Three days in Xi’an, spending the time with my host family and friends, went by really fast.
My host mother made handmade dumplings and jongzi (sticky rice-ball) for lunch. I told her how much I missed it and she stuffed some into my suitcase. I didn’t want to leave but it was time – we all got into the car and they drove me to the airport and said goodbye.
I told them I will come back, and I wished to myself that it would take me less than four years.
Unfortunately, my host sister had to go to school to study for the college entrance exam so she couldn’t come with the rest of us to go hiking. My host parents took me to Pashan (Mt. Pa) near Xi’an, and we started our hike up the lowest peak at around 10 o’clock.
As we were hiking up the mountain, I was able to enjoy the nature and mountain streams and little waterfalls. This reminded me of my last visit to a mountain four years ago. I forget the name of the mountain, but it was my host family who took me on a three-hour hike up the mountain – and on the top of the peak was where I first attempted to ski.
The mountain was endless, and my host mother said that it takes more than a day to hike up to the highest peak. After hiking for a while, we stopped at the mountain streams and got our feet wet and relaxed for a while. Hours had passed, and it seemed like the peak was growing higher as we hiked up the mountain.
Finally, I told my parents to head back down, and I feel like they were relieved that I said that. On the way back, we went to a little village near the mountain for lunch and headed back home.
I had a few hours of rest before my host sister returned from school. My host sister and I went to her favorite Italian restaurant and had dinner. She insisted that she pay (again) and I told her I will be offended if I can’t pay.
I successfully bought my host sister a dinner and we went to KTV (karaoke) for some singing, which was so much fun! We returned home and we exchanged some gifts and talked for a bit and said goodnight.
I called couple of my friends that I met during my stay in Xi’an and decided to meet with Daisy and Wu for lunch. We went to my all-time favorite restaurant in Xi’an called dingdingxiang.
As most Chinese will do with guests, they ordered so much food even when I told them to order just a little. We talked about old times, and it was good to be back and be able to meet with them. When the meal was over and we were all over our limit, they asked me what I would like to do, so I told them that I would like to go visit the Xi’an city center again.
We took the bus no. 608. It’s the red double-decker that I took all the time when I was going into the city. As I looked out the bus window, my memories played like a movie in front of my eyes. Biking around the old city wall, visiting the drum tower, bell tower, walking around Muslim market, bargaining with broken Chinese … I was feeling nostalgic and happy to be back. We walked around and took pictures and had to say our goodbyes and go back to our life.
When I got back home, it was about 7 o’clock, and my host family took me to a nice dinner of hot-pot – the proper “Chinese way” to treat the guest. I am always flattered by their royal treatment, and I told them I will buy them a meal before I leave to show my appreciation.
After the dinner, they took me to see the wild goose pagoda, which has changed for the better. It had become more vibrant and lively than when I visited it last. There were so many shops and night lights decorating the traditional architecture, and so many families and couples walking around enjoying each other’s company. I felt like I’d never left and just being able to enjoy each other’s company was a feeling of a bliss.
After returning from the mainland, we had a few days off from school to take a trip of our own. Some of us went to Xi’an, and some of us stayed back in Hong Kong. I went to Xi’an as well, but I didn’t travel with the group. I actually went back to Xi’an not to be tourist but to visit my host family.
In 2006, when I studied a semester in Xi’an during my high school senior year, I stayed with a lovely family that I kept in touch with. I promised them I would come back and it took me four years to keep that promise.
I took the afternoon flight from the Hong Kong to Xi’an, and my host parents came to meet me at the airport. It was great seeing them and finally being able to use the Chinese that I have forgotten. They told me I have not changed a lot and they have not changed at all. As I walked into their home (my old home), it was as if I’d never left. The room where I spent my semester was as I left it four years back.
My host sister was so happy to see me despite the stress and lack of time she has due to her college entrance exams. We talked about what we should do for the couple days I was in Xi’an, and I had a great night’s sleep!
Before returning to Hong Kong, we visited Lingnan Impression, where the government is trying to restore the ancient architecture destroyed during industrialization. It was neat to see newly built ancient-styled buildings.
We were also able to watch a traditional performance and buy some crafts and souvenirs. After walking around the park, we went to a nice restaurant for lunch and were dropped off at the train station to head back home. It is funny how we’ve made the I-House our home and we were somewhat missing the CUHK campus.
Today, we visited the Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center. This is a special district where the top 10 universities in Guangzhou are gathered together. According to our lectures and the tour guide, in recent years, the students enrolling in universities have been rapidly increasing. Universities scattered around the city are having difficulty expanding their universities to meet the demand of students, so the government designated a area somewhat remote to the city center to build schools to serve them. It was interesting to see such a unique concept being practiced.
When we arrived at the Mega Center, we were greeted by local students and a professor. Professor Huang gave us a lecture on Sino-China Economic Relations. It was somewhat redundant because we’ve already heard lectures about similar topics but it was interesting because we were able to gain different perspectives from local students as well as the professor.
After the lecture, we toured around the campus and went to lunch with the local students where we talked about different things. I was so excited to be able to talk with students, and I strongly feel that I was able to understand and gain different perspectives that I cannot gain through textbooks. I truly believe that observing the new environment and talking with different people are the most effective ways to learn, and I was very glad.
After the lunch, we went to visit one of the car manufacturing factories as a corporate visit and were able to observe the manufacturing processes and get to know the local students. The meeting with local students was very brief, but I feel that it was very rewarding. After the full day of traveling within Guangzhou, we were all exhausted and returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
As a part of the SMU in China: Business program, we went to visit Guangzhou in mainland China. Through various lectures, we were well aware of the city’s impact on China’s economy as a newly developing city near the Pearl River. We were excited to go on the trip to be able to see the city ourselves. Thanks to SMU and CUHK, a bus was arranged to pick us up at 9 AM in front of the I-House. The bus took us to the Hunghom station from where we took the train to Guangzhou.
The train ride reminded me of my childhood and my family vacation to different parts of Korea. Looking out the train window listening to my music, I tried to recall my memory to read different characters. Despite studying Chinese for about three years, I was somewhat disappointed to find myself not being able to recognize many characters. Being surrounded by the Chinese environment made me realize how much I missed studying the language and making friends. As the train rolled into China from the Hong Kong side, most of us fell asleep.
When we arrived at the train station in Guangzhou, a tour guide name Dragon greeted our group. We were led by the tour guide to our bus and were taken to a local Chinese restaurant. Lazy Susan, Chinese decorations, the black tea, wait staffs dressed in typical uniform, every element of the environment made me feel nostalgic. After the lunch, we visited the Yuexie Park where the famous statue that represents Guangzhou is located. We walked around for a bit and were able to check into our hotel,which was surprisingly very nice.
The hotel was located in the Shifu area,where locals go shopping. After checking in and resting a little, we were able to walk out the hotel and be surrounded by people, shops, and local food. They even had scorpions on stick! We spent the evening walking around the streets bargaining for goods. Thanks to the strategic location of the hotel, I was able to purchase a cheap swimsuit and after returning to the hotel, I was able to enjoy the rooftop pool. It was awesome!
First group assignment was due Friday but because we had the day off from class Friday, we decided to take a trip to Macau. After handing in our assignments early, we took the MTR to the harbor in order to take the ferry to Macau. One of the ferry companies was having a July promotion so we were able to get a round-trip ticket for only about HKD $100. We took the ferry and after about 45 minutes of the boat ride, we arrived at Macau.
Venetian Hotel is one of the destinations that many of us wanted to visit, so we took advantage of the free shuttle bus from the harbor to the hotel. As we stepped inside the hotel, we were all amazed by the grand interior designs and decorations. We all walked around the hotel taking pictures. It was dinner time before we knew it, so we decided to eat at a fancy Italian restaurant. I truly enjoyed the food as well as conversations with the company.
After dinner, we walked around the hotel and various shops. We were also able to enjoy hours of live music at one of the lounge in the hotel. Although due to limited time, we were not able to explore the city, but it was great. I would like to go back if I get a chance to, but it seems like the time is flying by …
As a part of corporate visit, we visited the Ocean Park today. Thanks to SMU & CUHK, we had a bus come and pick us up from the I-house to go to the Ocean Park. It was about an hour drive, and being able to look out the window to see daily life of people in Hong Kong was interesting.
We arrived at the Ocean Park and were able to look around the Amazing Asian Animal, where we got to see pandas, red pandas, goldfish and more before the presentation.
Todd Hougland, the event and entertainment director at Ocean Park Hong Kong, came to greet our group and lead us into the classroom. He shared with us his experience in the industry and talked about many ambitious plans that the Ocean Park is planning. It was exciting to hear real stories that related to our lectures regarding the relationship of government and businesses as well as different target markets that exist within China as well as around the globe.
After the presentation, we were able to take the cable car up to the Summit of the Ocean Park. On the way to the summit, we were able to enjoy the million-dollar view of the Waterfront. When we arrived at the summit, we walked around for a bit and had a lunch at the Bayview Restaurant, where we were able to sit in the air-conditioned restaurant with the million-dollar view of the waterfront.
The group split up after the lunch and some of us went on the rides, some of us went to the wet zone to cool off, and some of us went home due to exhaustion from the heat.
It was a great experience for me to be able to see the scale of the Ocean Park as well as to experience the potential growth of the park in the entertainment industry in Hong Kong. My personal interest in the entertainment industry as well as the hospitality industry may have made my experience at the Ocean Park more valuable than others. In any event, we all were able to return to our childhood for the day.
Today, unlike other days where we have classes in the morning, we had class at 2 p.m. Many of us were just glad to have spare time in the morning to catch up with the reading, and for some of us, catch some sleep that we couldn’t get due to the final game of the World Cup. After the class, Alison wanted to take a group picture in front of the CUHK gate, so we all walked down to the gate and took some normal pictures as well as some funny pictures. It was fun just being silly.
Oh, I finally tried my box of milk with PB&J. The PB&J was great, but the milk was different. I feel like it had a very strong taste and I took little sips so I wouldn’t upset my stomach. I didn’t get sick, so I guess I can give it another try and see if I get used to that strong taste. Besides, I have to because I bought a six-pack of it to save money. I guess the lesson of the day is to try before you buy a bulk of something new, if possible.