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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.
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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.

My mom really likes the idea of me being able to travel in my youth --and living vicariously through my travel. I am very happy I got the opportunity to go to China with LSBE and could hardly be happier with my experience. We had an excellent group and I hope everyone enjoyed their trip as much as I did.

If there is one souvenir of knowledge i am taking with me, it is to pack light. It is hot in China. As much fun as running to the train was, I hope future groups don't have to be as hurried. Being at the Tianjin train station is experience enough without having to sprint with 4 bags of stuff. I am hoping that I can follow through on my own advice as I pack up my coolest souvenir from China, the backpack June gave me.

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Thanks for the great time in China, and wish me luck in Germany,

Morgan

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.

Where’s the MEAT!!!!

While being in Shanghi, we have come to realize that they do not eat a lot of meat here. At our meals, there our usually only 2 plates of meat compared to the 4 or 5 that we were use to in the other parts of China that we have visited. They eat a lot more veggies here and at the end of the meal we are still hungry and end up going to burger king (even though it isn’t very good here). Since we now know that we won’t be getting much meat, it is definitely grab it while you can or you will just be eating vegetables type of deal. And we eat a lot more rice, which is totally awesome here. The rice is one thing I am so going to miss. Maybe it is just that were Americans and we are use to large serving of meat at our meals, especially with so many Americans doing the high protein low carb diets these days. But that is one thing is for sure, I can’t wait to get back to the states and have one really big juicy burger.

Gondolas……..It’s like being in Venice……….but in China

Yesterday we went to Suzhou, the Venice of the East. It was drizzling, so that was a little damper on the day, but it didn’t stop us. One of the first things we did was take a gondula ride down the river. It was so beautiful, but the water was like black and the aroma of the air smelt like an icky bathroom. I think that even one student asked why they were washing their pots in the river; oh it was not their pot for cooking but their personal waste pot. That tells you how clean their river is and where that lovely smell is coming from. But besides that it was absolutely beautiful. Our guide even sang songs and he was quite good. The ride only lasted about half an hour, but it was totally worth it, one thing you must do when in Shuzou. Then we were off to the rest of our day exploring Shuzou!!!!

Price differences HK vs China

Hong Kong and China both exchange money with the US dollar at about 7 to 1. This area is one of the few where the dollar goes a little farther. Most travels abroad result in the US dollar being very weak. Living in China for a month was very cheap relatively speaking, but Hong Kong was not. I found that although the exchange is similar, the market in Hong Kong has inflated their prices to be comprable to US prices. I knew Hong Kong was going to be more expensive, just like Shanghai was compared to Tianjin, but I was surprised to see how comprable it was to the US. I am in Thailand now, and things here are also very cheap. I would ideally like to be back in Tianjin buying $.60 beers b/c I don't think I will be finding those anywhere anytime soon. I hope everyone made it back safely, and that the eagle is in its nest! Thanks Bryn / Adam!

June 16, 2008

A wonderful .

When I sent off the lovely guys and girls at Pudong International Airport, I was sad and glad.
I was sad because of their leaving. I have got to know all these group who are of the greatest! I wish they had got their eyes open to and minds set for the next great business and economy.
I was glad that I finally got some very personal time to look around where I was. I had been so busy that I had not got anytime to take any pictures which I was interested in. I took a lot of pictures of Pudong Airport, Maglev train (starting from 0 k/h to 300k/h), Shanghai Subway, Shanghai South Railway Station, The Express Train, and so on. These were just of the first class architecture and were nowhere the last time when I visited Shanghai 13 year ago.

Today is the lucky day 2008-06-16! I wish all the students land the States safely and smile to their parents at the airports....

June 15, 2008

Shopping with Rena

After searching for a scarf for my grandma, Rena was very kind offering to take me shopping on Golden Street to find one. We met in the hotel lobby and set off on our adventure. Traffic was extra busy due to a car accident that stalled traffic. Once there, we looked around for a little bit, I bought a bracelet for my mom’s birthday, and we went upstairs. After looking around I found what I was looking for and helped her pick out a scarf for her mom. Turns out her mom and I have the same favorite color, blue. She wanted to delevier the present to her where she works, which was just a short walk from the mall. We stopped to get some juice, and went to the school where her mom is a gym teacher. She teaches at a senior middle school, ages 15-18. After introducing myself, she asked to take a picture with me and some of the (50 or so) boys starring at me. They were adorable, getting close and then running away, saying things to her that I obviously did not understand. After a couple pictures, and her mom (very sweet) hugging me a few times, we said goodbye and headed for the hotel. I asked Rena what they were saying and she told me that Chinese boys are very shy and were nervous about taking pictures with a pretty foreign girl, we laughed and continued our journey home.
Shannon

By the Pu River

Last night, which was our second to last evening in China, we spent some time exploring the beautiful city of Shanghai. Six girls headed out on the subway with no real place in mind to see besides the sights. We found our way down to the Pu River which was more amazing then one could imagine. All the buildings, most of them being French influenced, were light up. There was a slight fog/smog that made the evening alluring and romantic. We found a quaint restaurant and decided to sit down outside, watch the city life, and have a drink. Watching the couples walk hand in hand down the river, the boat cruises’ light up with people seeing the sights, and the soft Chinese music in the background made you realize that the Chinese life is not always just the hustle and bustle you daily see. We reminisced about all the wonderful, fun, and awkward moments we have been through and how our group of eighteen has become so close. I will miss all of the great people I’ve spent every single day with for the past month; it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye, especially to a few who have become close. This has been such an amazing experience, not only the cultural and academic areas of China, but the people I’ve met on the way!

Out on the Town

Last night Stacy, Meghan, Courtney, Krissy, Jen and I went down to the Pu River in the evening to explore. We started out by taking the subway to the pearl tower which is absolutely gorgeous at night. We then ventured down to the river and found a little restaurant with seating outside along the river. Us girls ordered cocktails and really enjoyed the scenery. Every boat that went by had lights on it except for the garbage barges. My favorite boat was the media boat. It had a huge screen on the side of the boat the size of a movie theater screen that flashed advertisements every few seconds. All of us girls really took in all the beauty that Shanghai had to offer. At ten o'clock sharp the lights turned off. This was a little surprising to me because in Minneapolis lights would stay on all night. Ten seemed early to turn them off, but anyways we had a wonderful evening enjoying the Shanghai skyline at night.

June 14, 2008

Traveling out of Shanghai to Hong Kong

I made it to the airport with a little help, and now I just had to get my ticket from a customer service counter, go through baggage, and make it to Hong Kong. The bus was easy enough, the ticket was also pretty easy, it was getting through security that was difficult. I was given a piece of paper with my flight info and told to go to the third floor and to counter H. I was there plenty early and spent some time walking around the terminal and found China Eastern airlines and saw all the international check-ins. The counter was D, but had China Eastern written all over the place, and counter H was empty. I waited in line for about 40 minutes to get checked in only to realize that the international counter did not accomadate the Hong Kong flights. Once again I was told to go to counter H. I walked over there to see a vacant area. After pondering what on earth was going on and why I kept being sent to this area. I investigated a little more and found one woman hiding behind a large desk waiting for me! I was so relieved! Things were flawless from there. I arrived in HK, and the flight was very light in terms of passengers. We were let off on the runway and were greeted by a Transit Authority type bus that drove all the passengers from the plane to the terminal. Kind of funny to think that we all went from a plane to a bus! After clearing customs the airport express train took me right to my hotel and what a town HK is. I can't wait to explore!

Riding the Bus

Well it was definately a new experience for me as I left China. I really was looking forward to visiting the town of Suzhou, and with the way my flight to Hong Kong was working out there was the possibility that I would not be able to travel with the group to the Venice of the Orient. Luckily, with a little help from Dahui and Todd, we were able to find alternate transportation from Suzhou to Pudong Airport. I was very nervous to venture out on my own, especially on a bus that would be making stops elsewhere when I do not speak much chinese and would be on my own. I was very thankful that Dahui went to the bus station to see me off and made sure I knew what I doing. I found a nice American man to sit and talk to who had done this routine several times before. The bus was very crowded and offered little air conditioning, but it got me to the airport very easily and I was still able to enjoy as much of Suzhou as I could. Now I just had to navigate from the airport in Hong Kong to my hotel. That was a new experience.

Burger King in China

Dahui has a bleak outlook for Burger King in China. Their market penetration lacks some of the things we have considered a highlight of other fast food franchises in China. Their entry in to the competitive landscape is late, prices are nearly double, and their product (in my esteemed fast food judging opinion) is inferior. --Although Bryn truly enjoyed her big sloppy Whopper.

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I had a BBQ bacon burger, and it was not a particularly enjoyable sandwich. Burger King has some serious explaining to do to me. On the way to Tokyo we had about ten minutes of layover, and none of us had really eaten so we went to the Burger King in the airport. Of course, the airport wouldn't have the dollar (or 1.19 or whatever the heck BK is thinking) menu. So I ended up buying a chicken sandwich meal for something like $6.25, a disgustingly inflated rate in my book. After a ten-minute plus wait and banter with the local employee, I had to abandon my meal for fear of missing my flight. Not only does Chinese Burger King suck, but so does the airport one. They'll be getting a letter. A Whopper meal is 31 yuan, and a Big Mac meal is 18. All in all, I agree with Dahui's concerns for BK's success.

We don’t sit on the ground in China!!!!

One thing we noticed here in China is that no one sits on the ground with out something, like a newspaper, between them and the ground, step, or whatever it is they are sitting on. In fact, many of them squat rather then sit. When we just sit on a step they kinda look at us funny, and at first we never knew why, but now we do. I think that they squat because there is always so much construction and everything gets so dusty so quick here that they just don’t want to get their clothes dirty by sitting on the ground. With dry cleaning a major why that people wash their clothes, or by washing them in the sink, and some a washing machine, the longer u can keep them clean the better. They also don’t have dryers here so when you do was your clothes it takes about a day to 2 days for them to dry completely, at least for my anyways. Also, Chinese people don’t own the large amount of clothes like we do in the states, so that is another reason why it is important to keep their clothes clean. I still think it is weird to see a whole bunch of people squatting rather then just sitting, or sitting in paper. But when in China keep your clothes clean by poppin a squat.

Kids peeing everywhere!!!!!

So how often do u see a little kid peeing on the sidewalk or taking a dump behind a garbage can into a plastic bag in the states……..NEVER!!! Well, that is an everyday occurrence here. It was only until recently that peeing in public was banned here in China, to clean the city up for the Olympics, but the children still just pop a squat and pee. Makes you wonder what you are walking through when stepping in puddles………..yuck! There aren’t very many public bathrooms here and so I guess when you’re little when you gotta go, you just go. Their pants even have slits in the front and back so they can just squat and not worry about getting anything on their cloths. It has been one thing I am still not use too. One day we were at a temple or a park and here this little boy is peeing into the fountain. That would never fly in the states, but at least they are little. But sometimes u can still catch older people doing it too…………like the day in the park. We pulled up and here some old guy was peeing into the bushes. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like before they banned peeing in public. But when little in china and u got to pee, just pop a squat and go!!!!!

Tattoos in China

So 6 of us have gotten tattoos in china so far, and I even got 2. We were all scared about sanitary conditions at first, but once we went and checked out the place and saw how clean it was and that they followed the same sanitary procedures in the states, we decided to go ahead. First it was Andrea and Krissy, then me, then another girl, and then me again Courtney and Cassie. Most of us got our name in Chinese either on our foot, leg, or back of the neck. Another reason why we got tattoos here, besides just being in china is because they are much cheaper here. The min. starts at $30 (us) and in the states they start from any where from $60-80. So we felt like we were getting a good deal. We also felt very welcomed and liked the people in the tattoo shop, very important when getting one. We did have some difficulties with the language barrier, but thanks to Rena and persistence they were overcome. Everyone was satisfied with their tattoos and now we have a permanent reminder of our China trip. Long live our memories!!!!

June 13, 2008

Sleeper Cars

If you ever really want to know how well you know someone spend a month rooming with them, or better yet, an evening in a little four person train sleeper car with all of your luggage. Our train ride to Shanghai was yet again, an experience, and I’m not only talking about all eighteen of us running through the train station with our luggage and arriving just two minutes before the train left the station. After strategically arranging everything we had brought in the room there was no place left for anyone besides the occupants and the bed they would later be sleeping on. We decided it was a good idea to stay in our rooms, have some girl talk, watch a movie, and get to bed early. But who could sleep? Between people snoring and walking up and down the hallway, a steady set of trains passing by, and a rattling noise that never quit I’m not actually sure how much sleep was actually gotten. Surprisingly, everyone was in a very good mood at six am when the train slowed down and Dauhi came to wake us up. Upon leaving the train, we were met by our tour guide who took us to our hotel and then around town for another day of sight seeing. For how much time we’ve spent together and how little sleep we’ve gotten at certain points, it’s amazing how everyone has been genuinely happy and gotten along so well!

Monday-Tuesday June 9-10

Today we had the day off from class due to a Chinese national holiday. We decided to take the free time to attempt to see another part of the great wall, with about 8 of us in the group. With Rina as our guide we went back to the train station in Tianjin again, and set out on what we thought was about a 2 hour train ride. We already had undergone the 30-45 minute taxi ride, and were well on our way to the wall when we ran into a snag. We found out that the last train heading back from the wall was to set off at 4, leaving us with only a few hours maximum at the wall between travel time to and from. So as a group we decided to turn back not willing to spend about 8 hours travel time and a good amount of money to see the wall for only an hour or two.

So after getting off the train at a random farmer’s village outside Tianjin, we were left to barter with the locals to set up a ride to come get us. We ended up having a van come out and for 50 Quai per person we got a ride all the way back to the hotel, which to me was just fine. The road back was not your average road, consisting for the first several miles of either dirt paths or a road too narrow for two cars that had two cars oncoming pretty steady so the average speed was about 10 mph or so. We got back to the hotel and hung out for a bit, resting from our early morning adventure followed by lunch at KFC. This lunch proved to be much more difficult than expected, when we took about 15 minutes to order between the four guys that went (the no lines thing is really hard to adjust to). John and I went into the Carrefour to check stuff out, and found some pretty cheap deals with average cost of new shoes for example being about 12 U.S. dollars. We then rested and watched Spies like us at the hotel before dinner with Eric, at the Chinese dumplings place down the street.
Tuesday we woke up and had our last lecture that was on a subject comparable to IT in the states. We then had our presentation group of Tod, John, Morgan and I head to the dumplings joint once again, this time to discuss our project over lunch. We got little accomplished at the restaurant because of the noise, and headed back to the hotel to get the PowerPoint slides in order. After a few hours of pretty ADD overwhelmed work we got what we felt to be a solid presentation base, and broke off to focus on individual sections for a bit. The business visit was around 2:00, to the Huayuan Microsoft Park and was our last business visit of the trip. We then had a bit more time to work on our projects before meeting up with some of the students for some night activities consisting of more new games, and increasingly strong friendships between our group and theirs.

Hustle and Bustle, Goodbyes

Last night was the most busy night of my life. All of the Chinese students came to see us one last time at the hotel before we rushed onto the bus. We all got to give them quick hugs and then piled onto the bus. We were running late, so when we got to the train station we had to basically run. The "parking lot" area of the train station, though was filled with cement railroad ties, so wheeling our suitcases was impossible. My suitcase weighs approximately 60 pounds, and along with my smaller suitcase, backpack, and purse, I was struggling as much as anyone else. We got into the station and had to put all of our bags through a security check conveyor belt. So, we were all frantically throwing, literally, our stuff onto this conveyor belt and running to the other side to grab our stuff, reload up, and run some more. We had to scale about 3 flights of stairs (with a small ramp on the side that was about a 45 degree grade) with ALL of our luggage. At this point, Laura started up the ramp with her suitcases, and proceeded to fall straight over backwards when she realized how steep the grade was. Also, at the same spot, Stacey's handle broke off of her rolling suitcase. John came to her rescue and became a human packhorse. Without him, we probably would have missed our train. Once we got up the stairs, we had to go down another set of stairs to get to our train (why we had to go up and then down again, don't ask me). Everyone was frantic going down the stairs, but we didn't have any casualties this time. When we got to the platform for our train, we had to bustle into the car, with no time to say goodbye to Rena. She came all the way to the train station with us, and we were all too hurried to say goodbye to her. It made me sad. We made it, and got our room assignments. After our luggage was stored and ready to go, we got to relax on the sleeper train. 10 hours later, Shanghai.

An International Game of Poker/A Brief Update

Our last night in Tianjin, after we had our going away dinner with all of the Chinese students, our group wanted to head back to the karaoke bar for a final party. Unfortunately, all the rooms there were taken up, so we fell back on Plan B and once again cruised over to Ali Baba's. Shortly after arriving, I bumped into a guy from Turkey who I had met before at the bar, and he invited me over to a game of Texas Hold'em that was about to begin off in one of the corners.

The experiences I have in that bar never cease to amaze me. I found myself seated at a table, in China, playing a game of poker with people from Turkey, China, Ireland, and Mexico. It's weird being in a completely foreign country, on the other side of the world, conversing with people from so many different countries not in the local language, but in English. That really helped to put it into perspective just how much indirect influence the United States swings around.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay as long as I would have preferred. Everyone else was taking off for a club that was just down the street, and they wanted me to tag along. I pushed all-in on a 4/6 off suit for my last hand, lost what I had invested, and walked away with no regrets to finish up our last evening in Tianjin.

Yesterday our bus showed up a little late to haul us all to the train station, and the delay wasn't helped with our goodbyes to all of the Chinese students we have befriended, but we made it to our sleeper cars with a few seconds to spare. Alas, not all of the suitcases survived completely intact from that mad scramble, but all the luggage made it except for a bag handle or two and a case of water.

We arrived in Shanghai all in one piece, got bused to our hotel, took a much needed shower, ate a more western style breakfast, and began our tour and exploration of the city. So far we've only gone to a Jade Buddha Temple and one of the main shopping streets in the city. A few other people split off and did their own thing, but now we're all trickling back into the hotel to wait for dinner. Tomorrow we journey to Suzhou, which I've been waiting all trip for and hopefully it will live up to the anticipation. It's hard to believe we have just a couple of days left here in China.

June 12, 2008

changes

We are counting down the last couple of hours of our time in Tianjin, a place we have called "home" for the past three weeks. Tianjin is full of over 11 million people where many have never seen an American. It was great getting to know the Chinese students, they were our guides, translators and most of all, our friends.

I can't help but try to absorb every last detail of Tianjin, the honking of the horns, the masses of people riding bikes, the market outside our hotel and the pace of life here. I was sitting here reflecting about the various cities that I have seen on this trip and they are all very unique and different. The main cities were Tianjin, Beijing in northern China and Guangzhou, and Kaiping in southern China.

Northern China reminds me of a warm New York day, where it is very hot and there are people everywhere you look. Southern China is very hot, humid and sticky, when walking outside it feels like you are in Mexico. It was raining a great deal when we were in Guangzhou (mainly the day we arrived and the day we departed). We were able to witness a great deal of flooding in the villages of Kaiping, people were walking through more than a foot of water running down the streets. People were riding bicycles and motorcycles with ponchos on and carrying umbrellas to keep themselves and their belongings dry.
Tianjin was our first stop and our home away from home. The first thing you notice is the intense smog, out of all the cities that

In Guangzhou Laura and I were discussing the differences in the life of children in China versus the USA. We did not see a single stroller or baby carrier while in Kaiping, they carry their children in cloth carriers so they can keep the children close to them at all times. Children in China do not wear diapers, but instead have large cracks down their bottoms so they can do their business hassle free. There were even very young children riding on motorcycles with their families that were not wearing any type of safety device. There were no seat belts, helmets or any safeguard other than the protection of the parent's arms.

It is easy to see why families are so close in China, we were able to visit the home of Leon's uncle and aunt. In one flat lived his uncle and aunt, their three children, and grandma. We learned that his youngest cousin either slept with grandma or mom and dad. We talked about how this leads to a greater respect for hierarchy and age. It was interesting because grandma did not want to come to dinner with the group because she was embarassed that she could not eat with chopsticks. But Leon pleaded with her to go and the whole family helped her put food on her plate so that she felt comfortable. It is amazing how far the family will go to protect the harmony within the group.

Our trip to the south was amazing, his family was very warm and welcoming to us. Even with the huge language barrier, it was very comfortable to be in their presence. At one meal there were 3 people that only spoke Chinese, 2 that spoke english and chinese and 2 that only spoke english. I felt bad that Leon and his friend Yen had to translate so much, but it was interesting. They were making fun of my lack of chopstick skills, but didn't criticize.

I am looking forward to our trip to Shanghai, I think it will be great to be able to see yet another part of the country. I am sad to leave Tianjin, but I am also looking forward to a new adventure. The Chinese students were awesome, they were really helpful and fun to be with. I would definitely like to thank Jason for orchestrating everything and to everyone who made this part of the trip possible. Goodbye Tianjin...


Bitter Sweet

Today was our official last day in Tianjin! As excited as I am to go home and smell the sweet air of home I am going to miss many aspects of China. Its amazing how adapted I have become in the last 4 weeks, I almost wish this was the way it was when I first got here; but its all about the experience. Today I was lucky enough to try a traditional Southern Chinese breakfast that Leon treated me to. Laura, Leon and I, met Eric and John at this restaurant not far from our hotel. It was neat to experience the food that Leon became accustomed to while living in China. Both Laura and Leon were telling me stories about their trip to the south and how a restaurant like this would be absolutely packed. The meal started out with a chicken rice soup, that tasted very similar to chicken noodle soup, then some other things came ( I can't remember the name). These sweet rolls came and they were SO GOOD! We finished them up and then ordered another batch they were so good!

After we got done eating we headed to Ancient Culture street for one last hoorah! I went back to the place where I bought all my scrolls and bought one more! They recognized me right away and the older man told me he loved me! He asked me where I was from. Even though neither could speak English and I couldn't speak Chinese we found a way to communicate and thank one another for the business. It was truly a neat experience.

Laura and I then came home to pack! I very big task in itself! Ironically my big bag feels lighter than when I left the states! Don't ask me how I accomplished that! But I swear I have never packed so strategically in my life! In about 2 hours we will be heading out of Tianjin for the last time! Like I said I'm excited to go home but I will miss everything I have done here! The people I have met, the hotel, the little shops around our hotel, and all the things I have learned! Everything will always have a place in my heart!

Second day in Guanzhou

Here is what happened on the first morning in Guanzhou. First we went out for tea... They call it "he cha" in southern part. The cuisine range from donut looking thingys to spicy chicken feet and cow stomach. Andrea and Laura was brave enough to give the chicken a try, until I told them that all you eat is the tendons and the skin. They were instantly grossed out by it. After breakfast we walked down Beijing Street, which is one of the oldest street in Guangzhou. The Olympic torch actually went through that street. After the short walk, we took the subway to the bus station where we took the bus to Kaiping, which is my hometown.... Oh yeah, the bus ride was free because I got "Guanxi." :) to be continued.......

Goodbye Tianjin!

Its hard to believe that our trip is slowly nearing the end. When I first arrived in China I thought the trip would drag by... I was concerned that I knew NONE of the language and that I was being submerged into a completely new culture. However, the trip flew by. There have been so many amazing individuals throughout our trip who have helped us tremendously. I don't know where our group would be without Rena, Jason or the Chinese students!

Not only did these individuals act as guides and translators for us but they became our close friends. It is hard to believe that in a few days when I wake up I will not have the ability to quickly communicate to our new friends!

It is amazing to see how much each of the students in our group have grown. We have been faced with challenges that most have us have not had to face in the States. Even for some of us who have traveled before, we may not have traveled to areas where we do not know the language. It is amazing to see that in a world of differences there are so many similarities. When you get down to the nitty gritty of it all each person is just that, a person. We all breath, sleep, eat, live, love, hurt, want, need... The list goes on. It is has been such an eye opener for me to realize that two culutures can come together and communicate without words. It has also been awesome to see how helpful and kind our Chinese friends have been. They have dedicated a month to spend hanging out with us and helping us. They will never know how grateful I am for them!

When I first decided to travel to China I was a little nervous. To be honest I had never considered China to be a top destination spot for me... but I wouldn't change my decision for the world. I am happy that I have learned about an entirely new culuture, and even more so happy that I have learned more about myself.

We leave for Shanghai tonight, and once our traveling in Shanghai is complete, we leave for the States. I am hoping that our last few days are as magical as the past few weeks have been!!

Culture Exchange...

While I was excited to come to China and experience a new culture, I never thought that I'd be sad to leave...

Last night at our "Farewell Party" I really realized how many new friends our group has made and that even though there are many differences between the American college student and the Chinese college student, we have all really grown to understand those differences as well as learn from them. It's amazing to me that we all came on this trip hoping to learn about the Chinese culture and business practices and I think in addition to these things, we are also walking away with new friendships that will hopefully last beyond the last four weeks - and even extend to the Chinese students visiting us in the states someday.

As was noted in some of the presentations yesterday, I hope that an exchange has happened. I know that I am walking away with a whole new understanding of this part of the world, but I also hope that I have been able to teach the Chinese students about the lifestyle of a typical American college student as well - and with that said, I hope that what we leave behind with this group of students sheds a positive light on the citizens of the United States.

June 11, 2008

Last Night and Finally got to ride on a bike!!

Back home I spend my summers riding on a bike (a motorcycle), so I really wanted to get the chance to ride on a bike here in China. Riding bikes is one of the most common ways to get to another place in Tianjin. As we all were leaving for our nightly festivities Leon and I hitched a ride with the Chinese students! Pass gave Leon his own bike to ride while Pass gave Eric a ride! I was lucky enough to get a padded seat on the back of John's bike! It was so fun, but I felt bad that John had to drag my butt around!! We left on the bikes to go to Ali Baba's. Lets just say it was a ride of a lifetime! Leon was funny enough when he was trying to ride Pass' bike and riding with all the Chinese students was definitely a way to experience something they do daily. As we were riding through the campus we were able to see where the real night life was. At 10pm there were students everywhere: buying snacks, riding bikes, playing hacky sack, sitting by the lack in cirlces of friends. It was wonderful to see! It is sad that last night was our last night, but having the presentations, farewell supper with the Chinese students, and going on with most of them was the best way to end our stay in Tianjin!

The final day in Tianjin

Yesterday was a wonderful day to end our time in Tianjin. We met at one o'clock yesterday to give our final presentations, have a graduation ceremony, and dinner witht the Chinese students. The presentations were wonderful because each group focused on a different aspect of what they learned. I am just so excited to take back with me what learned from the entire trip. To make it short and sweet I learned to go with the flow and open my mind. I also have learned that experience is the best teacher. I would not take back htis trip for the world because I don't think I could learn so much about another culture in such a short time. To end the program we also had a mini graduation ceremony. The Dean of the business cam in to hand out certificates to each of us. They also made us T-shirts with all of our names on it and gave us a gift. The gift was the mask of on opera actor framed in a picture frame. The final dinner wiht the chinese studnets was very bittersweet because it was very hard to say goodbye. I have developed such a bond with some of them that I wish I could pack them in my suitcase. NIcole and Angel both presented me with goodbye gifts. Nicole gave me homemade shoes for my niece. They are traditional shoes made my the mom or grandma that the baby would were to symbolize a heathy and happy life.

Last Night in Tianjin

Today is our last evening in Tianjin and I am surprisingly sad to leave. These past four weeks have been unbelievably amazing but in the back of my head was always the thought of my family and friends who are home enjoying their summers. After our final presentations, which covered almost everything we had done, it really hit me that this experience is almost over. There is so much I have learned and so many amazing people we have met that will be difficult to leave behind. In the beginning, the most difficult part was the language barrier but looking back on it, being able to communicate with someone who didn’t speak your language was eye-opening and fun. You take for granted the fact that you can read billboards or speak to a random in a grocery store, but keeping these in mind, I know I will return home with a different attitude with regards to people needing help, taking time to bring them instead of point in the right direction. And it’s not just the obvious differences that have made an impact, but the basic human needs, such as a social connection with others. Realizing that these Chinese college students are essentially the same as we are, they get stressed over finals, enjoy shopping or playing sports. It just shows how much we all are alike even when our backgrounds are very different.

Tattoos

There has been a lot of people getting tattoos lately and I never thought I would be one of them. I first went with Jen to when she got hers done and thought that would never be me, but after meeting the three people who worked at this tattoo parlor I decided if I were to get one this would be the place. It was wierd how comfortable I was with these people when two of them spoke no English and one of them spoke very little. They were so kind and I could tell they really cared about their customers. I have visited many tattoo parlors in the US where they speak my language and I have never felt this welcomed. Maybe it is because in China it is not such a big fad to get tattoos like it is in America, so any customer they get, they really appreciate. So to make a long story short Courtney and I ended up getting tattoos, just little ones. I got a little green shamrock. When I woke up the next morning I thought...what had I done, I don't even like it! It looks bad and why would I get a tattoo. The next day I went back to the tattoo parlor and the guy who did mine was there and was determined to make me happy when I left his shop. He added to my tattoo free of charge and made sure I liked what I had just permenantly added to my body. Once again I am just amazed how comfortable I felt with these people even though they don't speak the same language as me, granted Rena is always a big help when it comes to translating. The gap is truly starting to shrink regarding differences between China and America and I continue to see that the longer I stay here.

Nixon's favorite restaurant

Tian took us to Bei Hai park when we went to visit him in Beijing last weekend. The park was big, and has a large lake in the center. It was a beautiful park, and we were there just before dusk.

beijing solo 074.JPG

Tian told us the lake is artificial, and near the big temple-like place on an island in the middle there was a restaurant that he said was President Nixon's favorite in China.


It was an expensive restaurant (168 kuai per person), but it was cool. Tian's friends and cousins came with us to eat. We got to eat hump meat (camel), some expensive seafood no one could translate in to English for us, and an interesting fish.

beijing solo 081.JPG

I am glad we got time to visit Tian and go see Tian'anmen Square and the Beijing Zoo, it was great being on our own for a little while. Tian is supposed to start his summer finance job this week, and he is very excited for it. It was very cool to watch him in his environment here and tell us all the little tidbits he knows about his hometown.

Last day

Today is our last day in Tianjin and I am sad to see this trip go by so fast. We had our final class his afternoon and everyone got to share some stories and experiences. A lot of us talked about shared memories and how much fun this trip has been. I have enjoyed meeting everyone so much and making new friends with both Chinese students and US students. Jason made us t-shirts with all of our signatures on them that almost made me cry. I will hold it very near and dear. We also got some pictures with the dean and got Jason to “pop his collar? for a picture. Very not like Jason.

We are having a farewell party and then going out for our last night. We most likely will be making an appearance at Ali Baba’s and hopefully got to Bar Street. Although I am skeptical of getting a drink now. Last night a group of us went to Harry’s and I ordered Absolut peach vodka with Sprite. I received a shot glass with the vodka in it, a warm can of sprite, and a bucket of ice. No glass. The Chinese people do not drink, but it was funny how something so small as a drink can be so different in each culture. Next time I will make sure to order it mixed and with a straw.

Beijing Recap

After going to Beijing twice I needed a couple of days to let it all settle in. Beijing is by far one of my favorite cities. There is so much to do that 2 weekends didn’t feel like enough. The first weekend was fun, but the second was an entirely new view at this amazing city. Getting lost is easy to do and happened a few times. Until you get down into the subway you don’t know which part of the city you are in. The subway is quick efficient and was extremely easy to use. I really enjoyed getting the chance to be in a different transportation other than a plane or taxi (it was my first subway experience). We met up with Tian and some of his friends for a night out on the town. I loved the meal we had which included camel hump and geoduck clam. It was very fancy and everything was covered in gold.

The next day was shopping heaven and now I’m an old pro at bargaining the price down to what I think is acceptable. One woman said to Shannon and I “you are so pretty, why so mean,? we laughed and she followed up with “so pretty and so clever.?

Shannon and I had also decided to leave our bags at the hostel so we split off from Meghan and Stacy to make the trip across town to the hostel and then find our way back to the train station on time. We managed to take the subway all the way there and only for 2 Yuan (less than $.50) where our cab to the hostel was 50 Yuan.

June 10, 2008

Traditional Chinese Documentary

Soon after we settled in to our hotel, we met a guy named Doug. Doug is over here in China doing a documentary on traditional Chinese Medicine. Doug's brother had a stroke that affected his brain stem. After a lot of treatment in the states with no success, Doug looked into different practices and had heard from another stroke survivor that traditional Chinese Medicine really works. Before bringing his brother such a long way for treatment, Doug looked into the traditional medicine. About two months ago the family decided that trying Chinese Medicine would be the next best alternative. Doug's brother has only been here for about two months and he has progressed more in that time than he did in the states. Doug is doing a documentary on traditional Chinese Medicine and the prognosis his brother is undergoing. While being here, I have met Doug, his mom, his nephew and his father. The nephew just graduated from high school and is still planning to attend college. His mom, dad, and nephew only plan to stay for another month and then head home. It would have been neat to learn more about traditional Chinese medicine but I was fortunate to get to meet Doug and his family and learn about their amazing story!

Lost in Translation

The most difficult aspect here to get used to is not just the differences in language, but that it sometimes seem near impossible to communicate with people here on any level. Even the very basics are worlds apart, such as how to show numbers on your hands (in the States we hold up 10 fingers for the number 10, in China they use just two). Apparently China is starting programs in elementary schools to teach English. It seems to be working, because in most of the families we have bumped into, it's almost always the little kids that do all the talking to us and then translate to their parents. In a decade or two it will probably be much easier for tourists to survive in China.

The other night, a few of us walked down to KFC. Believe it or not, KFC seems to be much more popular here than McDonald's. I'm still kind of surprised by that, but at least the KFC menus are different and offer some items that are not prepared in the States. All I wanted off the menu was a #2, which consisted of a fry, a pop, and a crispy chicken burger. It didn't quite turn out that way.

I suppose my first mistake was pointing at the big menu hanging behind the counter, and then holding up two fingers. The cashier said something in Chinese, which I didn't understand, so I grabbed a smaller picture menu they have handy for foreigners like us who have no idea what we're doing. I pointed at the picture on the menu for the #2 meal. The cashier nodded his head and started punching things in on the register.

The meal was supposed to come to 22.50 Yuan, which is about 3.50 USD, and I figured something was off when the number reached 60 Yuan. I started shaking my head and waving my arms around, trying to somehow communicate that through to the cashier. All that achieved was a very confused cashier. Food started appearing on my tray, much more than I ordered. I started frantically motioning again, and a manager showed up. Then I had a confused cashier and a confused manager. For some reason they separated the three sandwiches, three pops, and three fries, onto three different trays. How that was supposed to change things, I have no idea. After all of this, the price managed to go up even more.

Ten minutes later, and after having made quite a spectacle of myself in the Chinese KFC, I finally got just what I wanted. Don't ask me how, but the price was also less than it was supposed to be, but I wasn't going to complain at that point. I just sat down and enjoyed my delicious, crispy chicken sandwich.

Fooseball

Fooseball is a game that I enjoy playing very much. I was very pleased to be at Ali Baba's and find a fooseball table in the center of the room that did not require you to plug chagne into all night. It is a game that is very underrated in the US on college campuses in my opinion. I can rarely find a table or people that have played, enjoy playing, or have some talent. By talent I am referring to people who do not spin the rods. I have always associated fooseball as a game of my parent's generation. My dad is very good at playing, and most of his friends when at our house will play and destroy me. I just thought that they were really good and way better than the average player. Until I got here. Fooseball must be a very popular international game. At Ali Baba's I have been just getting handled by people from all over the world. Canadiens, Chinese, Arabs, Brazilians, you name it. I even got mopped up by a little Italian girl! It has really put my in my place in terms of where I think my talent in the game lies.

Fooseball

Fooseball is a game that I enjoy playing very much. I was very pleased to be at Ali Baba's and find a fooseball table in the center of the room that did not require you to plug chagne into all night. It is a game that is very underrated in the US on college campuses in my opinion. I can rarely find a table or people that have played, enjoy playing, or have some talent. By talent I am referring to people who do not spin the rods. I have always associated fooseball as a game of my parent's generation. My dad is very good at playing, and most of his friends when at our house will play and destroy me. I just thought that they were really good and way better than the average player. Until I got here. Fooseball must be a very popular international game. At Ali Baba's I have been just getting handled by people from all over the world. Canadiens, Chinese, Arabs, Brazilians, you name it. I even got mopped up by a little Italian girl! It has really put my in my place in terms of where I think my talent in the game lies.

Price Differences: Beijing v. Tianjin

China has been a very great experience. While the US dollar is relatively weak amongst most currencies, China is a place to bring it. We have been able to enjoy many luxuries in China that would normally be way out of our budget at home. Fancy dinners, massages, pedicures, and buying 30 DVD's at once (Meghan and Stacy) are all some of the things we have spent money on. The regularity that we have consumed these products and services are not something that would happen back home. Maybe the "vacation mentality" has set in and we are a little more apt to spending money on various thinggs (like the feather hackey sack). The biggest differences have come in the way a sale is made. The department stores usually have a fixed or set price for their goods, while the vendors barter for everything. The department stores give some comfort in believing that what you have bought is authentic, and you know that anything bought on the street is fake. So, where to buy?

We have shopped in both Beijing and Tianjin several times. Beijing has a much greater variety of goods and a much greater availability or competition of vendors. Tianjin offers the same products for the most part, but there is less competition than Beijing. Tianjin appears to be somewhat more reasonable in prices at department stores, however, I think that Beijing offered more at a single store than anything I have seen on Golden street or Asian Culture street. The vendors are under much more pressure to make a sale in Beijing and you can often barter to a very low price. A price lower than what you can get in Tianjin in most cases. This is because the vendor across the way usually has the same product and will sell it at a slight discount. Beijing is probably the place to shop for goods, but either way, Tianjin or Beijing, China is the place to bring your dollar. This is the case nnless Stacy is willing to do crazy stunts like sprint across the room and stuff her mouth with other people's tomatoes into her mouth for $1.50.

An Authentic Restaurant Meal

I know, it's a little late to be adding this entry, but I'm going to post it anyway. I wrote it in the middle of last week, but the internet was down in mine and John's room, so I was unable to add it then. It took us about two days and several trips to the front desk for them to finally repair our connection, and it was just our room that had the problem. I don't know the reason, but here is my now slightly out of date entry.

Last Tuesday, everyone split up into smaller groups for dinner, which enabled me to experience a slightly more authentic restaurant than we’re able to do when we travel around with everyone. I was on my own with one of the Chinese students since everyone else seemed to be doing their own thing. I wanted something new to try, so I told the student to pick a place not too far away that he really liked and we set off strolling down the street..

About a mile or two later, we were in an area well beyond where we normally range from the hotel (on foot), approaching a tiny little establishment off on the side. It turned out to be a family owned restaurant, and the Chinese student I was with (Eric) had only been there once before, but he had really enjoyed it. Even the atmosphere out front was way different than where we normally end up. A small canopy was set up out front to add some protection from the sun and poor weather, while a long grill was stationed on one end with one individual managing a bunch of skewers with various kinds of meat on them. I found it amusing that some of them even had several whole crabs impaled upon them, we continued past this area and settled ourselves inside.

Since most of the Chinese characters on the menu still look like random scribbles to me, Eric ended up doing all the ordering. The place is apparently know for a certain type of dish, which I can remember the Chinese for, but it roughly translates to “Sandstone Pot?. How it got its name became quite obvious when the dishes arrived. The meal was basically a stew of different meats with vegetables and noodles, served in pots made out of sandstone. We claimed two pots, one which had sheep for the meat, and the other was comprised of beef. Eric also asked for a couple skewers of sheep from the grill outside for me to try. I have to say, overall, it was worth the walk.

June 9, 2008

Weekend adventure to southern China

This weekend Leon was kind enough to invite Laura and I on a weekend adventure to southern China to visit his relatives. It was quite the unforgetable adventure and I felt like we really experienced the Chinese culture first hand. Our travels began on Friday with a nice taxi ride and then continued via airplane to Guangzhou.

The airline experience by itself was interesting. To fly domestically is very much like the US, it was interesting when they were looking through our liquids because the girl was definitely looking very hard at the contents of my bag which contained saline solution, deodorant, toothpaste, lotion and eye makeup. They were confused with Laura's liquids too, especially with the hand sanatizer, they actually took it out and set it on fire! Obviously they would not allow her to take it on the plane. The plane was very hot, the smell of BO was incredible, and I would like to learn where the pilot learned to land a plane because we came in for a landing at a very fast speed. We made one stop and were able to leave the airplane. When we were waiting towards the end of the line a security guard or airline worker motioned for us to come with him and we were able to go to the front of the line and reboard the plane without waiting in line; we definitely felt like VIPs. I couldn't help but wonder how profitable the airlines are here because we were fed on both lags of the trip which totaled about 3 hours. In the US, you are lucky if they serve you a snack and beverage.

Guangzhou was a beautiful city bustling with people and city life. Two of Leon's friends met up with us at the hotel and became our tour guides (or doyo??) and friends. The girls were extremely helpful and they said we were their first foreign friends. The took us around the city, we were able to see what the streets were like throughout the various dynasties through a glass sidewalks in a pedistrian only shopping market zone. They payed our way through the subway system and then utilized guanxi to travel on a bus to Kaiping which is a 2 hour bus ride away. The view from the bus was exciting, we left a huge city and drove along the roads to see villages, banana trees, rice patties, different terrain, flooding and much more. We saw the damage of a bridge that collapsed within the last year due to a barge ramming into a pillar.

We stayed the night in Kaiping and had the opportunity to meet Leon's relatives. There was a definite language barrier but Laura and I did not feel out of place in the least. It was fun to see how they communicate with eachother, examine behaviors and see their way of life. I felt like we were really able to experience guanxi and immerse ourselves into the culture. The southerners really enjoy cuisine and we ate many new foods. They eat chicken feet (not my favorite) for breakfast and gather as large families around a table. When we met with his family for breakfast, the culture was very different. There were only large families, there were not even tables for just two people, and one of his cousins told us that it is typical to enjoy breakfast for two hours.

This was just part of our adventue, we have to work on our presentation for tomorrow so I will write more about our experiences at a later time.

Rena's Grandma's Apartment

A group of us went over to Rena's Grandma's apartment for some traditional homemade Chinese food. It was very interesting to see what a typical apartment looks like. It is definitly smaller than apartments in the US, but not by much. It had a kitchen, small dining room and three bedrooms. When we arrived they fed us cherries, cookies, and candies, it felt a little strange to be eating dessert first...but I wasn't going to complain. We then watched Rena's father make noodles by shaving off little pieces with a clever from a large ball of dough. The shavings would fall directly into a pot of boiling water and begin to cook. Rena said this was a very special occasion because her father hadn't made these noodles in over a year, so I felt pretty honored to try them. We then watched Rena's aunts make dumplings. They were stuffed with beef and vegetables I believe. It was all very delicious! Even though Rena's family didn't speak a word of English, they knew how grateful we were to have gotten the invite to their home.

Beijing: Mao, MiniCoopers and Ebay

The trains were packed. The cars were offering a seat to Beijing for around 80 Yuan per seat. An unofficial bus sold fares for 30 Yuan, it departed about 20 minutes after promised (after its last seat was sold). While waiting, I mentioned that I had to visit the bathroom. The guy (coordinator or owner perhaps, motioned to do it on the side of road in the bushes. He walked me over and..."when in Rome..." I read about China and Beijing on the way up. The lady sitting across the aisle allowed her toddler to pee on the floor of the buss--my Chinese friends later told me that that was normal (hmmm). The bus dropped people off about a block away from the main Beijing train station. Then I grabbed a cab to Tien An Men Square to see Chairman Mao's corpse.
By the time I had finally gotten to Beijing, Mao was not accepting visitors. Tuesday through Sunday, mornings only. So if I am going to see Mao, I will have to return; I had seen Lenin in Red Square prior to his burial. If I can see Mao, I can say that I've seen two of the most communist leaders of the 20th Century, perhaps.
The hostel to the west of the Forbidden City has some clean rooms with private bath and atmosphere for around $35/night. The shops in the alleys behind there were fun. Nice luggage, unlocked I-phone look a likes for around $200, boiled dumplings and beer at a small restaurant that had a banner on the wall that looked like it was written in Tibetian (close--slightly to the northeast of there said the owner (I think) as he pointed to my map).
Hopped on the subway. Had some microbrewed beer at a Shopping Center near the middle of the 3rd ring road on the west side after looking at BMW MiniCoopers, priced at around 345,000 Yuan ($50K+). MiniCoopers are incredibly popular among the up and coming young Chinese. A Chinese friend sells clothes on Tao Bao--an internet market place that beat Ebay at their own game when they came to China--its fun to observe some reality that ties into a previous business lecture.
The last train to Tianjin was pretty empty--getting a seat was no problem. I fell asleep on the way back.

Sashimi, Pharmacy, Intellectual Property Rights and a Movie

I slept in today until about noon. Had an early dinner of Sashimi and tempura with a friend in the Hexi district across town at one of the many authentic Japanese restaurants there. The Japanese reportedly stay in hotels there for business. One hotel is so old an famous that the streets around it incorporate its name along with a compass direction.
Visited a pharmacy in the neighborhood where I asked for an antibiotic to attack my sinus infection that might be moving into my chest. He gave me some Amoxicillin capsules 0.25g, 2 capsules, 3 times daily for no more than 1 week. I mentioned that I would prefer the Azithromycin, given the utilitiy of Zpacks and Zmax at home, but he suggested, several times, that the quality of this manufacturer was better than that of my preference. So I took his advice and moved on.
Watched a DVD that I had purchased previously for about $1.50 of a recently released movie. As I loaded it into the computer, my Chinese friend said, " You know that this is an illegal copy--they all are. We can get the latest released movies on Baidu.com" (though the software required was incompatible with my MacBook and Safari). Then I recalled the public service announcement that I had read in Beijing subway the day prior: "Protecting Intellectual Property, Regulating Market Environment, and Building a Harmonious Society" (I guess that two of three aren't bad).
The hot shower ran a lot that night in an effort to breath better as I questioned my choice of antibiotic.

Pharmacy, Pizza Hut, Wuda Roads: Monday 09 June 2008

Dragon Boat Day. As we walked around the "Wuda Roads European Style Esthetic Area" (as the map says), some residents and workers could be found laying on the sidewalk near this area taking naps (as it was cooler for them there in the shade than in their apartments). The apartments in this area are expensive, so many of the ground flats have windows that open up to some kind of commercial enterprise--like food or drinks. We went to a tea house where the men were playing cards in one room, with plenty of money on the table. The private tea room could be used for 40 Yuan (less than $6) and the tea itself could be had for 140 Yuan (around $20), which seemed to me a bit pricey after lunch at Pizza Hut for around 200 Yuan. Tea is said to be quite an experience here, perhaps another time, however... Many of the historic buildings are now hotels. One hotel was priced at between $80-$300 per night and seemed to be frequented by Japanese businessmen.
The Super Supreme pizza there was alright, though I would have preferred a bit more sauce. Their Veggie included corn, as well. Their smoothies were nice: Green Tea seemed to be the favorite coming out of the kitchen. We observed a bit of Chinese culture there: On at least 3 occasions, people piled their one-visit plate to the salad bar higher than a foot, carefully packing as many things onto said plate as possible. They would then bring it to their table as 3-4 people would pick food from the same plate. This just adds to the "China Price" concept mentioned in some of the prior readings. I suspect that they just wanted to get their money's worth; I also suspect that there is more of a price-elasticity of demand for most products in China than back home.
The train station was packed as everyone was going back to Beijing for work the next day, perhaps. Tickets, though the same price, were for standing room only. The unofficial bus had raised its price from the previous day to 40 Yuan per passenger. While the train is the state-run company. The taxis and the bus are entrepreneurs' solutions to the needs of the customer: that's what makes an economy.
I picked up some herbal medicine from a Chinese pharmacy. It is in Chinese and English: Nin Jiom Pei P Koa Traditional Chinese Herbal Cough Syrup that is to be taken three times per day (but won't hurt you if you take it when you're not sick, so I'm told). It tastes a bit like Robitussin with lots of honey--it's not bad, actually. This pharmacy would not sell me antibiotics without a doctor's prescription (then why was I able to buy some the previous day at a different pharmacy across town--that guy didn't strike me as being a doctor). China: some follow the rules perfectly, some less so...
The Duluth-like frigid temperature of my hotel room was a nice intermittent respite throughout the hot day.

can you move a little faster?

Ok, so I tend to get motion sickness easily, and last weekend was a perfect example. The lunch and the bus ride were not a good combination, and I had to go. I asked Bryn to find out how much time we had left before a stop. When she told Dauhi this he gave her a bag for me to throw up in and she replied “no, the other way.? Alarmed, he arranged for us to stop at the next exit, 10 minutes away. After what felt like forever, we get to the tollbooth and pull over to the side of the road. The tour guide told me to follow him off the bus and he did not understand my situation so I said, “could you move a little faster!? We ran across the street through traffic and into some random place with a bathroom. I had never been to happy to see a squatter. Needless to say, I will always be known as the girl who made the bus pull over to go to the bathroom.
Shannon

Picture at the Technology Incubation Park

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Friday-Sunday June6-8

Friday we did not have class, and began the day with a trip to the Dynasty wine company. I think that although everyone was a little sleepy from the hotpot (fondue) party the night before, we all really enjoyed the factory. It was amazing to see the differentiation in their products, ranging from only about a hundred yuan a bottle to over 10,000! This was all dependent on many factors and most critically how long the wine was aged and what ingredients it contained. After this I went back to the hotel and rested, focusing on keeping up in all my travel journaling, and spent several hours talking with loved ones back home. We had another trip to a museum planned for later in the day, but had to cancel leaving the whole afternoon open. I did not leave the hotel, or even my room for that matter being held back by sickness and email/journaling. I have been feeling less than 100% this entire trip, which has been hard for trying to get out and travel, but I have just been telling myself that I have to see it all while I am still here, because of how rare a trip like this is.
So after a hard day of doing nothing, I packed my bag for Beijing and got all my travel tickets/passport in order and fell asleep to Mission Impossible 3.

Saturday our group of 7 that stayed the night at a hostel was accompanied on the train by 3 of the girls who were just going for the day to shop. When we got there we tried out the McDonalds and then headed for Tiananmen Square. Our initial plan was to see Mau’s body, but to our dismay it was closed for the day when we got there. However before our disappointment at the square we did have a little run in with some Beijing hospitality towards foreigners. We were walking the two mile distance from the train station to the square and were approached by a biker with a seat for two on the back. We were offered a ride, and refused due to there being ten of us, and only one biker with room for two maybe three. Within minutes he had gotten 3 other bikers to come, and we were again offered a ride, and a price of 3 yuan per person. We finally agreed, and all piled into our posse of 3-wheeled bicycles. After only a few minutes we arrived at the square, and were chummed into paying 100 yuan per person. We were not too worried though due to it being one of the most hysterical and memorable things we’ve done thus far. So after all our adventures at the square and getting to the square, we headed for the zoo! This was a pretty good time, and was amazing how close you can get to the tigers and lions. Also the elephant pins were set up extra close to the viewers which was unusual in a good way. Everybody was obsessed with the pandas, and it was very hard to get close to the glass to see them because it was by far the busiest attraction there. We split up from the 3 girls to let them go shop after the zoo, and we headed for the hostel by taxi. We met Tian there and went off to an amazing park where we had dinner. The restaurant was incredibly expensive but worth it, as Tian told us of how many presidents have eaten there for their fine cuisine. We then explored around a lake that was surrounded with little shops and restaurants/bars. After meeting up with a few more of Tians friends and cousins, taking several subways, the light rail, and a few taxis we finally ended up back at the hostel. From there we went to an American bar nearby and got some pizza and watched soccer before retiring for the night.
Sunday we got up in two waves, separated between the guys and girls. The girls had plans to go off to shop for the day, and were up at 7 a.m. to do so, while we guys were a little less ambitious getting up around 9. We then met up with Tian at the hostel after our showers and went down to Tiananmen Square one last time, to actually get in to see Mau’s body. The building was massive and the inside covered with thousands of flowers regularly changed out, to pay respect to Mau. It was interesting and awkward in a way, to see the actual body of one of China’s greatest leaders in recent history. Walking through only took about 5 minutes, and it must have taken another 10-15 to get into/out of the building it was so crowded. We went to a big shopping center with Tian through the subway system, and got some food at a Japanese sushi bar which turned out to be some of the best food I’ve had this trip! It was the best pork fried rice, and the best sushi that I have possibly ever experienced. Next we just roamed around the mall for a bit, because I was so impressed with the design. It was very intimidating going from floor to floor on the escalators because they were all scattered about like some sort of hive design, and up at the top (7th floor) we were up with nothing but the escalator and air under us. This was unique in that typically malls are designed with at least one side having some form of wall or something and the other only overlooking to the floor you’re coming from. That is to say you typically are not put in the position of feeling like your literally hanging 7 stories up with very little between yourself and a lot of air. We went around to a bunch of little shops, and finally ended up at the arcade for about an hour. This was a good time, as we often times found ourselves surrounded by a crowd that would come to watch the Americans even if the game was not that appealing that we were playing. So we had a ball with it and got Tian involved in some intense gaming for a while, which was fun to feel like a kid at chucky cheese again (only in China). We then went around the mall a bit more, looking around for gifts and souvenirs. We went outside to test our luck with the bartering shops, and ended up with a few bags full of gifts for a total of maybe 300 yuan between the three of us. It was because of the deals we were getting that we lost track of time and ended up running to catch a bus to make it to our train! We got back to the station and met up with the girls and said good bye to Tian for the summer which was hard. After getting back to Tianjin we had plenty of experiences to talk about just at the station let alone all the things we saw and did in Beijing! We came back to the hotel around dinner time, and me and John got some sushi take-out at the Korean restaurant next to the hotel. We also went to the market also next to the hotel for some fresh fruits and juices. After another long day (and weekend) we all laid low for the night, and watched some movies, wrote some journals, and caught up on some much needed R&R.

A day in the life....

So today proved to be yet another amazing experience. We woke up bright and early with hopes of being able to see the Great Wall one last time before we left China. We left the hotel around 7am and headed for the train station. As we approached the train I realized this train was far less advanced as the train we took to Beijing. After we found seats the conductor allowed us to move to another car so we could sit near each other.

We continued along when Rena began speaking with the conductors... After a while she mentioned that the Great Wall tickets would be more expensive today due to the national holiday. She then explained that it was going to take a few hours just to reach the wall. After long consideration the group (10 of us) decided to hop off the train and head back toward Tianjin. The second we stepped off the train and the train left I realized we were in for a good ride back to Tianjin. Dahui always tells us to follow the Chinese; so we did just that. We followed a group of them into a small town. There was a square with buildings surrounding it, but only a few individuals present. It was close to a ghost town. Rena then spoke with some of the individuals to the town and she set up a bus for us to take back to our hotel. As soon as the "bus" rolled up we realized we would be riding in a van. Yet another mode of transportation... The van ride back to our hotel was similar to a four-wheeler ride. We switched from dirt road to pavement a number of different times. Eventually we made it back to our hotel and I was relieved to feel solid ground.

After we returned Bryn, Meghan, Shannon and I headed out for some American food and shopping. What else would we do on a holiday?? We enjoyed some food at TGIF's and spent little and bought a lot at Ancient Culture street.

The next week should move quickly for us. We only have a few days left in Tianjin and we have a lot to accomplish within these days! I am looking forward to hearing everyones presentations!

Pets in China

So, according to the Top 10 Beijing book, pets were outlawed by Chairman Mao when the Communist Party came to power. He said pets were a sign of the bourgeoisie, so no one could have anything besides a pet songbird. This was interesting to read because we have all seen at least a few little dachshunds and pomeranians running around. Modern China is accepting dogs, and according to what Adam was saying on the van ride back from the northern farm we visited, the larger your dog the more wealthy you appear. The dogs also are very well trained here, most walk around without leashes, yet I haven't seen one get hit by a car. Stacy lunged at a

wiener dog to pet it the first week and got scratched, but I don't think anyone else has had trouble with animals here. But she may be an exception as she has a bad habit of touching Chinese animals.

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Aside from pets, I am pleased with the variety of animals we have gotten to see here, in zoo and out. Pandas and elephants are cool, and the feral cat Stacy and Meghan stopped to pet was interesting.

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June 8, 2008

Tian'anmen Square

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Small World

Going on our own to Beijing this weekend was a wonderful experience. We had to rely on each other and kind people who spoke very broken English, guess if we were going in the right direction from a map, and navigate the subways on our own. After an interesting rickshaw ride, missing Chairman Mao’s body, a subway ride, the zoo, and shopping we decided it was time to head back to the train station to get back to Tianjin. While on our second subway ride we met an extremely nice German man.

He was here by himself for a dentist convention and hadn’t been able to keep a conversation with anyone since everyone around only spoke Chinese. We told him about the best tourist spots and where he should good for some good non-Chinese food. We talked about his profession, life in Germany, being students in China, and the differences we saw. He eventually asked us where we were from and as soon as ‘Minneso’ came out he got really excited. He said that he had been there many times, he loves Duluth, his sister lives there. Wow, how weird was that? We told him that’s where we are from and then the conversation just kept rolling.

I had once heard that within five people you will know everyone in the world. We went half way around the globe to meet someone who been to UMD. If you haven’t been able to make the connection of what a small world it is before, here’s an example; strangers on a crowded subway in China, one from Germany, three from the US, all having times to Duluth, Minnesota!

Let's try this ourselves...

This weekend can only be described as amazing mixed in with a little bit of exhaustion. Seven of us (Meghan, Morgan, John, Bryn, Wes, Shannon and Me) all ventured back to Beijing. We had spent the last week planning where we wanted to go, when we wanted to go and what we wanted to see when we got there. Shannon and Bryn went to buy the train tickets for us and I asked Tian to help us with booking the hostel. A couple others (Cass, Court and Jen) also came along with us to Beijing for Saturday.

We woke up early Saturday morning and took cabs to the train station. Rena, being the amazing girl she is, met us at the train station to ensure that we got on the right train. After she left, however, we were on our own until we met back up with Tian. We spent the majority of Saturday traveling around and seeing some more tourist stuff. We traveled to the zoo and also hung out by the square for a while. After a long of day of traveling by train, rickashaw, cab and subway we landed at our hostel. Tian met up with us at the hostel and then took us to a restaurant. The restaurant we went to had receipes that used to be served to the Emperors. On Sunday, before we went shopping, we had a chance to visit Mao's mausoleum. The girls and I went to the square early in the morning to ensure we had a chance to visit the mausoleum and also to make sure we had time to get some shopping in! We spent the majority of Sunday shopping and finalizing our souvenirs for home. Meghan and I had our lunch together and then used the subway system to get back to the railway station.

This weekend proved to be one of the most beneficial weekends to my cutlure experience gaining. I am happy that we had the assistance of Tian and Rena but I am also satisfied that our small group was able to travel around Beijing without any major problems. This type of situation allows me to view the trip on a whole. It becomes exhausting trying to explain various things to the people here that don't understand us. This program has allowed me to travel the country, learn about Chinese business and meet new people all with the assistance of various individuals. These individuals have devoted their time to ensuring that we are safe and able to get around! I appreciate each and every one of them and I am going to miss them dearly as we near our time of departure!

I still love and miss everyone from home!!

Eyes Wide Open

Today was probably the day it hit me we are halfway across the world in China. Krissy, Adam, and I started our day by going to a non-denominational house church. (I won't get into details since Krissy has gone over the logistics). However, I do want to share my personal experience during the service. While sitting in the service, I felt happily overwhelmed by what was happening. The entire service was in another language but it was as if I could understand and feel how they felt at that moment. It was an unexplainable, amazing moment. I felt overwhelmed with happiness because of how similar our two countries praise God and our own well-being. It was simply amazing. I'm almost certain we all left the service with a feeling we have never felt.

Another eye opening experience was walking through Nankai University again. This was not the first time I had walked through campus, although this was the first time I appreciated the beauty of the campus. I was amazed by all the beautiful architect. As Rena and I were slowing walking through campus, I could finally take in all the beauty around me. Every other time I walked through campus I wasn't realizing the true beauty because I was to consumed in everything else that was going on. For once, I could be relaxed and enjoy the country of China.

It's amazing how we have been here for three weeks and it seems like it flew by, yet at the same time it seems like we have been here a lot longer. After three weeks, I have finally gotten adjusted to the differences and it will soon be time to go home; ironic how that seems to work.

Today my eyes became wide open to many aspects about life in general. Many I will never be able to explain to anyone! (I'm certain many have had or will have this moment on the trip) :)

Bartering With Discounts

The vendor markets of China are very different than those of the US. It has been a fabulous experience to see how this process works. We were told how chinese people will be given different prices than foreigners. A very steap discount. We were also told to offer about half of what the vendor requests. The groups first visit to Ancient Culture Street was my first experience bartering. After doing it several times between Tianjin and now Beijing, I did not know I had so many friends. Every vendor I walk past wants to give me money off because I am a friend of theirs. I usually do not recognize them, but they insist we are friends. They even show me how great of a friend I am by telling me how much more they would charge everyone else. I must be a pretty good guy because they are pretty big discounts. It is not only my close friends that are giving me discounts. I am also getting discounts because I am tall. Apparently being tall is the universal coupon. Sometimes I really get great discounts. Not only do some vendors give me a discount because I am their friend, but they also give me a discount because I am tall. Now I am paying like half price compared to everyone else who is not tall or a friend of my vendor friend. I have even received discounts from vendors because I am on the Canadien Olympic Men's basketball team. (I don't know where they get this idea from - other than me suggesting it to them). Often times I will listen to the broken english of the vendors to hear those magical sales words. The vendors have mastered the terms: "cheaper here," "gorgeous," "beatiful." "Come look," and "I have your size." After this communication resorts to facial expressions and the calculator communicating prices. Often those discounts I am receiving are about 60-70% higher than what I might actually pay for the item. What new sales pitch will we hear next?

A different side of Beijing

This weekend offered a new light on the city of Beijing, as well as many new activities. For starters, this was a trip that was not arranged by Dahui or Nankai University, but rather some very capable girls in our group that must be given credit. The trip was completely different than the one provided by the tour group. Despite seeing some of the same sights (Tiananmen Square) we had a completely different experience. It started with a luxurious train ride from Tianjin to Beijing. We sat in the first class area and traveled the hour + journey comfortably. Only in China can you get upgraded from the peasant class to the elite for a mere $.75. We were very overwhelmed with the entire train process as the langauge barrier and cultural differences would have left us in awe. Fortunately we had Rena! She basically walked us to our seats and made sure we were off. Next stop: Beijing.

The train station was very nice in Beijing. It, like all others buildings in Beijing, is under remodeling for the Olympics. We were immediately lost after stepping foot outside the station. This came after we purchased our return tickets on the next day's train. This was a process that required a lot of hand gestures.

Since we were all starving, we ate at McDonald's. This is not much different than anywhere else. After eating we were suckered into the most expensive bike ride of my life. It was a very fun half mile ride, but they tooks us foreigners for the real "ride." We made our way to Tiananmen square in hopes to see General Mao's mausoleum. It was closed for the day. We had just missed it.

As a group of 11, we tried to navigate ourselves to the Beijing Zoo to see the Panda Bears. After a failed attempt at getting a cab we opted for the subway. It was a lot easier than we had thought. This was after we initially got on the wrong train. We made it within walking distance to the zoo and had a wonderful visit there. We saw the pandas, elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, jagauars, etc. It was definately very interesting.

After the zoo the group split up. Seven of us made our way to the luxurious Peking International University Hostel. It was very nice. The price was great and the accomodations could not have been better. The only thing I would have changed was Wes' snoring. But I cannot complain because he would say the same to me. At this point we were with our true "tour guide." Tian helped us out so much and showed us a great time. He is very proud of his city and wanted us to really experience it. He took us to a park with a lake for dinner. A bar area with a lake that offered roof-top bars. He later directed us to other bars near the hostel that we could check out.

Finally, Tian took the three guys around all day on Sunday. We went to Mao's mausoleum, to lunch, to find an ATM, to an arcade, and then to a market where we bartered for everything. Pretty successfully I must add. He then brought us back to the train station and saw the whole group off. What a great trip, and so many additional things to see that we may have missed out on. Thanks to all those involved in the planning.

House Church

I was unaware that house churches still existed in China after they ceased to be persecuted, but I suppose it only makes sense to keep doing what works for that amount of people. We went to a small house church that Dahui knew about this morning, and were welcomed with open arms. The church consisted of a small apartment with stools set up for everyone to sit on. There were a total of 14 girls (women and college aged), and 9 boys (Dahui and college aged). The pastor or leader of the church was a doctoral student at Nankai University, and Dahui informed me that she became a Christian about 5 years ago, and "can really talk." The service included a lot of scripture reading outloud in unison, but that was not the part that struck me. I have heard in my many years working at camp that there are different ways of praying, but the way they did it in this house church was to pray outloud. Everyone prays outloud, their own prayers, and somehow magically end together. They sung many songs that I did not know, but one that I did. So I sang along in English.

The most striking part of the whole experience was how much more passionate the Chinese students were about expressing their prayers/faith openly and excitedly than most average American churches. Granted there are passionate Christians all over the United States, but that's not what I'm saying. It almost difficult to put into words, but there is a definite difference in the way a persecuted religion operates as opposed to a free religion. There is so much more I could talk about this issue, but a lot of it gets personal.

June 7, 2008

A day in Beijing

Courtney, Jen, and I decided to go to Beijing for a day trip. We were all very excited to explore on our own for the day. There were a total of 10 of us headed to Beijing Saturday morning and it is quite the process. All of us took taxis to the train station to meet Rena. We then got on a train in first class seats for an hour train ride. After we all got to Beijing safely and got some McDonalds in our stomach we all hopped on the taxi carts where you get bikes around town. We had thought they wanted 3 yuan for the ride, after riding for about 5 minutes we were at our destination. The men then demanded we give them 300 yuan for each person!! I'm assuming there will be others blogging about this same experience. Courtney and I gave them 300 yuan for both of us and they still were not happy so we just walked away at that point. We next hopped on the subway which was a great idea because it was fast and cheap. We eventually made it to the Beijing zoo where we saw some sweet panda bears. At that point we broke off from the rest of the group that was staying the night in Beijing and we headed to the shopping mall, it seems to be the one place we are always drawn to. After shopping we made the long trek back to Tianjin. First a subway, then a train, then a taxi, but we made it all in one piece and it was a great day! It was kind of an adventure doing it all on our own!

The Tianjin Zoo and Paddle Boats!

Today I was able to do something my family and I would do on a family vacation with the kids. We went to the ZOO!!! It was great to spend time with Dahui and his family. One of my favorite highlights were the monkeys! I have never been so close to a monkey in my life. We walked into this place called, "Monkey Hill," we literally walked in to the monkey cage. It was this huge area that was open for the monkeys to roam around. I saw so many monkeys and baby monkeys it was amazing. They came close enough that I could have touched them! I have always wanted to get close to monkeys and now I have. The other highlight of the zoo was the animal show. It started out with a little black bear on ROLLERBLADES! Yes, rollerblades. He skated around the rink with no help, it was a sight to see. After he rollerbladed he rode a bike around the rink. I've been to many animal shows and circus shows, but I can honestly say I have never seen a bear rollerblade.

After the Zoo, Krissy, Adam and me went back to the hotel so Kirssy could buy a new camera. Then Adam and I headed off to the paddle boats down from our hotel. It was only 30 RMB for an hour on the river. It was fun to paddle around the lake, but we only stayed out there for a half hour. While out on the river, two young boys followed us around and asked us where we were from. They were amused that we were from Minnesota.

We then walked back to the hotel and decided to take a gander at the market behind our hotel. We spent about an hour going through the little shops that were back there. It was neat how clean they were compared to some markets we have been to. I ended up buying a jade bracelet for myself. I finally found one that I liked!

Us three ended the night with a movie and tomorrow will be another great day, starting with a church service in a house!

Medicine

I have had a couple of experiences thus far over here that have required me to visit a pharmacy. We have visited a traditional Chinese medicine factory/storage facility as one of our business visits, but I never would have guessed that traditional Chinese medicine was all they had to offer at any given pharmacy. There was no hydracortisone for my heat rash on my foot, and there was no sore throat spray. I got some herbal cough drops, but that's all they had to offer.

It surprised me the most that the pharmacies did not offer any western medicine. With the world ever-expanding, I figured they would offer half and half, or at least some choices in western medicine. This experience was not negative, it was just eye opening that the Chinese people do not necessarily have access to the same over-the-counter medicines that we do.

June 6, 2008

Extended stay in China

I think we are all starting to get used to the area, and from talking with classmates I can tell people are getting much more comfortable with our home, the Hanting Hotel. We know the surrounding shops and it is relaxing to go to the Korean BBQ next door. The girls even made friends with the hostess there, she gets to practice her English on us.

I went to the electronics store today to haggle for some DVDs like several others have done already. When I bought some and the shows were the ones I like from home, it was very exciting to watch them this afternoon. Stacy and I watched some Californication and it was enthralling for me, even though I've watched the whole season through a couple times before. Our trip was getting very packed with events, and it was great to get more free time this afternoon, the 3 hours felt like a day of rest. Basketball and soccer were fun today, and I am glad the Chinese students have taken so much time and effort to include us in their school. We're all exhausted after a long day after a long week. (and we leave for Beijing at 8 AM tomorrow)

Similiarities in a Country of Differences

By Stacy Jorgenson

It is amazing at how fast these days are flying by. At first, and okay maybe still a little now, I felt soo homesick. I wondered if the time would move any faster. But now I look back and I realize we have done so much in such a short period of time. I can witness myself going through the culture shock stages. Due to my classes and past experiences I am aware at where I am with my experience.

As we reach the end of the third week I can see that I am beginning to become more accustomed to the culture. No longer do I jump at the sound of horn or do I turn down food put on my plate. I have learned that although this is an entirely new culture for me; there are still so many similarities to the American culture. I think having the chance to hang out with the Chinese students has allowed me to witness the similarities. Today was another perfect example for this. We spent our morning at the the Dynasty winery. I was so excited to have the chance to watch once again how wine is created. We also had a chance to learn a little history of the company and we got to taste the wine as well. Afterwards though we came back and ate lunch and ran a few errands. Following this we met up with some of the students to play basketball, soccer, badminton and ping pong. It was a great experience for me to take part in an everyday activity that the students partake in.

I am starting to see myself getting closer to the Chinese students which is awesome. But I am sad that in a week we are going to have to say our goodbyes. I hope that I can continue to keep touch with the students.

The lecture on Thursday was my favorite thus far. We had the opportunity to learn about the family business. The instructor we had showed a ton of passion in the subject. It has been very interesting to see the growth and success of the Chinese. I am pleased that I have the opportunity to learn first hand how businesses here operate.

This weekend should be another excellent time! A number of us are heading to Beijing. We plan to meet up with Tian again. I am looking forward to spending a few more days with him before I have to leave! We plan to get in a few more hours sightseeing and also get in some shopping!!

Take care!

Wednesday-Thursday

On Wednesday I found the lecture to be a bit redundant in that we have learned a lot of the Chinese economic facts a few times in a row. Although they are interesting, it is often the exact same information being given by a different professor. The business visit after lecture/lunch was pretty interesting to see, at Tasly Company. The company was by far the nicest that we have visited in my opinion, with many large conference rooms filled with amazing paintings and large leather/lazy-boys. The company had its own small shopping center and even a small club! The sculptures that the organization had were pretty incredible, with a lot of emphasis on ancient/historical medical practices. The cement wall artwork was my favorite part, with a long story board about 300 feet long with all the major creators of many medical practices and remedies.

Also the company had its own garden area that was pretty amazing; with just open space, a greenhouse, and a small pond with fountains and goldfish. It was all set up and taken care of very concisely. The company was very well prepared for us too, having 2 movies for us to watch giving an overview of the company. After the visit me and a small group went to Golden Street and explored a massive store that could be like a Chinese Old Navy. It was pretty amazing to see the store had like 6 floors, so we were having a blast on the escalators. The clothes in this store were very good quality and about half the price of anything you could find in the states. For dinner we went over to Pizza Hut and had some much needed American food! It was cool to see the difference in design of the restaurant, which appears to be a lot more of a sit down fancy place here in China. The price was similar, as we have found any of the American things/foods or anything we find here all have similar prices to the states. It is funny because we find that expensive in comparison to the typical 5 dollar maximum for a good meal. Then we went back to the hotel, before meeting up with Eric and some of the other students for Ali Babas. It was fun again, this time I got to meet a Chinese guy and a group from Detroit studying at Nankai. It is just fun at Ali Babas because you never know what kind of people you will meet. I also met a guy named Stuart from Manchester, who is soon going to begin teaching English at Nankai.
Thursday we had a lecture again that was very similar to past ones, and we ended up having the professor skip half of it to avoid repeating info we got in yesterdays lecture. We changed up the schedule and had our business visit first, going to a business that sells life insurance/and health insurance. The most incredible thing happened at this company, when we ran into an employee in sales at the company that I had played foosball with at Ali Babas the night before! In a city of some 11 million people I was thinking it was a pretty small world for a split second. The business was pretty cool, being situated on the 37th floor of a high rise and having an incredible view overlooking the city. For lunch most of us ate at the base of the company at star bucks, not being able to wait until after the long drive back to the hotel. We then had the lecture and went straight from nankai to a fondue restaurant for some true Chinese traditional food. It was so much fun and we even got almost every Chinese student we have met to come with us making our group around 25! It was really an experience getting to make or add whatever you wanted and cook it yourself, in your own small fondue pot. The Chinese students had to be integrated throughout our group to show us how to cook everything and what spices/dippers to use. It was a really great time, and also a 4 hour event. We eventually got too loud, and probably had the rest of the restaurant in an uproar. We had about half of the students back to the hotel to hang out with us and showed them more American games, and spoke about their plans to travel to the states. I have become pretty good friends with Eric and Lu, and Lu wants to continue his studies in the states after he finishes school here (in two years) and I am going to try to stay in touch with him to possible have him live with me if he comes. I think it would be a great learning experience for me, and would definitely help him to adjust and learn his way around. So at the end of the night I gave out a bunch of bracelets I made for the students, and they all were as expected very excited and felt obligated to get me something before we leave. The culture here is incredibly grateful for even the smallest little things, and it is really refreshing to be around people with such good mannerisms/politeness. It really is a lot different than in the states where after being here it feels as though we take things for granted too much and could really learn a lot on appreciation from the Chinese culture.

Monday-Tuesday Week 3

Monday we got up and went to lecture at Nankai as usual, and followed it up with some lunch as we always do. Class was pretty interesting, teaching a lot on the economy of China, which gave out some pretty interesting facts/figures. The class focus however was on HRM policy/practices in China, which was cool to compare to our own. Our business visit in the afternoon was to Xin Mao Technical Park, which was an investment organization. The company was really interesting, learning about how they make money from assisting in the initial investments in new technologies and or manufacturing facilities. Basically they help companies start up financially and assist in the development of their organizational structure.

With our free time we all had a lot of work to do still in our paper writing process, and went up to work on them for a few hours. A small group and I went to the Chinese dumpling place again, with Eric and Lu this time. It is amazing how much food you can get for 18 yuan. One highlight of my day was when Lu insisted in giving me a ride on his bike how we often see the Chinese people doing. I sat side straddle how they do, and found out in a hurry how difficult it is to balance sitting that way! It was pretty fun to cruise past the group on the bike though, and not only them but other onlookers seemed to get a pretty good laugh. The rest of the night consisted of an attempt at the paper, resulting with little more than an idea for structuring it.
On Tuesday we had a great lecture on the Chinese economy by in my opinion our best professor yet. Zheng Qi was his name, and he had many interesting numbers for us to observe putting the massive Chinese economy into contrast against the American economy. I found it really interesting about the amount of cement they use in one year, and went back to research the American cement usage. The results were astonishing showing that the Chinese last year used 1.3 billion tons, while we only used 114 million tons! This really is easy to see however, when everywhere we go we are coming across construction, it is seemingly an entire country under construction/like one big construction site. In the afternoon we went back to TEDA again, and visited a factory that makes stock cd/dvd players for Toyota and GM. Next we saw the port of Tianjin, which was massive and reminded me of the port in Seattle. The port was covered with probably a 100 cranes for moving containers onto/off of the massive ships. Then we concluded our visit to TEDA with a quick stop at an imports only auto show. It was held in a massive building that had 2 floors of all sorts of incredibly expensive cars. There were anything from H2/H3, H6 (the six-wheeled hummer, pretty amazing and only $320,000) to Rolls Royce and all sorts of Audi and BMW’s. The trip back was pretty long and everyone was pretty tired, so I cranked up the ipod and caught up on some sleep. Had some Chinese ramen for dinner, and worked on the paper again, doing some pretty thorough research and comparisons between the Chinese/American economies.

June 5, 2008

beverages

It was interesting the other morning when I went to get real coffee at McDonalds because the gal at the counter recognized me and knew that I wanted coffee. It was nice knowing that she was accomodating and I felt comfortable ordering from the menu without being afraid that I was going to get the wrong item. Another instance at McDonalds when I was ordering coffee, I also tried to order a coke and the worker gave me a hot cocoa instead.

The other day a group of us were eating at Mr. Lee's and Jen tried to order an apple flavored soda, even after pointing out which one she wanted (and other group members were also attempting to tell the waitress what she wanted) she got the wrong drink. They actually brought her out this jello drink that was in a cup with a big straw. I am not quite sure how green soda and yellow jello could get mixed up, but that was a real suprise. I find that I am much more comfortable eating at restaurants that have a menu with a picture that I can point to.

I am excited to go home and drink a tall glass of cold milk and drink cold water from the tap! This weekend a few of us are going to southern China. I am very excited to see the way the southerners live (we will visit Leon's family members) and to see another part of the country. I think that Laura and I will be stared at a lot and that the language barrier will be bigger than ever, but that is definitely part of the experience.

Tea (not Coffee) in China

There are a lot of things that I miss from home, but the one thing that I miss more than anything every morning in my cup of coffee. In China, people are very concerned about their health and well being so many (most) of them choose to drink tea. All kinds of fresh teas. As you walk into the cafeteria or dining area, almost everyone has a clear container filled with hot tea (even when it's 100 degrees out). At home, however, coffee is the drink of choose (for many) in the morning. For many it helps to get the day started - including me.

Every morning at home I have at least one cup of coffee. It just seems to get my day off to a good start. I will even get up 15-20 minutes early to be able to drink my cup of coffee out on my porch. One of the first things I notices when arriving in China is that it's really hard to get a coffee that tastes good. We have free coffee (all day long) in the lobby of our hotel, but for those of you that have tried it, it's REALLY hard to choke down - at times chunky, cold, and bitter. For this reason, I went on a hunt for coffee and just recently found it at the grocery store across from the business school. Now while I am not an instant coffee drinker at home, it tastes better than great here!

I even found a brand that I recognize (Nescafe) and that comes with just a hint of cream and sugar already added. It's perfect for a trip like this. The first couple days without coffee in the morning was ruff, but now I am eagar to get up and enjoy my cup in the morning.

Monday 02 June 2008

Monday 02 June 2008
“MNC’s HRM in China: Cases of MNC from US, Japan and Europe? by Professor Wang Jianyou whose chosen English name is “Peter? began our day (that is MultiNational Corporations’ Human Resource Management for the non-business reader). Whereas the primary criteria for hiring in the US is based upon abilities, traditional Chinese hiring relies upon other things such as good relations and morality (though I’m sure our definitions of said word may be culturally biased) and can be greatly influence by guanxi. In the ‘90’s, the biggest challenge for western companies in China was the management of human resources—this is still challenging today as well. Chinese leadership tends to be more paternalistic with greater power distance than that of the US. Good lecture.

Tuesday 03 June 2008

Professor Zheng Qi gave us an interesting lecture entitled “An Overview of China’s Economic Environment? which offered lots of macroeconomic numbers and trends leading to yet more questions. The migration of rural workers to the cities and the manufacturing sector is evident. He says that the earthquake, with its 55-70,000 casualties and millions of people now homeless may decrease this year’s economic growth by up to 1%. That coupled with the fallout of the sub-prime mortgage debacle in the US and elsewhere will lower this year’s economic growth to around 8-9% (boy would I like to see this kind of growth in the US!). The inflation rate is estimated for the first half of the year at 8.1% (quite a jump) due, primarily to the cost of oil and subsequently food—this despite the 18% cumulative appreciation against the dollar since the end of the pegged exchange rate to same. He also mentioned the effects on food prices of the US’s desire to use corn to manufacture ethanol and the fact that farmers will produce even less wheat as they switch their fields to more profitable corn in the US. Food prices in China have reportedly doubled in the last year; putting this in perspective-- a bowl of spicy noodles at the market next door to our hotel in Tianjin costs less than 50 cents (US). Due to government subsidies, the price of Chinese premium gasoline equates to $2.85/gallon (compared to our $3.95 back home, currently). The government is attempting to exert price controls on food—stores must get permission to raise their prices on certain foods (good luck). Good lecture.
The afternoon took us to TEDA (Tianjin Economic Development Area) again to visit a joint venture (60% Fujitsu Ten Co., Ltd, 35% Tianjin Zhenmei Electrical Equipment Co., Ltd, 5% Toyota Tsusho Co., Ltd.) Fujitsu Tianjin (est. 12/21/95 with $10,720,000 in capital) whose 3,003 employees make electronics (i.e. (6,245,000 in 2006; airbags, audio, speakers,DVD and CD players) for Toyota. They are a lean, 6-Sigma manufacturer with flashable red lights everywhere, pink hats signifying new hires (for 6 months), blue hats for regular workers, yellow, orange, red showing differing supervisory positions and purple as quality control. The sign in the lobby states that the “customer is God.? Younger-looking girls in the vast assembly area, take a 10 minute break for every 40 minutes they work. New workers reportedly make 1/3 that of regular workers who make on average 1,500 RNB/month (6.9 RNB/$), though the other group heard 1,100 RNB/month. The writing is on the wall for some employees who work in view of some capital equipment that can automatically make the internal guts of the electronics for less cost than the relatively cheap-labor assembly line.
Posted in the lobby of this 19,800 square meter facility on 50,000 square meters of land: the company’s “slogan? is to “aim at international enterprises, create world favorite products, the “management concept? is to “pursue brand-new enterprise culture to be the No. 1 in manufacturing industry? and “enlarge business scope, make contribution to regional prosperity and industrial development.? The “general guidline? is “1. Persist in the “Customer is God?, provide excellent QCD products with the principle of high quality,? 2. Utilize the advantage of international joint investment, develop high-efficient enterprise culture ideology, make contribution for region and society, 3. Devote ourselves to introducing advanced technology and realizing parts domestic, make contribution for region.?

Wednesday 04 June 2008

The morning began with an informative lecture by Professor Li Ya entitled “China’s Economic Development and the Growth of its Family Business.? It was followed by a Chinese-lunch at the hotel. Professor Qi, kindly appeared later to give me a Chinese chamber of commerce magazine with more economic information. It seems as if I missed one of the best business meeting tours of the trip in the afternoon as the group visited a Chinese herbal medicine company (www.tasly.com). Given the 3-hour round-trip transit time and the painful state of my lower back, I chose to skip it. Had dinner with a Chinese friend at a nearby café with an American theme, talked about various aspects of Chinese culture, learned a few more Chinese words, prior to completion of my Cultural Differences paper.

Thursday 05 June 2008

Thursday 05 June 2008
With 4,000 agents and 630 staff internationally, the current CEO of Sun Life Everbright China, a 50/50 joint venture (est. 4/22/02) insurance company with China Everbright Group (a state-owned financial services company in banking, etc. since 1983, whose CEO is the son of the former VP of China)), was promoted to the CEO position approximately 9 months ago after being involved in sales and distribution for the last 3 years, 3 years in marketing, with involvement in forming the company beginning on 9/11/00. He is from Hong Kong and had earned a degree in economics. He joined the Hong Kong government after school and investigated corruption for 8 years prior to moving to Canada. There, he became a licensed agent and moved up through the ranks of Sun Life in Canada.
Sun Life is in China, India, Indonesia, and the US (highest population countries with huge growth in the first three). He predicts that Tianjin will become the financial center for the north of China. The high speed rail that will come on line within 1 month’s time will reduce the transit time to Beijing from 75 minutes to around 30 and they expect to have trains leaving every 3 minutes during rush hour.
Each city has different regulations on top of the National and Provincial laws. Thus licensing can take some time and they have a VP dedicated to “government affairs.? 40% of the 11,000,000 people live in Tianjin proper with the remaing 60% being distributed in the more rural area. Given average monthly salaries of 2,500 RNB (recall 6.9 RNB/$), the products tend to be smaller and he estimates that 50% of the population can afford to purchase their products. The product mix consists of Endowment or Investment products, Health Insurance products (hospitalization, surgical, critical disease lump-sum payouts—no outpatient insurance), and life insurance (least favored by the Chinese). There is no disability insurance in China at the moment.
The growth in the company’s premiums is reported to be 110% per year over the last 6 years. The company’s stock is not yet listed as they are required to show a profit for the last 3 years prior to listing, and the breakeven for this venture is 7-10 years.
As CEO, his attention has shifted as he must (1) set the direction of the company by rolling out a strategy for various departments to follow, (2) act as a link between the company and its Chinese and Western shareholders, and (3) interview direct reports and their direct reports as he builds the right team to the point of feeling like an HR director. His leadership challenge involves the diverse, yet Chinese thinking of his employees and the way they communicate; he must adjust his style to that of the Chinese way. His statement reinforces the previous HR lecture. Many more questions, so little time. Good visit.

Afternoon lecture at Nankai University about Family Businesses in China. In the ‘80’s when China permitted businesses to form, most educated people were uncertain of the business environment and therefore chose not to enter into any kind of business. Thus, the only people who began businesses were those who were uneducated without other opportunities and those who, for example, were recently released from prison. Thus there is an “original sin? associated with most businesses as they had to bribe lots of people to exist and profit. Now, most Chinese look at the very rich with suspicions stemming from these earlier days. In fact, most business students at Nankai like to take jobs at the big state owned companies in electric and telecommunications and banks. However, this professor’s MBA students take jobs at the private family businesses after they learn of the opportunities from their professor. The original founders often have need for professional management given their lack of original knowledge. I was uncertain as the professor’s belief in the invisible hand of capitalism moving the economy forward, given his excessive talk of additional stake holders and charity. Interesting lecture.
Dahui bought the group and Chinese students dinner at Ding Ding Xiang hot pot restaurant. Good fun. Later met up with a friend at a coffee shop and eventually Hanks Place.

Sun Life

We visited a business called Sun Life Everbright today. It is an insurance company based out of Canada that has a joint venture in China, and one of the higher-ups is a long-time friend of Dahui. I really like learning about the insurance industry, and I liked even more learning about the differences between insurance here and in the US. We felt very priveledged because the CEO of the company actually came and talked to us, which was a positive difference compared to the other companies we have visited. The other companies usually provide some kind of manager or team leader to talk to us, but this is the first CEO that we have met. He also spoke fluent English, so it was very easy to talk to him and ask him questions, and also to understand his responses.

We learned that their company is expanding to a few different countries, and uses various methods of distribution for their sales in China. Americans are most used to companies being able to give quotes on the internet (progressive). The Chinese don't quite have enough internet access for that to be their main channel of distribution, but I think in the near future it will be.

June 4, 2008

Elevator Experiences

I am tall and draw some attention while at home in the states. Since being in China I have especially drawn attention from the public. People will point, make comments, or even ask for a picture. It is pretty fun, and often creates an opportunity for someone to approach and start a conversation. This has been really nice at Ali Baba's. I have met so many nice people from all over the world, and most of the conversations start by them asking how tall I am. Today was a little different experience on the elevator. I was already on the elevator and on my way down to the lobby when a man stepped on. Most people that cannot speak english or realize I cannot speak chinese motion with their hands and indicate how tall I am. The man on the elevator was no different. He motioned upwards with his hand, said something to me in chinese, and we both smiled. Then, with my hands in my pocket, he reached over and started combing through my arm hair like he was petting a dog. This really took me back. I nervously chuckled and watched the elevator come to the slowest halt and open the doors. Weird!

Talsy

I like our visit to Talsy, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company for traditional Chinese medicine. On our visit we saw the every aspect of the manufacturing process. Talsy grows their own raw material, which mainly consist of three herbs. With a company their size, I am amaze that only two workers is required to be in charged of raw material inventory because the rest is done by automated machines. So that’s the direct material aspect of Talsy. I believe Talsy’s direct labor is quite low because the manufacturing process is computer automated; however, labor is intensive in research and development. It was very interesting visiting Talsy.

Getting used to the food

After the first week in Tianjin I had decided that I was going to lose a bit of weight on this trip because I didn't like hardly any of the food I tried. At home I only at chinese food once a month at most and that isn't real chinese food we eat in the states either. I was really convinced I would be on a diet after our first meal out to dinner with Jason. I don't know if it was the duck tongue that turned me off or what, but I did not like the food. Two weeks later...I find myself craving the food here. I get excited to eat white rice. At home I never ate white rice, but I imagine when I go home I will continue to eat it. I'm really surprised how the human body can get accusomed so quickly to changes in diet and environment. Like my Grandma Rose says "Bloom where you are planted." I think that is so true. China seemed like such a stretch for me to feel comfortable and to really enjoy myself. In the last week I have gone down to campus for a jog on my own and met two very nice chinese students, one who invited me to play some ping pong. Last night I took a cab to TGI Fridays by myself and thought nothing of it. I think it is great how comfortable I feel so quickly. It makes me wonder if I could ever live in another country for a few years. Once you get that idea in your head, the job opportunities increase greatly.

Fujitsu

We visited an electronics sweatshop yesterday called Fugitsu. First of all we all had to wear company issued lab coats, hats and shoes. What really interested me is that when we split our group into 2 smaller groups, the alarming part was the difference in information and statistics given by the two different guides. They told our group that the workers made between 1100-1200 whereas the other group was told 1300-1500. They told our group that the average age of the workers was 20 and told the other group 26. It was definitely a sweatshop, there was a 8:1 (according to our guide) ratio of women to men. Most of the girls probably came from rural areas and will not have many job opportunities in the future. It makes me wonder how much of what they are telling us is facts, it seems as though the one of the group leaders was trying to save face by trying to provide accurate answers without knowing what the true answer was.

When wer are on these various business visits, it is at times difficult to get our questions answered when there is such a massive a language barrier. I believe that our questions and answers for that matter then to get lost in translation. It is also difficult in the aspect that Westerners will give direct answers whereas the Chinese will answer a question in a more indirect fashion. I am enjoying our visits to the businesses and my favorites have been the technological village that incubates companies and ACS which outsourses various services globally. Next we are headed to a pharmaceutical company, it is a business sector that has always been interesting to me in many ways because of its lucrative but powerful capabilities.

June 3, 2008

Pizza Hut in China

One of my favorite Pizza places in the states is Pizza Hut. When we first got here everyone was saying how expensive Pizza Hut was compared to the US. So for a long time I avoided going there until I had a craving for pizza. Last night, Brynn, Shannon, Laura, and I all went out shopping to Golden Street. We had an almost all "American" day! We went shopping in real department stores, we had no translators, and we went out to eat at Pizza Hut.

We walked in to Pizza Hut and our mouths about dropped; the place is all decked out! You even have to wait to be seated! We looked at the menu and we were even more amazed by what they offered. On there menu they offered, pasta, fancy drinks, soups, salads, escargot (snails), special desserts, alcoholic beverages, and of course pizza!

When we ordered, Laura and Shannon wanted pasta and Brynn and I ordered a pepperoni deep dish. They were out of pasta!!! Laura and Shannon were not too thrilled about this, they were craving pasta like crazy! The deep dish pizza was amazing!!! And it wasn't as expensive as everyone was saying. Between the four of us we each paid 8 US dollars. In the US we would have paid a lot more for 2 large deep dish pizzas.

Another exciting part of this day was we got a taxi there and back all by ourselves. This may seem like an elementary task, but in Tianjin, its definitely something to be proud of. Having just a little bit of independence is exciting to have!

Overall, our day was very fun and well needed!!!

June 2, 2008

Washing clothes like the Chinese Students

After the long weekend in beijing I have run out of jeans to wear and I need to wash clothes. There are no washing machines or dryers available for the Chinese students, so they just wash their own clothes. I could pay to have the front desk to wash my clothes but I thought if they can do it, I can too! So after arriving home I walked four blocks to local "Wal-Mart" to buy laundry detergent. The store is packed with people because there are people coming out of the wood work here. I don't read Chinese so bought a bottled of soap entitled Underwear Cleaner. To purchase my cleaner I had to wait in the check out line for about twenty minutes. It is mind boggling how long it took me to get laundry detergent. In America the only day I would wait that long to buy something would be the day after Thanksgiving. Once I got home with my underwear cleaner, I turned into a top of the line Kenmore washing machine. I threw my clothes in the shower, filled my garbage can with soapy water and made sure the bathroom sink was cleared out. I first rinsed my clothes then plunged my clothes around in the soapy water. I guess all of the swimming lessons my mom out though were they made us do the "washing machine" have finally paid off. For my jeans I had to do both of the cycles twice because they were so dirty. The first time the water was a dirty brown color. Then I rinsed them again and threw them in the sink for a spin cycle. To dry my clothes I laid them around my room on clean white towels. Just to wash my clothes was quite an intense adventure. I am still waiting for all of the ones I washed to dry..... I feel like I have stepped back into the 19th century and am very very thankful that I live in the 21st. After washing my clothes by hand I feel as though I have truly immersed myself into their culture. Also I realized that if I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur I need to develop a cheap way to manufacture and sell personal washers and dryers to the Chinese people.

The Olympic Nest

For those who didn't get to go to The Nest at midnight, here is what it looks like:
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Taken Advantage of?

As very noticeable tourists we are very susceptible to being taken advantage of. The language barrier has been difficult at times, as has being in an unfamiliar city, but we have all survived with very minimal issues. We have been warned about paying too much for products and that the vendors will give locals or people of chinese descent a better deal than us. This has been evident, especially when bartering with vendors selling goods. It is often very difficult to know how much a good should cost, and how much it cost the vendor to purchase it themselves. It is interesting to listen to people in our group buy similar or identical goods and pay completely different prices and have the starting price be very different. Times that I have encountered being a victim of being charged different prices have been in purchasing drinks from the store across the street. This has happened when the cashiers are different and with that change comes the change in price. Also, when taking cabs in Beijing it was very interesting to hear the different rates each group paid when we left the same place and had the same destination. Not being familiar with the city left us at a disadvantage and susceptible of being taken advantage of. At times the price differences were up to 15 yuan. I wonder if this is a universal trend. It is very different at home where prices are set firmly for most products. It will be interesting to see how other countries operate in SE Asia when I continue to travel.

Dollar well spent

While Beijing and Tianjin have been full of bargains, so has Stacy Jorgenson! Since visiting China, I have enjoyed breakfasts for $1.00, beer for $.50 a bottle, dinners for $2.00, and nights at the bar that would cost less than a cab ride from Duluth's canal park back home. Group members have spent money on things ranging from a variety of foods to fake Louis Vuitton purses. I think that might be how you spell his name, oh well, I am glad I don't know. The shopping has been few for some, and great investments for others as they have piled up on the cheap goods to bring home for themselves, friends, and family. My best investment of the trip came at a cost of 10 yuan. This was not on something that is tangible, but something that will be etched in my memory for ever! It happened over the weekend in Beijing at the very formal Peking duck dinner. As we sat in the ballroom with many other tourist groups and waited for our food to be served we all became very hungry. After one beer at dinner, the question quickly becomes "are we going to order another?" Stacy wanted another one. When the table across from us got up to leave there was plenty of food left on the table. The food most notable to Stacy was the cherry tomatoes. Apparently she is a big fan of them as she was wiling to go and eat them off the empty table. We all knew she wanted to, but it just needed a little motivation. That motivation was achieved by offering to purchase Stacy another drink. She was quickly out of her chair after the offer was given. She faced two challenges: beating the busser to the table to collect the leftover rubbish, and going unnoticed. Well, Stacy definitely beat the man to the table to swoop up the tomatoes, but she did not go completely unnoticed. Don't get me wrong, there was no scene made nor were there comments made, but people saw her snatch all those tomatoes up and shove them into her mouth like it was a marshmallow eating contest. It provided many laughs for our group members at the table, and it also provided Stacy a nice treat and a cold beer. Stacy, would you do this again for $1.50 at home?

Bartering

I went shopping yesterday with a couple girls from UMD, and I don't think everyone understands the power of bargaining for the things they want to buy. It is the culture over here to barter for everything in the small markets, and some of the girls just take the price that the shops propose. I was horrified that they didn't even barter at all. I'm a penny pincher I guess, but that was just nuts to me. We were buying ipod chargers yesterday, and we were going to buy 2 total, and a cord, and she wanted us to pay 200 Yuan total. I turned to the girl, as she was digging out her money to pay the 200, and said, "I bet I get get them for 150." She was surprised, but agreed to let me barter to save us both money. I did get them for 150, and everyone went home happy! The same goes for Ancient Culture Street, and another "market" we went to in Beijing that was more like the Mall of America packed with vendors. The moral of the story is "when in China, save yourself some money and barter."

Martial Arts show

I would say that everyone else missed out. One evening in Beijing we had the option of going to a play/musical that told the story of a young boy who wanted to become a monk warrior. The actors were all trained in Kungfu, and there were a lot of performance kungfu moves. There was also some ballet and other dancing in the performance. The ballet was used by women to depict temptation. The young monk was overcome by the temptation of a women, and couldn't concentrate on his training. It was a little spendy (in fact probably the most spendy thing I've done since being here), but it was worth every penny. (It was still only $25 or so, not bad for a show).

The Great Wall of "big steps" (Picture)

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The Great Wall of "big steps"

If you ever have the opportunity to ever travel to Great Wall I would recommend that you accept the adventure! I guess never realized that the Great Wall was a massive climb. The place where we stopped to see the great wall was a straight hike up stairs......up the mountain (try and imagine). Some of the stairs were the height of half my leg. The tour guide only gave us two hours so we all hurried up the mountain too! The stairs were huge and we were all dying like halfway up. My butt and calves were killing me. It was such an accomplishment though to turn around and see where we have came from. The main thing I took away from the Great Wall was the appreciation for the beauty of this great world around us. Also an appreciation for the people have preceded us and have worked so hard for everything we have today. The Chinese guards who worked on the Great Wall considered climbing this wall as an everyday event because it was there job. I could never imagine having a job like this. As we climbed the great wall there were tower points that we considered levels. At those points there were shops that sold gifts and bottled drinks and food. These poeple also climbed the Great Wall. I saw an old man climbing (I am guessing was about seventy) and he climbed the with a huge jug of water and food dangling around his neck for the workers. I was impressed!

Beijing, there and back

Well, we are finally back from Beijing and it feels good to be home. We say so much in so little time. We saw the great wall, the summer palace, the temple of heaven, the Ming tombs and so much more. I would have to say that my favorite place was the summer palace. It was a beautiful day and the lake was just gorgeous. It made me want to through on my suit, grab a floatie, and hop in the water. I also loved the great wall. I wish we would have had more time, 2 hours was just not enough. I definitely should have hit the stair master like 3 weeks before I left to get ready for it because it was a workout. We also went to a few shops, like a silk and a jade factory and we even went to a mall. Lots of bargaining going on there, and everyone got some great stuff at a good price. We also went to a night club on sat. and that was a blast. Just like being back in the states! But that’s all for now!

Market Shopping in Beijing

This past weekend in Beijing was so eventful that it's hard to decided what to write about...but I think one of the most interesting cultural experiences was shopping at the market because there is such a HUGE difference from home. Not only did we get a chance to learn about how important is is for Chinese to talk "person to person" about cost, quality, what the product is made of, etc. before buying anything in our lecture last week, but we also got to see this type of "relationship" while shopping in Beijing...

As we walked down the rows of enless knock-off handbags, shoes, shirts, luggage, wallets, sunglasses and then on to the pearls, jade, chopsticks (I could go on forever but I won't), employees yelled "lady, lady...you need handbag (or whatever product they thought we wanted/needed)" encouraging to come to their booth. At first I though it was kind of an interesting way to shop, but once I stopped simply to look, they latched on like a leech and wouldn't let me leave. At one point, Stacy and I had to literally push a lady out of the way as she tried to corner us inside her shop. As we continued to look, I also say some lady pulling (no joke, two handed pull down the row) Cassie. Even as Cassie attempted to remove the lady's grip, she pulled even harder.

After see this, I was annoyed beyond belief and glad that we were going to be leaving soon...I guess it is just another way of shopping, but definetly not something I would want to participate in on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the market had some really good deals (as we are able to bargain things way down) and I want to go back this weekend. At least this time I'll have a better idea of what to expect so that I can mentally (and perhaps physically) prepare to shop :o)

Morgan Meets Sandy....

By: Stacy Jorgenson

Wow what an adventure we had in Beijing! We were picked up by our tour guide (what a nice guy he was) on Friday morning and headed down to Beijing. The bus ride wasn't too bad. We finally got a larger bus to ride in. Morgan and I were bus buddies and we pretty much talked the entire time. I was pretty tired from the night before... due to Morgan and his story... He came to our room Thursday night to tell us all about his ride on the back of a motor scooter with a gentleman named Sandy. I just like to give him heat for it... Typical for me! But the second we got into Beijing it was go, go, go!

On Friday we had the chance to visit temple of heaven, forbidden city and Tian'anmen square. These each had beautiful buildings and some awesome landscape. My favorite event of the weekend was our trip to the great wall. My entire life the great wall has been some mythical place, just something that we read about in our textbooks. But the chance to physically walk the great wall allowed me to feel more complete. To be able to say we climbed the great wall gives me great pleasure! It was a hard hike up the steep and deep stairs but in the end I am happy we got as far as we did. We saw a number of individuals who had to carry lunch and goods to the workers at the top. We got some really good pictures... there is one on here!

Saturday night was an absolute blast! I was happy that I got the chance to see and hang out with Tian! He showed us around on Friday night. We saw the olympic stadium and the water cube where the aquatic events take place. We took a half hour or so cab ride to this location. We walked around and were only able to get so close due to the gates surrounding the places. We were able to see the dragon. The building was shaped like a dragon and will be used for the media for the Olympics.

Saturday night Tian took us to a nightclub called VIC The Kro's Nest. It was an absolute blast! There was around ten of us who went. We danced for a few hours and had the chance to hang out with some foreigners and Chinese people!

I am still having an absolute blast!!

Chinese Poem at the Summer Palace

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A Hint of Tradition With a Handful of Progression

It is an interesting perspective being in a country that has an extremely rich history dating back through several thousands of years, making the United States seem like just an infant. Remnants of ancient culture still show through in Chinese society, but is all that's left just aspects of their psychology, such as some beliefs and behaviors? The main cities we have explored so far have shown a very contemporary image in architecture and basic city life. Concrete and steel buildings stretch upwards while the honking of passing cars drown out any other noise. On the surface, these cities would not be too out of place in the United States or any other "developed" nation.

This past Friday our group traveled to Beijing. We were picked up at our hotel in Tianjin by a tour guide and we proceeded to head toward Beijing. The first day, as a group, we explored both the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. It's hard to imagine those places have been around for so long and have accumulated so much history. Our tour guide wasn't the most exciting individual to listen to, but I definitely don't regret visiting those places or any of the others we visited over the weekend.

After those two tours on Friday, our tour guide made mention of a show that performed a traditional story. It was about martial arts, so how could I pass that up? The name of it is The Legend of Kungfu. Revolving around the story of a little child who wishes to grow up into a warrior monk, In the end, only Krissy was the only other person to join me for this event. I believe the tour guide was a bit upset because he wasn't able to rip off as many people, but I'm still glad I went. The show didn't demonstrate much that was applicable to combat, but the displays of endurance and acrobatics was extremely impressive. Besides flips and twists, there were also people breaking wood on their bodies and metal on their heads, and at one point there was a man who was lifted up while laying on the point of a spear, without it piercing him.

The entire weekend was busy and packed full for all of us. A few of the other activities we were involved in include climbing the Great Wall, visiting a couple of tourist traps such as a "jade factory" and a "silk factory", and also an expedition through the Summer Palace before we made the trip back to Tianjin, where we are stationed once again.

Friday-Sunday Beijing

Friday morning we left Tianjin for Beijing on a much larger (full sized) coach bus, leaving around 8:00 a.m. The trip took a few hours and we went straight through until we reached our first visit of the Temple of Heaven. This was an amazing place filled with many architectural feats. Some of them were pretty amazing with embedded meaning such as the use of nine or multiples of nine on many of the stone/marble layouts. This was a symbol of the longevity that we found to be a pretty recurring theme in ancient Chinese design. Our tour of Beijing was guided by a tour guide who was incredibly knowedgeable in the history of the Chinese culture. After we walked through the temple and its surrounding grounds we met up with Tian, who joined us on our tours for the rest of the day. This was definitely an exciting thing for many of us who know Tian from Duluth, to hang out with him in his home country and city! Next we drove to the Forbidden City, which was amazing. I was astonished by the size of the city, thinking the name didn't really apply, but it really was a small city. The size was about 87 hectrs, or about 261 acres!

I was also impressed by the architectual elements found here, with all the buildings main supports consisting of wooden and not stone columns/pillars, made from whole tree trunks commonly too large to get your arms around. The idea of a wooden city did impress me, however its logical downfalls for its time were prevalent. Due to corrosion or fires or even just the durability of the structure it seemed impractical to use wood, however may have been a large time and cost saver for the builders. The buildings were all very colorful, with hand painted embellishments throughout their interior/exterior. We did learn that to counter or help protect against fire the city did have 355 massive water pots made of bronze/steel that were all over throughout the city. Each one stood as tall as me, and must have been able to hold hundreds upon hundreds of gallons of water. The city took a few hours to walk through and we were only walking straight down the middle, not even exploring off to the sides. To see the entire city would have taken an entire day, and we still had other stops to make.
Next was literally the next block over to Tianmen Square, across one of the enterances to the Forbidden City and a 6-8 lane road commonly found in Beijing! The square was amazing just due to its vast size, and i liked seeing it knowing some of the past happenings there. It is amazing to be in China and explore and walk amongst some of the world-renown landmarks/sites. The square was probably a few city blocks in size, or one massive one. The ground was completely layered with landscaping bricks, which made it that much more of a spectacle.
We then went to lunch as a group and then to the hotel. It is funny to find that almost every single place we have eaten has the “lazy Suzan,? which is the rotating table for passing and sharing the foods. This is done so that individual tables can be served and yet eat in a buffet manner, eating their choice of the selected dishes. After the lunch and settling into our hotel rooms, we split off and a handful of us went with Tian to one of the common shopping centers in the city. We walked a ways and then took 2 different subways to get there, and only had about an hour to shop buying a few shirts and gifts, before having to rush back to the hotel to meet the group to go out for dinner.
After dinner we all had gotten back to the hotel and again split off into a smaller group and me and some others went to see the bird’s nest and water cube (for the Olympics) with Tian. We had 3 taxis because they only allow 4 of us Americans into their cabs no matter what size the people or the car. The ride was about 30 minutes and only cost about 50 yuan or 7 dollars! The sight of the two buildings at night was incredible, and much more than I ever got from any of the pictures! Also across the street was a large collection of 4 buildings that were designed to look like a dragon, which I found pretty amazing. After this we said goodbye to Tian for the night and got a cab back to the hotel.
Saturday we got up for an early breakfast on the top floor of the hotel which I found different, and had a feast before the long day. The breakfast here is all pretty similar in design and in options, consisting of food we generally would consider dinner/lunch food, and usually served in a buffet manner. We then went out to the great wall after a short stop at a jade factory. The factory was interesting, and some of the pieces were incredibly large, of sailboats and other things that cost more than a year’s salary. We then drove up into the mountains to the great wall. I was surprised to find that even a ways out of the city (over an hour) the smog was still pretty thick, but better. The wall was built into many sections and we stopped at only one, and hiked it for 2 hours. It was incredible to see the sheer size, and design of the wall. The amount of workers they say died on the wall was one every meter or so of the wall’s length! It took about an hour to hike up the section of the wall to get to the peak of the mountain, for a breathtaking view. It was amazing how many people were there on the wall at the same time as us, often times we were forced to take breaks due to traffic jams on the stairs (of people on Saturday tours like ours). We then went back towards Beijing for some lunch and a few more small tours. One of the tours we went through very briefly was a pottery factory where they made thousands of hand crafted beautiful pots of all shapes and sizes. The intricacy of some of the pots was pretty amazing, but at this point everyone was tired and hungry from the hike on the wall. We had lunch above the pottery plant, which again was an interesting place for a restaurant which I have found to occur quite frequently. On the drive home we stopped in a silk factory and learned about the process of making their silk, and the little farmed pods the silk comes from. We all then had dinner which included their specialty duck wraps, which were very good and sliced in front of your table. Tian met us after that with some of his buddies from Beijing and they took us to a popular club called Vic’s. The club was pretty cool to see the similarities and differences from those in the states, but other than that nothing too special. What was more interesting was Tian’s friend studying abroad from New York, who spoke pretty fluent Chinese after only about two years of studying the language. I really got a chance to talk a lot with Tian this night too, which was really cool just getting his opinion on China versus the states.
Sunday we got up and had breakfast at the hotel again, followed by leaving for the Summer Palace. This was a pretty amazing place and very beautiful as well, with most of the land consisting of a lake in the palace gardens. We then went to the market for a few hours of shopping, bartering style. The idea was to go in and pay only at most half what they offered you as an initial price. This was why nothing was priced, because Beijing was a city more accustom to tourism, so we were more susceptible to being ripped off/overpriced. I was personally not good at this, because I feel bad offering them such low prices when I compare it back to the reference of what I’d pay back home. I still did get a few hundred dollars worth of stuff for about half that, which I found to be a personal success. The drive home was long and tiring with a lot of traffic. By the time we got back I was feeling very sick, and just laid down and emailed some friends before going to bed around 8:00 p.m. The rest of the group went to Hank’s for some more American food.

Business English Class

A small group including Andrea, Ashley Leon and I attended a night class with the Chinese students that was outside of our program. It was business English class that was required for students to graduate. I thought that is was interesting that the class was required because at home we do not require a focused second language for graduation. I think that this class is giving the students an advantage over graduates from UMD becasue they are able to easily communicate in English and Chinese. This encourages the students to be more of the global world and the importance of understaning other cultures. They also seem to be very aware of foriegn business. The main focus of the class was to teach the students term to use in english for business. During the class that I attended they were teaching globlization. The students were able to easily recognize famous American companies like P&G, McDonalds, IBM, and Marlboro. This was very interesting to me because I could probably not recoginze the names of Chinese companies that do business in the US because we mainly only used manufactured goods that are not well recognized companies. They also discussed America as a melting pot of many cultures. He was explaining to the students the many different types of foods Americans eat compared to Chinese. I totally agreed with him becuase the food courts in malls here just seem to offer many stations of all Asian Foods. Where as back home the food court we can find American, Chinese, Mexican, Italtian all at the same food court. I shared this with the students and they were very surprised by the diversity.

While in class I was paying attention to students behavior. They were very attentive and none of the students had laptops. Also I noticed that all of the students sat very close to each other they did not sit spread apart like classes some classrooms in states. The teaching style was very similar to our though. He used lectures and some activites in a workbook to teach the students. He used the chalkboard to write notes fo the students. To help the students understand English he had them read aloud a section of the book about Globalization. If they pronounced a word wrong he stop them and make them repronounce the word until they got it right. I also got the chance to skim through the book and there were several topics about business including business ethics.

June 1, 2008

Guanxi

Beijing and Tianjin are different in many ways, as other people have already mentioned. After class today, I was wondering about why in Beijing we felt less at home than here in Tianjin. It may be because we have been staying in Tianjin 5 times as long as we were in Beijing, but it also might be something else. Despite being an extreme outsider to the people of Tianjin, they are curious about us and

don't look to take as much advantage of us as in the more heavily-visited Beijing. Beijing may have a thicker wall between outsiders and insiders because of the influx of visitors to the city, both year-round and specially because of the Olympic hoopla. Thicker wall in the sense of a tighter group of natives as relative to the visitors. I don't know if I'm right but it sort of helps to try to understand the different feeling.

I'm sure in other parts of Beijing it is just like Tianjin, but, on our guided tour we rarely strayed from the company of other foreigners. Tian was a great tour guide, even though we didn't get that much time with him. He would tell us things just before they were announced over the loudspeaker in the bus. I'm glad we got to see many of the sightseeing spots in Beijing and would recommend climbing on The Great Wall.

Wednesday-Thursday

Towards the end of the week I found myself thinking where the time had gone. Time has an interesting affect on me here in China where at some points this trip feels like it is an eternity and I have so much time to experiece everything, while other times I feel I am too rushed and haven't any time to do even a small portion of the things that strike interest in China. We have been super busy with Jason and Rina organizing many adventures/business visits for us during the week and even another organized visit to Bejing this weekend. We had a morning lecture on management/philosophy which proved to be quite different than some of our own practices in the west. A basis for a lot of thier management philosophy techniques have a direct relation or backbone if you will, of religion. This was extremely interesting to find how open they are to teach on, and even mention religious ideals in a teaching/educational environment.

After the lecture we met for lunch at the hotel and then were off to the Motorola battery manufacturing plant. This proved to be somewhat misguided due to the subject of battery making and the complexity of the materials/chemicals needed to produce them were not a subject that many of us had any idea about. On the other hand the plant itself was very interesting to see the layout of the process, and the incredible machinery included in the development of the batteries. The factory was laid out so that tours like ours and tours of potential investors could walk through and get a sense of the cleanliness and precision that they have at the plant.
After the visit all of the guys and 2 of the girls went directly back to the hotel to change for soccer with the chinese boys. We had all in all about 12 students (locals) and maybe 7 of our own and an additional 2-4 sideline cheer squad. It was one of the most fun afternoons i have had here, being in China on their turf in the soccer field, and learning their techniques or trying, and just interacting with them was really incredible for me. I was not surprised to find that we were some of the worst of all the players on the field, and even though i was one of the faster players it was no match for the technique and ball control that the Chinese students had.
Thursday we had a lecture on E-business which was interesting to learn more of the technology background of the culuture, and where they hope to be in the future in regard to technological advancements. According to the lecture the Chinese cluture as a whole is becoming increasingly involved with such things as internet users, and mobile phone users, and are expected to surpass the U.S. in the next several years. This however much be looked at in regard to total population as well, on a per capita basis the U.S. is much higher, however due to a massive overall population the Chinese numbers will soon surpass ours in technology users.
After class we got Chinese hamburgers (meat pies) filled with pork and green peppers. Then we all got ready to hike it about two miles or so to the karaoke bar with Richy (the bigger chinese student) and Lu as well as Rina, and John and Eric met up with us there later on. This was a blast, and very interesting to see how the culture has these "bars" everywhere which are just like a hotel, where you go and rent your own small room for your party/group and sing and hang out for a few hours. We were there from 2-6 which we thought would be too long, but by the end of it we were wishing for more time. The Chinese students once again outperformed us by a long shot, singing native songs as well as some english ones for us. We did have a limited english music selection, but overall found some classics we could all appreciate.
When we were done here we walked back and Morgan, Stacy and I had to run literally to the laundry-mat on campus to get out things before they closed. After that little bit of excitement we all met at the hotel and hung out a while before going to Ali-Babbas multi-cultural bar. I am not sure if that is how the bar set out to be, having a large gathering of different cultures, but it definitely is our favorite place and most interesting to go to meet people. I did not meet many people this time, but did meet one guy from manchester, and another from california, but was chinese, and also a guy from New Zealand. It was a fun night, and ended with all of us having the excitement of leaving for Bejing in the morning.

Beijing v. Tianjin

Put it this way...in a smack down battle royale wrestling match between Beijing and Tianjin...Beijing would dominate. Don't get me wrong I enjoy both cities very much, but when I was in Beijing I felt like we fit in a little better among the rest of the tourists. It was a nice change to be able to speak English for the weekend and have people actually understand you. Beijing was a much cleaner city than Tianjin as well. I don't know if it always looks like that or they are just keeping it clean and beautiful for the Olympics. It was very beautiful in that there were flower gardens eveywhere and it was not as polluted as Tianjin. The other thing I noticed is people actually know how to drive in Beijing...they are not on laying on their horns at all times and acutally follow the line painted on the roads. Not to mention all of the awesome tourist attractions in Beijing. The Great Wall, Tien'amon Square, the Temple of Heaven, and the Ming Tombs. Well, we are back "home" in Tianjin and I was reminded of that when Courtney and I headed down to the KFC last night. It was very crowded and we were lucky to find a little two seat table. Next, a father and son walked in looking for a place to sit down and there was only one small table open in the entire restaurant and it was next to Court and I. The little boy looked about 5-6 years old and he looked terrified when his father told him to sit next to us. I'm sure he had never seen anyone that looked like us before or very rarely if he had. He was so nervous that his father moved him to a dirty table to eat, rather than sitting by us. WELCOME HOME!!

Beijing & The Great Wall!

Spending the weekend in Beijing was absolutely amazing. It by far was the best time I’ve had in China, probably because everything we did I was looking forward to before ever leaving the US. Even though we have been here for two week, it was the first time I’ve actually felt like I was in another country. Every day was jam packed with activities, we were your average tourist, but it was great! It was amazing to see all of the Chinese cultural areas as the architecture and detailed paintings are things you would never be able to see or understand from a picture. The Great Wall was the best part of the weekend. There is no real way to describe what it’s like without being there. It was such an accomplishment to make it to each tower and then continue on, as the area we were at was entirely stairs. Its amazing to think about how these Chinese people were able to build this, it’s so difficult to walk up, its mind blogging to think that they carried all the stones up the mountain and then climbed all the stairs. Our tour guide told us that at one point a fourth of all the men in China were working on the wall. I truly understand why it’s one of the wonders of world, I am very proud to say I was able to walk on the Wall. Once you reach the top, you’d think going down would be so much easier, which physically it is, but mentally, it’s quite a trip. This is the one place I can say I’ve been afraid of heights, and maybe it’s not so much the height but rather the uneven stair with hundreds of people on them while you’re trying to walk down with tired muscles. Once you’re back on the bottom, it’s a feeling of relief and amazement.

Carre-four, The Grocery Store

So the closet grocery store to our hotel is Carre-Four. It is about 3 blocks way so it is easily within our walking distance. It is somewhat like the grocery stores in the states, but like times 10 on the traffic!! WHen u first walk in u have to go through this one person gate and they tell u to put any drinks u bring in in ur purse. Then u hit the totliotry stuff and then it goes to canned and processed food. Booze is only like the 5th isle down so that is really nice but for any hard liquir u have to pay for it rt there at this stand, and then u still have to go to the checkout and have them look at ur reciept and tehn take this sensor off, take about watcin ur booze. Also the amount of fresh food and meet they have is way more then the states. They have fresh fish, lobster, chicken (all parts) frogs, turltes all in the grocery store. It is like bein at one of those open fish markets plus some. Then when u head to the check out line, it is enormous. Be prepared to wait at least like 20minutes or more forcheckout. It is so bad that they stop allowing people to come in an hour before it closes just so they get get done on time. And those are just not lines, they are like herds of people since tehy just all crowd together, u better be prepared to push or it will take u forever!! People also must make mulitple trips throughout the week to get their food because many of them use their bikes and can't carry much home with them! So thankful i only have to go to the grocery store like once every 2 weeks!

Tours/ Bargaining/ Night Club!

I was so excited to go to Beijing and it turned out to be a wonderful time! I was extremely looking forward to having guided tours! I love learning about the culture and having someone to show us where the interesting spots are to see! I'll keep the tours section short since others have already talked about the places we went to and I have the same feelings as them!

We did a little shopping this weekend and I must say, I'm getting much better at bargaining and definitely more comfortable with just walking away. I used to feel so pressured into buying things and I would feel bad if I wouldn't buy something I seemed to be interested in. Laura and I did great team work in bargaining and walking away if they wouldn't give us our desired price. It's amazing how they try to boost the price for foreigners. I wish we could have spent more time at the shopping mall we went to today!

And one of my favorite parts about our trip to Beijing (Besides the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and the Tombs) was the dance club that Tian, (Our Chinese friend from UMD) took us to! Tian met up with us on Friday and he went to some highlights with us along with taking us shopping. On Saturday, Tian met up with us later in the night and his friends, Jake and Noah took us to one of the hottest dance clubs in Beijing! I have always wanted to go to a dance club and it was amazing! All of us danced all night! This was pretty amazing since we climbed the Great Wall of China the same day!! Our legs were sore in the morning.

We ended our trip to Beijing with going to the Summer Palace, this was a gorgeous site to see! It was absolutely breathtaking and peaceful. I could have spent all day there!

melting pot (1)

We went to Beijing this weekend and it was full of entertainment. My favorite moment of the whole weekend was when Cassie, Leon and I all made it to the highest point of the Great Wall of China. I am amazed at the gumption of the northerners/Mongolians that tried to make it over that wall.

It was a relief this weekend to be somewhere new, a place where we are not stared at constantly and where there were more foreigners speaking a variety of dialects. A place where where you could ask sales people questions in English and they would be answered in English. We visited several major tourist sites, which contained some of the daily items that we take for granted in them. For instance, in the bathrooms there were western toilets instead of squatters, had toilet paper and even soap!

Beijing in three days

The trip to Beijing was definitely the light of this trip so far. First, the Forbidden City was awesome. It was some of the most amazing architecture I’ve ever seen. On top of it all, it was in the heart of Beijing. I’ve learned a lot from the short trip about the long history. After the tour of Forbidden City, we spent some time at Tiananmen Square. Then, I climbed the Great Wall. It took a lot of encouragement from other group members. I have to say, not many people can say they’ve climb the Great Wall of China! Moreover, we visited other ancient royal places. We’ll just leave that to be discussed by the others.