As I look back at the last three weeks in China, I feel so incredibly blessed. I had never been out of America before! My knowledge of China was small, so thankfully I learned a lot on my visit. China is an old country filled with so many traditions. I have an appreciation for their culture and I hope that one day I can visit again. I am hoping that a business I work for in the future has a global location in Shanghai so I will have an excuse to visit again. 🙂
Initially, I was nervous to enter a country where I did not speak the language. In America, I often feel angered when people do not know how to speak English and try to communicate with me. However, the tables were turned this time, and the Chinese people were understanding and patient with me. I am hoping that if I run into a foreigner in America who needs help that I can be as patient as the Chinese were with me.
I want to tell you about my favorite part of my visit: Shanghai. I did not imagine China’s cities too much different than New York City, but I was very wrong. Shanghai, for example, is almost futuristic. I felt like I time traveled to a new world. One of the buildings, The Shanghai Tower, is the second tallest in the world. I was blessed to be able to go up to the observation deck of that building. Shanghai, especially from the tallest point, is so beautiful. It goes on forever. As far as the eye can see, there are tall buildings. From that view, I could see the thousands of apartment buildings, each of which were at least 18 stories high. Shanghai has a population of 24 million people. With rapid growth, this city looks brand new! It has shiny new buildings everywhere with many brand name malls.
I want to thank those who organized and planned this course. I appreciate the hard work and I am so thankful for all that I have learned on my visit to China.
[Below is a picture of the “bottle-opener” building taken from the top of the Shanghai Tower. The white machine hanging off the roof of that building is actually holding people cleaning the windows. That was fun to watch!]
Today, Saturday January 21, was a self-directed learning day. First, Daniel Michaels and I went to the Apple store. It was the biggest Apple store I have ever been in… it was two stories! We were walking around and an employee, who spoke very good English, asked us if we needed anything. We found out that this employee is from Skokie, IL. This is a town not too far from my hometown in Palatine, IL. It was cool to tell him about our experience in China, and we learned that he has only been here in China for a year and he is a manager at that Apple store. We ended up purchasing new iPhone screen covers (which were much cheaper here in China).
Next, a small group of us walked to West Lake, only about a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel. We decided to go out on a boat tour! The tour we found was only 50 yuan, about $7. Our boat traveled for 50 minutes in a circle around the lake. We took many pictures together and the weather was perfect. I enjoyed the incredible views and appreciated the quietness on the lake. The city can be so loud with all the cars and scooters honking, so this tour was a great time to relax after a busy week. Once the boat was in the middle of the lake, there were views of the city on one side and of mountains on the other. I am thankful for the experiences I have had so far on this course.
On Sunday January 8, after visiting a Chinese church, we were given about five hours to explore any part of Beijing we wished. A small group of students and I took a subway to the Olympic park. Once we arrived, we decided to purchase tickets to get tours for inside the buildings. We had no Chinese student with us to communicate with the woman selling us tickets, so we ended up buying three tickets and had no clue what the tickets gave us access to. We hoped for the best and headed to the Beijing National Aquatics Center, or the Water Cube. Once we made it inside, we were able to find the area where the pool once was. This was the pool that Michael Phelps had won 8 gold medals. Although there was no longer an actual swimming pool in place, it was cool to see where the divers and swimmers participated. Since I did swimming in high school, I found this building incredible.
Next we headed to the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest. As we traveled through the stadium, we located different areas we were able to access with our tickets. I felt that we were going to get stopped by security at some point because we were aimlessly roaming the facility to see what else we could see. Little did I know we bought VIP access tickets! After many incredible views of the stadium, we found where our final ticket allowed us access. We stepped on an elevator, walked up a couple steps of stairs, and all of a sudden, we realized we were on the roof of the Bird’s Nest. On a the most beautiful day with sunshine and no smog, this was an incredible view. The Beijing skyline was clear and the mountains were visible in the background. None of us expected that we were buying a ticket to be on the top of an Olympic Stadium.
I learned today (January 8) that I may not speak any of the Chinese language, but traveling around China is not as intimidating as I had thought. After buying the tickets, I was worried that we were going to be ripped off and I would be disappointed. However, I was wrong and I was able to buy tickets to see one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, just by using nonverbal communication. Even though it has only been three days, I have learned a lot. I am excited to see how much else I will learn over the course.