Shanghai Museum and Yu Garden

Today was a crazy day. In the early morning, we set out for the shanghai city museum. It was a huge museum that had an insane amount ancient artifacts. Some of the pieces were from 5000 B.C. Although the museum only took up a small portion of our day, it felt like something that we would remember the most. 

After the museum, we headed for yuan garden. This was a very old garden, that used to be a private residence. Besides the fact that it was gigantic, it was hard to wrap our minds around the fact that someone lived there! It reminded all of us of how old the place we were at actually was, and how special it’s meaning was. It brought us back to reality for a little, as we all had to reflect on the importance of where we were.

Finally, our last (and most of ours favorite) adventure of the day was shopping. Shopping was unlike anything we had ever encountered. Shopping in china is an intense process on the streets of china. Each of us split up into groups of three and ventured into different parts of the street market to try and do a little bargaining. However, most of us were very bad at this. Because we have to bargain in Yen, and not in USD, we had little to no idea of what these items were actually worth. After three hours of “great deals”, terrible bargaining tactics, and bù yāo (Meaning I don’t want) we finished off our day with dumplings for dinner! 
Overall, I think this was one of my favorite days. Not because of the fun things we got to do, but because of the way we all connected a little bit more. Not only with each other, but with the realistic side of china. We really got to understand more of china through the museum, garden, and the people on the streets trying to sell you anything they could. This was definitely a day I’ll remember! 

– David Snyder

Luxun Park and Shanghai World Financial Center 

On march 28th, the group did a variety of activities. First thing in the morning we had breakfast and then walked to Hong Kou park. At the park we walked around, observed, and interacted with the locals who were doing their daily routines. This included trying out equipment at the adult exercise playground that the elderly use to work out on in the morning. We also watched people playing badminton and a few of us joined in. We also watched and danced with large groups in the park. 

 After this we went to the SWFC, the tallest building in Shanghai. We spent a decent amount of time there. We learned facts about the tower, looked at models of the city, and finally went up. At the top we took pictures, bought souvenirs and looked at the city below. 

Next, we went to lunch. On our way, we met with a Culver grad at the site of her next salad restaurant opening . We talked about her business model and Culver experience. We split off in groups to get lunch and then met up again to leave. 

We then headed to a city tour on the Huangpu river. We got there a minute late, literally, so we had to wait an hour for the next tour. The tour was cool as we got to see the city from a different location that was much closer to the ground. 

After the river tour we headed back to the school and had dinner and rest time before our last activity of the day which was the acrobatic circus. The acrobats were amazing, in my opinion. They were flexible, brave, and unique. It was different from anything I’d ever seen and I’ve seen many acrobats and circuses in the states.The show wasn’t too long but we’d had a busy day, so as soon as we got back to SFLS I was tired and ready to sleep. 

– Avery Bolden

First Day at SFLS 

March  27, 2017Today we transferred from our home stay families to the school. We woke up at about 6:15 am and had a small breakfast. I had a cup of coffee and part of a pastry we had bought the night before. The mother drove Cody (the son) and I to SFLS. As soon as we arrived we headed to the canteen, or eating area. We had another breakfast of dumplings, tea boiled eggs, more coffee. After a lengthy breakfast we headed to classroom with some Australian kids to learn a few facts about shanghai and it’s culture. We practiced a few Chinese words and characters with the teacher. I also learned my Chinese name, Feng Kafo (pronounced fung kah fwoh). Proceeding the class we went outside and played basketball with some of the students. We then walked to the local bank to change money. We waited forever to change our money because of some regulations, but on the end everything worked out. After going to the bank we had planned to go to the supermarket in the same mall. We took a few escalators down and found it. I ended up buying a bunch of coconut milk which I had tried at the homestay earlier. We spent a little more time at the mall and then headed back to campus. When we got there we attended a student performance in the auditorium. The culver students also performed the culver song for the SFLS students. After our song we web back to the dorms to change into some more formal clothes for the welcome dinner. After a quick intro at the dinner we began to eat in the canteen. We spent some more time with the students and finally headed back to the dorms. 

– Crawford Frutkin

Home Stay in Shanghai

This the first official first day being in China, and my perspective of China and their culture has drastically changed. 
This morning was a tough morning, as we had a 7 am wake-up and were still jetlagged. First off, I had a traditional Chinese morning meal with my Chinese guide, which included milk, large, doughy dumplings stiffed with large, spiced pork balls and vegetables, dragonfruit, Chinese bread, which is much doughier than American bread, and these green balls studded with red bean paste. The best of which was personally the stiffed meat dumplings, as they were moist and fairly, but not heavily, spiced. 
From there, we visited a friend of my guide and met her parents. Together, we all made traditional pork and vegetable dimplings, each of us making 35 dumplings per person. After cooking these scrumptious dumplings, we are them with a choice of vinegar, so sause, or sesame sause. 
The next stop was the Chinese karaoke store, in which they luckily had numerous songs, many of which were recent American hits. After staying at the karaoke place for many hours, we headed to a hot pot restaurant, with varying soup bases, DIY spices, and unique meats and vegetables to dip in the soup. 
Finally, I headed back to the house, and slept at around   8 pm that night, ready for what was in store the next day…

– Chris Shin

Weekend and Last Day in Beijing

On Saturday we did many things, but by far my favorite one was visiting the Great Wall of China. I loved going up the lift to the wall and being able to see the beautiful environment around us. Then when we reached the wall, we were able to explore. Although there were many, many, many steps, the climb throughout the wall was well worth it. In the end we were able to take a group photo of us the team jumping on the wall, which was a goal we had set from the very first China meeting. Finally, at the end we were able ride on a slide down the mountains from the great wall, which although scary and sometimes painful, was incredibly fun.
We visited the Temple of Heaven, rode on rickshaw in pairs, had tea in a house in an old house in downtown Beijing, watched a “Shaoilin Kungfu Show”, ate a dinner of traditional hot pot, reflected as a team, and then packed out bags! We are all very sad to leave China.
~ Paige Murphy

Sunday was an interesting day on the China trip. We first went to Tiananmen Square, where we were approached by an entire family of people who wanted pictures of myself and my brother, because we were not Chinese. This was intriguing, but it was also an excellent demonstration of the lack of diversity in China. Everywhere we went nearly 100% of the locals were Asian; they were not diverse compared to American cities. We then went into the Forbidden City. This is cool because I just learned about how it was originally used in my AP World Class. Seeing what I learned in real life was super interesting, and it was a great learning experience. We also went and saw a traditional Chinese home. It was different from the typical traditional American home, with walls all around the outside and multiple buildings inside with a courtyard. It was interesting to see how they lived before westernization.
The entire trip was a crazy and unbelievable experience. My favorite part was my home stay with my partner, Tom. This allowed me to see how someone my age actually lives in China, not many people get this experience. It gave us the freedom to explore a city in the same way I would explore a city in America, walking around with some of my friends from the area. Everyone here seemed to be super excited we were visiting; they all tried to be open and accommodating to anything we wanted or needed. I found it interesting how many of the people here speak English. Many people know at least enough words to understand basic communication, and it is interesting how much American pop culture is a part of life here.
~ William Kuhl

Our weekend in Beijing was great, we were greeted with blue skies and no pollution with the average air quality index (AQI) below 40 AQI, but in our last day the skies turned very grey and you can see the pollution rolling in. One of the students (Ian) got a stomach problem but He is better now after seeing a doctor. Just for safety we had to send him to a hospital to get a professional care from a doctor before traveling more than 12 hours back to US. Miss Harding is accompanying him in Beijing and will catch a fly back to the US tomorrow (Tuesday).
We started the morning with breakfast in the Hotel restaurant and went to Silk Market to practice our bargaining skills and to get rid the rest of our Yuan from our wallets and pockets. Almost everyone was able to get something from the market to bring back to the States. After that we went and got our last Chinese meal in a fancy Chinese restaurant, but most of us could not wait to go to the airport to fly back to the US and have some American fast food (McDonalds, Pizza, and Subway).
Now that we are back in US and before making our way back into the Culver routine, and before our memories of China fade away, I wanted to thank Miss Jessica Harding for helping out with the GPS trip this year. Thanks to Shanghai Foreign Language School, especially Miss Shiaoli Miao, teachers and students for being the best host for our trip in Shanghai and Hangzhou; Mrs. Lei Zhao who took us to the China Art Museum and treated us with a fancy lunch in Shanghai; Mr. Clark Hu (Wen) who gave us a tour and information about Shanghai Stock Exchange; Culver’s alumnus Jake Kurdziel who came, spent times with us in Shanghai, and shared his experiences living, studying and working in Shanghai.
Thanks especially to all students who participated in 2016 China GPS trip, you all made it easy and fun for Miss Harding and me to lead the trip and you all represented Culver Academies very well in China. I hope you will continue to seek opportunities to travel and continue to learn and improve relations with others. I also hopes this trip will be a memorable one for you. Thanks to parents for making it possible for our students to go to China.
All the best as you finish off the school year!
~ Mr. Tulungen (Papa T)

Watch our Final Reflection of the Trip:

Temple of Heaven – Great Wall – Peking Duck

By: Ashley C. Trube – Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Hey, guys! Ashley here blogging to you from the Heart of China – Beijing. After yesterday’s adventure touring the Hu Xueyan Mansion, a silk museum, and Hangzhou’s West Lake, we arrived at the airport to fly to Beijing around 4 p.m. Unfortunately, we were told that we wouldn’t be able to even check our bags until two hours before our flight (which was at 8:30), so we took the liberty of exploring the airport. Because it was already too late, I decided to eat dinner at a small noodle restaurant in the airport. Fortunately, Laoshi (Ms. Harding) accompanied me to go buy food, because not a single person in the restaurant spoke English. I have very limited Chinese skills thanks to Laoshi (I am in Chinese 1), who even taught me a few important words while I have been in China. Most importantly, she taught me how to bargain. Another change I have faced in China so far has been mastering the art of using chopsticks. It was a miracle that I have received anything to eat this entire trip, but at least that one time I managed not to spill everything and make a fool of myself. After dinner, I boarded the plane and we flew to Beijing. Arriving at around 11:45, all of us were wiped. We headed back to the hotel and I decided to go straight to sleep.

The next morning at 8 a.m., we woke up and started downstairs for our breakfast. When you are at a Holiday Inn in the United States, you don’t really expect much out of the “continental” breakfasts, but this was completely different. All of the foods had English labels at breakfast, but most of what I ate this morning were foods that I will probably never know the name of. We then had a team meeting in the lobby with our new tour guide, Jenny, before getting on the bus. We drove out to Tianten Park to visit the Temple of Heaven. Jenny taught us that the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would use the sacred grounds to offer sacrifices to the gods and to pray for good harvests for the coming year.

From there, we walked out to the bus on the other side of the park, and we drove an hour and a half to a small cafe (Spring Restaurant) that doubled as an indoor garden. There, we ate tomato and eggs, vegetable dishes, and crispy pork. We took a short ten minute bus ride to an area near the Great Wall of China, then exited the bus and walked. We boarded yet another bus that took us to a ski lift up to the top of the Great Wall. After what seemed like a very long trip in the open ski lift (I rode with Laoshi, who is afraid of heights), we arrived to the bottom of the Great Wall of China. After climbing the stairs to the top (about 15 minutes), I could see everything in the surrounding basin. When traveling to China, I expected the Great Wall to be like most other places I have already visited: not as great and grand as I expected it to be. But when I first climbed to the top and looked down from the Wall, I realized that this was entirely different. It completely surpassed my expectations.

When Papa T and I reached the second checkpoint on the Wall, we decided to turn around and head back. Before we went back down, we both bought very overpriced ice cream from a kind Chinese vendor. When we finally found the rest of the group, they also ran to grab ice cream because the day was unusually hot. As a group, we decided to take a toboggan down to the bottom where the buses were waiting. I didn’t have any reservations about this until I actually saw the toboggan run – full of tight turns on a metal track that was stuffed with people. Of course the Kuhl brothers tried their hardest to stall getting on the run (untying and retying their shoes and pretending to be scared) so that they could go full speed without running into anyone. Eventually, we slided down safely to meet our tour guide. I walked through the pedestrian street where vendor sold overpriced souvenirs and bargained for several people to get cheap items. Three hats and fifteen minutes later, we finally made it back to the bus. On the way back to central Beijing, we were able to view the Olympic village, with its swimming area and the Nest. We continued on to Beijing Duck, where we ate the world famous Peking duck.

After our wonderful meal, all of us were ready to go back to the hotel. Some of us wanted to get in the pool, but apparently you needed a swim cap. It has been a very long day today, but my biggest takeaway has been to never assume something will be a certain way, because you are usually proved wrong.

Zaitian!

~Ashley~

n.b. You can see our pictures from the previous blog post.

Lost in a Mansion!

By: Uchechukwu Nnate – Friday March 25, 2016

I knew that today would be an eventful day when I woke up and my phone and camera stopped working. Both of them wouldn’t stop restarting over and over again. This didn’t dampen my mood, however, because the hotel was fantastic (at least in my own opinion) and I knew that it was going to be a good day. We were in Hangzhou, one of the most scenic places in the world, and I was going to enjoy the experience even if I was set on fire. Breakfast was on the 32ndfloor of the hotel, a revolving restaurant with a 360 view of the whole city (West Lake was also visible, a truly wonderful sight). After gorging myself on steamed pork buns and watermelon, I went downstairs, packed my bags, and joined the rest of the group on the bus. Our first stop was at a mansion that was owned by a wealthy man by the name of Hu Xueyan. It was built in 1872 during the Qing dynasty. It was surrounded by high walls, and the entrance was narrow (apparently, this was because Xueyan wanted to keep his wealth low-key). Inside was practically a mini palace—there were several beautiful courtyards and winding paths connected different parts of the building (The Chinese really like winding paths. A lot.). Now, I’m that type of person that likes to explore separately from the group, so having to constantly be in groups of three has been pretty frustrating to me. Because of this, I usually wander a bit and keep the group in sight. I always tell myself, “I’m responsible. I’m smart. As long as I can see them, I’ll be fine.” Today I learned my lesson.

Here we were in the middle of a wonderful mansion. I had stayed with the chaperones in the back for most of the time, so I decided to venture up front to explore. Eventually, I’d wandered a bit away from the group. I could still see them of course, well, at least from the corner of my eye. I then took the opportunity to explore an inviting passage that was just another twist and turn away and then when I returned the group was gone. I didn’t panic. This had happened before in the art museum and they had just been around the corner. Surely, this time wouldn’t be different. I sauntered around the corner. Still no group. I walked a little faster to a different pathway. No group there. Five minutes later I was sprinting to and fro searching for a familiar face. The only familiar thing that I saw was a rock formation that I had passed just a second ago. In fact, I had passed it about five times. I then realized that I was going in circles. It wasn’t for another five minutes that I was able to make my way out of that area in the hopes that the group had gone further on. I swear I ran around that mansion four times. Upon my fifth turnaround, I realized that a Chinese man was tailing me. I slowed down a little to see what he wanted and was relieved when he asked me “How can I help you?” in English. Looking back, I realize that perhaps seeing the only black person in the city (besides Ms. Harding, of course) running around in circles while flapping her arms and muttering obscenities at the sky may have been cause for concern, at the time I was surprised that he noticed my plight and cared enough to help. I told him that I was lost and he left his group of friends to escort me around the palace. After a few minutes of no luck, he took me to the entrance and acted as a translator. He was able to get security to have me call Ms. Harding and stayed with me until she arrived. Even though I was only lost for fifteen minutes, I was very relieved to be reunited with the group. Upon leaving the building, we said our goodbyes and he wished me a wonderful stay in China.

After visiting the Hu Xueyan residence, we went to Hefang Street. It was similar to the other little shopping district that we had visited a couple of days before and it was a lot of fun looking around and seeing what food and items the vendors had to offer. An hour and a half later we had lunch in a restaurant close to the shopping district. Then it was onto the silk museum where they showed us the differences between real and fake silk. They then tried to sell us their 100% silk products. It felt like I was in the middle of a mattress commercial, but I enjoyed the experience. After that we left for the airport where we had to wait two hours before we could check in (We had wanted to avoid the traffic. After all, better safe than sorry). Upon arriving at the airport, some of the not-so-wise purchases were later regretted as they wouldn’t fit in the suitcases and we weren’t sure that they would go through security either (apparently, buying a real sword is a great idea—“It’ll fit,” ~ Kuhl brothers). All is well that ends well, for we were able to get to the terminal in a timely manner, swords were packaged and cleared, and I had McDonalds. We boarded the plane and I was surprised that they gave us movie options in a domestic flight. They had some interesting movie selections, too (I watched a movie where a woman became a man and travelled back in time to become her own lover and she had a baby with herself and then the baby travelled back in time and became the same woman who later turned out to be a terrorist or something. Yeah, pretty weird.) Finally, we arrived in Beijing and eventually made it to our hotel where I treated myself to a hot shower and a good reading session. I reflected on the day before I went to bed. I think that this will be one of the more memorable days for me not because of the sights, but simply because of my lack of navigation skills and the kindness of a stranger. Number one takeaway: I’ll definitely stick with the group from now on.