We are nearing the end of this first Bethel College Interterm adventure in China! After a little extra sleep, we enjoyed another fine buffet breakfast at our comfortable Longmen Hotel. Then it was on the bus for our international departure point, Shanghai’s modern Pudong International Airport. Our first stop was the Longyang Road Station where we made a brief visit to the Mag Lev (“magnetic levitation”) Museum, then boarded the Mag Lev train for a very, very fast trip to the airport! Our luggage would remain on the bus to be picked up later curbside at the airport.
This technological wonder that is the Mag Lev train is being employed operationally for the first time in the world in Shanghai! The basic principle involves magnetic forces to both propel the train and hold the carriages a fraction of an inch above the steel rail while the train is moving.
This was our last full day in Shanghai—and the last day of our China Interterm adventure!
We were met as scheduled in GM’s modern office block by a lady who showed us a scale model of GM’s facilities at this location and, to our pleasure and surprise, invited us to do a walk-through of its assembly line.
Our Guide, Jack, also noted that GM is a generous employer in terms of year-end company bonuses paid just prior to New Year festivities. This year, reflecting a record sales year, most GM employees will get a year-end bonus equal to 16 times the workers monthly salary! The general comment from our group as we completed this 45-minjute walk-through was that the GM visit was one of most interesting of the China Interterm experience.
This afternoon was “free time” for the Interterm group. A few of us visited the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center on People’s Square, a high-tech facility that depicts the past, present—and planned future—of one of the world’s most dynamic cities.
Looking back over our five day stay in Shanghai, we were impressed with the city’s dynamism.
Jim from Shanghai
This was a day of sightseeing—our destination was Suzhou, located about 100 miles SW of Suzhou (“Su” -” fish, rice and grass"; “zhou"- “state” or “city") is a booming city of 7 million with a history of some 2,000 years. It was mentioned by Marco Polo in reports of his visit to China in the 13th century! The “grass” refers to mulberry bushes, the staple of the city’s silk industry.
Our first stop was the 1,000-year old Fisherman’s ("Master of the Nets") Garden, formerly owned by a wealthy Suzhou gentleman, Mr. Li, but taken over by the newly-established communist government in the 1950s. This garden, a smaller replica of which exists at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is an aesthetically-pleasing combination of trees, rocks and water.
The next stop was the No. 1 Silk Mill, a city-owned silk spinning and weaving factory established in 1926—connected to the usual retail outlet for the finished products. After lunch we were told of the life cycle of the silk worm and learned about the complexity of silk-making.
Our last stop in Suzhou was the Grand Canal, the man-made structure dating from about 850 AD. (We understand that American astronauts remarked that China’s Great Wall and the country’s Grand Canal were the only two man-made objects visible from space!)The Grand Canal, extending a few hundred miles from Hangzhou and Suzhou to Beijing, was constructed to facilitate the transport of products originating in south China—rice, tea, silk—to a demanding royal family and other government officials in Beijing. Today only about two-thirds of its length remains navigable. We were ushered onto a motorized craft with capacity for perhaps 25 passengers and treated, despite continued light rain, to an interesting 45-minute trip up and back on the Canal.
Jim from Beijing
Our visit this morning was the Shanghai Stock Exchange located across the Huangpu River in the city’s ultra-modern financial sector. We were met by our host for the visit, Mr. Jackie Liu, Senior Manager, Global Business Development, who informed us that China had two stock markets–this one in Shanghai and a second in Shenzhen outside of Hong Kong. Mr. Liu noted that today a remarkable 75% of Shanghai residents own stock.
Interestingly, the multi-story modern office block that houses the Exchange was constructed with a large rectangular hole through the entire building from perhaps the 9th through the 15th floor, done at the suggestion of the feng shui ("wind", “water") masters who reviewed building designs and considered this air passage the most favorable for financial success of the institution! We were surprised at the continued importance of feng shui in the location and design of Shanghai’s modern buildings!
When we are not working in the fields, helping Neal with his research or weeding, our time at the mission is relatively free. Over the past week I have found joy in this down time.
After a hot morning of work, a few of us walked down to the river that runs by the mission. The water is fairly shallow, but it moves quickly and is crystal clear. We explored up stream a ways and found a deeper spot that was shaded by a beautiful willow tree. We lounged there in the water for a long time, talking and cooling off. Some of us even washed our hair in the clear water and did some laundry. It was a very refreshing afternoon.
Later in the evening, we sat outside watching the sunset, the clouds and sky transition in a gorgeous aray of colors. And as soon as the sun set, stars began to appear. There was no moon and no light pollution in the valley so the night was pitch black and the stars were bright as ever. I have never seen so many stars in my life! I was completely mesmerized by the night sky and spent a long time watching the stars move across the sky before going to bed.
Here in Lesotho, I feel much more connected with my environment. Everything we do here relates to the land: We work in the fields, we eat the tomatoes and apples from the mission gardens, even our recreation is centered around the landscape. And when so much of one’s life is focused on the surrounding land, one feels a much deeper sense of gratitude to the earth and to the Creator. This is something I feel very strongly here in Lesotho.
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