Tohee International Student Village

Link to website.

sw1Located close to Fudan University, Tohee International Student Village provides a range of fully furnished student apartments to suit all requirements, each apartment has wireless broadband and telephone.

Hotels in China

Hotels in different cities are always a hit or miss. A hotel may be rated 4 stars or 3 stars, but the actual place can turn out to be totally different from the ratings. One must start with the level of the city. If the city is a level 3, one would expect the hotels in the city to be extremely well done and be considered of top-class quality. In Beijing, the hotel the Davidson in Shanghai group stayed at was a 4 star hotel. The hotel turned out to be the palace of a previous prince in Chinese history and had been renovated to be a hotel for tourists. The hotel was actually small due to the architecture, but the place was clean besides the snow, the bathroom was built western style, Wi-Fi and a computer were included, and the whole place was well-heated. Heat is important because it is extremely cold in Beijing and considering that Beijing winters can be brutal. Also, the breakfast was a traditional Chinese style with some Western foods. Everything was fresh and cooked instead of being heated up. The hotel was deserving of the 4 stars it received.

However, in Nanjing, the hotel was not deserving of the 3 stars it was given. The place had the decorum of the 80’s or 90’s. There was a western style bathroom but the rooms were not heated and there was no Wi-Fi or computer for guests to use. Nanjing’s temperature is not as cold as Beijing, but there should still be a functioning option to heat the rooms, and although the thermostat had the option, the heat did not work. Furthermore, the hotel was actually very dirty and needed to be cleaned. The breakfast was not worth eating and many students ended up going to McDonalds or KFC for breakfast because the food looked inedible. This hotel was not deserving of 3 stars. An argument could be made that because the hotel was not meant to be as great as level 3 city hotels, but next comes the case of a level 2 city that had a hotel that was deserving of its 4 stars.

In Xi’an, a level 2 city, the hotel was definitely deserving of 5 stars instead of 4 stars. The hotel had great décor and the architecture was beautiful. The rooms were spacious, had Wi-Fi, Western-style bathroom, cleaned very well, heating and a TV that had English channels! This hotel was a franchise, which could explain that a lot of money was poured into it. Still, the Xi’an hotel had great service, an impressive dining hall for breakfast that served Chinese and Western style food as the Beijing hotel did. The city was not as technologically advanced as the hotel. This is how impressive the hotel was.

Lastly, Suzhou is also a level 2 city that also shows a hotel that deserves 4 stars instead of the 3 stars it received. The hotel is also a franchise and was actually brand new. However, the style of the hotel was a Western style room with everything the Xi’an hotel had to offer and some great amenities. For example, there was an ironing board and iron for guests to iron their clothes and look great.

Therefore, hotels ratings should not be trusted, but instead a person should scout out the place before deciding to book the place because of Web reviews. A friend who has actually stayed and enjoyed the hotel should be found instead of just trusting reviews. A tour guide is also helpful, if the company has been reviewed well and even though it may be more expensive, the quality is worth it.

The River Gone Black

As I further slip into the cadence of this upbeat Shanghai life, things, once considered bizarre and outright wrong, now qualify for the titles of mundane and well accepted; this especially goes for topics concerning the standard of sanitation. However, I was recently reminded of my (involuntarily) subdued concerns last week when I found my apartment threshold loitered by the grounds-crew. It had to be anywhere between 5 – 7 of them, well equipped with (disfigured) brooms, buckets and Mr. Muscle soaps and, unbeknownst to me, they were lined up to fight the thriving cesspool that accumulated outside my kitchen window. After accessing the situation and realizing that I was soon embarking on my final moments with my living, neighboring pollutant, I snagged my camera to catch the final shots of what I whimsically, but appropriately dubbed “The River that Gone Black.”

It’s only sheer coincidence that the cleaning crew came to our apartment moments after Fuji’s class ended, and even more improbable that they were there on the first day of our discussion of the The River Runs Black by Elizabeth Economy. The conjunction of these odds forced me to revisit our initial Shanghai days, wrought with complaints over the Tonghe’s inhospitable conditions and overall cleanliness (or lack thereof). The incessant sulfuric smells, the occasional insects, and the mounds of rubbish are all mere examples, and all of which raised questions on the infrastructure that allowed things to be this way. With slightly irascible members in our group, needless to say, there were outcries to fix our current conditions (and I must say that I appreciate my currently clean kitchen view). I furthered my thoughts with, if these personal accounts are of the microlevel, then would the 500,000 protests (loc. 408) mentioned in the book be the macrolevel? Would the corollary then conclude that all of the overarching developmental problems of macrolevel China obstinately trickle down to the microlevel and leave us with what we figure as haphazardly constructed?

 

I first came across the phrasing “haphazard development” within our first few days in China, and I specifically remember Fuji used the poorly constructed drop-ceiling as an example. I wanted to rhetorically suggest that if the construction adequately fulfilled its function, then why be concerned with the manner of its construction. Elizabeth, however, disputes that notion with her alarming statistical data on the connection between haphazard development and environmental degradation. She figures that what maintains this tendency is the maxim of “first development, then environment,” (loc. 1892), despite the fact that the costs exceedingly outweigh any benefits.

Rhetoric on the environmental protection is gaining momentum and dynamism in Chinese society, and thus desire and need to rectify this collective goods dilemma is too. However, this progressive direction is tenuous and only seems to take root on a superficial level; only by suffocating the deeply routed environmental exploitation that had marked/marred Chinese history would this movement blossom. Conversely, the previously mentioned maxim is tenacious and is instinctual trend of the masses. It just seems that concern for the environment isn’t as genuine on a systemic level. Elizabeth mentions the governmental efforts to clean up of lake Dianchi, but officials concluded it would take 30 years to revert it back to sanitary state because of the monumental damage. What was more shocking is that that figure doesn’t even include the governments (in)ability to prevent nearby polluters (loc. 2416). It’s gut-trenching to know that even after Dianchi’s cleanup, there is promulgated concern that the lake will face threats of pollution.

This example of the blatant disregard and apathy for the environment, despite all efforts to revitalize is an overwhelming and ever-present concern that plagues contemporary China. In ways, my microlevel analogy seems farfetched, but I hold that there is some merit in it, primarily because of the disregard for space. What is environment to its people but a magnified take on space to a man… I look outside my window where my cesspool was and I see an agglomerate of cigarettes, trash and debris in its place. I now wonder to myself if this continual apathy for the surrounding spaces looms something comparable but magnified for macro China.

Blue Frog Restaurant: Best Burger Place in Shanghai

Blue Frog: Bar and Grill, the best burger restaurant found so far, is only found in Beijing and Shanghai, China. The establishment started in April 2003 and has continued to flourish till now. I stumbled upon it when Alex Bau led an outing to Pudong. A Monday night special of buy 1 burger get 1 free caused a group of 6 to take an hour long subway ride to this magnificent place. Located in the basement of the Financial Center, customers see expensive marble floors and high quality facilities everywhere. Blue Frog is hidden in an inner alcove of the basement. The first thing we see is an awesomely decorated restaurant with a vibrant atmosphere. Not too light but not too dark, Blue Frog is definitely a cool place to hang out. The most surprising yet welcoming thing is the English speaking waiters. They do not speak perfectly, but it is always a pleasure to hear a language I can fully understand in China. I had a Montana burger with curly fries. It was amazing! The burger was juicy and delicious, while the fries were tasty. That experience alone made another group go to Blue Frog for brunch another day. The price on the other hand seemed steep. A currency conversion shows we spent 20 dollars, and because of the deal we only spent 10 dollars not including the drinks. But I believe to a native of China in the middle or lower class, the price of 85 kuai for a burger and 20-50 kuai for a drink is definitely still out of reach or a once a year type of meal. Looking around the restaurant, there were mostly wai-guo ren, or foreigners in Blue Frog. There were some Shanghai locals but at most 9 or 10 in the whole establishment. Blue Grog definitely does not receive a lot of Chinese customers and its market focuses on foreigners. So, China’s GDP may be growing exponentially every year, but the income of its people has not yet reached a level where the majority can affords cosmopolitan food. Modernization is slowly happening. Shanghai is transforming into an advanced and beautiful city. However, the people are far from consuming the products of urbanization. It may happen in a couple of decades but I believe the majority of people will stick to eating their 10-30 kuai meals.

Housing and Meals

While in Shanghai, the group will stay at the Tohee International Student Village, across the street from the north gate of Fudan University (in the Wujiaochang neighborhood of Shanghai). The Tohee International Student Village is a modern facility with air-conditioning/heat, private bathrooms, public common use spaces, refrigerators, and telephone and wireless internet connection. Laundry machines are available. Students will be housed in singles within a shared suite. There is also a convenience store located in the ground floor of the dormitory.

Meals are included in the program fee, and students will receive stipends for meals. There are a number of student cafeterias located near the foreign students dormitory; the Wujiaochang neighborhood surrounding the Handan campus also hosts a number of restaurants and stores catering to Fudan university students. The Wujiaochang neighborhood also has a number of internationally-known stores and restaurants, including Walmart, McDonalds, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are many buses and subways which connect the Fudan campus to the wider Shanghai metropolitan area.

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