SCOLA Travel Journal: Week Ten

Do you follow SCOLA on YouTube? If not, you should! They are always posting awesome videos like Puppet Time With SCOLA, Country of the Month videos, and most recently, scary videos from their new Freaky Friday series! My favorite SCOLA YouTube videos though are the ones from China. I have read before about the great relationship SCOLA has with China Yellow River Television in Taiyuan, Shanxi, and I have always wanted to visit this beautiful country!

It may come as a shock to some that even with all the authentic resources SCOLA has from China on its YouTube page they have even more authentic resources on their website! A quick search for China on brings up almost 6,000 resources!

Usually when I travel with On the Street Videos I like to get a first hand perspective at how the locals live. Whether I am checking out the real estate market in Albania, discussing social issues with locals in the Philippines, or experiencing the daily life of a worker in Afghanistan, I have yet to visit a country and see it from a tourists point of view. Where better to be a tourist than China?

I log on to People and Places and take a look at the Landmark and Landscape category. I start making a list of places I want to visit: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square…the list goes on and on!

Next I log on to SCOLA Learning Objects to brush up on my Chinese. The self-contained language lessons are geared toward independent study, which makes it easy for me to go at my own pace. I am anxious to start my adventure so I fly through the quizzes over comprehension, culture, and language. Just a few lessons on Learning Objects and I feel prepared for my next adventure.

To start my journey I log on to On the Street Videos. My first stop in China is Beijing where the excitement from other tourists almost feels contagious! I snap photos, make people take my picture in front of famous landmarks, and get a little lost…I’m starting to enjoy this!

While in Beijing I stop at one of the first landmarks on my list- Forbidden City. I take a tour of the palace and learn about its history and importance to the Chinese people. After exploring the Forbidden City I am off to the second item on my list- the world famous Great Wall of China. The Great Wall of China looked great in the photos on People and Places, but in real life it is breath taking! I hop in a car on the sky lift and see the Great Wall from above. My last stop before my adventure must come to an end is Tiananmen Square. I tour the square and learn about its history and the famous protests and demonstrations that ended in tragedy in 1989.

My adventure in China must come to an end, but with almost 6,000 authentic Chinese resources on you can be sure I’ll be back for a visit.

Check back next week to see where my next adventure takes me!

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Chinese Birthday Traditions

Many people in the United States hold big celebrations for various milestone birthdays including a sweet sixteen where they can get their driver’s license, a bar crawl when they can legally drink on their 21st birthday, and smaller parties as they get older with their family and close friends. In China though, traditional birthday celebrations differ. Traditionally, Chinese people do not pay much attention to birthday celebrations until a person turns 60 years old. Sixty years is considered a cycle of life in Chinese culture, so the 60th birthday is regarded as very important and is celebrated with a big party. Chinese culture expects a person to have a big family filled with children and grandchildren by 60 years old, and therefore see it as an age to be proud of.

A person’s 61st year is seen as the beginning of a new life cycle. After the 60th birthday, celebrations are held every 10 years up until the person’s death, and generally, the older a person is the grander their birthday celebration is.

Sixtieth birthday parties can be large or small, but no matter the size the celebrations meal always includes peaches and noodles, which are the signs of a long life. When the noodles are cooked they cannot be cut short. Shortened noodles are thought to have bad implications. Although the celebrations are said to include peaches, the peaches, in fact, are not real. Steamed wheaten food with a sweet stuffing are called peaches because they are made in the same shape. Everyone at the party must eat the food as a sign of well wishes to the guest of honor.

If you’re planning on attending a traditional Chinese birthday party typical presents usually include two or four eggs, long noodles, artificial peaches, tonics, wine and money in red paper.

Besides the 60th birthday, some families in China also place importance on celebrating the third and twelfth birthdays for children. A child’s twelfth birthday celebration includes the birthday boy or girls friends and their parents. It is similar to a wedding ceremony with a delicious banquet and speeches by guests at the party.

Although many in China celebrate birthdays with the previously mentioned traditions, many Chinese people now seem to be following American birthday customs. Cakes with candles to represent how old a person is turning are becoming more common, along with making a wish when blowing out the candles. This is quickly becoming regarded as the best part of the birthday party.

What is your favorite birthday tradition? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to know more about birthday traditions around the world? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to!

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Housing Arrangements in China

Last week we shared with you Dating and Marriage Traditions in China, so it only makes sense that this week we talk to you about what happens after marriage. What are the housing arrangements of the married couple? Who do they live with? Our provider from China shares the following:

            For the CPP-CN-Beijing Parliament Buildinghinese people, family is very sacred, so the Chinese always have their family at the forefront of their mind wherever they go or wherever they are. In the past, Chinese people enjoyed living as one big family, where sometimes even as many as four generations lived together in the same home. Similar to a small community, there were distinct classes in these extended families. The eldest always enjoyed the highest status.

         Just like any other community, these living conditions could not properly function without any discipline. People in China often say “A family has its own rules just as a state has its own laws.” Under these past, traditional housing arrangements some of these laws included the husband being permitted to beat their wives, the father being permitted to beat their sons, and parents were in charge of the daily life of their children, including their marriages. Also, in these small communities each clan had its own ancestral shrine, where their ancestors were offered sacrifices and worshiped. Every member of the family was obligated to honor their ancestors.

            These days, things are quite different. The extended family housing arrangements have been replaced and small/core family housing arrangements have become more mainstream. Correspondingly, the lifestyle of the people has changed greatly, but their sentimental attachment to their family and the importance they place on family has remained unchanged.

Want to know more about housing arrangements in China and other countries? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to!

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Dating and Marriage Traditions in China

Last week you learned tips and taboos when traveling to China. This week, we are going to teach more about the Chinese culture, specifically dating and marriage.

Traditionally in China, marriages were arranged by the parents and youth would not see their husband or wife until the day of their wedding ceremony. However, at the beginning of the 20th century things changed greatly. These days Chinese couple photo for jokeyoung men and women have the freedom of finding their own significant others. Many choose to date colleagues and former classmates.

Chinese people are very warmhearted and are eager to match single friends and family. It is a longstanding belief that this is good fortune for the match maker. So if you are in China and someone asks about your marital status, don’t be offended. It is a good chance they are trying to help you find a match.

In China, there are many ways to begin a date. If you arrange the date yourself, you do not need to acquire consent from the parents. If it is arranged by the parents or family friends, prepare to be very tired after the date, as the parents will ask a lot of questions. Typical first dates include going to cafeterias or a tea house. If the two people enjoy each other, they may go on other dates to restaurants and cinemas.

Currently online dating is popular in China. There are also many dating programs on TV.

Are dating and marriage traditions in China similar to those in your country? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Want to know more about dating and marriage traditions from around the world? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to!

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Visiting China: Tips and Taboos You Need to Know

The seasons are changing and many of you may be thinking ahead to your summer travel plans. If your plans include traveling abroad keep reading! Many foreign countries have taboos and laws that are essential for travelers to know before you arrive. The following list was shared with us by a SCOLA provider in China. He says many travelers from abroad may become confused and frightened by Chinese customs. This handy reference tool makes it easy for newcomers to Beijing to fit right in.


1. When addressing someone, it is customary to add terms of honor before their family name based on their age: lao (honorable old one), xiao (honorable young one) or occasionally da (honorable middle-aged one).

2. Most greetings begin with a brief handshake. When greeting the elderly or senior officials, your handshake should be gentle and include a slight nod. As an expression of warmth, it can be acceptable to cover the handshake with your left hand. As a sign of respect, Chinese usually slightly lower their eyes when meeting someone.

3. Embracing and kissing are not parts of a Chinese greeting or saying good-bye. Public displays of affection, or acting in too carefree a manner are not advisable in public.


4. Be cautious in political discussions.


5. Normally, Chinese will not accept a gift, invitation or favor until the second or third time it is presented. In their culture, this shows modesty and humility. If a person accepts too quickly it can make them look aggressive or greedy. The same goes for opening a gift in front of the giver.

6. When wrapping a present, be aware that Chinese give much importance to color. Red represents luck, and pink and yellow represent happiness and prosperity. Do not wrap gifts in white, grey or black, as those are funeral colors. When you are ready to present a gift, hand it off with both of your hands.

7. Acceptable gifts may include lighters, stamps, t-shirts and exotic coins, and the following gifts should be avoided: white or yellow flowers (especially chrysanthemums), which are used for funerals, pears, the word for Pear in Chinese sounds the same as separate and is considered bad luck, red ink on cards or letters symbolizes the end of a relationship, and clocks of any kind. because the word clock in Chinese sounds like the expression “the end of life”.

Food and Dining

8. Tipping is not normally practiced in China and almost no one asks for them. Only in some luxurious hotels are tips expected.

9. While eating, place chopsticks next to your dish instead of upright in your rice bowl. In China, when someone dies, their shrine may include two incense sticks stuck upright in a bowl of sand or rice. If you stick your chopsticks upright in your dish at the dinner table, it looks like the shrine and is comparable to wishing death upon person at the table!

10. When drinking tea, do not face the spout of the teapot towards anyone. It is impolite.

11. Don’t tap on your bowl with your chopsticks. People in restaurants where the food is taking too long and beggars tap on their bowls. It is insulting to the cook.

12. People in China dine out at least once a week with friends or family members as a way to strengthen relationships. The dinner will last long and include alcohol drinks.

Are you planning on traveling to China soon? Were these tips helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below!


Be sure to check back next week to learn more about Chinese Dating and Marriage Customs!

Want to learn more tips and taboos for international travel? Check out Savoir-Vivre…coming soon!

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China: Making Learning (Even More) Fun

For your entertainment, SCOLA has acquired a few more jokes to share with you from China. It is safe to say this has been our funniest Country of the Month yet!
儿子战战兢兢地回到家:“爸,今天考试只得了60分”。爸爸很生气:“下次再考低了,就别叫我爸!” 第二天儿子回来了:“对不起,哥!”
One day, a boy did poorly on his test at school. He went home after and nervously said, “Dad, I only got a 60% on the test today.” His dad was very angry and said “Don’t call me dad if you ever do that bad again!”The next day the son came home after school and said “Sorry brother!”
A farmer complained to a doctor that his feet always got cold while sleeping at night. “Yes,” the doctor said,“I myself used to feel that way too. Now, I hug my wife tightly to make my feet warm.” The farmer thought about this for a while and finally asked with great bravery “That is really good thinking. The problem is, when will your wife be available?”
A man said to his wife “Dear I haven’t had a thrilling experience in a long time.” The next day she took him to a jewelry store.
A woman wanted a fur coat as a birthday present. She said to her husband, “Dear, my birthday is coming up. Don’t you want to go and see those fluffy things for me?” The husband slaps his thigh and said “That’s a good idea! Let’s go right now or the zoo will be closed!”
A husband said to his wife “Since we have been married, I have realized that marriage is a heavy job!” His wife said “Of course, that is why two people have to share it.” The husband asked tentatively “So don’t you think we would feel more relaxed if there were three people?”
A husband said to his wife “I appreciated your praise tonight when you told the neighbors I was talented.” The wife said “You have neither money nor position and your looks are very plain. If I hadn’t told such a lie other people would laugh at me!”

Want more jokes? Let us know which country you would like to hear a joke from in the comments below!

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LEI Feng: A Legend of a Chinese Soldier

Recently, a SCOLA provider from China shared the following with us about LEI Feng, a Chinese soldier that is famous in his country:

“Someone who is alive has been dead ; someone who is dead has been alive” these two lines are from the well-known poem “Someone” written by Zang Kejia, a famous modern Chinese poet. LEI Feng , a simple Chinese soldier belongs to the latter, he passed away 52 years ago, but he is still alive in the Chinese people’s mind.
During his 22 years’ short life, LEI Feng created a legend of a Chinese soldier. He did not perform a world-shaking deed, all he had done were simple things which reflected his selfless and noble personality. He considered himself a son of the Chinese people, and served the country and its people wholeheartedly. He loved all jobs that were assigned to him. “Be a useful peleifeng's photorson to the society” is what he wrote in his diary.
Born into a poor peasant family on December 18, 1940, LEI Feng was raised by one of his relative, as he was an orphan at the age of seven. Along with other poor children he was sent to school after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. After his graduation from junior high school, he became a tractor driver in the countryside, then a worker. He joined the army as a truck driver in 1960.

On August 15,1962,  it was raining and LEI ’s colleague An was backing up the truck while LEI was directing him. Unfortunately , the truck struck a telephone pole which fell and hit LEI Feng’s head. All the rescue measures failed and LEI Feng died. He was only 22 years old. Two days later, his funeral was and, according to the newspaper, more than 100,000 local people attended. The scene was touching. People told stories about him in tears.

On May 3, 1963, eight months after LEI Feng’s death , the late Chairman Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China wrote that “To learn from Comrade LEI Feng” . A large scale campaign to learn from LEI Feng was held all over China. March 5th was later named “Learning from LEI Feng’s Day” .

The stories about LEI Feng are popular in China, if you ask about LEI Feng to anyone in China , you will be surprised to find that almost everybody can tell you a story or two about him. He has helped so many people, the followings are just examples:

One day a woman took her son to see her husband working in a city far away, but she found that she lost her wallet and train ticket as the train was leaving. She was so anxious. LEI Feng happened to pass by and when he heard of her troubles he consoled the woman and took her to buy a new ticket with his limited soldier’ subsidy. The woman was very touched and asked his name and address. Lei Feng smiled and answered “My name is a soldier, I am living in China.” At that time a train ticket cost a lot of money. There were three successive natural disaster from 1959 to 1961, which made bki-20130613163355-920287395the country short of food and commodities, and the economy was in tough.

Another woman remembered that she and her two children met LEI Feng on the street on a stormy afternoon. They lost their way home in heavy rain and LEI Feng spent two hours walking in a muddy country road holding one of the boys in his arms. By the time they got home safe, it was dark. LEI Feng returned to the army without any food.

Villagers remembered LEI Feng’s money donation when the village was in disaster.

The students remembered LEI Feng was their after-school activities counselor. At that time, schools often invited model soldiers to be after-class counselors.

LEI Feng often traveled by train for lecturing in other cities. The trains were crowded and never had enough seats for each passenger . LEI Feng always gave his seat to the elder.

When he saw the busy train attendant , LEI Feng helped clean the floor, carry luggage for passengers and serve people hot water.

LEI Feng was an army truck driver and spent most of his time was on the road. He always carried a book in his bag and whenever  the truck stopped for a while, he would take the book out to read. He liked to spend his spare time in his dormitory reading. He began to write a diary in 1957 and after his death, people selected 121 diary entries and published them by the name LEI Feng‘s Diary.

On June 7 1958, he wrote “If you are a drop of water do you moisten a small piece of land? If you are a ray of sunshine do you shine through darkness? If you are a grain of rice do you feed a useful life? If you are a screw do you forever stand fast at your post? If you want to tell me what your thought is,do you promote the lofty ideal day and night? Since you are alive do you want to put in a lot of hard work for the future life of mankind and make the world better and better?I want to ask you what you have done for the future. At the warehouse of life, we should not aChairman Mao's calligraphy to learn from Comrade LEI Fenglways take from it (maybe use consumer is better).

On October  20, 1961 he wrote “Life is limited, but it is limitless to serve the people, I would like to put the limited life to infinite service to the people.”

LEI Feng’ spirit is handed down from the elderly to the young.

The army where LEI Feng served , named his squad as “LEI Feng Squad” , and they keep a bed for LEI Feng. A soldier has made a bed for him every evening after his death. At every morning’s training the commander will address every soldiers name. when he calls “LEI Feng”, all the soldiers at “LEI Feng Squad” will answer loudly at the same time “Here”. Fifty-two years have passed, old soldiers have left and new ones have come, but the tradition has never changed.

In China, we address LEI Feng to those who help the others without leaving their names. The volunteers and LEI Feng teams appear in large numbers in China. They are active at every corner of the country and they help those who need it. “Help Others and Happy Ourselves” is their slogan.

It is easy for a person to do one good deed, but it is difficult for him to help others all his life. LEI Feng, a simple soldier set an example for us 52 years ago . He tells us that a person can live happily and noble in his way.

 Be sure to check out for more resources about China and other countries around the world!

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