Homeward Bound!

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.

The train runs from Longyang Station to Pudong Airport, a distance o 18.6 miles. A one-way journey, costing RMB50/person (about US$8), takes less than 8 minutes, during which our train reached a speed of 300 km/hr (180 mph), as compared with a theoretical top speed of 265 mph! (Following a disastrous accident involving two high-speed trains in China last July, the Ministry of Railways has now imposed slower top speeds on its fast-expanding network of high-speed trains in China.) Riding this sleek technological marvel is indeed thrilling!

Thanks to great help from our Shanghai Guide, Jack, airport clearances went well, and after a 40-minute take-off delay, we were underway for the 7,400-mile, 13 hour, non-stop journey to Chicago!  As we approached Chicago, the bad news began to build—we were informed that icy conditions at Chicago’s O-Hare would require us to divert to a more benign airport, Minneapolis!   We put down in MPL at 6:10 p.m., and then sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour as United and local authorities determined next steps.

After disembarking the plane, Dalene, Shirley, Allison and Perry swung into action and obtained for us complimentary food and motel vouchers from United, who put us up in a very comfortable Best Western Plus hotel on the outskirts of Mall of America.

On Saturday morning Dalene, who had emerged as our “Travel Queen” for domestic travel, left the motel before 7 a.m. to return to the airport where she checked all 18 of us in to the Minneapolis-Chicago and Chicago-Wichita flights and obtained boarding passes for each of our group for these flights! What a helpful gesture this was—an hour later the lines of people waiting to check in numbered in the hundreds! Finally, at 6:30 p.m. we were greeted by family and friends who had kindly agreed to drive us back to the campus!

It is now time for closure on the China Interterm experience. It will take time to mentally process and evaluate the sights, sound and voices of the previous two and one-half weeks. What is clear is that never again will we see China in quite the same way!  With the experience gained, we will have greater appreciation for the considerable challenges facing the Chinese Government in attempting to rule wisely this fascinating country, with its great size, cultural, ethnic and geographic diversity.  We will have a better understanding of China’s remarkable history and culture. We will marvel at the remarkable physical infrastructure—roads, industrial sites, airports, skyscrapers, research centers—created in the past few years!  But, above all, I believe most of our Interterm participants will carry home a particular fondness for the warmth, courtesy and intellect of the Chinese people. (The kindness, courtesy and good humor of our national guide, Paul, and our Shanghai guide, Jack, come to mind—as does the extraordinary physical assistance offered by hotel staff and others to our 94-year old Jake Goering!) And perhaps a few of the group may find this a life- and career-changing experience evolving into some aspect of work related to China-US relations!

Jim from North Newton