Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday, July 2

Today opened up with the clearest, bluest skies we've yet seen in Beijing - making the beginning of our third week in China. SJSU students have clearly become confident in their mastery of the complexities of big city transportation - even as they've survived their wanderings through some dense course material. Today's class began with student summaries of their weekend activities, including stories shared by our two nomads who spent the last two days in Shanghai.

Of course everyone had stories about their weekend discoveries, some at the 798 Arts District, others in Hutong neighborhoods, and still others in Beijing's many shopping opportunities. After our initial weekend "show and tell," we spent some time summarizing key ideas related to panopticism and the flaneur gaze, applying those abstract theoretical lenses upon the applied practicalities of life in Beijing. The conversation got thick mighty quick, particularly when we considered whether premodern, modern, and postmodern culture might reside simultaneously in China. We could have spent another hour in class, but the day was simply too nice. Those blue skies called us all to hit the metros in search of new experiences.

That being said, SJSU students are still working hard to master our course. In fact, students will complete another synthesis exercise tomorrow, taking turns to explain various aspects of postmodernity from a Chinese context (sort of an open book oral exam). They'll also form small groups to swap insights about our two primary texts, Peter Hessler's Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip and James Fallows' Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports From China.

The rest of the week will feature a visit to the Temple of Heaven (followed by an early Wednesday evening Kung Fu show) followed by the launch of our long-anticipated four day weekend! No doubt, students will use some of that time to prepare for their final presentations (7-10 minute explorations of topics related to Chinese culture, augmented by classroom concepts and personal investigations). But something tells me that the SJSU crew will also make the most out of this final opportunity to experience China before we begin packing for our flight home.

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