The Shanghai World Expo

The China Pavilion at the World Expo

 Scheduled to begin May 1 and to run through October 31, the Shanghai World Expo has the city of Shanghai bursting with excitement and anticipation.  The Expo is a giant showcase for culture and technology where individual countries have built representative Pavilions to display their most impressive distinctions and innovations. Each pavilion is an architectural wonder (you see the China pavilion above). Even though the expo was not yet open during our time in Shanghai, we were able to see the pavilions from afar – from one of Shanghai’s many bridges overlooking the massive Expo area.  Some of our favorites were the Mexico, China and Africa pavilions (several African countries came together to build the Africa pavilion). Oh how we wished that we could be in Shanghai to experience the Expo!!

One part the Expo that we did experience – constantly – was the mascot, Haibao. He is everywhere – all over Shangahi!! And by all over, I mean ALL over (actually, Haibao “creeped” the students out a bit because he was so inescapable) – as a statue, carved into hedges, on billboards, stickers, riding around the revolvong door of our hotel etc. etc … Haibao is an invented character representing the theme of the Expo, ” Better City, better Life.” His name means “treasure of the sea”  and is a traditional lucky chinese name. A friendly , open-armed and blue cartoon character, Haibao represents both the heritage and the future of China. After our initial astonishment that he could be so constantly with us, we came to understand and enjoy Haibao as a symbol of our special time in Shanghai!

 

Doing Tai Chi in the park with Haibao on our last Shanghai day

 

Day in Suzhou

On our last full day in China, we journeyed to the nearby “small” city (of 6 million people) of Suzhou (pronounced “Sue Joe”). Suzhou is known as one of the most beautiful cities in China and we certainly experienced beauty that day! Our first stop was the Suzhou museum, home to many ancient Chinese treasures including ceramics, callgraphy and more. The museum was built in 2006 and was designed by the famous Chinese-American architect, I M Pei. Yes, the same architect who designed Dallas City Hall and the Meyerson!

Ms. Nipp with Burney, our excellent guide and friend

After the museum, we visited the beautiful “Master Nets” gardens of Suzhou (referring to fishing nets). They were gorgeous – colorfully full of plants and flowers!  Burney, who could easily have a second career as a fashion photographer, posed us for photos all over the gardens – our favorite is the one above of the whole group. But these are great s well…

Not yet done with experiencing beauty in Suzhou, we headed over to the Water Village which explains why Suzhou is known as the “Venice of China.” Of course, I might prefer to think of Venice as the “Suzhou of Italy!” Either way, we enjoyed a picturesque gondola ride through the village (where everyone took our picture!) and a bit of shopping as well.

Welcome to Shanghai!

We arrived in Shanghai on Thursday morning and were met by my old friend and our guide, Burney. Burney is just fabulous (and full of energy) and he convinced us that we could face a day of touring even though we spent the night on the train and felt very tired and in great need of showers.  And so began our whilwind tour of Shanghai – the Shanghai museum, the Jade Budda Temple, the TV tower and more!

While at the Jade Budda temple, we visted a Koi pond full of very chunky and very hungry fish…

We bought some food for the fish (a donation to the temple) and here is what happened….

As you can see, our first day in Shanghai was eventful and exciting!!

Farewell Huaxia!!

Wednesday was our date of departure.  After visiting some last lovely places around Beijing including the Temple of Heaven, we gathered at Huaxia for a farewell meal with all of the host families. Always considerate, Huaxia prepared  “Western” food including pasta with tomato sauce and french fries for our final meal together (did I menton that now we are all experts at eating fries with chop sticks?).

During the meal, Mrs. Song, the principal, made a beautiful speech about how much happiness our visit brought to Huaxia and about how it was nice to see her students learn to care for another person. I also expressed all of our deepest gratitude for a wonderful visit and I said that we will be waiting eagerly for Huaxia’s visit to Ursuline Dallas. Always generous, Huaxia surprised us with even more gifts for our already exploding suitcases.

Finally, the students had an opportunity to say a few words and I was very proud of the kindness and gratitude displayed by our students. Rebecca took the time to say something funny and special to each host student. Katie talked about how she never anticipated how much love she would feel in China and Haley talked about how much she had learned to appreciate about China – particularly the coexistence of the very old with the very new. Each student was very thankful to her family and we all felt very sad at the thought of leaving our dear friends.

Then it was time to wave goodbye and head to our overnight train for Shanghai, forever changed by our time in Beijing.

Farewell Party & Talent Show

Just as we were received royally in Beijing, we had a Royal send-off as well. On Tuesday, we enjoyed a farewell party and talent show. We did not actually leave until Wednesday but our party occurred on Tuesday because the Chinese government declared a National Day of mourning on Wednesday to honor the victims of the Western China earthquake. So, we had our big celebration on Tuesday which worked out well since that was the day that we met with our dear friend and foundress of Huaxia, Dr. Li. Also present was our new friend, Janice Cheng, from Think Global School. Janice was kind enough to come out to meet me in person and she has organized a language project for her students with the Huaxia students for next year thanks to our connecting of Think Global School with Huaxia – Yeah!! So, this happy group of scholars was deeply impressed with and entertained by the talented students of Huaxia during the celebration – Here are just a few stars of the show..

Of course, our Ursuline students are fantastic performers as well. Haley, Rebecca and Mary Margaret sang beautifully (one song even in Chinese) while Meg, Victoria and Madison performed a “modern” dance. All of the UA performances were met with great enthusiasm from the crowd – here are a few highlights….

The Olympic Village

As you will recall, Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and captured the world’s attention with the innovative and stunning Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube. Having visited China in 2005 and 2007, I can assure you that no country has ever been more fired up or focused on hosting the Olymics. It was China’s major entry onto the Global Stage and it marked the beginning of a new era for China, one in which she was no longer apart from the rest of the world but rather inviting the world to the best party ever…

As a way to continue the good will and enthusiasm from the Olympics, those famous and unique Olympic structures remain as tourist attractions and gathering spaces for major events such as sports competitions, concerts, etc. We were lucky enough to spend some time in the Olympic Village where we relived the excitement of the Summer of 2008!

NEWSFLASH

We interrupt this blog to bring you a newsflash on developments within our delegation. As many of you know, the blog has been running a few days behind schedule because there is so much to report. So, our delegation (most of it) has actually just returned home to Texas. However, Rebecca and I (ms. cmnipp) have stayed behind in Shanghai due to a most unfortunate episode in which Rebecca became violently ill as we were boarding the airplane to go home with what turned out to be an acute bacterial infection of the stomach – hideous! I am very happy to report that after a nightmarish hour at the Shanghai airport  in which no one would help us,  our tour guide (and dear, dear friend) Burney came to our rescue and met us at the Huashan International Hospital along with Ming, his boss. Rebecca was treated immediately and was released after about 6 hours and 3 IVs.  With Burney and Ming’s help, we installed ourselves in the lovely Shanghai Ambassador Hotel and returned Rebecca to the hospital for another IV and final check-up today. Although still tired and achy, she is a million times better than yesterday and has been given permission to fly home on Monday (yeah!). We both know that this happened as a result of our desperation to stay longer in fabulous Shanghai – and it remains fabulous in my estimation. As we’ve had a little time to go around the city today, it has captivated us more than ever and we hope to return under healthier and less stressful circumstances! Thanks to all for the good wishes and thoughts and YES,  I do plan to finish the blog in the next couple of days so please stay tuned for the complete picture.

We now return you to our previously scheduled blog…

The Great Wall

After walking down the Sacred Way at the Ming Tombs and  touring the Jade factory (where we learned all about how jade has a good spirit within it which wards off evil spirits), we were ready to confront that oh-so-famous global destination – The Great Wall!! Having visited and (semi) climbed the Great Wall three times in the past, I can honestly say that it never becomes less awesome or less inspiring.

We have several athletic and motivated travelers in our group (including Melanie B.) who were determined to reach the “top” – I put “top” in quotes because that is a relative term since there is no one top or end to The Great Wall. The part of the wall that we visited is called the Badaling Wall and is located about an hour outside of Beijing (really 2 hours due to the heavy traffic). The Badaling Wall is the most frequently visited part of the Great Wall and is actually the part visited by President Nixon in the 70’s during his famous trip to China.

As you can imagine, climbing the wall was a huge challenge but several of our group made it to the “top” and had the sore legs the next day to prove it! Of course, the view and the experience was well worth all of the effort!!

The Global Classroom

It’s impossible to measure how much we have learned and gained from our experience in China.  We have learned much from our friends and, hopefully, have shared much as well – and it’s been lots of laughs along the way! Take a look at a few of our favorite teaching and learning moments…

The Sacred Way at the Ming Tombs

On Monday we took a walk along the Sacred Way leading to the Ming Tombs. Dating back to the 14th Century, the Ming Tombs serve as the resting place for the 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. The Sacred Way is a long and peaceful road lined with willow trees, giant stone-carved animals and human figures. These impressive statues form a type of imperial honor guard leading up to the tombs. The idea was that the emperor, also known as the son of heaven, would return to heaven through this sacred path.

We eventually took a very light-hearted approach to our walk through The Sacred Way as you can see in these images…

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