Friday, March 27, 2015

Back to the States

Sunday, March 15, 2015:
            We leave today! I am so sad!  I have learned so much and just want to stay longer.  However, today I had to order lunch with someone who spoke no English and this time I did not have Sijia to help me communicate.  I went to a chicken place by our hotel and I kept telling the cashier the number of the meal I wanted, but she asked me questions about it and I did not understand.  She eventually brought out a picture menu, but even after I pointed to what I wanted she was confused.  There were two items next to each other, one was a sandwich without fries and a drink, and the other was the combo.  Eventually, to communicate that I only wanted the sandwich, I pulled out 15 RMB because that was what just the sandwich costs and she understood then.  Looking back, it was not that difficult, but it the moment it was extremely stressful and I was worried that I was holding up or upsetting the few people in line behind me.  When I went to McDonald’s the day before, I was expecting that same situation, but the manager there spoke English so it was much easier.  Tara, Bryce, Shalv and I went to People’s Square earlier today and had to take the subway, but we had Dr. Chyu give us directions before we left so we did not end up having to ask anyone where to go.  Well, we did once, but the lady just looked at the address and pointed, so it was pretty straightforward.  I found it was easiest to attempt to communicate with the little Chinese I knew along with pictures and hands.  Other than that, it is pretty much impossible if you do not know the language.  I want to learn the language so I can go back to China and communicate by myself!
            Being back in the United States is weird.  I am glad to be home, but I wanted to stay longer.  I miss Ivy, Ariel, and Jodie already.  They truly were great guides and taught us about the culture while having fun with us.  Also, my professional and personal skills developed over this trip as my communication advanced and learning about the businesses in China gave me new perspectives on my major.  I see how China has grown with technology over the years and why they are a great center for globalization, but the pollution is such a major problem that needs dealt with.  It is holding the country back, in my opinion, so their efforts to reduce their environmental impact is more important now than ever.  The technology has definitely helped China improve, but ethical concerns engineers need to be aware of when they are implementing new technology is how it effects the labor force in China as well as the environment.

            That being said, I would love to revisit China and maybe even live there when the pollution dies down.  I loved Innovate and am so thankful for being able to have such a life-changing experience while being immersed in a culture full of amazing people.
Bye China, Until Next Time!

Last Full Day :(

Saturday, March 14, 2015:
            Today we went on a river cruise!  We got to see the Bund during the day on the river, but it was much less exciting than the night view.  This is mostly because of the pollution and smog, and also it was a rainy day.  Overall, it felt like a familiar city more so during the day.  I know the US has cities with lights at night, but I can confidently say I have never seen such a colorful and vibrant city like Shanghai.  So during the day, it felt more like what I am used to.  The dumpling house was by far the best food we have had, and I hope I can find a soup dumpling restaurant in the states when I return!
            Yu Gardens was completely a surprise!  Since I read up on what it was and how it is a national monument, I expected a park like Tiger Hill.  However, it was littered with vendors almost like the Silk Market, but in a giant outdoor garden tourist attraction.  My haggling experience was not as good here, but I got the rest of the souvenirs I needed.
            When we got back to the hotel, I went to explore and check out the church closest to our hotel.  It was St. Ignatius Cathedral, and it was beautiful.  However, I expected it to be bigger, and I am wondering if the reason it is so small is because the government is not a big fan of Catholicism.  The only reason I expected it to be bigger was because online claimed it was the “Vatican of China,” so of course I had such high expectations, but we went in during a mass and stayed for a little bit to see what the mass was like.  The inside was beautiful, as well.  I am really glad I had the opportunity to see a Catholic Church and mass in Shanghai!
            The acrobatic show was outstanding.  They stood on bikes, balanced bowls on the foreheads, did teeter-totter tricks, twirling ceiling dances, and of course 7 motorcycles in a cage.  It was hard for me to watch because I was nervous for the performers!  They only messed up a few times, though.  I tried to justify what they were doing with physics, but honestly it was probably just magic.  My last full day in Shanghai was amazing, and I am not ready to leave.

Shanghai GM, City Planning, Museum, and Closing Dinner :(

Friday, March 13, 2015:
            I was disappointed in the smog this morning, but I guess it was better than Beijing the first day.  The contrast between night and day in Shanghai is astounding, but I can still definitely appreciate the architecture during the day.  GM started off a little rough because we had a delay, but we ended up getting off the bus and seeing the production facility first.  I have been to a Ford plant in the US and it was similar to what I saw there.  My first questions revolved around how often they operate.  I wanted to know why it is necessary that a car be produced so often, and if the company was concerned about over production and its environmental impact.  The man who spoke to us and the University of Georgia explained that Shanghai GM only produces what they plan to sell, and that they operate on a made-to-order basis.  The US operates that way, but China keeps 6 days of stock on hand.  Shanghai GM reuses as many parts as possible and recognizes the importance of the different market in China.  I find it amusing that for China vehicles that do not put as many cup holders and they make the back seat bigger so that the passengers can feel like they are being chauffeured.  GM also treats their employees better than other car companies, which explains why they have a 97% retention rate.  The man also explained how Shanghai GM is actually a joint venture, which means they are paired with a company in China called SAIC that gives GM access to the government, employees, and the vertical supply chains located near the plant for quick and efficient deliveries.  However, he also mentioned how difficult it is to negotiate and protect intellectual property in a joint venture, and explained that GM has to be careful with what information they reveal.  I was impressed that 98% of the cars made in the GM plant get sold in Shanghai as opposed to overseas somewhere.  Also, the company is working on a water-borne paint system to reduce fumes in the new Cadillac that is being built.  It was challenging to hear that China’s sulfur maximum is 350ppm as opposed to 15 and 10ppm in the US and UK.  But it is good to know that they plan on reducing it to 10ppm, and then 6ppm after that.  I would argue that pollution is really holding China back from being the ultimate successful country it can be.  While China is ahead of the times in technology and some innovation, it is still stuck in the past where pollution was not treated seriously.  Also, China has a lower safety standard than other countries, but since it costs less money to produce weaker structures, GM does not exceed those low standards; they do not want to over-engineer where unnecessary because it costs money, and GM is just as much of a business as any other company.  GM mentioned that Shanghai GM has such a young labor force, contrary to the aging work force other companies are struggling with.  While other companies are investing in youthful, innovative projects such as full automation, GM limits its research and development because they do not want to work on products they do not have a demand for, which I found interested.  Lastly, the reason Buick’s are so popular in China is because the emperor loved to drive his around and show it off.  This is another perfect example of nationalism in the sense that the people get caught up on basically worshipping their leaders and trying to follow in their footsteps.
            The city planning hall and the model of the city was surprising.  I can barely believe that so many buildings exist and that the city is still planning on developing.  The Shanghai Museum visit was also interesting because I got to see each type of the culture as it developed—from costumes to potteries all the way to currency.
            The trip is coming to an end—we just had the closing dinner.  The Pitt graduate that spoke made me want to move here because of how easily she adjusted.  The trip flew by, and the slideshow of pictures made me realize how many places we all saw in such a small amount of time.  I also realized how close everyone got.  I hope we stay this close when we get back to Pitt.  I did not enjoy the dinner because like the opening dinner, it was too fancy with too many delicacies.  I tried to taste the jellyfish and appreciate it, but I guess my taste buds just have not developed that far yet.  The lunch today, however, was fabulous!  I did win the award for most enthusiastic, which I was not expecting at all.  I mean, I know I was thrilled for the trip… well I guess I was probably most verbalized about my excitement.  I am so sad that it is almost over. :(