A Panda-stic Day

Aekus Bhathal

As the first full day in Chengdu comes to a close, I am tired, well-fed, and excited for yet another day of fun and exciting adventures.

Too lazy to set an alarm the previous night, I woke up at 8:40 and knew at that very instant that I was terribly late since we were supposed to leave for the Chengdu Panda Base at 8:30. Rushing down and frantically hoping not to forget any important items, I made it to the lobby just in time to catch the bus. Once we successfully managed to herd the 44 of us through the entrance and into the actual Panda Exhibits, we were immediately struck by the scorching heat. After getting to witness a few pandas, my group ultimately succumbed to the combined pressure of both the overpopulation of the exhibit as well as the midday heat and ultimately chose to retire in a café aptly named “the panda café”. There, we feasted on delicious shaved ice desserts while relaxing in the air-conditioned environment. At 12:00, we once again hearded ourselves to the designated meeting spot where, after taking some well-deserving pictures, we headed of back to our hotel.

As my day progressed, I freshened up and headed down to the lobby only to find no JTC or China ambassador within sight. In hindsight, I am happy that I decided to wait for 10 minutes until some other late-bloomers decided to show up in the lobby equally as surprised. We made the collective decision to head to the nearest mall where there was supposedly a food court. After heading up and down the escalators and asking the local mall workers where the food court was, we realized that all the food court was, was one restaurant. We needed to be back at the hotel in 40 minutes so we immediately ditched the idea of eating at the fancy sit-down and split our group apart. One part of group headed to a place called “food street”, which sounded awfully close to “street food”, setting me on edge. Not wanting to take the risk of eating street food, I made the decision to join the part of the team that wanted to go to McDonald’s and relish an old-time meal.

At 2:15, Global Vision and FutureLink hosted a combined meeting in the Crowne Plaza auditorium where we began with an interesting game of Bingo that helped us get to know each other and then we broke off into groups to present a potential marketing approach for FutureLink to attract more youth for their potential mission to Canada. One of the ideas that we thought of was that of mirroring what Global Vision has done in Canada and hosting events like Roundtables and the National Youth Ambassador Caucus that help familiarize youth with the program.

I had initially decided that I wasn’t interested in going on the food tour that was supposed to leave at 5 but ultimately decided that it was worth the experience to try authentic Sichuanese cuisine and taste what people having been raving about. At the time that I am writing the blog, I can say with 100% certainty that I made the right decision.

Since most of us left directly for the food tour from the shrine, I had to take a taxi to reach the starting location for our tour. After having arrived at the wrong destination, I took yet another taxi ride to somehow end up in the right location and was greeted kindly by Jordan, a Canadian living in Chengdu who would be our tour guide. I had previously met Jordan the previous night at the reception held by the CCTICC and I quickly found out that he was very knowledgeable about the local food and culture. We began our tour by walking through a farmer’s market filled with the delightful smells of ripe fruits and fried meat. At the end of the food market, we got an opportunity to try a local delicacy: rabbit head. I have to admit, I was initially quite queasy about the idea of eating the head of an animal that we treat as a pet in Canada, but my concerns were quashed by Jordan, who mentioned that rabbits are one of the most sustainable animals to farm for food.

And so I did it; and I loved it. It was marinated in garlic and other herbs that added to the spice as well as the texture of the food. The meat was perfectly cooked and represented a delicate balance of every taste criteria: crunchiness, spiciness, roughness, and saltiness.

The next stop on our food escapade was a local shop that sold beef cooked in rice. It was a nice shop, but after tasting the greatness of the rabbit head, I was only able to compare this food’s tastiness relative to that of the rabbit head. And it paled in comparison.

The last journey in what was becoming a mobile feast, was a mom and pop shop that sold local noodles and dim sum. I only got an opportunity to taste the noodles since I was terribly full and I am glad to say that I savored them with as much saliva that I could possibly muster by that point.

While writing this entry, I am frantically trying to digest that amazing food in my hotel room and am certainly ready to be impressed by Chengdu once again!

 

A Flight to Remember

Vivian Huang

Today was Day 9 of Junior Team Canada's Trade Mission to China! The day proper began at the stroke of midnight as people negotiated for space in others' suitcases to make sure everyone's luggage stayed underneath the weight limit for their flights in the morning. The two flights were scheduled for 7:45am and 8:10am so we had to arrive in the lobby, luggage in tow, for 4:30am. My flight was the 7:45am one and left on time while the later flight was delayed by about an hour. The entire journey from Hangzhou to Chengdu was spent nodding in and out of sleep.

Tony Chen, JTC's biggest partner in Chengdu, greeted the group as it arrived at the Crowne Plaza for check-in. He is one of the founders of FutureLink, a Chinese program modelled after the mandates of Global Vision, and the Deputy Secretary-General of the Chengdu Canada Trade and Investment Chamber of Commerce. The schedule for the next five days and the pairings for the 1 on 1 program were distributed on the couch a few minutes prior to meeting him. Tony welcomed us to Chengdu and reminded us about the briefing in the afternoon before sending us off to freshen up in our hotel rooms.

Just over half an hour later, my Chinese partner walked into our room. Her name is Hanwen (Helen) Deng and she is from Chongqing. Helen is developing a platform for English communication among Chinese student to develop practical language skills and encourage discussion on various topics. She is going into grade twelve and interested in coming to Canada to for university, especially Waterloo (Go Warriors!).

At 3:00pm, we arrived in the auditorium of the hotel to be briefed by Tony and Amy about the reception and meet the other Chinese Youth Ambassadors aside from our roommates. CYA is comprised of youth from all over China just as JTC is comprised of youth from coast to coast in Canada. I spoke with Zeel after the briefing to go over his script for his speech for that night's reception as I was his translator. However, rather than writing a script he actually only developed talking points which I was supposed to work from. Challenge accepted.

The Chengdu reception was held at the St. Regis Hotel and called the 4th Sino-Canadian Youth Leader Economic & Cultural Exchange Meeting since this is JTC's 4th time coming to Chengdu. The reception was an incredibly meaningful event with business leaders in various fields giving addresses regarding their hopes for the future, their global vision on how they wish to see Canada and China connect as we move forward in a globalized world, and the rapid pace of development that is happening worldwide but perhaps most evident in China's everchanging landscape.

Aekus gave the keynote speech with Gigi as his translator and was able to share the mission of JTC, to be able to forge meaningful connections with China and promote a productive bilateral relationship, with our audience that included members of the media here! From the CYA side, my partner Helen gave a speech discussing how China is moving towards the future and what Chinese youth are doing to make the world a better place including her personal projects. Following, Zeel and I took the stage to talk about the 1 on 1 program and how significant it is that we can build close connections with Chinese youth and use this opportunity to bridge the physical and cultural divides between Canada and China. 

After the speeches portion of the reception, there was a networking session. People got magnificent food and drinks while being able to connect with each other. I personally got to speak with individuals working in Education, Natural Resources, Tech, and more. 

All in all, today was spent getting to know about Chinese culture on a deeper level and further building a network of people who we can communicate with and potentially work with in the future.

Goodbye Shanghai-Hello Hangzhou

Fiona Jochum - August 3

Last night we attempted to strategically pack our bags after having accumulated a few extra belongings from our days in Shanghai!  Then we rose bright and early in the morning and ran into the organized chaos of the Shanghai railway station. The voices of hundreds of travellers and the calls of the intercom ricocheted off the walls creating a deafening sound around us.

At precisely 8:05am the high speed train rolled out of the station, we were still trying to figure out how to fit the luggage for 30 people in the limited overhead compartments of the car.  Once everyone was seated we all breathed a sigh of relief and gave a little cheer. Everyone was going to make it to Hangzhou safe and sound!  Our first glimpses of Hangzhou definitely spoke to its alias "Garden City".  But before we had a chance to explore the streets and enjoy the natural beauty of the city we headed off to visit E-commerce giant Alibaba.

In Hangzhou Alibaba has a campus of modern office buildings and perfectly manicured grounds.  We were welcomed into the reception hall which was built to host the 2016 G20 summit and has been used to introduce the leaders of various countries to Alibaba.  We are the first group of young professionals to have the opportunity to visit the Alibaba campus.  It was a pretty amazing experience!

Alibaba is a company with a strong vision of looking at the world in a unique way and creating equal opportunity for everyone to prosper using an online network.  Each new employee has to go through an initiation and perform a hand stand before they are welcomed into the Alibaba community.  The reasoning behind this is that you see the world from a different perspective which can lead to new ideas and solutions.  Our hosts wowed us with advanced technology.  From a hallway that immersed us in a starry sky, to a fully digital storyboard guiding us through successes and future plans, we heard the story of Alibaba.

With the increasing amount of time we all spend on our phones, using the internet, and the desire for convenience, it is no secret that the world of E-Commerce is the way of the future.  It is important for Canada to engage in these opportunities so we too can reach new markets and connect with consumers globally.  Thank you Alibaba for hosting us today and sharing insight into the world of E-Commerce!

When our bellies started rumbling this evening we ventured out into the street in search of some Chinese cuisine.  Rumour has it the family run, cozy, aromatic noodle shop down the street was the place to be.  And oh this is so true!!  A young lady brought us trays of meat and vegetables and followed behind with a sizzling hot bowl of soup.  Before the soup had a chance to stop boiling we quickly added all the toppings and with a couple swirls of our chopsticks everything was piping hot and ready to eat.  It was said that this was the best meal of the trip so far!

Bursting at the seams we made our way back to the hotel, and passed some women dancing in a fitness center parking lot…I mean in the fresh evening temperature of 35°C who wouldn’t want to exercise outside.  As we stood observing the scene we thought, “why not join in!”  This is what I love about music and the arts, it doesn’t matter what language you speak, you can still connect and communicate through music.  We had a great time dancing the evening away with the ladies and gave them Canada pins as a small token of our appreciation. 

Today was the perfect welcome to Hangzhou and we can’t wait to see what the next few days have in store for us! 

Fuelling Passion at Shanghai Shenergy

I thought that we’d go to a stereotypical office building where employees would begrudgingly talk to us about their job. Needless to say, my expectations were very wrong. From the very minute that we walked into their office, I knew it was no regular office. Apart from a designated tour guide, they had reversible walls that would seamlessly turn into flat-screen TV’s
— Aekus Bathal

Monday, July 31st, 2017 – As the third day for JTC in China came to a close the previous night, I woke up with excitement to eat breakfast. After quickly indulging in a tasteful mixture of Western and Chinese cuisine, we were assigned our mission roles and were told to meet at 12:30 to get ready for a meeting that we had with a large Shanghai-based energy company. I, for one, was very excited about this meeting as it was an opportunity for me to explore not only the natural resources sector in China (one of the sectors I’m representing) but also get another first-hand look at how business is conducted in China. I thought that we’d go to a stereotypical office building where employees would begrudgingly talk to us about their job. Needless to say, my expectations were very wrong. From the very minute that we walked into their office, I knew it was no regular office. Apart from a designated tour guide, they had reversible walls that would seamlessly turn into flat-screen TV’s to show educational videos. We even met the General Manager, Dr. Yang, who invited us to a roundtable where he graciously answered all of our questions. This experience was priceless for me as I learned a lot about the roles of SOE (State-owned enterprises) in the Chinese economy as well as how they differed from private companies. In talking with fellow ambassadors, I learned that they too found the experience memorable and I was excited to follow-up with the officials I met there. For dinner, I opted to avoid eating at a McDonald’s and instead chose to explore the Chinese cuisine a little. We went to a delicious Hot-Pot restaurant – a cuisine I had never before tried – and came back three hours later as tired as we had woken up.

JTC at Shanghai Shenergy.

JTC at Shanghai Shenergy.