Review of China Immersion Program
Inaugural Trip 2016
How do you capture the trip of a lifetime in a simple review of the highlights? I’m not sure if it is possible, but I’ll start at the beginning.
When I bought my unit at Mountain View Murwillumbah in 2015, our Sales Consultant, Molly Cornelius, apologised for having to be away early September, just prior to settlement, as she would be visiting her mother at the Aveo China Campus. When Molly explained the China Campus, my mind raced ahead to the possibility of exchange visits.
A few months after moving in a flyer arrived in my mailbox advertising a meeting about the China Trip at Robina. I reserved my place immediately; after all, it wouldn’t hurt to just find out about it. I sat through the meeting, hosted by the very talented Suzy, and began to crystallize the idea of being guided through China by the very competent team of people associated with Aveo. But, I have to admit, the one word that tipped the balance from ‘probably’ to ‘where do I sign?’ was Starbucks! Knowing that I could get my caffeine fix in the great land of tea was all I needed, although I have to admit I thought the great Seattle coffee place was actually on the campus. I pictured myself rising early, sitting at Starbucks for my eye-opener double-shot of caffeine, and then effortlessly facing whatever the day had in store.
Starbucks – although not on campus, it was still only 10 minutes away at Zhujiajiao – very do-able.
As the plans developed, my excitement grew … a little. Having no idea of what to expect, I wasn’t exactly brimming with excitement, but I went through the motions of getting the paperwork sorted, and working out what to pack.
The pre-travel morning tea brought emotions to the surface a little as I met fellow travellers, especially, Alan from Mountain View, and Joan and Lynette from the Gold Coast, which started a chain of phone calls and emails over the following weeks. Knowing someone in advance really made a big difference.
Joan, Lynette and Maureen at the Pre-Travel Morning Tea
Alan discusses the trip with Christina, and our travel agent
The Journey Begins
There was something magic about standing outside my unit in the early morning darkness on departure day, waiting for the Mountain View bus to transport us to the airport, via the Gold Coast.
On to the Gold Coast to pick up the others, and then to the airport.
Arrival at the Airport – a lot of very excited travellers.
The long flight was broken-up by our short stop in Hong Kong. By the time we finally arrived in Shanghai, we must have looked like a line of zombies filing through Customs and Immigration and out into the terminal, to be greeted by our local hosts. Finally, we were on the bus for the last leg of the journey – to the Aveo China Campus.
By the time our rooms were sorted out, luggage delivered, and wind-down chats completed, it was close to 2am. My head finally reached the pillow. And I slept!
Next morning, in the bright light of day, the full extent of the campus was breath-taking. The dining hall was massive, and the breakfast was a very welcome change from the airline food from the day before. We were ably assisted by the lovely Wendy, who didn’t speak very much English, but certainly took care of our every need – always there with the coffee, tea and hot water (the local beverage of choice), and anything else that was required to make our dining experience the best it could be.
I have to admit the rest of the trip is a bit of a blur in terms of days and times – they just happened. And the highlights?; like Topsy – they just grew. Each day I would be heard saying “Now that was the highlight of the trip!” – only to be outdone by a scene or event the very next day.
If there was one highlight that really stood out it would have to be the day Lynnette, Joan and I decided to use some of our down-time to visit Zhujiajiao, the ancient water-town just 10 minutes drive from the campus. “We’ll only be an hour”, I assured Julie when we left; “we’re only going for a coffee, and then we’ll get a cab back”. The arranged transport picked us up from the Campus Square at 10am and dropped us a short walk from Starbucks. After enjoying a coffee, we ventured across the ancient bridge, took heaps of photos, and stepped off the other side into a vibrant market area. The rest, as they say, is history. Lost amid incredible 100% silk (rayon) scarves, tanks of therapeutic fish that gently nibble your feet, and model bullet trains, time quickly slipped away. While waiting for Lynnette to have her feet nibbled (the only one brave enough to partake of this extraordinary therapy), I realised how late it was, and how many WeChat requests for our whereabouts I’d missed. The only solution was obvious. We’d go back to Starbucks, use their free WiFi and message back that we were safe, and would return soon.
Joan and Lynette
To go back a step – there was one bit of sage advice given by Suzy somewhere in the planning stage that I had not followed: “Buy a Chinese SimCard at the Airport” she’d said. I didn’t! As soon as we had our second coffees securely in hand, I ventured to the counter for the password for the WiFi. “Do you have a Chinese Cell Phone” they asked? Obviously not, and without it – no WiFi. So, only one course of action required – enjoy the coffee and scenery, and face the consequences when we got back. Seriously, anyone else would have done the same thing, right?
When the cab delivered us back to the campus at 4.30pm, we immediately made our way to our units, heavily laden with shopping, only to be confronted by Julie, standing with hands on hips, informing us that a search party was minutes away from being assembled and dispatched. Grounded! But worth every minute. We were only sorry that we’d missed the cooking competition at 2pm back at the campus, but the experience of Zhujiajiao was exceptional – not to mention two trips to Starbucks for coffee and very western-style pastries. I may just be a tad guilty of leading Joan and Lynnette astray on this trip – but I will add that they were more than willing participants. I really believe the events of the day sealed our friendship; we have vowed to make our way back to China next year to see more of the history and beauty that make this land unique.
The entrance to the Campus is very colourful and very welcoming.