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Entries tagged with: "lisaurelwinfree"

Across the Ocean Again

Aug 18, 2011 by LisAurel J Winfree in Asia

I’m back at home now in the United States, resting up, visiting family, and getting ready to head back to Moho for my senior year.

Looking back on my internship with NBC, I have learned so much in the past two months! This was my first real experience in both an office and newsroom environment. I have gotten a chance to see how an international media facility works on a day-to-day basis and have met many interesting people along the way. During my first week here, Eric, the editor, sent me to a press conference, which I then had the opportunity to write about for the MSNBC website. Of course, not every day was that exciting—more often I’d be making phone calls, setting up interviews, doing research or fact checking, reading the news, and transcribing/translating interviews. I have to say, research was one of my favorite activities simply because I learned so much about topics I probably wouldn’t know anything about otherwise, such as China’s search for oil in Tanzania and Kenya, or the popularity of designer handbags among Chinese men. Sometimes I would go with the crew on live interviews or filming. During my last week in Beijing, I went out on the street with David, the cameraman, to interview people about Yao Ming’s retirement. (Photo below: me acting like I know how to use the camera during setup for an interview.)


Outside of my internship, I made new friends and got to know some other amazing Moho’s—in particular Lucy Cummings and Simone Cote, who were interning in Beijing at China Radio International. It’s been interesting to compare our experiences and observations since our internships are of a similar nature, but the companies we work at are quite different: NBC is an American company, while CRI, although it broadcasts to an international audience, receives funding from the Chinese government. Both news organizations face certain regulations and restrictions—being a journalist or reporter in China isn’t always the easiest job!

This has also made me more aware of the importance of unbiased reporting and the extent that media can shape our perception of things. All of you probably already know this, but I can’t help repeating it: as much as journalists might try, they are never objective, and sometimes they push certain biases on purpose because it makes a story more sensational, and therefore more newsworthy. In retrospect, being in China and being able to talk to locals about the things I was reading in the news gave me some of the best insights into current events since they were more connected and affected by the results than I was.

I am so happy to have had this fantastic opportunity and cannot wait to apply and continue to expand on this new knowledge. I'd also like to give a big thank you to Mount Holyoke for all the great resources and support that helped make my summer the experience I wanted. I definitely plan on heading back to China in the future.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Jul 18, 2011 by LisAurel J Winfree in Asia

When the Buddhist nun I live with found out that I was sick with a fever and sinus infection, the first thing she said was, “You must have gotten sick from keeping your air conditioner too low.” (I’d been keeping my room at 21 degrees Celsius, or about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.) She then turned my A/C off and confiscated the remote, as many Chinese people believe that air conditioning will cause or aggravate illnesses. (Pregnant women and children are believed to be more vulnerable—unfortunately for my cousin’s wife, four of her coworkers are currently expecting, so her office has banned A/C for the time being.)

If you’ve ever experienced summer in China, you know that kong tiao (A/C) is a heavenly gift. So spending 24 hours without it is pretty miserable, despite being distracted by watching the first three seasons of 30 Rock. Luckily, I’ve since managed to sneak my remote back and have been having a glorious reunion with my A/C.

Part of Chinese traditional medicine is based on the Eight Guiding Principles, which consist of four opposite pairs: yin/yang, hot/cold, deficiency/excess, and interior/exterior. Sicknesses are thought to be due to an imbalance in one or more of the pairs. In my case, it was surmised that I had an excess of cold in my body caused by my overzealous use of the A/C. Therefore, to balance the hot and cold in my body, it was recommended that I eat food associated with heat and drink lots of boiled water. In China, foods are categorized into hot/cold: for example, mangoes are hot while watermelons are cold, so people try to avoid mangoes in the summer and eat more watermelon.

I also tried gua sha, or fire cupping. The intention is to cure any imbalances in the body, and it is frequently recommended as a way to cure common colds. During fire cupping, suction is created using either heat or a pump while a round glass cup is applied to the skin and left for a few minutes. This usually leaves round marks that resemble giant bruises or hickeys, but the cupping itself doesn’t hurt. I frequently see people on the subway with gua sha marks on their backs, peeking out around the edges of tank tops and halter-tops. Although I don’t believe the fire cupping had anything to do with my recovery, I did find it fairly pleasant—kind of like a slightly painful massage that leaves you completely relaxed afterward. The person who administered the technique commented that I had “too much water” in my body.

Other than my recent forays into traditional Chinese medicine, I’ve been exploring Beijing with my friends—last week we tried Yunnan cuisine, which is typically spicy and famous for mushroom dishes. One of my new favorite hangout spots in Beijing is the area around Nanluoguxiang. Nanluoguxiang is an up-and-coming neighborhood with traditional buildings, delicious restaurants, and trendy shops. It’s lively but not too crowded. Since I only have two weeks left before I head back to the States, I’m trying to enjoy as much of China as I can!

If you'd like to read more about China-related things, here's an article I recently wrote for the MSNBC blog, Behind the Wall.  

Finding home in a new city

Jun 23, 2011 by LisAurel J Winfree in Asia

During my first week in Beijing I lived on Peking University’s campus, one of China’s "Ivy League" schools. Locals shorten the name to Beida (北大). Beida is not only known for their rigorous academics, but also for their beautiful campus, which looks more like a traditional Chinese park or garden. There are picturesque lakes to walk around and many of the classroom buildings are very old, with sloping, tiled roofs. Hmm…this is starting to remind me of a similar campus back in the States. Everyday there were tourists crowded around the gates of the university posing and taking photos, even after dark, competing with the fruit vendors for sidewalk space.

I moved off campus because the NBC office is almost on the opposite side of the city from Beida, and it took me over an hour on the subway to get to work. Now I’m living in a hutong in the center of Beijing and my commute has been cut in half. At this point you may be wondering what, exactly, is a hutong? The word hutong (胡同) means "water well" in Mongolian, referring to the fact that people built their houses around wells. A hutong is best described as a confusing maze of narrow alleyways, which are formed by traditional courtyard residences built in close proximity. Taken as a whole, the space becomes an intimate neighborhood. Several of the better-known ones are popular tourist destinations, such as those located near Houhai Lake. The hutongs of Beijing are very unique and have been around since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Below is a glimpse down one of the narrower streets where I live. 


The hutong I live in is not quite that old. Stepping off the main road after work, I turn and walk through a tiny nondescript opening between two houses. The hustel and bustle of the big city is exchanged for a quieter kind of business. Laundry hangs out to dry by the windows and doors of each residence, and dust-covered children are playing tag, shrieking, and running up and down the narrow streets, disappearing around the corners. Old men squat in a circle watching an intense game of mahjong. In the evening I can smell dinners cooking and hear mothers singing songs to their babies. Because it cools off after the sun goes down, there is a short window of time, especially on the weekends, when everyone goes outside to play and relax. At the park nearby, old ladies walk their yappy pom-pom dogs, men get haircuts, parents teach their kids to rollerskate, and elderly couples practice the waltz to sugary pop music. I'm glad to be living where I am, and am slightly bemused at how I've ended up in a home so unlike all the other places I've lived. Below is a photo of part of the courtyard I live in and the front gate. 

However, hutongs are quickly disappearing as they are being replaced with highways and high-rises. In order to preserve Beijing’s history, several hutongs have recently become protected areas. The neighborhood I live in has been encroached upon over the years (mostly by banks) and is surrounded by shiny steel-and-glass structures that stretch up to the clouds. It’s a reminder of the future—and a looming contrast to the small, traditional homes with their ramshackle dirt alleyways—that makes the community look all the more vulnerable. 

As for my internship at NBC News International, things are going well. I've mostly been doing research/fact checking, setting up interviews, doing interviews, transcribing interviews, and keeping up with current events. I don't think I've ever been this informed about global news in my life! One of the things the editor is always wondering is how an American audience will perceive things, and how a story should be written to cater to the audience's interests, so occasionally I give input on that. Below is a photo I took from the office balcony. They often take live-shots from this angle, but it's hard to find a blue-sky day in Beijing because of the pollution.   


Lastly, here's a link to a post that I helped research! 

Hej Hej Copenhagen, ni hao Beijing!: LisAurel Winfree '12

May 26, 2011 by LisAurel J Winfree in Asia


Hi everyone! My name is LisAurel Winfree and I am an Asian studies major, English minor. I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and will begin my senior year at MHC this fall. I just spent the last semester abroad studying communications in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. This summer, I will be interning at NBC News International in Beijing where I’ll be learning about the all the things that go into creating a good news story (and hopefully improving my Mandarin!).

Over the past four months, Copenhagen has begun to feel like home, and while I’m very sad to leave my friends and host family, I’m equally excited to spend another summer in China. I’ve been to China twice before, once as an intern for the A. Scott Foundation, and last summer as a student in MHC’s language program at the Beijing Language and Culture University. One of my favorite things to do in China (other than eating the delicious food) is bargaining at an open market. It’s a fun way shop, meet local people, and practice Chinese all at the same time.