A little more than a month ago, I wrote an article describing my hopes and fears before flying to Kunming. I was excited to study abroad in this new city, one that isn’t often known or talked about. But I was also pretty worried. I was scared of the unknown, as well falling into the habits of a “colonial student”. In other words, I was worried I wouldn’t fully dive into Chinese culture.
I can now say, after being here for a mere 34 days, that my excitement about Kunming was valid. This quaint city seems to be a well-kept secret, hidden in the Southwestern corner of China.
Kunming’s nickname is 春城, “The City of Eternal Spring.” At the same latitude as Southern California and higher in altitude than Colorado, Kunming’s climate feels like Spring all year round. The city’s temperate climate seems to match the laid back atmosphere of the populace. Instead of saying goodbye, folks will often tell each other to 慢走, meaning “walk slowly.” And people do indeed 慢走— unless they’re riding on electric scooters. In which case they will zoom past at dangerously high speeds as if in some massive, city-wide motor race.
Ready, set, go.
I’m currently studying at Yunnan University which is in Kunming’s Wuhua District. I really couldn’t have asked to live in a better location. We’re right outside Culture Alley (文化香), which is home to possibly the best noodle shop I’ve ever eaten at. I’m near Green Lake (翠湖), a huge public park built around a lake. Yunnan is home to many Chinese ethnic minorities. You can often see people of the Dai Nationality dancing by Green Lake in traditional dress.
The workload of my program is pretty intense, but I’ve been trying to find time to explore the city. I’ve visited the Bamboo Temple, a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of the city. I’ve visited Kunming’s famous (and massive) Flower Market. I’ve hiked up West Mountain, which has a spectacular view of the city, as well as a cute lodge at the top where you can stay for the night.
Have I, as promised by my earlier article, avoided falling into the habits of a “colonial student”? I think so. Or at least, I’ve been trying to. I’ve been trying to instead hang out with Chinese students (and go KTV with them, which is the most fun time) rather than with other Americans. There are some Western-style restaurants around the area, but I’ve been trying to eat at smaller, local places. And maybe most importantly, I’ve been trying to learn as much Chinese as I can.