China 2012

Website for the PDS trip to China!

June 27, 2012
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Rain & Shopping in Shanghai

After a completely dry first 13 days in China, the rain gods announced their presence with gusto yesterday. It poured for most of the day, which curtailed our usual picture-taking frenzy (that’s why we have few to share this time). After a later start in the morning (the kids are getting tired!), we headed out to Xintiandi in Shanghai. This area illustrates in an interesting fashion the contrasts in China today. We first visited a museum in the building that hosted the founding of the Communist Party in China in 1921. The museum is a patriotic look at China’s revolutionary past. However, this museum is surrounded by a tribute to the new affluence of China under it’s new capitalist economic policies. Xintiandi is full of swank, elegant, and pricey shops, restaurants, bars, etc. that would be the envy of any similar setting in New York, Paris, or London. How things have changed!

After lunch, we headed for the old city in Shanghai for some last minute shopping. Despite the rain, the kids were eager to practice their bargaining skills and get final gifts for their loved ones and souvenirs for themselves. I have to say we have some determined shoppers in our group!

We had then a final farewell dinner and I offered a toast to the kids for being a real credit to their families and PDS over the past two weeks. They are a wonderful group of young people!

June 25, 2012
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Suzhou

Humble Administrator’s Garden (Cheesy)

We began our day with a 7am wake up call, and took a two-hour bus ride to Water Country (Suzhou).  It was a small simple village surrounded by a pond.  We were suddenly hit by a monsoon of sound, created by hundreds of tree cicadas.  The neighboring crickets, in their hexagonal cages, joined the cicadas to create a melodious symphony.  We then ventured into the Humble Administrator’s Garden to find an environment so serene and breathtaking.  The juxtaposition of the opposites, like land and water, were very apparent to those who had taken Mr. Freedholm’s Asian Studies class.  We followed our tour guide through the winding paths, climbing over rocks and momentarily stopping to capture the beauty.  Though the garden was calming, it was hard to get through the day without noticing the humidity (99.9% humidity).  As lunch approached, we made our way back onto the bus to get to the silk factory.

This prose piece was written and performed by Andrea and Emily

We approached the silk factory with no prior knowledge of the intricacies of the process of silk making. To our delight, there were baskets upon baskets of the mulberry leaf-eating creatures known as silkworms. We were informed that like butterflies, they create cocoons that can be spun into silk.

 We continued our journey through the silk factory and found ourselves in a Fashion show that lasted a whole five minutes. Models walked in pure silk garb (made in the factory) with such precision and seriousness, we were surprised they didn’t crack a smile. We then took a short bus ride to the Hanshan Temple, also in Suzhou. We were excited to take part in the common activity of throwing coins into a sculpture for good luck like one might throw pennies into a fountain. Fun fact: Mr. Freedholm had 100% accuracy: he was 1 for 1.

 Weary of our travels, we made our way back to our bus for the trip back to Shanghai. We rested for an hour before heading to an eventful dinner.

 It was a normal meal until the music started. Four Chinese dancers came on stage to present a cultural performance. They were followed by a surprising entrance: a young man dressed like a belly dancer thrusting his hips around the stage, jingling his belt full of bells. Laughter was heard around the room, and the most common question was, “Is that a man or a woman?”

 The show ended, and the dinner proceeded normally. We made our back the hotel, still laughing about the male entertainer that was definitely an unintentional highlight of the trip. We are resting up tonight for an exciting last day in Shanghai tomorrow.

             This prose piece was written and performed by Lizzie and Deanna

June 24, 2012
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Getting to Know Shanghai

Today was our first full day in Shanghai after a long day of travel.  We woke up at the leisurely time of 8:30 treated to a delightfully American breakfast. At 9:30 we left our luxurious hotel to head to the Pearl Tower. The name the Pearl Tower alludes to the fact that shanghai is the pearl of the east. The 468 meter tall tower was beautiful. The view from the tower was gorgeous and the glass floor allowed us to view Shanghai from a different perspective. While some of us decided to do handstands and cartwheels others made human pyramids and sat on the glass floor. On the lower floors there was a museum about Shanghai’s culture.

Afterwards we went to the Shanghai Museum.  The Shanghai Museum had beautiful artwork and cultural relics from all around China.  The calligraphy and bamboo brush paintings were particularly breath taking. We then went to the Bund and walked around neat the river.  It was packed with both tourists and natives alike.  Afterwards we walked around Nanjing Street for around an hour, shopping and haggling to our heart’s delight.

 Both lunch and dinner were very touristy today- we had French fries and breaded chicken during both meals.  However, they were still quite delicious.

We learned a lot about the history of Judaism in Shanghai from our tour guide Berlin today.  He told us how Shanghai was one of the few places in China that acted as a refuge for Jews.  There are many synagogues in Shanghai, and Jewish businessmen are quite successful here.  Berlin is turning out to be quite the interesting tour guide.

XOXO,

Nate and Zach

June 23, 2012
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Desert Adventures

Nothing like early-morning wake-up calls in Chinese to send us on our way to the desert. After a rocky bus ride (to say the least) we found ourselves at the first stop of our journey on the Silk Road. This stop was the Yangguan Pass. We found ourselves appreciating things like the beautiful landscapes of the desert and the lack of bugs biting our legs. In addition, shout-out to the Boss family; Susanne embraced her love for horses and rode a beautiful brown beauty like a professional in the desert. The second stop was the Yumen Pass, which is Dunhuang’s Great Wall, dating back to the Han dynasty thousands of years ago. Who would have thought that straw and rocks could protect from Mongolian attackers for so many years? By the end of our excursion the Heat came out triumphant twice, leaving many students hot and tired and capturing the NBA championship. We arrived back at the hotel, played a rousing game of poker chuck full of laughter, and watched yet another beautiful Chinese sunset over the desert. Tomorrow we will head to Shanghai to paint the city blue and white. From China with love, stay classy America, stay classy. Lots of love, Eddie & Neil