Letters from China: Visiting Museums and Landmarks, Saying Goodbye to New Friends

Lola150Twenty-eight faculty, staff, and students took Big Orange Country to China through an English immersion summer camp—and the UT community has been following their adventures over the past two weeks. Team member Lola Alapo, public relations specialist in the Office of Communications and Marketing, sent back reports about the group’s work and adventures. The group returned to Knoxville on Tuesday, July 12.

China day 15
8:00 p.m. Saturday, July 9

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An exhibit at the Nanjing Museum.

With camp now behind us, Southeast University arranged another activity-filled day for us today. Our first stop was the Nanjing Museum, which reminded me a bit of the American Museum of Natural History but on a smaller scale. The exhibits ranged from the history of human origins to treasures of past Chinese dynasties. It also was super crowded with families, tour groups and school groups. I didn’t like that part so much as my dorky self couldn’t get close enough to some of the exhibit placards to read them. Still, a beautiful and well-laid out museum though. And it didn’t rain today. Bonus!

After lunch, we went to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. I had been looking forward to this since learning more about Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, through my students’ mini-presentations about historic landmarks. The mausoleum is a must-see. It has 392 steps leading to it, which symbolize the 392 million Chinese people at the time it was built.

Outside the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum.

Outside the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum.

Well, I made it exactly twenty-four steps before Chris the tour guide and I peeled off in search of a little post office on site so I could mail postcards to friends and family. I had been carrying these postcards around for more than a week. Apparently, mailing postcards in China/Nanjing is not a thing. I’ve had a difficult time finding a place to buy stamps and a place to mail the cards. I wasn’t going to pass up this chance. The little store did have stamps but we had to glue them on, six stamps per card…and I had 22 postcards. Chris and I sat outside the store, glue bottle in hand, and affixed all the stamps. Meanwhile, random Chinese people stopped by our little station and snap photos of us or curiously peeked over our shoulders. Sigh. I’m typically a “hello” person and smile at onlookers. This time, I was all “buh-bye!” and shooed them away so we could finish our little project before our hour was over and we had to rendezvous with the group.

Farewell popsicle outside a Southeast University convenience store.

Farewell popsicle outside a Southeast University convenience store.

So, I didn’t get to see the mausoleum because I was gluing on stamps. But I got those postcards mailed. Hooray! They may arrive in America in the next week or the next month…or the next never.

We returned to campus in time to go to the Southeast University gift shop before it closed at 6:00 p.m. Then a few of us visited the convenience store for one final popsicle. I bid adieu with a mango popsicle.

China day 16
9:00 p.m. Sunday, July 10

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Goofing off with Tom Broadhead of Undergraduate Admissions outside a mall on Sunday.

Several UT students and teachers left Nanjing today to visit other cities in China. Other folks began their long journey back to the US.

The rest of us used this free day to visit a couple of malls for last-minute items to bring home. I’ve enjoyed using only chopsticks—so much so that I don’t know what I’ll do with a fork when it’s time to use one. Ha! I picked up a nice set of chopsticks for myself at the mall so I can continue practicing when I’m home.

Pretty low-key day. I took a nap, too, which was nice.

China day 17
8:45 p.m. Monday, July 11

Four of us UT folks headed to airport hotels today so we can be within short distance of the airport since we have to be there by 6:00 a.m. tomorrow when it opens to begin our journey home.

A goodbye photo with some of my students who came to see me off on Monday.

A goodbye photo with some of my students who came to see me off on Monday.

Last night, one of my students sent me a message that she wanted to come see me off today. Well, at 11:00 a.m., FOUR of them showed up at the campus hotel to say goodbye. They had trekked thirty minutes from their dorm in the rain just to come see me. They came bearing small gifts and hugs. I was so touched!! They kept saying to me, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” What a sweeting ending to an incredible trip.