Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 37: When You're Gone

Picture 1 and 2: It is hard to say bye. 

Picture 3: Jared R and Patricia's hostel
Picture 4: Malia got a boy's room in her relative's house
Picture 5: Alice got to stay at a fancy hotel after sitting on a plane on the runway for more than three hours.
Picture 6: Cindy and Christine's roomy B&B
Picture 7: Cindy and the gang found the legendary Astor Hotel as described in the course pack reading!
Picture 8: The chaotic and frustrated crowd at Shanghai Pudong Airport after hundreds of flights were delayed or cancelled in the past two days. 

It's hard to believe that today was our last day together in China. After a quick meeting in the lobby to say our goodbyes, we all went our seperate ways, some of us flying out immediately (though we just learned that they are still stuck at the airport in Shanghai after many hours of wait due to the continuous rain storm in the past couple of days), and some of us staying with relatives or in a hostel. At times it's felt like the Dialogue flew by, and at other times it felt like it would never end. Before coming to China, I don't think any of us had any idea how amazing this entire trip would be. Although some of us got sick, and some of us got lost a few times, and we had our fair share of awkward moments trying to crash through the Chinese language barrier, I can't begin to explain how lucky I am to have been accepted to this dialogue. I've felt my own grasp on the Chinese language massively improve, I've gained insight into an incredibly intricate culture, and I've made some great friends along the way. 

During the six months between being accepted and actually leaving for China, I used to read the previous blogs to try to get an idea of what the Dialogue would be like. To any future Dialogue students reading this, you're in for the time of your life. The workload can be hard to handle at times, and China can be a little dirty, but there's nowhere else that I would have preferred to spend my past few weeks. While I may have dropped my phone off of a bike and lost it permanently, got pickpocketed at a sketchy club, got sunburnt, sick, and gotten harassed by street vendors, all my bad experiences became hilarious stories the next day, so don't let your bad experiences keep you from having fun. Right now, you might be feeling apprehensive about the trip, or you might be second guessing everything. Just know that those six weeks are filled with valuable language experience, new friendships, fascinating cultural differences, and a whole lot of fun. Our dialogue group has truly become a family over these few weeks, and I can't wait until fall semester so we can reunite again. 

- Jared R.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Day 36: The Last Day Hurrah!

Picture 1:The main entrance area of IDEO's Shanghai office with the employee relaxation treehouse in the background. 
Picture 2: My lunch at the food court! Korean Bibimbap, which our group has taken to calling "Boomboompow".
Picture 3: My favorite of Li Bing's paintings, modeled after a famous photo of Mao Zedong.
Picture 4: The whole group with Li Bing in front of the painting he is currently still working on.
Picture 5: The chic room for our last group discussion on the 56th floor of Jinmao.
Picture 6: Our group dinner at Banana Leaf, a Thai restaurant.
Picture 7: Singing and dancing with the performers at Banana Leaf.
Picture 8: Birthday celebration at Banana Leaf for Sie and Cindy! Happy 19!
Today was our last full day in China as a group, and it was packed with amazing speakers, delicious food, and a wonderful celebration at the end. Our day started out this morning at 9:30, when we boarded a coach bus to go to IDEO Shanghai, a well-known American design firm's Chinese office. It has been absolutely pouring rain for two days straight now, and even as I am sitting here typing this I can still hear the constant sound of hard rain on building tops. Our original plan was to spend the day walking around the city and exploring the subway lines to get from place to place, but we were all beyond thankful when Dong Laoshi informed us that she had scheduled a coach bus because of the weather. When we arrived at IDEO, we were met with chic and innovative design structures covering the office, including a tree house for stressed employees that need a relaxing place to go, a brand new kitchen for preparing group office lunches, and a wall of photos from the design team's recent inspiration trip to London for their latest project. We listened to three speakers and went on a tour of the office and prototyping space, and learned everything about the office from how their products appeal to consumers to issues of food safety and how they can affect consumer trust. 
After our morning spent at IDEO, we were given some time to relax and explore the area around the office, but it was still pouring rain and I ended up just finding a coffee shop and ordering myself a caramel macchiato. We boarded the bus and headed to an outdoor shopping mall area for lunch, but of course we all immediately flocked to the indoor food court considering the weather predicament. The food at the food court was surprisingly extremely delicious and not too overpriced, and it seemed to me that everyone was very satisfied with their meals. 
Lunch was followed up with by a visit to the home of Li Bing, a famous artist who passes his time painting huge pictures in a very realistic style of historical figures and themes from modern Chinese history. As soon as we walked into his house, Li Bing started running around trying to get all of his most impressive works up for display for us in his studio. The amazing works of art in so many bright colors overwhelmed me, and some of the portraits of famous people looked so real that I thought they might have been actual photos at first. Some of his paintings were so large that they spanned one entire wall of his huge studio room. My favorite of all of the paintings he showed us was one that was modeled after a famous historical photo of Mao Zedong took with writers and artists and other members of the Communist Party in the 1940s in Yan'an, but instead these people he painted the same scene with all of the famous modern artists, writers, and actors and actresses of China in various different bright colors. I could have stayed at Li Bing's home all day, but unfortunately, we were on a tight schedule and had to return to Jinmao, the hotel skyscraper we visited yesterday to complete our final group discussion of the dialogue. 
It was finally time for our last group dinner after our discussion was over, and Dong Laoshi took us to a really upbeat, high-end Thai restaurant and told us she had two surprises for us by the end of the night. Our dinner was phenomenal, and our first surprise came as the restaurant performers ran into our private room singing "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas. We all joined in and danced around the dinner table, all smiling and laughing and having a great time. Our second surprise came a little later in the night when the performers came back, but this time, with a plate full of deserts to sing happy birthday to Sie and Cindy, who both have birthdays on Friday. We ended up all staying at dinner long after we were done eating, sharing stories and making the best of our last group event together. Finally, we all left the restaurant and headed to a KTV to spend the remainder of the night, singing karaoke and spending as much time together as possible before we all begin to go our separate ways in the morning. 

- Sierra S.

Day 35: It's Raining Cats and Dogs in Shanghai!

​Picture 1: Dialogue at Unitown Design Inc.翌城设计 with its founder, Charlie Wang
Picture 2: Group ice cream at the Grand Hyatt on the 57th floor of Jinmao Tower
Picture 3: The beautiful atrium of Jinmao Tower
Picture 4: Walk in the Rain!
Picture 5: Ren Shan Ren Hai 人山人海 (People Mountain People Sea), the rush-hour commute at Lu Iia Zui subway station.  
Picture 6: singing at a KTV

Today started very early. We all got breakfast between 7 and 8 AM. The breakfast had few in selection, but was still delicious! At 8 AM, we had our first speaker, Wu Heng (Henry Wu). Wu created a website called Throw it Out The Window to tell the Chinese public about the food safety issues in China. All posts must have a link to the original article from a local media or the government. All other articles that from the local media or government is not allowed to be uploaded to the website to make sure everything the website post is correct. The website also allows the online community (netizens, a word with the combination of network and citizens) to post articles about food safety to the website, so the website involves the whole public instead of just Wu himself. The website is a great way to warn the public about dangerous food threats and hopefully will encourage the Chinese government to enforce stricter food safety laws. 

After a 30-minutes break, a second speaker came to speak to us. John Pasden is the creator of, the first blog site devoted to Chinese learning, and Allset Learning, a company based in Shanghai specialized in personalized Chinese learning. They focus on teaching Chinese words to its clients that the clients would actually use either in their daily life or in their work place. This way the clients would enjoy learning Chinese more and not be bored or lack the motivation to learn Chinese. 

After the two speakers, we had a two-hour break. Many of us went out to get lunch. Three of my friends and I went to a dim sum place near our hotel called 点点心 (Dian Dian Xin). The dim sum place was okay, it did not have a good range of food and did not taste the same, so I cannot say I highly recommend that place.

After lunch, the whole group took the subway to Unitown Design Inc. to talk to our third speaker of the day, Charlie Wang, founder of Unitown Design, an architure firm based right in the center of CBD area of Pudong, Shanghai. He spoke with us about the fast development of Pudong, which was flat with rice field and warehouses only 20-some years ago. It is fascinating that we sat in the conference room of his firm that faced directly to the three super high rises in Shanghai, with the tallest of the three being the third highest building in China. 

After the talk ended, we planned to head out to have a tour of the Lu Jia Zui area in the Pudong District, but to our dismay, it started pouring rain. We waited around 15 minutes to wait out the rain, and many of us went to the convenience store in the building to get a quick snack. The rain did not stop, so a few of us were forced to buy umbrellas, including myself. We made our way to our next destination under multicolored umbrellas. Our next destination was Jinmao Tower, the building which Tom Cruise was scaling in the film Mission Impossible. We went up to the 57th floor to see the view outside the building and relax in the sitting area of the atrium. During that time, Dong Lao Shi treated us to some ice cream. The ice cream treated exactly like their flavors, whether it be mango, green tea, or chocolate. I believe many of us would tell you it was some of the best ice cream we've ever had in our lives. 

After we finished our ice cream and finished relaxing, we headed out of the building. However, it was still raining cats and dogs. We decided to run through the rain again to the subway station. My whole left arm got completely soaked, and I believe there were others as well who unfortunately got wet as well. All of us fortunately made it safe and sound to the subway station. After two stops on the subway, we were at People's Square. Nine of us decided to stop at this station to get dinner. We found a delicious udon restaurant where we had yummy noodles. Afterwards we decided to go out to KTV. Our friend Andy have been saying since the beginning of the trip that he wanted to go, so we decided today is the day! We booked a room for two hours and sang to our hearts content. 

Today we definitely had a great time not only listening to the speakers but always running through the rain and singing karaoke! The Dialogue is coming to an official end in two days. I really cannot believe that time flew by so fast and I don't want the Dialogue to end! I will savour my next two days with everything and end the trip with a bang!

- Jessica X.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day 34, Part II: First Full Day in Shanghai

1) The Bund

2) The Bund 
3) The Nightlife at Nanjing Lu
4) The Awfully Chocolate dessert store (so yummy!) 
5) Getting the spins on the kiddie ride in people's park
6) Shanghai Museum 
7) Jared getting his wheelies adjusted 
8) The fake market 

Despite sleeping at 3:00AM last night, Caton and I made a pact we were going to wake up early this morning, and take advantage of our one free day in Shanghai! We set our alarms for 7:45AM and surprisingly actually got up. We had a free breakfast at the Magnificent hotel and left with Jared R. We headed out on Nanjing Lu, walked over the overhead, and found our way to the Shanghai Museum. The Shanghai Museum consisted of 4 floors and was beautifully designed. There were many exhibits such as jade, furniture, calligraphy, and seals. I found it very cool how furniture in the Ming Dynasty was not constructed using nails but by the inserted soldier joint method. Even though I expected a non-nail furniture to be not as anesthetically pleasing, I believe the method actually made the wood more smooth and connected the pieces without a scratch. In addition, the ritual jades from the Xia, Shang, Zhou dynasties original purpose was to consolidate political power before becoming the jade jewelry as we know today. Who knew??? 

After the Shanghai Museum, we walked around the People's Park. It was really peaceful and a good way to get away from all the cars and human traffic in Shanghai. We also found a kids amusement park inside the park and soon decided we should get on the swing set. It was fun and exciting in the beginning, but soon after 2 minutes, we all got the spins. We actually continued to get the spins for 30 minutes later. We went to the Raffles City building basement soon after to get lunch. The basement had so many different types of food from typical Chinese to Italian. We settled on Carl Jrs, the burger place that Jenn recommended. After resting up at Carl jrs, we walked to find the "Fake Market" on the intersection of Nanjing Lu and Chengdu Lu. It consisted of 4 floors and had literally any brand you can imagine. I ended up with a pair of shoes for only 40 kuai and Jared with a wallet for 75 kuai. At around 5PM, we were already exhausted and walked down to a food court building. After dinner, we walked on Nanjing Lu and observed the department stores. We met with Malia, and Jared bought a pair of wheels to roll around in. We ended the perfect day at a walk in the bund. Can't wait to go back to the hotel to rest up for tomorrow! 

- Michelle F.

Day 34: Freeee day in Shanghai

Pic 1: Jared almost cried for the yummy bread

Pic 2: How Jared adored the fish =))
Pic 3: Sydney found the yogurt brand that is named after her Chinese name 
Pic 4: On the way to People Square
Pic 5: Sydney at Shanghai Museum
Pic 6: Ran into Patricia and Sierra
Pic 7: Yummy Beijing Duck and Bubble Tea
Pic 8: Crowded train ride
Pic 9: The underground shopping mall at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum
Pic 10: Cindy at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum
Pic 11: Jared tried to climb on this artwork
Pic 12: Cindy kissing her Shengjian bao 包 
Pic 13: Group photo 
Pic 14: Fancy bathroom selfie

​Today is our very first day in the past 5 weeks that we can go out, explore and do whatever we want in Shanghai. To enjoy my only free day, i decided to sleep in and didnt wake up until 12:30pm. At 1pm, my busy day began. 

To start out, Jared, Sydney and I went to a small bakery nearby the hotel to breakfast/lunch. We really enjoyed the egg tarts and the chocolate cream cheese. On the way back, we stopped over at an animal market right by our hotel. They sell all kinds of fish, birds, colorful frogs/amphibians (they charge 30 yuan if we want to take a photo, so we didnt take any) and even some giant insects that I dont even know their names. 

Turn left from the hotel, we headed to Nanjing Lu to check out the People Square. It was a big open area with lots of trees and flowers in the middle of the busiest street in Shanghai. We were there by noon time so there wasnt many people around. As we were walking around the square, we noticed the Shanghai museum and decided to go in. The museum is a classy building with 4 floors, each floor is divided into four smaller exhibition rooms and a little gift shop. Plus, they have AC there so we spent most of our afternoon at the museum. The calligraphy exhibition hall is our favorite since we can recognize some calligraphy styles that we learned back at 南大. 

By 4:30, Jared and I went out to find some snacks. We each got bubble tea and a Chinese version of Beijing Duck burrito, and we really enjoyed them. After that,  we took the subway to go to Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. The subway is even bigger than the train station in Nanjing and it was very crowded. Got out of the subway, we met up with Cindy and Christine to go to the underground shopping mall. We loved it there since they have everything such as clothes, shoes, jacket, technology gadgets... and we can buy them with atleast half the price by bargaining. 

Next, we went to eat at a dumpling restaurant in Pearl Square, right next to the Oriental TV tower. We each ordered a set of 6 dumplings and they were all so delicious that we dont mind eating them everyday. The trick was to poked a small hole and sucked out all the yummy juice before biting into the 包. The shrimp filling in the crispy cover 包 completed our dinner with full of  satisfactions. We walked around the beautiful square to help digesting the food. With many sky rocketing buildings and full of lights, we felt like we were in the middle of New York city.

Moving on, we went to the nearby mall to use the bathroom but we ended up visiting a small Taiwanese food convention, where we got to try so many samples of Taiwanese products like chocolate, candies, fresh pinapple, grape juice and even honey. To end our day, we took a taxi back to the hotel. It took us more than 30 mins and 50 kuai just to get a cab back, but no complains, we had an amazing day. I am in love with Shanghai and I cant wait for many more adventures in this beautiful city. 

- Amy V.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 33, Part II: Welcome to Shanghai!

​Today we spent our last moments with our host family.  I was so sad to have to leave my host family because they were so hospitable and kind. I have become really close to them over the past week, and it felt too soon to have to say goodbye to them. I woke up at 9, finished up some homework, ate breakfast, packed up my things, and then got into the car with my host family to go to Nanjing University to meet up with everyone so we could have our discussion. I felt really rushed today to get all my homework done and in, and especially to make the 11am discussion. However, when we got to the university, turns out that almost half of the group still weren’t there and Sierra and to go with Dong Laoshi to get the last of her IVs at the hospital. Thus, the discussion was postponed until we arrived in Shanghai. I said a sad goodbye to my family, but I know that we will meet again soon because Elaine, my host sister, will be at Northeastern next fall.

The coach bus arrived at 1pm to take us to the train station to take us to make our 2pm train. We had too much luggage to fit under the bus, so some luggage had to be put in the top, taking up a lot of time. We knew we were going to be a bit late so on our ride there we set up a game plan on how to most efficiently get all the luggage out of the bus and catch our train. We arrived at the train station at 1:40, got everything off the bus and ran through security and to our car on the high speed train. We were on car 1 so it was at the very front of the train. By the time we got on the train, my forehead was forming beads of sweat and I was exhausted. As we were putting our luggage in the luggage compartment, exactly at 2pm, the train began to move, and we were on our way. Everybody knocked out almost immediately. It was a short ride, about an hour and a half, and we were in Shanghai!

Walking out of the train felt like I had just walked into a sauna. It was so humid. We lugged our things to the coach bus that took us to our hotel, Magnificent International Hotel. It is really not as magnificent as the name sounds, but it isn’t too bad. We settled in for a bit and at 5:30pm went down to the lobby to have our discussion.

By the time discussion ended, I was starving, so Cindy and I decided to go for dinner. Near our hotel, there is a street full of street food, and I found grass jelly there! I had been craving grass jelly ever since I had come to China. It was 9 yuan for a bowl of it. They added some coconut juice to it and it was delicious. It was not dinner, but I was very satisfied. While Cindy and I were browsing, we ran into Jess, Jessica, Patricia, and Sierra, who were also looking for food. After we ran into them, we ran into Amy, Caton, Jared, Malia, and Michelle, and we decided to all get dinner together. We walked in a small circle before deciding to eat at Tsui Wah Restaurant, which served Hong Kong, Cantonese, and Macau style food, and it also happened to be the restaurant that Dong laoshi was eating at, too. We ordered qincai (Chinese celery), chashao (honey bbq pork), beef chaomian (fried noodles), pork cartilage chaofan (fried rice), and shrimp wonton in fish soup. It was 274 yuan for the seven of us, which is actually pretty expensive in China, but it was pretty cheap if you compare it to prices in the US. After dinner, we went back to the street food place for some more dessert. I already had my dessert so I didn’t get anything, but Malia got a mango tapioca with coconut milk dessert and Cindy and Amy shared a fruity dessert that also had coconut milk, tapioca, and jelly. Michelle and Caton tried Cindy and Amy’s dessert and decided to get one to share, too. Then, we walked back to the hotel while eating our desserts.

Shanghai so far has been delicious!

- Christine T.

Day 33: Mad Dash to Shanghai

Last night was a late night for many of us!  We all were up to the early hours of the morning finishing up our internship report, family history paper, and journals.  Although it was a lot of work, it will be great not having these reports hovering over our heads when we are in Shanghai.  This was our last morning with our host families.  After a small breakfast, I gave nainai and ayi (grandmother and grandfather) a big hug goodbye!  We dropped my host sister off at her weekend class before continuing to Nanjing University to reunite with the group.  Everyone was sad while saying their final farewells to their families.  It is amazing how much of relationship we had built with our families in just a week!  I am hoping I will be able to see my host sister a few times next year since she is going to high school just outside of Boston.  

Once at Nanjing University we had a few hours to finish up our reports.  Dong Laoshi and Jenn were kind enough to get us all coffee to keep us going!  After grabbing a quick sandwich at Skyways Bakery we loaded up the bus with our luggage.  The bus did not come to get us until 130; our train was scheduled to leave at 2 o’clock sharp!  We raced to the train station, the bus driver weaving in and out of traffic.  We got to the bus station with twelve minutes to spare.  It was a mad dash off the bus, through security, and finding the right platform.  We had to grab whatever bags that were on the bus, we didn’t have time to sort out whose was whose. I was the lucky one who somehow managed to get stuck lugging two fifty pound bags!  Of course once in the station we had get to the second floor and there was no escalator.  It was a sight watching us all trying to pull massive bags up the stairs!  We could not catch a break, once we got to the platform we had to find Car 1.  We were at Car 15.  There was only 6 minutes left so we sprinted down the platform.  Thankfully, all of us and our luggage made it on the train with two minutes to spare!  

Between the late night and the mad dash, we were all exhausted.   Some took advantage of our one-hour train ride on the high-speed train to finish up last minute work while others opted to nap.  We were riding in style on the gaotie (high-speed rail), which was much nicer than the other trains we have traveled on, especially the hard seats.  The train reached speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour!  Our bus picked us up at the Shanghai Railway Station and we headed to the Grand Magnificent Hotel.  

The hotel is great location, right near Renmin Park (People’s Sqaure).  We only had a few minutes to relax after checking in before we had our fourth discussion to reflect on our last week in Nanjing.  By the time the discussion ended, it was nearly seven o’clock so we hit the Shanghai streets looking for something to eat.  A few of us went to a Hong Kong family style restaurant named Tsui Wah.  It was delicious, especially the shrimp wontons.  After dinner we explored an alley near the hotel.  We indulged in a cold fruity dessert soup.  It was around 30 degrees Celsius and this was a nice cool, refreshing treat.  Many of us were exhausted after our last week in Nanjing so we went to bed early.  We want to be reenergized to seize our free day tomorrow!

- Caton B.