Thanks to Beijing Jingsong Vocational School and Shanghai Nanhu Vocational School for their hospitality and partnership to make the trip successful. We are looking forward to working with their administrators, faculty, and students to strengthen our relationship.
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Posted on April 9, 2014 by Travis Benjamin
So far I can check a few things off of my bucket list, not only did I get to see the Great Wall of China, I got to walk on the wall!!! In parts, it was so steep you had to use the handrails to avoid sliding down the walk way. I got to the 2nd tower and thought I would make it to the third. I was wrong, I went until I almost made myself sick, literally. I knew I ran out of steam and could not go any further. But, I did my best and loved the view. The only bad thing about the wall, it has become tourist attraction more than a historical site, which is a bit disappointing. The food has been incredible and the hospitality shown by the local family was unbelievable. They were so nice and welcoming and of course the food, incredible! The market place was more of a flea market in an old shopping mall. You can get some good deals, but you had to keep moving if you did not want something, they would practically attack you at times. But, I know they are trying it sell their stuff and did not mean any harm. Riding the rickshaws was an awesome experience. I think we were local celebrities for a day, we had so many people taking our pictures! The people are fascinated with Erica and I. She is 6 foot and I am 6’9″, the people here look at us and have asked for pictures many times. The train ride here to Shanghai was like Marta on steroids. It was a beautiful train and even better scenery. We have had a couple of bumps in the road, but I think things will get better and things will end on a high note. Shanghai is what is next, so it’s a new day, a new beginning and a new opportunity for more good times on this once in a lifetime adventure.
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Dianne Stevens
It’s hard to believe how much a country can change in a generation. Our guide told us that 30 years ago people here didn’t have enough food. Today 40% go to college. Other than having some Internet sites blocked, this doesn’t seem like a Communist country. People here are working very hard to have a better life for their families. They understand that policies, like having one child, are what is best for the majority. Now I understand why China is becoming the next world power. The sleeping dragon is awake.
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Samantha Hydrick
So not only have we eaten some strange things while we’ve been here but we found amazing knives! I’m getting ahead of myself.
This morning we went to The Jade Buddha Temple. The carvings and statues were amazing! Seems even with all of the people that live in China and visit here it is still a small world. While we were at the temple today I ran into the lady that I switched seats with on our plane from Seattle to Beijing. She and her group came to Shanghai yesterday too, crazy!
After that we went to a silk factory to see, start to finish, how silk products are made. Its crazy that such a small cocoon can be unraveled so much! We got to see a lady taking the worms out of the cocoon and then stretch it over bamboo to make layers. To kill the worms inside they bake the cocoons, I kind of like that part (not a big fan of moths). It was a process that I had never thought about and I definitely never expected it to have so many steps. Another thing I never really considered was the strength of the silk. It was very hard to stretch, the lady said we could punch it and still not break a hole through it.
Next we were off to another market area that Jon said was like China Town in China. A lot of traditional buildings and architecture and many shops. This is where the knife place would be he said. As soon as we were able to break up into smaller groups (and after eating) we went straight to the knife shop. They had A LOT of cleavers but they also had garde manger kits (tools for making pretty garnishes) paring knives and chef knives. They even had Damascus steel ones which is layered steel that makes the knife stronger and last longer, it is $500-$600 in the US. I was like a kid in a candy shop for the first time. The man showed us the knives and cut paper so we could see how sharp they were. The price in US money was $160 for a chef knife. I tried to walk away but I couldn’t. I ended up getting the knife, a garde manger kit that would cost $125 in the US and a set of paring/bird’s beak knives all for $187. I’m still geeking out about it! I hope my mom will be as excited as I am when she reads this. I would offer to let her use it but last time she used one of my knives she almost cut her thumb off.
Tonight after dinner we are going to an acrobatic show. That should be incredible! I hope we can take pictures! A few nights ago we went to a kung fu show and couldn’t take pictures. I hated that because my brothers would have loved it. I’m sure the acrobats will be something to see too, we know the Chinese are very flexible. We went to a park in Beijing and saw what had to be 70 year old people flipped over on themselves and basically folded in half. Off to dinner now.
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Natalie Gray
Day 5 took us to the Jade Buddha temple where we learned a little more about the different religions of the Chinese people. They worship Catholicism, Islam, Taoism and Buddhism, with the last two being the most common. Even as our guide was telling us about the temple and when it was built, the people around us were burning sweet smelling incense and praying to Buddha and his followers. Even though I do not practice Buddhism, I respect the religion and I was amazed to find so many similarities between Buddha and Jesus.
After touring the temple, we went to a silk factory. The woman who led the tour showed us how they made regular silk out of silk worm cocoons with one worm in them and then how they made a silk duvet with silk cocoons with two or three worms in them. She explained that when two or more silkworms wrapped themselves together that it is nearly impossible to unwrap the cocoons without breaking the threads, so they use those cocoons for filling their silk duvets. After the interesting and informative silk demonstration, we were allowed to shop around in the attached store next to the factory. It was the whackiest set up I’ve ever seen: one third of the building was a museum on the history of silk production, the second third was the factory itself, and the last part was like a department store. It was a beautiful shop though, with almost every kind of clothing or bag made entirely out of real silk. The prices were a little high, but mostly reasonable. I mean, it’s real silk, so it’s going to have a substantial price, but you’re paying for the quality of the product.
After saying goodbye to the silkworms, we headed to a little hole-in-the-wall shopping plaza that was bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside. It was in the Bund district, and there were so many different kinds of food and stores, ranging from kitschy souvenirs to beautiful cut crystal figurines, and even a department store or two. This shopping plaza also contained American cuisine, AKA McDonald’s and KFC, so most of the group elected to eat American. Dianne and I instead followed our noses and we found a Turkish restaurant and a place that sold Japanese mochi ice cream. We looked, we shopped, and then we headed back to the meeting point: a small jewelry store that sold-get this-pearl jewelry and tea. I find it ironic that we did those things in Beijing and that we could’ve killed two birds with one stone here, but I digress.
After our free time, we got to visit a beautiful garden that was once owned by the Emperor and his family. It was originally intended to be a retreat for the Emperor and his family, a quiet place to study and meditate or simply to relax and feed the koi fish. The garden was filled with gingko trees, bonsais, magnolias, every kind of flower you can think of, and natural rock formations pulled from the bottom of a lake somewhere. The whole thing was simply gorgeous and so serene, but we couldn’t stay for long. After the garden, we went back to the hotel where we were allowed to freshen up before going to dinner and then to an acrobatics show. The dinner was exquisite; we had pork that melted in your mouth, rice, beef, sweet and sour tofu, hundred year eggs (surprisingly delicious) and frog with potatoes, garlic and green beans. It actually tasted just like chicken, but it had more bones than I was expecting. After dinner was the acrobatic show which was captivating and enchanting; They had people jumping through rings, riding unicycles while juggling, a woman who balanced about 25 glasses on her forehead, a guy who did card tricks, some very funny clowns, and then topped off with six motorcycle riders zooming around inside a giant metal ball cage. It was just like being at the circus, only about 50 times cooler.
After the show, we all went back to the hotel, where I’m here now getting ready for bed. I finished my homework and am finally caught up on my blogs (yay!). Good night everybody and expect my next email before this time tomorrow. I love everybody and will be home in a few days, even though I wouldn’t mind staying for a week more.