Feeding tigers!

The morning started off with a breakfast that comprised of rice, cake, biscuits, vegetables, noodles and chicken. Luckily there was some toast and watermelon there to keep us going.

A quick 10 minute stop of to see a church turned into a half hour stop of practicing our CPR on the Chinese dolls with their paramedics. There were plenty of photo opportunities with the firefighters, police, navy and army there as we gate-crashed there community emergency services prevention and protection day. There dances and marches meant that we could have easily spent the day there however we needed to get of to the busy day at the tiger park.

On just under 400 acres of land, the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park is one of the largest tiger refuges in the world. Here we toured the area in a caged bus, with the tiger’s heads almost as big as the wheels. Feeling like we were the zoo animals, the tigers would surround us and jump up to eat the meat we were feeding them through the windows. Off the bus we could see white tigers, jaguars, pumas, lions and chickens. The chickens however weren’t for us to look at but instead to send through hatches into the lions den.  

A quick KFC was just what we needed to satisfy our British food cravings. We then went to Harbin theatre, a beautiful structure reminiscent of the Sydney opera house. We went up the 302 steps around the outside of the theatre. The mini workout was well worth it as when we got to the top the view was amazing. Looking past all of the selfie takers you could see all of Harbin (including what we missed the previous day due to the cable car incident), the marshlands, and blue skies. On our way down we stumbled upon a child’s bike race where kids no older than ten were taking tight corners at top speed and pelting it to the finish line. Needless to say the mums of the group instinct took over and were cheering as the smallest of the group tried his best to catch up to his competitors.

Next stop was the Harbin polar museum. Polarland is one of the first polar amusement parks in the world and something that the locals here are very proud of. We had the opportunity to see a large range of fish, penguins, polar bears, arctic foxes, beluga whales and arctic wolves. With the classic titanic songs playing in the background we watched as the whales twisted and turned, dancing alongside their trainers. Moving on to see the sealions and walruses, we were surprised to have a 30 minute saxophone performance from one of the members of staff as bubbles fell from the ceiling.

When catching the bullet train back to Daqing we were sad to be leaving such a beautiful city so soon but made the most of the 50 minute journey to catch up on a little beauty sleep.  The friendly faces and welcome as we arrived back at the university was enough to make us feel back at home. We all made the most of some down time by grabbing some proper takeaway Chinese food to take back to our rooms for a early night to prepare us for our final week in this amazing country.

Group pic!

Blog post by Faye Halpin on Tuesday 18th June

A dog, pig, dragon & a toad that eats money!

After a hectic, but amazing weekend, at Harbin I believe I can speak for everyone when I say we all struggled to wake up and be ready for 8am. The first session we had was about tea ceremonies, this involved the lovely Miss Wei teaching us the different teas there is; ranging from the several different herbal teas to the strong Pur’ee tea, that was not recommend for beginners such as ourselves. I come to find a personal favourite of mine was the yellow mountain green tea, which was very refreshing.

Miss Wei, along with Chinese students, helped to explain how the process worked using different utensils and teas, making  sure the tea animals were included, This consisted of a dog, pig, dragon and “Gongfu” which is a small clay figure which can only be described as a toad that eats money? During the cultural session we got a chance to try the amazing “moon cake” which is traditionally ate during New Year’s and being considered a sweet delicacy to the Chinese. Even trying a Hawthorne slice, which in appearance looked like meat but turned out to be a berry flavoured biscuit. Which appeared to be a hit; showing appearance isn’t everything! The lovely students also brought in little gifts of jewellery for us to wear including hair clips and necklaces and helped us to tie our hair up in traditional Chinese hair styles.

After having our fill of the different types of tea it was time for us to go tea shopping. Daqing often surprises us but we were not prepared when we found out that they actually had a whole 4 floor mall dedicated to selling tea! There was so many shops for us to go into to see the beautiful delicate designs of the cups and pots, even being able to sit down in one shop for a “try before you buy” on their elegant tea tables!  Every “chief” within the shop wanted us to go into to see the different things they sold; they were all so kind and accommodating! One thing I did find out very quickly is that you need to be able to bargain, which luckily Miss Wei was an amazing at! So as I stood back red faced, convinced I should just pay the asking price, Miss Wei took the lead managing to sort out not only my gift but two cups as an added extra!! She was certainly a hero to all of us as she battled through the prices like an expert!!

After this we were took too see the traditional Chinese dresses, after a lovely welcome from them all, the accommodating staff took us around the building which included not only dresses but a hair salon, acupuncture facilities and a café, explaining the history of the Chipao dresses. Then it was time for us to try the dresses on! This was an experience quite a few of the students were worried about as the dresses were all so tiny in size over here. However for the students who went and tried on their dresses and suits looked fabulous posing for photos on the beautiful bridge whilst the staff made them pose like models. It was experience that I believe everyone would enjoy! Whilst the students who did not feel comfortable sat and had coffee, making sure to get there coffee fix before we carried on our journey. Before we left, the staff generously gave us each a key ring which lit up and had a little Chipao dress inside, it was very cute and I plan to attach it to my keys when I get home. A gift that lasts forever.

Once we had finished our window shopping, due to the high prices, we left to go have some tea where we were took to a wonderfully different BBQ restaurant called “Yao Yao”, this restaurant had a game were all the members could play, so we linked up to our phone and whoever shook the phone the most was able to win the race! But that wasn’t the only surprise… we had knife and forks!! Having not held them in our hands for 9 days we were all very confused, when we saw them next to our plates but we appreciated them once the food arrived! The delicious food consisted of different meats some spicy and some normal, Vegetarian salads for our lovely student, who stated it was very nice! Not only this but they had chips and what looked like an egg but students soon found out was actually mayonnaise with an egg yolk on top! And most surprising of all pizza! It was safe to say we all had our fill of food and there was plenty of food left over! There was just so much! The food was incredible. 

Now the toilets in this restaurant was certainly an unexpected surprise, China had jumped from one extreme to the other as we have gone from using toilets much like a troth to a jet wash up the derriere. We certainly made sure each of us all went to the toilet to test out the buttons which provided different levels of service for us. The button conceited of a button for washing your front bits and two for your behind depending on if you want soft or high pressured. They even had the foresight to provide a dryer to dry your area for you afterwards. Everyone one of us tried the toilets and I heard no complaints from them as they came out. Some of the group even went twice! It was certainly an experience.

Once we all gathered, we decided to take a walk across the lake which was all brilliantly lit with lights, as we crossed we got the most perfects views. Which I believe everyone fully enjoyed! Due to the weather still being nice we all stood and had photos together but I don’t believe the photos can do it justice. It was a view only china could provide and they did it, it was breath taking.

Yao Yao!

Blog post by Jordan Dolan on Monday 17th June

Heavenly Harbin!

After a crazy night of rice wine, singing and ‘bottoms up’, we all managed to drag ourselves out of bed to meet at the foyer for an exciting weekend away at the city, Harbin. We all grouped off into different cars and set off to the train station, all very excited to experience the bullet train. As we approached we were all amazed at the size of the station and after the help from lovely Yang organising everything, we got through the security and onto the train without any hassle. The short 50-minute train ride was lovely and smooth but after listening to the sound of phlegm and spit from a few other passengers we were all glad to arrive at the beautiful Harbin city.

The weather reminded us a little of back home as we were all feeling the breeze but that didn’t stop us from having an amazing time visiting the temples. Megan was particularly excited to find out that they were in fact Buddha temples, so big that it was like a small village in the middle of a busy city. The temples were so overwhelming and beautiful. We all had the chance to use incense sticks and were then shown how the locals pray to their Buddha; by holding the lit sticks in front of your fore head and bowing three times whilst praying. Some members of the group even had the opportunity to take selfies with a monk, who was also eager to take selfies on his own phone with us all. There were a lot of monks gathering at one particular temple and after being abruptly stopped from walking in we found out that the monks were in fact inaugurating into monk hood.

Some of the girls had the pleasure of experiencing a different type of loo whilst visiting the temples and they could only describe this as “one long trough”. They had trouble figuring out the “trough etiquette” and didn’t know which way to face without having to make eye contact with one another whilst doing their business.  

After our wonderful visit at the temples, we arrived at the beautiful Pavilion Gardens. We were lucky enough to get a small buggy to drive us around after Yang and director Chu haggled the driver and agreed a great price for us students! We admired the picturesque scenery and had the chance to take lots of photos. We have all become used to getting random people taking photos of us, but we were surprised when Rachel was whisked off for a private photo shoot with a group of Chinese women. She was shocked to hear that one of the lovely ladies was touching her chest whilst the photos were being taken, Rachel didn’t mind ha!

2pm and our growling bellies were glad to hear it was time for lunch at the restaurant called maomao smoked meat house where we ate delicious meat and veg filled pancakes from the traditional lazy Susan. It was then time to check into our hotel and whilst waiting for our room keys Allyson buzzed with excitement as she spotted the coffee machine. The hotel rooms were spectacular to say the least, the beds felt like jumping into a cloud and we were all very grateful for an hour nap to rejuvenate ourselves before carrying on with the rest our of our fun filled day.

The sun finally came out, just in time for our next activity riding the cable cars across the river. The views of Harbin were amazing. The group of us in the first cable car were unsure whether to get off on the other side as our trip is getting planned for us but we soon came to realise that we were supposed to get off, so we experienced sun island from the views of the cable car haha! Yang found this hilarious! Following this we took a long stroll along the water front where we enjoyed dancing with some of the locals and listening to some great singers whilst the sun set. The night was still young when we made our way to ‘Orient King of Dumplings’, where some of us experienced dumplings for the first time and we left a lot of empty plates… yummy!! We walked our dinner off and watched some amazing street performances and popped into a couple of souvenir shops. After a long but fantastic day, we were all eager to climb into our comfy hotel beds and rest up for another great day at Harbin.

Papped!

Blog post by Emily Adair on Saturday 15th June

The Chinese patient experience!

After reading the Blog from 12th June, I unfortunately got an infection from these mosquito-bites evidently from scratching, oops! (however, this is human-nature, and everyone does this) This group of friends have been so supportive in helping me to feel better, as unfortunately I missed yesterday but as they say you must listen to your body, however it was nice to be able to speak to my partner and family back at home to help with the home-sickness. I do feel this experience has been a great challenge but has really opened my eyes to further reality. On a positive note, I attended the fifth hospital and got to live through the patient experience in China! I was assessed, prescribed, and collected my medication within half an hour, which this time-frame is amazing compared to back at home! I am now feeling so much better and can continue to participate in all the activities to the best of my abilities with my fellow students.

We started the wonderful day by attending the Petroleum University, where we were treated like royalty by being presented with traditional Chinese tea as-well as the continuous kindness from the students and teachers. They really cannot do enough for us! We were sat at the centre of the room with help or questions being a smile away. During this session, we exchanged information regarding our different cultures, it was very interesting to compare the two. The opportunity arisen to watch their diverse talents including: calligraphy, drawing, martial-arts, tea-making as-well as wearing there best beautiful dresses in honour of our presence. Within this session, we got to play a ‘Chopstick game’ where a competition entails who can manoeuvre the most peanuts from one bowl to the other, this was so much fun! The students really enjoyed teaching us to practice their talents as-well as us, in which this has given us a different perspective on life itself. At the end of the ceremony, two of our colleagues made a wonderful speech to show them our full appreciation of making us all feel honoured, respected and comfortable. We each got provided a small painting as a token of their happiness to have us here.  We then got to have lunch in the canteen, where they even had chips! Which tasted amazing.

Afterwards, we received the opportunity to attend a huge shopping-mall, which was three-floors even bigger than the Trafford centre! They had, a variety of different shops with Chinese cultural souvenirs as-well as a McDonalds and Pizza-hut! There was even an arcade where some of us spent around an hour at, the virtual-reality was only worth two-pound each go, which was unreal. Also, Green-tea Frappuccino is the one to order when visiting Starbucks in China, as it is a real hit. Wandering around the mall, we also noticed with it being the year of the pig, there was a lot of ‘Peppa-pig’ merchandise around in most of the shops.

The wetlands were next on the schedule, which was perfect as it was very peaceful, quiet and allowed us all to relax, process everything so far and see some nature, According to Yang, around 200 different species of birds can come to this place within the spring time. It was a photogenic place to be! We were honoured to have dinner with the Chinese students and tutors. Words cannot describe how crazy, great, and fun the atmosphere was combining both of our cultures together, especially after rice-wine! There was laughs, jokes, games and even singing during our time at this restaurant, we really have built a very special unbreakable bond.

Riding in style!

Blog post by Hannah Schofield on Friday 14th June

Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Our day actually started the night before, as several of us were kept awake by a spectacular thunder storm. I however was so relaxed after our extreme foot massage, that I had the best night’s sleep so far!

After our regular toast for breakfast, we assembled in the foyer to wait for our transport to the Northeast Petroleum University. For once, we were all on time, and set off on the short journey to the university. We were met with another lovely Chinese welcome, which included a photo session. We are all very used to smiling for group photos, and are now able to arrange ourselves fairly quickly whenever we’re asked to pose. 

A walk around their exhibition centre allowed us to see some of the art students’ work and we admired their painting, craft and architectural design. Little did we know that we were about to be challenged by the traditional art of paper cutting (and five flights of stairs!). The history of paper cutting was explained and we were shown some beautiful pieces of extremely intricate work. Armed with a special pair of very sharp scissors and a knife we attempted to produce two pieces of art; a Chinese symbol for happiness and a pig (as 2019 is the Year of the Pig). Most of us needed help from the Chinese students, and some pigs needed to be “rescued” (we won’t mention names), but we all eventually managed to produce works of art that a reception class child would have been proud of!

Lunch involved a trip to the uni canteen and to the delight of the English students, chips were on offer. With our bellies full, we headed off to the Mammoth Museum to encounter life sized mammoths. Excavation in the Daqing area has resulted in an abundance of fossilised mammoth skeletons being discovered and the exhibition gave us a fascinating and realistic glimpse into the past.

Ice lollies in hand, kindly bought by our leaders, we walked back to the uni, dodging muddy puddles from the rain of the previous night, apart from Emily who ended up with rather muddy sliders. After a quick loo stop (us girls are gettingreally good at using Chines toilets!) and only two flights of stairs we entered the music department. We were divided into two groups and given a practical lesson on the Gu Zheng – a traditional stringed instrument. After a bit of practice, we were able to play two pieces of music (ok, so one was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) but new talents were discovered and we were really proud of ourselves. 

Our first non-accompanied visit to the Harbin Uni canteen for dinner, required loads of hand gesturing and the use of our Google Translate app but the term “vegetarian” didn’t seem to be understood. Our trusty Chinese students were phoned andthey rushed to our aid. Our new Chinese friends are so kind and nothing is ever too much trouble.

After our meal, we met with the Chinese exchange students who will be coming to the Edge Hill University in July. We were able to chat to them about the U.K. and what to expect. Their biggest concern is speaking English, but they all have such a good grasp of the language, putting our Mandarin ability (which probably only consists of a handful of words) to shame.  An impromptu visit to Zoo Coffee, a local coffee shop, further cemented friendships, and ten very tired but happy Edge Hill students headed off to bed.

Quite the feast!

Blog post by Allyson Blundell on Thursday 13th June