Wow! I still can’t believe these three weeks have come in gone. Sitting here thinking about it still feels a bit surreal. I mean we were on the other side of the world. What an experience it was!
I felt that I really had the chance to grow on this trip. We all had to quickly learn how to navigate in these cities that would dwarf New York City. I feel like a became a subway pro, confident about going anywhere the subway could take me. We also had to learn how to communicate despite a language barrier, a skill that I feel is valuable wherever you are in the world. I learned so much about the history of China and the people of China it would have been impossible to leave without a growing respect for the country and for the people.
Some of my favorite moments on the trip include hiking the great wall, walking around the new financial district in downtown Shanghai and taking elevators as high as they would let us go, walking and boat touring around west lake, and the massacre museum in Nanjing.
I’m so grateful to those who put in the the time and hard work to ensure that we had such a well structured and educational trip!
Yesterday, we had the pleasure of using our free afternoon to visit the Grand Canal and the Grand Canal Museum. I’m assuming that everyone knows all about the Grand Canal, but in case you don’t… The Grand Canal runs from Beijing to Hangzhou linking the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. At 1,104 miles, the Grand Canal is the longest canal or manmade river in the world. The Grand Canal also saw the invention of the pound lock, which allowed boats to climb to reach its highest point at 138 feet.
The museum, which was free to enter, displayed tons of artifacts from the building of the Grand Canal as well as trade that occurred through the Grand Canal. I enjoy history and museums so this was very cool for me! We also got to walk out on a bridge over the canal and watch the steady stream of ships, now with mechanical engines, that continue to travel the canal today.
Today marked the official start of the “educational” portion of this trip with our first company visits. Our first meeting was at the Amway China location. As a West Michigan native I had always heard that Amway had a huge market in China so it was cool for me to actually be able to get a glimpse into that. We were supposed to meet with an Amway China representative however, due to a series of conflicts, we ended up meeting with Alan Beebe at the Amway office. Alan Beebe is the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China. Alan is from a small town in Nebraska and has done business in China for the past 25 years so it was really interesting to hear his views on the current business situation in China as well as interactions with the United States. In my opinion this was the perfect first meeting for us because it was able to set the scene for what the current business situation was in China and what problems that US based companies were facing as they tried to navigate doing business in China. There are a number of problems Alan highlighted including regulatory issues, rising labor costs, and saturated markets. The thing that stood out most to me, and was later reinforced during the Vermeer visit, was that China’s growth rate is actually slowing. The Chinese government claims the growth rate is currently about 6.5% however, most experts agree that the growth rate is somewhat lower than that. Surprisingly, 1/4 of the businesses surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce saw revenue decrease from 2014 to 2015, a fairly substantial amount of business (the 2016 survey results are coming out late this month).
On a less educational note, this evening myself and a group of students attended a night market. I’m 100% drawing a blank on the name. I’m not good with names in English let alone in Chinese. It was in a very interesting location because there was this very nice main stretch with all sorts of high end shops and then we made a turn down this alley and there were all sorts of vendors. It seemed to be a popular destination as the alley was packed! Vendors were selling a wide variety of things from souvenirs to crazy foods like squid legs and scorpions. I did try a few scorpions and I actually thought they weren’t bad! I also had an assortment of dumplings and chicken shish kabobs which were both amazing. After that we wandered around some of the nicer stores and made the subway venture back to pack and prepare for the overnight train tomorrow!