China | Journal 2017

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Sunday, November 19 – Day 11

It’s just after 9:00 and everyone is in their rooms on a very chilly Sunday night in Nanjing. Students started trickling in from their weekends away at around 1:30pm. Chaperones arrived back on campus to find some students already back, having been let into the dorm rooms as prearranged with Lao Gao, the man who is the custodian for our building.

Weekends sounded fun and interesting. Lots of differences in how families lived their lives and lots of different things that people did – went to arcades, went shopping, ate at the family’s restaurant, hung out with other partners, went to a martial arts class (kickboxing) – all kinds of things. Students went to homes that were near and far – some took a couple of hours to get to and some took a few different types of transportation – buses, trains, taxis, family vehicles, and walking – which seems to be one of the themes of our visit – lots of walking!

After coming back to the dorm, we met in the teachers’ cafeteria with some NJEIS students and the cafeteria staff who helped their American guests “bao jiaozi” (wrap dumplings) which would then be prepared for our dinner. After a short break, we all met for dinner in the teachers’ cafeteria for our last dinner in Nanjing. The cafeteria staff outdid themselves tonight – garlic shrimp, tree ear mushrooms with egg, roast duck rolls, beef ribs, sweet and sour pork, jiaozi (dumplings), green vegetable (bo cai), chicken and cashews…I think that’s all…oh, and watermelon. After dinner, Mr. Tian, the principal, gave each of our students a pen from NJEIS and gave other gifts to the chaperones, which, of course, included Chinese tea.

It was COLD tonight, so some students stayed mostly around the dorm, but a couple were out playing basketball, or just walking around the track or campus. Everyone was back in the dorm by 8:30 and people were finalizing their packing – and trying to incorporate all the things that their host families gave them.

We’re up for breakfast at 6:50 tomorrow for a 7:30 departure on our LONG trip home.

See you all in Jacksonville!


Friday, November 17 – Day 9

This morning we had breakfast at the regular time and left campus by 8:10am. We were headed for the Nanjing Memorial. The memorial is a sobering experience for everyone who visits and the event that it commemorates is quite graphically depicted.

This time, the main hall was under renovation, so we visited another section of the memorial. It was well done and again the depictions were quite graphic. I think everyone left with a very visceral reaction to the atrocities that were committed at that time in Nanjing. The memorial begins with retelling the horrors enacted on the Chinese people during the Japanese invasion and it appears quite harsh and graphic. One may get the impression upon entering that it’s a memorial devoted to feeding the anger and hatred against the Japanese. However, as you progress through the exhibit, the tone changes. One quote from one victim is something like “What we remember is history, not hatred.” Toward the end you find depictions of the efforts to rebuild relationships with Japan in spite of the past horror. At the end of the halls that we walked through there are statements that speak to remembering the past without hatred, and committing ourselves to building peace.

When you exit you are met by a giant peace statue that’s quite striking.

After the Memorial, we were planning to visit the brocade museum which we found to be under renovation. We stopped into a shop attached to the brocade museum where we found samples of brocade way out of our price range and decided to head back to school.

The students didn’t seem too disappointed that we were coming back to school early – they are always eager to find time to see their Chinese friends.

After lunch we had a brief meeting for all the students – American and Chinese partners. Their teachers reminded them about being careful and paying attention to the safety of their American partners. We reminded our students to be attentive to their own safety. Of course, the goal is to have a great weekend…and we expect they will!

We headed back to the dorm to get packed to basically leave the country. There will be little time on Sunday night and we are leaving on Monday morning early. We ran out to the gym for a brief class to learn how to use the Chinese yoyo. Suprisingly, with such little time, the students did quite well.

Right now we are just waiting for our next activity.

We will bid farewell to our students when they head to a class with the International Class and their American teacher Martin, who’s from Wisconsin. From that class the students will be dismissed and sent home with their partners. I think all the students are really excited (and perhaps a little nervous) about the weekend.

The Chinese faculty will be taking we chaperones to a scenic spot for the weekend so that the dorm staff can take a break!

Stay tuned for our final installment on  Sunday.


Thursday, November 16 – Day 8

Today was an incredibly LONG day. We got up at around 4:30 to be on the bus and out the gate at 5:30am – headed for Hangzhou – a 5-hour bus trip from Nanjing. When we arrived in Hangzhou, we stopped for an early lunch in a local restaurant where they served a couple of local dishes.

Hangzhou is located in Zhejiang province (a province next to Jiangsu where Shanghai and Nanjing are located), and is known as one of China’s most beautiful cities. We took a boat ride on one of Hangzhou’s most popular sites today, West Lake, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sadly the weather was not very cooperative and it rained for most of our visit, but it is clear that the gardens are really very beautiful, even on a rainy day. West Lake is the scene depicted on the back of the 1 Yuan note. On our way to West Lake, we walked through some gardens and passed by two redwood trees that were given to Zhou Enlai by President Nixon in 1972, who is quoted as saying “Beijing is the Capital of China, but Hangzhou is the heart.” President Clinton and President Obama have also spent time in Hangzhou.

After visiting West Lake we visited a historic street full of shops and food vendors where we spent about an hour shopping and trying Chinese snacks. I also came across a pharmacy for traditional Chinese medicine (photo attached). Once shopping was done, we boarded the bus and headed for home. It was a LONG trip, with a stop at a rest stop on the highway where we had dinner. The food was quite different from our rest stops (it seemed healthier, 4 small dishes + rice + soup), but our hosts continue to order way too much food for us…and our kids do snack quite a bit between meals.

Back on the bus and home finally around 10:00pm or so. No arguments from anyone about going to bed tonight!

We’ll be out tomorrow morning visiting the Nanjing Memorial which commemorates the massacre of 300,000 people with in a 6-week period in 1937 (there is some discrepancy regarding numbers of victims – 300,000 is the Chinese count). The memorial is very well done, but, of course its difficult to go through and see what happened during that time. It’s important, though, that we realize that there are many such events around that world about which we are not aware because of where we live.

We’ll also visit the Brocade museum which displays lots of beautiful brocade and has a demonstration of how the brocade is made.

In the afternoon we’ll be on campus and students will have classes/activities with their partners before going home with them at around 4:00pm. Chaperones will be off campus tomorrow and for the weekend, so access to email will be spotty – the next missive may not be until Sunday night or Monday.

I can’t quite believe our time is coming to an end so quickly!


Wednesday, November 15 – Day 7

Today we were up early and on the road by 8:10 again, this time headed for Yangzhou.

Yangzhou, dating back to the Spring and Autumn period (771 to 476 BC), was one of the wealthiest cities in Chinese history known for merchants, poets, artists, and scholars. In modern times tourism has played an important role in the city. There are many ancient buildings and sites of historical interest, including the remains of the walled city from Tang and Song times. The local government has made great efforts to preserve the historic city and has also restored many historic gardens.

Today we visited Slender West Lake (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slender_West_Lake) and Ge Garden (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geyuan_Garden)  which are both very beautiful, filled with pavilions and gardens. Our guide, Kevin, has taken our group through Yangzhou for the last 4 years and he is very knowledgeable about Yangzhou history and throws in some interesting philosophical tidbits as well as some Chinese poetry. At the end of the tour we had a little time to walk around the old street of Yangzhou which is filled with vendors selling tea, trinkets, beautiful carved wood, candy, and much more.

Today we had an incredible lunch with wonderful dishes hand selected by Kevin. The local plum juice was a hit – which was a bit of a surprise. I heard someone say that they thought that this was the best meal we have had yet. Kudos to Kevin and his ability to choose food for foreign teenagers!

We arrived back at the dorm and had dinner. We spent the evening trying to get some semblance of organization around our luggage – the next few days are going to be a little hectic, so we need to be thinking about how to pack for the weekend and ultimately for our trip home. We also needed to deal with the clothes that were washed for us – we had to hang them up in our rooms tonight and the building custodian will help us put them outside to dry tomorrow.

Up at 4:30 in the morning for a 5:30am departure. Wish us luck!


Tuesday, November 14 – Day 6

Again breakfast at 7:20, but this morning we were on the bus by 8:10, headed for the Sun Yatsen Mausoleum and the Ming Tomb, and the Nanjing Museum.

Sun Yatsen, for the uninitiated, was the leader of the republican party that overthrew the last dynasty in China (the Qin dynasty). If you’ve seen the movie “The Last Emperor” you’ll have some context. Although the party of Dr. Sun ultimately ended up establishing the Republic of China on Taiwan after the Communist Revolution in 1949, in China, Sun Yatsen is revered as the forerunner of the democratic revolution. Most cities in China will have a road or boulevard named after him (in Mandarin his name is Sun Zhongshan).

The Mausoleum is an impressive structure set in a beautiful park area. There are 389 (don’t quote me) steps up to the top where you find a seated statue of Sun Yatsen and his remains are buried there. Most of us made the trek all the way to the top. Aside from visiting Sun Yatsen, a trip to the top affords a pretty impressive view.

We descended the mausoleum steps and got on a little trolley-like vehicle which then took us to the Ming Tomb. A brief walk through a wooded area on a boardwalk opened up and delivered us at the base of the Tomb. This tomb was built by the Hongwu Emperor (the last Ming emperor) in the 1300s.

We spent a little time there and then headed back to the the trolley-cars to head back to our bus.

For lunch we stopped at one of the older and more famous Chinese dumpling shops. It looked like a fast food place, but served dumplings and soup and other dishes. Mr. Zhang ordered tang bao (soup buns), zhen jian (fried dumplings), won ton soup, and a standard soup for us. Again it was too much food and students may have found this lunch a little challenging. We picked up the leftovers to give to the kitchen staff at school and got back on the bus.

After lunch we arrived at the Nanjing Museum where we spent about an hour and a half. It’s quite a large complex with more than 400,000 items. There are displays of porcelain, jade, bronze, folk art, lacquerware, paintings, and more. There’s even a recreation of a street from the 1920s-30s that includes a traditional teahouse where Chinese Opera is performed (that’s my favorite part!)

It was a nice relaxed time in the museum and then we headed back to school. Students are now VERY eager to get back to school to see their friends on campus. Glynn (my significant other for those who don’t know) stayed with the students last night for dinner and part of the evening, as Mr. Tian (head of the school) invited us all out for dinner. While we know that the kids are safe here, we don’t feel comfortable leaving them on campus without one of us around, so Glynn offered to be the “adult on deck.”

When we got back around 8:00 the dorm was humming with students here and running in and out seeing friends. By 9:00 things had closed down and everyone was settled and quiet. Two of the assistant principals and Mr. Tian were staying on our floor last night. One of the assistant principals told me that our kids were so well-behaved and quiet – kudos to them! They are being really great travelers and guests.

Tomorrow we go to Yangzhou – this is always a great day with a fantastic guide.


Monday, November 13 – Day 5

Up for breakfast at 7:20 and then a break until we went the welcome event.

Our students were paired with their partners and entered the small auditorium on the campus. First a student MC opened the event by giving brief speech and inviting a student speaker from NJEIS to come and give the formal welcome speech. The school now has an American teacher on campus for their international program so helped with interpreting speeches for the NJEIS speakers.

Darielis was then invited to step forward to speak on behalf of our delegation. Thankfully we had spent some time together so I was able to interpret for her (based on her well-chosen words). Mr. Tian, the director then stepped forward to officially welcome us to NJEIS. He talked of our growing history together which originated back in 2011 when our former director Fran Vandiver went to NJEIS for the first time. Since then, Dr. Hayes has visited and we have had 4 student delegations visit NJEIS. We are looking forward to a very long history between our two schools. NJEIS is eager to send a group to us in August of next year.

After the speeches there were a couple of student performances – one a traditional song called Mo li hua (which means Jasmine) and then a couple of modern dance numbers, obviously put together by students and without the polish of the performing arts program that we have (and perhaps without oversight from a knowledgeable English speaker about the lyrics), but the performances were still greatly appreciated.

After the welcome event, the NJEIS students went back to class and our students headed to a class taught by an old friend, Yuan Laoshi (Ms. Yuan). She has taught our students every time they have visited. Our class today was all about Chinese tea culture (not tea ceremonies, tea ceremonies are Japanese). Yuan Laoshi talked about the different tools used for tea, how green tea and black tea (red tea in Chinese) are brewed in different kinds of pots, how making tea is a process for which Chinese people like to take time. She talked about how you have to pour the first pot of water to “wake up” the leaves and how that pot of tea is not drunk, but poured out in preparation for the first pot. Water for the different teas is boiled at different temperatures – for green tea 90C and black tea 100C.

After our tea class with Yuan Laoshi, we had lunch – again a great meal. I don’t think we have eaten the same food twice yet! After lunch we had a good amount of time to take a break. Students were able to go out on campus and do things with some of the Chinese students like play badminton, or just hang out and chat.

The second class of the day was paper cutting which (I learned today) originated with the Miao minority from Yunnan province. Designs cut into paper were used as the basis for the intricate needlepoint designs of the Miao minority. Everyone did pretty well – it’s no mean feat to try to learn a traditional Chinese art form while not understanding the language! We spent about 2 hours cutting a couple of different designs, the last one being the double happiness symbol which is usually used at weddings.

Paper cutting class was done around 4 and then the students were free to do whatever they liked between 4 and 5:15 (dinner time). They managed to connect with students during their break time and play basketball, kick around a soccer ball, or march around the track with the high school classes for what looks like a regular class “parade” with flags and music, and marching and the whole deal. I came out of the dorm and saw a bunch of Americans mixed in with the Chinese students marching in the international class. They had a great time, though I doubt that they would recommend that P.K. start doing a similar marching practice!

Dinner was at around 5:30 after having met our students in the dorm hallway all talking at the same time about their afternoon and all the encounters they’ve had with Chinese students. It’s so fun to hear them so excited about connecting with kids on this campus…and it’s just Monday.

Dinner was a raucous event with all the elementary schoolers in the cafeteria for the first meal shift all waving and saying hello to us as they left to go back to class. Some of the braver little ones would run up and give our students high fives. They are super cute! Then came the upper school students who were all as interested but perhaps a little too shy or too cool to say hello. Dinner ended with a handful of Chinese students sitting and chatting with our kids at their dinner tables.

When dinner was over, students had free time until about 8:30 where they could be in the dorm or out on the campus. Some couldn’t quite believe that amount of freedom, but the external gate is locked and they can’t leave, so they are quite free to roam campus and connect with as many of the students here as they can.

Students are now dribbling in somewhat reluctantly at the end of a great day.

We are off sightseeing tomorrow. I expect some of our students would now prefer to be on campus to see their new-found buddies.


Sunday, November 12 – Day 4

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Our breakfast schedule was the same today and we were, as always, fed really well.

After breakfast we had a little time to chill in the dorm before we headed out for the day. At 9am we met six of the international class students at the front gate to board one of the school buses. The international class students are mostly 9th graders who have entered a class that will have them taught completely in English by 11th grade. We also had a mascot today in the shape of the 5-year-old daughter of one of the teachers.

We all went to an activity center where the students had a pottery class. It was a fun, hands-on activity to try to help them get to know each other. There’s always a little awkwardness when students first meet and try to interact. The Chinese students are often a little shy about their English, so there’s a little bit of negotiating about who speaks first and what to talk about. The teacher showed the students how to make a small clay pot using a small manual wheel – he came by and helped “tidy up” some of the pots that students made. Students were able to get the pots fired and glazed and take them home for 10 yuan – which is about $1.50. They’ll deliver them to the school before we come home.

The students chatted a little bit with each other in the hallway before we got on the bus to travel to our next stop. It seems like teenagers and sharing music is another way to connect. Craig and one of the boys were hanging out in the hallway listening to some music for which the old folks on the trip can’t quite understand the attraction (!)

Next stop was an urban agricultural project set up by a local university. Our bus driver took us down some tiny dirt roads (amazing!) and we arrived at a small area with squash, rice, and other produce. We got out of the bus and came upon some piles of rice that hadn’t yet been processed and was still in its husks. A little walk further had us at a small building where we were given some bags to go and check out the just out of season cotton. We had a chance to pick some – interesting given our own history around cotton. Most of us had never seen it growing before and were able to identify even more with the history surrounding cotton plantations in the US and what back and finger-breaking work that must have been. It was also striking to see the juxtaposition of agriculture and high-rise.

We left the agricultural area and headed back to school for lunch. The international class students ate with us. After lunch they took our students for a tour of the school or played basketball – always a great connector when we are here. Other students were starting trickle in from the weekend, so there’s lots of interest in us and many greetings as we walk around campus.

After lunch we had a short break and then got on the bus again to go to the Nanjing Eye and Olympic Park – an incredible bridge and park. The nearby Performing Arts and Convention Center is also incredibly impressive. These are definitely the flip side of traditional Chinese culture that speak to the very modern China that we may not be expecting. We spent quite a bit of time there – students rented some pedal-propelled vehicles and took off touring. The bridge was built in commemoration of the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics. It’s been really nice to visit local places and tour around Nanjing with the students. We walked over the bridge and visited the other side of the park and waited for the lights to come on. They were incredible (my attached pics don’t do it justice).

After the lights came on, we headed home for a great dinner. We went back to the dorm and got cleaned up and then met in groups to process some of our trip so far.

We discussed high points and challenges as well as what we found surprising or unexpected about China. Challenges included traffic, missing family and friends, public restrooms (!), having to try so many different foods (LOVE that the challenge was “to try them” – so much better than not being willing to from the get go), smoking and spitting, not having drinking water like we do at home, getting caught in conversations because people expect you to be a local, negotiating around some food limitations and watching people eat the head of a shrimp.

High points included the visit to Yu Garden in Shanghai, how the community cares a lot about keeping things clean and tidy (a never-ending battle), hospitality of our hosts, the calligraphy demonstration, lights on buildings and beautiful parks and public spaces, attention to us as foreigners, shopping, creative architecture, the Chinese passion for their own culture, bargaining, the atmosphere of the cities, how the Uighur dancers invited everyone to join in.

No doubt there are extensive lists of challenges and highlights – it was just so great to hear some of the reflections and to know what the group is noticing and reflecting on.

After we met, everyone got situated and went to bed by about 9. Tomorrow is the day we have our official welcome from the school and our students meet their partners. It will be an interesting day!


Saturday, November 11 – Day 2

Hi Again!

Super great day today! We got up early and were at breakfast by 7:20am. Breakfast was dumplings, pork buns, cherry tomatoes, yoghurt, bread, and tea.

One of the school buses took us to Xuanwu Lake – a popular park for local Nanjing folk to spend a lovely Saturday. The weather was perfect – sunny and cool – and we started a walk around the lake. On the way we stopped to admire a particular garden and take some photos. Ms. Li who is the director of the International Class (a group of 10th graders whose classes are taught in English) joined us for the day along with Mr. Zhang.

Behind the garden, a group of students found some Uighur (pronounced ‘wee-ger’) people (minority from Xinjiang province in western China) doing traditional dance and inviting people from the crowd to join them. Being anything but shy, our students joined in dancing with the Uighur group dancing and having a great time. We moved on and walked to another part of the lake and took some photos along the way and bought a bunch of things at some of the stalls in the park.

After a good time in the park, we took the subway to Confucius Temple. I think the subway trip was a success, perhaps a little stressful for the first time for some, but a good experience to have before going home with Chinese partners on Friday. There are lots of people and it’s important to be aware and stay close to your people when you’re getting on and off public transportation.

At Confucius Temple we had a dim sum lunch in an interesting restaurant – there was a man doing Chinese painting and calligraphy while we had lunch. We had dumplings, and soup buns, noodle soup (which was great) with congealed blood (which is a little disconcerting even for veteran China travelers), stinky tofu (yes, that’s it’s real name and it deserves it), and a bunch of other snacks. After lunch the students were “set free” at Confucius temple to shop and look around. There were MANY photo opportunities – meaning that lots of Chinese people came up and asked the students to take photos with them.

We all met again at 3:30 and Mr. Zhang took us to a nearby art and calligraphy school to see one of the professors do calligraphy. We were squished into his office (all 23 of us) and watched while he did calligraphy and talked a little about it as an art form. He asked us to suggest characters for him to write and I asked him what his favorite character was, he replied “Fate (destiny). Just like it was our fate to meet today.”

Once we left the calligraphy demonstration students had more free time to walk around Confucius Temple. We had dinner at about 6:00 and then walked to the subway for our 50min ride home.

It’s now 9:15pm and I think everyone is in bed and close to being asleep. This was a super full and wonderful day!


Friday, November 10 – Day 1

Hi Everyone,

Another long and full day in China has ended and we are finally all settled in the dorm at the Nanjing Experimental International School.

The day started out in a hotel in Shanghai with quite an amazing buffet breakfast – all kinds of food – fried rice with egg, noodles, cabbage, green beans, ham, buns, cereal, fruit, noodle soup, and coffee, milk, juice, and tea.

We were all down eating breakfast by 7:30 with bags packed and ready for the day. A few items almost forgotten…but thank goodness when you check out of a hotel in China they check your room before you leave.

We boarded the bus and headed for the Yu Garden – which is located next to a popular tourist spot in Shanghai. Yuyuan (Yu Garden in Chinese) was built in the 1500s during the Ming Dynasty by Pan Yunduan who is supposed to have built the garden to comfort his father after he failed one of the imperial exams. The garden is quite large and contains a number of buildings in which the original family lived and entertained guests. The central piece of the garden is Jade Rock which is a large porous boulder said to be the highest quality of its kind in China.  Sections of the garden are separated by dragon walls – with carved dragon heads. We were told today that the dragon as a design element was only supposed to be used by the emperor – figures on these walls look like dragons, but apparently, they only have three toes (a dragon has five – who knew?) and so the original designer was able to use the venerated symbol without coming into conflict with officials.

After spending some time in the garden we went into the tourist area that surrounds Shanghai and everyone was able to start looking at things to buy and some even buying a few things. Many had their first experiences at bargaining for items. The rule of thumb is to offer 50% of the price that was originally offered. It’s pretty fun, and everyone seems to be starting to get the hang of it, or at least aren’t perhaps as disconcerted by it as they were.

After Yuyuan we went to lunch at the same restaurant where we had dinner last night. Our hosts said that they would order a little less food this time, but we couldn’t really tell the difference. Dishes kept coming – this time rice (of course), soup, pumpkin, dumplings, two kinds of green vegetable, cauliflower with “tree ear” mushrooms, beef, noodles, duck (with the head on!), shredded potatoes, and orange slices to end the meal – and of course, tea! There were many more people in the restaurant today and some very friendly and curious people came and complimented our students on trying Chinese food and using chopsticks!

After lunch we had a quick visit to the Shanghai Museum – a little too quick to do it justice. When we arrived it was quiet, but by the time we left there were lots of people and a couple of student groups. The collections are beautiful – jade, calligraphy, painting, Ming and Qing dynasty furniture, minority clothing and tons more. Some of us had a little time to buy a few things in the museum store and then we hit the road for the long haul to Nanjing.

Traffic in Shanghai is crazy – the population is just over 24 million and there are TONS of cars. We had quite a time getting out of Shanghai, but everyone was still tired from travel and the busy day, so everyone (I think) slept quite a bit on the way back to Nanjing.

When we arrived at the school (after 8:30) we had a warm welcome from Mr. Tian, the school director, and Ms. Zhu (who have both visited P.K. before) and from Mr. Guan who oversees the housing on campus and takes great care of us every time we’re here. We went over to the dining hall where the food services staff had prepared an incredible meal for us – beef, rice, bamboo with ginger, green beans, soup, chicken wings and watermelon…and tea! I didn’t anyone would be hungry, but we made quite a dent in the food that was prepared.

After dinner, we headed for the dorm where rooming allocations that we had tried to be so organized about were altered – apparently now 3 students to a room rather than 2 – the best laid plans…in any event, we don’t spend too much time in the dorm. Also in the hallway of the dorm were new photos of past P.K. Yonge groups – such a lovely touch to help our students feel connected to the school here and to P.K. while they’re here. There are photos from past visitors to NJEIS as well as photos of the last NJEIS group to visit P.K. Yonge.

We have wireless in the dorm, but there’s a new system which appears to have a few quirks. I think most people were able to get online and check in with home. We’ll try to troubleshoot any issues in the morning. As it’s the weekend and all the students and many faculty have gone, there are limits on the hot water for showering. There was a bit of a rush to get showered before 11:15 for those of us who didn’t want to try to get up at 6 to do so tomorrow.

Breakfast call is 7:20 tomorrow. We have another full day ahead!


Thursday, November 9 – Arrival Day

Hi Everyone!

Finally, we are settled into our hotel in Shanghai and it feels like midnight when it’s only 8:45pm. All the halls in the hotel are quiet and everyone is settled down for the night. It’s been a VERY LONG day! Most of us were up and on our way to Jacksonville Airport at around 2am, Florida time. We all got checked in and boarded our flight to Chicago. It was a commuter flight, so a little bit cramped, but we all made it and were in plenty of time for our next flight.

The flight to Shanghai was about 13 hours (shorter than the presumed 16). The flight attendants on our flight all commented on how polite and wonderful our P.K. travelers were. We all survived the flight – it was actually not very full which is a welcome change from when we have traveled in past years in the Spring.

We arrived at Shanghai Pudong International Airport a little early (at about 2am Florida time the next day – plus a time change), went through customs and immigration and were met by Mr. Zhang (an assistant principal at our partner school) and Mr. Li (a tour organizer). It was a lovely day actually, nice and warm – around 70F. The expert drive from the airport by Mr Xie, the bus driver, slowly introduced us to Shanghai traffic and the sheer size of the city – particularly when you see the masses of apartment buildings.

When we reached Shanghai city we spent a little bit of time on The Bund (Wai Tan, in Chinese) and strolled around and took some photos. Wai Tan is where you can see the comparison of old and new Shanghai. On the Wai Tan side of the Huangpu River you see the old European style architecture of early 20th century Shanghai. Across the river on the Pudong side you see super modern buildings including the Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. After a little time there we walked to Nanjing Road which is probably kind of like Times Square in New York. Lots of people, lots of stores, lots of people trying to sell you stuff on the street.

By this time everyone was starting to fade. Walked a short distance to a restaurant and had an enormous dinner that we couldn’t do justice – whole fish (with it’s head on – freaked some people out), pork meatballs, green vegetables, noodles, cabbage, rice, duck, steamed buns with red bean paste and a slice of orange to finish it all off. We can NEVER eat all the food provided for us. Oh, and did I mention that we drank tea – probably the first of many, many cups of Chinese tea.

After dinner – when many of us had the stare of exhausted travelers, we boarded the bus for our hotel.

At the hotel, we all got settled, managed to connect to wifi (so I hope everyone contacted their parents) and now we are tucked in for the night.

7am wake up call tomorrow, 7:30 breakfast, and off to explore Shanghai at 8:00am. Stay tuned!