Wait. IT’S OUR LAST DAY IN CHINA! Time has flown by and I can’t believe this trip is already coming to an end. Even though it’s our last day, we still went out and explored Shanghai. The Asia Institute took us to the Yu Garden in Shanghai. The garden was built in 1577 and Yu means “to make your parents happy”. I don’t remember who built it, but the idea behind it was to build a garden where this person’s parents could live happily. I was surprised to learn that designing Chinese gardens is very intricate. The gardens are supposed to feel very large, but actually be very small. According to our tour guide, it only takes ten minutes to walk directly through the Yu Garden. However, if you explore its corridors and different areas, it will take 45 minutes. It is a maze of connecting corridors, buildings, and gardens. The first building in a Chinese garden is the most important; it is where all special events are held. Also, the entrance of the garden is blocked by a giant rock. The premise behind this is that the rock will block evil forces from entering the garden, ensuring its residents a happy life. The Yu Garden has many different flowers with each blooming in a different season. The magnolia flower is the flower of Shanghai and is prominent throughout the garden. My favorite part of the garden was the three-legged toad. The three-legged toad can eat gold and silver without giving anything back. Our tour guide described it as “wealthy and healthy”. Seems like a good motto if you ask me.
After the Yu Garden, we went to the neighboring shopping district. While there, I bought tea we had at dinner throughout the trip like green tea and chrysanthemum tea. We continued to walk around for a bit with Nancy and she pointed us in the direction of good bubble tea. I had never had bubble tea before this, but figured China is the place to try it. Needless to say, it was very good. We somehow ended up in a shop selling kimonos and traditional silk Chinese shirts. I almost bought one that was blue and gold, but realized I would never wear it.
After the Yu Garden, we headed back to the hotel for unstructured time. Almost everyone spent this time packing and then practicing for our final presentations. Our group had a very good presentation, I think. Our business idea was centered on an avatar that allowed the user to try clothes on virtually. The avatar would use the users body measurements to create a scaled down version of yourself that would then be used to see the precise fit for pieces of clothing.
Our last group endeavor was the farewell dinner. The food was very good, like always. My favorite was either the shrimp (this time without its head and legs) and the lamb skewers. I came to china expecting to eat a lot of pork and duck, but surprisingly ate a lot of lamb as well. The last test of the trip was the peanut test. Everyone had to pick up a peanut using chopsticks. The restaurant didn’t have peanuts, so it turned into the raisin test. Everyone at my table passed. Before I came to China, I had no clue how to use chopsticks, but I’m leaving pretty confident in my abilities. Noodles still get the best of me every time, but I did pretty well for learning in two weeks.
At 8:30 it was finally time to leave for the airport. Our last bus ride was filled with singing. We even bought out the flashlights for a Chinese goodbye song. Even when we arrived at the airport it didn’t feel like we were leaving, rather that we were just going to a different city. Luckily, on the first flight from Shanghai to San Francisco I was able to sleep for eight of the eleven hours. Now it is 6:00 am and I am wide awake on my flight back to Philadelphia which seems like a great time to write this blog. In just a few hours I will be home, but it still feels so far away. I had a great experience in China and am so glad I chose to study abroad there.