Ni hao [nee-how]!
If you hadn’t already guessed, those are the typical greetings in India and China, which means it’s time for me to share our trip with you! I could probably go on for days, so I’ll share only the highlights.
We flew out of Sea-Tac Airport a few days after Thanksgiving, and after a long layover in Beijing finally landed in New Delhi, India! The warm and sunny weather made for a great respite from the wet, gray clouds we left behind in the Pacific Northwest!
Along with making the four-hour drive to see the Taj Mahal, we visited other historical sites around Delhi, as well as met with two professors from TERI University about their Business & Sustainability Masters programs. We also were blessed to spend time with the editor of only bi-lingual (English and Hindi) magazine in India. He had much to share with us on the future direction of Indian business, especially from the perspective of a Christian working and living in India.
Next we flew south to Bangalore, the technological hub of India, where we were greeted with warm rain and humidity! Our group was hosted by Collin Timms, CEO of Guardian Bank, a Christian social enterprise geared toward providing microloans to the poor. The team from INEXEL (Institute of Experiential Learning) took us to 7 (an Indian call center), Agastya (India’s hands-on science program for schoolchildren), Embrace (a social enterprise aimed at lowering infant mortality rates), SELCO (an organization that sells affordable solar panels to rural Indian families), and Urvee (a company empowering women through the production of recycled paper products). It was so insightful to learn about each organization’s work and to see the social changes occurring in Indian business.
Our time in India was an incredible experience: the people we met, the food (curry, rice, and naan all day, everyday), the markets (I’m pretty sure everyone bought at least one scarf…I bought far more!), and the culture we experienced each day.
After leaving India, our next stop was Shanghai, China! This was by far my favorite city on our itinerary, even though it was our shortest stay. Coming from the heat and humidity of southern India to the chilly cold of China took a bit of adjusting, but the city was so beautiful that I didn’t mind! We stayed at the historical Astor House Hotel, where famous people like Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin once stayed. Our first day was spent seeing a beautiful garden, shopping, and exploring the city. During our free time, two fellow classmates and I took the subway to “People’s Park”…which is its rightful name—there were people everywhere! The strangest part, however, was that everyone in the park was reading the paper signs hung all along the pathways. Because the signs were in Chinese character, we had no clue as to what was going on. Fortunately, two Chinese university students began talking with us. Much to our surprise, they informed us that the signs were all personal ads—written by parents! This sparked a great discussion on the differences in Chinese and American culture; it was such a rewarding experience to share our views and hear another perspective!
During the next few days, we had the privilege of visiting both the Nike Distribution Center of China and a very prominent electronics manufacturer. Not only was it an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the facilities and see each company’s operations, but everyone was so hospitable and friendly! I was very sad to leave Shanghai, but I left with the promise of one day returning!
Last, but certainly not least, came Beijing, the chilly capital city of China! Led by Dr. LaBrie (or, LB, as I like to call him) and our guide, Mr. Lei, we went to an acrobatics show, toured the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, saw Tiananmen Square at night, and climbed the Great Wall of China…in the snow! It was great to have two people that knew the city so well–LB took us to some great eats…which often consisted of lots of Kung Pao Chicken, his personal favorite! During our stay in the capital, we went on tours of the Microsoft Beijing and Lenovo campuses, where we learned about some of their new “sexy” (Lenovo’s words) technology products.
Seven flights, multiple vans and buses, taxis, and one magnetic train later, coming back home was bittersweet. Overall, the three weeks in India and China was a blast: from the spicy curry and crazy honking traffic in India to packed subways and authentic Chinese food, we experienced culture and business that I know gave each of us a more enlightened view of this beautiful planet we live on.