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Business, General Business Projects in China by Trevor Archer

When I arrived in China, I was pathetically ill-prepared. I'd heard that Shanghai was growing so quickly that any guide book was pretty much out of date before it was published, however, retrospectively the books might still have been worth a cursory glance. Projects Abroad offered to meet me at Pudong airport but I opted to take a taxi from the airport to the Projects Abroad office in Pudong -a forty kilometre journey. I had the address written in Chinese on a piece of paper as Projects Abroad had warned me that the taxi driver wouldn't speak English. When I tried to pay for the journey in US dollars the driver's turbulent response marked the beginning of an extremely steep learning curve. That was the first time I had to thank the Projects Abroad staff for helping me out of a sticky situation. Looking back now, the Shanghai I remember from those first few days is very different to the Shanghai I didn't want to leave six months later.

When I started work at Xian Dai Architectural Design, the warm reception I received was extremely reassuring. On my first day I was given tickets to visit some of the attractions in Shanghai and was invited to have dinner with my new colleagues at a local restaurant. The friendly welcome was echoed everywhere I went in Shanghai and the provinces and by everyone I met, mirroring the incredible atmosphere of optimism and enthusiasm for all things western resulting from the rapid development apparent throughout China. Over the following six months I did more and learnt more than I ever thought possible in such a short time.

There are many differences between Shanghai and a western city which the visitor has to look forward to. Some of the differences are subtle; for example, KFC is more popular than MacDonald's and Pepsi outsells Coke. Other differences are striking; the number of bicycles and the division of wealth. However, it doesn't take long to become accustomed to living in Shanghai. The only thing that I never quite got used to was the Chinese palate. I was once taken to Baotou in Inner Mongolia where we were designing a museum. One evening, the town officials took us to a camp outside the city for a traditional Mongolian feast. I ate sheep's testicles, camels feet (the back feet. as apparently they're the best), silk worm larvae and I drank horses milk. Afterwards, I was asked how I liked Mongolian food. In all honesty, the Mongolians' strong penchant for alcohol and the importance they place on drinking numerous toasts with new friends meant that I could no longer taste much of anything I ate. However, none of it seemed any stranger than the things I'd eaten in Shanghai so I said it was good. the others looked at me as if I was crazy. They all thought it was disgusting and couldn't wait to get back to the civility of fish-head soup and pig-intestines. Having said that, pig-intestines were actually quite nice until I knew what they were!

Apart from my food experiences, China was incredible and I'd recommend anyone with the inclination to try it for themselves!

Trevor Archer

Ce témoignage est basé sur l’expérience unique d’un volontaire à un certain moment donné. Nos projets s’adaptent constamment aux besoins locaux, ils évoluent au fur et à mesure que des volontaires s’impliquent et s’adaptent aux saisons, ainsi votre expérience sur place pourra être différente de celle décrite ici. Pour en savoir plus sur cette mission, vous pouvez consulter la page de ce projet ou bien contacter l’un de nos conseillers de volontaires.

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