Meeting Viola

Charlie, Finance MBA, Farmville NCAs a visitor in China, it is easy to look for familiar faces, businesses, and languages. It is also easy to be so in awe of our surroundings that we look through or around the local Chinese people. They begin to blend in as we follow a guide towards a location or as we casually shop in a Chinese mall. I have found myself looking at China as a land with history, monuments, universities, and shopping—not as a land full of Chinese people. I have allowed myself to become a tourist. But today was different…

Following our lecture at the China Pharmaceutical University (CPU) this morning, cheerful and well-spoken Chinese students of the school approached each of us. It was their duty, and eager pleasure, to converse with us, show us the campus, and lead us to the dining hall where we shared lunch. This is when I met Viola. She was well dressed, well learned in conversational English, and interested in knowing more about me. So, we began to walk and talk. Formalities quickly dissolved, and her personality came beaming through. I began to see more than just the school she was representing, more than the large and wonderful buildings that she was pointing out on campus. I began to see the person in front of me.

Sixty seconds of conversation with someone and we already have something in common. We like food—meat specifically. Viola isn’t a fan of vegetables and neither am I. I told her that her taste in food would fit in perfectly in the United States. She quickly and keenly picked up on my joking nature, which is good, because it was raining out and we were sharing an umbrella. Humor made the weather immaterial as we lightheartedly shared facts about ourselves.

I am in the master’s program at ECU, and Viola knows this…because she asked. Our conversation wandered comfortably from favorite foods and shows to dating norms and life goals. She is full of dreams. She loves both Japanese and American culture. She loves Manga, which is a style of Japanese cartoon. She also loves the American shows Friends and Desperate Housewives. She is unsure about dating because she said she “doesn’t know what to talk about with boys.” I answered with, “You’re talking just fine with one right now,” and she told me that this sounded like advice her brother would give. On the topic of family, Viola has a sister who studies at Berkeley in California. It would seem that Viola and I are a world apart, yet she has a sister living and studying in the U.S.

Over the course of our time together, I learned that Viola is a sophomore who is very proud of being a CPU student. She majors in pharmaceutical marketing, and she is excited about her future, wherever it may lead. Viola’s suitemate also helped to greet our group today. They have been friends for two years, and they work at the local Dairy Queen together as cashiers. If I ever return to Nanjing, Viola has promised to give me a Dairy Queen discount. Today was different. Today was personal. Today was awesome.


Day 4 in China

Ranu, Accounting, Conway NCToday we woke up to the real China. We arrived in the city of Guangzhou, which is located in the Guangdong province of China. As one may have expected, the city is very crowded and hot. Guangzhou is a Tier 1 city of China, so the poverty of the country is not visible. You can still smell the street food while you walk. You can also smell the person walking next to you, since there is no personal space anywhere you go. In this very beautiful city we all experienced our first not so beautiful cultural shock today. We had to use the squatting bathroom, which do not have any toilet tissue. Very ordinary toilet paper like we use in the U.S. is such a valuable thing for us here.

We started off our day with a visit to the University of Sun Yat-Sen Business School. The university has earned a great reputation around the world, and it is one of the top 10 universities in China. Our host of the university was truly very generous and paid for our most exciting experience yet on the trip. Our host paid for the entire group to go to a cruise ship for dinner. The cruise and the dinner were truly a great experience. It was a once in a lifetime moment when you can experience such a good thing with great people around you.

After our lecture at the Sun Yat-Sen Business School, we departed to visit Sinotrans. Once we were done with a brief introduction to Sinotrans, we were on our way to the cruise. We all had a chance to do a little shopping before we boarded the cruise ship. For most of us, it was our first time bargaining. We are not very sure if we all got good deals or were ripped off, but we enjoyed it a lot. Before we knew it, it was time to board the ship for the cruise.

The cruise started off great. After having a busy day, we were all looking forward to the food. Since I am a vegetarian, I was excited to see some veggies on the buffet. The excitement paid off, and we finally got a chance to have a great meal together. In Chinese culture, family values are very important and are very respected by everyone. On the cruise with us, we saw local community people who were also enjoying the meal with their families. Their language was not understandable to me, but from the looks on their faces, we could tell that they were having a good time just like us. The host of the cruise started telling the story of the river cruise in the native tongue of Mandarin, so we did not understood a word.

Besides having the language barrier, we had a good time. As we headed out, we could see that the city is very colorful at night. All of the buildings were lit up, as if they were welcoming us specially. Trying to take pictures of these beautifully lit up buildings was hard. The cruise was moving quickly, and even before we decided which building’s picture we wanted to take, the ship had already moved on to the next building.

We hope to see even more beautiful sights here in China, and we look forward to keeping everyone back home posted about the activities of our days.

Experiencing Hong Kong

Seth, Business Management, Elizabeth City NCI woke up in the morning and still couldn’t believe that I was in Hong Kong! I walked to the window of my room and looked out and saw fishing boats drifting through the ocean and a bustling street below. It was still amazing to see everything that was so much different than in the U.S.

We started out in the morning with a great breakfast buffet that had both American and Cantonese food. After we finished a great breakfast, we went on to Hong Kong Ocean Park, which was one of the coolest parks I have ever been to. It was not very big on roller coasters like Kings Dominion, but one coaster that we went on called “the Dragon” was the best roller coaster I have ever been on in my life. It wasn’t because of the coaster itself but the combination of the flips and turns and an absolutely amazing view over the ocean and the surrounding city. It was breathtaking. The cable car ride up and down from the coaster was also amazing. The ride was probably at least two miles and had an awesome view the entire ride there and back.

Seth in Hong Kong

One of the coolest things that I saw this day was a 18-karat-gold-plated Bauhinia flower, which was given to Hong Kong by Mainland China as a gift when China took back control of Hong Kong. The flower is supposed to resemble Hong Kong’s ever-flourishing city. This is also the statue that I am standing in front of in my picture.

One of the cultural phenomena that I also noticed on this day was the lack of personal space. Everyone everywhere is always bumping into each other whether walking, getting on the metro, or waiting in line for something. It is one of the major differences I have noticed between America and Hong Kong/China. Even so, I got used to this by the second day because it just becomes something that you adapt to. Most people here speak English, which was really nice because we could move around the city and communicate pretty easily.

The Dim Sum lunch was delicious with a seemingly endless line of food that the waiters kept bringing to us. It was an experience that I will not soon forget. After lunch, we traveled to Victoria Park, which had brilliant views cameras could never possibly capture. We also saw Jackie Chan’s house on the way to Victoria Park. It was really cool to be able to see where he lives in Hong Kong. After the park and stopping at a mall for some shopping, we went to eat dinner.

At dinner, I did something that I did not think I would ever do—eat chicken brains. It was quite the experience breaking into the chicken’s head and pulling out a small almond-sized piece of meat and eating it. It actually didn’t taste that bad; it had a taste similar to chickpeas. After all of the adventures and experiences with cuisine, we headed back to the hotel at the end of the day where I was still unable to take in everything that had happened and I had experienced.

Thank you ECU for the opportunity to be on this amazing trip!

Hong Kong

Phillip, Finance Major, Greenville NCAs I was sitting next to my roommate in the Raleigh/Durham International Airport waiting for everyone to arrive and to check in, the realization that I was about to embark on a life-altering experience really started to set in.  I am going to be exposed to a completely different culture and economic system that I have never experienced before.

I have looked forward to starting our trip in Hong Kong because it will be a great entrance into the Chinese culture where English is still spoken and written on signs. I have met and spoken with many friends who have lived or traveled throughout Asia and China.  I have also read articles and travel guides to become more familiar with the cultural differences in the cities we will be traveling through.

Having stayed up all night, I fell asleep to the purring sound of the engines on the first flight from RDU to Toronto.  As I boarded the second flight of the day, from Toronto to Hong Kong, I said good-bye to North America and hello to Asia in 15 hours.  I looked forward to trying to sleep some on the plane so I could begin to transition into the new time zone and avoid as much jet lag as possible.  This was a failed attempt because I could never get in even a semi-comfortable position, and there was a screaming baby two rows away from me, which was worse then all three of the alarms it takes to wake me up at my house. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep at all on that flight.

Nevertheless, as we touched down in Hong Kong, I was energized and ready to explore the city.  The drive from the Hong Kong International Airport to our hotel was frustrating because as I took pictures of the surrounding islands, I could not adequately capture what I was seeing and experiencing in those moments.  The terrain was very mountainous and full of vegetation.  The traffic was sparse on the outskirts of town but became more like New York City traffic as we entered the heart of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong

After checking into the hotel and converting U.S. dollars into Hong Kong dollars, a group of us decided to go into the subway.  As we emerged out of the subway on to the street, the view was like that in a movie . The street was packed with people as we pushed our way through the crowd and went through the Ladies’ Market, a long street market filled with everything a girl would want to buy.  The streets in some of the more retail areas were completely blocked off to cars and were filled with bustling customers.  My first meal in Hong Kong was at an authentic ramen restaurant.  After dinner, we explored the city some more and visited the longest escalator in the world. It carried us up the street, where there are restaurants and bars on both sides. Riding this escalator was a unique experience. At the end of the day, I was surprised that credit cards are not used very much here. Everyone uses cash.  The subways are a lot cleaner and safer than those I have ridden in the US.  As a whole, I felt very safe as I walked down the streets in Hong Kong.

Phillip in Hong Kong

For all the unique sites and sounds in Hong Kong, there was a strangely familiar element—there is a 7-Eleven at almost every corner, like Starbucks in the U.S.