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Greetings from Abroad-China

By Aaron Holmberg
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

July 11, 2006

Travel Journal

It seems like the longer I am here, the busier I get. I have something going on almost every evening and weekend. The visit to Dr. Zhang’s parents’ house was interesting. The hospitality was amazing but the food was a little too strange for me. I tried to stuff what I could down my gully so I didn’t insult them, but a guy can only eat so much food he is not used to. 
Last weekend I traveled to Hangzhou with the IAESTE group. We ended up missing our train because of a long story that I will not include. We managed to get the tickets switched to the next train, which left an hour later and had standing room only. Our entire group stood in the train for the 2 1/2 hour trip out to this beautiful “town” (2.4 million people) known for its lake and parks. The hotel that evening was only $5 per person with two people per room. That was quite a good deal.

My biggest news is that I got a new roommate. His name is Larry and he is from Norway, so I automatically assumed he would have blue eyes, blond hair and fair height. Boy, was I surprised to come home and find an African man there. He was born in the United States and lived there for five years before moving to Rwanda for nine years. A war broke out there and his family moved to Norway to seek refuge because his father was a political figure. He is from the far north of Norway where the sun behaves similarly to the way it does in Alaska, and 68 F is a hot summer day. His first day here wasn’t the most pleasant surprise with a temperature of 105 F and humidity pushing 90 percent.

Two weekends ago I traveled to the coast with a coworker. I will admit it wasn’t a good idea, and I won’t be doing it again anytime soon. There wasn’t much to see and it took a lot of time. We explored the Shanghai museum prior to our coast trip so it wasn’t a complete waste of a day. The next day, Ben, Jane, and I set off to attend the Catholic church we had found earlier. Little did we know it would take 1 1/2 hours to travel there from our homes. We didn’t make it in time so we headed to a closer church. On the way through a park, a man approached us and asked if we spoke English. After the truth was relinquished, he grabbed each of us by the wrist and led us in separate directions. Before anyone realized what was happening we were separated and surrounded by Chinese people of various ages (7-65) asking us questions in English.   

All was fine and good until my lack of breakfast and lunch made me the first one to try to leave. It ended up being about as difficult as trying to pull my dad out of his hometown church after a Sunday sermon. About two hours after entering the park I gathered my friends and we headed to the nearest restaurant—KFC. After eating in the most crowded KFC I have ever seen, we headed to Xintiandi to see the “Human Zoo” my mother notified me about. It was kind of interesting to see three bald Australians living in a glass box on the street.   

On Sunday evening I headed to my boss’s wedding reception. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between American and Chinese weddings. The food was something else. The meal was held in a fancy restaurant over looking The Bund. All of the guests were from the company, and I couldn’t identify any family or friends. I ended up eating a lot of sushi and calamari because they were the most palatable things I could find on the lazy Susan.   

Best Regards,
Aaron H

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