Ni hao (“hello”) from Suzhou, China. I’m Cindee Gray, assistant vice president for government and community relations, and I’m traveling with my EMBA class in China. I wanted to share with you some of my experiences here in China, as a Tiger Beat Blog “guest blogger.”
EMBA Class 14 left Rochester on Saturday morning, Oct. 6, and arrived 14 hours later at Pudong International Airport on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 7. It was a long flight, but all 23 students and Professor Marty Lawlor passed the time by reading homework assignments, watching movies and getting some sleep.
When we arrived at the massive airport, we were struck by the huge numbers of people in lines and crowded around the baggage claim area, and also at how quiet it was. There was no music and, surprisingly, no outward display of affection or greeting by the many people waiting for passenger. It almost seemed like the red carpet walk at the Oscars with the many people lining the passageway.
After we retrieved our baggage, we were greeted by our host, Fung Jing, otherwise known as Cassandra. We loaded onto the bus and traveled to Suzhou for the first leg of our studies, almost a three-hour drive from Shanghai. Cassandra, an employee of GEM, was an expert in Chinese art and culture and provided us with interesting information about the country, a briefing about our schedule for the week, and some popular Chinese snacks en route to our hotel. Of course, we had to explore our new surroundings and several groups headed out for dinner. Interestingly enough, two-thirds of the class ended up at the same restaurant, Sicily. So much for exploring!
On day two, we headed to the GEM, where we had our first lesson in Chinese culture and language and about the growth of China’s economy and its impact on the rest of the world. China makes up 50 percent of the global GDP and is definitely a country on the move. There’s new construction of roads and high rises everywhere. The Chinese government is investing $161 billion to modernize railways and is building 600 new cities. The Internet has brought tremendous social change by opening communication to each other and the rest of the world. China is a very strong culture with very savvy people who are eager to learn. We concluded our lesson with a lunch of local delicacies and headed out for a cultural tour. By the way, we were all given Chinese names. Mine is GuoYue, meaning “pleasure.”
I forgot to mention that a typhoon was headed our way, so it was very windy and rainy. Our scheduled tour of the Humble Administrator’s garden was replaced by a tour of a silk factory. This was a fascinating tour. We actually got to see the entire process from the silkworms eating the mulberry leaves to the spinning of the silk, and some of us even got to try our and at spreading the silk for a quilt. Of course the tour ended with some silk shopping and it was hard to get us back on the bus!
The official part of our day ended with an authentic chopsticks dinner and wine tasting. It was a family-style dinner and the first feat was learning to use the chopsticks. As they say, “When in Rome”—so we all tried many new foods, and enjoyed the adventure. The first two days of the trip have been exciting and our hosts made it very educational and enjoyable.
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