Everyone got on their flight safely. We hope everyone had a great time and that you all have a great rest of the summer. Keep studying Chinese and we hope to see all of you again!
It was our last day in China and we wasted no time. We began the day with a language class and I was really impressed by everyone’s progress. In my class we were able to have a solid conversation after only 3 weeks of studying the language. After class we had our long awaited photo contest. Each student submitted their best photo from the entire trip, then we took a blind vote. Emily won with a photo of the girls and our new friends from the Philippines in Chengdu. Congrats to Emily!
After lunch we headed to KTV, karaoke, to sing our hearts out. We learned some Chinese songs and the Chinese students got to show off their knowledge of American tunes. We rented out a huge room with three mics and four tv screens and everybody got a chance to show off their singing ability.
We left KTV and went to a street market near Xin Tian Di. We got some last minute shopping in and, now that everyone is an expert at bargaining, it was impressive to see how low everyone could get the prices for some very cool things. We then crossed the bridge to Pudong, hopped off the bus under the Pearl Tower, walked to the tenth floor of the same mall we ate in yesterday and went to one of the best restaurants in Shanghai called South Beauty. Not only was the food delicious but the view is unbelievable, especially at night. The restaurant boasts a balcony with a view of the Bund, its early 19th century style building all lit up over the river.
We’re sad to see everyone go but we had a great trip and all good things must come to an end. However, we hope that this trip has given everyone a solid introduction to China and has inspired everyone to continue their studies of the language and culture.
We spent our second to last day in China in Pudong, the east side of the city, exploring one of the most modern districts in the world. Our first stop was the iconic Pearl Tower. We finagled our way through the long line, finally arrived at the elevator and went up—way up. There are two observation decks in the tower, both shaped like giant glass globes; we went to the highest one. We did a quick lap around the deck, took some pictures and then went down a hidden staircase to the lower lever. This deck was a little scarier: the floor was glass and there was nothing between you and the ground except 80 stories of air.
After the Pearl Tower we walked to a restaurant and had lunch over looking the Bund. We had our own room that jutted out towards the river with huge, floor to ceiling windows.
We ate lunch and headed to our main activity for the day: the World Expo. Our first stop was the USA pavilion and thanks to a little help from a friend we got to skip the five hour line. After the USA pavilion we walked through the Expo and then had three hours to explore. A few students found lines that were short enough to wait, the most interesting of which must have been North Korea. Their pavilion let us have a small glimpse of what is going on in the northern half of the peninsula with pictures of the cities, classrooms, and everyday life. Jen got into the Czech pavilion where she took a picture in front of the same statue that she did in Prague! The Expo was simply awesome. Walking through, one might as well be stepping over national lines, each pavilion with its own local food and music. After a long day exploring Pudong we came back across the river for dinner and finally settled back into the hotel.
Today we started out the morning with a trip to the Yuyuan Garden, a famous daoist garden. Brantley talked to the group about principles of daoism and we all had a chance to observe first-hand how these ideas translate into organization of a garden. After lunch in a restaurant that has hosted famous world political figures in the past, we headed back to the fabric market to pick up our new clothes and have a little more time to explore. A few of the kids had some last-minute alterations, but everyone’s new clothes look great!
We then spent the afternoon at Brantley’s apartment complex participating in various sports activities and competitions, including tennis, badminton, and pool. After all the competition, we visited Brantley’s apartment and ate some delicious home-made brownies. To shift gears, we all tried our hand at an artistic endeavor: painting mini-replicas of terracotta warriors. Everyone chose a different theme or style, and with any luck we’ll be able to bring them home. We walked to the nearby Xintiandi, a favorite neighborhood for many in the group, and ate Thai food for dinner.
Today we are off to the Expo — stay tuned!
We began the day with another trip to a former factory turned art gallery. The factory courtyard has been filled with statues where you are actually allowed to walk on the grass, with several galleries surrounding the yard inside the old factory walls. After spending the morning in the gallery we came back to the hotel for lunch and Chinese class. With the end in sight but still far away we decided to have some fun and take a break from touring. So, after class we hopped on the bus, drove 20 minutes and found ourselves at Shanghai’s water park.
The water park isn’t huge but it has two sets of big water slides, a lazy river, a wave pool and several other kiddy pools. After riding all of the slides, the lines were short because we went later in the day, we made our way over to the “sport pool.” There was basketball and shallow water polo and after being called over by some of the locals we joined the polo game. We must have played for at least an hour. Everyone in ChinaPrep took part and in one game it was even ChinaPrep vs. We won, of course, with Yohanna leading in goals. We took a short break for dinner and then came right back for more. There’s still so much to see and do in Shanghai and the trip to the park was a great way to gear up for the rest of the trip.
This morning we went to a local Wet Market to see how Shanghainese do their shopping. At the market we had a language activity that involved making lots of friends with the vendors and learning about local produce. Congratualtions to Emma and Jenn for winning and happy birthday to Emma!
Ann’s parents were gracious enough to let us into their home for lunch and the food was delicious! Ann’s mom is an unbelievable cook and managed to make enough food to put us all into food comas, all by herself from scratch.
After lunch we headed to “The Slaughter House,” which is a former meat factory that has been turned into a conference, shopping and dinning center for Shanghai’s elite. After exploring the building we headed to Tai Kang Lu in the French Concession where we got to see Brantley’s first apartment in Shanghai and meet her first landlord. We then walked through the alleyways, weaving in and out of the tourists, went through a coffee shop to the elevator in the back, went to the third floor and emerged in a Kong Fu gym. We spent the next hour learning the basics of Kong Fu and got a demonstration from the master. After an exhausting workout we came back to the hotel to shower and then went to dinner. We left the restaurant and took the bus to Xin Tian Di, one of the most famous shopping districts in Shanghai.
We started the day with a trip to a small propaganda museum close to the hotel. The museum is located in the basement of a housing complex and actually used to be a secret, private collection of posters. Most of the posters on display were originals from 1949 to the end of the Cultural Revolution. There was also a recently added section of the museum about Shanghai’s history that had really cool maps and posters of the city. We then got back on the bus to head to lunch but as we made our way upstairs the skies opened and the rain poured down ruining our plans to go to the World Expo.
After lunch, because of the rain, we decided to get a foot massage and then go shopping. We went to a mall and everyone got a chance to practice their bargaining skills against top of the line vendors who are at the top of their game during the Expo.
After shopping, with the rain still pouring down, we went to Brantley’s apartment building, watched a movie on the building’s big screen and ordered pizza. The rain has finally stopped and, no worries, we will be able to go to the Expo.
Our first full day in Shanghai was extremely busy and began with a trip to the Shanghai Museum. The museum was designed to resemble an ancient wine vessel and if you look carefully the evidence is all over the museum. The most popular display for our group was the ancient coin exhibit. After the museum we walked through the underpass to the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum. The Urban Planning Museum was similar to Beijing’s, it had a scaled down model of the city, but it boasted a more in depth display of the city’s history. On the second floor there are hundreds of original photos of Shanghai demonstrating the rapid change Shanghai has seen over the last 170 years and especially over the last 20.
After the Urban Planning Museum we went to one of the coolest restaurants in Shanghai that does no advertising and has a secret entrance. We then headed back to the hotel for language class and to change into our best for dinner. Everyone’s interest level in learning the language is extremely high and it’s been great to see everyone improve so much in the last couple weeks. Our dinner was at another one of Shanghai’s most famous restaurants and is just around the corner from the Bund, which we walked down right after dinner. Ann then surprised everyone by walking us right into M on the Bund, the most popular restaurant in Shanghai, and getting us a table over looking Pudong and ordered several pieces of their best desserts.
We woke up early this morning in Guilin, had a quick breakfast, and before we knew it we were in Shanghai. We landed in Pudong airport about an hour east of the city and actually got to drive right over the World Expo on our way to our new hotel. The bridge provided a great birds eye view of the Expo getting everyone even more excited about actually visiting the event than they were before. We drove through Shanghai and, because I studied abroad here and Shanghai is Ann’s hometown, every ten minutes or so one of us would stand up and announce: “this is where my cousin lives,” “I used to eat lunch here,” “I worked in that building…” We’re all really excited to finally reach Shanghai, which is such a modern, vibrant city but also one that has played such a significant role in modern Chinese history.
We checked into the hotel, threw our bags in our rooms then set out to explore the neighborhood. Shanghai is similar to New York in that it’s a huge city but you still have a neighborhood feel. After our walk we had a little time to kill before dinner so went to the local arcade. Everyone took part in challenging Ann to Mario Kart and Brantley to basketball. We then met up with the interns who have been working at the World Expo and several Chinese students and all went to lunch. It was great finally having the entire crew together in one room together discussing the adventures of the past several weeks.
We woke up this morning to the sounds of horses, chickens and the usual farmhouse banter that is always so lively so early in the morning. However early it was, once you opened the shades and looked out over the terraces of LongJi, it no longer mattered. We emerged from our rooms and met in the lobby of our hotel, which hugged the side of the mountain, for a morning hike. The sun didn’t beat down upon us as it would later in the day, allowing us perfect hiking weather. We weaved in and out of mountainside huts and after about ten minutes reached a small plateau where some local woman encouraged us to try on their traditional clothes. There were dresses and suits and everyone tried something on. Josh looked a lot more like Aladdin than a rice farmer but he still pulled it off. The pictures are awesome and I’m sure Ann will post some of them later. We hiked another thirty minutes over the village, through rice paddies, over small creeks, and finally up a steep set of stairs to a hut that overlooked the entire valley. If we had to hike another hour the view would still have been worth it. As a bonus, a woman selling water had one of the best looking puppies ever, who put on a show for us as he wrestled with a water bottle that was almost as big as he was.
We then headed back down the mountain to our hotel. We had a quick lunch, packed our things and walked down to the bus stop. After transferring to our bus at the base of the mountain we took the 2 hour-long bus ride back to the hotel at Guilin.