Opposing Viewpoints is a series edited by David M. Haugen and a different author writes each chapter, or each viewpoint. Each viewpoint is a selection made by experts, policy makers, and concerned citizens. It includes articles, speeches, long book excerpts, and quotations. I liked it because there's an endless amount of different topics and issues and it's interesting to read different experts opinions on the topic. The book argues, "Those who do not know their opponent's arguments do not completely understand their own." I couldn't agree more. I believe you can never settle on an answer or an agreement until you've discussed with others, hear different opinions and have an opportunity to change or improve your thoughts and ideas. I grew up surrounded by the most intelligent man I have ever known - my brother. Constantly being around him and arguing about God knows what every single day has created me to be a much more open-minded person and accepting to other thoughts. He is so smart and knows all, and collaborating our different opinions is always a way to learn more and turns our arguments into an educational experience. John Stuart Mill writes that considering opposing viewpoints is important because, "The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is b hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this." I really enjoyed this book because it's not just a straight read. It's an interactive read that asks you to consider three different questions throughout reading, and to be able to dissect and really dig into the material. Opposing Viewpoints talks about serious crises facing China, the economy, if China is a military threat, and what the state is of China's democratization. Each topic is divided into different viewpoints of people such as experts or economists and it allows you to basically side with whomever as you read the discussion questions and chapters. I recommend this read to anyone who learns the same way as I do; by taking other viewpoints into consideration before settling on your own.
June 2012 Archives
Opposing Viewpoints is a series edited by David M. Haugen and a different author writes each chapter, or each viewpoint. Each viewpoint is a selection made by experts, policy makers, and concerned citizens. It includes articles, speeches, long book excerpts, and quotations. I liked it because there's an endless amount of different topics and issues and it's interesting to read different experts opinions on the topic. The book argues, "Those who do not know their opponent's arguments do not completely understand their own." I couldn't agree more. I believe you can never settle on an answer or an agreement until you've discussed with others, hear different opinions and have an opportunity to change or improve your thoughts and ideas. I grew up surrounded by the most intelligent man I have ever known - my brother. Constantly being around him and arguing about God knows what every single day has created me to be a much more open-minded person and accepting to other thoughts. He is so smart and knows all, and collaborating our different opinions is always a way to learn more and turns our arguments into an educational experience. John Stuart Mill writes that considering opposing viewpoints is important because, "The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is b hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this." I really enjoyed this book because it's not just a straight read. It's an interactive read that asks you to consider three different questions throughout reading, and to be able to dissect and really dig into the material. Opposing Viewpoints talks about serious crises facing China, the economy, if China is a military threat, and what the state is of China's democratization. Each topic is divided into different viewpoints of people such as experts or economists and it allows you to basically side with whomever as you read the discussion questions and chapters. I recommend this read to anyone who learns the same way as I do; by taking other viewpoints into consideration before settling on your own.
China Shakes the World is about author James Kynge as he analysis China's history and how its gotten to where it is today. James Kynge reports on different limitations and issues that China currently faces. He describes these issues through interviews with individuals and personal experiences. This leads to a very personal feel and some of the interviews he has a truly shocking. One that sticks out in my mind is the story of a Chinese student who had her identity stolen. The student worked very hard in high school in order to get into a good college. She was surprised when she learned that she didn't score well enough to make it to college. She moved on with her life and continued to life in a very poor town. Many years later she found out that a student had stolen her identity and the grades she earned and went to college in her place. The story is absolutely devastating and was very emotional. It was terrible hearing that someone worked so hard only to have the success that they earned stolen from them. This was a story from a chapter titled The Collapse of Social Trust. This chapter dealt with the problems of counter fitting and its serious impact on China's economy. James Kynge tries to report a problem of counter fit goods to a hot-line number and is told to call different numbers that lead to no where. China is lacking in Intellectual Property rights which can be extremely difficult for a business.
Another chapter talks about China's growing consumption of natural resources and the environmental impacts due to pollution. This chapter dealt with the issues that China's pollution is having on its society. Such matters such as illegal deforestation, abused oil drilling, and extreme water and air pollution. These issues obviously have harsh effects on the nature in China. There is less accountability for factories to manage what pollutants they leak out into the environment which is only harming the natural resources of China.
In the chapter Communism vs Democracy James Kynge describes that while China is no longer a communist country it is still run by a communist party. However, he describes how China is becoming an economy driven country and how that is effecting government reforms. One interviewee describes how if China changes to quickly, thing will turn to chaos. However, if China doesn't reform fast enough, it leads to economic stagnation. This chapter also a address the issues of corruption in Chinese companies and its government. Illegal business practices of falsifying corporate earnings, issues of intimation and black mailing, and how the government does enforce or help. The author describes how China is trying to form a government structure similar to ours where different aspects of the government are equal and acts as checks and balances while still allowing the main communist party to remain in control.
Overall James Kynge's story is a very detailed book that describes in great detail hurdles China is currently facing, and how the world can interact with China's growing economy. James Kynge perspective of China was much different then my own so it was very interesting learning about some aspects of China I never got to witness or fully understand. It will be interesting to see how China changes in the future and if James Kynge's predictions will unfold as he describes them in his book China Shakes the World.
The book I chose to read for the trip was a book written by Ted Sun. His book is titled as a tactical guide for managers which sounds dull but it really had a lot of good and useful information. The most helpful thing about the book is that it not only shared the Chinese side to management and business but it compared the two cultures, American to Chinese. This allows for his readers to pick up a better understanding and see the perceived differences and similarities between the two cultures. It starts off with a section about the increasing economic state and national power of the Chinese nation. After this brief section it goes into depth on topic such as context versus content and later compares business context in the west and east. The next section takes into account the westerners beliefs, values, business principles and challenges followed directly by the eastern Chinese views. Most of what is discussed in this section relates what we learned in class about family, gender, congruence, relation of government, business management, relationships, power distance, collectivism, individuality, and purpose. The main goal of this book is to communicate the differences between cultures in beliefs and values that drive business in the rapidly developing Chinese economy. Understanding the differences helps individuals and managers to develop functional and beneficial relationships. The book has multiple survey results and charts to help create a better picture for its readers. It also provides a few short stories to help the readers grasp lessons and main points. It was an interesting read that came along with helpful insights referred to as "mind gems" and each mind gem was followed with tactical steps to execute the topic at hand.
International Brand Management of Chinese Companies by Sandra Bell are case studies on the Chinese household appliances and consumer electronics industry entering US and Western European Markets. This book is a must read for all those interested in building successful global grands and for all those interested in China and Chinese companies. Based on extensive research and interviews with Lenovo, Haier, TCL, Hisense and key decision makers worldwide, Sandra Bell gives reasons and identifies a Chinese way of international brand management. Sandra Bell reveals who the Chinese branded companies are, where they are coming from, and where they are heading for. She explains their strengths and weaknesses regarding branding, marketing and going global. She also explains how an appropriate brand strategy look like, when Chinese branded companies enter developed markets in the US and Western Europe. The book talks about how the Chinese economy seems to have reached an important threshold line of economic development and global integration. In the first quarter century of reform and global opening, Chinese enterprises have been largely confined to a 'passive' role int he global division of labor. The study presented by Sandra Bell is dealing with these new chinese 'global players'. Focusing on the Chinese household appliances and consumer electronics industry she is taking a very detailed look at the strong brands in the OECD markets will be of fundamental importance for a successful market entry by Chinese enterprises. But the successful placement of new brands is known to be a very complex and resource consuming exercise, requiring very advanced management skills. However, the concepts of marketing or branding have only recently become common features in China's transition economy. Sandra Bell has done thorough research and provides an analysis of how Chinese enterprises have ventured out in order to conquer the global markets. by doing so she provides us with highly valuable insights in the realties of brand management in China's new corporate elite. She dissects the international branding activities of some of the most prominent Chinese enterprises and provides the reader with an insider perspective not to be found elsewhere. Obviously most Chinese enterprises are still in an early stage of their pro-active globalization and are still paying high price for learning from the markets. However, the learning curves seem to be steep and it does not appear to be too far fetched to assume that Chinese brands will be soon a regular feature of the European and American consumer markets.
Sandra Bell explains the role of brand management when going international:
The last decades have seen growing market saturations in US and WE markets, a huge variety of similar products, globalization processes and an accelerating speed of innovations. As a result companies have been forced to differentiate their products from competitors in order to remain competitive, attract customers, and finally to secure future profitability.
One brand that drew my attention was Haier:
Haier Group decided on the brand name Haier in 1992. The joint venture contrat with German Liebherr had run out in 1991 and CEO Zhang was not satisfied with the corporate name 'Qindao Qingdao Haier Group' which they had established between 1991 and 1992. In the domestic market, Haier has promoted its corporate identity and brand values since 1984. Besides 'The Haier Brothers' and advertisements on Haier's going-international, Haier has built its grand image by the slogan 'zhencheng dao yongyuan' ('sincere and forever'), addressing customers' endless demand and Haier's trustworthiness. What was really ironic was how she continued on and started talking about Milan, where I have spent 6 months studying marketing. In Milan, Haier erected an advertisement billboard by the expressway near Malpensa Airport.
Before we left for China everyone in the group had to pick a book about China that interests them and then right a blog about it. I have an interest in economics and finance so I Decided to Read China Shakes The World by James Kynge. I figured this book was a good pick because it does a great job analyzing just how big of an effect China is having on the world as a whole. The book focuses on the effect of China's rise on other countries and people. The book starts out describing how a steel company in a small port on the Yangte River bought an entire steel mill from a company in Germany and transported it all the way to China. It took over 1000 Chinese workers to disassemble the mill. It was rebuilt in china and began producing steel. The company that bought the mill is Called Shagang. The mill was bought for 12 million dollars which was a good deal for both side. The cost would have been many times greater if the company had bought new equipment instead of rebuilding the old mill. Shagans' smart business decision helped china as a whole because steel is an essential part of China's development.
China has come a long way economically in the last few decades and is starting to be looked at as an "economic superpower". China is reaching all over the world in search of natural resources to provide for its rapidly expanding economy. I think this is what James Kynge is referring to when he says "China Shakes the World". China has used its resources well to build a strong economy. The negative impact of this fast economic growth is that it is destroying china's environment and people at the same time. China has been in such a rush to catch up with the rest of the world that it has exploited its natural resources and severely damaged its environment. China's population growth is a big problem also because the world simply does not have enough resources to provide for 1.3 billion people.
China has failed to develop into a capitalist market economy similar the United States. The author says that China tries to run a sophisticated capitalist economy with a political system that is controlled by a single source of authority. He is referring to the Communist Party. The main problem with China's Political system is that it does not permit the checks and balances needed to supervise and regulate a capitalist economy in an efficient manner. The book analyzes a good example of how China has tried to blend communism and democracy together in order to achieve a world-class economy. This effort failed because the Communist Party does not accept democratic principles and institutions. The author also talks about the idea of China making friends with the rest of the world. He believes that Chinese views on the world have not changed even after its strong efforts to reach out to other countries.
In conclusion, Chinas rapid economic growth is not only affecting its country, but the entire world as a whole. Chinas massive amount of construction and huge population are one of the main contributors to the problem. The scary part is that no one really knows how this problem can be fixed. China has a high demand for natural resources and the way the country is growing it doesn't look like anything will change.
For part of our class, we had to read a book about China that's, in one way or another, related to China's overwhelming economic growth. The purpose of this read is multi-faceted, to give us knowledge about China's economic situation as well as stimulate our experiences while in China. After a good amount of thought, I decided to go with "Henry Kissinger on China" by Henry Kissinger. One of the main reason's I choose this book is because I am an economics major and Kissinger is one of the most revered economic thinkers in modern day America. In this book, Kissinger details his experiences in China when he was the National Security Advisor for the Nixon Administration. Interestingly enough, he is more well known to the Chinese than many of our President's, and this is probably related to his involvement in ending hostility and isolation between the United States and China. In this book, as I had said before, Kissinger talks about his first travels to China. He talks about his perceptions on ancient Chinese history and how the friends he made in China, especially since they covered many generations, impacted his view on China. He also talked extensively about war and how that played a influence in China, such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War. One thing I really liked about this book is that he talked about Mao Zedong enough to give the man credit for his accomplishment's. Mao is, I would wager, the most highly revered Chinese person in China's history, and while reading this book, you could almost feel Kissinger's emotion and respect for the man when he meet him. This is especially interesting because you would expect much more hostility between the two, given that the Cold War was in full throttle at the time. All and all, I'd say that this was a very interesting book and I couldn't explain nearly all of it in this blog post. It was a very good read and I learned quite a bit about China through reading it. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about China, especially if they want to go to the country.
I had posted this earlier but I'm not sure if it ever made it to the main page, so here it is again..
1. I want to learn about the differences between economic thinking in China versus the thinking in the United States.
2. I also want to learn more about the Chinese culture.
3. Finally, I want to learn about the differences between business practices in China relative to the United States.
'Henry Kissinger On China' by Henry Kissinger is a very extensive and knowledgeable read. Each chapter brings forth history that Henry Kissinger has learned from the decades he has spent in China. Henry Kissinger is more well-known and accepted by the Chinese, than our Presidents. Henry Kissinger was the National Security Advisor under President Nixon and was sent over to China to relieve tensions between the two nations. He single handedly ended 23 years of isolation and mutual hostility between America and China.
In the book, Kissinger talks about these first travels to China. He also instills the ancient history of China and explains the influences of the dynasty eras in their culture. What is most interesting about this read is when Kissinger explains the knowledge he has gain from the four generations of Chinese leaders he has befriended. The book is completely filled with historically information on different eras in Chinese culture. Kissinger explains the impact of; the Opium War, Korean War, the third Vietnam War and many more. One chapter I found most interesting was, "The End of the Mao Era." Visiting Tiananmen Square and seeing Mao's large picture hanging above the gate is so prominent of what he means to the Chinese people. Kissinger had the privilege of meeting with Mao and told about their conversations and how the first time he met with Mao he was already ill. This chapter outlines the after math of the crisis over Lin Biao. Mao did not have a successor and in his last day he needed to find a way to leave China with his beliefs and values. The chapter goes on to explain what Mao did in his last dying years, which is very interesting.
Overall, the book explains so much interesting history it is hard to comment on any of it. Kissinger does an amazing job of explaining the values and beliefs of the Chinese people. After reading this book I felt I had a better understanding of the values that the Chinese hold and have a hard time explaining to foreigners, like Guanxi. This was a great book and I would recommend that everyone read it.
Each student on our study abroad trip was assigned to pick a book that's related to China's current meteoric rise in the global market place. The purpose was to enrich our knowledge and our observations made throughout the trip. Our professor provided a pretty long list of acceptable titles for the assignment and I ended up picking China Shakes the World, by James Kynge. Kynge, a journalist, provides a first-hand account of his observations made by touring various locations in the quickly-developing China and the relative regression of other locations throughout the world.
The theme and goal of this book was identifying and explaining how China is, and how they can continue, shaking the world. The act of "shaking the world" can be best described as the reverberations felt by the rest world by each large economic move and decision coming from China. The "shaking" has been felt throughout the world by direct and indirect influences from China, and China has the potential to shake the world in a big way in the future. China's new influence in the foreign market, its affect on the environment, and its governmental complexion all can go a long way in influencing the rest of the world.
China has a long history of rich empires that are well documented. However, outside of the Tang dynasty China hasn't historically been an economic superpower. Its reluctance to actively participate in foreign markets has kept it rather stationary and isolated in terms of worldwide economic dominance. According to a classic quote, China is currently sleeping but when she wakes, she will shake the world. That's exactly is currently happening in the global marketplace. After centuries of isolation, China has finally knifed its way into the global marketplace and reached an unprecedented level of economic growth.
The artificially low labor prices China is able to pay its workers has allowed it to reach a level of economic prominence. Salary-wise the relatively low value of the RMB has already given China an advantage as far manual labor wages goes, and while China is considered a communist or socialist country it doesn't provide as many government benefits as European governments do. So the cheap labor costs allows China complete more work for less, and it has also enticed other companies to export labor and business to China. China is also starting to develop a virtuosic understanding of the technological world, which has enabled to reach levels of economic growth unknown to history. The pace of the economic growth carries plenty of burdens. The speed of industrial and urban development in China is becoming very burdensome to the environment. In order to save the environment, China may have to slow down its level of productivity, which in turn would slow down its economic growth, which according to the book could be disastrous to the rest of the world. The author describes China's growth like an elephant riding a bicycle, it has to ride fast enough to carry its immense load because of if it slows down it could fall and end up shaking the world.
China is on pace to pass the US as the world's economic superpower by the year of 2040 based on its current pace. While the government as a whole will be the richest in the world, the standard earnings for Chinese citizens will be around US citizens in the 1970s or 1980s. The question is whether or not China's growth is sustainable for that amount of time; will surrounding influences force China off track in terms of the pace of its growth, and what does that mean for the rest of the world? These are issues the entire world should concerned with, because the safety of the future global economy may lay in the hands of China.
I just realized that my three things didn't post right, so I wanted to post it again!
1. I want to learn how to speak better Chinese.
2. I want to learn more about China's history.
3. I want to learn more about Chinese religion.
Today was our last day in China! Before we went to the airport, Joe (our tour guide) wanted to take us shopping at a market one last time. The market was like a mall with little shops everywhere. I bought many gifts in this market because I wanted to bring home gifts for my friends. We didn't have that much time here because of our flight that day. Since this was our last day I had gotten pretty good at bartering. I got a good feel for what price to low ball them at. It still amazes me how high they start each time when bartering; I would if any foreigners have paid that price. At this market I bought some fans, chopsticks, a couple t-shirts, scarves, a ceramic stamp, cards and another suitcase. I was most proud of my suitcase because it was one of those hard case ones and those can be quite expensive and I got mine for $25 USD. In the United States you can't even get a suitcase for that much. I just hope it lasts a while! I bought most of this stuff for my friends and family. I could have stayed there longer because there were so many things I wanted to bring back!! I was very sad to leave China and it didn't really seem real that we were leaving that day.
Today we visited the bamboo forest. I have never thought that I would visit something like a bamboo forest. It was so pretty and cool. The stocks of bamboo were so tall! I have been to the Redwood forests in California and those trees were pretty tall too but the bamboo is a lot skinnier and just as tall! It's crazy how different the forests in the United States are from the forests in China. Joe, our tour guide, told us that pandas usually only eat the short bamboo stocks. I thought this was crazy because there were so many tall bamboo stocks. It's crazy to think that once there used to be a bunch of pandas in places like that forest. The water in the forest was very clear. When we all saw how clear the water was, we all wanted to jump in!! The forest had also some of the freshest air we have experienced on the trip! Bamboo seems like it is much more durable then wood! My roommate has little tiny bamboo but to see it so large was very interesting. I was surprised that the stocks were all hollow! While in China I also ate some bamboo shoots! They were pretty good; I had it at the hot pot so it was cooked in a broth. I liked the lotus roots better than the bamboo!
Today was the day that we left Tianjin and it was extremely sad. We spent the night with the students doing karaoke and it was hard to say goodbye. I was so happy when I saw that Amy came by the hotel to say goodbye. She told me the night before that she was going to come by the hotel but I wasn't sure if that was going to happen because we were leaving early in the morning. This made me think that the Chinese do what they say they are going to do, they are very reliable. I was very happy that all of my stuff fit in my suitcase because I packed that morning and I bought a lot of stuff in Tianjin so I wasn't sure if it would all fit. Next was the train ride to Wuxi. This ride was very interesting. When I first got to my seat, my first impression was that it looked like the trains in Harry Potter. There were two booths on both sides and a storage area above the booths; this area did look like beds though. I was in a room with Sarah, Sam and some two random Chinese people. Everyone was very tired so we slept most of the train ride; Sam was even sleeping above us in the storage area. I woke up at some point at a stop and one lady came in our cart. I was confused because at this point there were six people in the cart. When the lady came and sat down that made it seven people, over the limit. One of the attendants came around to check tickets and I assumed that she was going to kick someone out. She checked all of our tickets and saw that everyone had a ticket and just left. This would not happen in the United States, the attendant would politely ask the person who is in the wrong seat to return to their seat. Let me just say that I was happy to arrive in Wuxi after our crammed train ride.
Today we went to a Silk Factory in Suzhou. We first had a little tour on how silk is even made and then we got a fashion show about some items and then last we got to visit the gift shop. I thought the fashion show was very interesting because it made me felt very exclusive. This was my first fashion show and I'm glad it was in China. I never knew how silk was made, so this was very interesting experience. I also never knew the difference between real silk and the fake stuff. My favorite part of this experience was holding the silk worms. I would have never thought that I would like holding a worm but I really did, they were so soft!! My aunt really loves fabric so I wanted to make sure I brought her back some real silk. I bought her one meter of fabric and I know she appreciate it very much. I wanted to buy a lot more gifts at the gift shop but the silk was a little expensive. I also wanted to get a black silk robe for myself and believe it or not, they didn't have one! They only had long ones, I was really surprised. I knew it wasn't going to be super cheap because it was real silk but I was a little disappointed with the selection. I probably should have gotten something for myself just to say I got something there.
Today we went to the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai. The pearl tower was built in 1995, back then you could see the pearl tower from far away. Now Shanghai is full of skyscrapers but you can still point out the pearl tower because of its unique architecture. A group of us went to the TV tower in Tianjin, I was really glad that I went to two of the biggest TV towers in China. I liked how I got to compare the too. The tower in Shanghai was a lot higher in the air but it was also smoggier the day we went. When we went to the TV tower in Tianjin it was very clear which made the experience even better. I really liked how the Pearl Tower is located by Huangpu River because it was so beautiful. I was really impressed with all the structures in the Shanghai area. We went on a night cruise on the Huangpu River, I thought a lot of the buildings had European feel. I didn't realize how many skyscrapers there are in China, especially Shanghai. And they are still continuing to build. My favorite part of the Pearl Tower was one of the observation decks, it was the deck that wasn't the higher point but still very high and it had a glass floor. It's crazy how scary it actually was! Lying down on the glass to take a picture was really scary because it felt like you were going to fall.
Tonight we were very fortunate to have our tour guide take us out to one of the night clubs in Shanghai. The night club was very nice! When you go to night clubs in China, you have to reserve a table and buy alcohol to be able to sit at that table. Our tour guide did all that stuff for us and we would just have to pay him back. Before we went out our tour guide taught us a few popular games in China. The most popular game was called BS (Bullsh**) aka Liar's Dice, we played that for a while and got the hang of it rather quickly. I looked around the club and I saw that everyone was playing these games. We went to the club pretty early and when we arrived, at all the tables there were girls sitting at the tables with friends. Our tour guide said that this is very common. Single girls will come to the clubs with their single friends and play games. They will wait for men to come to the club to join them. When a guy or guys join the girls at the table they are always supposed to bring them something typically a drink. The bar scene is a lot different in the United States. I haven't really been to many nightclubs in the United States because I have heard that the ones in Minnesota aren't that fun so I don't know much about the clubbing scene. Most people in the United States go to the bars. Our tour guide told us that you have to be very wealthy to go to the bars. One guy that we met he was the CEO of a big real estate company, so clearly he was making good money.
'One Billion Customers' by James McGregor provides a lens for which we can view current business dealings in China. His first hand accounts as well as stories he's collected over the nearly two decades he spent as a bureau chief for The Asian Wall Street Journal in Taiwan provide him with a unique vantage point with which to offer to insight. 'One Billion Customers' deftly wades into the waters of how business is actually done in China, on and off the books. All of this is done with what McGregor say is a, "deep respect and admiration for the interesting, exasperating, puzzling, and, almost always, lovable Chinese people."
'One Billion Customers' starts by laying the foundation of what to expect when doing basic business in China and moves into more detailed examples and anecdotes as the book progresses. After every chapter the author provides his version of 'The Little Red Book of Business'. In keeping with the original little red book, these sections provide quick easily memorized proverbs regarding business in China and serve as recaps for the chapter that immediately preceded them. One of the more interesting proverbs was notion that "China is modernizing, not Westernizing. The country's goal is to modernize but retain the Chinese "essence," which it is still struggling to define". This book makes that point abundantly clear, and reinforces it throughout. After experiencing China first hand, I can say that this point is absolutely true and essential to understanding their incredibly rich and deep history as well as where they are now and where they want to be in the future.
Today we had our last lunch in China. I am so sad to leave! I don't know want to go back to China and be a normal American. If you were on the trip you would know what I am talking about. In China, if you have Blonde hair and green or blue eyes, you are an instant celebrity. Everywhere I went in China people always wanted to take pictures with me or they would take pictures of me. It felt like I was constantly being followed by paparazzi. A couple times people would ask me to hold their babies. I did not understand why I was so popular their but they love to see a blonde lady in China. If I am ever feeling down in life when I am in America, I just have to remember that people love me in China!
I really don't know what else to say about my experience in China, except that it was so much fun! All of my stereotypes were wrong about China and I found that it would be an amazing place to live. It is also an amazing place to vacation. If I were to come back to China I would love to run the marathon on the Great Wall! I feel honored that I have seen the Great Wall, so my next goal is to run it!
The people of China are also amazing. They are always willing to help you and I would say they are very nice and trusting. I learned that employers take care of their employees very well and every employee that I saw was a very hard worker. They would go above and beyond to make you happy. Something that the US I think has forgotten. Sometimes you need to take a step back and not worry so much about time, enjoy your day and enjoy the people you are with. In a restaurant, everyone at the table shares food, has a drink, and is being very loud as they are conversing with everyone at the table. One thing I know I will miss is eating in China. I love the turn style tables. I like that you can see everyone at the table and you share dishes. I loved my experience in China and I hope one day I will go back!
When we first landed in China the first thing that I asked Dr. Li was if you were going to get to see a Panda. He lied to me and promised that we would get to see a Panda in Beijing. We sadly ran out of time and could not fit the viewing of my cuddly big panda into our hectic schedule. After this, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. When in Tianjin, I asked how the Zoo was and if it was worth going to see the Panda that they had there. Locals told me that there was only one and that viewing Pandas would be more fun in Shanghai. Finally, when in Shanghai, our first free day was today, Saturday, and my only goal for the day was to visit the Shanghai Zoo. We arrived at the Zoo at 2:15 pm in the afternoon; the cost was 40 Yuan for entry. I was so excited I couldn't even wait for the second cab, so we entered the park early. On our way to the carnivore section of the park (Pandas ancestors used to be carnivores, but now their diet consists of 99% bamboo) we got to see; tigers, lions, and bears. Yet, they did not even interest me. Finally, we had reached the Panda exhibit! There was four Panda's total! I was so excited; they were also very active walking around, playing on their equipment! It was perfect! Got so many videos and pictures! It was well worth the wait and exactly how I wanted to spend my last full day in China. We also got to see Red Panda's and they were so cute. They were really slow moving and seemed very sleeping. They also spend a lot of time in the trees.
Overall, the Zoo was an amazing place to visit. On a Saturday there were not big crowds and they Zoo was very large so you barely knew other people were at the Zoo. It was really relaxing and the Zoo was very clean and we all loved walking around. I would suggest to anyone that if you are in Shanghai, visit the Zoo. It is the best Zoo that I have ever been too. Also if you care about seeing Pandas as much as I do! IT WAS GREAT! Had a blast with Samantha and Laura at the Shanghai Zoo!
Today we did a lot of site seeing in Shanghai. Throughout the whole day I found myself taking a lot of pictures of the architecture in Shanghai. The Pearl Tower is an amazing building and looks beautiful on the city horizon. I think that the architecture in Shanghai is way better than in the United States. It is almost as if, if your building is not as flashy as the others then you might as well not have built it. Also at night every city we visited in China lights up. Every building is eliminated with beautiful bright lights. It was amazing. The United States does not care as much about architecture and the presentation of their buildings. At night, the lights on the buildings perfectly accent the buildings structure. I could take pictures of every building in China at night. My favorite building in Beijing is the CCTV Headquarters. The building looks like a cube that is open in the center and the top half is free standing. The building is mesmerizing and I don't understand how it works. The infrastructure below it has to be super strong and is probably very deep into the ground.
My favorite building in Tianjin was the TV tower. The structure is almost scary from the outside. It looks like the poured cement and then stuck a UFO on top. At the top of the TV tower we ate dinner and it spins so you get to see the whole city of Tianjin. We got there at the perfect time too. We got to see the city illuminated by the sunset and then by the end of our dinner we saw the whole city bright with light on all the buildings. We even saw a water fountain show from the top of the tower and it was so beautiful, later we took a cab and watch the show.
Lastly, my favorite building in Shanghai was the Shanghai World Financial Center. It was finished in 2008 and for a little bit it was the World's tallest building. When you drive by the building it is hard to try to look all the way up to the top. As you look up the building it keeps getting smaller and smaller towards the top. Then all the way at the top is an opening. The bottle reminds me of a bottle cap opener, just about a trillion times bigger. I think that if the world gets invaded by giants they will steal this building for their personal use of a bottle opener. The hard thing for them will be to find a very large bottle to open. Possibly, this should be the next building Shanghai builds; I suggest that it be close to the Shanghai World Financial Center. All in all, I love the architecture in China and I believe that the United States has a lot of catching up to do. We obviously have some amazing buildings in the United States but the quantity of amazing buildings in China outweighs the buildings in the US.
Today we visited the city of Hangzhou. So far this is my favorite city that we have visited in China! It is so beautiful! This is the city that a lot of Chinese celebrities live in. If I had to compare it so a city in the United States I would say it reminds me of San Diego. In almost every part of the city you can see water. The city is very clean and there are beautiful flowers everywhere.
The first place we went to in Hangzhou was the tea village. On the drive you pass by rolling mountains and hills that are covered with tea leaves. Perfect rows of tea bushes engulf the mountain sides. It is a very rural area. Many farm animals and small houses in the country side. Being a country girl from the United States I felt the most at home in this city. I did not want to leave for Shanghai after visiting here.
When we were in the tea village; we went to a government owned establishment that sold the best tea. The tea is called Dragon Well Tea. During the year the tea is picked at different times. The best tea is picked in March and is called the emperor tea. This tea has the freshest tea leaves and is the first pick of the season. They also pick tea in April and in May. After being in China for so long I have fallen in love with tea and I know that I will continue the practice of drinking tea when I return home to America.
All in all, I am so sad to have left Hangzhou. I would have loved to have spent more time there. I really went from beautiful San Diego to New York City. If I ever make a trip back to China, Hangzhou will for sure be on my list for places to visit.
Last night we made our way to the city in China called Suzhou. This morning the first place we visited was a classical Chinese garden called the Zhouzheng Garden. It was so beautiful! It felt like the garden never stopped. When you think of the word garden in America, you think of a vegetable garden. You would have a couple rows of corn, cucumbers, squash, onions, beans, carrots, pumpkins and more. This type of garden can be relaxing for some but for the most part is a lot of work. In China, their gardens resemble complete relaxation. There are tall walls throughout the garden making you think that it never ends and it is large than it really is. Also there are many different types of rocks, trees, and flowers that give a certain serenity to the space. The tea houses are always located in the perfect spots for the best views of the garden.
This particular garden was the humble administrators' garden in Suzhou. In the garden there was one particular boat shaped building to remind the emperor to be kind to his people and right across the pond the emperor planted a willow tree because it was one of his favorite trees. He said as the wind blew across the branches it reminded him beautiful women dancing. Also talking about women; we learned why most of the walkways in the garden were shaped in zigzag pattern. This was for the women in the garden. In ancient times it was rude for women to turn her head. She would have to turn her whole body to look at anything or when she addressed someone or was being addressed. The architects of the garden then put the bridges in a zigzag so that the women could enjoy the gardens. This way they would turn as the crossed the bridge and would be able to enjoy the sites of the garden room at all angles without having to stop and turn to a particular area.
The experience at the garden was surreal. I would love a traditional Chinese garden in the backyard of my home. It would be wonderful to make a pot of tea every morning and watch the flog come off the coy pond as the sun would rise. I feel lucky to have seen such beauty.
Today we started our day in Wuxi. This is where our guide Joe is from. The city is very beautiful and it is nice because already it is a lot quieter than any city that we have been to in China. You barely hear horns by other cars and people move a lot slower than in Beijing and Tianjin. It is nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
In Wuxi we visited the There Kingdoms. This is actually a movie set and is where the movie, "Romance of Three Kingdoms" was filmed. There we got to see replicas of the three different types of terracotta warriors. This was nice because we didn't get to see this in China so it was nice to see the size that these warriors are and it would be amazing seeing the hundreds of warriors in person. After we took pictures with the warriors we watched a live reenactment of a fight. It was very interesting to watch. Most of the men were on horses and they were all very good at riding the horses while trying to kill their opponents with heavy armory. During the show there was a lot of fire and explosions so it made it very entertaining to watch.
After the live show we went and road a large dragon boat on the Tia River. Our tour guide Joe had told us a lot about the river so I was very excited to get the opportunity to take a boat ride on it. The lake is very big and my favorite fish to eat that comes out of the lake is Crystal Fish. We had it in soup a lot and it was so tasty! Crystal Fish is something that I am really going to miss when I get back home to America. Overall, I thought Wuxi was a very beautiful city to visit in China and I am glad that we made time in our schedule to tour it.
Today we visited Ancient Culture Street in Tianjin. It was the perfect way to end the trip in Tianjin. The street was filled with shops and this is where I bought a lot of my gifts to bring back home. One item that I bought was a painting that I man painted right in front of you. You could either get your name in Chinese letters or your American name in small Chinese paintings. For example, I got Alexandra and the e resembles a fish swimming in a pond with lily pads, yet you can tell that the shape of the small art is in the shape of an e.
Also an interesting fact about China is that it produces 90% of the world's fresh water pearls. When you are in China you will notice that almost every shop sells pearls. Most of the time they are real, some places they are fake, but they are so beautiful! When you buy pearls the rounder they are the more valuable they are. In China the pearls were very cheap compared to the price of fresh water pearls in the US, I think this is because the abundance of them. When we were on Ancient Culture Street, we noticed some live Oysters in a bucket with water. Then man explained that for 50 Yuan you buy the Oyster and then you get to keep the pearls inside. Nolan bought an Oyster and it was amazing to see all the pearls inside! They are on the shell and they are in the body. They are all different shapes but it is amazing that many of them are perfect round circles. At the end, Nolan came out with about 25 pearls total.
Overall, I was happy to go to Ancient Culture Street as my last touristy thing to do in Tianjin. When we were there we got to also visit the Drum Tower. This part of Tianjin is the oldest and the Drum Tower significance is that before to help keep time in the surrounding villages every hour they would bang the drum. This would let the people of Tianjin know what time it was during the day. Now there are a lot of religious figures by the tower and there is always incense burning. So when we were there, there were many people praying to the gods. I had a lot of fun at Ancient Culture Street, not only because I got to buy a lot of gifts but also because learned a lot of history about Tianjin.
Today we decided that we would take James up on his offer and check out a club called La Nest. I had only been to one other club at this point so I was definitely ready to try something new. When we first pulled into the parking lot of the club I was amazed. I knew that it was a nice club because the parking lot was filled with nice cars and there were around 5 security guards standing outside the front door. When we got into the club I was very impressed. The lights, the music, the dancers, everything was great. Reign and I eventually made our way up onto the stage to show some people our moves. We both thought we were killin it up there at the time, but after a while we realized how big of fools we were. But overall, it was a great night. We got some free drinks, met some new people, and found a new club to go to.
When we arrived at the great wall I was truly amazed and immediately began to think of how good of a decision I made in coming on this trip. I have been to Mexico before and had done a little bartering there but it was definitely different here. As I was walking through the market almost every single vendor tried to get me to buy something. The vendors here seemed to be way more persistent than what I was used to from Mexico. Once we were done climbing the great wall which was amazing by the way, we came back down and walked through the market one last time. There was this one lady who kept telling me that she remembered me and I definitely didn't recognize her. She kept grabbing my arm and would not let me go. I tried walking away several times but she kept pulling me back into her shop. I kept trying to explain to here that I wouldn't pay anything for the item she was trying to sell me but she obviously did not understand my English. Dr. Li eventually came up to me and said Alex just walk away and I replied saying that I have been trying to for ten minutes. Looking back on the situation it was actually pretty funny. I ended up buying a great wall t-shirt and a picture of the great wall from a different vendor who was not so obnoxious. Overall, I had an amazing time and did not expect The Great Wall to be as awesome as it was.
I posted the three things I wanted to learn a long time ago but for some reason it didn't save or I did it wrong.
1. First off, I am very interested in learning about how Chinese business and economy works and how it is similar and different from the way we do things her in the U.S
2.Second, I would like to learn more about Chinese culture and where/how it originated. I am eager to learn about modern but also older and ancient Chinese ways of life.
3. Lastly, I want to learn more about how China is effecting the world as a whole today.
Today we went to a place which I believe is the tea capital of China or something along those lines. This was our third tea tasting and for sure my favorite. One of the employees there let us try some green tea and also showed us some really neat tea pots. Almost everyone in the group ended up buying something. I walked away after spending a hundred U.S. dollars with a bunch of tea and some sort of natural pill that supposedly detoxifies your body. It was a lot of money to spend but it is some of the best green tea and I figured I wouldn't be able to find it anywhere else.
The first day we got into Tianjin I spotted a Mcdonalds and knew that I had to try it. A few of us from the group walked down there to check it out. It was pretty similar for the most part, but the menu had a few weird items that I had never seen before. Everything was in Chinese so one of the workers gave me a menu and told me to point. I decided to try out a Chinese big mac. This may have been one of my worst decisions of the trip because I liked it so much and the walk to Mcdonalds was super convenient especially at night when we were getting back from the bar. I started going to Mcdonalds more and more and even when we left Tianjin I still managed to find other Mcdonalds locations which meant more big macs. I am a little bit embarrassed but also proud to say that over the course of a month I ate 17 Chinese big macs and went to Mcdonalds around 20 times. I have maybe had 5 big macs in my life back in the states. This is something that I will look back at in the future and wonder what I was thinking.
I have gained a much different outlook on foreigners or tourist after studying abroad in China. I had originally thought that I might be frowned up or disliked as being American. I quickly learned that this was not the case. I felt very welcomed while studying abroad as every was very friendly and helpful. This really enhanced my trip and is something I really hadn't expected. What it made me realize is how I treat those that I meet that are traveling abroad. It isn't as if I have ever treated someone visiting America poorly, I've never just been as enthusiastic and friendly as I experience in China. I really want to behave more friendly and helpful as I feel it really effects your experience when traveling abroad.
Hangzhou was the last stop before heading to Shanghai for our last stop on our tour abroad. I feel Hangzhou was very different compared to the other cities we visited. Our tour guide explained that Hangzhou was a richer city that enjoyed their leisure time. People from Hangzhou enjoy visiting Shanghai on the weekends as Shanghai becomes less busy on the weekends. Like Wuxi and Suzhou the traffic here was much less chaotic then Beijing or Tianjin. We I thought distinguished Hangzhou the most was its quality of air. The air pollution was much much lower than any of the other cities we visited. I also think it was the most beautiful city. The Lion Garden and the Bamboo forest were absolutely amazing and breath taking. The waterways, vegetation, Chinese architecture, and rock formations all combined was incredible. Our group noticed that the bridges at the Lion garden zig-zaged which was strange to us. Our tour guide Joe explained this was to allow the women to enjoy the scenery. In ancient China, Chinese princesses were always supposed to look straight and not turn their heads. The zig-zaged bridge allowed the women to enjoy the scenery as it forced them to look around and enjoy the scenery. I can't imagine how tempting it would be not to turn your head to see more of this amazing garden. The Lion Garden also had a bonsai garden that I really liked. I had a bonsai tree when I was growing up, but I didn't take care of it nearly as much as I should have. The bonsai trees in this garden were amazing and so interesting to look at.
Another beautiful place we visited was the bamboo forest. This location had the cleanest air in China and it was very refreshing. At this destination I let the group get ahead of me because I wanted to be by myself in this forest. It was so peaceful, calm, and beautiful walking around listening to the silence. I found it extremely relaxing and very different compared to all the busy cities we had been to in China.
Today we went the Shanghai Zoo and I was more than excited to see what I have been waiting to see in China a panda bear! I didn't only get to see one panda but I got to see four! I was very excited when I found out that Shanghai had a zoo with pandas in it! Whenever I go to a big city I like to go to the zoo! I love animals so I have always liked going to the zoo. When I was younger I'm pretty sure I went to the San Diego zoo and saw a panda but all I remember was seeing killer whales and dolphins. Although I was most excited about the pandas, I was also very impressed with the overall zoo. They had a variety of animals ranging from African animals like elephants, giraffes and zebras to wild horses, snakes, and flamingos. For most the exhibits there were multiple animals which I think is always a good thing in zoos. Also they exhibits gave the animals a lot of room which I didn't expect because the city is so overpopulated, I thought maybe they just wouldn't have that kind of space for zoos in China. In the United States I know that most zoos try to preserve the natural habitat that the animals would live in to make it as real as possible, I wasn't sure if that did that in Asia but from visiting the Shanghai Zoo I would say that they do.
Today was probably one of the saddest days we had in China, today was our last day in Tianjin. To spend our last day a group of us and some Chinese students went to Ancient Culture Street. This was very cool because the Chinese students got to help us buy gifts for our friends back in the United States. The students were very helpful with me especially because I wanted to get my sister a painting that meant a long marriage. She just got married and I wanted to get them something that was traditional Chinese. They helped me talk to the people in the store and we didn't have much time so I was grateful for their help. After Ancient Culture Street we went to have dinner at the Korean BBQ. The Korean BBQ was one of my favorite restaurants in Tianjin! I was so happy when we decided to spend our last dinner here. At the end of the dinner was the really special part. This was the part when we exchanged gifts with the Chinese students. I got some gifts that I was really excited about. Lisa gave me chopsticks, Sue gave me a little fabric bird that she made, Lily gave me a Nankai University notebook that she wrote a personalized note in it and Amy gave me something really special she gave me some of her favorite music most was asian music but not strictly Chinese. She also gave one of Nankai's notebooks, but I really liked the music that really meant a lot to me. Overall it was one of the best days but it was also very sad to say goodbye.
It was our last weekend to do something in Duluth and a group of us decided that we were going to do some site seeing before we left Tianjin. We used the book that Doctor Li gave us as a reference. Since it was our last weekend and we still had a lot of stuff we wanted to do, we asked Jason what he suggested. One thing he said to visit for sure was Ancient Culture Street. He also recommended we visit this ceramic house. I was kind of skeptical at first because I didn't want to just go look at a house. After I went I was very happy that I did. Not only was it very cheap to go, it was very pretty! The detail on that house was amazing. I didn't think that the entire thing was made out of ceramics but it was! Most of the pieces looked like bottoms of bowls. The main color that I saw in the house was blue which one of the main colors of China is also so that makes sense. After the house we went to a very famous shopping street to do a little bit of shopping before we went out to dinner. There were many people out shopping which made me think that in China people do tend to shop a lot, I would say this is common in the United States as well. Many people go to the malls.
Today we went on a tour of IKEA. This was interesting to me because I go to IKEA in the United States so it was very interesting to compare the two stores. What I realized the most was that both stores are very similar. From the inside I couldn't tell that we were in a different country. I think that says a lot about IKEA as a company. This just means that they are very consistent in every market. I think their biggest catch is that they build products for small housing and younger generations. And as cities around the world become bigger, apartments and homes become smaller which is why IKEA is becoming so big. Another factor is that they target to the younger crowd and their pricing strategy is very affordable to the younger generations. There was one thing that I found different when comparing the United States store and the store in China that was their kitchens. The style was very similar but in the United States the kitchens were much larger. I think this is just a different in cultures. In America we have huge kitchens with large refrigerators and even deep freezer. This is the complete opposite in the Asian culture, they believe in buying food more frequently rather than storing it in the fridge. I was surprised to see how similar both stores are to each other but that shows that IKEA has strong brand image that can be marketing throughout the world.
The train system in China is amazing. All the major cities in China are connected by train. They also have bullet trains that can reach up to 400 km/hr. The train we rode reached 300 km/h. The train ride is smooth and when you look out the window, in a blink of an eye you pass through many rural farm lands. The first train ride we had was from Beijing to Tianjin, which is about 71 miles. On the train it only took us about a half hour to reach Tianjin. Also taking the train is so relaxing. You don't have to worry about the crazy China traffic with constant horns and the policy of first come first serve. The train is the only one on the road and travels with ease. Today we took our second trip on the train and it was from Tianjin to Wuxi. My train buddies were; Dr. Li, Tyler, and Elliot. In each cabin their sits six people. We had a lot of luggage so at first I was nervous we were not going to be able to fit. To my surprise all six people fit in the cabin with all of our large suit cases. I slept for a little bit on the train but after awhile I couldn't get comfortable so I went to the restaurant part in the train. I ordered rice and dumplings for lunch, to my surprise it was actually good and eating the restaurant was quite pleasant. I felt as if I was on a high class train ride back in the 50s'. I could have ordered a drink and smoke a cigarette if I my heart desired.
After experiencing the train system in China I think that the America should try to adapt this system. I know that America has steered away from trains and invested a lot of money in flying; yet I think the trains are for more economical. Having all the major cities in the US connected by train would open up so many opportunities for more travel and more tourism. I feel that even if the train took more time, if it was less expensive, families could manage a vacation by taking the train to a new city. Also with technology growing so fast these days the trains could be run off electricity which would be greener than using the plane system that we are so used. I feel that if proposed in America, many people would be against it because it would seem like back tracking. During the industrial revolution, America had an amazing train system; the bullet trains are built higher than trains on the ground so we could even build on top of the already existing infrastructures and while doing that try to improve their routes. Overall, I loved the train system in China and I think that it is a great way to connect all the people in different cities and a good way to manage their population by keeping more people off the roads.
China Day 28 (Shanghai-Chicago-Minneapolis)
Today was our last day in China. It's hard to believe that this trip is already over. They say that as you get older time seems to go by quicker and quicker, and my China experience seems to be an accurate reflection of this saying. We were supposed to get on the bus at 9 AM this morning, however, my roommate and I slept through our alarm and were awoken by Dahui at 10 AM. I was shocked when I realized this and swiftly gathered my things to get on the bus. Before going to the airport, our group went to a shopping mall. This was a pretty cool mall and I ended up buying a few more pairs of Ray Ban sunglasses for my family, as well as a Mario and Luigi figure for myself. After our hour at the shopping mall we went to have our last Chinese meal. We went to a seemingly high class restaurant and the food was incredible. I think I will really miss the food here. That and a lot more. After lunch we took off for the airport. Surreal. We said goodbye to Joe and, soon thereafter, our professor as we eventually went to our gate back to the United States. The flight from Shanghai to Chicago felt like it took forever and I was very restless the entire time. I think I got sick from being on the plane (just a cold). After arriving in Chicago we had a three hour layover until we could board the plane to Minneapolis. This ended up being more like a four hour layover until we finally got on the plane. Once the plane took off it had to fly around over Eau Clair, Wisconsin because of the storms in Minneapolis. The captain announced that the flight had to be diverted and at this point I was livid. Too much plane for one day. We flew back to Chicago, they refueled the plane, and finally we were cleared to land in Minneapolis. We got there at around 1 AM when we were supposed to get in at just under 10 PM. I don't think I've felt so tired , hungry, dirty, and just plain glad to be standing up in my life. One thing I noticed immediately once I got outside... the air is so much fresher here. I could see the sky! It's good to be home but I am thinking I will need another go-around in China at some point.
Last night in our hotel Nolan and I watched a talk show that was talking about the college entrance exams that Chinese students take to get into college. From what I could gather the entrance exam is like a super version of the ACT or SAT. The exam lasts for 3 days and it tests students on all the knowledge they've learned in high school. You then receive a score and this score determines which colleges you can go to. The talk show said the test is very competitive and very stressful on students. The hosts talked about some tricks people use to help their scores. The exam is more competitive in smaller towns because universities only select a few candidates from different districts. In smaller areas less openings into colleges are handed out so some students take the test in larger cities. I learned that some universities will only select the highest scores in certain districts and really prestigious schools will only select the best scores in all of China. This all seemed very confusing a very intimidating. I can't imagine what Chinese students go through during this time with all the pressure. I would have so much anxiety if I were a student. This process for getting into college is much different then what we have in America. We have a similar test with the ACT SAT but they're not nearly as important. I did not score well on my tests but I had a good gpa and class ranking. I'm really glad I did not grow up in China because I feel if I had to take this test my score would be horrible and probably wouldn't have made it to college.
Today we explored the city of Suzhou and went on an awesome boat ride. The first thing I thought of when we arrived to the dock was Venice, Italy. I have never been there but from what I have seen from movies and the television; Suzhou was very similar in certain ways. When we got on the boat we drove on a narrow channel through the city. It was very beautiful, all the buildings were lit up and we got to see a bunch of other boats. I was very surprised to see that many of the buildings around us which were right on the water were people's homes. Life in Suzhou, to me seemed a lot different from life in the other cities we visited in China. We also visited a garden which was very interesting and beautiful. I had never seen anything even comparable to this back in the United States. Suzhou was amazing and probably the most beautiful place we have visited so far. I would have loved to spend more time there but I was very anxious to get to Shanghai so I didn't mind.
When we arrived into Hangzhou I could not stop thinking about how beautiful the countryside was. There were miles and miles of mountains covered in green trees. The air seemed so fresh and a lot cleaner than what our group was used to. After a lot of observing from the bus we arrived at a Bamboo Forest. This was something that I had never heard of before and was very anxious to see with my own eyes. The forest was green and very damp with the clearest stream that we had seen yet, running right through it. The water honestly looked clean enough to drink and I figured it was coming from a spring somewhere. I pretended like I was going to drink it and our guide Joe advised me not to. I was really hoping that we would see some dangerous animals but Joe reassured me that it is rare to see animals and that if we did it would probably be a snake. I really wish we could have spent a little more time at the forest. I was telling Alex that it would be amazing to spend a whole day here exploring and climbing the mountains. The bamboo forest was a beautiful site and I am really glad that I had the opportunity to see it in person.
Today we finally arrived in Shanghai and ate dinner at a rather unique restaurant. After dinner we got checked into our hotel and started preparing ourselves for the Club Joe was bringing us to. Joe told us that the club was called Muse 2 and it was one of the top three clubs in Shanghai. After riding the subway we arrived at the club and Joe had already reserved to VIP tables for us which was awesome. Shortly after we arrived and sat down the waiters brought out some whiskey, champagne, and some beer. The club was rather expensive but I wasn't too surprised because it was an amazing spot to party. After we ran out of the drinks for everyone a few others from the group and I split a bottle which ended up costing 880 between the five of us. It was well worth it, I could not have had a better time. The women performing were absolutely amazing and the music was great. A few of us ended up meeting the owner and he shared some of his extremely expensive liquor with us which definitely surprised me. He was very friendly and seemed to enjoy our company. I had an amazing time at Muse 2 and would definitely like to go back if I ever return to Shanghai.
Today we went to the silk factory in Suzhou. It was very interesting to learn about how the silk was made from start to finish. I had never really thought of where silk came from and was very surprised when I learned that there was such a thing as a silk worm. The whole process starts with the silk worm which later makes a silk cocoon. After the cocoon is ready it is brought to the factory and attached to a spindle machine that is operated by a worker. After seeing how the whole process worked we got to watch a fashion show and do some silk shopping. I found a coat that was one of the sickest coats I have ever seen but it cost 1000 rmb which was a little out of my price range. I also really wanted to get some silk bed sheets but they were too expensive. I ended up leaving the silk factory without making any purchases because I wanted to save my money for Shanghai.
Unlike most students I forgot to bring a book along with me to China. So as soon as I got back I went to Barnes and Nobile and Got the Book "On China" by Henry Kissinger.
Fom front to cover and while spending time with my new niece it took me a whole day to read the book .
In the book Kissnger talks about the roles he played in the Nixon era, where he helped play a huge role in creating Diplomacy betwwen The United States and China in a time where the cold war was still going on .In the book he shows some of the History both recent and traditional dating back over a thousand years. IIn the book he also goes on to talk aboout the differences in the Philosophies between the United States and China. One example wuld be that the United States are like the missionaries of the world we try to bring our culutre every where we go . Where as the Chinese are more cultural. I thought It was very cool to see that a lot of the things that Kissinger had to say in China, were things we learned at the business school at Nankai Universtiy WHile taking classes.
The books just took those Ideas and tied a lot of them together like how we as the United states are about indiviualism. Where as the People in China are about "We"
I really enjoyed this book and hope to continue to learn more as I do both my academic paper and reflection.
Today was our last full day in Shanghai as well as China and I am really sad that this trip is over. To start the day off we went to the Yu Garden which is another very famous garden in China. It is cool to see the amount of work and detail that went in to making this garden. Seeing the Yu Garden made me want to have a garden myself. After the garden we had an option to stay at the marketplace or head back to the hotel and I decided to head back to the hotel even though I still needed a suitcase for all the stuff I had bought. Later a couple of the guys and I walked around to look for another place where we could buy a suitcase and surprisingly we did not have to walk too far. I was able to get a suitcase for 60 RMB which is a great price. That night all of us went out to Sky Nightclub to celebrate our last night in China and it's safe to say that we all had a blast. Overall, I have had an unforgettable experience in China and I will never forget the friendships that I have made.
I am so glad that I finally got to experience KTV. For some reason we all thought that it was an alright idea to go to KTV around midnight and not go to bed knowing that we had to get on a train the next day. I missed out on KTV the first time so I felt obligated to go and I am really glad that I did. When we arrived at KTV me and a couple of the guys split a bottle of vodka which was ridiculously priced compared to what we are used to paying at shops. We had to get two rooms because there were so many of us which was nice because it stayed cooler that way. After a few of us sang I decided it was my turn to try and I rapped the song Mockingbird by Eminem. I was pretty confident I could do it because I knew every word and it is one of my favorite songs. I started out great but towards the middle I started to mess up pretty bad. Singing by yourself is one thing, but singing when a bunch of people around is a lot harder. I ended up putting the mic down early because I was really messing up. When we left KTV I obviously had to make a Mcdonalds run to get my 10th big mac which is pretty disgusting but I love it. After that we headed back to the hotel and watched a movie, got our things packed, and waited until it was time to get on the bus.
Traffic in China is so much different than what I am used to back home in America. I have learned that there are traffic laws but from what I have seen they are not enforced very well at all. You honestly cross the road at your own risk over here. I have been watching how he locals cross the street and it is seriously crazy! Even if the crosswalk light is red they will walk out into the street and stand in the middle of the intersection in between moving traffic. Personally, I like to wait for the green light but even then there are still cars that you have to watch out for. I have never heard so much honking in my life. If you are out on the streets it's not possible to go 10 seconds without hearing someone honk. I am not sure if drivers over here are super impatient or what the deal is. I have also noticed that people hardly use turn signals especially if they are just switching lanes. I think it would be extremely hard for me to drive in China. People here are such aggressive drivers I wouldn't have a chance and would probably end up in an accident.
Today was a day filled with both joy and sorrow. For most of the students it would be there last time in China. The day started off very slow due to the point that since it was our last night in Shanghai most of us stayed out really late. Even at that however it was a great day. Joe took us to a very fancy Restaurant to have our last meal. Like all the food we have had in China it was very delicious. After lunch we went to a shopping center where we had one last chance to buy gifts for ourselves or family and friends back home. After about an hour of shopping until we dropped, we got on the bus and headed to the airport. Hear we said our goodbyes to Joe and headed through both security and customs. Once we all got through we went to our gate and waited for our plane to arrive. While waiting for our plane we saw not one but two Airbus 380 which is the Double decker planes that hold over 800 passengers. After about an hour or so we boarded our plane and were on our way back to the United States. The 13 hour plane ride always goes faster when you meet people. Which is what I did, I met Chinese's exchange students heading to the States. We talked nearly the entire ride. When we arrived at O'Hare International in Chicago we had to again go through security and customs. Which was a breeze? What went so good was the fact that when we were on the final plane from Chicago to Minneapolis. Our plane ran low on Fuel, so we had to go back to Chicago and fuel u then head home. We arrived after one in the morning and from there most students went home and went to bed, Thank You Dr. LI for an incredible trip.
"Wow" I thought to myself this is really the last full day in China. One month has really flown by. As I rolled out of bed I realized it too was also a Saturday today so it meant for the most part a free day. We did however go to the Yu Garden. Which I may say, the gardens here in China trump those in the Unites States. The water here was so peaceful it made me almost wants to grab a pillow and a blanket and take a nap. After the Yu gardens, we went back to hotel to figure out what the rest of the day had in store. Knowing that we were all going out tonight for our last night in China, I decided to take a nice long nap. After my nap I then messaged my mom and found out that I was about to be a new uncle when I got home I was so thrilled what better can you ask for then being able to go to china and then come back to a brand new baby? After hearing the great news we all went in to one of the students room and met with Dr. Li for the last night. We then all decided to head out to the club for our last night .It was absolutely a blast I know I may say it again but Thank you Dr. Li for making this trip happen. I would also like to thanks each and every one of my classmates for being as kind and generous as you all were this trip
Today we went to the business school at Nankai University for our orientation. We got to meet the Chinese students that we would be studying with during our time at Nankai. At first I thought that the students would be very quiet and shy, I was definitely wrong. The girl that sat next to me told me that her American name was Sue. She was extremely friendly and spoke pretty good English. I was surprised at how well we were able to relate and understand each other. We talked about the many differences between Americans and Chinese. She told me that Chinese people are very obedient and that she thinks Americans aren't which is definitely true to some extent. Another major difference was that the Chinese have a much more collectivist culture and Americans seem to be more independent. I found that the most similar thing between the Chinese and Americans is that we are both very friendly.
Shanghai, only a dream for most people became a reality. the city is so big and full of skyscrapers. Its like the New York City of China it seems. We even got to the Pearl Tower . The pearl tower is currently the tallest Tv tower in China. We went up to 263 meters I believe. when we were up there it was an incredible view of parts of the city and the river. We then went down a few floors we got to go out onto the skywalk. it was extremely scary at first . wallking on transparent glass feelin like you were going to fall. But all in all it was again another wonderful day in China,
Today was our first full day in Shanghai and to start the day off we took a walk around the lake where we had an awesome view of the city. We also were able to see the second tallest building in China, the Pearl Tower, which we were visiting later. After a quick lunch, we headed for the Pearl Tower which is 468 meters tall but we only went up 263 meters which is still incredibly high. It was cool to see the city of Shanghai from that high up but, unfortunately, it was fairly smoggy today so we weren't able to see that far. The coolest part of the tower was the see-through floor and I have to admit it was pretty scary looking straight down 260 meters. That evening after the tower we took a cruise around the city and if the height of the building wasn't amazing enough, it was awesome to see them light up. Shanghai is truly an amazing city and I am excited to see what tomorrow holds.
Today was a change in pace from most days here in China. Instead of waking up and going outside to air you could hardly breathe in, the air was very clean and fresh. It almost seemed like a paradis heere in China. AN event that really stood out to me today was going to the tea garden . WHile driving out to the tea garden I saw the most beautiful countryside I think I have ever seen in my life. the landscape was undescribable. When we got to the tea garden I had by far the best tea I had ever had in my life. It was so good I even spent oever 100 american dollars buying some .Another really cool place we went to was the park it almsot seemed like a rain forest . it was so beautiful, but i was on edge that there was going to be some creatures that were going to pop out and get us .it was definitely a fullfilling day .
Today was yet another great day. Today we were on to Suzhou. Here in Suzhou it was like the venice in the east . One of the events that really stood out to me today was the river cruise we went on at night. It was so peaceful, being on a boat with all my classmates.in a lit up boat traveling through part of the city. Thank you joe for another great day here.
While abroad in China I was introduced to China's extensive tea culture. I had never drank tea before as I thought it would be like Brisk Ice Tea I tried when I was a child and didn't like. I also always thought tea originated with the British, not the Chinese. First in Beijing we were introduced to China's main 6 different types of tea. My favorites were green tea and the fruit tea. I really have enjoyed the tea we've had in China and Dr. Li says he likes tea more than coffee. I would really like to see if I can replace all the coffee I drink with tea as tea is much better for you. I'm really surprised that the tea culture in America isn't very popular as it is ridiculously huge in China. Our coffee culture is like China's tea culture. I people drinking tea everywhere. On our train from Tianjin to Wuxi I say a gentleman with a large mayonnaise size jar full of tea with a large amount of green tea leaves at the bottom. While in Tianjin we went to a tea shop and they let us sample some of their tea. While on the Chinese Ancient Culture street a shop owner shared some of their green tea with us. Its really been nice getting to try so much tea.
I really like how tea is so good for you. We learned that while the green tea is hot and steaming you can open your eye above the tea and the moisture from the tea is good for you eyes. Our guide at the Dragonwell production site told us that green tea leaves are rich in antioxidants and are good at cleaning out the body. We learned that its also healthy to eat the tea leaves at the end. I was most surprised to find out that green tea did give me a little bit of energy. I really want to try green tea back in America and see if it can help get me started in the morning.
Today was another great day here in China. Today was our day to spend i Wuxi the Hometown of our new guide Joe I ve only know him about a day so far and I am very excited for the rest of the trip with him.
Once again we had to pack our bags today but I was pretty excited because we were headed for Shanghai! Before we left for Shanghai we headed to the Long Jing Tea Garden in Hangzhou. This tea garden has the most famous green tea in all of China so it was pretty hard to resist buying some. After a short presentation we had a chance to buy some of this prized tea and I was so impressed with the tea that I had to get some. Once we were done with the tea garden we mad a four hour drive to Shanghai. When we made it to Shanghai we stopped at a restaurant for dinner which was really cool because the employees put on a live performance with music and dancing. The size of Shanghai is truly amazing the height of the buildings is beyond words. After the dinner we headed to our final hotel of the trip it felt good knowing that we didn't have to change hotels again. That night our tour guide Joe brought out to the nightclub Muse 2 where we had two VIP tables for our group. Although the club was pretty expensive we had a lot of fun. I am excited to see what the last coupe of days in China will hold but I am sad that this trip is almost over.
I read the book, Made in China, by Donald N. Sull. This book explains the hardships that China's economy has gone through and what makes it the second largest economy in the world after the United States. I am very glad I read this book after my stay in China because I was able to read facts and relate it back to real life examples I experienced in China. For example, one fact in the book states that homegrown competitors rank high on the list of competitive challenges while global brand leaders such as Coca-Cola have come across stiff competition in China. I can relate this back to learning about how Best Buy did not succeed in doing business in China because they were not able to adapt to changes that had to be made. Other businesses, such as IKEA, have succeeded in China. This is because IKEA adapted to changes and designed their room displays to fit the Chinese culture.
Another example from the book I can relate to a real life experience is when the book explains the SAPE cycle: managers sense the overall situation, anticipate emerging threats and opportunities, prioritize necessary actions, and execute these priorities in a timely and effective manner. This cycle allows for flexible priorities, strategic decision making, and operating improvements. In a simple way, this relates to the market right next to our hotel in Tianjin. The managers or owners of these vendors or food stands must sense or analyze how much they plan to sell for the day or review how much they made the day before. If a new vendor or food stand enters the competition, owners of other food stands must anticipate how this food stand will affect their sales. To make the most profit, owners of the food stand must prioritize their plans for the day and follow through with these plans throughout the day. The SAPE cycle is an alternative to the traditional strategic planning process that is often used throughout businesses in China. The SAPE cycle has helped China's economy succeed and become the second largest economy in the world.
There are many other examples from this book about China's economy that reminded me of real life examples I experience while studying abroad. This book and my study abroad experience gave me a new perspective on what I thought about China's economy. By 2045, some analysts believe China's economy could overtake America's. The future of China's economy is unknown, but with courageous leaders, there is a good chance China's economy will continue to succeed.
I woke up Sunday morning and thought it was a dream. I could not believe that it was the last day in China already. The four weeks had flown by and I wasn't ready to go. I quickly packed my suitcase, took a shower, and was down in the lobby by 9 am. Once everyone was down in the lobby and checked out of the hotel, we proceeded to the market to do some last minute shopping. Around noon, we finished shopping and went to have our last meal in China. After lunch, we went to the airport and said our goodbyes to our tour guide, Joe, and Dr. Li. After we checked in and got to our gate, we had some time to spare before our flight at 4 pm. My sleeping schedule was already messed up because of the little amount of sleep I had gotten over the past month and I knew it would get even more messed up after this 13 hour flight. Because of the time difference, we arrived in Chicago on Sunday at 5 pm. In China, this would have been 6 am on Monday morning. I did not sleep much on the plane to Chicago, but I felt wide awake as we waited for our next flight home. Once we were on the flight to Minneapolis, I fell asleep right away and I was awaken by a voice on the intercom informing us that we would have to fly in circles while we wait for the storm to pass through Minneapolis. I fell back asleep and woke up around 11 pm when our flight had landed back in Chicago. This would have been 12 pm China time. We finally made it home around 12:30 am and I was picked up by a friend. Because of the 13 hour time difference and our flight home, our Sunday was a 37 hour long day. Four days later, my body still feels confused as I try to find a normal sleeping schedule again.
Today we began our journey back to America. To start the day off we went to the shopping market to buy last minute gifts. I ended up buying a few things for friends, family, and myself. After shopping we went to a very nice place to eat lunch. Joe organized for us to eat at this place and it was very nice and yummy. It was nice to have one more Chinese meal before we headed off. Once we got to Shanghai airport we said our good byes to Dr. Li and Joe. It was a sad day leaving China but It was time to go back to America and work for the remainder of the summer and finish up school in the fall.
To begin the day off we went to the Shanghai Garden. This garden is literally in the middle of the city and you wouldn't even know it once your inside. This garden was originally owned by a private party and then it was taken over by the government. This garden was beautiful with all of the water, fish, plants, rock, and sculptures. Joe was telling us that when it was owned by the private party back in the day he originally had 5 fingers on the dragons. The emperor at the time heard about this and came to this garden to take off the 5th finger on all of the dragons in the garden. Reason being that only the emperor can have 5 fingers on his dragons and no one else can. After the garden we split off into small groups and went shopping. I found it amazing on how many different things Chinese people will sell you. They had pretty much anything you could imagine in this shopping area.
Today was the day I truly felt we got to see Shanghai. To begin the day off we took the bus into downtown Shanghai along side the river and we were told to explorer for a hour and half. A group of us found a nice little restaurant along side the river. We walked up to the top and got some coffee and relaxed with the crew. After walking around we headed to the restaurant to have lunch. As soon as we sat down we met some people from the United States. There was an old couple who are originally from California and they have been to China 5 times. After lunch we began our journey toward the Pearl Tower. This tower was awesome because of how high it was. We took an elevator to the observation level. The elevator was probably the fastest elevator I have ever been on. It felt like we were flying to the top. We went down another floor which was my favorite part. There is a walk way outside that wraps around the building that had see through floors. It was so cool to be able stand on this see though floor and feel like you are so high above the ground. After the Pearl Tower we had dinner then we went to the river and got on a boat. This boat drove down the river and we got to see all of the sky scrapers light up at night.
To begin the day off we hopped on a boat to cruise around a man made lake in Hangzhou. Many people use this lake to get away and relax after a long week of work. Joe told us that many people from Shanghai come to this city to relax and enjoy the fresh clean air unlike Shanghai. As we were on the lake we saw some small boats with tables on them. According to Joe our tour guide these tables are used for tea and families or friends come out on the lake to relax and have tea. We also got to see the spot where the 1 yuan was designed after. After the boat ride we walked to an area that we were able to feed the fish and walk around to view the green scenery. Later in the day we went to a famous tea place which we got to have some high quality tea. This tea was really good and it was very high end and expensive. I would have purchased some tea but I could not afford the price. After the tea place we began to head to shanghai.
To start off I do love America and I think its a great place to live. However, there are some things I don't like about America and I was worried that people in China wouldn't like me because I'm American. I had an idea in my head that when I'd tell people I'm from America they would roll their eyes or be annoyed by me. I was very surprised and happy to find out this wasn't true. When I told people I was from America they were often excited. I also learned that America in Chinese meiguo where mei means beautiful and guo means country. So America in Chinese is beautiful country. I wonder if this was created by Chinese people or if American's decided to call their country beautiful. We asked some Chinese students what stereotypes they had of Americans. They thought most Americans were fat and this is a far assessment. In China you saw a heavier person maybe every other day while in America it is almost every other person you see is over weight. While Nolan, Shaofan, Ka, and I were walking around the water fountain a group of older women wanted to get their pictures with Nolan and I. After words they were telling us how much they liked Americans, but later they said they didn't like Obama. This leads me to think that maybe other nations do like American's but not American government. This makes sense to me as I never understand our government either. After traveling to another country and learning what they feel about us I now have more pride in being American. I often thought American's were not liked but I have learned during my travels abroad this is not universally true.
It is our last day here in China and on our way out we stopped at a shopping center/ market. This market was very similar to the one we went to in Beijing, but I think it was better. Due to the late start we got this morning, we only had one hour to shop here. I wish we wouldve had longer. This place had so many different items and clothes that I didnt get to see. I ended up purchasing three t shirts and a jersey.
I really enjoyed going to these markets because I love to bargain and get the best possible price. I noticed that in this market, there was a lot more hostility toward myself and the members of our group. Maybe this is just my opinion, but I was called stupid and drunk by a few different vendors for trying to "low ball" them. I figure that if they are going to set the price of a t shirt outrageously high, why wouldnt I offer an extremely low price to offset it? The reaction and response was the same everytime. "Are you carzy?!!!" basically sums up my hour at the market. Despite these intial responses, they would always wait for you to walk down the hall for a about 5 seconds, and then you would hear their voice yell "okay okay, Ill give it to you becuase I like you". I loved ending our trip here and getting a few final presents. I will miss this type of shopping when I return home.
This Saturday everyone in our group seemed to be recovering from previous nights. I caught up on some blogs and then sat in my hotel room for awhile, starting to get bored. I really wanted to see if I could find some cool t shirts or shoes to bring home but, didnt know where to find any sort of mall or shopping center. I decided to go for a run, in no particular direction, around Shanghai. I figured that I would run until I found some stores that I could purchase some gifts at for some of my family members, as it was our last full day in Shanghai. I started running down the road and as I kept going I saw many interesting things. Running around a city like Shanghai was exhilirating. I never new exactly where I was going, stopping into random shopping centers and stores, hoping I would remember my way back to the hotel.
I ventured about 5 miles away from the hotel and figured that if I got lost or was too tired I would just take a cab back to the hotel. I am very glad I decided to go on this run because I got to see Shanghai in a light that I wasnt able to with the rest of our group. I went through slums and also very nice areas and saw stray dogs and million dollar cars. When it began to get dark out, I started my run home. It was funny to get looked at by people on the street like I was crazy for running in such a busy area. I had a feeling they thought that I was crazy. When I returned from this 10 mile - 2 hours venture, I felt refreshed and ready for the night. I am glad I took the opportunity to see a part of Shanghai that I had never seen, and wish I had more time to run in a different direction, as I know it would hold just as much excitement as the last run.
It was another early morning with another late night preceding it. One of our last activities in China was something we learned early on in the trip. We had one last opportunity to bargain with some vendors and dump the extra yuan sitting in our pockets. We visited a market that may have had the best and widest array of products we have seen so far on the trip. This was a saving grace for me, because my gift shopping was less than halfway done. I had left a couple of items in Tianjin by accident, so I needed to replace some of the gifts I bought for others and buy a few items for myself.
Today was probably the most I have ever spent in one day (in China), but I was pretty satisfied with everything I ended up purchasing. Not only was it the last time we could bargain on the trip, it was the last time we were going to see that many pretty Chinese girls haha. A lot of us had fun joking around and negotiating with them. All of the vendors I talked to were very friendly and didn't get annoyed by any of our antics or low-end offers. It was a fun and low key way to end the trip, and it will be one of my good memories from the trip.
The trip was awesome and I have absolutely no regrets going to China. I made some good friends in this month, and had some of the funniest and most enjoyable experiences of my life. That being said, I am looking forward to going back home and enjoying my family, friends, and Minnesota.
Today was our first full day in Shanghai, and was extremely eventful. We started our day on the Bund, which is a German style street filled with buildings that look like German architecture. We then explored the city for awhile and went to the Oriental Pearl Tower, which is the second tallest building in Shanghai. The view from the top was breath-taking. They had a spot with a clear floor, which gave you a better and much scarier look at what's down below. We then went to the Shanghai technology and science museum. I wish we would've had more than two hours here. There were so many exhibits we didn't get to see but, the ones we did get to see and experience were very fascinating. My favorite was the ping pong machine. Finally we ended the day with a night time boat ride on the river through Shanghai. There were lights on everything, buildings and boats included. I look forward to going through all of my pictures too see the city again.
Today we arrived in Shanghai around 6pm. We went out to dinner and then checked into our hotel that we will be staying in for 3 nights. After that we got ready to go to Muse 2, one of the most popular night clubs in Shanghai. Our tour guide Jo was nice enough to set this up for us and also come along. We got two VIP tables and a few bottles of champagne, beer, and some mixed drinks.
The club was expensive and cost about 2300 Yuan for 2 tables. My group also ended up buying a bottle of whiskey for 880 Yuan. Needless to say, we spent quite a bit of money. The performers and music were awesome, along with the entire atmosphere. I had a great time at M2 and I know everyone else in our group did as well.
Today we went to the Song Dynasty City in Hangzhou, to watch a show that was supposedly better than a Broadway show. I have to say that it was absolutely amazing. I thought the acrobat show that we saw in Beijing was awesome, and this one blew it out of the water. I think it was titled the "3 Kingdoms in China" or something along those lines, and told a few different stories. The special effects were unreal. We had VIP seats which were in the front row, and they were awesome. At one point, the stages turned into 3 huge waterfalls and a pool. Our tour guide Jo wasn't lying when he said that we would see the prettiest girls in China there either. This show had great acrobatics and told stories of Chinese history, including battles with Mongols and basically the Chinese version of "Romeo and Juliet". The little city that the theatre was in was also awesome. There were many shops and games, as well as a haunted ghost house. I would love to go back here and see another show in the future.
Since a lot of us purchased items that exceeded our load capable of bringing back to states, we needed to find some luggage. We skipped shopping at the market we visited earlier that day, and opted to look around the hotel for a place to purchase some more carry-ons. Our search for a mall or string of shops looked like a failure as our walked progressed. There was only three of us left; Matt, Tom, and myself. We were about to give up and head back to the hotel, but we decided to check a run-down looking street as a last resort.
It still seemed like we were out of luck as we walked down the street, but towards the end we finally found a shop with some luggage sitting outside. We walked in to find the whole store filled luggage, so it looked like we lucked out. Not only did the shop fit our needs, but the person running the store happened to speak perfect English. It was the last thing any of us expected considering the location and condition street around it. The guy was really nice and helped us pick out the cheapest and best quality luggage for our ride home. As we left the store and went back to the hotel, we were surprised that a person that spoke English that well was working in a place like that. Perhaps the knock-off luggage business is more profitable than we expect, but we think that being fluent in a language like that is a huge asset when looking for a job.
We have been on several boat rides during our stay in China, but I don't think any ride can rival the display of the one in Shanghai. Unlike our boat ride in Suzhou, the group boarded a pretty big cruiser with a lot of other individuals on it. All of us ran up to the top of the boat, so we could have a chance to take a lot of pictures and observe the entire skyline at night. At the beginning of the ride, there was still some daylight and the smog was prominent. Despite those inadequacies the view was still pretty cool. We were looking forward to the last leg of the ride in order to catch a glimpse of the skyline at night.
As the ride progressed, the night sky grew darker and the images became more breathtaking. Not only were the skyscrapers towering over us and the rest of the city, they now displayed impressive lights and even some moving pictures. I have a feeling a lot of the best pictures of the trip will come from this boat ride. The images we witnessed were unlike anything we've seen on the trip, and although it had no cultural background or culture the imagery was still pretty cool. It was great finally be able to see Shanghai at night, and I think it was something most of us wanted to do when signing up for the trip.
Leaving Tianjin was hard for a lot us, but it made it easier knowing we still had Shanghai to visit on the trip. After a few pit stops, some of which were awesome, we have finally made it to Shanghai. Although I was finishing my book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, on the way in it was hard not to notice the massive city scape of Shanghai. With a massive industrial atmosphere, comes the downside of that development. Shanghai is probably the most noticeably smoggy city we have visited. Despite the smog is was still an awesome site to see.
We did not have planned activities for our first night in Shanghai, except for a group dinner. The dinner was not just a "dinner," but also had a performance by some the staff; there was dancers, musicians, etc. The dinner was anything but bland, and represents the glamour of the rest of Shanghai. The one thing Shanghai is not is modest; the skyscrapers have lights blazing through the sky, as if the giant skyscrapers needed any light for recognition. The city of Shanghai is truly a site to see.
After only a day in Suzhou we departed for Hangzhou, which was our third city in as many days. Hangzhou was just about as beautiful as Suzhou. It was full of character and life, and was probably the cleanest city we have been to on the trip. According to our guide and professor, Hangzhou is regarded as the best city to live in, in China. It could linked to it's cleanliness and it's big city mentality but with livability of a smaller city. One the great features of this city was it's patches of nature located in the city.
Joe, our tour guide for the last leg of the trip, brought us to a "Bamboo Forest." Before the trip, I had no idea such a forest existed or was even possible to exist. The air was fresh, the scenery was breathtaking, and it made for a great walk. The bamboo trees towered above us for the entire walk, and we walked upon a pond that had the cleanest water we've seen in China. I think a lot of us missed the nature and parks you can find in Minnesota, so this was a really refreshing visit and sort of cleansed us for the rest of the trip.
Today we arrived in Suzhou, which may be my favorite city so far on the trip. The whole city is exploding with culture and unique architecture and landscape. It was an unfortunate day to have my camera battery dead, as the city was beautiful and full of many photo opportunities. I will have to rely on my memory and pictures taken by other members of the group.
The most interesting and beautiful part of our stay in Suzhou was probably the evening boat ride. The group boarded a small and narrow boat and we went down a canal that dissecting a lot shops and restaurants. The water was calm and there were not many boats in sight, it was perfect. A couple of us were drinking a few beers, talking about the trip, and enjoying the scenery. The ride ended rather abruptly in our opinions, as we wished we had another half an hour and a few more beers. I really loved Suzhou, and I will miss it in the future.
Today we visited a sort of theme park in Wuxi. The park was located behind a wall that was used as a form of intimidation or false representation of an army's fire power, in a battle far back in China's history. The site is now used as a theme park and has also been used for shooting different movies and television programs. Inside the park there was lot of cool scenery, but the most interesting part of our visit was the performance we viewed before touring the whole park.
The show was depicting a battle that took place at the site long ago. Since it was extremely hot and humid out, a few of us walked around to the other side of the ring to sit under some much needed shade. The show was pretty magnificent, as the actors were spinning and jumping off and back on to their horses. There had to have been over 50 actors at a time inside the ring. The level of talent and dedication to perform those maneuvers must have been intense, and it was surprising to witness that in what I thought was a more tight corner in China. Each city is so massive and full talented individuals, that one can find a show like this in many cities in China.
Today we had an early morning with little sleep. The majority of the group spent last night at a karaoke bar (KTV) from 12 am to 5 am. Almost all of us we're operating on little to no sleep at all, so a 7 hour train ride was not the most favorable activity for the day. The only thing that kept us going was the eventual destination of Shanghai.
Before we boarded the train we gave our goodbyes to our program coordinators Jason and Lisa. Both of them were really nice people and I think the future groups will enjoy participating in the program with them. Each train car/room had about three students in it; I was riding with my roommate Ross and also Evan. The activities in our car ranged from to sleep to.. sleep. The cars were not exactly designed for a five star nap, so it was interesting to see the various positions we were in while trying get some sleep. As we arrived in Wuxi a lot the group was feeling the soreness from sleeping in our tight quarters. There was a lot of great scenery along the way, but I wasn't exactly conscious to enjoy it. I hope I have a little bit more sleep the night before, before I go on a train ride similar to this one.
So during our trip I've been trying to learn as many Chinese words as possible. So far the words I know that Chinese people actually understand when I say them are the words for beautiful, really really good, your welcome, thank you, America, and no thank you. What makes learning Chinese so difficult is the tones you use when you speak. Akmed and Saife explained this to me when they described the words for water and sleep. Both use the word shway except one is pronounced flat while the other one loops like sh-waaaay. Our tour guide today explained there are 4 different tones. The first is flat like aahh. The second is rising like aaaaaaah. The third is falling like aah. The final is the swoop like aaaaa-hhhhhh. Its hard to describe these sounds in writing but I think this is so interesting as it is much different then American language. Its fairly difficult as I always described myself as tone deaf and have trouble with tones with singing in english. I really really enjoy trying to learn Chinese and I think it would be nice to try and learn more of the individual sounds Chinese syllables make up. One sound that is hard for all of us is the sound x makes as its more of an shh sounds then what we're used to. I've also wondered that because Chinese Language uses tones more if its better for singing. When we go to KTV all the Chinese students sing beautifully. This is most likely due to the fact they sing very often, but I also wondered that since their language uses tones like our singing does. I know very little about singing and even less about Chinese language but I thought it was an interesting speculation.
Today we traveled around the city of Suzhou and went on a few fun boat rides. We also got to visit a very famous garden, which was very beautiful. Suzhou reminded of a Venice in China. We took a boat ride through the canals which were surrounded by buildings and homes. It was much different than the other cities we had been to in China, and I thought it was a lot nicer. It is said to be the home of Chinese girls with the softest lips and skin. I got a hand stitched picture of the garden as well.
This garden held the tombs of a few different famous ancient Chinese, even a famous prostitute. In my opinion, this was the most beautiful garden that we had been to in China. It was very well groomed and people were even cleaning it while we were there. Suzhou was a fun time and I wish we could've stayed longer to explore more of the unique city.
After a sleepless night, this morning our group had to get on the high speed train to Wuxi, where we would be staying for a night. On the bus ride over, Dr. Li handed out tickets and me and a few buddies were 21-25. When we got onto the train, I went to sit with them and then realized that 25 was in the room next door. I entered the room next door and sat with 5 people that I hadn't met. It was hot in the car and no one said a word the entire trip. This 6 hour ride seemed pretty long to me, especially not having anyone to talk to in a tiny crammed room.
This type of travel is something that I have never done before, and is much different than most trains in America, and in many ways. I was also worried when I left the car with my luggage in it with strangers. Dr. Li said to pay close attention to your bags, giving the impression to us that people get robbed on these trains. The train ride wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and when it was over I was relieved. I am also glad that I got to experience this way of travel.
Today is the last day that were in Tianjin. Most of the day was consumed by packing up and getting ready to go. At night, our entire, along with some of the Chinese students planned on going to KTV. I had not yet been to KTV like a lot of other members of our group had and I was excited. We had the room from 12am-6am, and we stayed the entire time.
KTV was such a great time, which makes me wonder why we don't have them in America. I think it would be a great business venture if someone looked into doing so. I really like that we had a separate room with our friends. I think that if we were in front of a crowd or audience that many of the group members wouldn't have tried singing. Everyone was exhausted in the morning, as most of us had not yet gone to bed. But it was worth it. Then we had to get on the high speed train to go to Wuxi.
I went to the water park with a few of my classmates today on our free day. It was pretty crowded and a lot different from water/ amusement parks in the United States. When I heard "water park" I figured there would be a pool, a bunch of slides, and other water based amusement to go on. This was not the case. There were man- made ponds and lakes along with well groomed gardens. There were a few rides scattered throughout the park but nothing like I was expecting. We went on the biggest roller coaster there, which cost 50 yuan per person. It was fun at the beginning but was a pretty rough ride and ended up not being very enjoyable. We walked around the park and looked at the buildings, many of which were modeled like the temple of heaven. There were paddle boats you could rent but they were too expensive. All in all, I was glad that I came to see the water park.
Today we had our presentation to the class and Chinese students. My group's topic was transportation, and we did basic rules and statistics and compared then to America. We also gave general information relating to parking and travel. This capped off the studying section at Nankai and it feels great to be done. Studying here in Tianjin was the opportunity of a lifetime, and something that I thoroughly have enjoyed. I am sad it is coming to an end. Later in the day, we made dumplings with all the Chinese students. Despite my strong efforts, I was horrible at making dumplings. I tried really hard and basically was laughed at by all the Chinese students when I showed them my end product; a sloppy dumpling with pork coming out both sides. I thought this meal was a great way to end this part of our trip.
Today we had a long visit to IKEA in Tianjin, which included a very long commute both ways. The traffic in Tianjin can be very rough during busy times and can be very frustrating to drive in. I'm assuming its like this in big cities all over China. When we arrived at IKEA I thought it was funny how similar the building looked in relation to those in America. When we got inside, the store looked pretty much the same as the ones I had seen in America.
I was expecting to see a lot of difference being that we are in China, but the layout and products in this IKEA were surprisingly similar. The only main difference to me in the layout of the store was that the model room displays were smaller. They are smaller because they suit the needs of the Chinese, who mainly live in apartments rather than houses like in America. There were also some different smaller products in the IKEA, but for the majority, the furniture looked very similar to me.
Today we went to the China House in Tianjin. I wasn't sure what to expect when visiting here. I hadn't researched it but we found it in our tour guide and we decided to go and make a trip to visit it. The only pictured that was displayed in the guide was of one porcelain vase the read China House above it. In the crazy can ride over there, like all cab rides are, we were sure how long it would take us to get there. I noticed in the cab that we were close to the Golden Street shopping area that we had visit earlier that week with Lisa and Amy. When we pulled up to the China House I was amazed! It was huge and the whole house was made out of china porcelain. The percelian collector, Zhang Lianzhi, was the owner and designer of the China House. The house consists of over 700 million porcelain pieces that are from the Tang and Qing Dynasties. Overall, the house consists of 13,000 porcelain vases, 300 stone lions, and 300 marble sculptures. The house is 4 stories high and is fascinating inside and out! Inside the house is furnished with beautiful old furniture and you can go out on three different terraces. I am so glad that we got to see this amazing museum of Zhang Lianzhi's large collection of Chinese artifacts.
Today Sarah, Laura, and I present on traditional Chinese Weddings in China. Traditional weddings are not very common in China anymore but they are very interesting. There are many components that go into a Chinese wedding but they overall scope goes a little something like this; first and foremost the bride is the most important part of the wedding. The wedding starts by first hiring a matchmaker. The matchmaker does all the negotiating between the families. If the Brides family accepts that proposal made by the Grooms family, then the marriage will be on. Sometimes in traditional wedding the Bride and Groom never met till their wedding night.
Three days before the wedding, the Grooms parents' home was very busy. All of this family would come to the house and stay for three days. They would eat and drink and socialize in the home. They would also get gifts ready for the Bride's family for the day of the wedding. On the day of the wedding, there would be a precession from the Grooms home to the Brides home. The procession consisted of many people and they played loud music with drums and symbols. Also about six men carried a red carriage that the bride would sit in on the way back to the wedding ceremony. When the groom finally reached the brides parents home he would grab the gifts and proceed towards the home. The gifts consisted of many different things like;
• Bride's price as a gift from the groom to the bride's parents for bringing her up
• Two pairs of dragon and phoenix candles to signify the couple is a perfect match
• To most dialects, it would be 2 pairs of candles with the bride's family keeping the dragons and returning the phoenix to the groom's family.
• For all dialects, Mandarin Oranges refers to good fortune and hence are often presented in even numbers.
• 2 bottles of Brandy are often the standard items for this exchange while 6 types of grains consisting
• 1. Red Dates - symbolizes the bearing of a male child
• 2. Red Beans and Green Beans - represents offsprings
• 3. Dried longans - often with their shells to represent completeness
• 4. Lotus Seeds - symbolizes the bearing of many child
• 5. Lily Bulbs - symbolizes everlasting marriage
• For Hokkiens, one of the items given by the groom's family is Pig Trotters. This is to serve as a gift to the bride's mother for washing and cleaning the bride when she was young.
As the groom proceeded towards the home, family members of the bride would stop him and ask for gifts. He enters the house with a red flower (looks like a big red bow with two long pieces of fabric attacked to it) and then Bride and Groom hold this together at their wedding ceremony. When the groom first sees' the Bride she is wearing a tradition red dress and her face is covered by a red fabric, she cannot see anything. Then the Bride and Groom perform three bows; first bow is to the heavens, the second bow is to the parents, and the third bow is to each other. The Bride is then walked out of the house and helped into the carriage. The Brides parents spill water and rice over the carriage to symbolize the fact that she is never coming back home, just like they will never get the rice and water back.
On the way to the wedding ceremony the band plays and many people stop and watch the procession. The Bride sits in the carriage and the groom heads the procession on a horse. Finally when they get to the wedding hall the bride is escorted in and before she enters she touches two oranges from a batch of oranges. The two that she picks are set aside for later in the wedding chamber and symbolize long life. Bride go into the hall, cross the Hibachi, which means she will drop all of the sadness and unlucky memories. Then she goes into the wedding chamber to wait for her husband. All the time that she is in the wedding chamber her husband is entertaining the guests. It is tradition to have a drink of shot with every person or table at the wedding. Each wedding is different. Usually there is about 38 tables at a wedding and each table consists of 10 people. This means that the groom is getting very drunk while his bride awaits him in the chamber. There is dancing and food during this time but the Bride doesn't take part in any of it. She must wait for her husband to come for her. After a long time and when all the guests have left, the Groom goes to the wedding chamber and finally lifts her vial. This is usually the first time they have seen each other. This is also the first time that the Bride gets to eat or drink that day. After that the Bride and Groom stay in the chamber for the night.
There are many more small components to a Chinese traditional wedding but this is the jist of it. I find it very interesting and I am glad to have learn so much about it.
Dogs in China are so well trained. You rarely see a dog on its lease in China. Also what looks like a stray dog, usually isn't. They can wonder where ever they please and they somehow know where there owner is. Also the Chinese students that we were with never pet other peoples dogs. The first day we were in China a couple American students tried to pet a strangers dog and the stranger called its dog over and thought it was weird. I also remember Lisa being scared of a dog when we were out. The dog was circling her and she had her arms up by her chest scared the dog was going to bite her. I really never saw anyone petting anyone else dog on the street, which could be why they are so well trained. They always obey their masters and I never heard dogs barking at each other. I asked a couple students why they never pet dogs and they said it was because not all dogs get shots because they don't have to get shots so they are scared that the dogs could have rabies. After I learned that I didn't want a dog by me either. Getting rabies in a foreign country would not have been fun! Overall though, I would say that in China they dogs are not as clean or friendly like in America, but they are better trained in public settings.
Today the lecture by Professor Qi was my favorite so far. I think that I liked it so much because it related to the book that I am reading right now; "Henry Kissinger On China." During the lecture Professor Qi spoke about the three books of changes, those being; Lian Shan Yi (Maosim) which is the oldest; Zhou Yi (Confucianism) which is the youngest; and the last is Gui Cang Yi (Taosim). To my understanding, in China Confucianism is the most practiced by the Chinese people. Confucianism focuses on the balance between the people and the government. If you related Confucianism to America it would be considered Democratic or a Liberal type of view. On the other hand, Doasim, is closely related to Republican views. Doasim focuses on efficiency, the more efficient you are the more money you will make. Doasim challenges your mind; overall the goal is to keep a strong head in your decision making.
I find the first couple chapters of Henry Kissingers' book to be very interesting and he describes confusionism very well. He first starts off describing that before China thought as themselves as the "middle empire." Meaning China was the center of the earth. When foreigners for the East (like Europe) came to China the emporer always greeted them with many gifts this is because the Emporer felt bad that the heavens located them so far away from China. Also long ago China never wanted to conquer other countries they felt they were already superior to other countries and were happy with their current standing (which for thousands of years they were the richest nation in the world).
China adopted the Confucian thought as their official state philosophy during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- A.D. 220). Confucious said that one important thing to know in life is; "Know thy place." This mainly suggested a code of social conduct for Chinese people.
During class we also spoke about, Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War. I have read some parts of The Art of War and I think that it is very interesting. Sun Tzu was an amazing strategic thinker for his time. An exerpt from The Art of War reads;
A grave affair of the state;
It is a place
Of life and death,
To survival and extinction,
To be pondered carefully.
Simple, to me this is describing the fact that you must consider all options before you enter into war. Another exerpt that I found very interesting that describes Confusious' thought about how to go about war is;
Ultimate excellence lies
Not in winning
But in defeating the enemy
Without ever fighting.
The highest form of warfare
Is to attack [the enemy's]
To attack [his]
The lowest form of war is
Is a last resort...
The skillful Stategist
Defeats the enemy
Without doing battle,
Captures the city
Without laying siege,
Overthrows the enemy state
Without protracted war.
There are so many different excerpts from The Art of War that I find so interesting but these two I think define a little how Confucious thought. For example, he also said when coming up on an enemy, when you are close seem far, when you are far seem close. He was very good at strategy I think this is why China adopted his views. I can also see why the military practices his views and Confucianism is used the most in China today. Even though Confusioss' thoughts are mainly for the The Art of War, I can see how you can change the views from war to everyday life. In business you could stray your competition to think that you are not close to releasing a new product, when truly you are. I find Confucianism fascinating and I would to try to learn more about it. I understand that it is a very in-depth philosophy and it is hard to grasp but I want to learn more.
The children in China are adorable! I love when little girls wear classic Chinese dresses and have their hair in pigtails. I would say that I can barely remember any Chinese children being loud or disrespectful in public, which is different in America. One thing about the Chinese culture that is defiantly different than our culture is that young Chinese children have open trousers. They walk around China and everything is exposed. I first saw this at the Forbidden City. I thought that it was funny because I thought that child's ripped his pants. Turns out; all the little kids have holes in their pants, so it is easier for them to go to the bathroom. This also means that they go to the bathroom anywhere in China, so you see a lot of little kids going to the bathroom on the streets. I was really surprised to see this. In the United States little kids wear diapers and you also rarely see people changing their children's diaper in public. In China all the little kids run around with their stuff hanging out 24/7 and they can go to the bathroom anywhere and anytime that they please. I don't think that it is a bad thing that they have this privilege, I think possibly it teaches them potty training at an earlier age than American children learn potty training. If you are in China, my advice is to watch out for random "water" puddles in the street, the puddles could possibly be pee.
The final day of an illustrious trip to China, and it seems like only yesterday we flew into Beijing. Looking back on all that we as a group had done this past month, seems as if it were only possible in a dream. We've experienced the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, miraculous performances, numerous boat rides, vast variety of food, many a great night, and the beauty of China's more rural areas. In under a month, I was opened to more culture and more experiences than some people will see their entire lives and it's quite humbling. Also, the students and professionals we connected with along the way will hopefully continue to flourish into a solid friendship; as they have been some of the nicest and most open people I've come across in my entire life. It has been an incredible trip and I cannot thank Dr. Li, our tour guides, and our tremendous group enough for making this a better time than I could have possibly imagined.
Today was a day of adventure and information. It all started earlier in the trip with a friend request I received on Facebook. It was an unfamiliar lady that came with no message so I had no clue who it was. I was hesitant to accept until a message appeared in my inbox a few days later. She told me who she was in the message and it turns out she used to ride the bus with my dad in middle school back in their hometown of Northwood, ND. I was also informed that her husband was living in Shanghai and working for the United States Department of Agriculture, in the Foreign Agriculture Service office, at the American Consulate, as the Director of the Agricultural Trade office. His name was Keith, and she gave me his contact information so that I may meet up with him to learn more about his work and, more importantly, life in China. I put this plan into action as soon as I could.
After a few emails back and forth, we agreed to meet Saturday (today) at 1:00pm at his house. This meeting area was all the way across the city for me, but our tour guide Joe gave me all the directions I needed to zip across on the metro system. It turned out to be much more economical than a cab, 7 yuan there and back as opposed to 50 yuan just to get there by cab. When I first arrived at his house, my initial reaction was amazement. All I had seen throughout China, up until this point, were apartment buildings. His 3-story house was the first I had seen since leaving the states some 20 days ago. It was a very nice house too, complete with 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and an attached garage. We chatted for a while about his family, job, and life growing up before hitting the town. He took me to a wet market, noodle maker, DVD store, Japanese restaurant, Thai restaurant, and a mall. All the while, he talked to me about every aspect of living in China and the importance of learning Mandarin. After the time we spent together and the knowledge I acquired, there's no doubt I want to return to China for work. Whether it's for a few weeks travelling for a company, or a few years with an organization within China, I will come back after my degree.
Today in Shanghai we got to visit a silk factory. Something that I learned instantly was that silk was made from a silk worm. I had heard of silk worms before but for some reason had never came to the conclusion that silk worms made silk. For some reason I thought they ate silk. This was surprising as I am not a fan of bugs so it was very interesting to learn something gross helped make something so beautiful. Our guide also helped so us the differences between silk and counterfeit polyester versions. When blowing on silk you should be able to feel the air go through and when lit on fire silk will not continue to burn and will have ash, while polyester will continue to burn and melt and will not have any ash. We also learned that there are differences in silk by the different seasons because the silk worms feed on different quality of vegetation. They way silk is harvested is from the silk worms cocoon. It take hundreds of cocoon's to make any products and I think it takes 700 to make a sheet. At the factory we got to see how the cocoons were taken apart to create silk thread and then assembled to create blankets. The whole process was absolutely amazing and how much work it can take to make a sheet, scarf, or tie. I was surprised that some ties cost as little as $16 as I feel so much work is put into that the price could be much higher. After spending so much time at the silk factory I feel I have a much better understanding of silk and will be better able to differ real silk products from counterfeit versions.
Before coming to China I never gave much thought to natural medicine remedies. I always just believed that since and pills was what was needed to keep one healthy. However, China has shown me there are many different ways to keep ones self healthy in many ways not requiring drugs or pills. One thing I learned was how important your feet are in regards to your entire body. I'd heard of this before but just thought it was ridiculous. I changed my mind though after we got our foot massages while in Beijing and felt amazing afterwards. While in Tianjin we were walking around these fountains and say some people walking barefoot and these smooth rocks. Shaofan and Ka explained that walking on these stones hit many of the pressure points on your feet. Another Chinese medical tip was tea. Before coming to China if someone had told me how healthy tea was for you I wouldn't have believed you. After all the tea we drank in China I know believe that it has very positive effects on your health. We learned how different teas are good for energy, your eyes from staring at computer screens, toxins like smoke and alcohol, and stress. We also learned how you can open your eyes over steaming tea and the moisture from the steam is healthy for your eyes. One of the tea shops we went to even had a demonstration on how effective tea is at cleaning out toxins from your body. After my experience in China I have a much better appreciation for alternate forms of medicine and finding new ways to take better care of my body.
On the last day of classes at Nankai University all the groups gave a presentation on a cultural aspect of China. Brain and Zach gave a very good presentation on food in China. One thing I found interesting is how important it is for Chinese dishes to be a balanced meal. In America meals are very separate dishes. You have a steak with corn and potatoes on the side. However, in China one dish may be a combination of many different foods ranging from wheat to meat to veggies. I feel this helps insure that you receive all the necessary nutrients needed to stay healthy. Just balancing the different ingredients isn't enough either. Chinese dishes are balanced in color, texture, smell. I really like how Chinese cook they're food because it always looks good and tastes good with many different flavors. I like to cook some in my free time so I can really appreciate how important and creative Chinese food is. The idea of trying to recreate some of the meals I had in China is pretty intimidating as they seem so complex. I loved all the meals I had in China and I felt so much healthier after eating them then most foods I eat in America. The wide range of dishes you have in one meal is amazing and I liked the way veggies were prepared as some of my favorite dishes didn't have any meat. Former UMD student Sam informed me that most Chinese mix their rice with their dishes and I tried this and it was amazing. I have a much better appreciation for Chinese food and I had some of the best meals of my life while in China.
After a crazy night at KTV last night All of the students including me were extremely exhauset. The day however had just begun we had about a 7 hour train ride to Wuxi.
At a little after 10 am we boarded our train to Wux. WHen I arrived ot the liitle room I will call it. Brian, Alex E Matt and I along with 2 Chinese people had to cram into a space with two bunk bed like things . Mind you we were only allowed on the bottom part and the top was for our bags after about 4 hours of being on the train and not being able to sleep Matt and I decided to head to the lttiel cafeteria . The food wasnt too bad for train food. WHen I got back The Chinese girl sitting by us started a conversation with us that would last almost until the time we got off the train . It was incredbile talking to her we were the first foreigners she had ever talked too. even more astounding then that was the fact of how good her english was. She could understand almost everything we said. she taught us some chinese symbols on brians IPAD and we helped with some more english words it was a great time .When we arrived at Wuxi were met by our tour guide joe and Checked into our hoetl. AFter that we had dinner, and called it a night
After a great day of relaxing yesterday. Today was Fun filled and action packed. First we had a farewell dinner. Then we went and saw Shelbes dance performance. lastly we Went to KTV,
Being that this was such a wonderful trip both my fellow classmates, and my fellow Chinese classmates. I wanted to do something to remember this trip forever.So to thank everyone I treated everyone to the Korean resturant right next to our hotel. The food was absolutely delicious. But spending that time with students and exchaning gifts was the best part of it . After dinner we headed over to Nankai to watch Shelbes Dance perfromance.
It took us a little longer then we thought to eat and head over to the performance so we were a little bit late. However it was one incredible dance performance. Shelbe Could have deffinitely been on a dance team here in the United States, She did a fantastic job. the show last about 2 hours but was worth every second. After the show we all went back and got ready for a night at KTV
Thanks to Sherri who reserved our rooms. we were able to get rooms from midnight to 6 am, and we stayed every second. It was one of my favoirite nights hands down. We had a majority of the Chinese students there with us .If you thought us Americans were good singer you havent hear the Chinese students sing. Its undescribable with words. After about 6 horus of singing and our voice gone we decided to all head back in the morning and at least try to get some rest for tomorrows adventure
Being that it was saturday , and a free day I decided to sllep in today and have and easy day until about 8 pm at that time Sherri and shelbe were just about on their way to the hotel, so we could go on an adventure to the "Eye of Tianjin" or the ferris wheel.
When They arrived we took a taxi down to the ferris wheel . I think we made almost timing They shut down the ticket gate about two people after us. We then wiated in line for a good half hour before actually getting on the Ferris wheel. When we got on I was excited to be taking these girls on their first ferris wheel ride. I had already been on it once but the view was just as incredible as the first. You could see a majority of the city of Tianjin. After the ferris wheel had finished I tok them back and relaxed the rest of the night .
Today was another great day.I had two favorite parts. First was presenting our projects to the class. and the other was making our own dumplings.
For my groups project, Brian and I presented on the food in china He touched on a few foods from each diiferent regon around China. I on the other hand did basic staple foods in China, rice and wheat just to name a couple.
The other really fun thing we did was we made Homeade dumplings. With the help of the Chinese students and Jason, made more dumplings then you could imagine. AFter they were made we let them cook and after about an hour or so we came back and ate our wonderful designs.
It seem like everyday here in China I am learning something new.
Today we decided to test our subway skills by attempting to get across town to find the harley davidson shop and the apple store. We got to one end of town to find no harley shop and made our way to the apple store. This store was incredible because it was underground. It was very unique because it was a large room underground with a staircase in the center made of some type of glass. The stair case jetted out from under ground to the surface it a cylinder type sculpture. This company holds large shares in China and a store like this not only draws in customers but it is also made as somewhat of a monument. It is something to see when you go to Shanghai just like the Bund or the Tv tower. From here we moved onto find some food when we ran across a large mall located near the apple store and the tv tower. We walked in and were instantly shocked at how western the mall was. In fact I could easily argue this mall to be more modern than MOA. The had huge department stores along with the top quality name brand and fancy restaurants on the upper levels. It was interesting to see some of the marketing strategies used. I happened to run across a miniature modeling show where they were showing off new clothes for Levi's store. It seemed to draw a lot of attention for the cost put into it. There were also signs everywhere promoting different things. One thing that was different however was where some of the employees stood. We have greeters in America but in many of these store people would try and draw you in and even stan outside of the store. The whole mall was kept very clean and even had western toilets.
China Day 25 (Shanghai)
Today was our only free day in Shanghai. After going to the club on Thursday with Joe and the group, I had decided to take Friday off from the party scene. I'm undecided on what I will do today but I'm thinking I'll go out one last time while I can here in China. In Shanghai, it seems like there are many more foreigners than anywhere else that we were in China. In Beijing, Tianjin, and other places the Chinese would get pretty excited even if we said "Ni Hao" to them but they seem more disinterested here. Shanghai is a huge city, almost too huge, and I think it is kind of intimidating honestly. Another thing I've noticed here is, as Joe was saying, practically everything here is more expensive than in the other parts of China we had been to. I kind of wish that we had more time in China so I could get to know the country, the people, the culture and more better, but I will be glad to be back in the United States as well to see my family and friends. Tomorrow we fly back to the United States. This trip has been nothing less of spectacular and I'm very glad to have meet everyone I did here. Dr. Dahui Li did a great job planning this trip.
Tiger Hill is a place of history and marvelous scenery. This place is the burial site of King Helu. It is said that the hill resembles a tiger and that after Helu's burial a white tiger roams the hill to guard it. On the hill there are many stories to tell such as that of the silly well made by a monk half way up the hill. Other monks laughed at him and said he'd never find water mid way up the hill. For that they called him silly and after he found water they named his well. Another story references the sward testing rocks that were used to test the sharpness, strength, and durability of the sward. Along with this story a tale of a treasure of 3000 swards is buried beneath a pond of water rightfully earning the name of Sward Pond. The Yunyan Pagoda is a seven story tower that is said to lean more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. These stories are told to tourists along with the Thousand People Rock and others. I found the amount of history here to make this a place of great interest, not to mention beauty. Joe did a good job explaining all of these different stories to us and making it interesting and easy to follow along.
China Day 24 (Shanghai)
Today we got to explore Shanghai some more. We started off today by going to a park in Shanghai where we got to get a good look at some of the famous buildings of Shanghai. Shanghai is a very large city, there are tall buildings everywhere you look! Unfortunately, Shanghai also has a drastic smog problem so it's more difficult to enjoy the beauty of this city. After the park we had lunch and this lunch was very good. I think one of my favorite meals I've had here has to be the Score fish (spelling?). It's hard to explain, but it's a fish that is unique to China, and it's spectacular. We then went to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. This is one of the largest TV tower's in the world, it is about 470 meters tall. We went up to around 260 meters up and got to see all of the city as best we could given the smog. We then went down a floor and got to see more of the city except this time we got to go on a platform where the floor as well as the walls were made of glass. This was pretty terrifying the first time I walked on it. The group took many photo's here and I tried laying on the glass floor. Looking straight down 260 or so meters was, well, nerve-wracking. After this we went to the Shanghai Science Museum. It had many different displays like the wildlife of different parts of the world, a human and health exhibit, an information age exhibit, a world of robots exhibit, and plenty more. We spent around two hours here and I got to see quite a bit. Then we ate dinner before going on our cruise. I think the Shanghai food has been the best I've had in China, all and all, and the group seemed to think the same. We resembled a pack of hyena's at the dinner table. Also, I think I'm starting to become somewhat proficient with chop sticks. I think I'll feel weird eating Chinese food with anything but chop sticks now. Good thing I bought a pair earlier. To end our night we went on a boat cruise. Our boat seemed much less spectacular then all of the other boats we saw cruising the river, but it was still nice. It had a flower design all around it and a tiara on the top of it so the group dubbed it the "princess boat". The cruise was very cool as we got to see Shanghai lit up at night. The only unfortunate part about it was that there was some Chinese salesperson speaking through a microphone the whole time despite no one being interested in what he was saying. I wish I had known some Chinese so I could have told him to be quiet. This was a very good day and Shanghai certainly has not disappointed at all.
I went to the Shanghai Zoo today with Laura and Alex. This entire trip I have wanted to see a panda bear and finally on our last day here, I was able to see four pandas. The zoo was enormous and we spent about three hours there and didn't even see all of the animals. We saw panda bears, flamingos, lions, tigers, bears, seals, ostriches, deer, hippos, zebras, giraffes, kangaroos, camels, horses, elephants, gorillas, monkeys, lemurs, and many more animals that I had no idea what they were. My favorite animals I saw were the panda bears. We were scared we would have to wait in line to see the pandas or not be able to get very close since it was a Saturday and we thought the zoo would be packed. Surprisingly, the zoo was not very busy. We were able to get right next to the glass cage and see the pandas walk right past us. There was one panda in a cage by itself and three other pandas in another cage. These panda bears moved around a lot, climbed up against a wall, and rolled over on their head. They were very cute.
Today we visited the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. I had no idea what to expect and I was blown away by how cool this place was. The museum had a total of 13 exhibitions. My favorite ones included the World of Robots, Human and Health, Information Era, Animal Hall and Spiders Exhibition. There was so much information to learn and absorb, I could have spent the whole day at this museum. The first exhibition we went to was the Animal Hall. This had life size figures of animals from all around the world. There four different sections of animals: African, Asian-Euro, Australian, and North American. The World of Robots was also very interesting. One part of this exhibition you could mix up a rubrics cube, give it to a robot, the robot would look over the entire cube and have the cube solved within one minute. Another robot station had a robot shooting a bow and arrow exactly on a bull eyes, while students could compete with the robot to see if they could hit the bull eyes. The Human and Health exhibition was very interesting. We could participate in some activities; including boxing, soccer, ping pong or biking. There was also "A Journey through the Body" ride to learn about the digestive system that I went on. It would have been more interesting if it was in English. The entire museum was beautiful inside and out and I learned a lot about so many different things while I was there.
The past three days we visited Wuxi, Suzhou, and Hangzhou. These three cities are in the southern part of China and are completely different than Beijing or Tianjin. First, the air in these cities is a lot cleaner and refreshing. There is not as much smog so you are able to see a farther distance. Second, the food taste different. We have been eating some of the same dishes we ate in Beijing or Tianjin but the sauce on the food seems to taste lighter. Third, there is a lot more free land. I saw many bluffs and valleys covered in trees that reminded me of parts of Minnesota. Fourth, I saw very few - if any - Americans in these cities. We have been getting stared at and asked to take our pictures this entire trip, but I felt that many more Chinese were staring at us in these cities. Some people even asked to take a group photo of us when we were visiting the Song Dynasty. I am glad we were able to visit these cities to see the differences between different parts of China.
The Science Museum we visited was very much like the one in Minnesota only up scaled in size grandeur. There were multiple exhibits each with an overwhelming amount of things to look at and interact with. I don't believe I had a favorite as they were all different and had different things to keep you entertained. Unfortunately we were not able to hit all of the 13 exhibits but 2 hours was more than enough time at the museum. However, I would have liked to view one of their showings. They were playing a 4D film in their theater. One thing I did notice though was how empty the place seemed considering it is one of the largest and most viewed modern museums. I was not sure if it was because of the time we went or if it was off season. Many of their exhibits also had sections that were shut down as well. I often found that their larger attractions seemed to be closed for repair or were just not running. It also seemed to be short staffed, it wasn't until they started closing exhibits did I notice the staff that were working. Overall it was a good visit and I am glad we got to see it. It was interesting to compare it to the one in the Twin Cities.
AS simple as this adventure was, a short jaunt through the forest, it was really quite enjoyable. The air here was the cleanest air I have had in China. It had the off smell of an iron ore mine as the humid moist air brought out the smells of the forest's greens and dirt. After a long bus ride a nice walk through the bamboo forest was refreshing. I think we all needed the fresh air and to move around a bit. I had never been through a bamboo forest before which is what made this so appealing. Other than small potted bamboo plants this was a first for me. The bamboo forest was very different from northern Minnesota forests which have a lot of coniferous trees. Joe, our guide for the rest of the trip, showed us around the forest and took us down a few side paths. As we walked a few of us lingered and took our time taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. After a while we noticed that two of us had become very separated from the group and we picked up the pace, at times jogging through the forest. The crew had been moving fast or we had taken a wrong turn because we did not catch up until they had gone as far as they had wanted and turned back. Luckily we found them and we were able to stick with them on the way back. At the end of one of the trails there was a tea house. I really wanted to check it out and have a cup but we did not have time as we had a show to get too!
I have never been to Broadway or anything of the sort until the first acrobatics show we went to in Beijing. This was a great performance and when I heard we were going to a performance claimed to be one of the top three in the world I was pretty excited to see how they compared! The performance of this evening blew my mind with the number of performance theatrics. This multiple act performance, I can only imagine, took a lot of coordination and planning as every detail was intricate. During the middle of the play the crowd was facing the back of the room as performers came down and interacted with the crowd only to shortly disappear. This then directed the attention back to center stage and to my amazement when the light came back there was a twenty foot waterfall right in front of me, so real I could feel the mist hit my face. This was all done without me noticing and I was quite surprised as I think much of the crowd was too when a gentle mist was released over the entire audience. The entire show was based on local Chinese fables of romance, villains, and lovers. The show was something of a Romeo and Juliet of the East. The dancers there were all very beautiful and performed magnificently. During parts of the show there were some great lighting effects too. In between acts an invisible curtain dropped and words were projected onto the screen. Even at times they used this screen for some 3D effects. The show was by far the best I have ever been to and I am glad we were able to see this performance.
This was quite the experience as it almost felt we jumped to the canals of Venice. The boat ride was about an hour long as we tugged along under bridge after bridge that was brilliantly light up. It was quite the site with a very romantic atmosphere. The streets were lined with red lanterns and almost every building was lit up along the river to give it a unique feeling. I only wish the river was not so dirty but at least the air was clean and the skies clear. Among the brilliant lights the architecture proved to add to the atmosphere of our boat ride. As we moved down the river we could see into families' houses. These houses were right on the canal and many had wooden stairs down to provide them with river access. With the exception of docking and undocking the canals were not too bad in reference to other boats. There were a few tour boats like ours we shared the water with but other than that it was a peaceful ride. Our driver didn't have too much to worry about while navigating the canal but in the instance he did he stood at the front with a pole to steer just as they would in Venice.
I was at first curious as to why we would visit IKEA as I have been to ones in the US before and I assumed that many of us have. This one was a little different than ones in the US. Most of the actual furnishings were the same and could be purchased in the US but the way the store was set up was different. The floor plans were set up to reflect the smaller living spaces. In China most people in the city live in apartments and require smaller arrangements along with space saving functionality. Our tour wasn't much different than walking through the store but it was helpful and interesting to have a tour guide as we learned more about the business and its operations this way. Throughout the store I noticed that the merchandise here seemed to be spendy but in reality it was roughly the same US price converted into Yuan or RMB. This was somewhat a surprise as I expected lower prices because IKEA is not your top name brand in the US has relatively reasonable prices in the US. In China this was not the case, most shoppers here were of a higher class with enough money to keep up with the American prices. The American dollar is six times as strong as the Yuan. After our tour we had some Q&A in the dinning area of the store. We wrapped up the visit with a stop at IKEA's restaurant where I got Swedish meatballs and potato cakes.
Today was one of my favorite days in China. First, we went to the Humble Administrators Garden in Suzhou which was really peaceful and it was unlike in garden I have ever seen. I was amazed by how large it was and all the detail that went in to making this garden. If you cant tell this was probably my favorite place that we have visited in China so far and I am really happy that I had this chance to experience it! After the garden we traveled to Hangzhou which is another very beautiful city in China and probably my favorite cit that we have been to. In the evening, we went to Songcheng Park where we were lucky enough to see The Romance of the Song Dynasty (with great seats by the way) which was directed by Zhang Yimou who directed the opening ceremony for the Olympic games in 2008. I have to say that this play was one of the best performances that i have ever seen with tales of love and war. Overall, today was on of my favorite days in China yet and I can't believe that this trip is almost over already.
Today we spent the first part of our day in Wuxi where we visited the Three Kingdoms City. The Three Kingdoms City is a park that is used for many movies and even had its own T.V. show called Romance in the Three Kingdoms. The first thing we did at the park was watch a horse show in which the performers dressed up like warriors and acted out a battle for the crowd. This was really cool because the actors did a lot of tricks on their horses and the battle was played out well. After the show, we went on a boat ride on a lake next to the park which is where a lot of Chinese history films are made. After the Three Kingdoms City we drove to Suzhou which is about an hour away from Wuxi. Suzhou is a very nice city with a lot of trees and nature so the air was a lot more fresh and easier to breathe in. In Suzhou, we visited Tiger Hill which gets its name because it looks like a crouching tiger. Tiger Hill is an ancient tourist spot because it is where King Helu was buried and holds the worlds "second leaning tower. I thought that Tiger Hill was a very beautiful place and I enjoyed seeing the history such as the carvings on the rocks. Overall, today was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the Three Kingdoms City and Tiger Hill.
China Day 23 (Hangzhou-Shanghai)
Yet again, another early morning. We got up for another early morning and, as was becoming regular, brought down our luggage and had breakfast before checking out of the hotel. Before going to Shanghai, we went on a boat cruise in Hangzhou. The site of the cruise was on a man-made lake that was built by the ancient Chinese over 1,000 years ago. After this we went to the Bamboo forest. This was one of my favorite places that we had seen yet. I had never saw a bamboo tree before so I was very interested in seeing this place. I thought that the bamboo forest felt very tranquil and beautiful, especially because our group was the only one's there. Evan and I were the last one's to the bus, we were taking a bit extra time to take in the scenery. We also went to a tea shop and had some green tea. Within the last couple days, I bought a teapot that is made of a special Chinese rock that is mined on the outskirts of Hangzhou. This rock, apparently, has special properties that helps preserve the tea. Best of all, it was only 200 Yuan! I also bought some green tea from a different place and it was 400 Yuan for around 325 grams of tea leaves. Finally, after another long but fulfilling day, we arrived to our Shanghai hotel, the Holiday Inn Express. I'm glad that I don't have to take my luggage out tomorrow to go to another hotel.
Today was probably the longest day we have had in China so far. We woke up bright and early to make our departure from Tianjin and everyone was pretty exhausted from being up late the night before. I was pretty excited about the train since I have never traveled such a long distance on one and I have to say I was not disappointed. Even though we were on the train for 6 hours it went by really fast and we got lucky and met some really nice people on the train. The most amazing thing about the train ride was seeing all of the unique landscapes across China and I think this country is really beautiful. After we arrived in Wuxi, we met our new tour guide Joe who told us a little bit about the city on our way to the hotel. Once we made it to the hotel we ate a nice dinner and afterwards everyone was pretty beat from the day so we all went to bed pretty early. Overall, I was pretty sad to leave Tianjin but I enjoyed the scenery from the train ride and I am pretty excited for the next week.
After an interesting lecture on Human Resource Management we decided to go play some more badminton. I was starting to pick it up and played a lot better this time. Besides playing badminton here in China I haven't had a lot of experience with the sport except for when I was in high school. The first time we played badminton it was just our group and the whole gym was open. I watched some Chinese students play doubles for about 20 minutes and then was invited to play. The girl that I was playing with was very impressive. We definitely dominated the other team until a different male Chinese student subbed in with our opponents. I thought that I was pretty good at badminton until he continuously spiked it in my face. I could tell that he has had a lot of experience with the sport and even though my partner and I were losing I still had an awesome time. After a while I got extremely tired and decided to head back to the hotel after the storm passed.
Today was Tom's birthday so I knew we were going to have a lot of fun tonight. We all decided that Helens is the place to be for the occasion. I was amazed at how different Helens was compared to restaurants/bars back in America. We got along really well with the Chinese people at the bar. They were very friendly and showed us a lot of attention. Many of them spoke a little English so communication was not too difficult. One thing that really surprised me was the amount of American music that was being played. I really liked a lot of the songs and recognized almost all of them. After spending a few hours at the bar I started to get really hot and felt sick. I told everyone that I had to head back to the hotel and was very upset that I could not come with them to the club, especially because it was Tom's birthday. Once I got some fresh air I felt a lot better, but still decided to head back to the hotel and get a good night's sleep.
Today we went to the Olympic stadium. The building was unbelievable. It was hard to believe that something that big and complex could be built just for one event. To me it seems very inefficient to build a stadium and not continue to use it after the Olympics. The stadium took six years to build and was very costly. To me it seems like a huge waste of money, but from what I have heard it was a huge deal to people living in China because it is an honor to have the Olympics held in your own country. The Olympic stadium is not just a tourist attraction. They had a lot of interesting stuff for sale and for some reason I bought one of the most boring things which was a water bottle. I have no clue why but right when I saw it I knew that I needed it. They call the Olympic stadium the birds nest and I can definitely see why.
Today was a rather interesting day. I cut my hand on some glass while we were at the club last night and didn't think much of it at the time. I showed Dr. Li my cut during class and he told me that I needed to go to the hospital right away. I left class early with Beth to go see the doctor at the biggest hospital I have ever been to. It was a very different from any hospital experience I have had back in the states. When Beth and I got into the emergency room it was very weird for me. There was a man in critical condition in the room next to me. I overheard the doctor talking to his family and Beth translated what he said for me. The doctor told the man's family that he was hopeless. It was a terrible experience and I was very surprised to see that all the doors in the emergency room were open. I saw several kids getting their stomachs pumped and all sorts of other things. It really surprised me how much different the privacy at Chinese hospitals is compared to the United States. Once the doctor arrived in my room he told Beth right away that I needed stiches and then asked her what time I had cut my hand last night. Apparently it was too late for me to get stiches because it had been more than eight hours since I cut my hand. The doctor spread my cut open and cleaned it with alcohol and a q tip which was painful to say the least. He then bandaged me up, gave me a few shots, and then told me to keep it dry and constantly covered. Overall it was a very weird experience that I did not expect to have to deal with while in China.
Tonight was our last night in Tianjin. It was a strange feeling, because a lot of us kind of felt like we were at home during our stay here. One of our classmates, Zach, arranged and paid for our dinner at a Korean restaurant near our hotel. The last dinner did not only consist of all of the members in our group, but also our Chinese classmates. It was the last gathering for everyone participating in the program at Tianjin.
Before the trip Dr. Li told us to bring about 9 or 10 gifts to give to the students, because they usually have gifts for the American students. The gifts were supposed to represent Duluth, Minnesota, US, etc... The gifts were also supposed to be something that wasn't really available in China so it would be somewhat unique to them. For me, I immediately identify any state or region in the US with the sports teams in the area. Cheering for your favorite isn't only about "cheering for your favorite team," it's about cheering for your state. Minnesota sports are a really important and special part of my life, and I wanted the students to remember Minnesota in a way that is important to me. I decided to bring about 10 pretty big Minnesota Timberwolves stickers as my gift. I asked and talked to each student about their knowledge of the NBA, and then afterwards I would give them one of the stickers. A lot of them, if not all, knew what the NBA was and Martin actually knew a good amount about the Timberwolves. It was cool to give them gifts and receive a few gifts in return. I hope there are a couple new Timberwolves fans in Tianjin.
China Day 22 (Suzhou-Hangzhou)
Another early morning. We woke up from the hotel and brought down our luggage and then enjoyed a brief breakfast before embarking on our next adventure. Before going to Hangzhou we took a trip to a garden in Suzhou. This garden was built for one of the Chinese emperor's but was now open to the public eye. This was a captivating site and I could see how it was built for royal tastes. In this garden there were zig-zag bridges and Joe explained to us that the purpose of this was because in Ancient China women were forbidden to look side to side. This garden also had large rocks all around it and Joe explained to us that the reason for this was because it made you have to go around the rock to see more of the garden, a clever device to draw out the experience, if you asked me. After this, we took off for Hangzhou. Hangzhou was another long drive so I took the opportunity to finish the book that I had been reading. I realized that, after I had finished this book, it had been a long time since I had read another before the China trip. I felt satisfied to have picked up a book again and powered through it. Once we arrived in Hangzhou we went to the Silk factory. I was completely unaware of exactly how silk was made before coming to this factory and so I was very interested in this visit. The process of making silk all starts with the Silk worm. The first exhibit we saw were a bunch of Silk worms on some leaves eating. These worms look so much different from any other worm I had seen. The next step of the process is to let these worms mate so that cocoon's can be created. The guide said that they use about 90% of the worms for the cocoon's and keep about 10% of the worms to keep a steady flow of said cocoon's. Next we saw how the silk was spun into rolls. The cocoon's were in boiling hot water and were attached to a machine that spun out the fabric from the cocoon's. After this process the fabric was spun again to dry out the fabric and make it a higher quality. After seeing the production process we went into the silk store. They sold silk bedding and silk clothes, primarily. I kind of wanted to buy something, but not for the prices that they were asking. Finally, around 9PM, we arrived to the Relax Hotel. I think this is the nicest hotel I have stayed in yet. Tomorrow morning we go to Shanghai!
China Day 21 (WuXi-Suzhou)
Another early morning. Today we got up early and brought down our luggage as we would be going to Suzhou today. Before we went to Suzhou, we went to a garden in WuXi. Joe said that WuXi was famous for its gardens and after having seen this garden I could see where he was coming from. After we had went to the garden we were on our way to Suzhou. It was about a two hour ride and so I took that time to read more of my book. When we arrived in Suzhou, we went to Tiger Hill. This was an old Buddhist place of worship that was, again, now open to the public. Joe explained to use the differences between Indian Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism. I was unaware of this, but apparently the Buddha that we think of in America is actually the Chinese version of Buddha. The Indian version, apparently, is much more slim. Also, in China the main color of Buddhism is yellow and this is also different from Indian Buddhism. This place was absolutely breathtaking. I found it to be quite tranquil, despite the amount of people there. I think that if there is a God, it's much easier to find that entity in a place like this than in the dull enclosement of a Church. At the top of Tiger Hill there is a very tall Pagoda. As we reached the top of the Pagoda it became evident to us that it was leaning heavily to the right. This was an engineering design by the Ancient Chinese that helped ensure the structure's integrity due to the landscape upon which it was located. Joe was also telling us that under this Pagoda was the tomb of an ancient Chinese emperor, along with several other Chinese workers and quite the loot. He told us that they had not excavated it yet because they wanted to make sure that they did it right to ensure that the relics could be taken out without being damaged while also making sure that excavating it did not effect the integrity of the pagoda. Joe also said that the reason that this place was called Tiger Hill is because when the Chinese arrived to the top of the hill they saw a tiger sleeping. We did quite a bit in Suzhou, but my favorite part I think was the late night boat ride. When we arrived to the place where we took this boat ride, I kind of felt that it reflected more of Italy than it did China. It was a beautiful night outside, especially because Suzhou was a smaller city and did not have the pollution problems that were evident in Beijing and Tianjin. In the night, the streets on the sides of the river were lit all the way across with Chinese lanterns. A breathtaking site. We boarded the boat and we took a cruise down the river. During the cruise we got to see some very cool architecture and beautiful lights of these streets of Suzhou. Our group took quite a few photo's. After all of this we went back to the hotel. Tomorrow, Hangzhou!
China Day 20 (Tianjin-WuXi)
Today was our last morning in Tianjin. It is very bittersweet because I will miss this city and the countless number of people I've meet here, especially the students, but I was excited to move on as well and see a new part of China. Later that day on Facebook a few of the Chinese students said that they were very sad that we were leaving, especially because they thought we were leaving the hotel at 5PM rather than the time that we actually left, 7:30AM and they felt bad that they didn't get to say goodbye one last time. I felt the same, it would have been nice to say goodbye to them one last time. Fortunately, I was able to get many of the Chinese student's email addresses and so I will be able to keep in contact with them. The train ride to WuXi was a very long, and fairly dull, trip. It took about 6 hours on a high speed train to get there. Our compartment had four beds in it but we couldn't actually use them because we had to put our luggage on the top beds and fit five passengers on the bottom beds. Needless to say, it wasn't the most comfortable ride I've ever taken, but it was nice that we were taking a high speed train, at least. I took the time on the train to dig into one of the books I brought for the trip, Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. It's a very interesting book. When we got to WuXi we meet up with our new tour guide Joe. He's a young guy, only 29 years old, and seems like a really great tour guide. In WuXi, we went to a park and watched a show about the three kingdoms of old in China. In WuXi, about 1,000 years ago, the Northern Army had sent 200,000 soldiers to WuXi to invade. The commander of the WuXi army only had around 5,000 soldiers and clearly recognized that to combat this army was suicide. Brilliantly, he ordered for the WuXI army to open their gates, take down their flags, and play music. He also had a few boys sweeping in front of the gate. This was seen as a sign of welcoming in ancient China. The commander of the Northern army knew that the other commander was a deceptive and brilliant man and thought that there must be a trap inside and therefore ordered his men to retreat 20 miles back. This bought the commander of the WuXi military time for the general of his Kingdom to send reinforcements. We watched a show at the park that was about the memory of his brilliance. It was a pretty interesting show but I thought it could have been better. Then we went to the hotel and I was relieved to discover that the beds at this new hotel were not rock hard.
After tonight, I've definitely began warming up to the city of Shanghai. Although it was still very smoggy today, we did get to see its most prevalent area-The Bund. This district is where all the grand buildings are visible, where impeccable shopping opportunities are within walking distance, and where wealthy thrive. The Orient Pearl Tower isn't the tallest building in Shanghai, but it is the most prolific in my opinion. A quick Google image search of "Shanghai" yields at least 10 pictures that include this tower. We were able to ascend to the top and view the city from above through a glass floor. It was nerve-racking at first, but the views were way too incredible for the shaky legs to last very long.
After the tower and dinner we went on a boat ride along this area of town. It was nightfall by this time and that's where Shanghai's true beauty reveals itself. Every building is uniquely and extravagantly illuminated and there is a multitude of them. Your eyes can't help but stay wide open as you take in all of the lights. The pageantry goes to such lengths that some buildings' lights perform automated shows. Dancing from floor to floor or flickering in patterns to form shapes and words were some examples seen tonight. No judgement should ever be made on the appearance of Shanghai until one sees it with the sun down, a mistake I made with my first impression.
Our arrival in Shanghai was greeted with hideous smog, filthy looking buildings, and a traffic jam that rivaled Beijing. Needless to say I wasn't this city's biggest fan as we wound our way into town... My opinion soon began to turn for the better when we stopped to have dinner. It was our first meal in Shanghai and it did not disappoint. Every plate they brought us was swiped clean in minutes, and as always, the food kept coming until we were all completely stuffed.
There was one major difference I did notice was in the people. All of the cities we have been to before this, especially Tianjin, have loved seeing Americans. Even to the point of wanting us in their group photos. But here in Shanghai, Americans are much more prevalent and it shows. In Tianjin I could make some girls blush just by making eye contact and saying "Ni Hao," but here, I feel grossly under dressed and like it's a completely different China. It sounds like a crave for attention, but it was a major difference that was pretty easy to pick up on.
Today was the most refreshing day in weeks. I woke up on the bus to everyone walking off and as I stumbled off my eyes brightened with the sight of a very green and colorful forest of bamboo. Still partially asleep I raised my camera to take a picture and without trying my picture was easily made beautiful. My lungs were finally cleared of the weeks of smog I had breathed in. Beijing and Tianjin did not have this quality of air or nature. This was the first time i couldn't see buildings or large numbers of people. Just walking through the trees cleared my mind. We came across shelters and other areas to sit and wondered how many weddings take place in an area like this. I hung back with Reign and we could have easily lost track of time and spent hours exploring the beauty of China's nature. I found many types of new flowers and trees but the creepiest thing was this long centipede I found in a crack. I normally hate big bugs like that but I was so interested in this area I stopped and played with it. Even though we spent just an hour here I felt completely rejuvenated from the break from bad air and masses of people. It is a great place for meditation.
This was a long day considering all of the things we did. To start the day off at 12am we met up with some Chinese students to enjoy a fun night at KTV. KTV is a karaoke place which u rent a room so you can sing and play music with each other. This was my first time here I had such a blast with my classmates and the Chinese students that I stayed up until 6am.. This made my day very very tiring. We had a long train ride which was nice because I got to catch some Z's. The train brought us to Wuxi which we then got some dinner and then went to our hotel to get some much needed sleep.
To begin the morning off we visited Tiger hill. Tiger hill was very interesting got to see some large sculptures of Chinese soldiers. We got to see a awesome battle between two armies. The Chinese soldiers were on horses with weapons and they would run at each other to try and knock of the other. It was pretty sweet to see this reenactment. After the show we got to take a boat in the middle of the lake to view Tiger hill from a ways out. We also got to walk up to the leaning tower which was pretty interesting since it was leaning but still is standing tall. Joe also showed us the tomb which held the emperor at the time. The tomb is underwater with many treasures but at this time it has not been opened because they do not want to ruin the treasures inside. Later in the day we took a boat ride in the river which was really cool. As we drove through the river we could see inside peoples houses. These houses are actually on the water quite interesting.
Today was a interesting and long day. We began the day off going to a beautiful garden in Suzhou. This garden is over 400 years old and it was built for the Chinese emperor. Joe explained to us about everything in the garden. In the beginning he told us that Chinese people put large objects in front of the garden to make you want to look around on the other side. I really enjoyed the garden it is very big and everything in the garden has a meaning. The zigzag bridges were so the women could look in different directions because looking side to side is prohibited for women. After the garden we went to a silk factory to see how %100 silk is made. It all starts with the worm. The worm eventually goes into a cocoon and they get the silk from the cocoon. After the silk factory we went to a bamboo forest which we got to walk around and look at all of the beautiful nature. We eventually made it to the adventure park where we walked around at all of the shops and saw a awesome performance. This was one of the coolest performances I have ever seen. There was dancing, great costumes, acrobatics, water falls, raining on the crowd, and actors in the crowd.
China Day 19 (Tianjin)
Today we had our last meal with the Chinese students at the Korean restaurant near our hotel that we had our welcoming dinner at. This dinner was courtesy of Zach, one of our group members (Thank you Zach). All and all, the dinner was very good. At this restaurant you are given a plate of uncooked meat and they put a steel bowl filled with hot coals in part of the table that has the opening for it. They then put a grill top over it so you can prepare the meat manually. They also brought a good serving of vegetables that we could cook over this grill. I grilled some meat and put this on top of lettuce, wrapped it up, and ate it like that. It was, like I said, a very good meal. I had very good conversations with the Chinese students and, at the end of the dinner, the Chinese students and the American students exchanged gifts. I gave away my True Blue T-Wolves shirt, a nice handkerchief with a Mexican design, and I gave everyone some fruit that I had bought at the local supermarket. I felt kind of bad because I would have rather have out American candy but I forgot to get some stateside. Nearing the latter part of the night, we all went out to the KTV. At the KTV, you buy a room for the night and it has karaoke. Tyler (my roommate) and I had quite a bit of beer left from the two 12-packs we had bought earlier in the week so we brought that to the KTV. A few others brought beer as well. We got two of the bigger rooms at KTV for only a couple hundred yuan, a modest price when divided by 30 or so people. I had a few drinks, sang songs, and we all had a great time for our last night in Tianjin. I'll be a little sad to leave this place, I was getting kind of used to it. Hopefully our next hotel has a more comfortable bed and a bathroom that isn't see-through.
Today we went to the silk factory in Suzhou, China. We learned how the silk was made from the beginning to the end. The process takes a total of about 2 months and it starts out with a silkworm that later makes a fine silk cocoon. The silk cocoon is then attached to a spindle in a machine operated by a worker. The process continues on until a light quilt is made. We then saw a fashion show with women's clothing all made out of silk. There were pants, capris, tank tops, shirts, dresses, and robes. We also toured through bed sheets and pillows made from silk. Many of us students were mainly interested in the silk scarves. The silk was so soft and there were a lot of different beautiful patterns. I'm really glad we went to this silk factory because I was able to find a couple of gifts for friends and family.
Tuesday morning we spent in Wuxi, China where we toured Three Kingdoms City. An old TV series, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, was filmed there. Since the TV series, the city has been used for a couple different movies and a tourist attraction spot. We watched a horse show where men were dressed as warriors and fought against each other on their horses. These men did many different tricks and were very talented. After the performance, we walked around down to the Lake Tai, where we went on a boat ride on one of the boats used in the TV series. Tuesday was one of the hottest days we have had so far in China, so the boat ride on the lake felt very nice. After the boat ride, we continued to walk around some more and some students dressed up in costumes and got their pictures taken. We did not spend much time in Wuxi, but I thought it was a beautiful city. With a population of 6 million, it is smaller than Beijing, with a better quality of air and a lot more free land and trees.
China Day 18 (Tianjin)
I'm glad it's the weekend! Class is over and the weight of that is off my shoulder. It's a relief. Since it's the beginning of the weekend, I think talking about Helen's would be an appropriate topic. Our group's favorite bar so far seems to be Helen's. This bar is about 4-5 blocks from our hotel, and 1-2 from Nankai University. It's only about a 10 minute walk from the hotel so the location is quite convenient. The first thing I noticed about this bar is that after about 7PM it is always packed with people, no matter what the day. The Chinese certainly like to get their drink on. In all seriousness though, we have had to wait at least 30-45 minutes every time we go there late at night to get a table. This sometimes can take hours so you have to be aggressive with finding a table. There have been nights where we weren't able to get one at all so we sat outside the bar and drank there. Helen's is a western bar and as such plays western music inside. It also has great food that is commonplace in America, such as burgers, spaghetti, and pizza. This food is comparable to if not better than its American counterpart. Another interesting thing about Helen's, and a savvy business tactic, is that they have a different special each night. For example, Mondays are free coffee night and Saturdays are cheap Kamikaze shots as well as free cigarette's. This makes it a bit different every day you go there and some of the nights have especially great deals to take advantage of. I think my favorite thing about this bar is the tube of beer. It's a giant tube of beer that can fill 6-7 full mugs and it's only 50 Yuan (around 7-8 USD)! Another great thing about Helen's is the people there. I've meet a ton of awesome people from all reaches of the world. Overall, it's a really great bar and I've had my fair share of nights there. I have a feeling there may be more of the same tonight.
I consider myself as an expert when it comes to travelling, but I am always learning more as I continue my travels around the world. I have been on trains overnight and during the day multiple times, but for some reason this train ride from Tianjin to Wuxi was a horrible experience. To start off the day, the entire group had absolutely no sleep due to our overnight KTV party with the Chinese students from 12-6 in the morning; when we needed to leave our hotel a little after 7 in the morning. So when we arrived to the train station, we were all exhausted from the no sleep we received and all of our plans were to sleep the entire train ride of six hours. Unfortunately, I received about three hours of sleep, if even. I ended up alone in a cabin with strangers coming in and out the entire trip; every single one of them being obnoxiously loud. For a few hours, there were five men that were friends in the same cabin as I was. They woke me up with their loud yelling and eating when they clearly saw that I was asleep. And then all of a sudden they started playing "weiqi" or "go" with one another, and that drew extra attention to other strangers on the train. So while I was trying to sleep, there were many people coming in and out of our cabin trying to play the game and helping each other out while talking loudly. I wanted to get on the top bunk but apparently I wasn't allowed to, so I desperately tried my best to fall asleep on the bottom bunk where everyone was sleeping. Toward the end of my trip, I had the entire cabin to myself where I lay my entire body on it and had a great 1 1/2 hour nap. :)
China Day 17 (Tianjin)
Today, for our cultural presentation portion of our class, Ross, Ryan, and I talked about Chinese Martial Arts. Before we started working on this project I was unaware of just how many different types of Martial Arts there are, how specialized they can be, and how rich the history is behind it. Needless to say, it is a very interesting topic and we could only cover a tiny of shred of all there is to talk about when it comes to Chinese Martial Arts. In our presentation, we started off by talking about the history of Chinese Martial Arts. Chinese Martial Arts has been recorded since as far back as the 5th century B.C. There are literally hundreds of different types of martial arts in China, so we obviously couldn't cover all of them. For our next part of the presentation, we talked about three styles of Chinese Martial Arts: Tai Chi Chuan, Wing Chun, and Bak Mei. Each style is unique in what is emphasized, what parts of the body are focused on, the methodology, and much more. One thing that I found interesting about martial arts in China is how it is much more than about competition, a polar opposite of American sports. Another very interesting thing about Chinese Martial Arts is the emphasis on understanding the human body and the ability to use that knowledge to your advantage. This includes methods of relieving stress, knowing the body's pressure points, and more. We then talked about the Martial Code of Conduct. This Code of Conduct is known as Wu De, and there are 5 core elements of Wu De: Respect, Honor, Virtue, Trust, and Humility. We then talked a bit about how American combat sports such as MMA and Boxing are derivatives of martial arts and why they have been successful in the United States. We also covered various other topics. At the end, we showed a clip of the martial arts show we saw the other day, and I thought this was a fitting end to our presentation. I feel like we put a good amount of work into it so hopefully we get a good result from it. I learned a lot about Chinese Martial Arts, that's for sure.
Sunday was our last day in Tianjin and we decided to celebrate! Zach was so kind as to provide the last dinner we would have with the Chinese students. The restaurant we went to was the Korean restaurant directly around the corner from the hotel which we had ate at for our welcome dinner. I sat with Lily, Evan, and Shaofan. The dinner was as good as I remembered it with the various meats cooked on the grill at your table and your own concoctions of dipping sauces. After eating as much as we could and conversing with the students we exchanged our gifts. I was very pleased to receive gifts from the Chinese students and was just as pleased to hand out all of my gifts. I ended up having the exact amount of gifts for the number of students that showed for dinner. I also exchanged my email with a few of the students as well. When dinner wrapped up a few of us walk across campus to a performance stage where we watched one of the Chinese students that was with us for the last week put on a very good dance performance. I enjoyed the show and watching the students dance much like we would at a talent show here in the US. It was an interesting glimpse of what the students may do as a part of their pastime activities. It was also a good way to hear some of their music tastes and see their types of freestyle dancing.
Our last day in Tianjin was a grand one. We started the day with presentations we had been working on all week and then after our last class we had a small ceremony where we received our program completion certificate. Later all of the students, including our Chinese peers, got together to make dumplings. We rented out our hotel dining area and moved a bunch of the tables together so that we could all get around the table and work together making over a hundred dumplings. We made quite the surplus of food even though we had thirty some people eating. A few of the students and a couple of the kitchen helps taught us the correct form to shape a dumpling but many of they turned out to be pieces of artwork as we created our own designs. This was a great bonding experience with our Chinese students and I believe everyone enjoyed the process as well as the feast after.
After class today we had the opportunity to learn some Tai Chi and visit the university's workout facilities. I had never practiced Tai Chi nor did I know much about it. The short half an hour class was just as informative as it was strenuous. I learned that in order to be good at Tai Chi one must have good control of their body, flexibility, and mental focus. Most of us were ok beginners but our instructor demonstrated for us a few of the variations of Tai Chi and she had obviously spent a lot of time working on her form and focus. As she taught us a few of the easier movements she also gave some background information of what we were doing and what the various movements meant. She described to us how a flat left hand placed next to a fisted right hand in the middle of your chest meant that you enjoy practicing with an individual and welcome them. After this class a few of the guys went to the gym to check out the workout facilities. They had what appeared to be a nice facility from the outside but once we got inside to the actual workout room it was another story. They had a good variety of machines and weights but they all were either worn down and broken or incomplete sets. Despite the bare facilities we got a mediocre lift in and wrapped it up early. On the way out I passed what seemed to be the locker room and I found it to be just as inefficient as the weight room. The urinals were set in a trough style and the showers were directly over the trough so that they shared the same area and everyone stood on a wooden bench. There were also only five lockers in the preceding room as all of the main lockers were housed down the hall just outside the workout room.
Sunday evening was filled with laughter, joy, friendship, and sadness. Today, we spent the evening enjoying dinner at the Korean restaurant next door to our hotel which was also the first restaurant we went to when we first arrived in Tianjin. We had dinner with our Chinese friends and exchanged gifts. It is so crazy how close I have become with each and every student here; especially Lisa, Amy, and Lilly. Lisa has gone out of our way throughout the entire two weeks to ensure our stay in Tianjin has been amazing. She has been spending time with us even after her work hours including the weekends. I am so glad to meet such a caring person and I plan on keeping in touch with her and even coming back to visit! Lisa and I exchanged gifts during the farewell dinner; Lisa gave me two beautiful chopsticks and I gave Lisa a U of M backpack, some pom pom's, and post-it notes. Amy has been super close with me as well; her, Samantha and I even had a slumber party and went shopping together! I gave Amy a bunch of presents too, UMD and TCF related of course! Last but not least, Lilly! Lilly and I became close the second I thought of her American name; she didn't have one at first, so I asked what her favorite letter is and she told me "L". The first name that came to mind was Lilly which fits her perfectly! I have received everyone's e-mail and Skype names so we can keep in touch. I love making international friends!
The Romance of the Song Dynasty is regarded as one of the three best shows IN THE WORLD, and I had the privilege of sitting second row to witness it. Dr. Li had told me on the bus today that past students have said it to be better than Broadway. "Bold statement," was all I gave as a response. I've been to Broadway to see Wicked in high school and it blew my mind. The singing, dancing, costumes, theatrics, and acting all rolled into one exhilarating play. So when I heard that this was to top that, I was immediately prompted to disagree. Turns out I wouldn't have to "eat my own words", but rather, gain a broader perspective on what I think of as entertaining. Which has something this trip has done time and time again.
First and foremost, my favorite part was the costumes. Every song had a new costume to go with it and they were all unique and exquisite. From over the top color combinations, to beautiful chains and tassels they really made the play "pop". Next was the stage sets and special effects. A multitude of stage sets were used including a rainfall, which included actual water falling from the ceiling (yes, we did get wet), an emperors throne room, and a battle on the wall of a fortress. There were plenty of firecrackers and other explosions to bring the scenes to life. But my favorite special effect of the night was this scene where the Song Dynasty warriors were at war with the Mongolians, and right as you thought the Song warriors had won, a rain shower of arrows came down from the ceiling and stuck in the ground all around the warriors. They then all fell dead in different directions except the main hero, who later died after being discovered by a young lady who's kid he had saved earlier.
Overall, this play was incredible. I'm not saying it was better than Broadway due to the lack of singing, but it was the clear winner in theatrics and special effects.
There was a lot of hype today about the show we were going to see. Dr. Li Said it was even better than a Broadway show, I have not seen one but I know they must be good. He then told us this was one of the top performances in the country and maybe even the world. We waited around outside for the show to start. There was plenty to keep us busy including some water obstacles that was set up for people to cross. We watched many people make it across as others fell to the water. We then walked through a haunted house which which was very day but it was too hot and there were too many people around us. I was slightly disappointed because there wasn't anyone there to scare us either. We then made our way up some stairs to a buddha temple that had lots of writings lit up on the walls. It was a neat place for pictures and had many cool things to look at. Finally we made our way to the show just before it started. There seemed to be a thousand people in there so I thought we would never get a seat. Luckily Dr. Li and Joe got us the best seats in the house only 2 and 3 rows back. We sat down inches from the stage and all of a sudden our seat moved sideways! The first 5 or 6 rows moved away from the middle to make space for more stage during different parts of the performance. It was incredible because it seemed like we were in the play with people inches from us on the front and right side of us. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time with my mouth on the floor. I was so excited I scraped video cameras to Sarah's head and also took tons of pictures. The show was constantly changing from tranquil dance scenes to epic battles. I was shocked to see all the elements come to play such as fire when they were shooting cannons, wind when they were making the guy look like he was flying and water when they made a waterfall on stage. It was impossible to know exactly what was going on because they only spoke chinese but there was a story line I followed just by watching the different scenes. After the show Joe told us the story and that it is a very famous in China. The butterflies were the last part of the show and it all came together when Joe let us know that the couple then turned into butterflies at the end. It was a great ending to a great play.
I've always loved dogs so it has been very interesting to see the differences between American and Chinese dogs. I've seen some breeds of dogs common in America in China like a golden retriever and the police had german sheppards. Most of the dogs in China are different breeds I often see in America. One very common characteristic of them is they are very small. We found one dog that wasn't any bigger then my feet. Something very unique to Chinese dogs is how well behaved they are. Whenever we see a local walking their dogs, the dogs never have a leash on. They run around their owner and usually stay within eyesight. This is much different then in America where I feel most dogs not leashed would just sprint away. Most of the dogs will mind their own business. We've even seen some just sleeping in the streets. A previous student named Sam said he felt that Chinese dogs are very stoic and I think this is a good description of them. With how much is going on all the time in China the dogs seem to keep it together. It would be interesting to bring a American dog to China and see how it reacts, and a Chinese dog to America. I wonder how Chinese people go about training their dogs to achieve this level of obedience or if they are used to all the people and cars so there used to this.
Minnesota is considered to have very nice people, but after traveling around China I feel the Chinese are much nicer. On a few occasions I have gotten stuck down town in Tianjin and been unable to get a taxi to drive me back to the hotel. Whenever this happens in less then ten minutes a local has helped me get home. On one occasion it was a group of people our age with one who was a student. They informed us we were in the wrong area to pick up a taxi and had to walk further away to find a taxi to bring us home. Another time I got stuck downtown I was having trouble communicating to a taxi driver were my hotel was. A nice woman who spoke English then came up and helped explain to the taxi where I needed to go. I was speaking with a student at Nankia from Ukraine who said it was because we're foreigners. I would agree that being a foreigner helps contribute to how easily the locals help us plus they can tell that we really do need help, as we cannot speak their language. However, I feel that the Chinese are also helpful to each other. China has a group-centered culture, which I feel helps them be interested in the needs of others. I've seen locals helping each other out and I don't believe I've seen any Chinese people get angry at each other in public. This may just be because they don't want to lose face and want to keep their feeling inside. Whatever the case I really think Chinese people are some of the nicest people I've ever met.
The Venice of the East; that is what the boat ride today made me think of this town, Suzhou. Our new tour guide, Joe, brought us on a tour through Tiger Hill and then on the canal ride. My initial expectation was all to clamber onto a small boat and rush through a small portion of a dimly lit waterway and have to swerve constantly to maneuver around oncoming boats. Although it was a little hectic getting out of the docks at first, the ride was incredible. Each business had rope-lights lining it's doors and waterways and each seat had an incredible view. They even had a man in front with a pole like in Venice, but instead of steering he was avoiding other boats and had a hook on the end of his pole to latch onto shore when we came back.
Another thing I enjoyed about the trip was passing the other boats and seeing all the people wave at us. I don't know if it's because we're Americans or if that's common but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Joe says we get an extra point when interacting with people for being a foreigner, another point if we're pretty. That kind of random kindness towards foreigners is very rare in the US but I don't know why. If the Chinese are so friendly to us and people from other countries and cultures, it only makes sense that we treat everyone that way as well. All I know is, after this trip, I look at the world and it's people in a much different and better way.
I still can not believe how much stuff we fit into each day. It always seems like the days go by so fast yet there is so much to remember in each one of them. Today we did many things and the night boat ride was one of my favorites. We also got to see some of the terra cotta warriors and a mock fight. As I was taking pictures around Tiger Hill Alex comes to me in a hurry to get pictures of the girls. I didn't see the rush until she explained they were going to dress up. As we got to the building where they were offering this it seemed like everyone was looking and not dressing. We went ahead and passed them and as we got to the counter to pay I was easily talked in to dressing up with the girls. We looked at the sign and picked our clothes out, the girls seemed to have much more to choose from seeing as how I only had one choice. The girls however had many choices of different styles and many different colors. I had only one choice of yellow in what looked like a long dress. We made our way to the side where they dressed us. First they put on my robe, which I thought was going to be a dress, and tied it with a piece of fabric similar to the design. I then had very large beads put on me as well as a hair net and a crown. The hair net was to keep the hair out of my eyes and out from under the crown. The girls were dressed similar but had very large sleeves as well as a big thing that shot up from around their necks. The also had something for their heads but it looked more like a large flower. We finally got to get up by the thrown and take pictures. There were girls up there who were already dressed willing to be in the picture for an additional 20 Yaun. We all paid it because they looked so good and they helped us position ourselves. The girls were put in very graceful positions and I was put in very masculine positions with my hands behind my back. We got some beautiful pictures today so when we got back to the hotel I decided to look some traditional outfits up on google. I found many that were much more subtle than the ones we had on but I did find some very similar to ours.
China Day 16 (Tianjin)
Today was our last day of classes. The last lecture was very interesting but I am glad to be done with the classes. After the lecture today we went to the IKEA shop in Tianjin. This was the biggest IKEA in the area. It was a three story building. We went to the 3rd floor of the building and the tour guide's showed us around the shop. I wasn't too fond of this visit because the IKEA in Tianjin wasn't very different from the IKEA in the Twin Cities and I think we could have gone somewhere much more interesting with much more cultural and economic significance. None the less, this was a pretty interesting visit. The main thing that is different between the IKEA in Tianjin and the IKEA in the Twin Cities is that their products and store layout are built for different living styles. At the Twin Cities location they have many products that reflect people having spacious houses to live in. In the IKEA in Tianjin, on the contrary, their products were built for apartment and/or small house living. They had a few different models of a standard Tianjin home with different IKEA products to fill the living quarters. Typically, these model living area's consisted of 1-2 bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom, and a kitchen, all within relatively close proximity to one another. I was also surprised by the price of the items at this IKEA. The prices there well reflected the prices on similar items in the United States. I thought that the prices would have been much lower. We went through a bedroom area, kitchen area, dining room area, and kids area within the IKEA store and we got to sit on different chairs, lay on different beds, and just walk around and look at the different products. In the dining room area we sat down as a group for a few minutes and we had a brief Q&A with the staff there about IKEA, China, and related topics. After all of this we stopped at the restaurant in the IKEA store and I got a plate of spaghetti and a couple of chicken wings. They were surprisingly good for IKEA food. After we ate, we left the IKEA and we had the rest of the day to ourselves. Again, I thought that the IKEA visit could have been spent on something better, but it was still a good, informative visit none the less. Now we just have to tackle our cultural presentation tomorrow and then it is the weekend!
China Day 15 (Tianjin)
After today's lecture about Chinese Management Philosophy and Methodology, and a two hour lunch and relaxation break, we went to a Tai Chi class at Nankai University. It was a very beautiful day outside and therefore an ideal time to take this class. The professor was very knowledgeable in her art and showed us basic Tai Chi maneuvers. The class did a fairly decent job of emulating these maneuvers but we struggled on some of them as well, especially the one's that require a good amount of flexibility. It was a very relaxing session of Tai Chi and this is unsurprising because one of the three main pillars of Tai Chi is to relax the body and mind. After a couple good hours of Tai Chi we were all sweating a good amount and the professor showed us a demonstration of Tai Chi at a normal pace. Needless to say, she knew what she was doing. After the Tai Chi class, we got the rest of our day off. It was a fun day all and all and I slept better than I have been previous days. I think the Tai Chi helped.
After years of silence and neglect China and the USA began speaking and cooperating over the medium of sports which stemmed from two ping pong teams. In March of this year the University of Minnesota set up a cultural center for sports at the Tianjin University of Sport. The idea behind this cultural center for sports is to help Chinese students understand the sport culture of the United States. The center will help demonstrate the relation of sports values and the integration of those values into American society. These efforts will ultimately expose Chinese culture to some of the more popular sports played in America and help to show why we love to participate. Our visit of the sports center was fairly short seeing as they currently only have two rooms, an office and lecture room. The presentation showed us a little about the program and why it is so important. After the presentation we had the opportunity to walk though campus and see multiple class sessions being held. This was really a unique opportunity to see what these students dedicate their live to and why it is so important to them. We also had a few chances to interact with the students as we partnered up into pairs and the Chinese students taught us one of their more popular dances.
In our past time on one of our evenings a group of us decided that it would be a great night to check out the Tianjin Radio and Television tower. It was a clear night with little smog and we got there just in time to see the sun set. All of us were amazed at how fast it set behind the mountains and Tianjin fazed into the night scene. I was worried that we were not going to make it to the top to watch the sun set because we were having quite a difficult time trying to communicate with the ticket teller that we wanted both the ticket up and meal. Once we got that figured out it was even harder to pick what we wanted to eat. It was unsuccessful and most of us paired up and split the ordering down the middle so that we would get one of everything to share between two people. This worked out well as one of the dishes turned out to be a full fish with skin intact. Even though the fished look fresh out of water it turned out to be pretty delicious, enough to the point where a couple tried the eye of the fish. The meal was successful and we got to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the city from the tallest TV tower in Tianjin. What surprised me was that it only cost 120 Yuan, that's less than $20 American dollars!
After hearing so much about the water park and the rides there a group of us decided that we would spend one of our weekend days to check it out. The park is listed as a national tourist location and is also Tianjin's largest urban park. Despite the name "Water Park" there is actually no swimming allowed at the park. The park is more of an amusement park with rides, scenery, and concessions. The main reason we decided to go to the water park was to test out the roller coasters as some of our classmates mentioned that they a blast and that they would go again. We went on the main coaster which was something of a mix between the Wild Thing, Cork Screw, and Steel Venom. The ride initially was pretty intense but that was short lived and by the end of the ride 60 seconds later we found ourselves slowly rolling back into the station. The coaster was fun but I am not sure it was worth 50 Yuan for 60 seconds. This made the others less appealing and we decided to just walk around a bit and check out the park instead of trying the other rides. Each ride was also paid for separately which would have gotten expensive. The park was well kept and looked cool as the sun went down and the day passed into evening.
It was an emotional morning. I hate goodbyes and all of the students were really sad to see us go. Even the ones who couldn't make it to our hotel to see us off, still sent messages of sadness. I hope to stay in contact with everybody who gave me their information, and it makes me grateful for social networking sites like QQ and Facebook which make connecting instantaneous and open. Sadly, I know there are some faces I may never see again in person but nonetheless, I enjoyed their company and rest assured, taught me something about China.
We left for Wuxi and arrived this afternoon. Although my time in Tianjin is over for now, I know I'll be returning at some point in my life. The memories and experiences there are some of my life's fondest.
It has been a wonderful day. I had a great start with a full nights rest along with a big breakfast at the hotel. One of the first things we did today was visit the Tiger Hill park. This place was spectacular because it has been one of the greenest places I have seen in a while. I was already satisfied with the park in the first ten minutes of arriving because just after the two guards guarding the entrance we got to see some of the Terra cotta worriers. After that we watched a very great show. The best part was that we didnt know what was going on because the whole time it was in chinese. We used the tones of the story teller and the music to help detect drama or upcoming fighting scenes. The actors in the show were great on horse back and even did some stunts. Many men played on one side agains few on the other. It looked like they wanted one side to look very noble and powerful against the other. After the show we got a beautiful ride on a boat. Pictures can only describe what we seen because it was so beautiful. In every direction you can see chinese architecture sticking out over the horizon. We also lucked out because our boat didnt have nearly the amount of people the other boats had. More people seem to want pictures with us today. Maybe its because a lot of foreigners don't come this way much or that we have gotten more friendly but either way I like meeting the locals.
Today was our last full day in Tianjin and I really wish we could stay here longer. These last two weeks have been amazing and this trip is one of the best experiences of my life. I am really sad that we are leaving tomorrow but all I can do is remember all the great people i have met as well as all of the experiences I have had so far. For our last day Zach treated all of us and the Chinese students to an amazing meal at the Korean restaurant next to our hotel. It was fun to see all of the students again before we left and after the meal we were able to exchange some gifts that we brought from America. For my gift I burned a couple of CD's that had some of my favorite music on them and I hope that the students enjoyed them. Overall, I have learned so much in Tianjin whether it be from talking to the students, walking down the street, or even going to the bar and I will never forget the people I have met or the things that learned here.
Today, Samantha and I really wanted to go to the zoo to see the panda bear; we've been in China for 3 weeks and haven't seen a panda yet. We were running a little late on time due to sleeping in and we wanted a Chinese student to come with us. Our first Chinese friend had to cancel our zoo trip last minute but we decided to ask Martin since we never get to spend time with him, he agreed to come with and helped us grab a taxi and everything. We arrived at the zoo around 4:23 p.m. and learned that the zoo closes at 4:30 p.m. We were in huge shock to find out how early the zoo closes, especially on a Saturday. And that is when I realized how every store in China closes semi early. In the United States, the normal time for a store to close is around 9 p.m. excluding Sundays. Whereas here in China, businesses can basically close whenever they want. The other day I wanted to go to China Mobile and it was around 7 p.m. I went up to the front desk of the hotel to ask them if they knew, and they said it was already closed. It made me interested to see what regulations, if any, the government has regarding business hours. Overall, the day was a complete fail; we wanted to go to the zoo to see a panda but couldn't. Instead, we spent most of our day battling with the unknown business hours of shops.
All-night KTV happened last night. We checked into the room at midnight and immediately started picking our lineup of songs. This KTV was nice because it had an option for English which made navigating the software very easy. The last one was only in Chinese so I needed help every time I wanted to pick a song. More people from our group went this time too and I was surprised to see the talent these new faces had. Most of the same songs were sang as last time but that's fine, it's nice to hear some low voices try and hit the high notes. My favorite part, as always, is singing smooth songs to people in the room. They either get embarrassed and blush, or jump in and sing it duet-style. I wish they had this in the states.
KTV didn't end until 6:00am which was psychotic because we had to be on the bus the next day at 7:30am. I can't believe that our two weeks in Tianjin is hours away from being over...
Today was a bittersweet day for many of us UMD students; it was the last day of attending Nankai University. I'm sure many of us were glad to not think about class anymore, but we were all bummed that we wouldn't be able to continue meeting professors, attending class with the Chinese students, and learning about business in China in general. Throughout the past two weeks in Tianjin, I am so thankful to attend such a wonderful business school. I have learned the basics of business in China and how to move forward with my plans of working here eventually. I have learned more than I could have ever asked for about the culture here, and especially the people. One thing I've learned about Chinese students is how extra studious they are. Many of the students at Nankai are taking 24+ credits a semester and there is barely any time for a social life. Regardless of the different lifestyles the Chinese students live compared to us UMD students, we are still similar in many ways like our openness to each other. I am so glad to be able to learn so much more than just business in China during my stay in Tianjin.
I've been getting real used to the taxi drivers here in Tianjin. At first, it was very difficult to communicate with them due to the language barrier. But as I continue to build new friendships, the locals have definitely helped me out on communicating with the drivers and navigating through the streets of Tianjin. During these taxi rides, I've learned to not go during the rush hour, it once took me 45 minutes to get back to Hanting Express during rush hour one morning when it usually takes me only about 10 minutes. I have learned that the longer the ride takes, the more it costs as well. I have also learned that the taxi drivers love to take advantage of us foreigners, they enjoy taking the longer ways to get to a destination so the ride costs more. Although it may seem like my taxi encounters have been negative, I have met some friendly ones. There have been a few where they were so anxious to practice their little English with me and curious to learn more. A lot of them always try to speak Chinese to me first because they think I am Chinese too, which always gets them! I wish we had more time in Tianjin so I can get to know the city more and learn how to navigate on my own so I know if the taxi drivers are cheating me or not!
Today I went with a couple of the guys to the Waterpark here in Tianjin. The Waterpark is a small amusement park in the southern part of the Nankai district and it was pretty cool to see. We went on one of the roller coasters which was pretty fun i feel like it could have gone a little faster though. Unfortunately we arrived there a little too late and most of the attractions were closing down for the day so we just went back to the hotel. Later we went to Helen's bar for some food and drinks which is always fun because there are so many people their from different cultures. After Helen's we went to the night club Le Nest which was really cool because have live performers and great music. I am usually not the biggest fan of clubs but I really enjoyed Le Nest. I have to say that today was a pretty fun day but this trip is going by way too fast.
Today was a sad day because we left what had become somewhat of a home to me. Tianjin was a beautiful place with some of the nicest people I have ever meet so I wonder how the other cities will compare. During the 7 hour train ride I wasn't sure what to expect from Wuxi. I stared out the window for hours on the train ride and watched as we passed through many miles of the country. It was interesting to see the farm land and open space. Much of what I had seen through the trains window looked the same to me. I seem broken houses after broken houses. There were people scattered everywhere working and burning old crops. It was strange to see these people and houses looking like they live without much technology whiles we are passing right through on a fast train whiles I play on my ipad. It was almost like we weren't even there, a movie out the window. Sometime I still don't think I realize I'm on the other side of the globe. Once we finally got to Wuxi Dr. Li pointed out much less noise. The honking has decreased dramatically. People seem to drive less recklessly and have more patients. There isn't as many bikers and pedestrians in the middle of intersections and we aren't having to slam on the breaks every few feet. The city seems less busy with traffic and also has a lot of green trees and grass. So far I am liking it here and our hotel would be fit for a king. Dr. Li and Joe said this is a great place to live maybe even one of their top choices. Other people must think the same thing because there is a lot of construction here. As a matter of face looking out my window right now at dark I count nine cranes. This is not uncommon in the parts of China we have seen as I have said before there is always at least one crane in sight at all time.
Today we took a 6 hour train ride from Tianjin to Wuxi. Before we left, some of the Chinese students came to our hotel to say goodbye to us. It was really sad not knowing if I will ever be able to see these students again. I was really surprised how close I got to these students just over the past two weeks. Each and every one of them was so kind, generous, and friendly. They really made my time in Tianjin that much better. We also had to say goodbye to our program coordinator, Lisa. I will really miss her. I have already got some of the email addresses and skype names to most of the students so I look forward to hearing from them and staying in touch.
Sunday was our last full day in Tianjin. Zach was kind enough to take all of the American and Chinese students out for dinner at a Korean restaurant right next to our hotel. We ate there the first night in Tianjin and everyone really liked it. The food was just as good this time. Before dinner, Zach said a very nice speech about how he enjoyed his time in Tianjin and thanked us all for joining him. Zach is one of the nicest people I have met on this trip and I thought it was really generous for him to take us all out for dinner. It made me look back and reflect on the past two weeks in Tianjin and I felt very lucky to be with this group and meet all of the Chinese students. As dinner came to an end, I was getting really sad. I did not want to leave the Chinese students. We all exchanged gifts and email addresses in hopes to keep in contact. Our final goodbye to the Chinese students came later in the night and I can only hope that someday I will be able to see them all again.
Saturday was a free day for all of us. I was able to catch up on sleep and at night most of us students went to a club called La Nest. The clubs here are a lot more exciting than the ones in Duluth. The outside of the building was covered in lights that kept changing colors. The walls as you walked in were silver metal with a unique texture and once you were in the club, you could see the stage from wherever you sat. Saturday night on the stage there were a few different singers that were all very talented and some dancers that had the craziest outfits. I spent most of my night just listening and watching the performers. Later on in the night, a few of the singers came over and talked with our table. I thought it was a really fun experience because I know I would never experience anything like this at a club in Duluth.
Friday we got the opportunity to make dumplings from scratch and then eat them for dinner. Over the past 3 weeks that we have been here, I have had dumplings a couple of times and I really liked them. I was excited that we would be able to make our own. There were some people that were rolling out the dough and cutting and shaping it into little round circles. We would then get the dough and put the meat or vegetables in it. I learned that the Chinese students often make dumplings on their own and they taught us what to do. There was a very little amount of food that we put in the dough. Then we learned how to pouch the dough up and they were ready to cook. It took awhile for some people to catch on but it was a fun experience. About a half hour later, the dumplings were cooked and we got to eat the dumplings for dinner. They definitely were not as good as ones made in a restaurant but it was really fun to eat something that I had made from scratch.
Today we had our final presentations for our program at Nankai which made me happy and sad at the same time. I am happy because we have made through the program but sad because I know we only have a couple more days left in Tianjin. My group and I did our presentation on transportation in China because it is quite different than transportation in America and we found it to be really interesting. One thing about transportation that is a lot different is their enforcement of traffic laws because in America they are strictly enforced but in China it is harder for the police to enforce them for a variety of reasons, one being the population. Some of the other presentations focused on martial arts, food, marriage, and many other interesting subjects which was cool to see and learn more about the Chinese culture. After the presentations some of the Chinese students showed us how to make dumplings which was fun and I definitely want to try making some of my own when I'm back in America! Overall, today was a lot of fun and I learned a lot more about the Chinese culture.
Today we ventured down the Nankai Campus to a little dirt area surrounded by trees where we would be doing tai chi. We met our tai chi teacher, who has won many competitions and is a decorated tai chi artist. She as great at tai chi, the majority of our class struggled. I have never been very flexible and when I attempted to do some of the basic tai chi moves, I nearly injured myself. I cant even touch my toes while standing, let alone do the splits with my arms straight out. I battled until I felt that if I went any further that I would pull a muscle. I had to stop about halfway through the lesson, along with a few of my classmates. To me, tai chi illustrates the discipline that those who practice it hold. It is a synchronized art, which is something you would not have gathered from watching our class. It's not that I didn't like the class, I was just physically unable to do the majority of the positions. I think that with more practice, tai chi could be a relaxing activity that I could enjoy. Instead, I just wen to the fitness center to lift weights after the tai chi class was over.
Tonight in Wuxi I have stumbled upon a wonderful little surprise. It was around 9pm and we weren't sure if we should get some good sleep or check out the city some since. I easily convinced myself to stay up late walking the streets because sleep really doesnt matter when your in China, Ill sleep when i'm home. It was also our only night in Wuxi so it was obvious we would regret a night of well rest. Even the look our the window was incredible because it was a much different city than we were used too. We could see many lights for some distance that trailed right passed our hotel on the busy street we sat on. Looking down at the street stood a large building completely lit up by some sort of projection that turned the entire side of the building into a large screen that played different advertisements. Next to that sad a busy looking ktv and from those two buildings alone it looked like day out from all the light pollution. I got outside with Brian and we walked passed these buildings. They watched us as we walked through them to a park we could see from a distance. This park turned out to be a beautiful lake walk in the middle of the city that acted as some sort of getaway. The park also used many lights but in a different way. Lights were on everything from the sidewalk to the buildings and even on the bridges and trees. It was not overwhelming by any means, the light use made the lake into a romantic getaway and I was there with Brian. We had a blast still taking pictures like crazy. The few couples walking around must have thought we were kids in a candy shop. We walked down to the water and it was very sad to see how nasty it is everywhere. I know a little canal in the middle of a city shouldn't be the cleanest thing in the world but it was too gross for me to even put my feet in. There were a few men fishing from a distance but I don't know if any fish could even survive. It's crazy how much we take our fresh water for granted sometimes. The first thing I do when I get home is take a long swim in one of our beautiful lakes.
Once again, Tyler, Alex and I met with the girls Alex met on the train from Beijing to Tianjin. The first time we hung out with them was a blast, and the second time did not disappoint. There were a lot of memorable things we did that were all packed into one day. First we had a buffet style lunch located near the shopping square of Tianjin. It was similar to the Korean barbecue we had the first night in Tianjin, except you could walk around pick the different things you wanted to grill. After that we walked all around the shopping square until we reached the end, where we found a random church.
The church looked awesome from the outside and it was little surprising to see, given pretty urban location. We walked into it and found a pretty big crowd. It seemed like it was just open to the public so everyone could walk in and just enjoy the architecture and organ music. After a little it seemed like the crowd was picking up and there was a little bit of a buzz in the air. It turns out, we were sitting in a church where a wedding was about to occur. We decided we could not leave this unexpected event. It was the first wedding I have attended in over a decade, and it was the last thing I expected to do during this trip. The ceremony was pretty similar to the ones I have witnessed in America, although it much shorter. As the newlyweds were walk down the aisle back outside the groom gave a surprised look to our group. I don't think he expected to have three American strangers at his wedding, but we both waved and smiled to each other.
Our main objective of the day was to finally ride the Tianjin Eye. It was our objective during the first time we hung out, but we missed the deadline by minutes. Tonight we were a lot more cautious about our time schedule and purchased tickets more than hour before the box office closed. The wait was a little long, but the result was definitely worth it. The ferris wheel is massive and provides a one-of-a-kind view of the city of Tianjin. I finally took my camera around Tianjin and got a lot of great pictures, especially while riding the Tianjin Eye. After the ride we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel. Overall it was a great day, and I'm happy to say that I made two good friends in Tianjin
Today was our last day of class. There was not any lecture planned for this class, rather it consisted of several presentations by the students in our class. Each group had to pick a topic that's specific to Chinese culture and explain and evaluate it's significance to the Chinese people. My group decided to research Martial Arts. As a class we witnessed a fantastic Martial Arts show by a group of students at a local university. We were so blown away that we decided to research and find out more about it. Our group had finished the powerpoint for our presentation the night before and we were prepared for our presentation. My roommate and I were running a couple of minutes late, so arrived to the business building a few minutes after the rest of our class.
We took the elevator up to the normal location of our lectures. Once we arrived to the classroom the doors were locked and it looked like no one was inside. We were confused and a little worried, so we went down to lobby and were lucky enough to run into Lisa, one of the program's employees. She told us that the classroom location had changed and guided us to the other side of the building. We arrived to the classroom during the middle of the first presentation. My roommate and I were quietly opening and preparing our powerpoint for the presentation. An issue arrived, we did our whole presentation on google docs which couldn't be accessed in the university. We could only do one thing, and that was to find a place to open google docs and download our powerpoint in the "powerpoint" format.
I sprinted back to the hotel with only a little time until it was our turn to present. I know we usually turn heads here because they hardly ever see Americans, so it must have been a little odd to see one sprinting down the street in a nice button-down shirt. I got back to my room, downloaded the document and emailed it to my roommate. As a "precaution" I brought my computer with in case all else failed. I sprinted back to the university with my computer wrapped in my button down shirt. As I reached the classroom I put my shirt back on and walked in sweating bullets. The powerpoint worked and we were able to present it to the class. I was sweaty, my shirt was wrinkled and out of place, but I think it went alright.
After our lectures at Nankai University, there is usually an activity planned for the class. Today's activity was a lesson on Tai Chi in a slightly wooded area on campus. Tai Chi is a martial art, although it consists of a variety of very slow-paced "moves." The instructor is a professor at the university and she walked us through two different forms of Tai Chi.
Before we performed any of the forms of Tai Chi, we had a little bit of a warm up. The warm was a little grueling and some maneuvers were a little ridiculous, given the relative inflexibility of our American group. The first form of Tai Chi that we attempted was as grueling as the warm up, in my opinion at least. As soon as we walked through every move of the routine we put them all together and attempted to do them in sequence. A lot of people got pretty sore and had to sit out for a little while. I'm not sure I really enjoyed the first form, maybe I would enjoy it a little more with some practice and familiarity with the moves. I did really enjoy the second form of Tai Chi we attempted. It was a lot slower-paced and more fluid, in my opinion. It was really relaxing and a nice end to the activity. Overall it was a nice experience, and good example of a large part of the Chinese culture.
Tonight a few of us decided to go on a little adventure. After once again dining at the dining center, we met up with Jewel to go for a nice little bike ride, or so we thought. The initial plan was to grab a few bikes and go for a leisurely stroll through campus. Just as we were about to depart the plan changed; we were now going to take on the busy streets of Tianjin and towards the Tianjin Eye. While it was already a tough challenge to any novice biker, it was an especially tough challenge for me since I had not ridden a bike since leaving for college. We decided we were all ready for the challenge and left to find one more bike for Jewel. The problem was that we were never able to get an additional bike for Jewel, so someone had to have a passenger for the rest of the trip. By the luck of the draw, I was able to bear that responsibility.
I was pretty nervous at first, but it would end up leading to a very crazy, scary, and fun adventure. Weaving through cars, mopeds and pedestrians was pretty intense and it was amplified by the fact there was another persons safety in your hands. Jewel assured me that she had the ability to bail in any case of emergency, so that was somewhat relieving. It was awesome seeing the streets and city light at nighttime, all while participating in China's primary mode of transportation. We were all pretty tired and it was getting late, so we decided to turn around before we made it to the Eye. Jewel's roommate offered to carry her for the return trip home. While driving Jewel and having her shout in my ear at any sight of potential disaster was a lot of fun, I would say riding solo was a little bit more relaxing and less stressful. Overall it was a ton of fun and a great adventure, so I was extremely happy I decided to come along with the small group.
In the beginning of the trip I remember Dr. Li telling us that students in the past who have been in this China program, come back to work and live here. Ever since hearing that and all throughout our travels, I've been wondering if I could do it. Last night I spoke with an exchange student from Columbia about this topic. My first concern was learning Chinese; if i'm going to come live in a foreign country, I'll need to become conversational. He told me that he's been here for just under a year, didn't know one word of Chinese, and said with daily practice and normal conversations with the students he became conversational. The biggest problem he has with it now is understanding someone if they talk too fast.
Another concern I had would be finding a job. My job back in the states treats me very well, and not knowing Chinese would limit my options here to teaching English. The optimal situation for me would be to find a job that is based in America, but allows travel to China for projects or meetings and vice-versa. Regardless of a job, I plan to visit China again in the future because I really do like it here.
Yesterday one of the Chinese students named Lilly invited me to go on a bike ride to the Ferris wheel. I was very excited as I wanted to ride a bike in China so bad so I could experience what it was like as so many people in China like to ride bikes. Lilly wasn't sure if I'd be able to ride the bike as I told her I hadn't ridden a bike since high school and it was going to be an hour long bike ride just to get their. I told her I'd be fine as I wanted to ride a bike so bad. It was very funny at first as I was very rusty riding my bike and the bike was a little small. However, nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the ride. We started our bike ride at 7:30 so the streets were very busy and that was the scariest part for me. Cars would get so close to me and at one point a bus pulled up next to me and I was very nervous. Lilly thought this was very funny as she was very use to this. We got to the longest shopping street in China and had to walk our bikes as their were just to many people. It was nice biking with Lilly as she would inform me about things in China I hadn't known before. It was very fun getting to talk to her and learn her story. After we made it through the shopping area we made it to the river and got to ride our bikes right next to the river. It was so beautiful as all the lights reflected in the water. At one point on the river people were flying lots of light up kites and it was so amazing. When we made it to the wheel we went on a boat ride and Lilly, Nolan, Sarah, Laura, Alex and I all took pictures together. Afterwards we got to ride back and it was much easier as the streets were not as busy so we could bike faster. I was so happy with the bike ride and I'm really happy Lilly invited me.
Last night I met a German man named Mattez and he told me he was a designer. I thought this meant he was a fashion designer but he corrected me and said he designed construction equipment so he was actually an engineer. I thought this was very cool as China has so much construction going on that he must be making a fortune. Mattez informed me that 10 years ago when the company he works for first came to China it was extremely profitable as they make high quality equipment. However, he informed me that now his company is having trouble as the competition in the construction industry is very fierce. Currently his company is having problems with other companies stealing their designs. Mattez informed me that they had created a new type of crane awhile ago, but in just two weeks another company came out with the exact same product they created and were selling it at a lower cost. Mattez told me that his company has a rat who is leaking secrets to other companies and then recreating their equipment. He was very glum as he informed me their is little his company can do to prevent this as copyright laws are not strictly regulated in China and it would be hard to get the government to stop this. I wonder if or when China will establish stricter copyright and patent laws to protect intellectual property.
Today was our last day of official class and by far my favorite.it was also the day for our big field trip to IKEA.
In class we learned about the sotck market my favorite topic in business and economics. Our professor. YUe Qi. who actually got his PH.D from Georgia. was showing us different trends in the stock market and due to the recent debockle going on in Europe with Greece now is a ery bad time to invest he says to way to it sinks then start investing.After class we we got ready and headed to IKEA.
Kind of like in the United states IKea Is lieka hughe shopping center. It was so Interesting however to see that prices of the furniture adn other products were not all that much cheaper than those in the Unites State. The best thing I Would have to say is probably how they set up little cubicle shapes to show what a typical Chinese family living qquarters looks like.It was so Intersting to see how much they could out in their and stil make it very comfortable. We then went to the food center theri, and I had to have some of their swedish meatballs. DELICIOUS.
Overall today was another great day , But I can start to feel our stay here in Tianjin coming to a close.
Today was yet agian another great day . There a re few main things that really stood out. the first was our lecture the other one was an afternoon of doing Tai Chi. During class we learned about Chinese management methodology and philosophy. It was very Difficult to understand the lecture. The teacher spoke very good english. it was the fact that to try to transltae some of the traditional chinese cutlres,and philosiphiies from hundreds if not thousands of years ago is not an easy task. The professor. Anthang Qi Broke down what we call the ying yang, and told us how everything is divided into male or female. It was very intersting And I plan to coem back to china, and study more about it. For the Tai Chi, I thought it couldnt be that hard. Was I in for a surprise. Some of the stretches and movements that go along with it are just so finese. Its ike an art form. I really want to join a Tai Chi class when I get back to the United states
Once we came back to the hotel after our tour of IKEA, I quickly made plans to meet up with a friend to get something to drink. When I asked her where to rendezvous, the first response was McDonald's. At first I thought she chose this place because it's a popular name that most foreigners can recognize, but when I arrived I knew it was because it's a very popular place. In America, people utilize the drive-thru system to hastily place their order, get their food, and be on their way; but here, it's viewed as a place to hang out for an extended period of time.
I arrived a little early, so I had some time to do some people-watching. As I scanned the crowd I saw people playing cards, playing a connect 5 game, and even napping. I also noticed that this McDonald's didn't even have a drive-thru, and later learned from my friend that none of the McDonald's that she has seen in China have one. Other than differences in the culture and the absence of a drive-thru, it was very consistent with stores in America as far as the menu goes. They offer many of the same items and the cheeseburger I ate on our way back to the hotel, tasted the same as in America.
After an exhausting tai chi class, the group split into three directions. A few went to check out their workout facility, some went home, and I decided to go check out Nankai's track field. Once we crossed the gate, we saw jungle-gym looking contraptions with a few elderly people exercising on and around these machines. I was not surprised to see pull-up bars, monkey bars, and ladders; however, in addition there were machines that imitated a treadmill, a rowing machine, and Tony Little's Gazelle. It was interesting because they were completely metal and were operated solely by the user, no electronic assistance. I've noticed several workout stations like this around Tianjin and it was great to finally test one out. They provide a much better workout than I had originally thought, and after all these years not having recess on a playground, I can still rock the monkeybars like a pro.
I was very excited today as we got to take a martial arts class. Our class was introduced to the style of tai chi. Our instructor was very good but tai chi is very different. I have already taken 12 years of martial arts, however, my style was a Korean style. My previous experience did help me some as I recognized the stances our instructor used for her feet. This class was very special to me as it reminded me of the karate I did when I was younger. Tai chi is a much slower and flexible version of martial arts compared to what I practiced at National Karate. It reminded me of a cross between yoga and martial arts as we had to be so flexible, while very few of us were flexible. The different stances required you to have very good control of your body. I'm not very flexible but I try to do some yoga to help. After taking a tai chi class I'm interested in looking to continue practicing tai chi back home in America. I feel like tai chi is a good mixture of stretching and martial arts and would be much more interesting and fun than yoga.
Today we were able to take a tour of IKEA here in Tianjin. I have been to an IKEA once before in America and surprisingly the IKEA here was pretty similar though I did notice a few minor differences. One thing that noticed was that the IKEA in Tianjin tries to sell things for smaller living spaces since the people in China do not have a lot of room in their homes. Another thing that I noticed was that some of the items were different to mix in better with the Chinese culture. After we were done walking through store we were able to eat at the cafeteria in IKEA and I don't quite remember but I don't think the IKEA in America had a cafeteria inside. Overall, I thought it was pretty cool to see some of the differences between the store here and the store in America, and I am getting sad that our time here is almost up.
Going to the Tianjin university of sports was an awesome experience. We got a look at many areas of study such as dance, kung fu, and badminton. We also got to participate in a dance class where we were given a lesson and a diploma from our partner. Our visit to the University of Minnesota at Tianjin really gave me a better grasp on what sport culture is like in china. We were told by our guide, who is the director of the program and a native of Maple Grove, MN, to think of a way to market sport in China, baseball in particular. I was shocked that to learn that Chinese cities do not have local parks and recreation departments, as we do in basically every city in our country. I think that this is such a key factor in recruiting children at a young age to play sports. One of the main issues in China is that a great majority of the young population concentrate far more on school than sports, which has its positives and negatives. I believe that instituting these departments would be the foundation for a change in this problem. Getting youth to play sports at a young age and having the option more readily available would undoubtedly strengthen sport culture and variety. I played baseball at a very young age because it was very available to me. If a few baseball fields were set up with departments to manage them, I think it would be very beneficial to the Chinese growth in a different sport. I think the same applies to badminton and ping pong in the states. The same concept, would diversify and broaden sport culture in both countries.
Today was not the best day that I have had here in China. It started off well with an interesting lecture from Professor Qi Anbang about Chinese management philosophy. This was a rather confusing subject but I feel like Professor Qi did a very good job of explaining it.There are three main philosophies that are called the books of change. The first book is the Art of War which is 5000 years old. This book touches on the importance of war and the five things that must be known for a war, such as law, macro/micro environments, managers, and methods. The other two books are a little more prevalent in the Chinese culture. First, there is the book of Confucius or Confusiunism, which is the most popular philosophy in China, deals with knowing the law and using it for the people as well as taking things one step at a time. I found it interesting How Confusiunism tends to be more toward the democratic side of politics. Second, there is the book of Taoism which deals with knowing the law of nature and though you may be uncertain about something, do it anyway because it will bring no harm to you. Taoism tends to be more on the republican side of politics. Even though this lecture was confusing I found it to be very interesting. Later in the day everyone to take a Tai chi chuan class which was fun for a little while until I hurt my knee doing one of the exercises, which I have dislocated before, so that wasn't very fun even though I enjoyed the little bit of Tai Chi that I was able to do. Overall, today was a very interesting day and it was going well until I hurt my knee, but I can still walk and that's enough for me.
Today we went on a field trip to Lishen battery factory in the morning. Lishen is the largest battery manufacturer in China and is the 5th largest in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Lishen, which was done by the vice president of the company, which I thought was pretty awesome. At the end of the tour of the factory, he (Kevin) brought us into the conference room for an informational presentation. During the middle of the presentation, the table and walls started to shake. At first, I thought it was Dahui shaking the table to wake someone up. Then I realized the wall was shaking as well, and knew that that was not the case. My second though was that it was just some machinery in the factory or something. Everyone in the room who noticed the shaking (a few didnt notice at all) were dumbfounded, until Dahui and others confirmed that it was in fact an earthquake. It only lasted about 3 seconds and wasn't very intense but it was awesome. I"m glad it wasn't any more serious than that though.I found out later in the day that the earthquake registered at approximately 4.8 on the richter scale in a city a few hours for Tianjin. I thought it was very weird that we felt this aftershock so far from where the actual earthquake took place. I also talked to others about their whereabouts during the earthquake and found it funny that one of them was in bed while it happened. Overall, I am glad no one we were with was hurt or affected and I am happy that I got to experience my first ever earthquake in China!
Today we all presented our presentations we have been working on. My group went first this morning and I feel we did a fair job at presenting what we have learned to the class. My groups topic was Spring Festival also known as the Chinese New Year. This was a very interesting topic because I knew almost nothing about it. I have heard about some festivals going on celebrating it back in america but never knew what it was for. The most surprising thing I learned is that it is 15 days long which people take off school and work for. Many activities are scheduled for all the days including my favorite, the lanterns. I can only imagine how amazing it would be to be here during those special days. Not only did I learn all about the Chinese new year but I also learned for all the other students. I learned about marriage in china which is something I may not have ever known much about if it wasn't for that presentation. It was interesting to know some of the traditions they still have and use in todays weddings in china. I also learned more about the sports of china and why they fit in with their culture. It helps me understand whats acceptable and whats not in china such as high contact sports. The food presentation was alot interesting but it made me to hungry to pay attention. In america we have different foods for different regions and it is the same in china. Some areas like spicy food more than others just like back home. Overall today was a huge in class learning experience of culture that may take longer to learn in the real world. It is nice to get an overview of things before experiencing them.