Thanks for the Memories!!!!

Perhaps the hardest thing for me to do–whether it is to people, places, or things–is to say goodbye.  Having spent almost four months in China, I feel like I have made Shanghai my second home.  Not only that, but I have also made some wonderful new friends that I know I am going to miss once I have returned to the United States.  For the most part, China has welcomed me with open arms and even though many people continue to have no idea what a 墨西哥人is, China has been nothing but hospitable towards me!  The people, especially my Chinese friends have all taken me in as one of their own and wish I didn’t have to go back so soon!  I know they probably won’t read this blog post, but I would like to dedicate this blog post to each and every one of them for making my stay here a more memorable one!

王宇(Shirley): We met through the language buddy program offered at Fudan University.  Since she first reached out to me via email, she wanted to become more than just a language partner.  She not only helped me practice my Chinese, but she also took me around Shanghai and introduced me to some of her favorite places around the city.  Also, she invited me to some of her school events like a Folk Rock concert being held by her boyfriend’s public speaking teacher.  Although I wish we could have met more than just once a week, I am grateful for all the she has done for me!  She helped me to better understand cultural differences between China and America as well as assisted me in correcting my Chinese intonations and character writing.  This Sunday will mark the last time I will see her this year but I hope our paths will cross again in the future!

刘欣宏 (Leo): Shirley seemed to have told Leo a lot about me once we first met at the Guanghua Cafe that he wanted to meet me for himself.  Shirley and Leo are what people call 男女朋友 (boyfriend and girlfriend).  At first I thought it would be awkward for me to hang around both Shirley and Leo at the same time since I was still getting to know Shirley at the time and I knew nothing about Leo, but those feelings quickly went away.  Leo was just as kind and inviting as Shirley.  In fact, both of them wanted to travel outside of Shanghai with me and act as my tour guides.  Unfortunately, we never had enough time to organize any trips since our schedules conflicted a lot.  I see meeting Shirley and Leo as a blessing.  While our time together was short, we have spent a lot of time talking to each other via WeChat that it feels like we have hung out more than just the 4 times we have met.  If I ever come back to China, they will be the first people I try to reconnect with.  Also, they plan to travel to the States shortly after they graduate from Fudan at the end of this year.

粱馨元 (Shaine): As I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, Shaine was an unexpected surprise!  She is my only Chinese friend outside of Shanghai.  Even though she does not reside in Shanghai, we remain in contact through WeChat.  Much like Shirley and Leo, Shaine has also been instrumental in my development of my Chinese language.  Even though she has less free time to chat (due to her commitment to dancing for her school in Chongqing)she has promised to never forget her 第一个墨西哥朋友(first Mexican friend).

Yoshi and Wendy:  Mina Yoshi and Wendy are a 男女朋友that I met through Alex.  Alex and Yoshi are roommates and Yoshi introduced us to a card game call 三国杀(Three Kingdoms Kill) which he and Wendy really like to play.  So, almost every weekend we would get together, along with some other friends, and play several games of 三国杀.  Yoshi and Wendy both helped me understand this game since it is entirely Chinese.  They also assisted me with some Chinese homework since they lived right in Tohee campus where I lived.  Even though I will no longer be in Shanghai after Wednesday the 17th, they have made it their mission for me to learn all the Chinese vernacular needed to play 三国杀.  So, even though we won’t be able to play face to face, there are online versions of the game where they insist they will continue to teach me and help me improve my Chinese.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, saying goodbye is the hardest part!  I will spend the remainder of my days here thinking of how to say ‘adios’ to all of my new friends.  Rather than say goodbye, I want to say ‘see you later’ cause I really hope that I will get to see each and every one of them in the future, whether in China, the States, or some other part of the world.  After all, life is a mystery full of surprises.

Buying Jade in China

The history of Jade culture in China is almost as long as the history of China itself!  Since its discovery, Jade has been given high material and symbolic meaning.  For example, Jade has symbolized wealth, power, and prestige.  Only those ‘worthy’ such as the Emperor and Empress, could afford to wear Jade.  Nowadays, Jade is still highly sought after.  However, Jade is used more for health and meditation purposes than for displaying wealth and power.  Unfortunately, finding pure, authentic Jade is hard to come by.

Ever since my mom knew that I would be studying in China for a semester, one of the things she wanted me to bring back was a Jade ornament which she could use for her meditation and healing practices at home.  So, since setting foot in Chinese soil, I have looked for the perfect piece of Jade to buy for her.  Although I have found many merchants that sell jade, I have yet to buy one in fear of it being a counterfeit.  Because of the advancement of technology, people have been able to produce replica copies of Jade.  But as the term suggests, these jade pieces are replicas and thus are probably not the original, authentic piece.  So what am I to do?

When it comes to Jade, no one knows more than our professor, Professor Shao.  When he was growing up, Professor Shao remembers there being an abundance of Jade material, so buying Jade back then was more inexpensive.  However, nowadays, Jadeite is rare to find, so the prices have increased tenfold and the supply of real, authentic Jade has greatly diminished.  Nonetheless, Shao advises that I take care when buying Jade in fear of me being gypped by a vendor.  In fact, Professor Shao taught me four cool tricks to help me distinguish real jade from the fake:

“First, real Jade is known for deceiving people about its weight.  Real Jade is known for being very dense and heavier than expected.  Second, Jade produces a deep, resonant sound when scratched against another similar object.  If the sound produced sounds like plastic beads scratching together then it is probably fake.  Third, Jade should feel cold, smooth, and soap-like.  It should take a while to heat up to your touch.  Fourth, and lastly, Jadeite is very hard and can scratch glass and metal.”

Nonetheless, even knowing these steps does not make me any more certain of whether or not I am purchasing real Jade.  People can be very cleaver when they reproduce fake copies of items, so they probably have found ways to deceive these tests.  However, I will continue to search for an authentic piece of Jade until my last day in Shanghai.  Perhaps one of my Chinese friends has more experience with buying Jade and could lend me hand?  Time to put some of that guanxi to good use! 😀

River Cruise to the Three Gorges 三峡 (The Goddess Stream)

Cruising down the Yangtze River was probably the highlight of all the trips we took in China.  Not only was the river boat cruise relaxing and peaceful, but the scenery we passed through was absolutely beautiful! To get to the Three Gorges, we had to pass through 4 different stops: the Ghost City, the White Emperor City, the Goddess Stream, and YiChang.  While each stop had its own uniqueness, my most favorite would have to be our boat passage through the Goddess Stream.  The natural scenery in this area cannot be compared to the others.

The funny thing about the Goddess Stream is that we got off of our cruise boat just to board another, smaller boat just to go through the Goddess Stream.  Nonetheless, the moment we entered the stream, you feel like you stepped into another realm.  The stream is surrounded by mountains and vegetation which only add to its beauty.  The entire ride lasts about twenty to thirty minutes.  But I remember every minute of it!  Below are a few pictures of the beautiful scenery that I have been boasting about:








This place just radiates energy and vitality!  I could not help but fall in love with this place’s scenery!

At the end of the river boat tour down the Goddess Stream, merchants awaited for us to buy their locally grown products.  Also, the river boat tour guides had arranged to perform some local dances for us as we shopped around for a bit.  The dance was interesting and entertaining to watch, but the most intriguing part of it all was the fact that foreigners and tourists just started jumping in and dancing with the tour guides.  Not knowing what they were doing and relying on following the example of the tour guides, everyone was dancing around having fun and enjoying themselves.

Making friends in the speed train!!!!

Shortly after seeing the Pandas, we were set to go to Chongqing, where we would then board a boat and set sail towards 三峡(The Three Gorges).  To go there, we would take a two hour train ride.  While I had taken several train rides before then, this one would become the most memorable since it is here where I would meet and befriend a local Chongqing girl.

Usually, when riding a train together to reach any destination, we tend to sit next to each other as a group. But, because we were down two people on this trip, one of us would be sitting next to a stranger and away from the Davidson group.  As luck would have it, it would be me.  When I took my seat, my ‘stranger’ had not yet arrived, yet I did not know how to feel.  For one, I was excited to meet a new Chinese local and have the opportunity to practice my Chinese.  On the other hand, what if the person did not want to talk, or what if my Chinese was so bad we would not be able to have a proper, long conversation?  I had no idea who would be sitting next to me but deep inside, I could not wait.

As the train was minutes from departing, she had yet to arrive which then made me think, was I going to experience this ride alone with no one to talk to?  But, just as that thought came to mind, a soft, kind voice came from behind and asked me a question.  Having not understood the entire question, I looked up and was about to ask if they could repeat the question when I saw a young girl around twenty years old smiling down at me and motioning with her eyes towards the window seat.  So, this 美女would be my travel companion?

Having taken her seat, she put her stuff down and thanked me for letting her through.  She then got on her phone and called her friend telling him/her that she was on the train and would be arriving in a couple of hours.  She then hung up laid her seat back, closed her eyes, and decided to nap for a bit.  Realizing that she wanted to sleep, I could not help but feel like I missed out on my only opportunity to talk to her.  Why had I not introduced myself from the get-go?  Was I nervous about how bad my Chinese would sound?  What was I so afraid of?  If I do not take the initiative and talk to her how else am I supposed to practice my Chinese?

Luckily, she did not nap for long.  In fact, she seemed uncomfortable and could not manage to fall asleep.  Also, I noticed that she kept looking at me with curious eyes.  Was she asking herself the same questions as me?  Was she looking for someone to practice her English with?  Was she curious to find out who I was?  Where I was from?  It was then that I decided to take the first step.  I asked her in a joking manner “你很累吗?” (Are you tired?) to which she then replied “我很困.” (I am very tired/exhausted).  From that point on, our conversation took off.  After introducing ourselves, she complimented me on my Chinese and was wondering what I was doing in China.  Telling her that I was a 留学生studying Chinese language and culture, she lit up and asked where I was from and how long I had been studying the language.  Being able to answer all of her questions, thus far, in pure Chinese, she was amazed at my ability to speak her language that she once again complimented me.  Knowing that my Chinese speaking level was too low to receive these kinds of compliments I insisted that my Chinese was not so good and I still needed to practice and learn a lot more.  It was then that she told me “如果你像练习一下,我可以帮你.“ (If you want to practice, I can help you.)  She then asked for my WeChat information and declared that I had just made a new Chinese friend.  In fact, she said something along the lines of “you can now tell you classmates you have a beautiful, outgoing, lively friend from Sichuan Province. You may call me 梁馨元 (Liang Xinyuan) or Shaine.”  Our conversation would not end until we had arrived at Chongqing where we went our separate ways.

That was the longest conversation I have ever had in Chinese thus far in my studying of the Chinese language!  I was amazed by how much I have learned throughout my two years of taking Chinese language classes and also by how much I had improved by just being exposed to the language every day in Shanghai!  We talked about what we each were studying, our interests, what we did in Chengdu, to what we want to do after graduating college.  If the train ride was longer I am sure our conversation would have continued.  Nonetheless, before we parted ways, I thanked Shaine for helping me practice my Chinese with her.  Even though our entire conversation was in Chinese, there were times were I had to have her explain new words to me of which she was extremely patient with me and very detailed.  To this day, we continue to talk through WeChat and she continues to help me improve with my Chinese proficiency.


Pandas in Chengdu!!!!

If there was any animal I needed to see before having to return to the States, it would have to be Pandas.  Early in my stay in Shanghai, Isaiah, Nicholas, Alex, and I attempted to get a glimpse of these Chinese iconic figures by going to the Shanghai Wildlife Zoo.  Unfortunately, our timing to the zoo could not have been worse.  We went on a weekday, when the forecast gave glimpses of a potential storm, so, when we arrived to the zoo and saw that almost all the animals had been kept in their indoor homes, we were deeply disappointed.  Although this zoo offered a Bus tour and a Pedestrian tour, none of them provided us with the opportunities to see a Panda up close.  Even though, we were able to see Lions, Tigers, Snow Tigers, Bears, Rhinos, Hippos, Cheetahs, and other exotic animals, our main goal of the day was to take a picture of a Panda, alas we were unsuccessful.

Returning back to Tohee with a 马马虎虎 attitude, we decided that we needed to go to the one place known for breeding Pandas, Chengdu in Sichuan Province.  Our trip to Chengdu focused primarily on the objective for us to see Pandas.  So, the morning after arriving to Chengdu we set off to the Panda reserve up in the mountains.  All of us were dying to see these beautiful creatures up close that the bus ride to the place seemed to take forever.  If that was not enough, just as we were about to approach the reserve, we saw traffic buildup up ahead which delayed our arrival.  After a two hour delay, we had finally made it to the Panda Reserve.

Getting off at the parking lot, all you could see were stands of vendors selling Panda stuffed animals, shirts, apparel, and other merchandise.  We knew that any minute now we would be able to see the real thing in action, an actual Panda!  We all boarded a small bus which would take us to the four different locations designated for tourists to take pictures of Pandas.

Getting off at the first stop, I could not help but feel anxious about what I was about to see!  However, fate would have it that I wait a bit longer. As I peered over the rails to look for the Pandas I searched and searched for the Pandas but could not find one.  Then I hear our tour guide tell us, “look up at the tree” and sure enough there it was, a Panda hugging the top of a tree, chilling.



Finally!  I was able to check “see a Panda” of my list!  Even though this particular Panda was quite far away and hard to spot, it was not the only Panda present at the Preserve.  In total I believe I saw about ten Pandas, two of which were cute, little baby pandas resting sleeping in their basket.  This was without a doubt the highlight of the Chengdu trip!  Seeing a Panda was well worth the wait!  I wish I could have seen the Panda above climb the tree, but I am thankful for being given the opportunity to see this rare creature.  Can’t wait to see what is in store next!