Friday April 22 and Saturday April 23
The Pennsylvanians met up at the Shijiazhuang airport to fly to Shanghai. After checking in to our lovely rooms (more modern than the hotels in Xi'an and Xingtai yet still no wireless capability), we met up with the other administrators from New England, Ohio and Indiana. This was our debriefing, and we shared our thoughts as best we could about our experiences with our Chinese hosts, and plans for future exchanges between Chinese and US students and teachers. Those of us from Berks and Lehigh Counties will be doing a presentation on May 6 during the Asian Studies Collaborative, and we took some time to formulate our plans. Then it was off to explore Shanghai! And explore we did! Shanghai is the most beautiful city we had ever seen! Loaded with architecture both old and new, it looked spectacular especially at night, when all the buildings are lit with colorful lights. Very modern too in many places. There were more Westerners (as the Chinese call us non-Chinese) than in any other city we visited, even Beijing. And the shopping! Silk and pearls, pearls and silk, and lots of bargaining and negotiating with the vendors on the prices (that was the fun part).
Sunday April 24
Easter Sunday. Several of us were able to find a Catholic Church to attend Mass. We took a taxi to the beautiful cathedral that quickly filled to capacity with Chinese Catholics, all celebrating Easter Mass with the Bishop of the Diocese of Shanghai. This goes to show how much China has changed over the years. We had seen Buddhist temples many places on our trip, but I had no idea there would be so many Catholics. We were told by an Australian couple who accompanied us that while the government allows the practice of other religions, they only allow the Protestants to congregate as one rather than allow separate denominations. Interesting.
We left the hotel for the airport, crossing over the river into Po Dong, the site of the 2010 World Expo. Amazing! As we neared the Shanghai International airport we were told that the entire area was built on the sea. Talk about use of the available land (none). After saying our goodbyes to Ryan and Peiwui from CEI in Massachusetts, we left the beautiful city of Shanghai for Chicago, promising each other we would stay in touch.
I have met some of the most remarkable people on this trip. The administrators from the US were a caring group of people who always helped each other in any way we could. Traveling to a strange world where you cannot communicate with anyone who lives there forces you to depend on each other in the group, and we bonded more than I ever imagined. I made some wonderful friends during our stay in China, and we shared some experiences that most people can only imagine. We were all educators before the trip, but both our professional and personal lives were enriched because of the exchanges we had between ourselves and the Chinese. For that I am most grateful.