The next day, Monday, we went to the Timken plant in Wuxi. Some of the others in the group had been on plant visits before. For me, it was a first. Very interesting experience. We got to meet with the General Manager of the plant, who was very kind and had fantastic English. He gave a short presentation and then opened it up for questions. One of the things that stuck out to me was a comment he made about Chinese students graduating from university and then immediately expecting to have a job offer for a high-ranking, good paying position. But, he said, that rarely happens. He expressed the need for people to be more willing to start out at the bottom & work their way up in a company. Something more Americans should be willing to do as well, I think. The actual plant tour was a bit overwhelming. Very loud and so much going on all around us. Our tour guide was explaining various parts of the process as we moved throughout but unless you were standing right next to him, it was difficult to hear so I just did a lot of nodding and smiling. But still – very interesting. Unfortunately, we ended up being pretty rushed and had to get back to Shanghai to catch an overnight train.
The overnight train – another first for me – wasn’t bad. While we were waiting in the train station, Jackie had Jane freaking out a bit. He has such a great sense of humor and can be very dry and sarcastic at times. He’s also great at keeping a straight face when he’s teasing someone. He told us that we had to rush to get on the train so we’d get a seat; that it was possible we wouldn’t have seats next to each other or even have seats at all… For a 15 hour train ride. Needless to say, that wasn’t the case. We had sleeper rooms, each with four beds – bunks attached to the walls of the room. They were small and the beds weren’t the most comfortable but they were ours. Dao kept talking about how it was like we were in Harry Potter, on our way to Hogwarts.
The four of us girls shared a room. The guys, unfortunately, were split up. Zach and Dr. O were together, I think, with a Chinese couple; Dom & Jackie with two other Chinese folks. We, the 6 students I mean, sat on the bottom bunks in our (the girls) room for several hours that evening, playing games and just getting to know each other better. “Never Have I Ever” was one of the games we played (basic idea, if you’re not familiar – you take turns saying something you’ve never done; the rest of the group then indicates in one way or another if they have done whatever it was you said). It started off innocent enough (“Never have I ever gone skiing” or “Never have I ever read all of the Harry Potter books”) but if you’ve ever played, you know it usually doesn’t stay entirely innocent. It was an entertaining evening.
I wish I’d taken pictures of the train. I have nothing to compare it to, as I mentioned, but it was still a pretty cool experience. My one complaint was that it wasn’t a non-stop train which meant that practically every time it stopped during the night, I woke up. (Thankfully, the other overnight train we had was non-stop.)
In my next post (which will be more interesting & will include more pictures) I’ll write about Kaifeng. Kaifeng was probably my favorite city in China.
Until then —