Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nothin' Like the Great Wall

What a day. I think of all days, this was the day that I was looking forward to the most. Today we went to the Great Wall of China. But before we went there we went to another site called Ming's Tomb. This particular site was where they buried most of the emperor's from about the 1450s to the 1650s. But of all the burials that are there they've actually opened up this tomb for the public to walk through.

The neatest thing for me was to see just how far down in the ground the tomb actually was. It's amazing they were able to build such structure with minimal tools. We only spent about an hour here. The great wall and Ming's Tomb are quite a ways out of town so by the time we were done here it was lunch time (look at the picture's below to see a funny story about lunch time).

During the afternoon we finally made it to the great wall...and oh, what a site. I've never seen anything like before in my life. I mean, you have been told that the wall is 1500 miles long, but it's so hard to really understand just how amazing it is until you see the giant wall rolling over hill, after hill, after peak, after hill.

Only parts of the wall have been reconstructed and made safe enough to walk on. We climbed on the wall mostly as a group. Some made it all the way to the end (or as far as they let the public go) and some did not. But I am telling you, it is a heck of a climb. Parts of it are so steep that as you stand on the crest of the hill, you can't see the steps that are just below you. That's what I think was the most amazing thing is that they were able to build such a structure on such steep and rough landscape.

I think we all really like this day. It was so much fun to be on out own, out hiking together as a class. As you would walk along all of the sudden you would here this huge, "Let's Go..." And then from a completely different part of the mountain the reply, "Mountaineers." We took incredible pictures, and just had a really good time. We wish you all could have been there.

After 2 hours there we rushed to the bus and headed for the Silk Market one more time (as I have said before, they sell a lot more than just silk there.) We were given 20 minutes and we ran all over those 5 stories, buying last minute gifts.

For dinner we enjoyed a delicious Peking Duck Dinner. It's the tradition of this program to save that meal for the end, and I think it was a meal we all enjoyed. It was a great way to end out trip.

I'm really sad to say that this trip is all over. Although we are all excited to get back home to our families and friends, and back to a city where it's easy to get food we really like to eat, we will really miss China. I think I can speak for the whole group when I say this trip has changed our lives and opened our eyes, and all of this happened together. I think we will always feel a close kinship with one another. For these past 2 weeks we've kind of acted like one another's families, and it will be sad that, to an extent, that will be over. But I can promise you, we will never forget WVU's Chine Trip, '07. It's been a good one.
Here is a group of students outside of the gate that leads up to Ming's Tomb.
Here we are actually in the underground Tomb. Behind this group you can see the coffins (I guess they would be considered coffins) of the Emperor and the 2 Empresses.
Here is nearly everyone at the beginning of the Great Wall Journey.
I love this picture. This is where the funny lunch story comes in. Our Tour guide kept telling us about this great lunch place we were going to. Then when we got there she insisted on us staying there for 2 hours. In our minds we knew that was way to long, especially with all we wanted to accomplish on our last day in China. Well, it finally came out that the reason why she needed us there for 2 hours is her company had signed a contract with this restaurant/factory for making Chinese artifacts, that they will give them a discount on the food if we stay there for 2 hours. Well, that did not go over well. After we finished lunch (which took about 1 hour), we all went and stood in the front of the store because the driver wouldn't open the bus door. Finally after 1.5 hours the driver opened the bus door and we went and sat on the bus for 30 more minutes waiting for the tour guide (she was obviously no place to be found, aka hiding). So the picture above shows exactly how we felt about the whole situation, especially after we were left with only 20 minutes to shop at the Silk Market we were all wishing we could have gotten that hour back. I will have you know that when the tour guide actually got on the bus we were all very respectful to her and didn't say a word, just like good Mountaineer's would do.
Another group picture a little further up on the wall.
A few fellow climbers.
A few of the boys hanging out on the wall.
Here is the group of the students that conquered the wall. We went as far as they would let us go, and then had to turn around. A few others made it the whole way, but they went the opposite direction as us, so they aren't pictured.
Just a quick picture of our dinner. It was pretty good.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Day of History...

Today was a day we experienced Chinese History in Beijing. The main events were Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Even though we had a tour guide it's still difficult for me to explain what exactly it is, but from what I understand it could be somewhat compared to the monument mall in Washington, D.C. (you know, there are a few long standing monuments, wide open spaces, and government buildings everywhere). What this area is most famous for, of course, for many of us was the events some time ago when a long peaceful protest didn't end so peaceful (and I will leave it at that).

At the far end of Tienanmen Square is the entrance of the Forbidden City. It was built in the 1400 as the palace for the emperor. It's really difficult to explain exactly how it looked, but the pictures below will hopefully help you to visualize it. The whole grounds where forever long. There would be this huge building at the end of a wide open courtyard, that was also fenced in by surrounding houses, and then you would walk up to the big building and there would be doors that would open up to another huge courtyard with another big building at the end of it. Sometimes the courtyard would have bridges and rivers running through them. But this process went on for a very long time. Just as I thought, "This has to be the end" we would walk up to the next big building and their would be another courtyard. Our tour guide put it like this, "if you were to sleep in every room only once, it would take you 27 years to finish." It sounds a little excessive don't you think?

They whole sight was something else. It was all very beautiful. The only crappy thing was that many of the big building were covered with scaffolding and screens because they are trying to re-do them before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

For lunch we went to the Cantonese restaurant which was good, but on the way in we walked right past a Dairy Queen that was in the same restaurant. So as soon as they brought us the watermelon (which has been the last dish at every meal we have had) we all went and got Blizzards...and let me tell you....they were delicious.

We made one more stop to the Summer palace which acted as the emperor's getaway home. I was talking to some of the others and we felt kind of bad here because we talked the tour guide into cutting this visit short so we could make it to the Pearl Market to shop, but this place seemed to be the coolest place to go. Of course, the forbidden city is a top tourist attraction, but the architecture at the Summer Palace was amazing, and the building there are surrounded by a huge lake, and we felt like we could have spent some more time there. So all I am saying, is if you go to China, consider spending a little more time here, and maybe a little less at the Forbidden city (but that is just my advice, and I'm not speaking for the group as a whole).

And finally, we made it to the Pearl Market. I think that besides visiting the great wall, this was the place we were most excited about visiting. It's a huge building that is completely full of purses and clothes, and silks, and jewelry, and most important....Pearls. And I can tell you, there were quite a few purchased if you are lucky...maybe....just maybe....

Enjoy the pictures.
AJ, Alex, Janelle, Matt, Jason and Ryan posing for a picture in front of a Government building in Tienanmen Square.
Here is a group picture. Our tour guide hauled us over here and lined us up, and had a professional photographer take the picture, and I think we were all excited. And then she said, "For $12 you can buy this photo." So we laughed at her and I ran out there and snapped a photo for us, so we can print it off for $.15 at Wal-Mart.
What better to do when you are waiting in line to get into the Forbidden City that take a picture.
Another group of students snapping a pic in Tienanmen Square.
In one of the Courtyards there are 5 bridges that each represent a desired Characteristic (i.e. knowledge, righteousness, integrity) and tradition says you walk over what ever bridge describes what characteristic you would like to be blessed with. Dr. McIntyre made us all go over knowledge. So this picture is a group of students going over that bridge.

If I remember right, this is some students entering courtyard 3 or 4, and as you can see, there is the door in the background leading to another one (and they aren't small courtyards either).
Here is some of our class in front of one of the big buildings. I could be wrong but it seems like this was the Emperor's living quarters.
Ahhhhh....Dairy Queen. Jason, Lauren and Chris look to enjoy theirs real soon.
This is a picture of one of the buildings at the Summer Palace. It's pretty, huh? Just like I told you.
Some more students in the Forbidden City. You can tell from the buildings behind them that it was all really pretty.

This is a little bonus. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we had a little mishap with the bus. Well, this is the video of us giving it a little help. As you can see, we were all quite pleased with our selves.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In Beijing...Safe and Sound

WE arrived in our last city today...Beijing. Thankfully it was an uneventful flight. I think it would be safe to say, "I've had smoother flights, " but we made it all the same.

The flight was only about 2 hours or so. Once again, a big bus was there waiting for me, but the buses they bring are never big enough for all of our luggage. Especially as we go along and we buy more gifts, we run into bigger problems. So getting the luggage to the hotel is the first problem we have to solve. We did pretty good getting it into the bottom, but the rest if it we just stuffed in the isles.

Although we really like staying in the Hostel, we gladly traded it for the Marriott in Beijing (non-community showers, a bed with a full mattress, peace and quiet, a television). But I know we will miss the community feeling we felt at the Hostel. All you had to do was step out of your room in the Hostel to see a friendly face, and here I'm not even sure what floor the others are on. But we are really looking forward to the sites that are here in Beijing.

For tonight, we were given money and told to go find our dinner. We found an outback Steak House in the phone book and we knew it was destiny. Most of us jumped into a cab and headed for familiar food. I had the biggest, juiciest burger you have ever seen and enjoyed every last bite of it, and oh....the fries....I can't even explain. We were just all really glad to be there.

I'm not sure what everyone did with our time this evening but half of us what to the silk market which was 5 floors of some of the cheapest products you have ever, silk, and pearls ridiculously low prices. The first thing we learned here is that the people are much more aggressive. In five minutes, a friend of mine has her hand and her backpack yanked on, and another person slapped me in the back to get my was crazy.

Anyway, now we are relaxing because we have a big day tomorrow.
There aren't a lot of pictures today, but should have some good ones tomorrow.
This isn't a great picture, but I had limited material to work with today. This is a picture of the pub in the bottom of the Hostel. It's where we ate our breakfast in the morning, which is what we are doing here.
Here is our entire group right before we got onto the bus. It was sad to say goodbye to Xi'an.
Here is a group of us at the Outback. Have I told you it was soooo was soooo good!
Here is another group it outback.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Free time and a Show...

Today was a very relaxing day, and we were all given exactly what we wanted...Free time.

The morning we did all attend the Xi'an museum of history. As many of you know, China in infamous for their rich history, so the exhibit dated back 6000 years. Much of it was pottery and artifacts that had been buried with people many years ago, but are still in excellent pictures.
The afternoon was left up to us...which meant 2 things...Shopping and Naps. All I can see is that there are a lot of you out there that should be really excited because after we get home you will be getting some pretty cool things. I would tell you what they are, but then I would ruin the surprise.

In the evening we went to something really neat. It was a dinner/show. The dinner was a dumpling dinner. Dumplings are kind like stuffed pasta (typically stuffed with some kind of meat of veggie). I think we counted well over 20 different entrees. And they would shape the dumpling to look just like the animal or vegetable it was stuffed with (i.e. fish, pig, pumpkin, cabbage...) It was all really neat.

And then the show started. The best way I can describe it is that it was kind of a huge collection of the Chinese performing arts through out it's history. Some of the performances were with drums, fifes, symbols, bells etc. Some of them were strictly dancing, some of them were dancing...and others were all of them mixed together. All I can say is that we were all really impressed, and it provided the perfect farewell to such a great historical city.

One funny moment for the day. We walked out from the show to get on the bus, and the bus was broken. They ordered a new bus for us, but while we were all standing around from out of no where about 10 Chinese guys went to the front of the bus and started to push it out toward the road...of course, being Mountaineers, the guys jumped in and within a matter of seconds the bus was jump started and we were headed home. It was hilarious, and a good time.

Just to keep you updated on our schedule...tomorrow morning at 8 we will leave for the airport again and fly to Beijing for our final days in China. I'll let you know when we make it there.
Here we are standing outside of the bus watching the driver to try to fix it. As you can see by our smiling faces there is nothing in the world that can damper our faces. Not in China...
Here is one table during the Dinner/Show

Allen, Emily, Jason, Joe, and Eric in front of some statues in the history museum. You can really see Joe and Eric are trying to be tough, but I'm not sure it's working.

For lunch we ate at a buffet on the 22 floor of a Hotel. The restaurant is circular and spins at night, but was stationary during lunch. The food here was a little closer to what we are used to in the U.S.A. Lots of people liked this one, plus the atmosphere was great.

Here we all are gathered after our Museum tour...picking up a little R&R.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"The Eighth Wonder of the World" and it wasn't the Veggie Meat

Today we had the opportunity to see what many consider the 8th wonder of the world: The Terra Cotta Soldiers. Now, if you are not familiar with them, about 200 years B.C. an emperor decided that when he died he wanted to make sure he had an army to defend him in the after life, so he commanded his people to make him an 8000 person army out of clay to be buried with him. The entire project (including the building of his tomb that has never been opened) began when he was in his teens and wasn't finished until he had been dead for 3 years (which ended up being over 40 years).

For me, this was one of the neatest things we have done on this trip because it was an example of just how rich and ancient Chinese history really is. The detail that was given to each soldier was amazing, and there was just rows and rows of them. The park that they are in is completely massive. Many of them are still covered, but they have 3 huge pavilions that people can go into to see what has been uncovered and what yet needs to be uncovered.

We did two other things today. Next we went to a site were bones that are over 6000 years old were found. The bodies are still in the ground but have been uncovered enough to see them along with the outlines of their homes, pottery and other artifacts.

Last, we visited a massive monument that is called the Wild Goose Pagoda. It's difficult to explain so you will have to look at the picture of it below. It was built for a man who walked to India to learn about Buddhism and brought the teachings back to the Chinese people. The tower is now surrounded by beautiful gardens. Most of us walked to the top of the tower (all 238 steps) to see the view from the top.

Dinner tonight was interesting. We went to a Buddhist restaurant, and if you didn't know, Buddhists are vegetarians...but that doesn't mean we didn't have meat. Not meat...meat. But tofu meats. Surprisingly they have done a very good job in making it look and taste like meat. I know must of us were leery about what was coming, but ended up being quite pleased.

We were given the rest of the evening off. Most of us hit up the markets again...if we weren't there then we were hanging out at the Hostel. It's been really fun there because it's so communal and really does provide the atmosphere that college kids are looking for.

Once again...we are all doing well...we are all safe...and we are all having fun. Have a good one.
Two of us Standing in front of the Terra Cotta Soldiers
A picture of the Wild Goose Pagoda in the background and the Buddah in the front.

A picture of the Terra Cotta Soldiers. This really was really neat. Each one of their faces was made to look like a specific soldiers (aka...each one is unique).

3 of us standing in front of what our guide called the ambulance section. It's where they try to piece back the broken ones that were destroyed shortly after the emporer died. They people weren't too impressed with what he required the people to do (build his tomb and the Great Wall).

More of us looking at the Soldiers.

The statue we are posing around is the a statue of the guy that made the journey.

There is a story behind this picture. At dinner tonight they gave us the most delicious Sushi. Our table had one extra and we couldn't decide who should get it. Since our food was on a lazy susan we spun the lazy susan and who ever it stopped on got the sushi. Thus, Chris was the victor. We then changed the rules by picking a food that nobody wanted to eat and then spun then LS again and whoever that food stopped on had to take a nice sized portion. We were laughing so hard, and had such a good time with even got some of us to eat good we never would have done other wise.

Some of the boys posing with our Sponsor. He is one of the men that has made out trip possible and has treated us very well since we arrived in Xi'an.

New Students and Old Alum.

After we were provided with breakfast by the Hostel (toast, eggs, sausage and bacon) we headed for Xi'an Jiantong University where we met with many of their MBA students. It's so amazing because everywhere we go there are big banners welcoming us. and everyone seems so excited to see us. The students especially enjoy being with us, it's very rare that they get to use their English on someone other than their teacher or classmates.

Although they had gone to effort of providing us with a few short movies on the history of Xi'an and their campus, the highlight of this trip was the chance to go on a campus tour and have the Chinese MBA students as our guides. Most of us broke off into groups of 2 to 4 and just walked at out own pace talking about life in China compared to that of the United States.

It's funny because they all LOVE "Hollywood movies" which is great, but is scared me when one girl said she like to watch them because it helps her to understand our culture. I think I broke her heart when I told her that Americans aren't truly much like what you see in the movies. As with many other things on this trip it was an eye opener to realize just how similar many of us are, despite living in different parts of the world.

At the end, we of course exchanged email addressed and will hopefully write one another after we get home. After this trip we returned back to the Hostel and were given the afternoon to do as we pleased. I can tell you that what most of us did was sleep. I think it was the first afternoon nap I have personally had since I've been here and it was wonderful. Others took the opportunity to explore the city, do some shopping, and see some of the historic sites that are close to us. I'm not sure I mentioned this but our Hostel is close to the downtown area where there is upscale shopping, Starbucks and a McDonald's, so much of us are doing okay!

This evening we attended the Alumni Banquet. The whole reason why we are able to do such a great trip is that our professors have developed wonderful relationships with the city officials in Xi'an and other cities in China, so it was nice to be able to see who has made this all possible. It was a traditional and very formal dinner (14+ dishes, some dishes that still had their heads attached, warm coke and fried rice at the end). But it was good food. I don't want you all to think we are starving. With 14 dishes there is almost always something for us to eat, and if not, both McDonald's and KFC are just down the street.

Anyway, enjoy the pictures. Everyone is doing really well and having a good time. Bye
Here is a Chinese student hanging out with Jessica and Sarah. He was much more eccentric than the other other students, and fun to be around. He said he loves American movies. His favorite is Titanic, and he cries every time he watches. Oh, and he wants to marry an American woman. (Don't worry Moms, any girl that left without a husband will come home without a husband).
Here is a group shot of the students, professors and administrators that attended the event at the university.
A couple of students visiting with a Xi'an MBA on a tour of their campus.
3 WVU students and one Xi'an student stand in front of the statue of on the the Universities former presidents. We were laughing because this picture turned out looking like they were on a date dance.
Jason and Joe talk to one of the Chinese MBA students on the campus tour.
For our free time, a few of the students went on top of the wall and found out you can rent bikes for next to nothing and right around the 14 kilometer perimeter. The building behind them is on top of the wall. I'm not sure what they are for, but you could kind them about every 1/4 mile or so. They sure are purdy.
Here is a group of us walking to the Alumni dinner. The dinner was held right close to the Hostel so there was no need to take the bus. Don't we look sharp?

Our first actual day in Xi'an was one a good one. Although it started way to early (a wake up call at 6 am) we were given lots of free time today, which we all really like.

Friday, June 8, 2007

We made it to Xi'an

You can all breathe a sigh of relief, we made it safely to Xi'an. Of course with all of our travels that also means I have less to talk about, and less exciting pictures to show, but I still thought you might all be relieved.

We left the hotel this morning at 10 am and drove to the airport and said good bye to a few more friends (our bus driver who was with us the whole week and might I say got that big bus into some incredibly tight areas, and to Madam Wong who assisted in organizing the trip for the Chinese side). We actually flew out at 1:30 or so and was in Xi'an by 4. It was a very uneventful flight, although I might add that I'm not exactly sure what they offered for the in-flight snack, but it was not the traditional peanuts so I pretended to be asleep.

Driving from the airport to our Hostel we quickly realized we were not in Shanghai anymore. The outskirts of the city was acres and acres of farmland, and looks much older than anywhere we have been. It's a much smaller city (only 6 million people) and the main part of the city still is guarded by a 30-40 foot stone wall, but at the same time looks very modern and hip. As mentioned above we are staying in a Youth Hostel. I think a few of us were a little leery about what we were getting into, but it didn't take long for us to be convinced we were going to like it. The structure is a traditional Chinese house, but equipped with wireless Internet, a pool table, a little restaurant, and many other amenities. It's not incredibly big but it is crawling with youth from around the world. The only problem we encountered (that I have seen) is the phone situation which I believe many of us will be sharing one cell phone. So if we call less you will know why.

Xi'an is crawling with WVU alumni and they have already graced us with sign and banners greeting us where ever we go and a nice banquet this evening. I think the favorite of this evening was a yogurt drink that helped with the spicy food. We also ate duck, jelly fish, and some other unidentifiable foods, but I think we found enough to get full. Those that didn't hit up McDonald's later tonight. We were given the rest of the night to do what we want, so many of us wandered the city and others just sat around enjoying the Hostel and playing some pool. Regardless, I think we will all enjoy this city.
This was our final moments with Madam Wong (pictured in the middle) at the Pudong airport outside of Shanghai.
On the plane and ready to go.
This is right outside of the restaurant in Xi'an. Like I mentioned it's a very beautiful city and there couldn't have been a more perfect night, weather wise.
This isn't the best picture but I wanted to give you an idea as to how our Hostel looks on the inside. Dr. Chow is instructing us on how the rest of the days events are going to go.

As I mentioned, Xi'an is a more traditional Chinese City. Here is a picture of one of the downtown areas we ran into about a block away from the Hostel.

Once again, I'm sorry for the lack of pictures, but there are only so many interesting pictures you can take at the airport. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Now we can relax...

Today was a day of straight business...and still, I think we can all admit, it was a good day. For those that don't know, the purpose of this trip is to learn about Chinese retailing in two ways: 1. through observation and 2. Through a one day "Consumer Behavior Seminar." Today was that seminar.

Typically a seminar is a pretty relaxing day, but not today. You see, we were the main event. For 2 months we have been studying in our groups about U.S. retailing so that we could present what we found to our Chinese hosts. We divided up into 5 groups and were given 2 hours in order to present our material to a small group of Chinese MBAs and a few Chinese Executives. We had all worked so hard to prepare that I think that when this part was over a huge burden was lifted off of our shoulders.
I think the way it went for most of us was we presented about a 30 minute presentation and then opened up to the others in order to compare and contrast the two different countries and their methods in retailing, and I think the one conclusion we all came too is that all there are a few main differences, surprisingly our strategies are much the same. Although it was all very informative, I think our favorite part was that we were able to meet some new friends and learn what their lives are like: what they like to do, what they watch on TV and what they hope to do in the future. Once again, we found that our likes are much the same (they all love the show 24, CSI, and "Hollywood Movies.")
We also had the pleasure of hearing from 2 key speakers: Dr. James Brown, KMart Professor of Marketing at WVU and Mr. Jay Cao, President of Greater China Hyperian Solutions. From them we learned the trends of U.S. and Chinese retailing. They were both very good lectures.

Once we got all of the business out of the way we were able to sit back and relax and enjoy a dinner banquet with our hosts. We made sure and intermingled our tables (with bother U.S. and Chinese students) so we could learn more about them. It was also our first chance to sing some "Country Roads." The Chinese Students got a kick out of that. The group at my table kept looking at me saying, "What is that, what are they doing?" It was fun to bring them a little bit of West Virginia.

Anyway, I do have some pictures below. It's hard to get some good action shots in a classroom but we tried to get at least one of each group on there. Just so you all know, tonight is our last night in Shanghai. Tomorrow we will be flying to Xi'an, a more rural part of China. It was at one time the Capital of China and is full of Chinese history. We are very excited about the trip. My only concern is that we are told that it is a less advanced city so I'm sure what the status of the Internet will be or what kind of access I'll have. I'll do my best to make sure you all know we made it safe, but if a post is delayed, don't worry.

The first 5 pictures are each group giving their presentations. They aren't very good pictures so I'm sorry about that.

This is the room where we listened to our speakers. You can see in their faces who much they are liking it.
This is the dinner we had with them. After the dinner we exchanged a lot of email addresses so we can hopefully continue our friendships.
Here's another group at dinner.
I just wanted to show two dinner items on the menu tongue and pig stomach...Yummy!!!