Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
We headed out to the Nanjing Market today! I could have spent the entire day and night there as it teemed with vibrant life and culture and there were far too many photo ops and potential bargains to ignore! The garden there was exceptionally beautiful. It was built for the parents of one of the emperors, whose name escapes me, but they did not live long enough to see it finished. It took 13 years to build. A little more planning ahead for the inevitable should have been in order, don't you think?!
There were lots of koi in the pond in this garden and little bridges and trails that ran through some very lovely rock and flower gardens with sculptures and gates to pass through to the next garden...and it was truly a serene and peaceful place having a positive effect on all of its visitors.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and found that the students were friendly and respectful and easy to chat with and all of them wanted to come to visit America! We would welcome them with open arms.
On our last night many of us opted to go on a river cruise to thoroughly enjoy the impressive skyline of Shanghai. Up until now the weather has cooperated every day, but not tonight. It started to drizzle a bit and the rain became more persistent as we embarked on our cruise. This did not diminish our enjoyment of our little cruise, at all! The lights along the banks of the Huangpu River opposite the famous Bund area are breathtaking and inspiring, even in the rain and fog!
Tomorrow we will be leaving for our respective homes. Our group hails from New Jersey, West Virginia, upstate New York, Tennessee, and California and we have enjoyed meeting them all! For me, this week has been a whirlwind of exciting and unforgettable activities and will leave me with many treasured and poignant memories. While I am anxious to see my family, our time in China went much too fast!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
As we flew to Shanghai we were met with the future! Shanghai is China's largest and most cosmopolitan city with a population of 21 million. It is 60% the size of Los Angeles county or 2,400 square miles. Because Shanghai is located on the water, it is a major shipping city with lots of industry and business and it is still growing! Shanghai means "up from the sea" and it does appear as it has literally risen up from the depths! It is amazing! Shanghai is ultra-sophisticated and makes NYC look like something out of a dusty, old B+W movie! There are a total of 8,600 skyscrapers in this city, more than there are along the entire eastern seaboard of the United States! This change has taken place within the past 20 years.
As we traveled around the city, I was surprised to see so much laundry hanging out of apartment windows. This is not only in the outskirts of Shanghai but also in high trafficked areas, as well. Only center city proper seems to be spared the colorful and quaint reminder of the humanity that exists there. After all, in these ultra modern glass and steel buildings, I never saw a window that could open or a drying rack attached it!
This afternoon we visited the Jiangnan Silk Shopping Center. Not only did we see the process of creating the silk, but were treated to the beautifully finished products in the shop, as well. The strength of raw silk is almost hard to believe. Holding onto the edge of the raw silk, we pulled at it to stretch it to its largest size. It was very difficult to do this yet the strands of silk did not break or fray and held together. The strands themselves are quite thin and feathery. The women in the factory deftly began the process of creating this cloth from the cocoons by removing the silkworm and stretching it over a small 1/2 oval hoop. It is a long and arduous process but, yet again, the Chinese show their committment to excellence with their quiet, calm, and trained attention to detail. "With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes satin." I am not aware of anyone who did NOT purchase something! There was everything from bolts of silk fabric to scarves, suits, change purses, dresses, pajamas, bedding, pillows...just about anything that could be made out of silk was available.
It was here that the I.E. were particularly assertive. Of course, they are fully aware of the fact that the coaches are bringing tourists and the tourists bring money. So I understand their presence and eagerness to make a sale. But, this group of street tycoons hardly waitied for the bus to stop and made it difficult to even get off the bus. Upon leaving the silk factory, they were all standing at the bottom of the stairs vying for position and sales. Getting back on the bus was also a challenge. This is where I saw one of the few beggars while we were here. I asked him if I could take his photo and he gruffly said, "5 yuan!". I dutifully put the 5 yuan in his cup and went to take the shot when he suddenly said, "Not enough!" and turned away. Well, this just made me laugh at my naivete but I would not give him any more money on mere principal alone but I DID continue to try to get his picture. He bobbed and weaved between the cars and turned his head if he saw me but he was smiling during his antics. It was all a game for him - a lucrative, sneaky little game at the expense of gullible tourists! :) Jameson also gave him 5 yuan and he would still not cooperate but, in the end, you can see I got the shot. Clever, those Chinese!