All posts by Alexis Bonnema

Isaac Zylstra: 1/27/14: Victoria Peak

This is Isaac again, using Alexis’ account.

Today in Hong Kong, I went to Victoria Peak, a mountain on Hong Kong Island.

I left with a group of about 15, around 9:15. We took the subway to the island. There’s a tram, but most of us decided to walk up.


A friend of mine and I were slow, and so got left behind. It absolutely beautiful. We got some great pictures.

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It took a while, but we eventually found the group. We walked around a bit more, before heading to lunch; still on the peak. I got an interesting watermelon tofu pudding. I’m not a huge fan of tofu, but the watermelon was good. The presentation was cool (literally!).


We then took the tram down. It was really steep. That building in the background is straight up and down!



All in all, Victoria Peak was beautiful, and a great place to spend a morning in Hong Kong.


Isaac Zylstra: 1/24/14: Gulangyuulangyu and homesickness

This post was written by Isaac Zylstra. Since I am unable to access my own blog account, Alexis Bonnema has been gracious enough to let me use her account.

Today was mostly self-directed learning, with a group dinner at the end. My group spent the self-directed learning on the island of Gulangyu.

In the morning, people did various things, before coming together at 10:00 to go to the island. About 25 people, most of the people on the trip, came. We walked to the bus.

About 20 minutes later, we got on the bus heading to the ferry. We took up nearly the entire bus, and it was extremely cramped.

We arrived at the ferry around 11:10, and discovered it was quite a large place. There were tons of people there, and we couldn’t get on any ferry earlier than 12:10. So we found some snacks and waited around.

The ferry ride was nice, but about 20 minutes, which was quite long considering the distance to the island from shore is about a half-mile.

So we had arrived on the island.


Gulangyu is a decent sized island, home to 20,000 people, and many tourists, but few cars are allowed. The large group split up very early on, leaving a group with me, 4 other students, and the Xiamen philosophy professor who had come with us, Dr. Xiaofei Liu.

Us 5 students had few plans, because we’ve been getting tired of China.

Nearly everything in China has a different feel to it. China has become very modern very recently, but things are still different from the West. The food is very different. Nearly everything is either fried or boiled. There is very little dairy, and no cheese. None.

But it’s more than that. We miss our families and friends of course, but we also miss the United States. We miss our language. Our culture. Our way of life. Part way through the trip I wondered if I would enjoy living in China more than the US. Now I wonder how long I could make it living in China.

So, given all that, we had a slow day. We took our time getting lunch, and got some interesting foods from the food vendors.


I myself had a “sausage sandwich”, which was a sausage, some vegetable, and a sauce on some sort of rice bread. It was pretty good.

After that, we passed up multiple activities, including a trip to Sunlight Rock, which was extremely crowded and cost 60 Yuan.

We ended up going to the beach and just relaxing, and discussing philosophy. The beach was beautiful. This trip is the first time I’ve seen or been in the Pacific Ocean.


We headed straight back to the ferry afterwards, but took some sketchy shortcuts to get there. We even passed the old US consulate.

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And then we were back on our way to the mainland. A good relaxing day to recover from homesickness.


Fresh Off the Train

This morning we stepped off the train in our business suits and entered a drizzly Shanghai.  Although I had been reluctant to leave approachingly-familiar Beijing, I am eager to explore this new and wetter city.

Today’s company meeting was uniquely interesting.  Our class got the opportunity to be part of a project our professor has been working on, on and off for years now, which is finally moving forward.  Being close to an actual developing project was a new – and extremely educational – experience for me and many of my classmates, but my favorite part of the visit was the tour of the factory.

I was fascinated by the long lines of machines and people.  Seeing the parts actually being made makes the whole company so much easier for me to understand.  The person who had answered our questions beforehand had mentioned moving more toward automization, to reduce the amount of labor required; and indeed, although there were still many workers in assembly lines, there were also many stand-alone machines with a single operator.  At the end of the tour, the testing room, where machines test the durability of the products according to different world standards, and the small office where the company’s engineers work, held particular interest for us engineering students.

After an amazing lunch with people from the company, followed by checking into our posh hotel room, I opted to finish the day by joining friends going to a nearby tailors’ market.  The variety of styles, colors, patterns, and materials of the clothing was stunning;  seeing friends find clothes that suit them perfectly, and then bargain for a reasonable price, was satisfying.

Our adventures in Shanghai continue tomorrow with two more exciting company meetings on the schedule.