Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 29, 2011

Last Full Day in China – June 29th

This morning after a tasty breakfast at the hotel, we drove to the Summer Palace. Misty weather made it a little less difficult to walk along the Long Corridor before taking a Dragon Boat across the giant lake in the middle of the park.  Then, we climbed up a man-made hill, The Hill of Longevity and saw The Temple of Buddhist Incense.  Just before leaving for lunch, our group rested at a small plaza.  After the rest period, we went to a wonderful fancy lunch, where we enjoyed delicious Shanghainese food.  After the exquisite lunch, we took a bus drive to the Olympic village nicknamed “The Bird’s Nest.” The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 summer Olympics were held in this building.  In “the Bird’s Nest” we had a blast watching people race on Segways on the Olympic track and cheering them on.  We then took a small tour of the wax figure exhibit showing former IOC leaders, and shopped in the Olympic gift shop – after taking a lot of pictures, of course. After returning from an hour-long bus ride back to the hotel we are now getting ready for an extravagant dinner held in a fancy restaurant overlooking the Forbidden City. Once coming back to the hotel after our final dinner in China, those who aren’t too tired will pack in preparation for our flight home, and think about how much fun we’ve had. It has been strange thinking that today has been our last full day of our three-week, fun-filled trip. We have learned a lot about culture, customs and food in China. It is sad to think that, at least for now, this is our last night in China. But because of all the strong bonds and amazing memories we have formed, this will be a trip that cannot be forgotten.

–Rajeev, Vanessa, Michael, Kent, Advait, Caroline, and Ela

Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 28, 2011

Beijing- June 27th and 28th

We visited Tiananmen Square in the morning. It was very hot and crowded – however, it was amazing to see the historical site where the Beijing Massacre occurred. Across the street was the Forbidden City, the ancient palace where emperors lived. While inside the city, we had a scavenger hunt. We broke up into 7 different teams and had to race around the city to accomplish 15 important missions. We had a delicious lunch down the road from the Forbidden City, and headed over to the Silk Alley, a famous and gigantic shopping center. We had two hours to wander around this massive bazaar, and we each found unique items. Soon after, we met with college students and roamed around a sprawling mall and tasted delicious food. It was a great culmination to our first day in Beijing.

Today we were allowed to sleep in until a whopping 6:30 in order to beat the crowds and heat to the Great Wall. The stairs were challenging but the entire group managed to conquer them and was rewarded with a magnificent view of a lush Chinese countryside. It’s almost impossible to describe the Great Wall in words so we made sure to take many pictures! After a yummy lunch near the wall, we headed to Studio 798 to see the modern art scene in China and we were permitted to wander in small groups to visit whichever exhibits and stores drew our attention. Then we went to a dinner filled with very popular dumplings before going to see a kung fu performance that amazed everybody.  After a long day of hiking and shopping, we went back to the hotel, ready to get some sleep (hopefully we won’t be sore in the morning).

–Christina, Tasha, Peyton, Rohan, Courtney, Andrew W

Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 28, 2011

Chengdu and Yaan City – June 24 to 26

Today was the long awaited day that the students have anticipated.

The pandas were fun to feed and it was nice to watch them play. It was amazing to see how a panda eats bamboo with its huge teeth. Also, the baby pandas were the cutest little animals and I wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to watch them play for anything. Overall, the Giant Panda Reserve was a great experience for us all and we can say for the whole group that we were very fortunate to be there. Upon arrival, we changed into our brown volunteer jumpsuits and gloves to prepare to take care of the pandas. We then divided into small groups to give the pandas individual care and attention. That morning was tough because of the hot weather and hard work, but also an amazing experience as we got to learn how to clean up panda waste, take care of its home, and learn more fun facts about pandas with our guide. Did you know that 1 panda year = 3 human years? That day passed by really quickly and the next morning we got to take photos with the pandas! We had to pull on blue plastic robes along with gloves and shoe covers in order to not spread disease with the pandas. It was quite a sight! We were able to wrap our arms around them, an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. After that, we headed over to a beautiful scenic hike in the mountains. The first part of the hike is a descent down to the bottom of the mountains, where there is an incredible river with multiple waterfalls. It was so much fun.  Once we got to the bottom of the hike, we got to take an elevator back up.

– Alex, Justine, Kelsey, Chris, Lexus, Katherine, and Morgan

Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 21, 2011

Shanghai, Take 2 – June 21

Today, after waking up in the (somewhat familiar) beds and enjoying a (somewhat familiar) breakfast, we set out on the bus, and began our day of sightseeing. After meeting our new guide, Fei Fei, who gave us (as a class) the nickname “Trees and Flowers” (boys are trees, girls are flowers), we made our first stop at the Jade Buddha Temple, where we wandered around, smelling the incense, admiring the statues, and remembering to NOT take pictures of the beautiful jade Buddhas. We were served delicious and surprisingly, detoxifying tea, and saw numerous Buddhists praying to the gold Buddhas that enclosed the temple.

Once we had thoroughly enjoyed the marvelous Buddhas, we clambered back onto the bus, and shuttled over to the Shanghai Museum. We admired exhibits ranging from ancient bronze metalworkings to Chinese ethnic minority costumes and sculptures. We particularly enjoyed the jade carvings and Qing dynasty paintings, which featured birds and flowers. Some of the audio guides happened to be in French, which amused some of us (not the people who take Spanish).

After a delicious lunch, with dumplings, potstickers, custard, and a live musical accompanist, we traveled to the Yu Garden, which, similar to the Humble Administrator’s Garden, is the largest garden in its city. We traversed the narrow bridges, awed by the beautiful pagodas, and more than a little creeped out by the frenzied horde of koi. After our visit in the garden, we were given an hour to explore the shops nearby, and make purchases, which ranged from plush birds to silk scarves and mushroom socks.

From the shops, we visited the various foreign-built buildings dotting the bank of the Huangpu river. Besides seeing beautiful architecture, juxtaposed old and new buildings on each side, we also met a bunch of beautiful Chinese people. After another delicious meal, we headed back to our familiar hotel, ready as ever for the next day.

-Connor and Molly

The frenzied, feeding koi at the Wu Garden.

An elephant watching over the marketplace where we did our shopping.

Our view of the Shanghai skyline from across the river.

Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 20, 2011

Leaving Jiangyin – June 20

Today had an early wake-up compared to the previous two days because we were going to school with our homestay buddies. After saying goodbye we were welcomed to the high school by the principal and two administrators. Afterwards, we were treated to a martial arts lesson and a calligraphy course. We then had lunch at the cafeteria of the school with the teachers and faculty.

We then said farewell to Jiangyin and boarded our bus for Shanghai. Before we left though, the principal of the Xiao Qi Elementary School came to say a final goodbye to us.

We whiled away the hours of the bus ride with Quick Chats about Shanghai, Chinese lessons from Justine and Olivia and a new game about numbers from Lexus.

We arrived in Shanghai and were are amazed  by the large buildings and bright lights. We spend the afternoon shopping and relax. After we indulge in a Chinese-Thai dinner and do a little more shopping. We then arrive back at our original hotel in Shanghai and are looking forward to a good nights sleep.

-Andrew M. and Nikki

A bust on display of the Founder of the high school

A beautiful reflecting pool on the high school campus

A hallway in the shopping center we visited

Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 18, 2011

Day Two in Jiangyin and Closing Ceremony

Today, slightly sleepy after eating breakfast, we visited an organic Chinese deer farm.  When we first arrived, we were enlightened of the importance of deer to Chinese culture by watching a short cartoon. Deer is known by the Chinese to cure diseases by the medicinal uses of the deer’s antlers and blood. We had a great time watching how a young Chinese man was rescued by a deer-woman and how the king of the deer tribe eventually saved an entire village of disease with his blood. After the cartoon, we visited the spotted deer themselves on the farm. They looked quizzically at us while we took photos of the baby deer. After we took enough photos we saw some geese and chickens and then ate lunch at the farm.

We returned to the Qiaoqi Experimental Elementary School and taught last lesson. Even though it was the last lesson we taught at the school, we were still energetic as were the kids. Afterwards, we used our counseling time to prepare our performances that our kids would reenact. At the closing ceremony, all the counseling groups performed including the dance classes. Some groups sang nursery rhymes such as “I’m a little teapot” and “London Bridge is falling down” while others did dances like “The Macarena” and “The Shark Song.” The 9th graders vivaciously performed “I’m a Believer” which the elementary students enjoyed.  We thanked all of the students and Chinese teachers for hosting us and helping us have a relationship with the school and a better understanding of Chinese education. The school in turn presented us with fans with the saying, “Do your best in everything that you do.” It was sad to have to leave the children with whom we spent two days although it was a lasting experience.

The tradition of a basketball game against the Qiaoqi faculty was very entertaining. 9th grade students warmed up by making lay-ups and shooting free throws.  Our tai-chi instructor was on the opposing team and sizing up the students. We started of on a good foot: we made a few shots in the starting minutes, but the other team soon caught up. After the intense game, unfortunately, we lost 42 to 56 but if anyone asks, it was out of politeness for our hosts…

During our fantastic dinner, we had our first few quick chats which were very informing. First up was Rajeev and Kent who taught us about what Chinese kids like to do with their free time. They told us that most of all, children like to spend time with their families as they can’t much when they’re studying or doing their homework. Next was Vanessa, Courtney, and Morgan who followed up with the Chinese education system. They taught us how the GaoKao was very important for college and how most children spend most of their life studying it. We were interested by the fact the Chinese students have a different life we do. Later, Wooz and Advait were next in line for their quick chat. They taught about the history of Tai-chi which they told us about internal energy, Chi. Also, they captivated us with their special Tai-chi move they presented to us after their speech. All the quick chats were off to a great start!

At night, most people went to go badminton, table tennis, and swim. We went to a near by gymnasium which we were allowed to use the courts and the swimming pool. Everybody had a great time exercising and working out. The facilities were great to use and we thanked the workers for allowing us to use them. At the end, we were pleased that everything worked out well.

After the long and fun day, we finally got some sleep that need for the upcoming days.

–Danielle and Tristan

Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 17, 2011

Teaching in Jiangyin – June 16th

Today we began teaching the students at Xiaoqi Experimental Elementary School in Jiangyin.  In the morning, there was an optional tai chi lesson on the rooftop of the hotel before breakfast.  After breakfast we went straight to the elementary school, where we took a tour of the facilities and admired the amazing work of the students, such as art and calligraphy.  We were warmly welcomed by the principal of the school and soon met our counseling groups, a group of 12 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders mentored by 4 CSUS students.  We started off by making name tags with the kids and getting to know them a little bit.  The degree of their English proficiency varied, but all in all we were impressed by their language skills and were able to understand one another.  The remainder of the counseling time was taken up by games like Simon Says and Red Light Green Light, which were big hits with the kids.  After counseling time, we went for lunch at a nearby restaurant during their long lunch period–students in China go home to eat lunch and then return later in the afternoon.

Then we began teaching 3 sessions of our classes – Kickball, Science, Arts & Crafts, Tennis, and Dance.  We can’t speak for the other classes, but ours (Science and Arts & Crafts) went very well.  For Arts & Crafts, the kids started off with a drawing activity where they would draw a picture, pass it on to the person next to them, who would then add to it.  This created some very crazy drawings but were all very creative.  Following that, the kids made paper bag puppets which were extravagantly and carefully decorated with pompoms, feathers, and the like.  In Science, we taught the children a music lesson using straws as instruments, demonstrating that the short straws make high notes and the long straws make low notes.  Though we’re not sure how much of it got through to them, we tried to incorporate vocabulary like “sound waves” into the lesson by demonstrating waves with a spring.  The kids had a lot of fun and all wanted to play the hardest song that we had for them, the Blue Danube Waltz.

We returned to the hotel around 5 after saying a temporary goodbye to our students.  There, we went to a formal dinner hosted by the principals of the school we had just taught at.  We learned some of the rules of Chinese etiquette, such as waiting to eat until our hosts had started, which was very difficult because of the tempting food in front of us.

Right after dinner, there was an optional trip (an offer taken up by the majority of us) to go into downtown Jiangyin.  First, Mr. Kwong showed us a collection of statues depicting young men in ancient China who had just received the results of their Confucian exams (a series of tests put forth to determine acceptance into government positions).  Some of the statues were screaming with joy, having passed the exams, while others were slumped on the ground in defeat.  While we were taking pictures with the statues, we drew a crowd of curious locals.  After that, we disbanded to explore the main streets of downtown Jiangyin, taking opportunities to shop as they arose.  An hour later and several bags of clothing heavier, we met back at a familiar site, the KFC.  Our attention was diverted by something more unfamiliar, a cat sitting inside the lit KFC sign, the bottoms of its feet visible to us from the sidewalk as it padded about.

Returning to the hotel, most of us received calls from our parents, a welcome opportunity to share with our families what we have been experiencing over the past few days.  Then we went to bed, ready to return in the morning to the adorable Chinese children we left behind.

–Lucie and Carter

The banner that surprised us all when we first arrived at the school.An example of calligraphy that was on display when we visited the school

An example of calligraphy that was on display when we visited the school

A shot of one of the classes, proudly displaying their paper bag puppets
A picture of the cat inside the KFC sign
A pair of statues we saw during the walk downtown
Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 15, 2011

Sightseeing in Suzhou – June 15th

This morning was our first time waking up in China. After getting ready, we headed down and had our first Chinese breakfast, which consisted of sausages, noodles and fish chips. Following our meal, we collected our bags and boarded a bus to head for the city of Suzhou. On the bus, we met our tour guide, Becky, who led us through the day.

Our first stop was the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the largest garden in Suzhou. Despite the rainy weather, we thoroughly enjoyed wandering throughout the garden, among the lotus blooms. What interested us about the garden was the unique architecture of its buildings, particularly the slanted roofs and circular doorways. After spending the majority of the morning there, we returned to the bus and headed for lunch, where we had a delicious local meal of noodles.

The next stop was the Suzhou #1 Silk Factory, where we learned about the process of making silk. We saw the life cycle of a silkworm, as well as the machines used to extract the silk from the cocoons. We saw the workers weaving the silk, and then walked to the gift shop, where we got to see and purchase the final products of this process. Most of us purchased souvenirs and enjoyed looking at the various scarves and other clothing items.

Later, we headed to the part of Suzhou that gave its name, “the Venice of China,” a.k.a. the Grand Canal. There, we split into two groups to each board a separate boat. We all enjoyed watching the houses pass by as we floated along the canal. Following the boat ride, we were given some free time to explore the surrounding shops and put our haggling skills into practice. (Most of us were successful.) We then thanked and said our goodbyes to Becky, our tour guide.

After a long day of sightseeing and touring, we went to a restaurant, where we were treated to another wonderful dinner. (We’re starting to get used to Chinese food.)

Finally, we boarded the bus for an hour-and-fifteen-minutes journey to our new hotel, the Du Kang Yuan hotel, where we received a warm welcome from the school in the form of an electronic message, saying “Warmly Welcom [sic] the American Crystal Springs Uplands School.” All of us were tired, all of us were longing to go to bed, and all of us were anxiously awaiting the teaching lessons and activities that would proceed the next day.

-Crisula and Ansel

A row of bonsai trees in the Humble Administrator's Garden

A pagoda in the Humble Administrator's Garden

Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 14, 2011

We’re in China! – June 14th

We’re in China!

The day started off at SFO, where we embarked upon our trip. After the thirteen-hour flight to Hong Kong, we got our first glimpses of China—the airport was full of shops and surprisingly empty (it was around six in the morning). We passed the time by playing card games and betting with candy.

We then boarded our connecting flight to Shanghai, a much shorter flight that lasted less than two hours. Everyone arrived safe and sound without any trouble… except Mr. Whitmore, who had a ticket for the wrong plane and had to take the next flight.

After our initial awe (We’re actually IN China!), we got on a bus and went directly to the Oriental Pearl Tower, the most famous image of Shanghai. We took a very fast elevator to a very high place (around 250 meters above sea level), where we could walk around the perimeter and see other major sites of Shanghai. Sadly, it had been raining, and a large part of the sky was covered in fog. We were then thrilled by the transparent floor, which allowed us to see a bird’s eye view of Shanghai.

Following our return, we were whisked away to lunch, a delicious assortment of various Chinese cuisine. Next, we checked into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Shanghai. We were given about an hour before we left for dinner.

Our dinner took place on a small cruise ship, while we sailed on the Huangpu River. Although at first we were absorbed by the exotic food, we eventually noticed the electrifying lights on the west bank of the river, which included the Oriental Pearl Tower. The colorful neon display drew all of us out to the deck, eagerly toting cameras. Finally, we headed home to the hotel, exhausted after a long, full day.

-Olivia and Zach

A night shot of the Oriental Pearl.

The high-tech elevator that whisked us up to the top.


A circle of feet, with a view down through the floor to the ground below.


A shot of the base of the Oriental Pearl, and the surrounding buildings, taken from the boat.

Posted by: csuschina2011 | June 11, 2011


18 days, 33 students, 6 chaperones, 1 country with nearly 4,000 years of history…

Welcome to the CSUS China Trip 2011 Blog.  Over the course of the next 2 and a half weeks, our travelers will post updates for you about their experiences in China as often as possible.  With activities on our agenda from sliding down the Great Wall to taking care of pandas, the trip promises to be an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime journey.  Be sure to check in during the next 18 days to see what adventures we’ve been on.

Bon voyage to the travelers!