A Trip on the Bullet Train Takes us to Nanjing

I know that the blog seems to start off with this most days… but what a day!

After having so many lie-ins and late mornings over the trip so far Mr Smith, Mrs Taylor and I finally relented and allowed the students to start the day at  5 am. We all sprang out of bed ready  to pack the final few things in an overnight bag and get the school bus to Nanjing Central Station. We sailed through the airport like security (only missing one dropped train ticket en-route) and decided that our cultural experience should be extended to a KFC for breakfast. To the students credit this was our first trip to a fast food place so far this trip. Oddly it seemed to sell Mc Muffins, so we tucked into these, OJ and coffee whilst waiting for our train. On the trip today we were joined by Eileen, who has now left the Gold Apple School, but was key in developing the partnership. It was great to see her again, and for Jess and Freddie to link with someone they have worked closely with in the UK and China over the last 2 trips. Eileen was really pleased to see them as they have contributed so much to the exchange programme, both here and back in the UK.

The train to Nanjing was impressive. It is a bullet train,  travelling at 300 kmph, with lots of space and legroom, we flew through the towns, cities and countryside towards Nanjing, Jess recorded the whole trip using a time lapse setting, on her phone pointing out the window, really impressive.

Once in Nanjing we were met by James and Jordan, who both work at Nanjing University of finance and economics. This is the University where we have links for students to undertake gap years. A student who came out with  us on our very first trip to China 5 years ago will be starting a course here in September. We drove to the hotel, not at all what we were expecting… I am sitting here typing this, wearing my complimentary slippers! It is very plush and the students were amazed at their rooms, especially the soft beds and baths! We had no time to relax, we just dropped our bags and headed to the university. We had a walking tour of the campus, buzzing with students when they come out of their lectures, and headed to a restaurant for lunch. Once again we were faced with a feast, Nanjing cuisine is quite different to Shanghai, a lot of the food is dry fried (you will have to google that one!) and also quite spicy. The speciality  is salted duck, once again Omar has impressed us with his eating as the challenge was laid down who could eat the duck head (the bill had been removed) with no hesitation Omar was in, cheek brain and eyeball, all done! All the students are easy to feed, we have had no complaints about any of the food and they are willing to give anything a go. After lunch we moved on to the University. James and Jordan teach business English at the university and today one of their classes was going to involve us. The 60 or so students had split into groups and all had prepared short activities, discussion etc to share with our students, this ranged from calligraphy, traditional dress, food specialities etc,  on a ‘speed dating’ set up each student spend 6 minutes with each group, the room was buzzing as we learnt all about Chinese / Nanjing culture and the students practised their English. Again our students were amazing, these were undergraduate and post graduate students and our team smoothly settled in and were soon chatting and laughing with them. Eugenie could quite easily get a job as a teacher here as she had them all well organised and on task. It came to an end all too soon and we headed to one of the meeting rooms, for a presentation by a student about Nanjing and then a tea tasting. In China there is a real ceremony about tea and the location and season when it was picked is all important, it has delicate flavours, sometimes fruit trees are planted around the tea  bushes so that the teas will take on the flavour of the fruits. It makes our chucking a tea bag in a mug seem very poor by comparison (although when biscuits came out we were tempted to dunk them, but managed to avoid causing any cultural embarrassment by doing so.) James was particularly taken by the teas and managed many cups of different types.

Lunch was next on the agenda, another restaurant and an amazing spread of Chinese food, including a local speciality – this is one to ask your children about. All planned and directed by Jordan and James, they have organised an amazing day for us, what has impressed us is that from the moment the students met them they just took to them, having lived and worked in Nanjing for 6 years they have a very good level of Chinese and spent every moment with the students answering their questions (sometimes 3 or 4 at a time) or helping students learn new Chinese phrases. They must have answered many hundreds of questions today! The students Chinese has really come on, especially what to say to barter for things in the market.

After dinner we went to the down town area of the city, we met up with Eleanor Kilbey (Mrs Kilbey’s daughter – who has worked in the fashion industry in Nanjing for 6 years), again her Chinese is amazing. I really think that our students were inspired by seeing how well Eleanor, James and Jordan speak Chinese, and how, with hard work and dedication, they may one day reach this level. They are already asking for more Chinese lessons when we get back to school. We have met Eleanor each year we have come out to China, normally this is the homestay weekend, so it was really great for her to meet the students this year. Will is really pushing himself with this and has decided already that he is going to be fluent for next year! Eleanor was really impressed by the students, as has been everyone else we have worked with this year. In the downtown we went to an amusement arcade, Rhys proved himself to be a dab hand at winning cuddly minions! We travelled in and back on the subway / metro, again very clean and efficient. From the station we walked back to the hotel, it was very peaceful on the streets and has a small town feel, amazing as it has 8 million people! We are un the university district and it has 26 universities!

Back at the hotel the students headed to their rooms, some I think too tired to enjoy the complimentary slippers! A lie in tomorrow as we don’t have breakfast until 7.30 and then out for a morning seeing some of the historical sights of Nanjing, before getting the bullet train back to Shanghai. Tomorrow we will have been here for a week and the students are going on homestay. They deserve a relaxing weekend. They have already met the homestay students and got to know them.

Mr Barwise