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Kendra D. blog

Wednesday May 15: Traveling to China!
I started off my trip in Austin, TX where my parents live. My mom dropped me off at the Austin International Airport at 5am for my 7am flight to Los Angeles. Getting through security at the Austin airport was super easy. I thought I might have problems with all the liquids in my carry-on, but everything went fine. I ended up with an aisle seat on my American Airlines flight to LAX. The flight was super smooth, and I slept the whole time.
The flight from LAX to Beijing, China was long and not very fun. I couldn't get my wifi to work, and I sat in a middle seat between two men who didn't speak English. Also, there was A LOT of terrifying turbulence, and the flight attendants were not very pleasant. Because I slept on the first flight, I couldn't get any sleep on the long flight to Beijing. On the plus side, I was served lunch, a snack, and dinner. I ended up watching four movies and twiddling my thumbs most of the flight.
Thursday May 16: Arriving in Beijing, China
I was a little scared getting off the flight. I had to get my fingerprints scanned by a lady yelling at me in Mandarin because I couldn't get the machine to work. I went through Immigration and Customs without any problems. Finally, I met up with my whole Texas Tech family. It wasn't until we were trying to leave the airport that I realized my wallet wasn't in my hand anymore. Dr. Wang SAVED THE DAY! We found it in Lost & Found after a cleaning lady picked it up. After that incident I became a running a joke...but no one lost their wallet again after that!
We met our tour guide, Kevin, at the airport. He talked to us a little about Beijing and brought us to the hotel to check in. It was about 4pm when we got to the hotel. All of us were too exhausted to explore, so we waited until about 7pm to go out to dinner and later pull out some Yuan currency. Dr. Wang found us a very unique restaurant for dinner. He ordered basically every type of meat on the menu, and we cooked it ourselves on two stove tops brought to our table. We tried mutton slices, shrimp, beef heart, pork, etc. Our table was filled with every type of meat. It was delicious! And it was a fun way to start off our China trip!
Friday May 17: First day in Beijing
In the morning, we visited the US Grains Council where we listened to a very informative PowerPoint presentation. For lunch, we got dropped off on a street next to a mall. We all chose different places to eat for lunch. For me and three other girls, we wanted to try ordering from a Chinese restaurant. We found out most Chinese businesses not used to tourists don't take American credit/debit cards, don't like to see a bunch of 100-dollar/yuan used to pay for food, and don't have much patience because of the whole language barrier. Thankfully, one of my friends pulled out her google translator app on her phone, and it all worked out okay. We kind of, but not really, knew what we ordered, and we happily ate it anyway. This was the first of many occurrences where I pointed at something on the menu and still had no idea what I was going to get.
After lunch, we all needed to use the restroom before we got back on a bus for another 2 hours. So, we walked inside the mall in search of one. I can't speak for everyone else, but I was incredibly surprised to find what my class named as "squatty potties." They were basically holes in the ground found everywhere in restrooms all throughout our trip in China. Some were nice; some were gross; all were a struggle to use. It made me really appreciate Westernized toilets. When we all got over our shock of using a squatty potty for the first time, we headed back onto the bus.
Next destination: Sanyuan Dairy Group. We took a tour of the dairy processing facility for one of the largest state owned companies in China. It was really amazing! Our tour guide didn't know we didn't speak her language, and she didn't speak English. So, Dr. Wang had to translate for us the whole time. He did a really good job. We got to see how the different flavored milks and yogurts were processed, packaged, and stored. I thought it was really interesting that there are at least three different stages in the whole process specifically for taste testers. At the end of the tour, they gave us some samples to try of regular milk and peach flavored yogurt. It was all delicious and super fun!
We went searching for some famous Peking Duck for dinner and ended up at this beautiful hotel. Dr. Wang ordered us every part of the duck, so the food never quit coming. It was great! I had never eaten duck before, and now I can say I've tasted almost every part of the duck. I did not, however, eat the tongue. I couldn't quite do that. We also tried different juices with our meal. We had watermelon, orange, and honeymelon (cantaloupe?) juice. We went through our juice pretty fast and had to keep ordering more. I guess they were not prepared for Americans to drink as much as we eat. Finishing the day with Peking duck in the middle of Beijing was an awesome end to our first full day in China.
Saturday May 18: Second day in Beijing
Today was a tourist day! We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City with our tour guide, Kevin, for the whole morning. It was absolutely breathtaking! I got to live my inner Mulan moment walking through the Emperor's palace. I learned so much about the history of these two places. I also found out the Forbidden City was actually used for several movies like "The Last Emperor (1987)."
We stopped for lunch right outside the Beijing Zoo. It was another free-for-all choosing lunch. Me and group of girls found this awesome pizza buffet place. It reminded me of a CiCi's Pizza. The pizzas weren't super great, but there was also pasta and chicken nuggets. Three generic types of food I think the Chinese think all Americans eat. I love the way China cooks American food, though. It's not all super greasy. After lunch, we went to the zoo! We weren't there for very long (I could've stayed there all day), but I got to see a Bengal Tiger and the famous Beijing Pandas.
We "children" were on our own after the zoo. We decided we wanted to go to the Summer Palace. So, our professors told us how to get there by subway and then we were on our own. Summer Palace was also incredibly beautiful, but it was full of stairs. My Fitbit said I hit over 30,000 steps today. We made it all the way to the top, had a fun photoshoot, and then headed out by the time the park closed.
I'm not sure what everyone did for dinner, but I ended up at the Wumart down the street from our hotel. I wanted to check out what a grocery store looked like in comparison to the ones in America. It was mostly similar, but there were a bunch of stuff that made me laugh. I ended up grabbing some "Texas Grilled BBQ Flavor" Lays Chips and some candy. I keep saying this, but it was another incredible day!
Sunday May 19: Third day in Beijing
WE MADE IT TO THE GREAT WALL!!! It was so surreal getting to hike part of the wall all morning. I still can't believe I touched and walked on ancient stones connecting a 300-mile wall. It was crazy how uneven and hard it was to walk on- some parts had uneven stairs, other parts were really steep hills. I couldn't imagine being a soldier and having to walk that all the time. Being at THE GREAT WALL was incredible and beautiful, and I will never forget my experience there. We grabbed lunch at a restaurant next to the entrance once we were finished. Then, I haggled myself a T-shirt before leaving.
We had a free afternoon. All the girls on this trip ended up at the Pearl Market next to our hotel. This was a market full of hawkers- people who grabbed you and aggressively wanted to sell you their products. A few of us tried our hand at bargaining. A scarf, a backpack, and suitcases were bought. A friend and myself brought the price down on these hardcover suitcases and went home with them for only $36 American dollars. It was a steal! We bought them to use as an extra bag to put gifts to send home. I'm in love with my suitcase so much, though. I think I'm going to use it on every trip from here on out. I'm also very proud of my bargaining skills.
For dinner, we rounded up the whole posse and made our way down the street to this cute hotpot place. The servers brought out a pot of soup of our choice and put it on a stove top right in front of us. We chose our meat and two sides, and it was brought out so that we cooked it ourselves. I chose lamb slices, noodles, and sweet potatoes. I learned that sweet potatoes are not fun to pick up using chop sticks. However, the whole idea was so interesting! It reminded me of the Melting Pot. I wish someone would create a chain of hotpot places here in the States (Or if there are, they need to inform me). I think this was my favorite restaurant out of the whole trip.
Monday May 20: Last day in Beijing
We started the day off touring Tomato UN, a local farm and research facility. I got to try a few different types of tomatoes. They were sweet and delicious! Next, we went to China Top Cotton Trading Company and had a discussion over some hot chá (tea). We went to a mall on Wangfujing Street for lunch. This was the first time I did not branch out with my meal. I ended up eating Burger King. I hadn't realized how much I missed a good burger until I ate one. For dessert, we found this cute shaved ice place on the fifth floor of the mall.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at China Agricultural University where we had a Q&A and Discussion with a few Chinese economic students. I got paired with a nice woman named Effey, and she bought me dinner. We had a lovely conversation, and then she laughed at me for trying to eat rice with chopsticks! I didn't know I could ask for a spoon! She spent a great deal of time helping me use my chopsticks and watching me eat. I had a lot of fun getting to know Effey.
Tuesday May 21: First day in Tianjin
Next stop was Tianjin! I hopped on my first bullet train ever, and it was so cool! It only took us maybe 25 minutes to travel. We met our next tour guide, Gin, at the train. Our tour started the minute we got on the bus. Gin took us to Ancient Culture Street where we walked around and looked at the cute shops. Some of us even bought some gifts. Gin then took us to Food Street, another famous street. A few of us went to Doggie Doesn't Care for lunch. We tried some delicious steamed buns. Dr. Wang ordered us every type of bun they had. It was another really awesome meal. Our last stop on the tour was to check out this interesting Italian Street area where we found a Starbucks and a gelato shop. Yes, Starbucks isn't Italian, but we all passed the Italian restaurants and went straight to Starbucks because we needed caffeine!
Gin dropped us off at our hotel, and the whole group took a nap from 4-7. Then all nine of us students went for a boat tour through the middle the city. It was absolutely beautiful with all the buildings lit up at night. After the boat tour, we walked to the Eye of Tianjin (a Ferris wheel). We discovered the long was extremely long, so we decided to try and find a bar instead. We ended up in this cute, but slightly sketchy, restaurant where we had beer and chicken wing kebabs. It was a crazy day full of adventure from start to finish.
Wednesday May 22: Second day in Tianjin
We started off our second and last day in Tianjin chatting with the leaders of ADM China. I learned about the fiber+ drinks they make using the fiber from corn and turning it into a liquid sweetener. They let us try their Coke and Sprite. Then, they gave us a tour of their facility and fed us pizza for lunch. After lunch, we met up with students at Nankai University and had another discussion with them. We spent a lot of time discussing our different views of the trade war between US and China. We also talked some about Huawei. The professors left us after we were all done with our discussion, and the Nankai students led us on a tour of the university. We grabbed some dinner together at a restaurant nearby and had a blast getting to know each other a bit more. We found out that some hardships of being a college student are universal, and we all laughed and joked a lot about them.
Thursday May 23: First day in Shanghai
We spent most of the morning traveling to Shanghai via another bullet train. Something unexpected happened once we made it back to hotel and my phone hooked up to wifi. I found out my sister was just admitted to the hotel to have her baby! I was so excited I was practically bouncing up and down all day. I literally could not sit still during our meeting with Cargill. However, I loved how enthusiastic our meeting went. It made me very interested in thinking about internships and jobs in foreign countries. Afterwards, half of our group went to this cool seafood restaurant near our hotel for lunch. I had some delicious sponge-like cornbread and fried calamari. Dr. Wang ended up ordering a bunch of food to try, and it was all amazing. I'm not really a seafood type of gal, but that didn't stop me from trying new foods on this trip.
Later that evening, I took my friend, Aerin, out on a girl date at the mall. We found the largest Starbucks Reserve Roastery in the world. It was stunning! Then we walked through all five floors in the mall and ended up spending most of our money at the grocery store on the bottom floor of the mall. For dinner, we ate Zizzi's Pizzeria. It was semi-decent Italian food. When the mall closed, we had a hard time catching a taxi. Aerin and I decided to figure out the subway instead. It was a close call because the subways were closing soon (and our phones were dead), but we eventually made it back to the hotel with the help of Aerin's awesome direction skills.
Friday May 24: Second day in Shanghai
We all dressed up super fancy to visit the US Consulate this morning. We had an awesome chat with Mr. Ryan Scott, and he basically had me super convinced to work in Shanghai after I graduate. His job sounded super cool.
We tossed off our business clothes and went full tourist mode for the afternoon. A few of us went to the Jade Buddha Temple and had a lovely time sipping an unlimited amount of tea inside the serenity of the temple. It was amazing getting to witness another piece of Chinese history/tradition. When the moon came out, another group of us went out to a popular street nicknamed "New World" to have fun in some bars where almost everyone spoke English.
Sidenote: My sister had her baby today!!! He was actually born May 25th, but China is 13 hours ahead. My phone was flooding with pictures of my beautiful nephew all day. I am excited to officially be an AUNT!
Saturday May 25: Third day in Shanghai
Our tour guide, Jackie, took us to Shanghai Tower (the second tallest building in the world) in the morning. I found out once we were inside that we actually went up the world's fastest super high-speed elevator to get to the top floor. It gets up to 45.8 mph! At the top, I ordered an iced apple tea at the coffee shop and sipped on it as I walked around the tower taking in the whole city of Shanghai at 2,073 feet in the air (128 stories). Jackie took us to Yu Garden afterwards. It's a beautiful botanical garden located in the Old City of Shanghai. One major part about the garden is its centerpiece, the Exquisite Jade Rock. We had lunch right outside the garden. I and a few other girls found a cool buffet to grab lunch before heading back to the hotel.
By this point in our trip, we all started getting tired so fast. We actually cut the tour short and asked to go back to hotel for a nap. Later in the evening, some of us got up to go eat dinner. We ended up across the street from our hotel at the Blue Frog where we had some good "American" burgers. I went back to the hotel to FaceTime my family for a couple hours after dinner then went back to sleep.
Sunday May 26: Hangzhou Day Trip
We took a bullet train to go visit Hangzhou for the day. Our first stop was to visit a tea plantation where they make super expensive Longjing tea. We got to pick some leaves then watch it be turned into tea! It's a long process, but the end result was wonderful. Longjing tea is mostly produced by hand and is renowned for its high quality making it the most famous tea in China. Once they finished drying the leaves, our tour guide had the restaurant where we ate lunch make the tea for us to drink. It was delicious and a really cool experience!
After lunch, we took a stroll around Hua Gang Guan Yu Park. It started to rain (and continued to rain for the rest of the day), so I finally got to try out my really cool poncho. We walked around West Lake before getting on a pontoon and getting a tour via boat. The whole group wasn't really down to do any more walking in the rain, so we found a cool art show to look at. I, however, ended up getting locked out of the museum after trying to find a restroom because the museum stopped letting people in thirty minutes before closing time. I didn't get to see much of the artwork, but I had a fun time sipping a latte in the coffee shop next door while I waited for the rest of the group to exit the museum. We took a bullet train back to Shanghai, and I grabbed some dinner from a McDonald's inside the train station before we got back to the hotel.
Monday May 27: A Looooonnnnngggg Day of Traveling to Hong Kong
We started off our day heading to the airport to fly to Honk Kong. It took an hour to get to the airport, several hours from airport to airport (even with an earlier flight), and an hour to hotel in Hong Kong. Altogether, it was basically an 8-hour day of traveling. That made we extremely exhausted. Up until this point, we had some pretty awesome hotel rooms staying at Holiday Inns in every city. Because Hong Kong is super expensive, we stayed at a Ramada instead. Our hotel rooms were smaller than Texas Tech dorm rooms with the beds pulled out. It felt like I was sleeping in a coffin. Also, my first room had a leaky situation happening in the bathroom, so I had to ask for another room. The second room wasn't much better, and my AC barely worked- enough so we weren't dying at night, but not enough to dry the clothes we hand washed in the sink.
It took everything we had to get up and walk across the street to eat some dinner. Dr. Wang found the restaurant. The food turned out pretty great, but it was hilarious trying to order. Honk Kong's official languages are Mandarin and English. Almost everyone spoke Cantonese, though. This meant Dr. Wang was no help in the language department. Luckily, most places in Hong Kong had pictures and English written in "fine-print" on menus. After dinner, Dr. Wang led a group of us on a walk to see the ocean. Fun fact, Hong Kong has one the largest ports in the world and is actually independent from China. Exchanging all my yuan for Hong Kong dollars outside the hotel concluded my adventure for the night.
Tuesday May 28: First real day in Hong Kong
Representatives from Cotton Council International and the US Meat Export Federation met us in the hotel conference room after breakfast. Afterwards, our tour guide picked up half the group and took us to the Ladies Market. This is actually where I bought (bargained) most of my gifts. I had such a blast walking through the market. It was nice that none of the hawkers were aggressive or demanded our attention. They were really nice about everything, too. We visited the Jade Market right next door. It was literally a market where they sold Jade items- bracelets, necklaces, ornaments, etc. None of us were interested in that, so we left after five minutes.
I took a nap after we went shopping. I woke up for dinner and found out Dr. Wang had found another place for everyone to go eat. It was also a small walk from our hotel. We ate dinner at a Japanese restaurant named Nice. Nice was a nice restaurant, indeed. I ordered a very plain meal that was basically ramen and friend chicken. Nonetheless, it was a cute restaurant, and the waiter actually spoke English.
Wednesday May 29: Last Day in Hong Kong / Final Day in China
Our tour guide took us to a few sightseeing places today. We started off the morning at Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak is a hill on the western half of Hong Kong Island. We would have had a great view of the island from the top, but it was extremely foggy. A few of us grabbed some coffee from inside the mall on the top of the hill, then we tried taking pictures at a point half-way down the hill. Our next stop was Repulse Bay where we took a couple hours to walk the beach and take some pictures of the ocean. I later found out Repulse Bay is one of the most expensive residential areas in the world. The third stop on our tour was Stanley Market. I did a bunch of gift shopping here, too. It made me so happy when I found out all the shops took American credit cards. Our last stop was Aberdeen Marina. We took a pontoon boat ride around the marina where I took pictures of the iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant, the restaurant appears in many of Jackie Chan's movies and one of the James Bond movies. Side note: Jackie Chan was born in Hong Kong, and I am a huge fan!
At the conclusion of our tour, I ate lunch and dinner at the McDonald's down the street from our hotel. The rest of the day was spent packing and preparing for the long travel day ahead of me.
Thursday May 30: Traveling Back to America!
I headed to the airport at 6:30am and took a flight to Tokyo, Japan. I had a four-hour layover in Tokyo. This was just enough time to get off the plane, find a place to buy a bus ticket from the Narita airport to the Haneda airport across town, and have an hour to eat before boarding another plane. I actually passed the Tokyo Disneyland on my way drive. That was the only cool thing I saw because the bus took boring highways the whole drive. My plane from Tokyo took me to San Francisco, CA where I had another four-hour layover before finally landing back in Austin, TX. I made it back to Texas by 1am on May 31st. Also, the flights weren't terrible the whole way back because I magically ended up with aisle seats on every single plane!
My entire two week adventure in China was incredible from start to finish. I never thought I would travel by myself in and out of America. I never thought I would study abroad, either. It took a lot of courage to get me to China, but I would not change anything about my experience. China was far different that I ever imagined, but it was amazing, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to try new things and see a world different than the one I live in. I am also so thankful it was a faculty-led trip because I probably would have been lost without Dr. Hudson and Dr. Wang. I am so grateful to Texas Tech for even making this possible. Guns up and Wreck Em!


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