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Shanghai: Day 3 (June 12)

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Today was the last full day we had in Shanghai. It was a relaxing day for the group. We started out visiting one of the famous Gardens in Shanghai. A shopping area surrounded the garden, and we got to explore the area after we were done. We had 5 hours to explore, but a few people wanted to go back early (including myself), so we decided to take the subway back to the hotel. We had taken it the night before, so we knew how to get around on it. It was a different experience. I had never been on a subway car before Shanghai. It was good that we only needed to ride one train to get to back to the hotel. However, once we got off the train, it was a different story. We kind of got lost. By 'kind of', I mean we thought we were lost, but we were actually going the right way, so we asked for help and got pointed in the wrong direction which caused us to actually get lost.
During all of this, I found out one cultural similarity: people love street performers. Apparently, when two people walking down the street get tired of looking for a hotel and begin to beat box (make cool noises with their voices that sound like music), passer-byers begin to clap and enjoy that music. It was cool to know that people in China wouldn't be freaked out or confused by two American kids making strange noises down the street. It was a nice way to end the trip.

PS: The taxi drivers in China are INSANELY FAST AND AMAZING DRIVERS!!!!!!!!

Suzhou

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Suzhou is very smoggy, but other than that, it was amazing! One place that I want to highlight is not one of the places that we were required to go, but for the KTV in Suzhou. It was AMAZING! The theme was Star Wars!!!! We arrived at the KTV and from the outside it looked like some sort of alien space craft. I then noticed that around the perimeter there were little statues of R2-D2 surrounding the building. Once inside, we were greeted by a Jar Jar Binks standing near a futuristic information desk/register. The halls they led us down felt like going down one of corridors of the Death Star, only with more lights. And as for the room we sang in, it was designed to look like a console room. The console we chose songs from even looked like it belonged in Star Wars. Once again, I could tell that the Chinese take their karaoke seriously.

this is it..

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It has been about one month in a foriegn land that is worlds apart from the one we all come from and I have to say... I dont think I am ready to leave just yet. When I first signed up for this program I figured that a month away would be the perfect amount but I have come to realize that this is really just scratching the surface for what this country really has to offer. We easily could have spent the entire time in any of the cities we visited and never ran out of things to do. In each city we toured multiple famous tourist sites a day when we could have spent the whole day just at one to really take it all in. All the tours felt like just a glimpse into what china really is and that there is so much more out there left to be learned and explored. This program has taught me so much more than any textbook, teacher or sit down classroom could have. Getting out and seeing all of the sites and how the Chinese people act in person gives you actual perspective on how everything truly operates over here. Not to mention meeting and interacting with all the people that you would never of dreamed you would ever cross paths with in a lifetime. I will miss every student from the Nankai University that I had the privilege to spend this last month with. I hope that in the future we can all stay in touch and see where we all end up. As for the UMD students, it as been a real pleasure getting to know everyone in this group and I hope that once we are all back in the states, we can still get together from time to time and stay close. Other than that, China, it has been a good ride but I guess it is time to say goodbye for now and get back home.

GG to PP

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Last blog in China definitely has to be about seeing little children going number 1 or 2 in public areas and facilities.

As many of you have seen, when mother nature calls the youth of China, parents naturally find a tree, trashcan or wall on which their child may urinate or poop. It's actually kind of interesting. One experience I had was in Tianjin while we were at the carre four store. Blake, Vince, Brian and I were enjoying the massage chairs when a mother suddenly dropped her son's pants and hoisted him over a trashcan in front of us. Shocking would be the initial reaction that was immediately overcome by intrigue and confusion. No one was stopping them or punishing them. This is definitely a different turn of events from what would happen in the US. For one, I don't believe parents naturally go about that routine. I think maybe it is just accepted here as a part of life. Everyone has to pee or poo at some point, so might as well get used to it. The only thing I am concerned about are the janitors that have to clean up the possible mess.

To clarify, I never witnessed a child going number 2 in a facility. I also do not believe that they would allow it. Also to clarify, China is not some dirty toilet bowl. This post is just to express the culture shock in how people operate between the two countries.

On a more interesting note, if the phrase "G G" [gee gee] is pronounced correctly, it actually means dick as our friend Mike found out while giving a small origami chicken (chicken in Chinese is pronounced similarly, "G") to a young girl. Unfortunately Mike decided to try and say "Chicken chicken" in Chinese which sounded like "G G". Funny :P

Day 24 - Transit (06/12/11)

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Today was a pretty short day, we just went to a park, and then had free time in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening.

One thing that we've been experiencing all trips, but especially today, was transit. In the US we are very used to driving just about wherever we want to go, otherwise taking a bus or an expensive taxi. In China, most people tend to walk or bike if they can; otherwise the bus and subway are frequently used. The subway system is very good here in Shanghai, and also was very good in Hong Kong. You can get anywhere in the city within a short time, and there is a map available at every stop, as well as a live indicator on the subway.
People are generally very friendly on the streets while walking as well. If you need help getting somewhere, and they can speak to you, they will be more than willing to help.

Today we got a little lost heading back to the hotel from the subway station, and we asked for directions from an older lady. She accidentally sent us the wrong way, and actually had a young boy ride his bike to find us and correct the directions. I feel like, if this was in the US, they wouldn't have gone through the effort of sending someone to correct the directions.


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We found some twins at the garden
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Checking out the fish
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Eating Xiaolongbao

Day 23 - Shady shopping and club hoppin' (06/11/11)

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We went shopping in another mall-like area today. This one was a bit different; there were a lot of people roaming around with pamphlets for 'cheap goods'. If you were interested, they would lead you to a shady alley and into a hidden shop. The fakes here seemed to be of pretty decent quality, and the sizes of the shops were definitely surprising. Some of the fake shops were bigger than the actual shops in the area, but only had a small front entrance. Bargaining was the big thing here, I wish that the US had some small bartering system; it makes purchases much more interesting. I didn't end up buying anything, but a few other people bought a lot of things.

Later on we went on a night boat ride. During this ride, everyone in the group that was white was asked for a picture several times by fellow boat riders, while the Asians just blended into the crowd. It's pretty interesting that this happened, you would never find this in the US, instead we kinda just get stared at.

Lastly, we went to a club to celebrate for the last big bang of the trip. Party culture is very different here than the US. In the US we will drink some at home, then head out to the bar or club to proceed to drink more, dance and sing together whenever they feel like it, but end the night at 2am because of bar close (Although, I'm not one to talk as I haven't experienced the bar scene much). In China, people will go out to eat together, then head out to do some more hanging out before heading out to the club. They normally start at the club around 10, then drink together and chat til around 12, then they head to the dance floor and will stay there til around 4am and sometimes later.

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Group picture in the Pearl of the Orient
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View from the Pearl
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Kids playing in the Pearl

Shanghai

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The main thing I noticed yesterday is that Shanghai looks much different during the day than at night. When we arrived on Friday, it was very dark and rainy which made it challenging to get a clear view of the city. Despite these weather conditions, I remember being impressed by the bright lights, tall buildings, and mass amounts of cars on the streets. This coupled with our trip to the fancy french concession street gave me the impression that all of Shanghai was extensively developed.

However, this is not the case. Although most parts of the city are extremely urbanized, there are other areas that remain in poor conditions. When I saw these segments of the city I was confused. We have been told on multiple occasions that Shanghai is considered a city of the future and because of this, I was expecting every part of it to be widely developed.

Our tour guide mentioned that these conditions are a common theme throughout Shanghai. He also stated that plans are in order to repair these areas, but was unsure when the projects would be finished. All of these improvements and renovations make me want to return to China a few years from now to see the finished product!

Modern Shanghai:
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Shanghai in shambles:
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June 10th

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During our final morning in Hangzhou we had the opportunity to visit a popular tea house in the area. Throughout the tour, we learned that this specific region harvests the best green tea leafs in all of China. According to one of the workers, this area produces the best crops because of its optimal soil content and high humidity levels. I really enjoyed learning about the tea making process and the tea tasting portion of the visit. I ending up purchasing my very own box of the famous emperor tea!

After we finished at the tea house we hopped on the bus. After four long hours, we finally arrived in Shanghai. My first impression of the city is that it is huge! There are so many people, cars, and buildings. The large sizes of the buildings around me make me feel very small and ant-like. The city is also very modern which is completely different from the previous cities that we've visited. I hope that my camera has enough memory space to capture all of the amazing sights.

One difference that I've noticed between Shanghai and the other parts of China that we've visited has to do with the traffic laws...They actually exist here! In each of the other cities we have been to, this is not the case. The mixture of cars and pedestrians was extremely chaotic manner and laws did not seem to apply. I have to admit that I feel much safer knowing that once again red means stop and green means go!

Book Summary

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How China Grows- Investment, Finance, and Reform

Investment not changes in technology is the driver of China's big economic growth. The book states however that investment cannot be relied on to sustain growth for the future because of diminishing returns to capital. If China was technologically based than it could be depend on that for the future growth.

The largest source of investment finance comes from self financing, because it was the only form allowed for private companies before the 1990s. Self financing was the only access to bank loans they had at the time. When legal status improved China set out for a law based market economy which allowed private companies to get loans and also allowed foreign investing. This helped China reach the global market as it is a great contributor to all parts of the world currently.

Household income and savings is important for any type of investment one might want to take part in. The book points out that the population shift is a reason why savings is low in China. The population shifted to urban areas which had a negative impact on savings overall, because it had been thought that rural households saved on average three times more than urban areas. Rural areas seemed to rely more on own savings and support from families. The support from families comes from the Confucian tradition to govern one's family and live on your life in younger generations.

The book concludes that: "If there were an Olympic event for long-term economic growth, China's performance over the past 25 years would make it a gold medal winner". This quote sums up many of the major points on China's economy. It had a great boom of success, but it must continue to make changes to its financial plan in order to do so. I have seen some of the great industrial changes taking place such as demonstrated on the TEDA tour.

Clubbing

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The atmosphere of the club and the set up is very different from America. I remember the first time we went to a club in Beijing we thought the employees were trying to rip us off, because we couldn't understand the language. We were escorted to a big table at the Disco in Beijing and then were shown a menu of drinks. This all seemed pretty cool until we were told we had to buy a bottle of alcohol totaling some 300 RMB. Thinking this was a scam and just wanted to have fun anyways we all agreed to pay for a bottle. Later we went to the other side of the club where we tried to sit down at another empty table but an employee kept telling us we couldn't sit there. We really thought they were being rude and taking advantage of us since we were foreign.

It wasn't until Tianjin, when we went to a club with the Chinese students that I realized that's how the clubs operate in China. You call in a reservation for a table at the club and depending on the number of people in the group you must purchase a certain amount of alcohol. This all made sense why we couldn't sit at any random table in Beijing and had to buy an expensive bottle of booze in order to sit at a table at the beginning of the night. The clubs here are also different in the nature of dancing. People just dance and have fun; they aren't worried about showing off their moves to everyone at the club. You never see people busting into a crowd of people to dance like you might see in America.

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