The day after the closing awards ceremony, on their last full day in Shanghai, students ventured into the city to explore for the first time since arriving in China just over a week ago.
First stop: the Long Hua Temple, a destination recommended by Henry and his wife, Therese. About a half hour away, the temple sat in the middle of the city, an interesting contrast to the surrounding highways and high-rise buildings.
From the entrance it was hard to imagine the what lay beyond the tall fence that separated it from the busy streets. That being said, nobody expected the vastness of the location. On the inside, beyond the barrier, there were several structures. Each one was dedicated to a unique display of the Buddhist religion. They were decorated with Chinese writing and delicate detailing of stone atop the roofs. Golden figures towered over all who entered each of the different buildings, intricately crafted decor hung from the ceiling and art on the walls waited to be admired.
The students toured around the temple, taking photos of vow belts hanging from the baobab trees in the courtyards and stroking stray kittens soaking up the sun.
About halfway through the visit, the low rhythmic chants of the monks broke the silence. They walked out in an organized procession, one behind the other in rows. It was an experience one can only hope to have while in China. An incredible moment to take back to the United States.
When the time came to leave, the group traveled to a popular street market called Tinz Tfang. The market was intertwined between buildings and spread throughout the narrow alleyways. It was a mix of tiny boutiques and rolling carts selling chopsticks, silk scarves, art and so much more.
Everyone split up to seek out the souvenirs they wished to take home for their families and friends. An hour and a half was given before they were all to meet back at the front of the maze-like market. Anxious to shop, the group separated.
To curb the hunger caused by shopping, lunch in the French Concession followed. Through the window of a restaurant, a plate of fried rice enticed the famished group to enter.
On the night’s agenda, a long-awaited trip up to the second tallest building in the world: The Shanghai Tower. The students had been talking about the famous spot all week, making it a perfect finale for their adventure in China. With a 360-view of the city, over 1,000 feet in the air, the lights of the buildings flickered, creating unique patterns up and down their tall frames. Mary Jane started a little game by challenging the others to locate the hotel from above. A task that proved to be easy for some once they singled out the signature deep yellow hue of the sign’s lights.
To close the final day, the group gathered for dinner at a hot pot restaurant called Elixir. They were joined by some of the mentors, Mo and Carlos, and Dean Sciole and Celia from The One Club.
The trip was just a few hours from being over. Soon the students would pack their bags and head to the airport for a flight to the United States. But before that, they enjoyed the time they had left, eating delicious food and recounting the experience of the competition and being in China.
It was the last night the group would be together for a while, but not for the last time. Everyone grew so close and shared so many moments over the course of the week. A Shanghi reunion is already in the works...
About the blog
The students' experiences in China will be documented in both English and Chinese by two journalism students from Michigan State University traveling with the group.