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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 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

10th

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.


11th

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.


12th
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 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.

First Day in Shanghai

The first day In Shanghai. I was really looking forward to be going to Shanghai because I have been there and I knew what it was like. When we first got there we got lunch and then went to the mall after. This mall was huge and had everything that you can ever imagine. It was 10 floors high and it looked like a high-class place. As we walked around we came across some store that were very familiar to us. We first saw Best Buy so we went in and checked it out. It was very similar to the ones back home but one major difference that I saw there was the fact that it didn't have video games. I thought that was kind of weird. It was also cool to see a store that is based out of Minnesota all the way across the world. Another thing that was cool about the mall was the fact that it had a skating rink inside of it. I was amazed to see this because the Mall of America doesn't even have one. Once we left the mall and ate dinner we got to go on a boat ride on the bund. This was so awesome to see on the river. I had seen it before but I only got to see it on land. So getting the chance to see it again at night on a boat was one of my highlights from being in Shanghai.

Coming Home

I was not ready for this trip to end. The four weeks seemed to have passed so quickly and I still am having difficulty keeping everything that I got to see straight in my head. The plane ride was long and tiring but when I finally received my luggage and exited the airport it felt weird to be home. Everything from the cars, people, and scenery all looked different. I definitely appreciate trees, lakes and blue skies a great deal more now then I did before this trip. However, it is weird because I don't know how to explain what it felt like over there to people who have never been. I also don't even know exactly what I liked so much about being there. The group of people that I traveled with definitely helped because we all wanted to do and see as much as possible while being there. The Nankai University students made us feel so welcomed and it was great getting to know all of them. Having a personal connection to Chinese people definitely helped in making my time there more real and not just tourist like. I am just glad that I was able to meet so many different people and get to see things there that I never could of imagined and then be able to come home and see our country from a new perspective.

Shanghai

While in Shanghai we spent our first night on a boat tour of Shanghai. I am so happy that it was dark out when we were on the boat because I can not believe how amazing the city looked with all the buildings lit up. It was amazing and absolutely beautiful. Shanghai is a city that I am so happy that I was able to see it. The size, location, and the architecture alone were mind boggling as we sat on a boat and stared. I really have enjoyed the architecture throughout our travels of China. The time and effort that is put into buildings is evident and appreciated. The beauty of these building were awe worthy. The next day we visited the Observatory. What a difference this vocal point had on my perspective of Chinese architecture. The attention to detail was apparent the second we entered the building. The employees dress and greetings were done in a way to create a respectful image of the building. The elevator ride was so high-tech and again attention to detail with the color and the music light show on the ceiling and walls. The view from the top floor was spectacular and they even had a parts of the floor made of glass so that we could look down and really get a sense of how high up we were. The finally aspect of this building that surprised me was the bathrooms. High tech is not enough to describe those toilets. I cannot believe that this bathroom existed if I had not seen it for myself. Shanghai definitely impressed me.

Su Zhou

The gardens that we were able to visit here were the most breathe taking places that I have ever seen. Tiger hill had this well that had an amazing story behind it. The man decided to drill for water in a place that another believed impossible to find water. The first man ended up being correct and able to find water, resulting in the other man being turned into a toad for doubting this endeavor. When we saw the well a rock sat next to it that slightly resembled a frog. I really enjoy how Chinese culture has so many stories and superstitions. It makes learning about a culture even more fascinating then just hearing the historical significance.

June 18, 2009

Last day In China

This is our last day in China. I can't believe how fast the trip went. I really wonder where the last month went because it feels like yesterday I was on a plane to fly over here. I really have enjoyed this trip. It has been by far the best experience of my life. It is going to take a lot for a trip to go ahead of this one in my book of trips thus far. I have learned a lot from this trip. I have learned tons about Chinese culture and history. I plan on checking out a history book so I can understand Ancient China a little better. I don't know if I would vacation in China but I really what to do business in this country in the future. I see them prospering for the next 10 to 15 years before they slow down. You just see the massive growth of this country by looking in each city we have been and see the construction that is going on. There are cranes everywhere and to me that's a sign of modernizing into a great state. Also, I have a better understanding of the culture. I believe if you know the culture down to perfection you can easily do business there. You have to do things that they want you to do and if you do something to insult them without you knowing you did, you have lost your chance in this country and that would be unfortunate for you because there is so much potential. I see them opening up more to the world and letting companies come in because it will not only help the international companies but also their own country. So I am excited to see what happens in the future and hopefully I will be working their someday.

1st day in Shanghai

I am going to blog about Shanghai. Shanghai is absolutely amazing. The city is beautiful and it has really cool looking buildings. The architecture of these buildings is amazing. I can't believe they could actually build something like that have. They have odd shaped buildings that come to points. They have a building that has a bottle opener at the top which is called the "Shanghai World Financial Center." There is plenty others to go with these examples. They have a mall that was 10 stories high. I have never seen a mall that is that big other then the "Mall of America," but I don't think the United States mall is bigger than Shanghai's mall. All the stores in this mall were identical to that of the U.S. malls. Everything in Shanghai is wrote in Chinese and English. This is really helpful for westerners because it is easier for us to get around. This city is way more westernized than all of the other cities we have been to. I like that but I don't because it feels kind of like you are in the U.S. when you should get the feeling you are overseas. Some of the downfalls of Shanghai are the people. There is 20 million people in this city. That is the biggest city we have been to so far so it gets really frustrating when you constantly run into people and it takes the bus forever to get through traffic. The other downfall is the smog that is there. There is so much pollution that you can hardly see the other buildings around. You can't get a sense of how far the city stretches because you can only see the building you are standing by. For only 2 downfalls this city is pretty amazing.

3rd to last day in China

I am going to blog about the island we are staying on. The resort we are staying in is really sweet. I like it a lot because it is quiet. You don't hear the horns that you do when you stay in the city which is really nice. I feel at peace because we are away from lots of people and don't have to push your way through people to get somewhere. The room itself is different than from what we are used to staying in. You have the normal two beds but this time we have mosquito nets because the mosquito's here are very bad. I have probable 20 bites on my leg from them already. Also we have a separate room where you can smoke if you are a smoker or just a place to hang out and chill. Finally, you have your bathroom which is just a normal bathroom other then that it takes 30 minutes for the hot water to work again. The island itself is beautiful. We are separated from the mainland. They have condos all over the place and little markets. There are restaurants and bars which is nice. The lights are really cool to see at night. It looks amazing. Also, there a little rivers that run through the island. We were able to take a boat ride on the river and I enjoyed the scenery greatly. I really like this island and wish we could stay longer.

Potty in the Streets? 6/12

Bathrooms in China are much different from the types of toilets we are typically used to. There were a few places there that had similar toilets and on that occasion it was a treat. Toilet paper was also another issue when it came to the bathrooms in China, because it was often absent. Many times we had to bring our own toilet paper with us to insure we had some. One of the strangest things of all to see though was children who had pants on with a rip from front to back so they were able to go to the bathroom where ever when ever, and that can be taken literally. There were a couple places where we saw some very strange places for children to go to the bathroom. The first unusual thing we saw was when a young girl near us just pulled down her pants and started peeing. We were a bit shocked because we could not believe that just happened. Another occurred when we were all in a group waiting for everyone to get together and a young boy and his dad were standing next to us in a very public location. The dad held open the rip for the young boy to go to the bathroom very close to where we were standing. After that we saw many people walk right through it and it was a little disturbing. Things like that would never happen in the states, it just wouldn't. Young kids would be wearing diapers, but seeing they are overly expensive in China they do not. It is also illegal to urinate in public in the states, but I have never heard of a 4 year old getting a ticket for that.

What's The Best Deal You Can Give Me? 6/11

In China we have had the fun experience of bargaining; some of us have had this experience before here and in other countries, but either way it is fun. It is nice knowing that we can have part control in the price we pay for items, and back home there is no exception. It is also just fun trying to see how much, or shall I say how low, we can bargain an item. It has been one of the many great experiences we have had here in China, and it also makes buying gifts for friends and family back home more enjoyable because we know we aren't spending an arm and a leg on them. Back home bargaining is really not an option, but on this trip I have learned that when you go to Best Buy and buy a computer you can ask, "Is this the best price you can give me?" I never knew that before, and granted it will not be useful to me for a while, but it was the closest comparison to the bargaining system here.

Drinking 6/10

There are numerous differences between the legalities of drinking in China and the U.S. Starting with the age you have to be in order to drink. Obviously as we all know you must be twenty one years of age to drink in the states, but in China if you can pop your little head above the bar and have money there would be no one stopping you except your parents. Also, you cannot normally walk around in public drinking any sort of booze, there exceptions made during certain events that are taking place, but during those events there is also a lot of law enforcement put in place to make sure everything goes ok. In China you might get looked at funny for walking around the streets drinking, but there is no one stopping you. One of the differences about drinking that I found the most odd was being able to drink in a motor vehicle as long as you are not the operator. No matter what under any circumstances in the states you are not allowed to even have booze in the vehicle unless it hasn't been open and is in the trunk. There are so many differences between so many things and this is just another that I noticed while in China.

Friendships 6/9

Friendships are made all around the world between all different types of people; the only difference between the friendships is what defines them. In the states there are many different friendships we consider many people friends even if we haven't spoke with or seen them in years. We know they are they and we know we have grown apart a bit but you just like to say they are still your friend. While in China we learned that they consider friends what we consider true friends, if you are friends with someone you are close with and communicate often with them. Many friendships are broken everyday in the states, and from the way it sounds that is not the same in China. It takes people a little while to open up with one another and once they have it is hard for them to break that trust, where as for us here in the states we take friendships for granted along with many other things. Another this that sets us is apart is for two females to have friendships you will not often see them holding hands, and if they are they often get pegged as "gay", and that is something that will rarely happen in China.

June 17, 2009

Friendly People

On one of our last days in China, Shane and I were wandering through a park in Shanghai and were approached by two different groups of young Chinese women that were on vacation there. Both groups were extremely friendly and wanted to chat with us, and of course practice their English. The first group we met included four women from Hangzhou. They were all very well spoken and really interested in becoming our friends. They talked to us for about 10-15 minutes and by the end invited us to tea tasting at a local tea house. Unfortunately, we hadn't been through the museum yet and had to meet up with the group so we had to decline. They were sad to see us wander off, but told us what direction to head to get to the museum. After we left the first group, we ran into a group of three women that were from Xi'an, the place Shane and I went to see the Terra Cotta Warriors! They were all very friendly and very eager to meet Americans. They were upset to find out that we had already been to Xi'an because they told us that they would have liked to take us around the city and be our own personal tour guides. After talking for about 10-15 minutes, again, this group was sad to see us go but we had to be on our way through the museum. The two encounters while walking through the park really surprised me. The two groups were so extremely friendly and really wanted to be our friends and I thought that was just amazing. Something like that wouldn't ever happen in the USA. It was another once in a lifetime experience in China.

June 16, 2009

June 11th

This day we arrived in the craziest city I have ever been to in my life, Shanghai. The amount of people is unbelievable and guaranteed to give you a big headache. The experience I want to talk about was our night that we had, that was set up by our guide Joe. Since one of his friends had connections to one of the better clubs in Shanghai, we were able to get VIP at the club. I have never walked into a place with a feeling similar to a celebrity. We were taking to our tables where we were provided with platters of fruit. We also had multiple waiters taking our orders while delivering them as soon as we ordered them. We also had bouncers that kept other patrons to walk by our tables which made our drinks and bags safe to keep while we were dancing. There were also performances by dancers from the club and no they were not the exotic type of dancers. It was overall entertaining night in which I got to live like I was in a dream and not in reality. The most special aspect of the night was that it was our last night for our group to be all together one last time. It was fun talking about previous things that happened and to laugh while becoming future lifelong friends. I thought this was a good send off before we had to get back to reality back in the states.

June 10th

This day was the morning after staying at one of the most amazing hotels I have ever seen. The day before we got a taste of what are hotel would be like. The hotel was basically a community on a island that we needed a boat to get to. On this island included our hotel, many businesses, restaurants, and homes where locals live. It has a river flowing through the middle of it giving you a feel that you're in Venice, Italy. We were able to take a boat ride at night which gave us beautiful sites from the water and the lit up buildings that left you amazed. The villas we got to stay in for a night were interesting as well. We had to take turns with the shower because of the water heater, window into the bathroom, and bug nets around the bed. Breakfast the next morning while talking to Dr. Li he informed us that there going to build an amusement park in the community. I am interested to find out what they would put in such a park, how much would it help businesses, and if it is a worthy investment for the builder. That night stay was a breathtaking experience that would be great to take your significant other for a week stay to take a break from everyday life.

June 12, 2009

Last Day

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Today was our last full day in China, so unfortunately this will be my last blog. Tomorrow at 8:35AM we start our long trip back home. During our last day in Shanghai we visited a market, walked around the Shanghai museum, and then visited the one of the tallest buildings in the world. The building holds the record for the highest occupied floor. I still cannot believe a month has passed already, the time really flew by. I have a feeling that when I arrive back in America I am going to experience what is known as reverse culture shock. When I arrived in China I was expecting many things to be different so I was prepared as best I could. Upon returning to Minnesota many things that I once found normal will feel strange, at least for a short time. It will take me time to readjust to the driving back in the states. China’s driving is crazy and there doesn’t seem to be many laws, the important thing it to just be aware of the other drivers. I am probably most excited to get home and eat all the food I have been craving over the past four weeks. My stomach was not so happy with me throughout the beginning of the trip. My diet has changed significantly since arriving in China and my body will have to readjust to American style food, consisting of a lot of salt, grease, and my favorite, cheese. Another thing I am expecting to experience is English overload. While in China my ears have been fine tuned to pick up any English I hear in crowds, once I get back to America I believe I will become overwhelmed. I won’t be able to screen the noise for a while, however, I am excited to be able to ease drop on people again and now what others are talking about. When you don’t speak the foreign language you sometimes get a little paranoid that they are all talking about you, especially when they point, laugh, and take your picture. Lastly, the overall crowdedness will be extremely different once I get back. My personal bubble has had to shrink a lot since arriving in China, one I’m back in Minnesota I will have so much space! I’ve had an awesome four weeks in China and couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish out my college career. Once I get back home it’s back to the real world and looking for a job. I guess it is finally time to be a grown up.

Shanghai Nice...

We have been in Shanghai for two days now. This is the eve of our flight home. We are all pretty tired and ready to go home. I wish I were jumping on the plane right now, rather than in 13 hours. Yesterday, we visited the Shanghai Museum and a shopping mall. We took the subway between the two. Throughout this one month adventure, I have been extremely impressed with the fashion in which China moves people. Rarely during our excursions is there a long wait. There are always people everywhere, but the infrastructure is designed and built to handle a very large sum of people quickly and efficiently. Katie and I decided to leave the mall early and take the subway back to the museum and get an early start because we are usually the last ones out of these types of places. While walking from the subway to the museum, we encountered two groups of young, female Chinese students. We stick out in a crowd of Chinese people; in addition, I had my t-shirt on with all of our names printed on the back. They were really drawn to my shirt. They had many questions for us as we had roughly a fifteen minute conversation with each group. They were very interested in hearing about us and why we were in China. Both groups went so far as to invite us with them to their destination. One group was going to a nearby tea house and wanted us to come with, offering multiple times. Katie and I both said if we had more time, we would be happy to join them. One made a comment that she thought the USA was “strong and mighty” but then suggested that “we were so nice.” I wanted to say that “well, we are strong and mighty,” but figured she might take it literally and that we were arrogant. I wondered if this would ever happen in the United States (people coming up for casual conversation). Katie and I both decided that this would be a rare occasion in the US. However, it has happened countless times in China during our trip. I have thoroughly enjoyed and cherished every moment of this great opportunity (even the morning after the big night out in Beijing!) and am very excited to have built some friendships with both my American counterparts and Chinese as well.

Shanghai - Day 5 (6/12/09)

This is our last day in Shanghai, and our last day in China really (we only have the trip to the airport tomorrow and the long flight(s) back). I have experienced so much throughout this entire trip; it is quite difficult to sum it up in this short blog. I hope I can stay in contact with the Chinese students I have met during this trip, Facebook should help, but I do hope that I can meet them again someday, maybe even back in the United States. That said, I am excited to be getting back to the United States and seeing my friends and relatives there again, and I am also missing the food a lot. I hope that I will remember these experiences that I have had in China for the rest of my life, but if I do not I should have enough pictures to recall most of the things that we have done here during this once in a lifetime experience. Returning to the United States is both a happy and a said experience for me; having to say goodbye to new friends, but also looking forward to seeing old friends; wanting to see more things yet also wanting to relax and take a break; wanting to try new foods, but also wanting to get back to the foods that I am accustomed to. I just hope that I can use many things that I have learned during this trip in my everyday life and also when I start working for a company in the future. Maybe I'll be coming back to China one day to utilize the various things that I have learned over there for use in business practice. P.S. if you are going to be in the Shanghai area again next year, make sure to rehire Joe. He had to be one of the best tour guides I've ever seen and made the trip a lot more entertaining and enjoyable.

June 11, 2009

Shanghai

Today we finally arrived in Shanghai China. It took us an hour bus ride to reach Shanghai and when we arrived we visited a few local markets as well as the Shanghai museum. We had to take the Shanghai subway to travel between the mall and the museum. A one way ticket cost 3 RMB which is about $0.40, much less than a way one ticket would cost in any American subway. The one thing I noticed while in the Shanghai subway was how clean it was. The few American subways I have traveled on have always been dirty, dark, and smelly. Shanghai on the other hand was clean, well lit, and didn’t have any offensive odors. Also In many American subways one can find numerous homeless people. The Shanghai people had none. There was a few people collecting cans and bottles and selling typical tourist items. I found it very surprising that a city of about 18 million can have so little homeless and preserve their public transportation systems so well. Overall I have been very impressed with China’s public transportation systems. The ones I have ridden have all been clean and well organized. For the amount of people China’s government has to accommodate, they do a very good job in meeting the public’s needs. In my opinion America has a very poor public transportation system. The buses, trains, and other modes of public transportation I have taken have all been poor. The U.S. has not organized and the different systems as effectively as other countries have. Other differences between the two countries transportation systems are the usage rates. In America the public transportation is not fully utilized by the people. The trains and buses I have been on in China have all been packed and filled to capacity. America could learn a few things from China’s public transportation system in terms of organization and coordination.

Shanghai - Day 4 (6/11/09)

Today was quite a fun day, and going out to the club is probably a night I will never forget (though it was on the expensive side, even when compared to a club back in the States). One thing really surprised me about dinner today. There were many different people eating at the particular restaurant (most seemed to be white), and there was a performance being done on stage. We seemed to be the only people in the entire restaurant that clapped for the performers and I thought that was rather weird. Honestly I do not exactly know why we were the only ones clapping for the performers, whether the other people were just rude, did not enjoy their performance enough, or were too involved with their meals to take a few seconds to clap for the performers. The performers only did about four different performances and I do not know whether this was because the people seemed uninterested or whether they had planned only to do a short performance, and maybe I'll never know. Personally I thought their performances were good and the guy who was playing the gourd instrument was pretty good, the best gourd player that I've seen. The dancers were also pretty good at what they did, and performed a large variety of styles in different outfits. Another thing that I noticed was that we were pretty much the only ones in the entire restaurant (that I could see) that were using the chopsticks instead of the forks that we were given. Many people seem to stick with what they are used to rather than trying something new (this could also be seen by the types of food that were being eaten from their tables). I just hope that people would show a little more respect for other cultures and interest in what other people are trying to do to entertain them and not be so rude when others are trying their best.

June 10, 2009

Wu Zhen

Today, our travels have brought us to Wu Zhen which I believe I heard referred to as “Venice of the East.” The town essentially has waterways instead of roads. There are still a few roads and sidewalks still run up and down the water streets. I thought this to be one of the more interesting places that we have visited this trip. I definitely would not have minded an extra day here. Wu Zhen has preserved its antiquity well as the people seem to live a very simple, seemingly isolated life. The environment, almost car-less is far different than we have experienced in the last few weeks. Today was rather quiet, not as many horns honking, people shouting. Tonight, there was a welcomed silence that filled the streets after 9 pm. The locals mostly were in their humble abodes while we were wandering, looking for the next cold beer and some tunes. This was a welcomed respite from the normal hustle and bustle of the big city. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. We are staying on an island, accessible by boat. We have taken a couple of rides on the water canals. The rides are so serene and peaceful; and very quiet, especially at night. The waterways are lit well at night and there is steam on some parts. Some great pictures were taken tonight; I cannot wait to see how they turn out. The bridges are beautiful, some ornate, some just plain. I have to respect the locals for sharing this wonderful Chinese treasure with a bunch of Megorans. When I revisit China, Wu Zhen is definitely on the list for places to see.

Cord Houle: Su Zhou

Today we were in Su Zhou, the Venice of china. The city was very beautiful and we were able to see parks that resembled what I imagine when I think of china. We visited a couple of gardens that were filled with amazing history as well as some amazing architecture. These places had a lot of beauty even though it was raining all day. The best garden we visited was tiger hill. This garden covers a lot of area and was very peaceful with amazing vistas. Tiger hill was also home to the Chinese version of the leaning tower of pizza. Tiger hill had many sights and gardens which were some of the most amazing things I have seen since I have arrived in china.

The downtown area by our hotel in Su Zhou was full of all kinds of shops. Not just tourist shops but also places that local people would go. There was a mall that was five levels high and many small stores that sell very unique cloths. Seeing all this makes me wish I had more to spend so I could buy some of the unique cloths offered by the small stores. We also came across an American style restaurant. This place had Tex-Mex as a specialty. While much of the menu sounded delicious, the prices were rather steep so we spent only a short amount of time here before moving on and exploring a different area of the city. We eventually found a bar that was more of a local spot and had more eastern food and cheaper drinks. We decided to patron this place for a bit as it had a great atmosphere and was close to the hotel. I would say that this city, while the weather was bad, was a very spectacular place to visit.

Age

While at the Tiger Hill garden we learned from Joe that when a child is first born they are considered one year old. Also if the child is born after the Chinese New Year they are considered two years old. I was really confused by this until he said that he was born in 1983 and called himself twenty seven years old. Katie was also born in 1983 and she is called 25 years old in the United States. This way of age really surprised me. How does this affect the expected lifetime of a person when dealing with insurance of statistical data. Does this apply when they are traveling internationally? I also want to know how this custom began, because when a person is born how are they even seen as having completed a year. How does having a Chinese New Year occurring after you are born seen as another year. I just want to know why this is considered a completion of a year of life.

Age

While at the Tiger Hill garden we learned from Joe that when a child is first born they are considered one year old. Also if the child is born after the Chinese New Year they are considered two years old. I was really confused by this until he said that he was born in 1983 and called himself twenty seven years old. Katie was also born in 1983 and she is called 25 years old in the United States. This way of age really surprised me. How does this affect the expected lifetime of a person when dealing with insurance of statistical data. Does this apply when they are traveling internationally? I also want to know how this custom began, because when a person is born how are they even seen as having completed a year. How does having a Chinese New Year occurring after you are born seen as another year. I just want to know why this is considered a completion of a year of life.

Age

While at the Tiger Hill garden we learned from Joe that when a child is first born they are considered one year old. Also if the child is born after the Chinese New Year they are considered two years old. I was really confused by this until he said that he was born in 1983 and called himself twenty seven years old. Katie was also born in 1983 and she is called 25 years old in the United States. This way of age really surprised me. How does this affect the expected lifetime of a person when dealing with insurance of statistical data. Does this apply when they are traveling internationally? I also want to know how this custom began, because when a person is born how are they even seen as having completed a year. How does having a Chinese New Year occurring after you are born seen as another year. I just want to know why this is considered a completion of a year of life.

day 23

Today we arrived in another city. In this one, it is all shaped like the ancient times. Honestly for some odd reason I thought that it would look way different. As soon as I stepped into the place it felt like walking into an old movie. I the thing that I thought was the most interesting is how when we were walking in the part with the attractions, it felt like we were walking through the streets back in the day. While we were walking I notice that so far out of all the tourist places we have went to, today's attraction had the most people that spoke Cantonese. In fact I stopped by a couple that spoke more like me and I asked them where they were from and they were actually from the same place as Jack,Hao and I are from. Sadly to say since I was in such a hurry I did not really have a conversation with them. Out of all the hotels I have been to I think this one is the most interesting. The reason being is that it reminds me of living back in the days. I really enjoy the windows because I think that is the best feature that best matches the times. Another thing that I thought that was really interesting is how we got to the hotel. How many places can you honestly say that you got to your room by boat. Once you get over there there are many shops also. As you walk by it also makes you feel like you are back in the day.

Water Living

Being on the water in Wuzhen is a whole new experience. We have visited a lot of different places in China, but today we got to experience life on a river in the old architecture of Wuzhen. The buildings are the river walls and there are stairs going to the water everywhere. I saw an abundance of people washing dishes and clothes in the, what looked to be, very dirty water in Wuzhen. The community around the water is very welcoming, but the living amenities didn’t seem extravagant. The houses seemed quite small and the transportation throughout the community, like sidewalks/roadways were very thin. It was hard to not get run over by a bike today.
My favorite part of today was riding in the first boat right when we walked into the tourism area. Eight of us got on and paid 10 Yuan each to take the boat to the other end of the area. It was a really unique view of the city from the water and I really enjoyed the experience. I love the old wooden boat driven by one person with one paddle. You just don’t see things like that in the USA. I really like the area and am enjoying the new feel of China from the water!!

Tiger Hill

We went to Tiger Hill and it was a beautiful garden. It was raining but that did not stop us from enjoying our time there. My cousin had told me about this before I left, so I was really looking forward to this. I was very impressed with the size and how it was laid out. There were many areas that had water, which is always cool to see. I saw a group touching a rock and asked Dr. Li what they were doing. If you touched the rock once, you would get fortune, if you touch it twice, you would get a promotion, if you touch it three times, you will commit adultery. I only touched it once, which seemed like the best one for me as of right now. I wish that America would have places to go that were as beautiful as the gardens here. Everything about the garden was gorgeous. Duluth has similar nature centers, but not even close to what we saw at Tiger Hill. It used to be a Buddhist temple, but obviously now it is a tourist attraction. There is a tower, it now leans at the bottom to the right and the top to the left, that used to have a wood building around it, but burnt down due to a fire from incense. I would definately go back to Tiger Hill when I come back to China whenever that happens!

Shanghai (Wu Zhen) - Day 3 (6/10/09)

Today we left Suzhou and visited a few different places. My favorite place was Wu Zhen which was basically China's version of Venice. The people seemed to mainly use the road but there were a few boats (they were mostly for tourists and visitors though that I could see). The place was also littered with shops and also residents who lived there, which was quite interesting. There were also sections which you could enter with your ticket and see various things, but none of those were very interesting. We met a little dog which was 2 months old, very small and liked to play. I talked to some other Chinese tourists when we went to the beginning of the second portion of Wu Zhen, before going to the hotel. I don't remember exactly where they were from but they were medical students/practitioners that were from about 100km away. Their leader or tour guide, I'm not exactly sure which told one of their members that they looked like me and that's what got us started talking to each other. He was talking about that they were touring this portion of Wu Zhen and that it was quite beautiful (which I agree with). They had to leave so we said zai jian to them and they departed. Next we're going to take a boat trip around the area which I'm quite excited for. I can't believe that the trip is almost over, it really doesn't feel like its been nearly a month since we arrived.

Grandmas are Always Cute

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We are winding down our month long trip in China, only two more days then back to Minnesota. Today we visited a Buddhist temple as well as an old Chinese town along a river. In the little city we met a little old lady who lived by herself along the river. We were able to walk through her house, look at a few of her belongings, and take a picture with her. The attached picture is of her little garden on her porch. She was very cute and reminded me of my grandma back in the U.S. She kept calling all us boys very handsome and was running around her little house pointing out different pictures on the wall. At one point she pulled out a few photo albums and began flipping through the. Dr. Li had to translate for us and that was even difficult because the woman spoke a different dialect. She had different magazine and news paper clippings and a plaque given to her by the silk factory that she worked for when she retired. My grandma also loves talking to people, no matter who they are. She loves showing old pictures, talking about her family and just her life in general. This lady had explained that her husband had passed away and her children are all gone, working in different areas throughout China. My grandma has pictures of all of her grandchildren in her apartment and loves telling stories about us to all of her friends. It was just interesting to see that grandmothers are very similar in China to the ones in America, or at least mine. Seeing this little old lady with her crafts table and sewing machine made me miss my grandma back in Nebraska because she too loves making crafts. My grandma makes me quilts and other gifts that only a grandmother could make. It was an awesome unexpected experience meeting the old lady. Like I said at the end of our chat we took a group picture with her and wrote down her address because she wanted a copy herself.

June 9, 2009

CD: V

Today, we got to Suzhou at the afternoon. The Chinese said, " There is heaven on the sky, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on the earth." After we visited the Tiger Hill and Lingering Garden, I think Suzhou it is a very beautiful place. The Tiger Hill is the most famous place in Suzhou. If you travel to Suzhou and don't go to the Tiger Hill, it will be a shame. In Pisa, it is famous of its Leaning Tower. But in China, we also got our best leaning tower, which it is in the Tiger Hill. Even thought today's weather is not very good, it was raining all the day. But with the rain, everything I saw just gave me a different kind of feeling. And of course, it is good feeling. After the Tiger Hill, we also went to visit the Lingering Garden. In Chinese, we called it " Liu Garden." Liu means stay in Chinese. So base on the characters I think it means, once you are in the garden, you would not want to leave, you would like to stay there as long as you could. I think the best part of the Lingering Garden is the lake. It is so beautiful! As you walk around the garden, you will hear somebody is singing and playing traditional Chinese music. If it wasn't the bad weather we had today, I really wish we could stay longer in there.

Suzhou is a very pretty city, it has many traditional Chinese buildings, but also mixture with many modern buildings. If I have chance, I want to go travel there again. Because one day in Suzhou is totally not enough for me to go shopping and trt different kind of food.

Chinese Gardens

We visited two beautiful Chinese gardens in Suzhou today after spending last night in Wuxi. We started with Tiger Hill and then proceeded to The Lingering Garden. Too bad it was raining all day! The whole experience would have been more enjoyable with no rain. However, we all withstood the rain pretty well with our $1.50 umbrellas. Despite the inclement weather, the grounds were beautiful, with much greenspace. China has much more in terms of green areas (trees, shrubs, flowers, grass, etc.) than I expected to see. Beijing was absolutely beautiful with well-groomed shrubbery and flowers at every turn. There are even extensive gardens in the median on the freeway system. I believe much of the greenery in Beijing is a direct result of the Olympic Games held in August of last year. Tianjin was not nearly as green as Beijing. Tianjin has many parks, but not nearly as much greenspace as Beijing. Wuxi and Suzhou (the last two days) are considerably smaller than Beijing and Tianjin, but both cities have displayed tremendous examples of beautiful parks and gardens that our group has thoroughly enjoyed. One has to wonder what kind of “army” is required for all of this grooming, watering, upkeep, etc. All of the above mentioned cities spend considerable amounts of money and capital on maintaining their “face.” This face has in part allowed China to grow more as an International tourist destination. China does not seem to be as popular as a tourist destination for US citizens, but is becoming an increasingly popular destination for many others throughout the world. China’s reputation, political environment, and human rights standards have been improved in the last two decades, making it a more attractive destination for many. The thousands of gardens and parks in China only add to the attractiveness by providing absolutely gorgeous areas in the middle of a busy city.

Water

We have traveled through a few cities in China and seen a lot of different sources of water, but not a single one of them would I have had the courage to swim in. Yesterday, in Wuxi, I got an up close view of a river that flowed through the city and it was disgusting! There was garbage all over the banks, the river was really cloudy, and crap was floating in it as it flowed under the bridge I was standing on. There was a river boat tied up to the bank and it looked like they were just throwing crap overboard as well. What is even harder for me to take in is that people fish on these lakes and rivers and eat the fish they take from them. I think as Americans we take our clean water sources as a kind of “given.” It wasn’t that long ago that some of our lakes and rivers were very polluted, and some of them we are still trying to clean up (the Port of Green Bay or Gary, IN for instance). We obviously have lasting effects from our days of heavily polluting our lakes and rivers, such as the mercury levels in our fish. I love the water, so it is very hard for me to see the pollution in China. I know from here on out I will not take any lake or river in the USA for granted!

Shanghai (Suzhou) - Day 2 (6/09/09)

We really packed today with things to do, and even taken the silk factory activity from tomorrow and moved it to today; this was mainly because we didn't spend too much time at Tiger Hill or the Lingering Garden due to the rain. There really is not much rain it seems in China as compared with most of the United States, but today had to be an exception. Honestly the rain had its good and bad points of the day. The good side mainly being that it made the gardens we visited less crowded and more beautiful overall. This showed up in the pictures that I took throughout the day, many were very interesting and turned out very well. My favorite place we visited today had to be Tiger Hill. Many of us purchased umbrellas when we arrived for ten RMB. The umbrellas themselves were not the best umbrellas; they allowed rain through the center which was not sealed properly so we were getting dripped on even under the umbrella (after all they were quite cheap at about $1.50). It was at Tiger Hill that many of my most beautiful pictures (in my opinion) were taken. Tiger Hill had a variety of different things from the various stones which had different uses, to the leaning tower in the center on the hill, to the wonderful views from the hill, and finally to the garden there which was quite beautiful with many types of bonsai scattered throughout the garden. There were also a number of shops once we exited selling various items which could be negotiated in price like the markets in Beijing. Hopefully tomorrow it will not rain as it did today.

I Wish I Knew the Metric System...

Only five days left in China and today we visited Suzhou, a city located about 40 minutes for Wuxi. Today we visited two Chinese gardens and a silk factory. My favorite thing we did was visit Tiger Hill. Unfortunately it was raining today, the hardest it has our entire trip. Throughout the trip there has been one thing that always causes confusion for me, the metric system. America is one of the only places in the world that has yet to adopt the metric system and I really wish they would. Everything in China is in Kilograms, kilometers, and meters. I have a basic understanding of the two units however I cannot fully grasp their actual value. Our tour guides will say we are about 25 kilometers for our stop; I have no idea how far that actually is. I know a kilometer is just over half a mile, but in my head I cannot visualize the actual distance like I could if someone told me that our stop is 15.5 miles away. The metric system is in China is just another barrier for we Americans to try an overcome. It is just a constant reminder that we are different from the rest of the world and that we are stubborn. Honestly, it would be make a lot of things easier for the US citizens traveling abroad and the world in general if the U.S. were to adopt the metric system. I went to weigh myself yesterday and it gave me my weight in kilograms, I then had to go to my computer and find an online converter into pounds. Food packages are also in kilograms as well as other everyday objects. I have no idea how many kilograms I could pickup/carry; my only option is to try and pick it up and hope for the best. It would be extremely tedious for the US to start switching over to the metric system and convert everything. Children should start being taught the metric system in school so they are better prepared for the world when they are older. U.S. adults should also do their part and try and educate themselves on the metric system. I am not sure if the US will ever officially adopt the metric system, I wish they would have about 22 years ago so when I go to China I would know how to do simply measurements and be in sync with the rest of the world.

Foods

I am going to blog about the differences in food from the north and south that I have seen thus far. The north is focused more on meat like pork, lamb, beef, etc. The south I have noticed is more into the seafood type of food. They eat lots of fish and like shrimp a lot as well. The food down here is also a little sweeter and better tasting from my point of view. I really liked the food in the north to but down here it just seems better to me. The only problem with the food is that a lot of the things have bones in them. You have to work at the food a lot more which gets kind of annoying. Even the beef that we had the other day had bones in it and it became a struggle for me to eat. I am interested to see what the street food has to offer because in the north it had a lot of meat. I am going to guess that the street food here is going to have more fish food types of things. The vegetables are basically the same but I notice they don’t eat as much down here. Up in the north we would have huge plates full of vegetables and there would be a variety. Down here in the south there seems to be only one or two plates of vegetables. They also start the meals out a little different as well. When we walk into the restaurant they have some vegetables and fruits on the table already instead of it being empty when we walk in. Also, there seems to be a greater tendency of us drinking beer at the table. We have had beer at every meal thus far. In the north I believe it was our last meal that we had the choice of having beer. Those are just some of the differences I see. There still is the emphasis on family dinner and it all tastes good.

Solar power

Throughout our trip in China I have wondered how they get electricity to power various things. The most popular source I have seen is solar power. I have seen only one other source and they were power lines. The only time I really remember seeing them so noticeably was on our way to the great wall in Beijing. After traveling through the cities we have solar energy is definitely popular with housing and powering street lights. Seeing how they use solar energy to power such things as street lights was very interesting. Even though it might not be the most attractive thing to see but I am sure its very cost efficient. I do not know how much they save, but I wonder if it would be as cost efficient in the United States. Obviously the U.S. is not as big and less populated we drive a lot farther than the Chinese. From my understanding we drive from more rual areas to the city and travel on highways so I think it would be worth considering. Some things we would have to take into account are first if it is cost efficient, is it worth switching from another source, and would Americans accept the site of it. On the other side of powering apartment complex I believe is different. We do not nearly have the amount of people in small areas or the buildings comparable to China. So I think it would not be realistic for the U.S. to undergo a major change in that regard. I know China uses windmill, but I have not seen them. I would like to see the number of how many China has compared to the U.S.

First Day in Southern China- Wuxi

The train ride was not that bad even though it was around 14 hours. It was a little different than my last train ride experience granted it was in the US. I took a five-hour train ride from Winona, MN to Chicago and thought that is was a great ride. Last night, we had four people in a cabin that had two sets of bunk beds in it and a small table in the middle. It was probably six feet wide and maybe 8 feet long. It was the size of a very small bathroom that would only have a sink and a toilet. We also had to pack our entire luggage in it, which made the cabin a little tight. Since it was an overnight ride, we slept or watched a movie.

This morning was difficult to want to do anything but sleep. When we got off the train, I saw a sign for McDonald’s and wanted an egg mcmuffin. Dr Li said no. We went to the hotel and had an amazing breakfast. It was the first time here that it was a breakfast that we would have at a hotel in the states. I feel that this would have been the least likely to have a western style breakfast. Our tour guide, Joe, said that there is very little tourist stuff to do in Wuxi. After hearing that and thinking about breakfast, I am amazed that I was able to order an omelet with bacon, ham, peppers, mushrooms, and other veggies. Tomorrow we are off to Tiger Hills in Suzhou, which is what I have been looking forward to since my cousin, who lived in Suzhou for a couple years, told me about it. Off to bed, have to be up bright and early!

Suzhou // Chinese Gardens

Today was a picturesque day in Suzhou, China, though some may not agree since it was raining. Though in my opinion, walking through the gardens in the rain was peaceful. This is the type of atmosphere I imagined China to be outside of the city before coming here. Although these gardens were in the city places like this do exist, much of China in the cities are not as peaceful and serene as it is in the gardens. As I watched the large lily pads fill up with water and bend over, pour the water out over and over again I began to get the same feeling I would get from being out at my cabin during the summer sitting on the dock when the lake is still and no one is around. It's a feeling of solitude and absent-mindedness. I felt totally unaware of the fact that I was in Suzhou surrounded by 6 million other people within a little over 5,000 square miles.

If I come back to China again in the future I will definitely want to visit Suzhou again. Also I would recommend to anyone coming to China to take a visit through here. I am also loving the types of food here. The dishes we've been having in southern China have been some of my favorite. To those who wonder what it's like ... you have to come and try it first hand to fully experience it's greatness. I will miss the food here when we leave.

day 22

Today we are in a different city. I feel kind of sad that it rained all day. I heard alot of things about the Tiger Hill. I was expecting it to be better. From what people have sad they mad it like the place isone of the best places to visit. What I do find interesting is the pagoda. I think that it is kind of weird how they did not even notice that it was leaning towards the right until five stories later.

Another place we visited was the Lingering Garden. Compared to the Summer Palace, I enjoyed the garden more. The reason being is that this place is not as big. The garden also looks more like the culture. I really like the winy paths made of rocks. As I was walking through the place it felt like I was in one of the old Chinese movies.

Tonight we were side by side another tourist bus. Inside that bus there was a little Chinese girl with the biggest eyes I have ever seen. I thought that it was really weird to see this. The reason being is usually when you meet Chinese people they have small eyes. I have noticed that a lot of the children around China are getting bigger. To me this is weird to see because I am so use to seeing everyone all skin and bones. It is good to see that kids are actually getting the nutrients they need and are living a good and healthy lifestyle.

Wuxi

Monday June 6 was a very long day after we had a 14-hour train ride from Tianjin to Wuxi. We arrived here in Wuxi at about six in the morning and we had to start our tour at 8:30 am. The only thing that kept most of the group going was the great breakfast that we got. They had bacon, omelets, cereal, and many other things that most of us have not had since leaving home. But after that we went to the village that was supposed to be the richest in China. It was about an hour drive so I was just thinking to myself that I was going to see houses that where huge mansions really nice cars and big pools. I think I got this idea because that is was what most Americans think of when they think of rich. They think of the towns like Beverly Hills and other cities in California or Florida. But when we arrived that was not the case. The houses were nice but I thought that they looked like most of the house that you would find in my neighborhood. I also found a lot of the house looked alike. So I thought it was kind of weird to compare what the Chinese think of when you say rich and what Americans think of when you think of rich.

June 8, 2009

Cord Houle: Wu Xi day 1

Today we arrived in Wu Xi, stop one on our way to Shanghai, after a long night on a train followed by an early wakeup call. I had unfortunately not been aware we were basically starting our day in Wu Xi once the train unloaded which was about 5 am. So while running on about 4 hours of sleep we headed to the hotel for a quick shower and breakfast. This breakfast was the best one I’ve had since we arrived. I had cold milk bacon French toast and an omelet, not very Chinese cuisine, but amazing none the less. I attempted to let our friends back in Tianjin know we arrived safely; however, my SIM card must not work in this city because I am unable to get any signal.

Our first stop was one of the riches communities in China. While I was looking forward to see how it compared to America, I also reflected back on all the farmers we had met who had little or nothing in the way of net worth. The poor housing conditions and the lack of technology stood out most in my mind. We had been fortunate enough to be shown the less glamorous side of china as well as the booming metropolises with skylines of cranes. As we pulled in and started our tour I was surprisingly underwhelmed. I guess I was expecting Orange County extravagant but in reality it was maybe a little better than the average American community. While the level of living was way higher than anything I had to that point seen in China it was still a lot different than I expected for one of the riches communities in China. This fact drove home even more how I felt from seeing the poor farmers in the countryside. I think I appreciate much more now what I have back in the states now that I have seen a more realistic look at life in emerging economies.

We also went to see the Three Kingdoms amusement park were we saw the location the movie was filmed. We also learned a lot about the famous period in time when Wu Wei and Shu fought for rule over China. This look at a famous historical even that every Chinese person seems to be familiar with was an amazing experience. It also made me appreciate the amount of history China has as a nation. In America we might have a rich history but it only dates back about 300 years. China on the other hand has well over 2000 years of history! We got to watch some trained actors reenact the battle between Dong Zhou and Yuan Shao’s forces. The park was a fun look at the history of the three kingdoms time period and the well know Novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”.

day 21

Today, we arrived in Wuxi. The train ride was a very enjoyable ride. The reason being is that last year when we rode the train from Beijing to Qingdao if I remember correctly, we had to ride in the part where there were three beds on each wall. It was kind of creepy sleeping like that because we had to make sure we put all our valuables under our pillows when we went to bed. We also had to make sure that we had a guy sleeping on one of the beds. Plus another thing it was kind of weird how whenever people walked by they would just stare at us. I felt pretty happy with this train ride because we could have our own privacy and we did not have people staring at us while we were sleeping or awake.

I really enjoyed this city. I am sad to hear that we have to leave this city. I really felt more like we were at home. The reason being is there were barley any horn honking sounds. All the cars and busses stayed behind the cross walks. All the mini motorcycles all seemed like they went in a fashion order, instead of just driving everywhere. The taxi ride back to the hotel from the downtown area felt the same. The reason being it felt like the driver just swerved everywhere to get where they need to go. All in all that was okay because then we could just save money.

Today all the sites were very enjoyable. For the richest village, I actually expected something different. The reason being is from my own experience, I was always told that the houses are very nice, everyone drives a really nice car and the family has at least two children. The house that we visited, I was not very impressed with. I was kind of confused how that was a farmer’s house where as when we pass by the stuff that should have been the farmers homes. What I mean is that the homes that look like that were going to fall apart should have been the farmers’ homes. The place that we walked through should be like a middle class person’s home. The reason I think this is because the living room, no offence I felt that my uncles down in the South have a better tv and better furniture in their living room.

Manners

I was raised where in a family where manners definitely mattered. No elbows on the table, eat with your mouth closed, no bodily sounds at the dinner table or in the vicinity of my mom at least, and always say your please and thank yous. Being over here I have seen a culture that values respect and reputation. It just amazes me how we will emphasize different ways of showing repect. I asked the Chinese students if they would be allowed to burp or pass gas in the presence of their parents or grandparents and they said of course. I also saw a little girl at the miniature architecture area who pulls down her pants and underwear down and pees in front of seventeen strangers. Also when were at the three kings temple an older woman just let out the loudest fart ever right ext to me and Ashley. It makes me laugh at how cultures decide which values to emphasize and which ones not to.

You speak Chinese? Good. Wait.....

The official language of China is Mandarin although there are over one hundred dialects spoken. Many times, a specific dialect is only spoken in one or two small, usually neighboring communities. Sometimes the dialects are spoken in a much larger, regional area. Today was our first (and only) day in Wuxi and Dr. Li had trouble understanding the waitress during our lunch. Some of the words are the same or very similar in sound and meaning. In other cases, there are virtually no similarities in the phonetics of words in different regions. There are some regional differences in the United States as well, but one that speaks fluent English generally has no difficulty communicating in different areas of the country. As in China, there are a number of different accents that make understanding even more difficult in some situations. In da United States, up dare in Minnesotah, da people tink ve talk veird, but dare nuts, eh? Take off, eh? The point is that even if you are a fluent Mandarin Chinese speaker, there are still difficulties communicating sometimes even one or two communities away, let alone in the opposite end of the country. I would imagine that this makes travel somewhat difficult intra-country. Business travelers, students, vacationers, and others face a continual language barrier, much the same as our group does. The major difference is that most of us have little or no background with Mandarin. Knowing the complexity of the following proposal, I wonder how difficult it really would be to somehow achieve a more consistent, “base” language. Mandarin may be used as the base due to it not only being the official language, but also the most widely spoken. This process would take many, many years (perhaps generations), but would be useful in easing communication barriers both within China and also for foreign travelers.

You want me to pay to pee??

Today was the first time in my entire life that I have been asked to pay to go to the bathroom. A group of us went downtown Wuxi for some shopping and a little walking. When we got to the mall I realized that I had to use the bathroom and saw a sign that pointed to the "toilet" and followed, expecting that it would be like every other place we have been that has public restrooms. Well I was WRONG!!! I saw a sign for the "toilet" but when I tried to go up the stairs to go into the bathroom a guy at a table stopped me and told me it would cost me three Yuan to use the toilet. (Later, Christina told me that the three Yuan would at least get me some free toilet paper...thanks Christina) Can you believe that someone asked me to pay three Yuan to be able to perform a bodily function in a toilet?? Well, I turned my butt around and went and found a public restroom that was FREE. I am damn happy to be an American when it comes to bathrooms. We take these little things for granted some times - free toilet paper, free toilets, free soap, and almost always some paper towels or a working hand dryer! I can't wait to use my own bathroom in my own house when I get back to the USA!!!

Count down: VI

Today, after taking about fourteen hours of train, we finally got to Wuxi. After we got there, we were so tired. The sleeping in the train just made me feel more tired. Then we went to the hotel and checked in. After I took a bath, I felt very good and had many energy. But the good thing never last too long. After the delicious breakfast we had, I felt tired again. At the morning we went to visit the number one village in China, Huaxi Village. After I stepped out of the bus and had I look. I was so shocked, this village is really the richest in China. Each local family here have their own house, and I believe each of this kind of house would at least worth millions yuan. Then we also see many interested things like, the biggest drum, the biggest ox, and many ridiculously big pumpkins. After the tour, we had a special lunch on a boat, so that we can eating while enjoy the great lake views. The lunch is very good and very traditional. After the lunch, we went back to the hotel and bought the missing Jun with us to the Three Kingdom Cities. I really got many flashback when we were visiting there. It let me remember many scenes that have played on the Three Kingdoms series video games.
After all, I think Wuxi is a pretty good city. There are not as much cars as in Beijing and Tianjin. People do not seems to live in a rush hour life. But there is one thing I don't really like, which is the weather. When I went outside, I felt very hot and my body just keep sweating. Then I felt so sticky! Tomorrow we are heading to Suzhou, can't wait to see what does Suzhou look like. In the ancient China, people always said that there are many pretty girls in Suzhou. Tomorrow, we are either going to prove is or reject it. :)

12 Hour Train Ride and Wuxi

Well yesterday afternoon we said our farewells to Tianjin and boarded our train to Wuxi. The train ride took about a good 12 hours. We all passed the time by either watching movies, talking, or sleeping. I found the train ride to be very fun. It was a great experience. There's something about riding on trains ... the feel of being on one makes me feel like I'm back in a different time, as if it almost sparks a feeling of nostalgia for something you've never experienced. It was also one of the most comforting sleeps I had during the whole trip. I may want to take the Amtrak somewhere in the United States some time soon.

We arrived in Wuxi around 5:30 (don't quote me on the exact time, it was incredibly early that's all I know) and met our new tour guide, Joe. Today, aside from learning about Wuxi history and a bit about the Three kingdoms, we got to eat some local Wuxi food. A lot of the local food we had for lunch and supper reminded me of a more western style of Chinese food. A lot of it is typically sweeter and sometimes sour. I've also noticed that not a lot of us eat the soup that's always brought to us at every group dinner we have. The soup is always usually very good, but I think we're just too used to eating soup when we're sick or it's cold outside. It's a bit hard for me to eat/drink soup when it's over 90 degrees fahrenheit outside.

Continue reading "12 Hour Train Ride and Wuxi" »

Move Your Car

This morning we arrived in Wuxi, a city just outside of Shanghai. Similar to our first week in Beijing our first day was filled with numerous touristy activities. We have a new tour guide, his name is Joe and he likes to tell jokes. Joe’s English is probably the best out of all of our previous guides. While driving around the city of Wuxi we saw a few different car accidents, nothing major, just a few fender benders. The group however was getting annoyed because every time there was an accident in the road the Chinese people would not move their cars, they simply got out of their cars exactly where the incident took place and stood there. Also, a few people who witnessed the accident will come and stand in the street. This all adds the confusion and congestion of China’s traffic. It wasn’t until later in the day when Dr. Li explained that in China after an accident it is almost “illegal” to move your car until the police arrive. After a collision, the two parties exit the vehicle and determine whether or not the police need to be called, if they agree to call the police they must leave the cars exactly where they are. This is a little ridiculous in my opinion especially in areas with such high traffic. However, keeping the crime scene untouched allows the police to more accurately assess the situation and appoint blame. In American after an incident the two parties typically pull over to the side of the road and contact the police. But since the cars have been moved it is hard for the police to get a clear image of the situation, especially when the parties begin to lie to protect themselves. China’s way may seem to be more of a headache to the other drivers on the road, but by not moving their vehicles it actually helps the authorities evaluate the situation.

Planes and trains

Today we arrived early this morning in Wuxi via train. For my blog tonight I would like to compare traveling 12 plus hours in both a plane and train. I would first like to say that both went a lot better than I thought they would. About the train some of the different things I noticed were: you were able to smoke on the train, the bathrooms were basically a hole that led to the tracks below, you stayed in a small room with two sets of bunk beds, and some people had to stay with random individuals. The biggest pros for the train were the dinner we received, the ability to observe different areas of China through the window, able to walk around freely throughout the train, and also able to have conversations with many people. The cons for the train include the bathrooms were gross and had water all over the floor, the air conditioning was turned off later in the night, easy to hear others out in the hall, hard to fall asleep in a uncomfortable bed, and storage for luggage. The pros for the planes included movies and television shows throughout flight, quite and easier to fall asleep, and different views of terrain from above. The cons were the long lines for bathroom, food was not anything special, drinks and snacks were expensive, and not able to have conversations easily. Both also had some sort of delays, the train made frequent stops that were jerky but did not take long, and the plane they had quarantine checks after the flights landed. Overall, I preferred the plane since you could watch American movies and fall asleep much easier. The train was a lot nicer though then one might think with the food being amazing. It has been an interesting experience of traveling so far on this trip. Only 5 days left to the final flight and I look forward to anything planned next.

Shanghai (Wuxi) - Day 1 (6/08/09)

I learned some interesting things this morning from Professor Li on the train ride over to Wuxi. Many of the words used in the Chinese language are translated into Chinese quite literally. For instance primary school translates as little study, middle school translates as middle study, and the university level translates to big study. They basically take a root word for most things in a category and add on another descriptive word or two to arrive at a usable form. Some translate kind of weird, such as Pizza Hut which translates as "must beat up guest" and sounds kind of like a bad name for a restaurant. It's kind of interesting that even though Pizza Hut's name translates what to me seems to be horribly, they manage to perform well here in China. The literal translations can be useful sometimes but other times they really don't make a whole lot of sense such as cigar translating as "snow eggplant". Hopefully I'll be able to improve some of my Chinese speaking skills in this last week and learn more about how some words translate to English, I find it quite interesting and sometimes quite funny.

Some other interesting words:
America - Beautiful Country
Computer - Calculating Machine
Calculator - Calculating Tool
Dryer - Blowing Wind Machine
Cigarette - Rolled Smoke
Car - Gas Car
Train - Fire Car
Airplane - Flying Machine
Mountain Bike - Mountain Earth Car
Bike - Self-Walking Car
Bachelor's Degree - Study Guy
Master's Degree - Plenty Guy
Doctorate Degree - A lot of Guy

Natural Environment

Today we were all very amused with the monkeys and alligators. At the same time I felt a bit bad for the animals. The alligators only have a concrete pool with a little water to stay in, and the money was roped to the tree with about a foot of slack. I felt so bad for the monkey because he kept trying to tug on the rope so he could get closer to us. Finally the owner of the monkey went to play with him, along with the other guy. The other guy grabbed a stick and it looked like he was going to play with the monkey. Then we saw him start hitting the monkey in the face, I am still not sure if it was a game and the monkey was just bad at it or if he was punishing the monkey. Either way back in the states that wouldn’t exactly fly. We have so many animal rights people around that if one of them saw something like that happened there was be a protest for sure, if not an attempt at a lawsuit for animal cruelty. Back home we are always criticized for the way we treat our natural environment and the animals in it. Until now I don’t think we actually treat them that bad after seeing how things are done here in China. After seeing the monkeys and alligators we also saw horses that looked very unhealthy. Shane made a comment about how it was not good that you could see their hip bone. And for the environment, it is illegal to throw trash on the ground, and at some food vendors there they tell you to just throw your garbage on the ground and they will take care of it later. If that were said back home no one would believe that it would actually happen so someone would get in trouble.

Wu'Xi

I am going to blog about the city that we just got to today and describe some differences and similarities between other cities we have been. Wu'Xi is a more peaceful city. There is not as many people as the previous places we have been. I don't see as many big buildings as I have seen in Tianjin and Beijing. You can see that they are starting to modernize more by seeing the development of some buildings they plan on putting up. The infrastructure of these buildings is similar to the other cities. This city reminds me a lot of the United States. Professor Li and I were talking about this on the bus. There is more grass and trees. Everything is spread out and not clustered into one area. The city is very clean and well maintained. It is not the nicest city but it is way more comfortable to me because it reminds me of home. This city also has a major river that runs through it that goes all the way to Beijing. This river is used to hall materials up and down from the capital to the other cities along the river. The raw materials flow up the river for production and the finished goods come down as Joe was saying on the bus. This is an interesting fact because it makes sense why this would work. Most of the manufacturing is done in the major cities and most of the raw materials are found in less developed cities. Overall, this city is more peaceful and very relaxing. It is to bad were only staying one day.