Download Video from YouTube | YouTube MP3 Converter | Replay Media Catcher
Please see the links below highlighting our visits to the vocational schools in Beijing and Shanghai.
Today we bid farewell to China. It has been an amazing learning and culinary experience. We have met many nice people and have eaten our way through Beijing and Shanghai. John our guide made sure to educate us on the beauties of both cities. We also have eaten locally to enhance our experience in China. I am greatly impressed with the places and colleges we visited. Both Dr. Gunay and Dean Russell planned a unique trip that will be remembered forever. The running around as “sticky rice” to learning the culture will stay with us always. Thank you to Dr. Gunay, Dean Russell and John.
Shanghai is a vibrant city Where the city never sleeps. We have eaten things out of our comfort foods. In this trip we have eaten duck intestine with coagulatated blood, a frog soup, donkey and the 100 year old egg. We have seen many Foods which I can’t see people eating fried pigeon, scorpions and snake. We have learned that no portion of any foods are wasted.
Wow Shanghai is so different then what I read and saw on the internet prior to the trip. It really is like New York City or more like Mexico City minus the clothes everywhere hanging out to dry. John, our tour guide, joked with us that the clothes were the national flag for the country of Shanghai. Shanghai is a city under change, large skyscraper are replacing the small tong communities, but we found a beautiful temple and Gardens in the heart of the city. A quiet and peaceful oasis in the middle of chaos. Shanghai has more English speaking people then Beijing did. We ventured out to a convenience store and a chinese women walked in to purchase something and asked us if we needed help with anything. We got that time and time again in Shanghai.
It’s good to be home after such a long trip, but what a trip it was! It truly was a trip of a lifetime with some great people who I already miss.. Our last days in China were bitter sweet. Fun, but it all went by way too fast. By far, my favorite part was the Great Wall of China. The long history of the wall and knowing it will still be standing long after us and anyone else who goes there will be gone. The Jade Buddha Temple was a great sight to see. Again, so much history and such a beautiful place to visit and worship if you are a practicing Buddhist. I tried to stay out of people’s way who were there to pray and worship. I am not Buddhist, but I respect the people who are and I try to show proper respect to all people practicing their religion, whether or not I understand them, or believe differently.
I brought home a total of 6 (yes SIX) lucky cat’s! I think about everyone I know will be getting a lucky cat for their family and a set of chopsticks.
I do hope that everyone who was able to go had just as much fun as I did, or more. Hanging out and staying up late into the evening just isn’t me, I knew we had to get up early and I do not sleep well at home most days, so I knew that I would not get much sleep in the hotels.
The food was amazing, the Chinese people were friendly overall, and I think fascinated with us. I don’t know if I will ever make it back, but I would like to think that one day, maybe I will. But, if I never do, I will have lots of great memories with a terrific bunch of people who I will remember for the rest of my life. I truly enjoyed everyone’s company and will always remember our group as “sticky rice”!!
Well, the flight from Atlanta to Seattle was 4hrs and 45mins, I can say that the flight was slightly miserable. I knew I was in trouble when we still had Seattle to Beijing, an 11 hr flight which I actually made manageable. I was quite surprise! On the long flight to Beijing, I made friends with Jackie our Taiwanese flight attendant and many other friendly faces. I stood and stretched my legs with Jackie for about 3 hrs. Within these few hours I learned many things about the Asian culture from chop stick lesson, to learning about the different tones, there are 4 tones and 1 neutral tone, to tips on where to go shopping and how to bargain. My favorite part with Jackie was her own personal food she cooked for work to feed herself and to share with her co-workers, and I was lucky enough to be apart of that traditional food she shared. The 5 foods she brought were white sticky rice, Chinese traditional beef shank, a vegetable close to a turnip, soybean sprouts stir fried with fried tofu, imitation crab meat with cilantro and scallions. Everything tasted delicious, the only thing I questioned was the beef shank, it tasted like beef with a skunk smell. I am pumped to keep in contact with her through email and the app, We Chat.
Once we arrived in Beijing the airport was very quiet and customs went smoothly, once out of the airport it was a cool 59 degrees and the stares towards our unique group started. It was interesting to hear about how they will stare and point at us as a group since we are foreign but to actually experience it for the first time was very different and uncomfortable. I would not have traded that comfortableness for anything. It was a great start to a new adventure!
Yesterday was very good , not just so so. We packed so much into the last day. First, we went to the park to watch the morning exercises. People also dance, play games, and just seem to enjoy being outside together. Then we went to the Shanghai museum. We quickly went through about 6000 years. We went to the high -end shopping district where you need some serious money. After another delicious meal (I’ve given up on the chopsticks), we had a nice visit with students preparing to work in the cruise industry. I spent the rest of my yuan in the knock-off market. The highlight of the evening was the river cruise at night with the lights of the city around us. Spectacular!
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.
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.
On day 4 of our trip, we rose early to take a stroll down to one of the local fresh markets. A fresh market is like a farmer’s market on steroids; they had everything there from strange, exotic fruits and vegetables to whole sides of mutton hanging from the ceiling to fish so fresh it was still flopping around. There were small restaurants within the fresh market too, including a few bakeries with freshly made goodies nestled behind glass shelves. After walking through the market, we picked up a crepe like sandwich and John bought us some steamed pork dumplings. So far, those were the best dumplings I have ever put in my mouth. It was kind of funny because he was saying “be careful, it’s hot,” and we culinary people were handling them barehanded with no trouble. You had to be there, really.
Sadly after that we headed back to the Tiantan Hotel one last time to check out of our rooms and got back on the bus heading for the train station and Shanghai. As we drove through Beijing one last time, I was both miserable and happy to leave: I didn’t want to leave the beautiful city I had learned to love and now hope to live in someday, but I was equally as happy to move on to Shanghai for new experiences and to start a new chapter in our adventure. The train ride was very smooth, smoother than our flight to China as a matter of fact. There was a dining car, but John had prepared for us sack lunches spilling over with lots of local snacks and sweets, including rice crackers, two kinds of cookies, a cup of noodles, a banana and orange, and a strawberry sucker for dessert. I ate pretty much all of it except the cup of noodles, which I have a feeling I’ll be taking home in my suitcase.
Five hours later, we pulled into the Shanghai station and made our way to our new hotel, the Jianguo. It’s nicer than the Tiantan, if a bit smaller. We were given free time before dinner to walk around Shanghai in small groups to just explore the city. Before dinner, we went to a dumpling place for appetizers, then we headed back to the hotel for dinner. After that, we all went our separate ways: some people went straight to bed, others went to the convenience store around the corner, but Dean Russel, Dr. Gunay, Chef, Sam and I walked downtown to the shopping district and looked at a few department stores. I tell you what, for a petite lady in heels, Dr. Gunay sure can set a brisk pace. Thoroughly exhausted but filled with the promise of the next day, we made it back to our hotel and had our first sleep in the New York City of Southeastern China.
We arrived in Shanghai yesterday afternoon by train and then went to the hotel. Today we started the morning off with visiting the Jade Buddha Temple which is very beautiful. The Temple is divided into three sections with the oldest and the most prized Buddha statue in the furthest room from the street. This Buddha is the most prized and very well guarded. It was awesome to see. After visiting the Temple, we went to a silk factory. We were able to view how silk is made from start to finish. It was very fascinating. Then we were taken to an authentic shopping market for some free time. After that we went to the Yuyuan Garden. It was amazing to see where some of the people lived some 400 years ago. Tonight we are going to an acrobatic show. I am really looking forward to it.
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.