August 21, 2008

Report of our program on ABC 10/13

Duluth's local TV channel ABC10/13 shot some video about our Study-in-China program. The interview with the ABC 10/13 reporters took about an hour in the afternoon of Wednesday August 20, 2008. The show was broadcast on ABC 10/13 evening news at 6:00pm and 10:00pm.
Tod, Krissy, John, Leon, Morgan were on the show with me. I am so proud of what they shared with the reporter.
There is an article about this on http://www.wdio.com/article/stories/S550966.shtml?cat=10335.

Here is the Video

June 20, 2008

Shopping in the States

I've been out shopping a few times since I have been home and not surprisingly I have had troubles! First, its just weird to be back in a regular store where you can bargain for the price you want and you don't have an employee helping you the instant you get in the store. The next big difference, which is probably the biggest one, is the fact that I can actually understand what other shoppers or talking about, I also forget that I can ask for help or ask questions about what I want to purchase. The other thing that was hard to get use to, was using my debit card. I almost forgot how to swipe the card, my roommate had to remind me how to put my card in and sign it. Overall, the biggest difference was just being able to ask for help and to understand what other people are talking about.

June 18, 2008

Home Again

For me, being away from home for any amount of time makes me realize how much I miss it and more so the people in my home. After my Dad picked me up from the airport I just looked out the window at the blue clear sky for quite a while. I didn't realize how much I missed seeing and smelling the clean air. It always seemed strange to me how you can be half way across the world in the morning and later that day be back home. I arrived home to a house full of relatives and friends. I pulled out all the things I bought for everyone and starting telling all my stories. I had a lot of good experiences to to talk about, but to be honest the people were not one of the positives. Don't get me wrong every Chinese student I met was amazing and I loved them all and I'm thankful I had an opportunity to meet them to change my perspective a bit. Honestly, I felt like the only time a stranger was nice to me was when they wanted to take a picture with me or I was buying something from them. It really upset me that we got stared at so much and people pointed and took our pictures without us looking. I thought I would get over that, but it bothered me right to the end of the trip. It is just so unacceptable in America to point and stare at someone who is a little different. Maybe it was just the language barrier, but I didn't like being bumped into by so many people all the time and no one ever saying sorry or excuse me. I was also frustrated with all the people I saw litter while we were there. It is not that hard to find a garbage can, but I would see grown men take a wrapper off a food and throw it right on the ground...it's no wonder the streets are so dirty. Not to mention the peeing everywhere and people spitting. I don't mean to vent, but these are habits that are unacceptable in America and it was hard to get used to them while in China. The experience was amazing and I wouldn't change it for the world. Seeing and learning about other cultures is always a great opportunity and it makes me appreciate what I have at home so much more.

The village people

When we traveled by bus from Guangzhou to Kaiping in Southern China, we saw several villages and the entrances to many more. Leon taught us that the nicer the entrance to the village is, especially when you see a paved road, the better off that village is. I couldn’t help but think about the villagers and how secluded their lives are. They live and die in these villages and I wonder if they know what else the world has to offer. Are they able to watch the news or listen to the radio, or do they depend on the signals from the earth itself using Taoism and the yin and yang theory? The villagers truly live the simple life, they work to survive by growing crops, raising animals and mining their territories. I wonder if they yearn for a better life, do they know what else is out there. Could they even fathom the life of the fast-paced Western culture or even the pace of China’s city life?

I can’t help but feel sorrow for the people in southern China due to the mass flooding. After driving by the flooded secluded villages and then reading yesterday about the many deaths that are taking place in the south, it is sad to think about the devastation for these people. Many farmers are losing crops, they depend on these crops to survive, both to sell to others and to live off of. When we were in Kaiping, there were places where people were walking through a foot or more of water and it has not stopped raining since then, and that was two weeks ago. There are many news reports about Foshan, China which is located just southwest of Guangzhou. This area is just west of Kaiping where we stayed so I can only imagine that the conditions for the two places are similar. There have also been reported landslides and some factories in the Guagdong province (near the coastal areas) have been forced to suspend their operations due to the weather.

China has not had much luck with Mother Nature recently. First, there was a harsh snowstorm that killed over 50 people and halted the transportation industry during winter holiday where millions of Chinese were unable to travel to see their families in southern China. Then, there was the May 5th earthquake that killed 70,000 people and left much of central China in ruins. Now there is major flooding that has also done significant damage to Southern China and we have not yet seen the full impact of this natural disaster.

From the eyes of a tourist

It was interesting being a tourist in Shanghai, we were lopped in with other tour groups from elsewhere in China and the UK. After touring the city for a few days I couldn’t help but think about how the tourist industry in Shanghai was aiming at making it seem that China was westernized. Most of the places we toured had western toilets, toilet paper and soap available. This was the first city on the trip that was portrayed in this fashion. It is difficult going from a growing city such as Tianjin where the people represent the true way of living for the Chinese, and go to a city where they are sugar coating the true Chinese culture.

I could best compare our trip in Shanghai to going on vacation in Mexico. There are clean bathrooms, tourist attractions and forks. But in all actuality, we are highly aware of the poor conditions in both locations where there is poverty, cheap labor and heavy pollution. In Shanghai and most Mexican tourist hot spots there are markets to shop for souvenirs, in both places they expect you to bargain for your goods and it is not uncommon to hear them try to lure you into their shop to check out their goods. In Shanghai, they don’t understand the meaning of a firm “no? or “no thanks? as they try to sell you a fake Rolex watch or cheap souvenirs.

The hotel we stayed in at Shanghai was definitely treating us as Americans. It was the first time that every entrée was listed in English, there were eggs, toast, and cereal for breakfast and they gave us forks for every meal. At dinner it was interesting to compare a Chinese tour group to our own group. They served the Chinese group tea with meals, something which we had been accustomed to throughout the trip, but were not offered. The Chinese group was also given chopsticks to eat with instead of a fork. At the dinner there was a Chinese group, UK group and our American group and it was interesting to see the dynamics in our eating styles. The group from the UK had ordered fancy drinks, the Chinese drank hot tea and we drank soda or beer. The Chinese used chopsticks, we used both chopsticks and forks, and the UK group used forks.

The takeaway from this portion of the trip was that it is important to go off the beaten path to experience the true culture of a place. This experience has made me think about the next time I go to Mexico and how it would be beneficial to see the true Mexican culture, go see the farmland where they grow agave plants and where there are villages full of true Mexican cuisine and the true way of life. Traveling to Guangzhou was my eye opening experience; it gave me a taste of the Chinese way of life and culture. In thinking about studying abroad, I think the best way to engulf oneself in the culture is to do a home stay with a family in order to experience the language, cuisine and way of life of different cultures.

Water Ways

The differences between China and the US are quite interesting when you look at the quality of the water supply. In Duluth, MN we are extremely fortunate to be living on Lake Superior, the freshest of the Great Lakes. In China, the water is brown as far as the eye can see. I understand that China is on a mission to be a developed country, but it is taking great risks for the people and environment. According to an article in the Herald Tribune, over 70 percent of the lakes and rivers are polluted. The article mentions that as of 2005, “up to 40 percent of the population live on supplies that are less than half of internationally recognized danger levels.? Water is such an important aspect of life that it is disgusting to imagine the conditions that the Chinese have had to live with throughout the years.

In Tianjin, we saw people swimming and fishing in the Haihe River. I can only imagine what the fish would look like when they came out of the water, I imagined that it would have gnarly teeth, rugged scales and an extra fin or tail. What really blew me away was that there were actually men swimming in this polluted water. I was reading some articles about the water pollution issue of the Haihe River, which means “Mother River,? and read that the river as of 2005 was one of the three most polluted waterways in China. Tianjin has taken action over the past few years to remove silt from the river by dredging. In Souzou, near Shanghai, on our “Chinese Venice? gondola tours we also witnessed black pools infiltrating the river and the smell was indescribable. There were men fishing, gathering water and some residents may also use the water for washing clothes.
The implications for China’s polluted waterways are dangerous. In populated cities such as Beijing and Tianjin, there are major concerns of water shortages, The Chinese people depend on the agriculture to feed the massive population and with water table levels decreasing (in volume) and pollution levels being high, many people will suffer the consequences of higher prices and lower quality food for their families.

I am thankful to live in the United States where although there are polluted waterways, at least there are clean drinking water standards. Major companies that are dumping their waste into waterways need to understand the implications behind polluting the waterways their company is dumping waste into. The major CEO’s should have to live in the city or town where the pollution is happening to understand the impacts of their decisions. I think I will go have a cold glass of bing shue (water).

June 17, 2008

third day in guangzhou

Our third day in Guangzhou started with an two hour long breakfast with my relatives and friends. Because the restaurant was busy, our dear old friend, Mr Kwan, was there at the restaurant to claim a table at 6:30am. We made it there around 9 am and ate and had tea till around 11. After that, my uncle had to switch his Honda City, which is like a Honda Civic in the states but slight bigger, with one of his friends for a van so we could all fit in for the day of tour around Kaiping. The first stop we made in Kaiping was to see Diaolou in Li's Garden. Again we didn't have to pay for any part of the fee to get in because we had "guanxi" with Mr Kwan. There we observe a whole bunch of architect and learned history of the amazing garden. After that, we had lunch at a place were it was famous for pot rice where they cooked everything under open fire with fire wood. After a long day touring the city of Kaiping, we made it back to Guangzhou and went to the Tianhe district where we stayed at the Westin hotel.

Chinese Male's Privilege at Railway Station

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Pudong International Airport

Our students didnot get time to take pictures at Pudong.
View image
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Shanghai Maglev Train

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Maglev_Train
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home sweet home

We are finally home from the trip of a lifetime. I have to admit that it is nice to be back and the simple things in life are a sweet relief. It was strange today when a lady on the street said hi to me, I forget about the concept of "Minnesota nice," and I almost forgot to say hello back. It is nice being able to order my own food without a translator and I have found myself pointing at the menu anyways. I also am still surprised to hear others say thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me or sorry. I love the clean air, and I have been getting my fill of it since we have been back. I also am thankful for washing machines and dryers (my pants fit again!), refrigerators, ice and clean (not to mention cold) drinking water. This trip has definitely taught me to appreciate the things we take for granted here in the United States.

Would I go back to China? If the trip was for pleasure, I think I would wait another 15 years until China is more developed, and I would want to have a stronger grasp on the language because it is painful not to be able to communicate in a foreign country. I would love to travel back to China for business purposes and hope that I can be a part of international business in the future. I think that studying Chinese business principles will help me in the future to be a better manager because I have a better understanding of at least one other culture.
I think one of the most valuable pieces of insight I gathered on the trip was gunaxi, the unspoken physiological, emotional and material reciprocity of others. I think that spending time with Leon and his family was the most culturally enlightening, truthful look at China. His family was very kind to us even though we were able to fully communicate with each other. His family paid for all our meals and took us to beautiful places in southern China.

I am happy to be home, the melting pot called the United States is definitely the home of the free and the home of the brave. I love being able to eat American, Mexican, Italian and any type of food I want. Tonight we are having shish kabobs and I could not be happier about it.

Squatters/ Western Toilets!!

One of the hardest adjustments was having to go to the bathroom in a "squatter" (the term our group coined when we were in China). It was a privilege when we would find a western style toilet, it was almost like a treasure, in fact, it was! Many of us wouldn't even go to the bathroom if we wouldn't find a western toilet. Not only was it awkward to pee while squatting because you had to lift your pants so they didn't get dirty, make sure your pants were out of the way so they didn't get wet, (you know what I mean), but there was usually urine everywhere! In China we didn't look for the bathroom, we had to smell our way to the bathroom. By the middle of the trip, it didn't matter, if you had to go, you went! Let me tell you, being a guy on this trip would have been fabulous! Being back home it is nice to always know I can find a western style toilet, that is almost always clean, has soap and something to dry your hands with. We are very lucky to have these little things in our life.

Souvenirs

I think my family was pleasantly surprised at the amount of stuff I brought them. I carried home relatively few nick-knacks and almost all of them have found their respective homes already. The one everyone likes the most is the mask that we all got from Nankai. I am letting my parents keep it at their house.

Continue reading "Souvenirs" »

The Return Home

Well, our little trip is finally over and I am so glad to be home and see all my family and friends and yet at the same time I am so sad that I had to leave all the friends I made on the way. It will be so weird not seeing everyone on the trip everyday. I already miss them. The plane ride was so long, I thought we were never gonna get there. And to make it even worse, I was so excited about coming home that I didn't get any sleep on the plane, and I had pulled an all nighter the night before. And not to mention one stewardess kept running in my knee, which has a huge bruise on it from my fall at the night club the night before. ooouuccchhh! But i was pleasantly surprised to see that my boyfriend was there to pick me up, he told me he was still in Loiusianna. I slept the whole car ride home and most of the afternoon. It is so nice being able to hear conversations in english and being able to read signs and stuff like that. China was a great experiace, but there was nothing like sleeping in my own bed!!!!

Skyline on the river……………Breathtaking

Last night a few of us girls decided to go see the skyline down by the river………just gorgeous. The lights from the surrounding businesses lighted up the whole river and there were boats covered in lights and one boat even had a huge digital ad screen on it. Once we got down to the river walk and finished taking our pictures we found a little restaurant right on the water and ordered drinks. It was so nice and relaxing and a great bonding experience. We talked about all of our great experiences that we have experienced so far, what we are going to do when we get back to the states, and all that stuff girl talk includes. It was one of the best and most relaxing nights I have had by far. Just sitting there with friends and enjoying the awesome view. We are hoping to do the boat tour tonight, just because it was so beautiful. One thing we thought was weird was that even on a Sat. night all the lights shut off at 10 pm. All of a sudden the river just went dark. The boats were still light up on the river, and it was still beautiful. We sat there for about another half an hour taking in the view, and then we headed back to the subway to make the last departures. It was the perfect night.