June 20, 2009

Cord Houle: Shanghai day-2

Our final day in china was bitter sweet; a part of me was looking forward do going home while a big part of me wished I had more time. As we did our activities for the day I couldn't help but reflect over the past four weeks at all the things we experienced and all the friends we made.

One of the more notable experiences we had that day was visiting the world's highest observation deck and using the world's highest toilet. We were able to accomplish this by visiting the Shanghai world financial center. The day we visited was also a day of very high air pollution. Because of this poor air quality, we were only able to see perhaps a mile into the distance before it got too foggy to see any further. This observation deck was very unique as it had a floor that didn't have another floor under it. This allowed them to place glass viewing windows on the floor that allowed you to peer down at the streets below. While in the building we could also see where they plan on building the next building to claim the title of tallest building in the world.

The air quality in Shanghai defiantly gave me a deeper respect for the air quality back at home. While in the past environmental protection was not a primary focus for the Chinese government, the teachings of Tao and the harmony between people and nature are becoming more popular. Looking forward, it would be great if the people of china took a more conservationist approach to their expansion. China has a great beauty that would be very sad to lose.

Cord Houle: Shanghai day-1

Today I woke up at 5am in order to get a better look at the second part of Wu Zhen before we headed to Shanghai. Wu Zhen was as beautiful at dawn as it was the previous night. I was able to walk around the streets in a rare moment of quiet in china. I was one of the only people out at that early in the morning. Since we landed, I couldn't remember a time when I couldn't hear the sounds of traffic or horns honking so I savored this rare moment. After a couple of hours to myself I joined my fellow students in front of the hotel rooms as we walked to the building our breakfast was in. after a great breakfast and grabbing all our luggage we crossed the river to front desk and the bus were and said goodbye to out secluded paradise.

We the left for Shanghai and I grabbed a couple of hours of sleep to catch up for what I had forgone in order to fully enjoy Wu Zhen. When we arrived in Shanghai we immediately had free time. This was my first look at public transportation in china. We decided to utilize the massive subway system in Shanghai. Entering to the subway tunnels I immediately noticed how clean they were. Having used the New York subway system and the L in Chicago this places cleanliness caught my eye the moment we entered. The fair was 3 Yuan for a one-way ticket to anywhere which seemed affordable. The train also didn't lurch forward like the subways in New York. Chinas efficient use of public transportation really impressed me on my trip. There high density cities made the utilization rate of any mile of road or any mile of track much greater than in the states.

We also visited a mall that rivaled that of most malls in the states. This mall had 7 main floors and stretched a big distance. Many popular American stores were here as well as some major European and Japanese stores. We finished off the day with a boat ride on the river at night were we got to see the entire Shanghai skyline lit up and the buildings built by many foreign companies. This boat ride gave a great perspective of how large the city actually was and provided a unique way to look at it.

Cord Houle: Wu Zhen

In our first day at Wu Zhen, we walked around some of the historically preserved areas of the town. One of the things about this place that will stay with me was how nice the local people were. One lady in particular was very gracious, allowing us into her house and showing us her family pictures. She told us about her children and about how she used to work at a silk factory. One thing that struck me was how much she reminded me of my own grandma. Always talking about her children and grandchildren and showing guests her photos of friends and family. After a tour of her small house and meeting her curious friends, we continued on our way looking at the different sites in the historical district.

That night we visited the second part of the town that was historically preserved. This area was a vast hotel and very beautiful. The rooms were on the top floors of the buildings that housed the various shops and restaurants. The beauty of this place was very overwhelming as it showed the architecture that ancient china was so well known for. This made me think about the history we have the states or rather lack thereof. China has a rich cultural history and is fortunate enough to embrace it. In the states, the only cultural history we possess goes back a mere 300 years. Other than that, we have Native American culture; however, much of the cultural history involved with the Native American people is dismissed as a whole. From my time in china, I have come to greatly appreciate the rich heritage of the society. It is great that the Chinese people have something like that to draw upon.

shanghai day two also the last day

So, today is our last day that we visit in Shanghai. And also is the last day of the study aboard program. I do think this month is going so fast and I learn a lot of things; and I like this trip very much.

For the last day, we went to the world's tallest building. This building is use for financial center in shanghai, and in china too. This financial building is design by a Japanese designer and the building looks so cool. We have chance today that we can go up to the highest floor of this building and watch the view from there. It feels awesome when you stand on the highest building in the world. The view is good but just too smoky.
One thing I should mention about shanghai's taxi driver. They are very mean. They vary take short distance trip. I remember last light we went to club; we need to take a fifteen walk with Zhou to a taxi station to take a taxi to the club. Although we able to take a taxi, the driver does not being nice to us. I do not why they like to been act so mean to the customer, but I do not doubt they can get more if they being nice. We get in a terrible time when I come back from the club with my roommate. The driver said very positive that he knows the way. So, as he keeps driving, he's getting nervous about the way he was drive. Although we finally get back to the hotel, we pay more than normal.

I like shanghai this place because here has a mall like Hong Kong's and many pretty girls are in this city. There are something that make me think badly about shanghai. The prolusion is the first problem. Second, people are mean in this city. Finally, there is no sky on shanghai. In general, shanghai is a good city. At least, shanghai is one of the centurial city in china. I would like to live in shanghai.

shanghai day 1

This is my first time to visit shanghai. I am getting exciting when i still in the bus. As I know, expect Hong Kong, shanghai should be one of the most modern city in china. So I am pretty looking forward to take a round trip in shanghai.

As our bus getting close and close to shanghai, the sky is looking smoky and smoky, too. I have never see prolusion so bad like this. I have been to Hong Kong couple times, although the air in Hong Kong is not as clean as Duluth, but the sky view in Hong Kong is much better than I see in shanghai. Sometimes, I think growing so fast would come with a side effect like in shanghai. They take off a clean sky to get a growth in global economic market. Shanghai is success and become one of the top financial markets in the world. Maybe is the weather bad today, but i do not know.So sad that I am not feeling there is a sky here in shanghai. There is smoke around the city sky, that is what I see in shanghai this morning.

So I am not expected that shanghai get a very clean sky. Although shanghai is growing so fast and become a head of financial market in china, maybe it is suppose to have a sky like that.

Other thing I have done today is go to a shopping mall. The name of this mall is Zheng Da mall. In my eye, I think this one should be the best mall in shanghai. I do not want to compare those malls in Hong Kong with mall in shanghai. I think there still a generation between these two. Although there is difference between shanghai's and Hong Kong's, the Zheng Da mall let me see an equal balance. Zheng Da makes me feel I am shopping on the Hong Kong mall. So if someone wants to shop, I would suggest he/she come to this place. forget to mention, there is a Best buy inside this building. And I think this is the only one Best Buy in shanghai and the only one in China. Maybe you can they a look the one in china then compare to the U.S.


Wuzhen is a super pretty place. The city is build up on several rivers. Every house's appearing has not get any changes seems the day was build. Once I go into this city, I am feeling that I go back to old Asian time. The view in Wuzhen is very nice; I can sit on a chair and look at just one view for an hour. I feel very relaxing when I inside Wuzhen.

We are going to stay in wuzhen one night before go to shanghai tomorrow. So, we ate a dinner before went to check in to the hotel. Our hotel is separate from other side of wuzhen. We need to take a boat to cross river and reach our hotel. This place looks more beautiful when was at night. Our team takes a boat trip around this place. It is a very fun time when I sit on the boat. I have a feeling that I am back to my home. Maybe that is wired but this place really gives me this feeling.

Shanghai- Boat Ride & Sky Club

This night again proved that Americans are from a first class country and receive V.I.P. in China. We went on an amazing boat ride, got VIP; and went to a very nice club in Shanghai, got VIP. The boat ride was great; we had a corner of the second deck all to ourselves. The town of Shanghai at night has some very interesting buildings along with the lights on the buildings. I was hoping to find a picture that one of us took, but it seems as everyone has gotten lazy and stopped putting their pictures up on facebook... I am sure that most people have seen pictures of the skyline, but that is not even close to how cool it is in real life! I was going to say that this boat ride was one of the best things we have done or experienced, but there are so many; each day added something new and interesting. After the boat ride, we went to the hotel to take a shower in like five minutes. We all wanted to get to the club. We walk into Sky Club and see two VIP tables open for us. Joe, our awesome tour guide, his girlfriend knew that manager. With that said, we didn't have to pay the minimum 6000 yuan (around 900USD). On top of that, the club gave each table a fruit plate! We were there for four hours, maybe longer, and everyone had a great time! I have to say Thanks to Joe for the great hookup. It is not what you know, it is who you know.

Shanghai Day 2

Today, was one of my favorite days on the whole trip. I had seen the Shanghai World Financial Center on the Discovery channels' "Build it Bigger" get built, so I was very interested when I found out that we were going to actually go in it. The top of the building has a large rectangle cut out of it for the wind factor. It looks a like a bottle opener or a Japanese sword if you think that way. I kind of remember the showing talking about the 100th floor observation deck, which happens to be the tallest observation deck in the world, but I now remember what it looked like. Half of the floor was glass; you could see straight down to the lower deck as well as 1,555 feet down. It was pretty amazing. My mind was racing a little bit up there and thought of how the rest of China was built, it does not last very long. Any second this brand new building could fall because China does not have any authority caring about building regulations. We again went on the high speed elevator, which does not tell you what floor you are going though, but tells you how high up you are in meters. We ended off the evening on the front step of the hotel talking about the trip! Great way to end it off.

June 10th- 12th


Today before we leave Wuxi, we went to visit a place which making tea set. In this store, they have the biggest tea pot in the world. Base on what the instructor from there told us, Wuxi used to famous of mining purple sand. And this mineral is good for making tea pots and tea cups. At noon we arrived at Wuzhen. The buildings in here are like the style of ancient China. There are two parts in Wuzhen, for the first part is mostly the gift shops. The second part is the place where we stay for tonight. We are going to spend three hours in the first part. For most of my time, I was bargaining with someone. It was fun. And I also visited a big house called Hundred Beds House. Inside, they display many different kinds of beds from ancient China. And different bed also has different meaning. Some bed is for married people, some is for brother, younger brother, or older brother. After dinner, we went to the second part of Wuzhen by boat. The view in here is wonderful, and it is even better when at night. Also we got the chance to have a boat ride on the river. It was fantastic. I think the most beautiful place during this trip is here.


Last station, Shanghai. We are going to stay here more the last two days. The first feeling it gave me is, this is a huge city and there are so many cars! Also it is so hot. The plan for today is, museum, mall, and boat ride. Because the museum and the mall is very close to each other. So we decided to go to the mall first. Everything is different in here, the clothes are much better and the price also make them have many "face". In the mall, they also have a Best Buy. Base on the Chinese translation of Best Buy, Bai Si Mai. It means, think one hundred times before you buy. It seems kind of doesn't make any sense. Well, that's just my personal translation, maybe it doesn't mean that. For the museum, I didn't have anything to talk about. Because I didn't even go into the museum. Why? Because I spent so much time than I thought to find my way back to the museum. At night we had a boat ride in Shanghai to see the night views. It is very beautiful. When the boat was going back to the port, I also watch a magic show at the first floor. After we put all our luggages back to our rooms. We're going to the last bar in China, the Sky Bar. Thanks to Joe's girlfriend has some guanxi with the bar manager, we got our two VIP tables for free. Also, we felt we have many "face". Everybody was dancing, drinking, and playing dices. We had a lot of fun here.

Today is the last day in Shanghai. At the morning, we went to the Chenghuang Temple. The mostly scenes in here is, there are many people showing a menu of what kind of shoes, watches, clothes, and some electronic products they have to anyone who pass by them. If someone wants to buy something, then he will lead them to a small house where they put their products. I think many people do that is because the rent in the Chenghuang Temple is very high. At the afternoon, we went to visit a new built Global Financial Center in Shanghai. Also, this is the highest GFC in China. It has one hundred floors and over four hundred meters height. It felt so well when I stood at the one hundredth floor and looking around Shanghai. Our trip is going to the end. As the Chinese said, no feast can last forever. But there is end means there is a new start. I hope everyone can for a good time for the rest of the summer.

Venice of Italy- Wuzhen

This afternoon we walked around Part one, which started off for some of us on a little boat. It was a nice afternoon, it got a little long. After a couple hours, me and a couple other found Dr. Li. He took us to some areas to look and stuff and then got us into a ladies' house to see what it looked like. She used to work in a silk factory but had retired 30 plus years ago. Her husband had passed away and kids had left the city, so she was all she had left in Wuzhen. She obviously likes it, she is right on the water, so how couldn't you like that! Later that evening, we moved into out hotel rooms. We had to take a boat to get to the island that we were staying on. It was a nice room with views of the water. We again took a boat ride from by our hotel room to the bar area. We sat down, ordered some beer, ordered some food (Hack & I got a very good pizza with garlic bread!), and listened to Bob Marley; how much more American than that can you get! We stayed there a couple drinks and then headed back to where our room was and hung outside on the bridge. It was a great night, wished we would have had a longer time there to explore more.

June 19, 2009

Last One!

So, here I am at work a couple of days after returning from an unforgettable month in China. I can hardly believe a month has gone by. Adjusting to life back in the United States has not been as easy as I thought it would be. Over the last month, I have become accustomed to sleeping in, drinking beer, having meals prepared for me, and not having a care in the world. Back to my beloved fifty plus hour per week job and the real world of having to make my own meals. Driving has been an adjustment too. I can't tailgate, run red lights, speed, drive down the wrong way, etc. like I observed while in China. I'm not too sure about the rest of you, but jet lag dragged me down drastically until about Wednesday or Thursday. My wife and coworkers have caught me "in a daze" multiple times. I'm so tired and it won't go away!! It was quite the contrast compared to when we arrived in China. We were all so excited that I think the effects of jet lag were minimal. When I approached this trip, I thought it to be the "trip of a lifetime." My opinion has changed. I would be really disappointed in myself if I do not make it back again in my lifetime. Our class became close over the last month. I cannot think of a better group of people to have gone on this trip with. Sure, we got on each other's nerves a bit there toward the end, but all in all everyone got along well. I am excited to see everyone at our fall reunion. I hope all can make it back to Duluth whenever it is. Good luck to all as you some of you search for jobs and some come back to school in the fall! Thank you everyone for making the last month such a great experience!

Last Few Days in Shanghai

Wuzhen (6/10/2009)

Hands down, this was my favorite day in China. Wuzhen was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life (aside from sitting on my dock at sunset on a warm July evening haha). Wuzhen is a scenic town, which is said to have had people living it for over 7,000 years. This is also the birthplace of Mao Dun, a famous writer/novelist in modern China.

Upon entering part 1 of the city there were a lot of vendors and gift stands set up for tourists (Chinese people are rarely, if ever, asked to come and look at the items they are selling). After getting past the gauntlet of vendors though it was smooth sailing the rest of the day there. The rest of the town was mostly residential and side museums, such as wood carvings, world currency, and silk weaving. That evening we lodged in what they called a "guest house" but it was more of a hotel. Not a hotel you might think of like a Super 8, but this one was much more charming and simple (although it did have internet access). This was one of the best nights of sleep I had during the whole trip. I think it was due to the fact that we didn't hear one single car horn honk the entire night.

Shanghai (6/12/2009)

I am incredibly happy I had the Shanghai experience. It was great being able to be in the 2nd most populated city proper in the world. Thursday night our tour guide, Joe, took us to a club in Shanghai called Club Sky which was a higher class club. He even got us two VIP tables for free! Everyone seemed to enjoy their night there. We found it a bit difficult to find a taxi that would take us back to the hotel afterwards though. Joe told us ahead of time that taxi drivers in Shanghai sometimes won't drive you if your destination is relatively close to the starting point. We found this to be true, but after about asking 10 cab drivers we finally found one who was willing to drive us back to the hotel. We made sure to give him a nice tip afterwards which surprised him quite a bit.

The following day we walked around another market and visited the Shanghai World Financial Center. Professor Li, Cord, Jeff, and I ended up going for a walk because I think all four of us were quite sick of markets and shopping by the end of the trip. We walked down the street close to the river hoping to be able to actually walk along the river bank. We had no luck but did get to see some streets and side-sights thats we otherwise would not have been able to see had we stayed at the market. As for the SWFC, I'm usually not afraid of heights but being at the top of the building at the observatory gave me sweaty palms and a bit of vertigo. I'm glad I made it through it though and now I can say I've been to the tallest completed building and used the worlds highest toilet. Shanghai was a great end to an excellent trip.

Coming Home (6/13/2009)

Today is our last day in China. I don't know how to feel about going home. I am excited to see my family and friends. I am excited to get back to American living. But I am not so excited about leaving the country and culture we've learned so much about in the last month. It's been a blessing being able to travel half way around the world to visit this nation that is so rich in culture and history. This morning on the way to the airport the hotel took the time to prepare all of us bagged breakfasts (sandwich, fruit, and water) since we would be leaving the hotel before the breakfast there would be served. This was a nice gesture on the hotels part. Well I hope everyone's travels today go safely and without children kicking the back of their seats on the airplane. Even though all of us will go our separate ways now, I hope we stay in touch. It's been a great month! Take care everyone!

Kevin O'Connell

It feels awesome to be home. Touching down on American soil in Detroit was a great feeling. During our layover in Detroit we went to a sports bar in the airport and got some great American food and American beer--it was only 10 am local mind you, but we were still running on China time. It was great to order in regular English. In China we had to use very simple English (sometimes we had to point at a picture of what we wanted while at other points we were dependent on our group's Chinese speakers to order for us) and we were not able fully express ourselves to the server; back in Detroit, we were able to tell the bartender exactly how we wanted our burgers cooked and what veggies and condiments we wanted on it. We were also able to make small talk with the bartender which we never did in China (except at Hank's Sports Bar in Tianjin).

One of biggest differences that I immediately noticed was traffic--I'm sure everybody else noticed the same thing. For one thing, there are far less cars on the road making travel much easier. This is because the population of our entire state is less than many of the cities we visited while in China. Another thing is the lack of bicyclists and pedestrians. In China, there were hundreds of people on bikes everywhere one looked; also, there were a lot of people walking on the sidewalks. These people biked and walked as their main forms of transportation. In the US, people normally only walk and bike for exercise, not necessarily for transportation. Driving is far more structured is the United States. In China, there would be 3 painted lanes; however, there would be 5 lanes of traffic and a lane for bikes. Here, people stay in their lanes. There is about 1/100th of the honking in Minnesota compared to China. Although driving is much more structured in the US it is not necessarily safer. I only saw about 3 accidents in China the entire month I was there. I have already seen like 10 people pulled over on the side of the road with minor accidents. I think this is because people in China have to drive much slower (about 20 mph) because of all the traffic. We drive so fast and are distracted by things like cell phones and loud music that there are a lot more accidents.

Last day in China

For my last blog I am going to talk about how Shanghai is much more westernized then any other city that we went to. Right when we got to Shanghai I started to notice a lot of differences compared to the other cities we had been too. The one big thing is the fact that so many more people spoke English. This was a nice change because it was getting kind of frustrating not being able to communicate with them to get the basic items that you wanted. In the other cities that we went to you were lucky to find someone that could understand everything that you were saying. Another thing is that all of the cool buildings that they have there. Some examples are the Pearl T.V. tower, the Jin Mao, and the new Shanghai World Financial Center. I especially like the SWFC because it is one of the tallest buildings in the world. I had never been on this one because when I was there before it was not done yet. It was awesome to see the final product and to get a chance to go up to the hundredth floor. Even though we were in Shanghai for a short period I thought it was awesome to be back and be familiar with some of my surroundings.

Kevin O'Connell

Shanghai is the largest city I have ever been to--both in the sheer size of the city and also in population. When we were first driving into Shanghai I was in awe of the architecture. Everywhere I looked I saw big, bigger, and even bigger buildings. I imagine that New York City looks very much like Shanghai except on a smaller scale. We arrived in the middle of the day and traffic was still terrible. I can't fathom what rush hour would be like in Shanghai. Our tour guide, DJ Joe, said that if one lived twenty minutes outside of downtown, it would take them about 2 ½ to 3 hours to get to work each day. Since that is the case it is no surprise that real estate in downtown is far more expensive than property outside the city.

Shanghai was the most 'Western' city we traveled to on the trip. It was by far the most developed city (from what we saw). Every bathroom that I went to had western toilets--I'm sure the girls in the group were very happy about this. It had a new and intricate public transportation system. We took the subway our first day in the city which was a lot of fun. That was the first time I had ever been on a subway train. Even though the city was very developed there was still quite a bit of construction going on. It made driving around downtown a hassle--especially for our big tour bus.

For me, there were two places we went to in Shanghai that were truly amazing. On the first night we went on an evening cruise on the Yangtze River. The Shanghai skyline is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. One guy on our boat knew how memorable and beautiful the skyline is--he proposed to his girlfriend in the middle of the cruise (by the way, she said yes!). Every building on the river front was lit up. Some of the buildings had LED lights with fancy designs while others had TV displays. The cruise alone makes me want to go back to Shanghai in the near near future.

The other place we visited that stood out to me was the Shanghai World Financial Center. It is 492 meters tall; at the time it was completed it was the second tallest building in the world. Currently, it has the world's highest observation deck. I'm not necessarily afraid of heights but they definitely get my heart racing, especially when I'm a mile high in the air!! Being at the top of the World Financial Center is something that I will never forget. You could see most of Shanghai. The only reason you couldn't see all of Shanghai is because the smog covered up some of the city. The building next to the World Financial Center is a skyscraper and we were looking straight down it! It was so cool to be able to stare down at a city of over 18 million people and just watch the traffic and the people move around.