Adventures in China

Lori, MIS, New Bern NCToday is day nine on our China adventure. It was a very special day because we were able to visit two cities: Nanjing and Shanghai. So far, I could not tell the cities apart from the other two cities we have already seen. I saw skyscrapers everywhere with similar design and height. There wasn’t one single-family home in sight. I still haven’t seen a large or commercial livestock farm yet. With this population, I assumed I would see one in a grand scale, especially with so much time traveling on the bus. I have lost count of the number of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) restaurants that I have seen. I have to tell the tour guide’s joke for Kentucky Fried Chicken. “KFC means Kitchen for China.”

The driving is very crazy and scary.  Patience is not a trait of most of the drivers here. I am shocked that we haven’t been in an accident or witnessed one. The bus drivers definitely have remarkable driving abilities. The small areas they enter are unbelievable. We were able to view Nanjing and Shanghai’s history, hobbies, entertainment, and modern transportation, all in one day.

The first thing this morning, we saw families enjoying themselves on a Saturday morning in the park. Many were playing with a Chinese yo-yo. The Chinese yo-yo consists of two bamboo sticks connected with a string. In the middle of the string were two equally sized disks connected on top of each other with an approximate six-inch tube in between them. The game was very entertaining to watch. The yo-yo could be used with a partner or used to juggle with. The speed of the disks varied with the different tricks that were performed. It appeared to require great hand and eye coordination. The Chinese yo-yos were even used again later on in the evening at the acrobat show, which was very entertaining. It was a change because China proved that a show could be entertaining with the women well dressed. All of the acrobats wore beautiful costumes that were not revealing.

The highlight of the day was being able to ride China’s high-speed train. After riding the train, I must admit that China has pioneered something great. The interior cabin was very comfortable. I had plenty of legroom—considerably more than on a bus or airplane. Although, they did put us in first class, so maybe the other cabins might not have been as roomy. The ride was very comfortable and quiet, and I think it is time for the United States to start using them.

Of course, with all the positive things I mentioned, I have to list the bad. I still crave a bottle of cold water or soda.  China serves their bottled water or soda at room temperature. In order to get a cold drink in a restaurant, you must order beer.  I have drunk more beer here than I have in 37 years. I still hate beer, but it’s a cold drink. Tomorrow is packed with a full tour of Shanghai, the most populated city in China. I can’t wait to see what draws so many people to this town.

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.


From Guangzhou to Nanjing

Brennan, Marketing, Cary NCAfter a much-needed free morning, our group traveled to the Guangzhou Airport for our flight to Nanjing. Our tour guide was very helpful and aided us in the group check-in process. After checking our one allowed bag, we proceeded to gate security. Going through security is never a pleasant experience, but it was surprisingly easy at the Guangzhou Airport.  I was expecting a much harder process, but it was actually much easier than security I have been through at Raleigh/ Durham International Airport. Once through security, the next destination was our gate—B226. The signs at the airport were also surprisingly easy to read and navigate through. These signs relied on pictures and large fonts to make it easy for anyone to read and to arrive at the right gate.

After we found our gate, the next destination was food. The concourse of the airport was laid out much like any other airport with random food and shops nestled in between gates. We spotted a Starbucks on the way to the gate, and most of us decided on heading there for lunch. I got a toasted pesto ham and cheese sub and a small coffee. While in line, we ran into a professor from the University of Texas-Austin and his young son. I didn’t expect to run into someone from the U.S., but I guess the airport would be the place for that to happen!

The boarding process was also very similar to flights back home and went on with any issues. I was lucky enough to be assigned a window seat on one of the most beautiful flights I have ever been on. China is known to be smoggy, but on this flight, a picturesque blue sky and puffy clouds were all I could see. It was a perfect day for flying with layers of clouds surrounding my window seat overlooking the right wing of the Shanghai Airlines-operated Boeing 737. Since the flight to Nanjing was only about two hours long, we flew at a fairly low altitude, which allowed me to take some beautiful aerial photographs of the Chinese landscape.

Brennan flying to Nanjing

After a breathtaking flight, we touched down in Nanjing. As soon as we stepped off the plane, we instantly felt the heat. As we made our way to the baggage claim area, I noticed the same familiar sights and sounds I observed from the Guangzhou Airport. Once our group had picked up all our checked baggage, we met our tour guide and boarded the bus to take us to the hotel in Nanjing, ending our first Chinese domestic flight in our study-abroad journey.

I will admit I was worried at first about the flight to Nanjing being totally different from my air travel experiences in the U.S. It was a great feeling being able to navigate the airport with the very little knowledge of the Chinese characters and Mandarin that I know. Making my way around the airport was much easier when comparing it to the mall our group went to last night. I assume that airports have to rely on simple signs and notifications due to the more common occurrence of foreign visitors.

While the flight was exciting and beautiful, it was great to have my feet on the ground. I am excited to see what experiences the city of Nanjing will provide, and I am eager to learn more on my already knowledge-filled trip.