China Trip Journal

We are lucky in Burlington to have so many opportunities for students.  One such area is Global Studies.  Former superintendent Katie Spinos was well respected for her commitment to expanding opportunities for our students while shrinking the world via travel.  Asst. Superintendent Cindy Marchand has carried on this commitment.  The result is impressive.  Burlington led a group of students from several Massachusetts districts on a trip to China.  The following excerpt and pictures are from a Burlington senior on the trip.

A special thank you to Todd Whitten, Rachel Zucker, Jane Hundley, Anita Mason, and Rosemary DeSousa for leading what has been a life changing experience for many students.

Shanghai…

We were at the Xi’an airport by 6 to fly to Shanghai from Xi’an.  Leaving the land of ancient Terra-Cotta Warriors and equally ancient narrow meandering marketplaces, we flew to a very different city.  Upon arrival I noticed immediate differences; granite walls, waterfalls and modernity were all over the airport alone.  While leaving, instead of  passing under dirt under the underpasses, there were bright bodies of water.  The city is built upward and the buildings are modern and skinny, just the opposite of Beijing really.  Once you find a skyscraper that you think is really cool, you will always find an even cooler one.  It seemed like a Boston of the future in a way.   Some things to definitely look forward to are the Pudong River cruise we are going to take, to see all of these at once will be  impressive.  

First stop was the Shanghai Museum, Four floors of cool calligraphy, ancient currency, costumes, etc.  After a delicious lunch we had a nap and then went on a walk of our neighborhood located in the French Concession.  Built by the French during the Imperial era of opium selling when Europe had to have tea and porcelain and the Chinese could no longer fight against steamships, it looks more European in architecture than anywhere we have been other than the Newark airport. Walking from there we saw some very traditional neighborhoods, much like the Hotung in Beijing, where people live in very tight spaces with communal bathrooms and very little is over three stories.  Such a contrast to then walk into a very restored area of stone architecture with a Starbucks and high end stores.  Moving on to Nanjing road, their version of Newbury street was another eye-opener.  It reminded me of a neon New York City mixed up with Chinatown, but was totally unique and amazing.  

At dinner we had fish, I miss the mountains of dumplings of Xi’an and the Peking duck of Beijing, but it was interesting and tasty.  I am much better with chopsticks now, which is quite a change compared to before.  

Tomorrow we will walk to the Yuan Gardens and do some shopping.  It is difficult to negotiate with street vendors, but strangely enough, with very little common language, we understand each other quite well.  When in shops I try to use the Mandarin phrases that I have learned, but many people just smile at me and we use gestures to understand each other.  I think that negotiating is an art of smiling and yet being insistent.  

Two days later…

We took a 300km Mag Lev train to the airport, which only futher adds to Shanghai’s modern ambiance.  Shanghai, what is there to say?  Spectacularly beautiful city with a very quick pace, urban and modern lifestyle.  Though vastly different from the way I live, it would be totally amazing to live here, and I am definitely keeping that in the back of my mind.  Words really cannot describe it.  Now for my overall China experience: I do not ever want to hear “Spanish may pass English in importance” again, because China is so populated and it is required here for students to learn English…so many people do speak it here!  This supports globalization to a huge extent, which is good and bad in many ways. I was a little worried about traveling without knowing anybody, but now in a way I am happy I came to China solo.  I have become an outgoing and confident person, gaining many strong friendships, which really is an experience in itself.  

Sitting at 38,000 ft somewhere over Siberia I think about China as a whole.  So different, so beautiful.  There are no words to describe this cultural experience, the beauty of the people who do not understand personal space to be the same as we do, the unique architecture of the pagodas, Shanghai’s TV tower, the local foods and just bargaining at the local market.  Cheesy analogy; this trip is like the Wizard of Oz.  I am suddenly taken to this place I have never dreamed of.  So very surreal and full of great people, fascinating lifestyles and a remarkably different culture.  My eyes have been opened to a very different culture that I will never forget.  It will be great to see my friends and family who I do miss, and I will try to share with them this experience that will leave such a huge mark on my life.  

Michael Horwitz

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