First off let me apologize for not posting for so long. The wireless router in my apartment broke a few days before we left for our trip, and on the trip I had internet access only three times in a week and a half.
Our trip was amazing in just about every way. We went to Hangzhou, Luoyang, Kaifeng, Zhengzhou, hiked on Huangshan, and went to Shanghai. There's a lot I'm forgetting, I'm sure, since we did so much in so little time.
The first three or so days were characterized by the entire group being freezing cold. We put on several layers of warm clothing, huddled together, even slept several people to a bed in Zhengzhou, but we never ceased being cold. We saw some cool stuff, for sure, like the Longmen Caves, the Shaolin Temple and such, but it was just very cold. Nevertheless, we had an amazing time. Our tour guide, Mr. Lee, was very nice and accommodating. He spoke nearly flawless English, and informed sufficiently us of the history of the relics we saw.
The second part of the trip was significantly warmer. When we got off the plane in Hangzhou we were simply stoked for the warmth. When we got to our hotel things got even better. It was a significant improvement over the hotel in Zhengzhou. There was heat in the room, the beds were amazing, and best of all the shower was heaven. We had a good time.
From there we went to Shanghai, which was probably the best part of the trip. Again, our guide spoke flawless English, even though he claimed to have started just in 2000. We went up the Oriental Pearl Tower to take amazing pictures of the city skyline, went to a silk factory, and much much more. There's so much I know we did and so much I know I'm forgetting. One thing I really noticed about Shanghai was how European it felt. It was one of the major hubs for foreign powers in China (and is now the financial capital with much foreign influence), and you can really feel it. Sometimes I would think I was in England or France, and I had to remind myself I was in China.
Overall, this trip was probably the best I have ever taken in my life. It was great to spend a week and a half with 8 of my best friends, and it was just an amazing experience altogether. Top that with the fact that I can't remember what school feels like. One of the purposes of this exchange is to give me a preview of what China and Beijing are like, and this trip gave me a sense of what the rest of China is like, if only a small fraction of it. I would love to go back to all the places we visited, maybe just not in February (I'm not sure you can even fathom how cold it was. I swear, no one heats buildings in Henan province. It's ridiculous). When I come back to China (and I know I will eventually), I'd love to visit places like Tibet and Hong Kong, where we couldn't go on this trip. And even if I visited the same places with a different group of people or just a friend or two, I know it would be a completely different experience. I guess one of the main things I realized on this trip is how much I love China and love being here. It reminds me of why I wanted to go on this exchange, and why I know it was a good decision to go.
I'll post a few pictures here, but really only a few. I took around 800 pictures the whole trip, which would probably make the server crash. If you want to see them all, you'll have to ask me, since I'm not going to upload them all on Facebook either. Tomorrow I'm going to Jingshan school for the first time, and I'll most likely get my uniform. As they say in China, Mingtian jian! (see you tomorrow, 明天见！）