May 18, 2018
It’s finally here, the day we dreaded the most…
We began our final full day in China with a visit to the famous Yu Garden. When we arrived, I could not believe how large the area was. The garden itself was enclosed within multiple streets and many market vendors. The Yu Garden was built during the Ming Dynasty by Pan Yunduan. It is incredible that this huge garden was created just for one family.
We walked through the giant archway into the garden and Dr. Li stopped us and said that it was time for a group picture. But this was not like any other group picture we took at the other sites. The previous day, Dr. Li had bought us all matching hats. The only catch was that they were Communist hats and we had to wear them. It was embarrassing to wear in front of the other visitors in the garden; we looked ridiculous! After the picture, we moved deeper into the garden and were instantly surrounded by greenery. There were so many trees, flowers, bushes, etc. that looked as healthy as could be, regardless of the hot weather. We learned that there are four features needed in order to have a successful garden: water, rockery, zigzag bridges, and pagoda. This garden had them all. There were ponds with bright white and orange koi fish to give the garden a splash of color. The rocks were made of limestone, which is very rare. Zigzag bridges led us all across the garden and a pagoda stood tall in the center, creating a sense of peace and balance. It must’ve taken a lot to maintain such a beautiful place, especially the architecture. This was one of my favorite site visits.
After the garden, we decided to walk the surrounding streets and go into all of the little shops. It was similar to the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an, yet a lot less congested. Plus, the streets were a lot nicer, which was a plus. After browsing, a couple of guys and I went to the Pearl Market, which was another area with shops to barter with vendors. The cool thing about this place was that all of the little shops were inside and it had a “mall-like” layout. With some successful bartering, I was able to get a good deal on a cool t-shirt and a gift for a friend.
We headed back to the hotel to change just in time for our group presentations. Each group’s assignment was to come up with a new business idea and present it to everyone else. My group’s idea was basically an allergy scanner which would scan your food and could tell you what components make up the meal. Everyone’s presentations went exceptionally well! Following the business ideas was the “farewell” dinner at a western Asian restaurant. It was getting a little emotional when people were making short speeches on their favorite parts of the trip. We ended the night going out one last time as a group led by YangYang, another one of the Asia Institute guides. We explored the popular streets of Shanghai as a last hurrah.
This adventure went by so quick and it seems like just yesterday that I was boarding that plane at the Pittsburgh airport to leave for China. The experiences I have had abroad are ones that I will truly never forget. I made so many great relationships with the people on this trip and it was great to get to know them as well as learning about China’s history. We started out as 24 individuals, but over the course of these two weeks we became closer, and China has taught us how to be a true family.