This blog is still getting some traffic so it seems like I should add a final post, although it is probably a bit unnecessary. The photos at the bottom are some more of my favorites. I thought I would base the text of this post around three of the most common questions I get asked about my trip:
What was your favorite thing about China?
The people and the food.
During our travels I found the people in China to be very welcoming, friendly, and beautiful. I felt comfortable the moment we stepped outside of the Beijing Airport. I was perhaps most impressed with how social everyone seems to be. Public gathering spaces are abundant and well utilized by people of all ages. Despite the language barrier most people I encountered were very engaging. The mention of the social aspect of China offers a great segue into the food.
The food was absolutely amazing, which I reiterated ad nauseam throughout this blog. During our 3 weeks in China we tried hundreds of different dishes. One meal alone could easily have a variety of 10 different things to try. The great array of plates on the table was commonplace because we almost always ate as a large group. As you may have seen in the photos, there is typically a ‘lazy susan’ in the middle of the table and the dishes are spun around and shared. There are usually some favorites and some competition for those favorites; which is entertaining at the least and certainly important for group relationship building. The point of all this babble is that in China not only do they eat phenomenal food but they often engage in group meals that are very social. In the U.S. we often eat in isolation or sit in front of our computers at work and wolf down lunch. The professionals we interacted with in China were pretty much appalled at our working lunch attitude in the States.
What was the best part of the trip?
I can’t even begin to say how lucky I felt to have the opportunity to travel through China with a purpose, and with such a great group of people. We were constantly on the move attending meetings, visiting relevant sites, eating amazing food, and traveling to new places. I really appreciate the members of the What If group and all the people we met during our journey.
My favorite part in many ways was our visit to Alashan. This region is located in Inner Mongolia and it is not as common a place to visit as Shanghai and Beijing, kind of off the beaten path if you will. I certainly don’t want to downplay our time in Beijing or Shanghai as I thoroughly enjoyed (and would return to) both of those places. But Alashan was magical and I pretty much felt privileged to be there.
I also really enjoyed keeping this blog. Thanks for checking it out!
What did you learn?
I learned a great deal about China’s water resource and environmental issues. I also learned a lot about how things work in China. A generic statement to be sure, but a Central Government operates a lot differently than what we are accustomed to in the United States. There are good and bad things about a Central Government. An obvious disadvantage, among many, is the suppression of information. One advantage though, is that policies that benefit the population can be put into action much quicker.
I was really excited to learn about the emergence of NGOs in China. I wrote about this already, but I think NGOs could ultimately be the driving force of major change in China. I also think NGOs have great potential to build bridges with other countries and allow international cooperation in solving environmental and social problems in China. This would have positive repercussions throughout the globe.
I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the great deal I learned from the group I traveled with. While we are all professionals involved with water resources, our backgrounds and specialties are different. It was nice to be part of such well rounded discussions.
Last, I learned (or was reminded) that I have incredible family, friends, and colleagues who supported and inspired me during my trip.