Day 13: The Last Day (For Some of Us)

Our final full day was packed. We began with breakfast as usual (including dumplings, of course), then loaded up the bus for the Yu Garden.

Today’s weather was probably the worst out of the entire trip. It was hot, which we were used to by this point, but is was also terribly humid. Even just getting on the bus, I worked up a sweat. On the bright side, it wasn’t raining.

The Yu Garden was a pretty great final cultural visit. It isn’t super important historically, but the story behind it is neat. Apparently, a merchant who sold a lot of various goods 500 years ago amassed enough of a fortune over his lifetime to build this huge estate. It was his family’s home, but it was also a display of his wealth. In the Garden is the four traditional parts of a Chinese garden: a koi pond, limestone rocks, pagodas, and zigzag bridges. These are all important symbols, the most interesting of which is the bridges; apparently, according to Chinese folklore, ghosts are dumb, and can only move in straight lines. So if you have a ghost or a spirit following you, and you walk across a zigzag bridge, the ghost will get confused and will no longer be able to follow you.

One other thing that was apparent throughout the whole estate was the pomegranate trees, as well as many other symbols, mostly indicating luck, longevity, and wealth. Among some of the cooler parts of the Garden were the carved stone dragons and the iron statues guarding the main entrance. These dragons, according to dating tests, are now 800 years old; this would have made them already 300 years old when the merchant acquired them.

After working our way through the whole Yu Garden (and seeing a short performance by musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments!), we explored the local marketplace. I knew I wanted to get a Mahjong set, but they seemed to be quite overpriced at this market, so I figured I would search somewhere else later.

I discovered a place that sold fried steamed buns, so I had those as a brief snack before we met to take the bus back to the hotel. It seemed like many of us were missing America, since at least half a dozen people got Dairy Queen. To be fair, it was uncomfortable hot and humid at this point, so it wasn’t a bad call for a snack.

Ryan, David, Chris and I decided we wanted to experience the Pearl Market to see if we could find any more souvenirs or anything, so we took a taxi from the hotel. The Market wasn’t nearly as crowded as we expected (it was actually nearly empty).We wandered around a bit, checking out each shop, and eventually I did get a mahjong set down to a reasonable price. I also found some awesome fake Ray-Bans for my brothers.

Once we got back to the hotel, I rehearsed the presentation with my group once, then went to get ready. It was a fairly long walk to the hotel where we had gotten a conference room to do our group presentations.

I thought all six presentations went well. Each group’s business idea was innovative and any one of them could be made into a successful startup (at least, from my perspective).

Our final group dinner (or farewell banquet) was bittersweet. It seemed to hit everyone that this was our last night together as a group in China. There was a delicious, albeit very different dinner than what we had had the rest of the trip, and some of the dishes had a bit of a Turkish influence. At the end of the dinner each staff member, Dr. Li, Gabi, Young, and Jane all spoke. This is when it hit me that we would be going home tomorrow. Our class project was finished, we had completed all our company visits, gone to all the cultural sites, and now there was only the travel day left.

As a final celebratory event, the whole class (including Gabi, Jane, and Young!) all went out to karaoke. It was a lot of fun, and a great way to end the trip on a good note (pun intended).

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