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Greetings from Abroad

By Aaron Holmberg
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

May 25, 2006

Travel Journal

I have been in China for 11 days now and things are settling into place. I was able to get the stove fixed by looking up Chinese characters in my dictionary and sketching them on a piece of paper to give to my building’s security guard. He found a battery and repaired it for me. The shower continued in a state of disrepair until I asked Mr. Xu to take a look at it. It turns out there is a pump in the wall-out side of my apartment door that has to be switched on before I can take a shower. This creates enough flow to trigger the water heater.

Mr. Xu has been very kind to me since I moved in. He has cooked many meals for me, including the freshest fish I will ever eat in my life. We stopped by the market one evening to buy fish for supper. At this market, everything was still swimming or crawling around until the customer passed over the cash. At that time, the salesman snatched the animal from its tank and prepared it for the frying pan. We had fish, bones and all, mixed in with a paste of fresh fish eggs for nutrition. I have never eaten anything like it. The bones were difficult to sort out with my mouth so I ended up swallowing a few of them. That wasn’t the most pleasant experience, so I passed on most of the fish.

At work I have been asked to research the American full-size van market so that Huizhong Automotive has an international benchmark from which to compare its design. I also have to give a 40-minute presentation every Tuesday and Thursday to help my coworkers learn how to listen to and pronounce English better. It is a good thing they don’t want me to teach English spelling and grammar! I was able to see the fatigue testing lab and the machine shop at the company headquarters. Most of the parts they were fatigue testing were GM sub-frame and suspension. The machining and fabrication shop was fairly impressive. It had one robotic welder, a jigging table (twice the size as NSI’s) and a new five-axis machining center that is so large that a wall needed to be removed to place it in the shop.

Birthdays seem to be a big deal in China. During my first English presentation, I told everyone it was my birthday, and many people wished me a happy birthday later. My coworkers gave me a book on Shanghai and two pieces of Dove chocolate. Mr. Xu and his family prepared a wonderful birthday meal. It consisted of two large bowls of meat, beef and goose, red spinach soup, beer (two cans for everyone), Chinese apples and a birthday cake. They even served beers to their 9-year-old son. That is something I am not used to. Mr. Xu really knows how to make me feel at welcome in China.

Dr. Zhang Xiang (UNL postdoctorate research associate) took me hiking last Friday. We visited a university near my apartment and ate supper there. After we ate, we walked seven miles across the Jing’an district and down Nanjing road to the Haungpu River. Looking across the river, I saw a beautiful nighttime view of the Pudong district.

Yesterday I met a student from Shanghai I had been talking to on MSN Messenger during the last four months. He is a student working on his doctorate at Tongji University. He showed me around his campus, bought me a meal and let me use his Internet. He wouldn’t let me pay for anything. This was kind of uncomfortable considering he has no income as a student. He wants to improve his English by hanging out with me and showing me around the city and surrounding area. He is a very nice guy, speaks decent English and is easy to get along with.


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