Chinese / English bilingualism? What do you plan on doing with your bilingualism? Do you think you will use it in your future job? 

3) What Chinese or Chinese American values do you think the rest of America needs to improve upon. Here is a sample response given from one of my Iranian friends: “America needs to learn true generosity; generosity through actions. Not the type of virtue-signaling, ‘twitter’ generosity that is so common today. Even poor Iranians pay their party’s dinner bill in advance so that the other party members do not get the chance to pay for the meal. It’s like a friendly competition of who ‘out-kindness’ the other person.”

4) What do non-Chinese Americans get right/wrong about Chinese-American or Chinese culture? 

5) What advice or comments do you have for someone who is trying to learn about Chinese culture? This advice can concern anything you want. In addition, could you recommend any books, movies, food choices, locations, activities, etc…? 

Thank you for your time and assistance.

Sincerely,

Olivia A. Gallucci

I got a response from the president of the MLCCC, who said he will be contacting some of MLCCC’s high school members to see if they would be interested in the interview.

July 12 – 18

At present, I am taking two summer courses; one is at my local community college, and the other is a summer class at my university. Since the CA trip takes up a lot time, I knew that I would not be able to do my coursework and the CA actives at the same time. So, I asked my professors if I could work one week ahead. Although I was not completely able to finish all of next weeks coursework, I was able to get a substantial amount done.

I also started planning how I could use my new iPad Pro during the CA trip. I bought an iPad Pro for this coming school year, and I am super excited to use it. I think am going to do my character writing on the Notability app versus writing on paper. I began to think about how I could format my Notability documents, so that they would be organized beautifully and effectively.

Note: At the moment of writing this, my iPad has not arrived yet.

July 13

The president of the MLCCC introduced me to Nikki, my interviewee, over email. I will be interviewing her on July 20 at 5:00pm.

July 15 – 17

I planned out meals, movies, and exercises; this took a very long time, and a lot of research.

July 18

My iPad Pro arrived. After some research, I downloaded some apps to help me with my writing. First, I downloaded Pieco dictionary, which includes the stroke order for every character. I also downloaded Notability, so that I could practice writing sentences and individual characters. I have used Notability for school, so I am already familiar with it.

Documented Experiences in Itinerary Format

Provide a detailed write up of your actual trip (a day-to-day account). Tell us what you did! This should be the most detailed portion of your write up, including how your plans came to fruition. Include details about what you learned, what you saw, and what you took in. Did all of your plans go smoothly or were there bumps along the road? How did you handle any hiccups? How did you explore the environment or culture for at least 6-8 hours? This should not read like a class assignment or paper, arguing for the validity of your trip and how you found real-world immersion.

July 19

At 12:00, I started my journey to the Volvo repair shop in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. There, I picked up my dad and sister, and we drove into Philadelphia. After I arrived in Philly, I decided to explore Chinatown, so that I would have some familiarity with the area before my exploration project starts.

July 20 (Day 1)

Shopping (8:00-10:15)

I woke up a 6:30, and watched the Philadelphia weather report. At it turns out, this week will have record high temperatures and heat warnings. I decided I will go out at 8:00 AM—the lowest heat and humidity levels of the day—to go shopping for tonight’s recipe (Zhajiangmian noodle dish).

Day 1 shopping summary:

  • Heng Fa Food Market Inc at 130 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    • I bought most of my food here.
  • Zhong Gang Bakery Inc. at 127 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Arch, Philadelphia, US 19107
  • Sue’s Produce at 114 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
  • Spruce Street Market at 1523 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
  • Rittenhouse Market at 1733 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

My first stop was Spruce Street Market. I did not buy anything here because I would pass Spruce Street Market on my way back home, and I did not want to carry anything until I had to.

I decided that it would be best to explore Chinatown before I shopped. I realized that a lot of the stores I was planning on going to changed their hours because of the coronavirus, and that those changes were not reflected online. Exploring also gave me the opportunity to find replacement actives if I needed them.

My next stop was Heng Fa Food Market. I bought rice noodles and chicken broth for the Zhajiangmian noodle dish. I also got some Chinese cereal and pockey. I just bought the pockey because they had it; pockey is a Japanese candy.

After that, I crossed the street to visit Zhong Gang Bakery. Another customer in the bakery helped me pick out some treats to buy. She explained to me what she liked and disliked, and what filling was inside each pastry.

I bought a mango bubble tea, a wife cake, and a sponge cake. I drank the mango bubble tea on my way to the Reading Terminal Market; it was delicious. I did not buy anything at Reading Terminal Market. It was a decent place for a rest stop though. The heat was killing me.

I walked to Rittenhouse Market. I got the rest of the ingredients for the Zhajiangmian noodle dish: two onions, edamame, mushrooms, garlic, and peppers.

Shopping Trip, Day 1

Trying Pastries and Cereal

When I got home, I tried the Chinese cereal. I was surprised to find that the package I bought had individually wrapped packages (around twenty) inside of it. Each package was around the size of one Swiss hot chocolate mix.

To make the cereal, I needed to add 3/4 cups of hot water and microwave it for a minute and thirty seconds. The cereal can also be made using cold milk. I will try the cold milk method on Thursday.

Chinese cereal, or at least this brand and type of Chinese cereal, is nothing like American cereal. Chinese cereals are creamy in texture, whereas American cereals are crunchy. Weirdly, Chinese cereals are primarily liquid, yet they are surprisingly filling. It tastes like a thick and sweet soup. I would give this Chinese cereal a 7/10 starts.

Five-day CA trip food summary – above “Day 1” is the wife cake, sponge cake, and oat meal (Chinese cereal)

Chinese language practice (13:40-14:45)

I practiced my Chinese at various times throughout the day. I studied on Duolingo from 13:40 to 14:10. I also practiced my writing on notability from 14:10 to 14:45.

Qigong (气功) (15:00-16:00)

Qigong is a mind and body practice that can improve one’s health and well-being. Qi refers to the life force or vital energy, which is the energy that gives power to the mind, body, and spirit. Gong refers to work or gathering of Qi. Qigong practices can include movement, breathing exercises, meditation, sound, self-massage and focused intent.

What are the differences between Qigong and Tai Chi? by Michael Mohoric at Qigong Energy Healing

I tried qigong today! I liked it a lot. I recorded the 51-minute workout. Here are the two qigong videos I used:

Qigong Full 20-Minute Daily Routine by Eight Pieces
8 Brocades Qigong Practice by Mimi Kuo-Deemer

Originally, I was going to upload the video of me doing qigong, but I decided against uploading it when I saw how poor my technique was. When I was doing the qigong, I felt great, so I assumed that I was doing everything correctly; this assumption turned out to be false. Instead, I decided to make some diagrams of the qigong exercises I learned, but those looked awkward too.

Overall, I liked qigong a lot. Although qigong is often compared to yoga, qigong is less strenuous and more graceful than yoga. Qigong is like a moving meditation rather than a stretching exercise. The qigong video made by Eight Pieces was well done; the location and music created a relaxing atmosphere. I will definitely be doing qigong in the future.

Interview with Nikki (17:00-18:00)

At 17:00, I interviewed Nikki, a student representative for the Main Land Chinese Cultural Center (MLCCC). Our phone call lasted around 15 minutes, and she gave me a lot of feedback. From 17:20 to 18:00, I cleaned up the notes I took on the call. I listed my questions (purple) and condensed Nikki’s responses (orange) below. 

1) What do you treasure most about modern day Chinese (or Chinese-American) culture?

  • Chinese food that was passed down to “ABCs” (American Born Chinese)
  • Appreciates that Chinese food, like Bubble tea, is gaining popularity in America

2a) What are the benefits of Chinese / English bilingualism? 

  • Bilingualism gave Nikki a new perspective on current events. 
  • Believes that bilingualism has helped her be more creative because bilingualism exposed her to a wider range of thoughts and ideas
  • Finds joy from reading Chinese books and using apps

2b) What do you plan on doing with your bilingualism? Do you think you will use it in your future job?

  • Nikki is not sure if she will use Chinese in her future job(s), but she is glad that she can communicate with multiple audiences. 

3) What Chinese or Chinese American values do you think the rest of America needs to improve upon. 

  • Family bonding – Chinese people often prioritize a standard schedule, which allows them to spend more time with their families. For example, a standard schedule can help facilitate designated times for family bonding (like meal times). 
  • Diligence and challenge – Nikki believes that some people do not push themselves to their full potential, and are often too easy on themselves. Nikki admits that the “Tiger Mom” stereotype is not the ideal, but nor is the potato-couch or unmotivated lifestyle. Nikki believes that there is a balance between the two lifestyles, and that some people often have a hard time meeting that balance. 

4) What do non-Chinese Americans get right/wrong about Chinese-American or Chinese culture?

  • Non-Chinese Americans often view China as how it is portrayed in the media. Americans believe that China is poor, which is partly true. However, Americans often ignore China’s wealthier, bustling cities, and China’s progress as a country. 
  • Americans often stereotype all Asians as smart. 
  • Nikki believes she was able to obtain a nuanced view of China because she was able to make friends with Chinese exchange students at her high school. 

5) What advice or comments do you have for someone who is trying to learn about Chinese culture? This advice can concern anything you want. In addition, could you recommend any books, movies, food choices, locations, activities, etc…?

  • You don’t need to know about Confucius philosophy to understand China today. 
  • Instead, download Chinese TikTok because you can see how young people live and what young people value. 
  • Nikki recommends comparing the Chinese news cycle to the Western news cycle.
  • Make friends with mainland Chinese people to learn about modern Chinese culture
  • Attend Chinese new years celebrations and yearly galas
  • Maybe work in or frequent an area with a lot of Chinese immigrants (ex: Chinatown). Some places, like bubble tea shops, are popular among a wide racial demographic, which makes it easier to meet people from different cultures.

Dinner (18:00-19:30)

I began cooking at 18:00, and I began eating around 19:00. I used a combination of the following recipes to make Zhajiangmian noodles. I got the idea to make rice noodles from an article, What the Chinese Eat for Breakfast, published at China Highlights.

Recipe links

  • Authentic Zhajiangmian Chinese Noodle Dish by Liv Wan at The Spruce Eats
  • How to Cook Rice Noodles by WikiHow
    • I realize that this is not exactly a “recipe,” but the package of rice noodles I bought did not have instructions.
  • I also changed some of the vegetables. I removed carrots and added peppers. I waited until last store to buy carrots, and I did not like the store’s selection. I also added some onions.

Here is how I made the Zhajiangmian noodle dish:

  1. Boiled 3 packs of rice noodles
  2. Strained the noodles and put them into a large bowl with a lid
  3. Heated the chicken broth, and added it to the noodle bowl
  4. Added some Chili powder and sugar to noodle bowl
  5. Prepared the minced beef
    • I messed up on this part, so I ended up not adding the minced beef.
  6. Chopped up 5 garlic cloves (but I ended up only using 3)
  7. Chopped up 2 onions and one package of mixed peppers
  8. Microwaved the edamame package
    • I did not measure out the edamame. I ate around half of the package while I was cooking.
  9. Washed the scallions, shallots, mushrooms, and water chestnuts
  10. Added the edamame, scallions, and water chestnuts to the noodle bowl
  11. Stir fried the onions, shallots, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic
  12. Added the stir fry to the noodle bowl
  13. Prepared tofu and added it to noodle bowl.
  14. Let noodle bowl sit for 30 minutes.

I really enjoyed the Zhajiangmian noodles. Although The Spruce Eats recipe calls for soy sauce, I tried it with and without soy sauce by adding the soy sauce to only one serving of noodles. I did this because I do not like soy sauce, but I still wanted to try the exact recipe before removing an ingredient. I like the noodles more without soy sauce.

I will definitely make this again. It was a good type of salty. I had leftovers too!

IP Man Movie (葉問)(19:45-21:30)

[Ip Man] is the story of Ip Man, a legendary Wing Chun Kung Fu master from Fo Shan, China. The film is set in Japanese occupied Fo Shan following Japan’s invasion of China during World War II. It recounts specifically one man’s opposition the occupying Japanese forces.

IMDb Synopsis

Ip Man is one of the most famous martial arts masters. Man was born in Hong Kong, and specialized in Wing Chun (詠春) kung fu. Man’s disciples include Bruce Lee and Wong Shun Leung.

I watched Ip Man on Netflix with English subtitles; I enjoyed it a lot. I thought that the Foshan’s love of Kung Fu connected and inspired the community. I really liked that one activity kept the community together.

I also admired Ip Man’s privacy, discretion, and compassion. For example, Ip Man beat Master Liu in a friendly kung fu match. Ip Man did not brag because Master Liu’s reputation would have been tarnished. In addition, I thought Ip Man’s confidence in his abilities prevented him from feeling the need to brag about his win.

Overall, I thought the story of Ip Man was good, but I think the most meaningful aspect to the story was the consistency of Ip Man’s character. He was rooted in his beliefs, and ensured that he was not causing harm to his community.

Overall, I would give Ip Man movie an 8/10 stars.

July 21 (Day 2 / Night 1)

Breakfast & Shopping (8:30-10:30)

Day 2 shopping summary:

  • Saint Honore Pastries Inc. at 935 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Siu Kee Duck House at 111 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Mayflower Cafe & Bakery at 1008 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Zhong Gang Bakery Inc. at 27 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Sue’s Produce Market at 114 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

I saw that there were some bakeries deeper into Chinatown, so I decided to wander around there. Many of the businesses in Chinatown had not updated their new-coronavirus-hours on Google, Yelp, etc…, so I knew that I might be wasting time if nothing was open. However, I felt like there were enough bakeries to ensure that at least one would be open.

I was in luck. I stopped in a bakery called Saint Honore Pastries, and I ordered a red bean bun. I was familiar with red bean sweets because of the Vietnamese dessert Chè Ba Màu, and the children’s book Yoko by Rosemary Wells. Since Yoko was one of my favorite books as a kid, I jumped at the chance to try a red bean bun. It was delicious.

As planned, I stopped at Sang Kee Peking Duck House (SKPDH) around 9:00. Unfortunately, SKPDH was not open, which was odd considering that they were open yesterday at 9:00. I looked up SKPDH’s hours, and it turns out they are closed on Tuesdays. Although I did a thorough updated hours search earlier today, I forgot to check SKPDH.

I saw that there was another duck house, Siu Kee Duck House, near Saint Honore Pastries, so I went there. Siu Kee Duck House had great reviews on Yelp, so I felt good about buying their food. I bought half of a Peking duck, two packs of white rice, and 1 lb of roasted pork. The store manager told me to come back in fifteen minutes, so I used this time to explore the area.

I went to the Mayflower Cafe and Bakery, and ordered a green tea roll. I also took some pictures outside of Tenten apartments. The dragon statue and historical crest were located outside Tenten apartments. After that, I returned to Siu Kee Duck House to pick up my order.

I stopped at Zhong Gang Bakery and ordered a pineapple bubble tea. The pineapple bubble tea was not as good as the mango.

Lastly, I stopped at Sue’s Produce Market for some strawberries to eat with my green tea roll. I opened the green tea roll as soon as a got home. Unfortunately, it was not very good. I imaged it would be similar to a pumpkin roll, but it was not. The cake and filling was not as sweet. I have noticed that a lot of Chinese desserts are less sweet than American desserts. I guess my pallet need to adjust to that.

Shopping, day 2

Chinese Language Practice (18:00-20:00)

I practice my Chinese reading and comprehension skills on Duolingo from 18:00 to 18:30. Then, from 18:30-19:00, I practiced “forming sentences” on Notability. To do this, I write out the common phrases I use to communicate with people through text message in English, and then I write their Chinese equivalents. I hope that by repeatedly recalling and writing these phrases I will be able to use them easily in real-time conversations.

After that, I chatted on Tandem from 19:00-20:00. I enjoy using Tandem because I can text, call, and video chat with native Chinese speakers. The goal is for English speakers to learn Chinese, while Chinese speakers learn English. Tandem supports a variety of languages too, but I only chat with Chinese speakers since that is that language I am trying to learn. Here are some of my conversations:

Conversations on Tandem

Although my Chinese in the screen shots looks proficient, my Chinese is actually not that good. I always proof with a translator before sending messages, so that I do not waste my partner’s time. I try my best to use sentences that do not require me to use a translator, but interesting conversations often exceed my beginner Chinese.

Slow Tai Chi Blended with Qigong (太極) (13:45-14:55)

The concept of the [Tai Chi] (“supreme ultimate”), in contrast with wuji (“without ultimate”), appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion or mother of yin and yang into a single ultimate, represented by the [yin and yang] symbol… Its purpose is to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity by focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form.

Wikipedia on Tai Chi

Here are the videos I watched:

Tai Chi with Helen Liang by STORYHIVE (15 mins)
Tai Chi for Beginners by BodyWisdom Yoga, Fitness & Wellness (35 mins of exercise, but video length is 51 mins). I did not include non-exercise time in congressional award timing.

Tai chi exercises are very similar to qigong, which makes sense considering they are both types of Chinese kung fu.

I did not think it was as relaxing as qigong because the moves were faster and did not seem to stretch as many muscles. However, tai chi was still relaxing, and I enjoyed it.

Dinner (20:10-20:30)

I ate the duck I bought at the Siu Kee Duck House for dinner. I cannot say I liked it. The duck was fatty, and I felt like there was not much meat on the duck. I have only had duck a few times, so I am not sure if I do not like duck, or if I do not like duck from the Siu Kee Duck House. However, I loved the pork; it was sweet, almost sugary, and there was not at much fat.

July 22 (Day 3 / Night 2)

Shopping (8:00-10:00)

I went to Heng Fa Food Market, and bought preserved duck eggs. I got the duck eggs because they looked scary, and I thought they would be interesting to try. I also got some ingredients for the beef noodle soup. Then, I stopped at Rittenhouse market to get beef, and some other ingredients for the beef noodle soup.

Day 3 shopping summary:

  • Heng Fa Food Market Inc at 130 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Rittenhouse Market at 1733 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
  • Zhong Gang Bakery Inc. at 127 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Breakfast (10:15-10:30)

I had some leftover pork and duck, so I made a pork and duck burrito.

Chinese Language Practice (7:00-7:30)(11:50-12:15)(19:30-20:00)

I chatted on Tandem before breakfast and shopping (7:00 to 7:30). I practiced my handwriting from 11:50 to 12:25. I practiced writing and forming sentences from 19:30 to 20:00.

Taijiquan or Tai Chi (太極)(10:40 – 11:40)

Taijiquan (/tie-jee-chwen/), i.e. tai chi, is a Taoist internal martial art. One account of the history of taijiquan credits its development to the Taoist immortal Chang San-feng, who is said to have drawn the inspiration for the art by watching a fight between an snake and an aggressive eagle.

Chinese Kung Fu by Fercility at China Highlights
Beijing 10 Step Tai Chi by the Deyin Taijiquan Institute (40 minutes)
Tai Chi 5 Minutes a Day Module 01 – easy for beginners by Taiflow (10 minutes)

When I was doing my research for this project, I saw the Deyin Taijiquan Institute was putting their lessons online. The lessons were lengthy and simple, so I thought they would be a good representation of the exercises I wanted to try.

I liked today’s tai chi. Although tai chi looks very simple, it is easy to forget about leg positioning. I often found myself needing to correct the positioning of my legs because I would stand up straight without noticing. In addition, the balancing that tai chi requires is difficult; I think that is part of the reason why I kept trying to stand up straight.

Another taijiquan class; learning about eight treasures qigong (12:40 – 13:40)

I did another hour long class provided by the Deyin Taijiquan Institute. The class included eight treasures qigong and Beijing 10 step tai chi. I noticed that the phrase “eight treasures” kept appearing in my research. For example, the one of the videos I watched on Monday was published by a channel called Eight Treasures.

[Eight treasure qigong] form is comprised of 32 movements arranged in 8 sections. The form is based on the natural motion of the planets and stars as well as on the simplicity and power of Mother Nature. As our bodies are a small model of Nature, by focusing on maintaining a smooth flow of Qi (Chi) in our bodies, our small universe can begin to attune to the greater rhythms of the Universe, thus creating health.

The Eight Treasures Qi Gong by Yamin Chehin at Healing Cycles
Master Faye Wednesday class at the Deyin Taijiquan Institute (1 hour)

The woman in the video is Master Faye. I like her a lot. Her voice is sharp and fun. She is enthusiastic, which made her class more fun and less relaxing. Although I enjoy relaxing qigong videos too, Master Faye has a pep in her step, and her class was unique as a result. Master Faye also includes a lot of posture and form tips throughout the video, which I found helpful. Overall, I give Master Faye’s class a 10/10 stars.

I also noticed that my movements have become more flowy. I think this is because I have become familiar with the movements, and I am able to focus on my posture and flow.

Majong (17:00 – 18:00)

I watched the movie Crazy Rich Asians around a year ago. In the movie, there was a scene of two people playing majong. I thought it was odd because their majong looked nothing like the majong I had played. The majong I had played was like a computer matching game. I googled majong, and I realized that I was not playing authentic mahjong.

Since majong is a Chinese game, I thought it would be a good idea to include it as part of my CA trip.

First, I watched a video, so that I would know what to look for on the app store:

Learning how to play real majong

I downloaded Real Mah Jongg, but I needed a card to play it, so I downloaded Mahjong 13.

It was really challenging to figure out how to play. I read the in-app instructions, but my brain was overloaded with information. Luckily there was a strategy section in the game menu that helped me find ways to win. I played three games, but I could not figure out how well I was doing. However, I won the last game! I still did not understand what was going on though.

Dinner (18:00-19:30)

Chinese beef noodle soup, day 3

I knew before the trip that I was going to buy noodles in bulk (because of chicken soup recipe), so it made sense for me to make another soup and use up the noodles. As a result, I decided to go with a beef recipe so I could cover a variety of meats.

Here are the recipes I took from:

Here are my instructions:

  1. Three to four hours before you start step 2: soak and rinse the dried mushrooms. Leave mushrooms in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Boil beef with onions in beef broth
    • Or cook beef using method of your choice
  3. After beef is finished, find a large bowl and cook rice noodles in beef broth. Do not add beef to bowl yet.
  4. Rinse and fry (non-dried) mushrooms and spinach; add mushrooms and spinach to bowl
  5. Drain the pot with beef and onions; add remaining beef and onions to bowl
  6. Rinse and cut chives, leeks, sprouts, and very small amount of garlic; add to bowl
  7. Check on dried mushrooms to see if ready. If ready, rinse mushrooms again, and add to bowl.
    • Note: I only gave my dried mushrooms two hours to soak, and they were not ready by the time I was finished cooking the rest of the meal. I changed the instructions (step 1) to say ‘three to four hours’ instead of two hours.
  8. Clean up and enjoy!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Movie (20:00-22:00)

In early nineteenth-century China, in the waning years of the Qing dynasty, the renowned swordsman who yearns for enlightenment, Li Mu Bai, decides to give up his legendary Green Destiny sword: the sharp four-hundred-year-old blade of heroes. To mark the end of a blood-stained career, Li entrusts the excellent female warrior, Yu Shu Lien, with the precious weapon to deliver it to Governor Yu; however, once there, an audacious and nimble masked thief manages to steal it. As Shu Lien is hot on the trail of the skilled burglar, unrequited loves; fervent passions; an unconquerable desire for freedom, and bitter loose ends stand in the way. Can Mu Bai shake off his violent past?

by Nick Riganas at IMDb

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a classic Chinese movie, and is one of the most internationally famous Chinese films.

I really liked this movie because of the summaries I read about it afterwards. There is a lot of history and culture embedded into the movie, which was not clear to me as an American viewer. Although the plot and story line is good, I think this movie’s selling point is the themes and history it displays.

One thing that I thought was funny was how the actors would fly during fighting scenes. In a lot of action movies, actors can be seen jumping from house to house. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, however, the actors fly. I am not sure if there was a non-technological reason for this, but it is definitely strange to see.

Overall, I would give Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon a 7/10.

July 23 (Day 4 / Night 3)

Breakfast (7:15-7:30)

I tried the cold method of making Chinese cereal. I did not like it as much as the warm cereal because the powder did not absorb well.

Shopping (8:00-9:30)

I picked up pork dim sum at Zhong Gang Bakery. I also bought some red bean refrigerated ‘bun desserts’ at Heng Fa Food Market. I thought it would be good to try another variation of red bean dessert.

Day 4 shopping summary:

  • Heng Fa Food Market Inc at 130 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Zhong Gang Bakery Inc. at 127 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Mayflower Cafe & Bakery at 1008 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Chinese Language Practice (13:00-13:30)(16:45-17:40)(19:20-20:10)

I practice on Duolingo from 16:45 to 17:10, and from 19:20 to 19:45. I chatted with some new users on Tandem from 17:10 to 17:40, and from 19:45 to 20:10. I also responded to prompts using a YouTube video from 13:00 to 13:30.

I spent a lot of time practicing my Chinese language skills today. I think learned the most from today’s practice because I was able to use a lot of my notes in my Tandem conversations.

Majong (10:00-11:00)

I played around ten games of majong. I won twice, and I had a better understanding of what to do. I won buy getting sets of three identical pieces and or getting sets of three chronological pieces (ex: 1, 2, 3).

Shaolin Kung Fu (11:30-12:30)(15:00-16:00)

Shaolin Kung Fu Wushu Basic Form Training For Beginners by Master Song Kung Fu (10 mins)
Shaolin Kung Fu Wushu Basic Training For Beginners – Session 1 by Master Song Kung Fu (30 mins)
Shaolin kung fu basic moves by Shaolin Kung Fu (45 mins)

Shaolin kung fu was a lot harder than qi gong and tai chi, and I liked that. The kung fu postures are much harder to hold. For example, the video-3’s thumbnail shows three instructors squatting. The squatting is difficult to hold, and it provides a nice burn.

Most of the videos require some variation of squatting, and I had to modify some of the poses because I could not hold the position for as long as the instructor could.

I also split my exercise into two sections. The videos made by Master Song Kung Fu (videos one and two) were challenging, so I was exhausted by the end of video two.

Overall, I enjoyed doing Shaolin kung fu because of the increased difficulty.

Note: I am watching a movie about Shaolin kung fu tomorrow night.

Lunch (13:30-14:00)

I finally tried the preserved duck egg. The egg’s shell was clay-like, and there was a lot of powder surrounding the egg. I peeled the egg, and as expected, it was black and nasty looking; I am really surprised that such an ugly food was considered a delicacy.

The peeled egg had a beautiful gray snowflake-like pattern. I got worried that it might be some type of bacteria, so I decided to forget about it.

I tried the egg, and it honestly was not that bad. In fact, it was similar to a room-temperature hard-boiled egg. The yoke is green, but has the consistency of normal hard-boiled yoke; it also tastes just like normal yoke. In short, if you would rather have room-temperature hard-boiled eggs, just get preserved duck eggs.

I also ate beef filled dim sum that I bought from Zhong’s Bakery; it was delicious.

Dinner (18:30-19:30)

At 18:30, I picked up some food I ordered at the Dim Sum House, and brought it back home to eat. Pictures of the food I ordered can be found on the 5-day food summary.

  • Dim Sum House at 1930 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Dessert (20:30-21:00)

I went on a walk and bought a kiwi smoothie from Mr. Wish. I saw one in Chinatown, but it was closed when I went shopping. The smoothie was delicious.

  • Mr. Wish at 2100 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

July 24 (Day 5 / Night 4)

Food and art over exploration trip

Shopping (8:00-10:00)

Day 5 shopping summary:

  • Heng Fa Food Market Inc at 130 N 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Spruce Street Market at 1523 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
  • Rittenhouse Market at 1733 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

The Asian Arts Initiative (AAI) did not get back to my email, so I thought it would be best to check with them in person. So, in addition to shopping, I went to see if the AAI was open. When I arrived, I saw that it was closed. In the photo above, the scroll mural was done by the AAI.

Breakfast (10:15-10:30)

I tried the refrigerated bean buns today; they are delicious. The dough is very sweet, but it is nothing like donuts or cake. It is like chewy, pink pancake.

Chinese Language Practice (11:00-12:15)(14:00-15:00)

I practiced on Duolingo from 11:00 to 12:15*. Although I did not write about what my lessons covered in this article, here summary of my development: gold medals on all lessons until level 2. I have not completed any of the lessons past level 2. I did not write about the specifics of each lesson because I did a lot of different lessons each day, so it would have been impossible to cover all of them.

Then, from 14:00 to 15:00, I just chatted with some new people on Tandem. Today, my conversations were not very meaningful because I had not developed a relationship with my new partners yet. A lot of my previous partners did not respond to my messages. Considering that I sent them at 14:00 and that China’s time zone is very different from mine, my previous partners could have been asleep or at work.

* I currently have a 45 day streak on Duolingo for my Chinese language practice!

Exercise (12:30-13:30)

Chinese Acupressure Massage by Yin and Yang Living (18 mins)

Today I tried Chinese qi gong self-massage. First, I watched the video by Yin and Yang Living. The video explains why people should do qi gong massages, and demonstrates a few massages. Although these massages felt good, I found myself questioning the claims made by the women in the video. In general, holistic medicine is a little shady.

Next, I followed along with the Eight Pieces videos. The videos by Eight Pieces were great, and I like that they provide a relaxing atmosphere.

Overall, I have qi gong massages a 6/10.

Lunch (13:30-14:00)

I ate left over red bean buns. Again, the red bean buns were delicious.

Dinner (17:00-19:00)

For dinner, I made a Chinese rice porridge called congee. Congee is usually served for breakfast, but I decided to make it for dinner.

I used the following recipes:

Here were my steps:

  1. Rinsed and wash the rice for around thirty minutes
  2. Boiled the half of the rice in chicken stock, and the other half in water.
    1. I wanted to try two congee styles. Unless noted otherwise, I followed the same procedures for each bowl of congee.
    2. Stir every eight minutes; the finished product should be a bit soupy.
    3. I needed to cook rice for one hour and thirty minutes, which was a lot longer than the recipes suggested.
  3. While rice is boiling, wash and chop scallion, green pepper, and bok choy. I also minced a small amount of garlic. Put vegetables off to the side.
  4. When rice is close to the consistency you want, fry four eggs.
  5. Remove the rice from the pot, and put it in a larger bowl.
    1. The chicken congee and plain congee go in separate bowls.
  6. Add desired vegetables and eggs to congee
    1. I added all of the vegetables and eggs to the chicken congee
    2. I added brown sugar to the plain congee
  7. Add peanuts on top, and enjoy!

Although the pictures of chicken congee are beautiful, I do not think the taste of chicken congee is that pleasant. Everything by itself is fine; I just do not like them together. I think cous cous would have been a better base than rice.

Congee is essentially oatmeal but with rice. I like oatmeal a lot, so adding fruit and sugar the to plain congee was delicious. I will definitely be making congee again.

Fearless (霍元甲)(19:30-21:30)

Based on the life of Chinese Martial Arts Master Huo Yuanjia (1869-1910), the founder and spiritual guru of the Jin Wu Sports Federation. Set during the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, a pivotal period in China’s history, when the whole country is shrouded under increasing internal turmoil and the imminent threat of foreign invasion.

Fearless plot summary by Brian D. Renner at Movie Insider
Fearless (2006) - IMDb
Fearless (2006) – IMDb

Fearless was a great movie. I think it was one of the most interesting films I have seen because of the Chinese nationalism. I recently started watching a lot of patriotic American movies, so it felt a little weird to watch Fearless. Especially when I think of the 2019 Hong Kong Democracy protests, the idea of Chinese nationalism is strange to me; however, I know that this film was made in the 2006 (and based in the early 1900s), and the Hong Kong protests are recent.

My favorite parts of the movie were the Huo’s fight scenes against the American wrestler, Hercules O’Brien, and the Japaneses fighter, Tanaka. When Huo faces O’Brien, a translator tries to make them hate each other by purposefully mis-translating their words. However, Huo ends up saving O’Brien from a bed of nails during their match, and O’Brien declares Huo the winner. When Huo fights Tanaka, they have a draw, so they decide to fight again after they take a break. During their break, Huo gets poisoned by British men who bet money on Tanaka. Once the match starts up again, Takana realizes something is wrong with Huo, but fights Huo anyways. Huo ends up dying, but Takana declares Huo the winner, so the British men loose their money.

I thought Huo, O’Brien, and Takana were very honorable characters, and I was amazed that this happened in real life. I did some research after I watched the movie, and I learned that the movie took some artistic liberties. Unfortunately, Huo probably did not fight O’Brien, and Tanaka was a made-up character.

Despite my disappointment with the artistic liberties, I give Fearless an 8/10.

Reflections and Comments

Uniqueness and Challenges

Unique & Challenging? COVID helped with that.

An obvious and very prominent challenge was COVID. I was scared to travel, and I was unsure if I was going to be able to maintain my social distancing. Luckily, I was able to maintain my social distancing, and I did not get sick.

I was also scared to go outside. I felt uncomfortable when I saw people without masks on. When I got to Philadelphia and learned about the large COVID presence among Philadelphia’s homeless population, I considered cancelling my trip. (I understand that homeless people are not in a position to buy masks, but I need to consider my family’s health and my health. I do not want them (or myself) getting sick (or possibly dying because of my ignorance.)

Another challenge was interviewing someone I had not met before and did not know much about. It was very weird being the interviewer and only asking questions about how someone’s race relates to their hobbies and outlook on life.

I also had difficulty with reading signs and instructions; however, this was expected.

Lastly, I had difficulty managing my three summer classes with the CA trip. I did my best to focus only on the CA trip, but the assignments kept adding up. I did a lot of my assignments ahead of time, and the workload was still stressful.

Further Notes

Are you now planning on returning to the location for future adventures or experiences? Did you try a food for the first time and now can’t get enough?

Cooking! I am a terrible cook, so I did not have high hopes for the recipes I made. I asked family and friends for cooking tips ahead of my trip, and they suggested I make some changes to the recipes if I could not find some of the ingredients. I wrote down possible substitute items and other cooking hacks, and those came in handy.

Also, I will return to the Heng Fa Food Market and Zhong Bakery. I saw tons of fruits, vegetables, and foods that were brand new to me. Although I can not read half of the packages or signs, the pictures look amazing, so I want to buy and eat everything.

Did you learn you could do something that you never would have expected? Did you communicate in languages and now you want to learn more? Did you learn a new skill that you will employ on future travels?

From my language practice on Tandem, I learned that communication with people who do not speak the same language as you is possible with technology. If I needed to, I could speak into Google translate and have someone else read it. They can do the same for me too. Of course, only the most popular languages like Spanish, English, and Chinese have well-developed translator technology.

I also learned that communication can be heavily transactional in environments where people do not speak the same langue as you. For example, in the Heng Fa Food market, the cashiers interacted with all the Chinese speaking customers but did not speak to me. I do not think this was some weird racist thing; I think it was because they did not know how to speak English, but knew that I wanted to buy food, so they could just do their job without speaking. In addition, neither party can see the other person’s facial expressions because of the masks. Another example of this was at the Zhong Bakery, where the cashier would say “what do you want” in a really scary tone. Her English was poor, so I figured she just did not know that her tone conveyed anger.

I did not learn a skill from interacting with non-English speakers. However, I realized that it is probably awkward and frustrating for people who do not speak English in the United States. The media I consume and stores I go to only have staff that speak English, and I bet these things are completely inaccessible for someone who has a concern or question. As a result, non-English speakers remain isolated in their language cohorts. Although this situation makes sense to me, it makes me sad because technology has advanced to a point where these boundaries could be somewhat weakened, but no one has taken the initiative to do so in Philadelphia.