Written by Julia Johnson
China is a lovely place, said of course by someone who is fascinated with rich culture, amazing foods, and unique people. These first two weeks have flown by. I haven’t had a dull moment since leaving the Detroit Airport. The PIRE group is amazing because it is a compilation of various backgrounds, personalities, interests, etc. yet we all have at least one thing in common: we want to help create healthy, wealthy and wise cities for our future. On second thought, maybe two, we all seem to enjoy the peaches from Beijing’s local fruit stands!
Although I have been in China for two weeks I feel like we have already done SO much. We have visited an oil refinery, an aluminum factory, an energy company, and a sewage sludge treatment plant, that was an interesting one… We have also met with urban city planners and directors of various companies to hear about what China’s future holds in regards to environmentally sustainable infrastructures and cities. Today we started our interviews with various companies in Xinhuangdao. Through this we are learning further about the company’s energy and material use, products, exports, energy sources, water use, etc. Of course you can imagine how smoothly interviewing someone who doesn’t speak the same language goes… Thankfully we have our fellow colleagues from three different Chinese Universities as well as a few students from the United States that speak Chinese.
Contrary to the popular belief, we actually do get some free time. And of course it is filled with traveling to various tourist destinations. A group of us has gone to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the grocery store (It is much more interesting than it sounds… Trust me.), and this weekend we are headed to the famous Shanghaiguan Beach that marks the end of the Great Wall.
I must say though, my favorite part of each of these places is really observing the people that occupy them. Seeing how people of different cultures interact, perform basic activities of daily living, dress, behave etc. is really the most interesting part of being a tourist thus far. Actually let me take that back, the most interesting part of being a tourist in China is seeing how the locals perceive you and how it differs based on the area of the city you are in. But of course the universal way to get on any Chinese citizen’s good side is to take a picture with them holding up a peace sign 🙂