Ode to Boterdiep – My Fifth Home

“Dit is wel een erg kleine kamer. Past je grote mond hier wel in?”, said Ruud.

In 2001, I moved to this tiny room at the Boterdiep in Groningen. What it lacked in space, was compensated by an abundant amount of beautiful light and brightness thanks to the three large windows.
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GUMI

GUMI was formed during the New Year’s celebrations of the year 4707. Its original bandmembers were G. and M.  End of June this year, GUMI had their first and last performance ever.  A performance to celebrate her birthday, and to say goodbye to him, now living in Cambodia.

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It was a memorable evening, and GUMI played their songs: In Cerca di Cibo (In Search of Food), Wo Dengzhe Ni Huilai (Waiting for your return), Gloomy Sunday, Pinocchio – In Groppa Al Tonno, Meihua, El Choclo, Blue Monk, Love in Portofino, Ushti Ushti Baba (Macedonian folksong).
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Naxi Orchestra

Lijiang is the capital of the Naxi Kingdom. The Naxi are an ethnic group who descended from a race of Tibetan nomads.I read about their music, which is an ancient form of Chinese music, that survived the CR, among others because the musicians buried their instruments to save them. Naxi music is also called “the living fossils” of music in China and is a combination of literary lyrics, poetry and music styles from the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties and also has influences from Tibetan music. When I arrived in Lijiang, I didn’t really like this town. The old town of Lijiang which is in the top of favorite touristic places in China.  It was just too touristic, and feels a bit like a big Nanluoguxiang (Beijing) town. Then I read about the Naxi orchestra and for sure I wanted to check that out. It turned out to be the most interesting thing that Lijiang has to offer in my opinion, even though the Orchestra plays every evening for tourist. To me, it still has an authentic feel to it. Reading about this ancient music from China and then seeing the members of the Orchestra… Well, have a look yourself:

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The oldest member of the Naxi Orchestra is 87 years old!

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Bloody hot Beijing

It is a bloody hot summer in Beijing! We have days of above 37 degrees Celsius everyday now, and the sun is so strong. To me, it is just too hot and I prefer to stay inside, where there is airconditioning. I don’t mind at all that I’ll be working the whole summer. I had my holiday beginning of June and finally went to see Yunnan! The province of immense diversity in geography, climates and people. There are 28 recognized ethnic groups in Yunnan, the highest number in any single province. I went travelling there for about 2 weeks, and it was too short to see all that I wanted to see. Took so many pics and vids, that I could use another holiday to sort them all out and write a post about my holiday in Yunnan for my blog. I’ll take it step by step!
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Harbin

A few weekends ago I went to Harbin to see the famous Ice and Snow festival. The first time I heard about this Ice and Snow festival was many years ago, I think it was in 1997, when ice sculpture artists from Harbin came to my hometown Groningen to create ice sculptures to be exposed in the Chinese Garden in Botanical Garden Hortus. That year I worked there, and it was early in the year, pretty cold. I was standing outside of the big hall ( huge freezer) with the ice sculptures, dressed in traditional Chinese clothes, to sell crappy souvenirs. The exposition was open until 10 pm, and it often became very cold outside. After the first few weeks, it wasn’t that crowded anymore, and I would often stand behind the souvenirs for hours, without any visitors dropping by. What I did to warm myself up, was go into the big hall, and have a walk around the beautiful ice sculptures (not so big as in Harbin of course). That was beautiful, as there were often no visitors around late in the evening. And I stayed in that big freezer until I was getting really cold before leaving the freezer again. And the outside temperature was just lovely. It felt like a nice Spring day!

Anyways, that was my first encounter with the ice sculptures of Harbin. Forgive me for being lazy, and not posting my pictures on my blog. I will give you a link where you can see some pictures!

Go to this link for the pictures!

Impressions: Introduction

4 months have past since my last update. I have never before feltmonths passing by at the speed of these last 4 ones. As a way to catchup I have started a series of Impressions. Impressions of things,situations, places, activities I have experienced in the past 4 months.Impressions of my life in China. Images, emotions, sensations, andthoughts that are now consolidated in my memory, and I know that I willcherish them for a long long time. Another year has ended. A new yearwill begin again. And again, and again, and again.

I don’t think it is an art to be able to see beauty, I think it isan art to be able to feel beauty. Not just by seeing, but just by beingin the moment.

Hope you enjoy my impressions.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year… again.

Impressions: Last days in Class

The two advanced classes prepared a surprise performance for our teachers to thank them. We sang a song, had a rap battle and a smashing breakdance!

Our teachers:

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Singing the song: you mei you ren gaosu ni

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Rap battle between C1 and C2 class

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Battling whose teacher is the best!

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Breakdance performance
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Graduation day from University of International Business and Economics,
waiting for our certificates!

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Impressions: Studytrips

CHONGQING

The “Gang of Four”, photo by Filippo Leddi aka “Leidi”

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Seminar on the Economy of Chongqing

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Visit to a mobile phone company

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The cups of the workers

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Official dinner

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The skyline of Chongqing

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MA’ANSHAN

Newly opened Crowne Plaza in Ma’anshan, I believe we were the first guests.

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Seminar on the economy of Ma’anshan

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Visit to factory, followed by local tv station

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Meeting with the mayor of Ma’anshan

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Our team leader and the mayor of Ma’anshan

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Party in a club in Ma’anshan

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NANJING

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Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall

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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (Father of the Nation) Mausoleum

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XIAMEN

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Seminar on Xiamen, one of the first Special Economic Zones in China

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Visit to light bulb factory

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Local dinner on the streets of Xiamen

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Last night in Xiamen

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TIANJIN

Visit to the Airbus factory in Tianjin

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The rebels of the group – METP FOR BLUES!

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Sichuan

After two months of studying, we got a well-deserved two week Summer holiday! Where most of my classmates went back to Europe, I decided to travel a bit in Sichuan. It happen to be that Erika joined an exchange group of Dutch students who were going to Sichuan to visit some areas that were hit by the big earthquake a year ago. In order to get acquainted with developmental work, they had meetings with a.o. NGO’s, and they visited schools to organize activities and games with local schoolkids.

I met up with Erika and her group in Chengdu, and joined them for their last week in Sichuan. Sichuan is located in the South-East of China and from its capital Chengdu it is a 3 hr flight to Beijing. I arrived in the early evening and while having a walk with Erika in Chengdu’s city center, we saw these statues of “Western” people. Chinese people pose next to these statues as to be on a picture with a “Westerner”. I know that Chengdu is less of an international city as Beijing, having less foreigners as their inhabitants, but still.. Is it really necessary to pose next to a statue of a foreigner? I sometimes feel that the obsession that some Chinese have with “Westerners” is not healthy. Towards the end of my holiday, I was in Chengdu with Simon and I showed him the statues. We thought of a nice business plan in which he would stand next to the statues, eating a Big Mac and drinking a Coke, and I would ask 10 kuai for every picture taken with him. Now that’s a business!

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The next day we went to see Sichuan Opera. This was actually the first time for me to see a Chinese Opera. I have never been to any Beijing Opera, because in my mind (and this might be incorrect) it is an play, with continuously high pitched singing to which I can listen to to a certain extent. Not for more than 30 min. Sichuan Opera is famous for its mixture of several acts for example slapstick, erhu performance, puppet-shows, face changing and fire breathing. The show was obviously set up for tourists; it was possible to get a massage before the performance or even during the performance, which Erika and I signed up for ;)Even though it is not really my cup of tea, the Sichuan Opera was quite entertaining. I might give the Beijing Opera a chance now as well..

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One of the best kept secrets of Sichuan Opera is the changing of faces. The performers change their masks so fast, that within a blink of the eye, they suddenly have a difference face. I must say that the effect is quite impressive. As with most magician tricks, you’ll never find out how they do it, unless you become a magician yourself.

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Chengdu and the East of Sichuan has a subtropical humid monsoon climate. The summer season is the season of rain. Here is a picture of Wangjianglou park. This park is also known as Bamboo park as it has more than 150 varieties of bamboo. Since last year, the local government has cancelled all the entrance fees to the parks to stimulate the tourism. As the rain was pouring out of the sky, there were not many people visiting the park.

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And the people that were present, preferred to drink a nice cup of tea in tea houses like this:

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The next picture was taken on the road to Sichuan’s second largest city, Mianyang. Also known to be the cleanest city of whole China. The city itself was only lightly damaged by the earthquake, other areas within the Mianyang prefecture were among the most heavily hit areas. The houses with the blue rooftops are prefab houses, temporary houses for the people who lost their homes to live in.

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We visited two schools near Mianyang. This is the first school, and as you can see, the kids were all lined up to welcome us. This school only has around 30 middle school kids, coming from different villages in the area.

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The Dutch youngsters organized activities for the kids like musical chair, football and singing class and the Chinese kids had a fun morning. I spoke to one of the teachers and she told me that their school was visited often by foreigners who come and undertake activities with the kids. The tour guide who was with our group told me that she is happy that people from the West are concerned and even though there’s nothing that these activities can do for the kids on the long-term, at least for the moment, for this morning, everybody was having a great time.

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In the afternoon we visited another school. Our bus was too big for the little road that led to the second school.

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This school was attended by considerably more children.

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Handling a classroom full of kids is certainly not an easy job.

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Many people from the villages in this area had come to the school to see what was going to happen. Considerably more people were watching and curious about these foreigners (of whom most have Chinese origins) coming to the school and doing activities with the kids. I guess this school was not used to visitors as much as the first school.

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The contrast between the old and the new houses was tremendously big!

New house:

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Old house:

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What I heard was that most newly build houses were funded by companies or individuals. It is not so clear were the money of the government was spend on exactly, except for some of the prefab houses and schools.

 

I wonder what all these kids were thinking..

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Next item on the programme was a visit to Leshan (“Happy Mountain”), home of the world largest stone-carved Buddha, ?? (dxe0fxf3 = big buddha). The construction period lasted for 90 years, and the 71m high Buddha is the protector of the boatmen. The first thing you see when you arrive, is his head. Then you can descend a stairway on his side and slowly see his grandeur be revealed to you.

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Unfortunately, many Chinese had a holiday and of course they ALL wanted to see Dafo! I don’t remember anymore how long we stood in line to reach the stairway down. But it reminded me all too much of Xizhimen during rushhour.

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When we finally arrived at the stairway going down, we were hoping for a somewhat fast descent, but of course we should have known better. The line just continued on the stairway down to the feet of Mr. Dafo.

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One glance of Dafo..

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Many glances of the tourists like me.

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His big toe is 8.5 meter long..

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Very impressive to stand as his feet and look up to him.

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After Leshan, we went to Emei Shan. Emei Shan is one of the four famous Buddhist mountains in China. We arrived in Emei city, about 7 km away from the mountain. Here I said goodbye to Erika and her group and I went to Baoguo village; a one-street village at the foot of the mountain. Here I would meet up with Simon who had been travelling in the West of Sichuan. I wandered around myself that day, waiting for Simon to come, and I walked a bit up the mountain already. The scenery is beautiful, and it was great to be surrounded by nature as in Beijing it is hard to find. I wasn’t the only one enjoying the greenery and the freshness of the little river.

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Macaques live on Emei Mountain, and we were warned for them harrassing travellers as you climb up the mountain. The Lonely Planet actually recommended to bring a fixed-length umbrella to use for the rain, as a walking stick and as a warning to the monkeys! Well, 99% of all the monkeys I saw were the ones that this little boy is carrying around his neck.

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In the early evening, Simon arrived in Baoguo village, and to pay our honours to the good ol’ times when we were both living in Beijing, we had the street BBQ with Baijiu!

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The next day we left at around noon. We took a bus to Jingshui, about 500m up the mountain and starting walking up the steep steeeeep stairs! Another option was to get carried up the mountain as quite a lot of other people were doing. What a job!

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I don’t recall having walked up so many stairs before in my life.

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But the views were amazingly beautiful!

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This little horse gave a good example of how to walk down the stairs. Do it zigzagging!

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We spent the night at Huayan temple, after walking for more than 6 hours.

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During the walk we hardly saw any other tourists.

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And there is nothing better than arriving at a peaceful monastery, after an intensive walk up the mountain for several hours.

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There was even a hot shower!

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Simon has fans everywhere in China! The next day a couple with their three daughters arrived at this summit and they were just lovely!

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This is the only monkey we saw during our whole walk up the mountain. He wasn’t harassing anyone!

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On the way up ,there are many little snack corners like this one. No need to starve on the way up!

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Again the steep stairs!

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The more we ascended, the more misty it became, causing these mystifying views of the huge trees.

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I love this one!

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We walked until we were at about 2540m in height on the mountain. At that point there was a connection to the road, and buses were just pouring out the tourists. It was just so annoying, after having such a long walk through a very peaceful environment. The fog became thicker as well, and we decided not to go to the top of the mountain. After walking more than 20 km, ascending more than 1500m, spending the night in a monastery which gave me the feeling of sleeping in the sky, amongst the clouds, we decided not to ruin the good memory of Emei Shan by going to the top and be overrun by tourists. The fog would not have allowed us to see anything anyway. So we took a bus back to Baoguo village, and then got a ride back to Chengdu.

 

Chengdu cannot be mentioned without thinking about Panda’s! The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base is located in Chengdu.

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The baby panda’s are so tiny!

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I am back in Beijing and enjoying my last free days before school starts again on Monday!

Training Programme has begun..

Hi folks!

This is the third week of the Exchange Training Programme. We finally have some more free time as the first two weeks were just crazy. We started with a 2-week Intercultural training in Beijing and Shanghai. The schedule was so fully planned, I don’t think I have ever experience such intensive two weeks before. Only in these first two weeks, all the 46 Europeans and the 59 Chinese were together in the programme. The Chinese people are leaving now for their training in Europe, and the Europeans are starting the Business Chinese language training this Friday.

It is not so easy to give you an idea of these two weeks of intercultural training, but I will give it a shot, showing you loads of pictures.

It all started inThe Marriott hotel in Beijing. Here is a pic of my hotel room. Quite strange to stay in a 5-star hotel, while my house is only a 20 minute cab-ride away. But my apartment doesn’t have a luxurious swimming pool or breakfast buffet, so I was ok with staying in the hotel. 🙂

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After the welcome speeches, introductions of the organization, participants, the intercultural training etc. we started with an outdoor training, nearby the Great Wall. As we were with more than 100 people, we were divided in groups, and also to experience working in a group with people from different cultural backgrounds.These two weeks were all about intercultural communication, cooperation, negotiation, understanding, etc..

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So this is my group during the Outbound training, we were called the Baijiu Busters, and they appointed me to be the leader, as I was the only female European in the group. I am actually the only European with Chinese origins in the whole group. The first day of the outbound training my leadership skills turned out to suck badly.. but luckily the second day was better. The outbound training consisted of many activities in which communication and cooperation was important.

Baijiu Busters

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Some of the other groups

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On our way to the training area

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Example of one of the activities: building a tent with limited material and the requirement that the whole group should fit in

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The Great Wall, although I am not sure which part we were exactly

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After the two days outdoor training, we received a certificate.

That evening we took an overnight train to Shanghai. We arrived very early in the morning in SH and had to wait the whole morning before we could check in to our rooms. Although this 5-star hotel was less luxurious than the one in BJ, the apartment I got for myself was nice!

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Nice “Dutch” colored living room

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and the kitchen… that I never used

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Even though we had the nice hotels booked for us, we were only there to sleep as our whole days were fully planned and in the evening, especially in SH, most of us went out to catch some of nightlife in SH. I of course went to the Cotton Club to check whether my fond memories of 2005 were not too biased. It was as good as 4 years ago!

We received several lectures at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. All topics were related to international business with the focus on cultural differences.

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Experts in the field sharing their experiences.

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It was not difficult at all to find a bar after class to ponder about all we had learned that day!

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One day of the training in SH was dedicated on exploring SH. We went to the SH Urban Planning museum.

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Had our share of silliness

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Took loads of pictures with new friends

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The best of the whole museum was this model of the city! Impressive!

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After this, we also visited the Shanghai museum, the building in the middle of this picture:

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Lunch!

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Typical Shanghainese fried dumpling

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We were divided in groups and each group had to explore a certain part of Shanghai, and give a presentation about their findings. We had to explore The Bund (famous waterfront area in SH) by doing certain assignments. The building that looks like a bottle-opener (and also called like this) is the SH World financial centre and at this moment the highest building in China. But they are planning to build another one, next to the bottle-opener which will even be higher.

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Interviewing people on the streets

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In the end, we made a movie to present our area in SH. To see the movie, you can click on this link.

 

The next day they planned company visits for us. I went to a company which is the largest steel producer in China. The company actually has tour guides to show people the company. Quite interesting to see a part of the production.

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Then came the graduation of our Executive Business training in SH! Of course with a ceremony!

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And of course with a certificate

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Western style dinner to celebrate!

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Last evening in SH where I went to the rooftop of our hotel to see the nightview.

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Here we are at the SH airport, on our way back to Beijing

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Back in Beijing we immediately started with the next training, a business simulation training, in which we were again divided in groups and every group is a company. Goal is to make a joint venture with another company and of course to get as much revenue as possible.

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This training was all about time management and performing under pressure in an intercultural environment.

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Unfortunately, the company I was part of went bankrupt with a loss of minus 5 million. Oooops!

 

The end of the two week intercultural training. The two weeks felt like 3 months.

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A huge party was organised as the group would split up after this in the Chinese going to Europe and the Europeans staying in China. That Friday happened to be my birthday as well, so it was very nice to get a party like that!

Now we have started the Business Chinese Language Programme, and the university in BJ has developed a intensive but very good programme for us. Back to being a student again!