What a trip! Part 1

(Note- I started this post awhile ago and the photos were taking forever to load on our slow internet and life got busy. I decided not to change what I’d written but just add to it.)

I’ve now been back from China for a week and I’m just beginning to get a decent night’s sleep! The jet lag is worse on the return as it only took a couple days to get on China time (exactly 12 hours ahead of home).

The trip was fantastic – the smoothest international trip I’ve been on to my recollection – no delays, lost luggage, illness, missed connections. It probably helped that it was a fairly routine business trip, not an adoption trip! The flight is long – approximately 12.5 hours from Chicago to Beijing, several hours in the Beijing airport then another 2.5 hours to Hangzhou. Our smaller group of 5 met up with the travelers who had opted for the extended tour of Beijing at the airport and we all traveled to Hangzhou together. We were all sleep walking when we got to the hotel at approximately 2 AM!

We spent the first day sightseeing and the sights were wonderful. Hangzhou is the most beautiful city I’ve visited in China. It is full of greenery – plants everywhere! It’s like a park with buildings and streets inside of it. Despite the 8.5 million residents and crazy Chinese traffic, I found it quite peaceful.

We spent the first afternoon at West Lake, where we took a boat cruise on the lake (it’s huge, and actually more than one lake).  While the sky was somewhat hazy the weather was veryimg_2155 balmy and pleasant.

The lake is a tourist destination so there were a lot of other boats on the water and we shared our boat with a group of Chinese tourists. Their guide had a microphone, ours didn’t, so it was hard to hear much. Still it was a pleasant ride. At dusk the pagoda on the hill was lit up, making it a beautiful sight.

Froimg_2210m there we went to Qinghefang Street, one of the most famous historic streets in the city and now a tourist shopping area.  Most preserved buildings are from the Ming and Qing dynasties.



According to the guidebook, “Strolling on this street, you will be attracted by the img_2304antique buildings and local crafts, such as silk parasols, brocades, noted Zhang Xiaoquan scissors and Hangzhou fans.” I found the people watching to be more interesting than shopping – and while I didn’t buy any, was especially curious about the snacks for sale like this sugar? syrup? dragon!


On the 2nd day we visited one of the top schools in China – the Hangzhou Foreign Language School. It is very large and prestigious and students come from other countries (we met students from the UK and Germany while there) to study while the Chinese students study English, German, Spanish, and Japanese.

Unlike in the U.S.img_2221 students in China don’t just move from their neighborhood middle school to their neighborhood high school. Instead at the end of middle school (or Junior High) the students take an exam and the results of that exam will dictate which high school they can apply to and even whether they go on to high school.


Hangzhou Foreign Language School has about 2000 students. The blurb on their website says “Every year, 80% of our graduates are admitted to top universities in China and abroad, such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, etc.”

After a tour of the school we headed out for more sightseeing – this time to XiXi  National Wetlands Park. It was not at all what I would have thought of as a Wetlands Park – while there was plenty of wetlands I don’t think I saw more than a handful of birds and none were waterbirds.img_2279

We strolled around the trails and took another boat ride, ending up at a shopping street full of stores selling souvenirs (these are ubiquitous).  Hangzhou is known for its silk and everywhere we went there were beautiful, colorful scarves!


Once again there were a lot of other tourists there – and even a model photo shoot!


20161017_145355Then it was off to dinner out as a group. The next day we would all split up and head to the schools we’d been assigned and would see much less of each other.


I will leave it there for now as each photo takes a very long time to load! More on the STEM side of things in the next post.



This entry was posted in China, school, science, teaching, travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What a trip! Part 1

  1. Lisa M. says:

    I’m so glad you had a good time! Can’t wait to hear the rest. Beautiful photos 🙂 I bet you have a TON of those….

  2. bogart says:

    Welcome home! It’s wonderful to start to hear about your trip and I look forward to additional posts — sounds like you had a great time (I hope that persists!).

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