Thursday, June 16, 2011

Final Post

So it’s over! Many of the students headed back to the States today, with a few taking the opportunity to explore the country more. It’s been a very hectic intense six weeks. Guess it will take the students, and me, a while to recover. The Dialogue is certainly challenging physically, with long days, short nights, and occasional jogging in between. The program is also tough intellectually. Besides cramming one-semester worth of language courses into four weeks, the students are constantly challenged to observe, reflect and examine themes, ideas or problems from a different perspective. They are confronted to answer many hard questions as complex as China is.  The end of the program is emotionally draining too, as many of us have formed strong bonding with each other, the host family, the language partner, the internship mentor, the random people we talk to on the street, and the country itself. But I’m sure many of us will find our way back soon, by which time many familiar faces will already be waiting for us.

-Hua Dong     

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shanghai, Day 37


> Today's the last day. Pretty weird feeling we've all got. It seems that after spending every day immersing ourselves in the culture, we're about to yanked out so quickly. Today was the last discussion day, and we were all over the place. In short, we definitely were making reflections on our experience, but also discussed the contradictions we've been finding in different speakers. In this huge country, though, I guess it's easy to find these contradictions.
> Afterwards, we headed out to the China Business Network channel of Shanghai Radio and TV and got to talk to the "head honchos" of the network. We were literally on the set of some huge Shanghai TV stations. Some of us took pictures on set, and some got to see what we looked like on screen. One of the more interesting aspects of the trip was when we heard from the big producer himself that the most difficult part of his job was dealing with "his bosses". What he meant by this was the government, and I guess it only reinforced all of our presumptions on China's government being a bit authoritative (to say the least). Pretty interesting stuff.
> After splitting up into smaller groups and wandering the city (I myself found a neat alleyway which was filled with antiques), we met up at Taishousi, a Japanese restaurant. Lots of sushi, lots of delicious Japanese cuisine, and a whole lot of us vocalizing our appreciation for one another, especially Hua Dong. Cedric started us off with his own personal toast to her for her awesome… teacher-ship I guess is the word, and a whole lot of other students followed. It was a good night, and though the closure is there, I guess it will still take a while to adjust to living back in America. I'm sure most of us will be back soon, though. I know I will.
> - Malcome M.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shanghai, Day 36

Today we finally met the faces behind the ever-so-helpful voices at Jenny and John showed us just how much effort
goes into putting out their daily casts. With complete radio studios
and a full staff, it is no wonder they have such a huge fanbase. Their
western perspective on learning Chinese also plays a large role in
their success. 70% of their users come from America and John has
struggled through everything they have.
        Later on, we stopped by the global powerhouse General Electric. Their
existence and growth is a clear indication of how American companies
can grow quickly in this environment. We were given free objects which
could only be described as stapler-like gadgets to play with. We were
told to figure out what they do. This type of thinking out of the box
is a signature of GE. We also saw the future of clean technology
through various interactive displays on their compound. The most
intriguing of which is a train from Shanghai to Tibet that can carry
passengers even though the weather is extreme.
        Finally, we stopped by the house of Li Bin, a wealthy artist who had
been doing drawings since he was a red guard in China. Having a live
talk at a house was a nice change of pace. His daughter even came home
from Germany while he gave us a talk! His paintings were magnificent
and satirical. For instance, the one posted took him 2 years with some

- James S.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Shanghai, Day 35

Since our descent on Shanghai - and a jarring transition from the low-key, down-to-earth lifestyle of Nanjing - the most consistent feeling among our group continues to be "overwhelmed." A city of 20 million, and only one among +100 Chinese cities over 1 million compared to the US' 10 such cities, Shanghai - from but a passing glance - begins to rival New York. With the luxurious Graceland hotel as our base of operations and a long day's rest from the night before, today was a contrast to our precious time off. With a day starting at 8 AM, we returned to contrasting Chinese and Western business through two talks, one from a German entrepreneur and the other a Chinese national. The usual cliches came up: a historical focus on practical excellence over creative freethinking, the importance of guanxi, and the Chinese language as key to unlocking the rest of China's secrets. Unique, however, were the personal insights offered by our German host. Among them, he stressed giving the Chinese specific directions: the difference between having a machine fixed and broken further can be as small a mistake as a vague command, but be specific yet non-confrontational with your needs and the Chinese will astound you.
Such was the case at GM Shanghai - touring the factory floor was like stepping into a bleak sort of future, with machines increasingly more preset than humans. Still, workers blazed through the assembly line as an example of Chinese efficiency and cars were being churned out with not just speed but precision. Still, at $10,000 a car, some corners were cut - these fine-looking autos don't meet Western environmental regulations, and as authentic as they look, are not purchasable Stateside, much less street legal.
While the true exploration of industry was a welcome perspective, the day peaked at our arrival at the Pudong side of Shanghai from our home in the east side. The skyscrapers claw at the heavens, truly, here more so than anywhere else. More accurately, they "bottle open" " the heavens - the city's premiere landmark (until the construction is finished on the next tallest building, a swirling spire to be the world's second tallest construct) is the World Financial Center, +90 floors peaking at an observation deck looking much like an homage to China's lack of alcohol regulation. Further speakers contextualized Shanghai's big - and indeed politically forced - boom, and more than that, pointed us towards the future. The whole of modern Shanghai was constructed in the last 20 years, primarily through city planning that amounted to government coercion of financial institutions in forcing banks to open Pudong offices and creating a central park at the focal point. Yet for its possibly shady inception, Shanghai looks beautiful by nightfall. The modern Pudong financial world center across the historic European-inspired colonial era Bund district on the Puxi shore are like no other place in the world. However, with Shanghai approaching sleek but anonymous modernity at the cost of less practical historic beauty, the question remains: if 20 years created this Shanghai, what will the next 20 bring?

- Michael G.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shanghai, Day 34

Today was our first and last free day of the trip. It was real nice to
have the chance to really catch up on some sleep. Shanghai is probably
my favorite city in the entire world. Moving here completely changed
my life, and even spending two years here I still have so much to
find. It feels so great to finally be back, I can’t believe I am only
going to spend a few days here. There is just so much to do and see,
it’s almost hard to decide what to do with our free time. Today Tommy
Greb and I went into Pudong, right around the area I used to live in.
We went to the fake market to buy some gifts and souvenirs to bring
back with us. It’s always fun to bargain with the shop owners to get
the lowest price. I think we did pretty well. We also ate at a really
good German restaurant that I used to eat at when I lived here, called
Hofbrauhaus. It’s incredible how much this city changes in such a
short amount of time. We went to the Lu Jia Zui area also and there is
so many new additions that have been put there in the 16 months since
I was here last, including a huge sky bridge over the intersection and
a lot of new shops. Pudong is really becoming a lot different than it
used to be.
The weather wasn’t too nice today, it was so cloudy that you couldn’t
even see the tops of tall buildings (which are everywhere). For me, I
think the city looks best at nighttime. All of the buildings look
really cool being lit up in so many different ways. The combination of
all the lights really makes the skyline look amazing. If it wasn’t so
hazy all the time it would look even better.
Now that we are here in Shanghai, I really feel this trip is winding
down. It’s kind of disappointing, this trip has gone by really fast
and I’m not ready to leave yet. We have put so many great experiences
into such a small amount of time. The time really flies by when you
are busy, and having so much fun at the same time. I have learned more
about China than ever before, and now see it in an even newer light. I
will surely enjoy these next few days in China, and I will also surely
miss this place very much when I leave. At least I know China will
welcome me with open arms a year from now when I am back.

- Michael M.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Shanghai, Day 33

After a month in Nanjing, having gone through our homestays and Anhui, I think we have all started to consider Nanda our home. Now four weeks have quickly flown by and it’s time to leave.
I was personally really excited to head for Shanghai. I have heard from somewhere that Shanghai is like the Paris of China. When we arrived, I immediately saw the difference in architect and style that makes Shanghai a city loved by so many.
We took a two-hour bullet train ride to Shanghai. It was very comfortable. I think most of us were surprised by the comfort of the train, as the past two times took us by surprise. This time I literally felt like I was on a plane.
We had some time to explore the area before dinner, so we wandered around the supermarket nearby. It became clear to us that we were in Shanghai when we saw the price increase of our usual snacks. Our hotel rooms came with a scale and as we were depressed about our excessive weight gain since China, here we are severely snacking right before dinner again.
Afterwards, we were welcomed with a very delicious dinner at our hotel alongside our guest speak for the day, Jesse Parker. He spoke of how much China has developed over the past 50 years. The US is amazing in the sense that we have become what we are today in the matter only 200 years of existence. It’s been unheard of before. But China is just recently beginning. Looking out at Shanghai during our ride to the hotel, you can definitely see urban life here. And what makes China even more amazing is that its only been these past 50 years that have brought China from an agrarian society to what it is today.

- Linda K.