Posted by: viaprograms | February 28, 2011

VIA’s New Indonesia Office

New Indonesia office building

On February 4, VIA’s Indonesia office moved to a new location in South Jakarta. VIA now shares a new and freshly furnished, two-storey house with Australian Volunteers International (AVI) and the Burnet Institute, which is focused on public health. The move is an quite an upgrade from the old office where termites attacked the VIA library and the bathroom roof was of dubious construct. The new digs are now close to the main road, with food stalls and restaurants nearby.

Moving truck

Sugiyanto, VIA’s Indonesia Country Representative, is throwing an office warming party next week for our partners and volunteers. Stop by or reach Sugiyanto in Jakarta at Jl. Ciomas I No 19, Kebayoran Baru.

Boxes waiting to be unpacked

Posted by: viaprograms | February 25, 2011

Dragon Blossoms: An Adoptive Family’s Year in China

Linda's book

Alumna Linda Bevis (China ’83) recently wrote a book titled Dragon Blossoms: An Adoptive Family’s Year in China.  We asked Linda to share her experience with VIA and how traveling to China impacted her life.  If you enjoy the blog post, we hope you’ll read the book.

Today my daughter is eight, clad in a bright red apron, and downstairs laughing and making gnocchi with her father. If not for VIA, we wouldn’t know her.

Wandering across Stanford’s Quad in 1983, I saw a sign: “Teach English in China for Two Years.” I was curious. China seemed the culture furthest from my own. I signed up with Volunteers in Asia, and within months I was biking in Beijing and drinking beer out of bowls in Hangzhou. I suppose my students learned a few things about English and American culture from me, but it was mainly I who was learning from them. I learned how young my culture was:  my Chinese friends could still read steles that were 1000 years old. We can’t read the English of a thousand years ago unless we are Beowulf scholars. I learned how short-sighted my political views were when I asked a student if he thought Taiwan and China would reunify: “oh yes, within 200 years!”

Linda, her husband, and their daughter

China taught me much about myself and the world. I praised and criticized China to the same extent as my other homes. I went on to become a lawyer and then a high school teacher in Seattle. But every few years I visited my friends in China. One year, I informed my new husband that he’d be going to China with me and he, a playwright, researched Chinese literature — no small task — before we set off. Ed fell in love with Chinese theater and adapted Peach Blossom Fan for the LA stage.

So, when we decided to adopt a child, China was the obvious choice. We knew something of the culture, the land, and the history. I spoke the language. We had friends who lived in China. We could connect ourselves to our new multiracial heritage. If not for VIA, we would have had no reason to apply to the Chinese government to adopt our daughter.

Linda's daughter in class on her birthday

And that is how we came to adopt Leyla Fu-Chi from Jiangsu Province. And that is how we came to be living in Beijing in 2007-08. Leyla attended a Chinese preschool with portraits of Confucius and Bill Gates on the walls. I taught ESL to college students–in a language school run by a friend I’d known in Hangzhou in the 1980s. My students were handier than I at powerpoint presentations, and effortlessly texted me their grammar questions. Ed continued his writing projects from our wired 21st floor apartment and took us to see many a Beijing opera, complete with digital supra titles. There was also a major earthquake and much controversy about Tibet and the Olympics. China had changed a tremendous amount in 25 years–and so had I. It was exhilarating to be in my second home again: making new friends, building new bridges.

The heart of my book is our daughter. In my humble opinion, she is the most beautiful being China ever produced. Yet she probably came to us, her forever parents, because of one of the worst systems ever conceived by China: the one-child policy combined with a strict patriarchy. Still, all of my friends in Hangzhou loved their daughters dearly and it was one of my Chinese students, aghast and whispering, who told me about the diverging ratio of girls to boys–about 1:5 in the countryside in 1983. Moreover, the Chinese we met during our heritage year were delighted that we had adopted one of “their” children, and even more impressed that we were teaching her Mandarin and living in China. For Leyla Fu-Chi, it was a year where she began to understand more about what it meant to be Chinese, and began to form an identify beyond her American one:

Leyla Fu-Chi, Forbidden City

At the playground, an old man approaches and asks Ed in Mandarin if she’s Chinese. Ed hesitates and Leyla jumps right in, saying in Chinese, “I am Chinese.”

This is the first time she’s identified herself this way in Chinese. I see a new confidence that has been slowly growing but shows itself powerfully this month. It is made of some combination of more familiar surroundings, being five and a half, exploring her roots, feeling secure in her family and heritage, and feeling an identity with the people around her.

Thank you VIA, for bringing us to our daughter.

Linda Bevis

China ‘83

Posted by: viaprograms | February 18, 2011

Post-Program Travels

Chih-Ying (Jessica) joined the American Language and Culture program in 2010 from Yuan Ze University. She returned from a four-day trip to Japan, and she shares her thoughts on the trip she had been meaning to take since the end of the program.

Lunch at the Waseda cafeteria

What did you do?
I met many of my ALC2 friends . They threw a great welcoming party in Shibuya(渋谷). We had a great time deeply interchanging our languages and making funny videos. I also visited Waseda University where they study and had lunch together in their student cafeteria. So cool! Moreover, I went to the the Yushima Tenmangu Shinto shrine (湯島天満宮) where people pray for good academic performances and Ameyoko (アメ横) a in Ueno(上野), which is like the Japanese night market. For me, it’s the mixture of night market and traditional market in Taiwan. What most impressed me of all was Akihabara(秋葉原), where I experienced real Otaku culture!!!

Welcome party

Was seeing your ALC friends in their home country different than the program?
The familiarity among our friendships hasn’t been changed, the time we spent together was as happy as before. However, everyone is more mature and looked more ambitious. Each of them has been realizing and planning to realize their own goals and dreams step by step. So awesome!

What is something you appreciated or were grateful for on the trip?
First, I would like to thank god because of the good weather. :p Then, I would like to thank all of my ALC2 friends, no matter if I met them or not, I really felt being taken care of and welcomed so that I eagerly wanted to fly back to Japan immediately when I arrived Taiwan. I really appreciated my  guides, though I  felt sorry and excited at the same time, as I knew they were still in their school days and having lots of exams.

I found out how close we were through this visit to Japan. Friends made the trip more meaningful and the city we were going to visit warmer. It was not just sightseeing; you knew you were going to do something special and exciting than the ordinary visitor. Not just shopping but storing and creating our unique memory.

Shibuya with ALC friend

Anything else?
I will definitely visit Japan again soon.  The experience convinced me that you shouldn’t make excuses to postpone the things you want to do. To all ALC2 2010, may our friendships last ever after, may of you friends be healthy, and be successful as you pursuing your dreams!! ♥

Posted by: viaprograms | February 15, 2011

VIA Welcomes a New Asia Programs Intern

Xinlei in Japan on her recent trip through Asia

As application period draws to a close for VIA’s year-long volunteer programs in Asia, we are excited to welcome a new intern in out San Francisco office, Xinlei Du.  After graduating from U.C. Irvine,  Xinlei worked at a mediation and arbitration firm and pursued her teaching credential. Most recently, she has taught in Guatemala and Seoul.

Why are you excited to be joining VIA?
What drew me to VIA, is that it provides such a unique volunteer abroad opportunity. The program allows individuals to participate in a such dynamic cross cultural exchange, with strong support from VIA reps in country. It’s an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and create a new home for yourself across the world. There’s something so exciting about that! I loved every minute of my experiences abroad, so it’s great to be a part of this organization. I’m looking forward to help out VIA in any way that I can.
You recently returned from work and travels in Asia. Can you share some favorite memories?
There are so many memorable moments from my travels around Asia. I had an amazing year living and teaching in Seoul! My students were so bright and so sweet. I also made wonderful friends during the year. I loved the food, the people, and the culture in Korea. I had such a blast watching sumo wrestling in Japan. I will never forget my 5-hour motorbike ride through a torrential downpour from Hue to Hoi An in Vietnam. Then there was the petrifying cave exploration adventure in the Philippines that involved swimming, climbing, and squeezing myself through tiny crevices in a dark, wet cave. I ate my way through the night markets of Taiwan. The Temples of Angkor in Cambodia took my breath away. I’d love to go back and explore some more countries.
As a teacher, any advice for our volunteers to use in the classroom?
Patience and flexibility are key. Often times I’d find that a lesson would not go the way that I had envisioned it in my head. It’s important not to get frustrated and to learn from the experience in order to improve next time. Also, students learn and absorb information in different ways. It’s helpful to differentiate your instruction to accommodate the learning needs of all your students. It’s also a good idea to set some clear classroom rules when you first start. Develop your own classroom management plan and be firm with your rules and classroom procedures. Get to know your students and have fun!

Welcome, Xinlei!

Posted by: viaprograms | February 7, 2011

What do you know about Taiwan?

Iris, TAC & TBC member

Happy New Year from the Taiwan Alumni Committee (TAC), a group alumni of the Stanford Programs. The group is putting together a Taiwan Business and Culture (TBC) program to continue the cross-cultural exchange begun on the program in March. One of the Coordinator Yuru (Iris) Cheng, has sent a quiz on Taiwan for the blog. Test your knowledge. (Answers below.)

1. What will a mother do on her daughter’s wedding day right after her daughter leaves her?
a. Cut a chicken’s head
b. Drink a bottle of pig blood
c. Splash a cup of water
d. Beat a pot loudly

2. How old will John be on 2011/3/1 by using the traditional age counting way in Taiwan? (Suppose that John was born in 1988/4/26)

For more information about the TBC program, email

1–c. Splash a cup of water–In the past, it was believed that after the marriage, the daughter should not have too many connections with her parents and should obey her husband. Splashing a cup of water is a symbol to show that the daughter is just like the splashed water that will never come back again.

2–C.23–It is the nominal age. In the traditional age counting system, people are said to add one year to their age after the lunar new year. Age is incremented on the new year rather than on a birthday.

Posted by: viaprograms | February 2, 2011

Celebrating the New Year in China: School Holidays

Chinese people typically celebrate lunar new year with their families.  Since many people work or study far from their hometowns, this time of year is one of the busiest times for travel.  Government officials estimate over 230 million people will travel on trains in the next few weeks.  A few VIA volunteers plan to join the millions as they visit their students’ families to ring in the new year.  We will be sharing a few new year’s stories on the blog this month.
    Beijing-based volunteer Daniel Tkach and ten of his freshmen students celebrated the end of finals by cooking a meal together in his apartment. Daniel and his students have approximately one month of vacation in order to celebrate the lunar new year, known in China as the Spring Festival.
    Posted by: viaprograms | January 31, 2011

    Post-program travels Continue

    Stanford Sophomore Jessica Ward served as a coordinator for VIA’s American Language and Culture (ALC) Program. In summer 2010, she spent five weeks sharing American culture with her peers from Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  In December, she traveled to Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura, Osaka, and Kyoto where she reconnected with her ALC  friends. It was her first time in Japan, first time in the continent of Asia, and her first time traveling alone.  Learn about how she fell in love with the real Japan on her 10-day trip.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    What new food was your favorite?

    Ramen!!! I could eat ramen forever. We went to the Ramen museum in Yokohama for my last dinner in Japan, which was a perfect ending to my food tour of Japan.

    What did you do?

    Over the ten days I met most of the Japanese ALC1 2010 alumni. We went to both tourist places and hidden neighborhoods in Toyko and also to nearby Kamakura, which was the Japanese capitol from 1192-1333. It was interesting to see the contradiction between the super urban atmosphere that is Toyko and the rural areas of Japan from the window of the Shinkansen (bullet train). Kyoto had amazing historical temples and palaces. Though seeing all of the places was cool, I think the things I enjoyed the most was just hanging out with people and, of course, eating.

    Was seeing your ALC friends in their home country different than hanging out at Stanford?

    It was interesting to have the tables turned on you. At Stanford, I was the one who knew where we were going (or at least pretended to) and I was the one most comfortable. In Japan, I was more or less completly helpless without my “Japan Coordinators” who had everything planned out for me. It was also interesting to see people in their “normal” lives.
    Did having friends in the country made your experience different from just a tourist visit?

    My trip was so much more than a tourist experience- I got to stay at alumnus Masaya Okamoto’s house with his family, which was one of the highlights of the trip. I also got to go to a class (and a cafeteria!) at Doshisha University with alumna Shiori Saika. Everyone share their thoughts on what  the “real Japan” was – something that just wouldn’t be possible without local friends.

    I am incredibly grateful for the amount of time people spent hanging out with me and showing me around, and also for letting me stay at their houses. Everyone took care of me from the moment I arrived at the airport to the moment I walked through airport security for my flight home (especially alumnus Motoaki Matsuura!).
    Anything else you’d like to add? I ❤ Japan!!!! (I heart Japan.)

    Posted by: viaprograms | January 26, 2011

    Introducing the Stanford Programs Intern

    Monterey Institute of International Studies master’s candidate Tessa Machida returns to VIA as Stanford Programs Intern. Tessa also served as an intern during the summer of 2010. Over the course of the next five months, she will be working to strengthen the Exploring Health Care and American Language and Culture programs. Welcome back, Tessa!

    Tessa with a friend in Hiroshima, 2009

    You lived in Japan for a few years and speak Japanese. Can you tell us your favorite saying or expression?

    I really enjoy Japanese phrases that express sounds or feelings. “Fuwa fuwa” is probably my favorite, which means “fluffy.”

    You’re currently a student in Monterey, California. What is your favorite thing to do in Monterey? Where do you like to eat?

    Monterey has a lot of history and natural beauty, but the Monterey Bay Aquarium is my favorite place. They have great exhibits, and the sea otters are really cute!

    For food, I like to go to near-by Carmel-by-the-sea. They have lots of great restaurants, and if you’re lucky you’ll run into Clint Eastwood.

    You interned with ALC2 last summer. Any words of wisdom for Stanford Programs participants in 2011?

    Bring warm clothes! I think many students are surprised that it gets quite cool at night in Northern California. Also, take every advantage to speak English that you can while you’re here.  It’s so much easier to improve your speaking skills if you use English 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Posted by: viaprograms | January 23, 2011

    Traveling After the Program

    Julia (left) jumps for joy on her Taiwan trip

    Julia Kho was a coordinator for the American Language and Culture (ALC) Program. She spent five weeks sharing American culture with her peers from Japan, Korea and Taiwan during summer 2010 and recently returned her first Taiwan, where she reconnected with her ALC  friends.

    When did you travel?
    I traveled around Taipei, Taiwan from December 9-22, 2010.

    Who did you meet & what did you do together?
    I met all of the Taiwanese ALC1 2010 alumni, some alumni from Japan, and another Stanford coordinator. One of the places I went to was Danshui, which is very similar to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The streets were filled with shops that sold souvenirs and seafood. One of Danshui’s famous food that I tried was Ah Gei, which is fried tofu stuffed with clear noodles. At first I thought it was just a piece of tofu, but I found that it had a delicious filling. I also went to Jiufen, a town in the mountain, comprised of teahouses, souvenir shops and local delicacies. At night, we had a fantastic view of the town on top of the mountain and I even saw fireworks. There was an echo from where we stood. I yelled my name and I could hear “Julia” “Julia” “Julia” in all directions.

    Alumni from Taiwan, Japan and the U.S. reunited

    What were you grateful for during the trip? I was grateful that all the Taiwan VIA Alumni took time out of their schedule to come see me and take me around Taiwan even though they were busy with school and extracurriculars. They definitely took a lot of time and effort to plan my trip and I am really grateful for that. I was very surprised that they had a whole day packed with activities for me to do. I was passed along from person to person, so I always had a friend with me. I had so much more fun in Taiwan because of my friends in the country. They were the reason my trip was so awesome.

    Any tips or travel advice for future alumni travelers?
    Watch out for mosquitoes! I got bit seven times… RAWR!

    Sunset reunion

    Posted by: viaprograms | January 18, 2011

    ED Attends Mid-Year Conference

    VIA’s Executive Director, Michael Bedford, joined in the mid-year conference. The conference is a VIA tradition where volunteers gather as a group to reflect on experiences had and plan for those to come.

    Attending the first-ever volunteer joint conference between Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, I was wonderfully surprised in the energy, enthusiasm, and help the volunteers offered.  VIA historically holds an annual country-level conference, where volunteers share stories, recommend posts, and provide feedback to VIA on opportunities and challenges. The VIA Regional Program Director recommended this year to combine volunteers from Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand.  Two Indonesia volunteers joined as well in the four days discussions and activities!

    One activity was especially fun:  the drawing of their post activities and environment.  The volunteers used the floor of the conference room, using paint, beads, feathers, and much creativity to express through art their places of work.  Many laughs were shared both on the tales told and the quality of the art!

    « Newer Posts - Older Posts »