The worldwide Augustana College experience

Mainland China

So we’ve been in Mainland China since October 7.  We took the train across the border which was cool to see the actual crossing of the border, but it wasn’t as impressive as I had thought it would be.  We knew it was going to be a river and have a barbed wire fence, but it was a lot smaller than I had imagined.  It was a lot like crossing the fence between neighbors except for the fact that it had barbed wire on top.  Our first stop in Mainland China was Guangzhou where we spent the afternoon before flying to Guilin.  Guangzhou is  right near the Pearl River we didn’t really see a lot though.  What we saw was Shamian Island where there is a park and the White Swan Hotel where a lot of people used to stay when they adopt babies from China.  We also saw the Sun Yat Sen memorial in Guangzhou.

Our first fall day in Guilin was spent on a river boat tour down the Li River.  It was really cool because we were able to see Karst formations which are a lot like mountains but they are formed differently.  They are formed by water eroding and causing the unique shapes.  On the river there were a lot of water buffalo, some ducks, a couple of mountain goats, and even some pigs.  The tour ended where there was a market and we were able to shop around for awhile, so we got some fun souvenirs.

The following day Andrew and I went to Elephant Hill which has some caves and you can climb around but one of the caves which was called Moon Water Cave had a floor that the river kind of ran through.  When we were walking around there I had given my camera to Andrew to take a picture of me and I was trying to walk back to him but I was slipping and he went to catch me but in the process he dropped my camera into the water, however, he saved my camera so I at least still have the memory card, but I had to buy a new camera.

One thing that we’ve had to come to terms with over here in China are the eastern style toilets.  It is rare for us to find western toilets in public places.  I thought once we left Japan we’d be done with that, but they are even more abundant here.  What makes it worse is sometimes when you’re in more rural places you’re basically going into a hole in the ground.  In a few places there have not been doors or stall walls.  One time you were going in the dark.  It’s crazy, but you get used to it…I guess.

We traveled from Guilin to Wuhan by a train overnight.  I’ve never been on an overnight train before and it was interesting.  Some students were in cars that are called soft birth cars and in those cars you get a small room for four people to sleep in.  Everyone else was in hard birth cars where there is no privacy and six people per cubby space.

In Wuhan we toured some factories.  One factory was a shoe factory and they let students buy shoes.  The other factor was the Coca-Cola factory and we each got a free coke.  Wuhan is comprised of three cities, it is sort of like the Quad Cities.  Some areas are really nice and some are not so nice.  You can tell it is a developing area.  There, is an industrial area with the factories all clumped together.

We went to a TCM hospital in Wuhan where we were given Chrysanthemum tea during an introduction of the hospital.  It was good tea, but it freaked me out at first because there were flowers and other things floating in the cup.  We saw message therapy and some people were able to experience it.  We also saw some acupuncture rooms.  It’s crazy how different their hospitals are from hospitals in the U.S.  The patients are treated much different, they didn’t get a say in whether or not students were allowed in, the doctors chose.  Also patients aren’t fed by the hospital, their families have to feed them.  Hospitals also aren’t quite as clean as our hospitals are, however, they spread less disease.

We went to a rural area of Kunming and saw some more factories, a tea farm, and a place where flowers and trees were grown specifically for decorating purposes.  There were no blooming flowers because they had all been used for National Day and the flowers that were now growing were already bought for Chinese New Year.  We also went to an elementary school that day.  That was by far the best part of the day and probably one of the best parts of the trip.  The little kids were so excited to see so many foreigners they were screaming and shouting and loving the attention from us.  They were amazed by all the foreigners.  Some of them were a little more shy than others, but that’s not really surprising.  I think we were just as excited to see them as they were to see us.  It was really cute because they would ask us for our signatures.  The last night in Wuhan we went to the Wuhan Municipal Art School and saw some performances from them and some of our students performed too.  The dancers and singers from that school were amazing I was in awe of their talent.  There was also a girl who played the zither who was so good.  It’s incredible to watch people play the zither because their fingers move so fast it seems almost impossible.

For the past couple of days we have been in Kunming.  We’ve had a lot of free time and a lot of that time has gone to exploring TCM pharmacies.  Today we went to the Yunnan Nationalities Museum and Yunnan Nationalities Village.  Both were quite interesting I was focusing a lot on the Yi people because I’m doing a group paper on that group for our sociology class.  We learned as much as we could but I still feel like I really have no idea who they are.  It’s hard to capture a culture in a museum and even when we saw real Yi people in the village it was hard because they don’t speak English.  My favorite part about today though was sitting on the trunk of an elephant at the village.

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