The past few days has been a whirlwind and I am sure I am not alone saying that I am exhausted!  Between the palace visits, climbing the Great Wall, visiting factories and experiencing a lot of local culture, we have been surprised and proud of how much we have seen and accomplished in such a small amount of time– our fitbits are happy, too. Yesterday we said Goodbye to Tiger and Mr. Liu, our amazing tour guide and driver for the previous three days and boarded a high speed train from Beijing to Jinan. Today we explored Jinan in preparation for the week ahead. We visited some of the parks in Jinan and saw not only beautiful views and some interesting wildlife, but also families enjoying each other’s company, kids playing with squirt guns with their parents near the blue green waters filled with hungry koi, beautiful trees and buildings decorated with bright red lanterns, flowers and wreaths. The stone walkways wrapped around the park through porous rock gardens and small bamboo, pomegranate and apricot groves. We sat with a man playing a traditional Chinese Instrument, the Erhu, and listened to several of his songs. Of course, our group piqued the curiosity of other park goers as we are a rather diverse group ourselves. Many people wanted to be a part of our group photo and many more stopped each of us wanting to take “selfies.” After, we took a boat tour across several of the city’s adjoining springs, which Dr. Zhang tells us was a protective moat for the city in earlier times. Less congested than Beijing, Jinan still has massive skyscrapers, plenty of pedestrians, taxis, buses and mopeds zipping by in every direction. Toward the end of the day, we experienced a Chinese “supermarket,” which reminded me more of a mall without walls separating the stores. They have a couple of whatever you are looking for, in case you were wondering. To us, the experience was overwhelming, but to the Chinese patrons, another day at the store. A mother fixing her daughter’s hair, a young couple and their child grocery shopping. Life as usual. We all got a few snacks to keep in our rooms and came back for the night. Tomorrow, we go to college 🙂

ps: camera trouble, will revisit picture situation at later time. Sorry!