Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blog 21

Monday and Tuesday:

On Monday I continued working on my eye model project. I discussed the new drawings with Professor Xu, and I made some dimensioned drawings to better display my design. Below are photos of these dimensioned drawings. In the afternoon I was able to help Yuan Shuai with his experiment again by taking photos of the microbubbles he created. By the time I was done with this experiment, I needed to go back to my room to begin packing for the trip with the dragon boat team to Jiande, Zhejiang Province.

Tuesday morning we woke up early to begin our drive. I spent most of the 7 hour drive sleeping. The scenery in Jiande was breath taking.  Right outside of our hotel was the point where the Xin’an River met Shouchang Brook. The Xin’an River was a deep blue color and had a thick fog on the top and the other was a smaller brown colored river. Since the 2 rivers are such different temperatures, there is a clear division between the two.  Walking down by the river you feel an immediate gust of cool air. Surrounding the river on all sides are beautiful mountains.   After arriving at our hotel and eating lunch, the team went to visit a factory where Nongfu spring water is bottled. We learned about the source of the water, and how it is bottled and packaged. Below are some photos of the scenery and factory.

The photo above shows the clear divide between the 2 rivers.

After we got back to the hotel, most of the team met in one room to play games until dinner.  The games we played were called “table games” and the rest of the team spoke in English so that I could be a part of the games.  After dinner, the girls on the team met for dance practice. As a part of this competition, every team was required to have a performance to show at the feast after the race. Our team decided to have all the girls perform a dance. The dance was one that another girl previously performed and knew well. Unfortunately, I am an awful dancer and had a difficult time learning the moves. I agreed to do the dance under the condition that I be placed in the very back or off to the side during the performance. 

Wednesday and Thursday:

On Wednesday morning, most of the members of the team relaxed and watched a movie together until lunch. This movie was in English so I enjoyed watching it with the team! After lunch, I went with 4 other students from the team to a conference. This conference had important leaders from each school of the C9 league. The University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) is one of the schools in the C9 league, which I have learned is comparable to the Ivy League schools in America. One student from the team explained to me that there were about 300,000 high school students that took the college entrance exam in his province, and only the top 800 would have the opportunity to go to a school like USTC. It has been an incredible experience to be surrounded by such intelligent people the past 3 months.

During the conference, the leaders discussed student involvement in athletics. Students at these schools often do not want to get involved in sports teams such as the dragon boat team. This was seen in the competition because some had faculty members on their rowing team. USTC’s team was made up of undergraduate, masters, and PhD students, as well as a faculty member that works in the gym. Many different ideas were proposed as causes for the lack of student involvement and also for building up stronger athletics programs. During this conference, I was asked to talk about why I wanted to be a member of this team. Below is a photo of me at this conference.

At night I had another dance practice with the other girls before our rehearsal on the stage. At this time I was more nervous about the dance than the rowing competition because I still didn’t know all the moves! Most of the time, I had to look at other girls to figure out what move to do. This was more difficult on the stage because we were all standing in a straight line, whereas in practice I could stand behind one of the other girls.

Thursday was the big day of the competition, so we spent the morning relaxing and eating lots of good food. We left for the competition after our rest. The weather outside was beautiful and the sky was clear. At the competition site there was a large stage and people everywhere. Preparing for the race took a while because everyone had to put on their life vests, get their paddles, and get on the boat. Once all the teams were ready, we rowed out to the starting line where smaller boats would hold all the dragon boats in place. Once all the boats were in line, the official signaled the boats to get ready before sounding the beep that signaled the rowing to begin. I knew that USTC’s team has been very good for the last couple of years, but the other teams looked taller and stronger than ours, so I was pretty nervous about the competition. We first rowed 200 meters to determine which heat we would row in. The nine teams were divided up into 3 groups of 3 for the competition. We won this first 200 meter race by at least a boat length, so we were in the first group for the long 8,000 meter race. I previously thought this race would be 10,000 meters, so I was happy to hear that it was 2,000 meters shorter!

We rowed the boats back around to the starting line, and again prepared for the race. Everyone on the team was both tense and excited. The beep went off, and the drumming began at a very quick pace. Our team got a quick lead and rowed on the side of the river as close as we could to the wall. We had to row the first 4,000 meters against a current. After we had a comfortable lead, our pace slowed slightly to one that we could maintain for the rest of the race. It was such an incredible experience sitting in the boat, listening to the beat of the drum, feeling the cool air and water, and shouting out a word that sounded like “Ji-oh” meaning “Let’s go”. For part of the race our coach was running along with our boat on the side of the river yelling out to us and encouraging us. I thought the other teams were very close because I could clearly hear the sounds of their drums, but when we turned around I saw the significant lead we gained on the other teams. The second half of the race was with the current and seemed to go by so quickly. The excitement and adrenaline made this race seem less difficult than practice even though the distance was much further. We ended up winning first place in the competition! Below are some photos of the race and team.

After we received our awards and took lots of photos, our team went back to the hotel. After a quick shower we had a big feast with the other teams. During this dinner the performances from each team were given. I wish I could have eaten more, but I was so nervous for the dance that I didn’t have much of an appetite. We finally went up to perform, and though I struggled with the dance at some points, I didn’t forget the whole dance! Below are some photos of the performances from the other groups.
After the feast was over, our team went to KTV with some people from other teams. It was fun to relax and sing after an amazing day.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday:

On Friday we were able to sleep in before we went to see the Xin’an River dam. I learned that this dam was built about 50 years ago and formed the largest man-made lake in Asia called Quiandao Lake. Below are some photos of the lake and the dam. After we toured the area, we went back to the hotel for lunch. Afterwards, our team was able to go hiking and see Lingqi cave. Below are photos from the trip to the dam.

On Saturday, we spent the whole day driving back to HeFei. We should have gotten back to the school around 3:00 pm, but our bus was leaking gasoline, so we often had to stop to fix the problem. Instead, we got back to the HeFei around 7:00 pm. By this time we were all hungry, so we went out to eat at a nearby restaurant. This was a final goodbye for many people because some of the graduating students had to move out of USTC on Sunday. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone. We had such a special and unforgettable trip together and I feel so lucky to have met these amazing people.

Sunday most of the day was spent reorganizing after the long trip. I now only have about 9 days left, and I have a lot to do before then!

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