Easter Camp: Shanghai University 2015.

shanghaiDistance from Killarney to Shanghai is 9,593 Km.

Nine pupils from St. Brendan’s and two pupils from St. Brigid’s travelled with an accompanying teacher; their destination was the Easter Camp located at Shanghai University in China. The intrepid party left on their marathon journey from Killarney to shanghai; a distance of 9,593 kilometers. The journey was free from drama and turbulence. We arrived safely at Shanghai, tired but eager to embrace the experience which lay before us.

Shanghai is a very different environment to Killarney. A sense of culture shock can result. 25 million people live in Shanghai. This makes it the largest city in china and the eight largest worldwide. It is a major transport and shipping hub. As a result it is the busiest container port in the world. It is a mad , bustling city far removed from its humble origins as a small fishing village which had little hope of advancing past its swampy origins.

The Huangpu River that divides shanghai in half, never freezes and is ice free. This weird geographical fact has allowed it to grow and prosper. The majority of buildings being constructed in Shanghai are high rise tower blocks of apartments which stretch into the sky. One of every three cranes in the world is located in China at present as the building boom continues unabated. Such rapid progress comes at a high cost though. China has frightening high levels of Asthma and lung problems caused by chronic and increasing air pollution and smog. This smog can be so dense that it shrouds the entire sprawling city and obscures the view of the horizon. How China can ensure industrial progress and environmental harmony remains to be seen. We certainly noticed it and how it obscured our view even on a beautiful , sunny day.shanghai 2

The pupils were treated to a tea show where they were given an in-depth demonstration of the various tea types and how to brew the tea properly. It was amazing to see how much there is to know about tea leaves. It was strange for our pupils who view tea as a quick process where you pour boiling water on a tea bag and add milk ! This is alien to the Chinese who view with horror our barbarian custom of adding milk to the tea.

Shanghai cooking is sweeter than in other areas of china and they consume more sugar than any other part of china. This is reflected in the steeply increasing diabetic epidemic in Asia. Some of our adventurous pupils sampled some of the local cuisine including the tasty chicken curry which turned out to be goat curry. Only a few pupils reported an shanghai 3upset tummy. The teachers tried a variety of local restaurants and found the food of a good quality and full of flavor. Starbucks and Cafe Lugo were chosen for Wi-Fi and good beverages and snacks. The pupils found the quality of Wi-Fi a problem in China. It can be very poor. Burger king, MacDonald’s and Pizza hut were all present and the local Chinese seem to have acquired a taste for Western food.

We were taken to an amazing acrobatic show where there was breath taking skill and daring. The stunts were death shanghai 4defying and incredible to witness. It involved bikes and acrobatics and finally motorbikes. We were amazed that no-one died during the show. The skills displayed were staggering to behold.

We were bused to Suzhou and Hangzhou on a sightseeing tour. Killarney is twinned with Hangzhou and the famous West Lake is beautiful. The lake is half man made and has a tall tower from which you have amazing views. There was an amazing night time fireworks display every night.
The lads were treated to a luxury night stay and dinner in the best Western hotel. There was plenty of mouth watering food including a fusion of Western and Eastern cuisine. Severe damage was done to the Hagen Das ice cream counter. Mr. O’ Sullivan was seen sampling the Hagen Das selection to ensure it was safe for his pupils to consume. Such dedication was above and beyond the call of duty. Pupils gorged themselves in a manner fitting of ancient Rome.

The lads proved themselves to be very capable bargainers at the night markets. Some pupils were ejected from shops as their prices were too low. Many items were counterfeit but of good quality. Beats earphones and watches were in high demand by the sharks of St Brendan’s College. Tough negotiations ensued to attain the lowest price possible.

The pupils were taken to a silk factory where they were shown how the ancient Chinese harvested the secret of the silk worm to make world famous silk cloth. Pupils found it very interesting and the beautiful silk material was stunning to look at.

We were taken to see the world famous East Pearl TV Tower. It illuminates in a variety of colours at night time. It is an amazing spectacle to witness. This tower featured in many Hollywood films such as the Fantastic Four: Rise of the silver Surfer, Mission Impossible 3 and Godzilla: Final Wars. It may be impressive on screen but it is supremely impressive in real life.shanghai 5

The world famous Bund was visited by our pupils. This was the site of a tragic accident a few years ago when young people were trampled to death over a panic caused by free money being distributed. It was thronged with sight seers on the evening we visited it.

We did not get the opportunity to ride on the famous Maglev train which can reach speeds of up to 431 kmh or 268 miles per hour. Maybe the next time we visit shanghai we can experience this amazing train.shanghai 6

Our pupils had an opportunity to mix with a group of Chinese college students at the University. Food and snacks were provided for the students. Despite they being very shy, once the ice was broken there was much singing and mixing going on. A very enjoyable night was had by all.

On Easter Sunday the teachers invited any pupils who wished to attend mass the opportunity to go. Over fifty pupils out of 97 chose to celebrate mass. The church, St. Ignaticius was packed to the rafters and they ran out of communion hosts due to the sheer numbers of mass goers ! An interesting fact is that China has shanghai 7one of the largest Christian populations in the world and its Christian population is rapidly expanding. I found this an unusual fact as I thought Religion was suppressed by the ruling Communist party.This trip was entertaining and educational. It was a sobering trip also. China is a major world power with one of the largest economies in the world. English is now a compulsory subject in every school in shanghai. Within a decade every young person in shanghai may speak English , this is done to allow them to trade on an international level. I met some students from UCC studying in Shanghai and trying to learn the complex language of Chinese. Irish businesses are looking to China as it offers a vast market for goods. The Chinese consumer has money to spend and their appetite for Western food and products is growing.

Personally I found Shanghai an interesting and vibrant city to visit. It has aroused my interest in seeing other parts of China such as Beijing and the Terracotta Warriors. Shanghai is not China; there are many types of China to experience. I hope this trip has lit the flame of discovery in our pupils and given them the confidence and skills to allow them to adapt to new cultures and rapid change. As I saw in China nothing stays static, change is the only constant.

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