Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Trip to China

This is the fourth and last in a series of blogs about my recent trip to China.

Sunday, November 9, 2014, Shanghai

The interviews yesterday at the student fair in Nanjing were good. Lots of bright and able students. We arrived in Shanghai about 9:30pm on the bullet train from Nanjing. Arrived at the Marriott Hotel about 11:30pm, and the group gathered to tell stories about the day. Lots of laughter. Our group has become very close. 

More interviews today here in Shanghai. I also make a presentation on Gaston Day School at the student fair. Can't believe that we leave for home day after tomorrow. It has been a fabulous trip and I will miss all my new friends.

Monday, November 10, 2014, Shanghai

Yesterday we got a late start at 11am, followed by an early lunch. The food in southern China is more to my liking or maybe I am adjusting. We had a big, fine meal at another fancy restaurant. They serve maybe fifteen dishes at a standard meal. You sit at a large, round table with a lazy susan in the middle on which food circulates. At this point, everyone in the group is getting pretty good with chopsticks. 

We drove to the Bund around 1pm and went into the Bank of China Building where our student fair was held. The interviews lasted 2 hours. I spoke to about 15 students. The key attribute is their English language skills. If they can't speak, listen, read and write well in English, then they won't be successful in our schools. All take the TOEFL English Language Proficiency Test. A grade of 80 or above for a 9th grader is a minimum for success at Gaston Day. I enjoyed talking to the students. 

After the fair we crossed the street to the river side and walked on the Bund. I bought a small Chinese decorative screen for my daughter, Louisa. Then our group walked about 10 blocks to dinner. Shanghai is twice as big as New York City (20 million). During our travels tonight, we passed through three different locations in the city that each exceed Times Square in terms of glitz, electronic billboards, stores and people. I know the statement I am about to make may seem hard to believe, but here goes. Shanghai may be the greatest city in the world. The skyscrapers are everywhere with bold, cutting-edge architecture--many are designed by leading American architects. The Bund is different. It has western-style architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and reflects Shanghai's European influences during that time. The city is very cosmopolitan. Chinese women are as fashionable as any group I have seen anywhere in the world, including New York City, Paris, and Milan. The whole urban scene in Shanghai is just amazing.

After dinner, we drove through the tunnel under the Yangtze River and went up in the World Financial Center Skyscraper, the tallest in Shanghai. It has the highest observation deck in the world and the floor in the observation deck is glass. I am afraid of heights and this was simply too much! I was relieved to return to terra firma.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014, Shanghai

Yesterday we began with a walking tour that included the site of the meeting of the First Communist Party Congress. Next we visited Yuyuan Garden, a famous classic garden which is characteristic of the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty. We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in an old part of the city. This is the same place that I got lost eight years ago on my first trip to China. Since then, they have torn down and rebuilt most of the buildings and straightened the streets. It would be harder to get lost there now. I bought my last gifts for everyone.

Our last meal together was western-style. Lots of toast. Back to the hotel to pack for home. We leave for the airport in three hours. What a trip!! I have learned so much about contemporary China, its ancient history, its culture, its people. Most importantly, I better understand our Chinese students at Gaston Day. I have made such strong, wonderful friendships. This has been one of the best trips of my life, and I can't wait to get home!