Saturday, August 1, 2015

IBI Update: Shanghai, Dalian, & Beijing, China

Like India, I didn't have much context for China outside of what I'd seen in the media and thus the experience was consistently revealing. The people that we came in contact with (hotel & restaurant staff, people around the city, tour guides) appeared to be concerned with detail but arrived at solutions in very different ways than I would. There seemed to be a frantic-ness to everything, punctuated by the tonal inflection of the language. Relative to India, there wasn't as much of a friendliness but there were signs of strong communal practices such as "family-style" dishes being served at every meal. Some stereotypes were affirmed for me, such as China's issue with smog in the major cities and their love of selfies. Overall, we had a great time in China though were definitely ready to be home by the end. Here's a recap of each city we visited.
Shanghai, China
We visited Shanghai for just a few days but packed a lot in. Day 1 included a corporate visit with GM and a US-China trade expert meeting. We followed that up with a trip up the Shanghai Tower known as the "bottle-opener," attended an acrobat show, and roamed the streets at night. Day 2 involved the China Art Museum, a city center museum, tea show and shopping in the old part of town, and a boat ride to see the skyline from the Yangtze River (pictured).

Shanghai has the world's largest city proper population with twenty-four million. It's big. It's also best at night. The city glows. It's like Times Square on crack. Driving around or walking the city streets is an experience in itself. Everywhere was crowded. There was a lot to see. Our tour guide called out "sticky rice" when the group wasn't close enough. One of the coolest cities we've visited.
Dalian, China
In China, each city has a specific tier ranking measured by cultural significance, infrastructure, and economic impact. Dalian is a tier-2 city though still has a population over three million. The students spent the majority of their time taking a week long finance class in the hotel. Jorjette and I would roam the nearby mall and outdoor market, eat at Pizza Hut, then come back  to our room and read or watch one of the same six movies that played on the one (English) movie station. This is the point where we became ready to come home.

We were able to stop by the Olympic square which, as I just now did a quick Google search, I find was not the host of the 1966 Olympics despite having the Olympics rings, a statue of a runner, and a building with the sign "Olympia 66" on it. [More research.] Aha, apparently Dalian is home to China's first ever Olympic athlete and the "Olympia 66" building is a mall. Curses!

Other highlights included: stopping by the coast for a few minutes (pictured) and going to a  knock-off Olive Garden named Olive Garden and a restaurant named Brooklyn, both of which had pretty good food.

Beijing, China
Our final hotel miraculously had a Papa John's on the ground level. First highlight. Garlic butter tastes delicious no matter if on EST or China time.

I found the Great Wall (pictured) to be pretty amazing. The section we were at started from a fairly low point and climbed up. The stairs were uneven, crowded, and China has a suffocating heat (and smog) issue that's on full-force in late July. There were little towers every couple hundred meters, tantalizing you to climb one more section. Once I made it past a few towers, the crowd lessened and I eventually made it up to a little peak. I only climbed for an hour but was on the verge of puking for 90% it. The view from the top was limited in scope by the smog/fog but it was incredible looking back on the section I climbed and marvel at the immensity and breadth of the wall. From my two hours at two respective modern Wonders of the World: The Taj Mahal is a wonder of beauty, symmetry, and sense of peace. The Great Wall is an experience of endurance.

Other Beijing moments: final corporate visit (Lenovo), Kung Fu show, Tienanmen Square and Forbidden City, Olympic Village/Bird's Nest, and karaoke.


With traveling, time seems to move along both slowly and quickly. Arriving in Germany two months ago seemed like forever ago and yet I can't believe two months have passed and I start work on Monday. And yet, we've reached the end. As I write this, I'm sitting on my couch, fairly awake at 2am though still slightly exhausted from the nearly thirty hours of traveling it took to get home. The summer was a good one filled with some incredible traveling and a lot of time with some pretty cool students. I'll miss the discovery of new places and the relationships formed with students but it's good to be home.

Thanks to anyone following along on the blog and sorry for its lackluster quality. Like my Facebook photo albums, there wasn't much editing or structure to the posts but rather I was primarily wanting to log some of our adventures. Okay, back to Pennsylvania life.