Author Archives: Lucy Perlman

Posting from the Shanghai Airport – Terminal 1 Gate D232

Hey everyone! Currently I am waiting at my gate in the Shanghai airport for my plane to Montreal! From there we have a short layover and then fly to Chicago (and then another approx. 4-5 hour car drive to my actual house…).

Shanghai has been lovely, with my favorite part being an acrobatics show we saw last night. And my favorite part of that, of course, was watching multiple people on motorcycles ride around in a giant metal death sphere. Not really your conventional acrobatics, but I enjoyed it the most of all!

This morning’s planned museum visit was a bust. By the time we had made it through the massive line to even enter the museum we pretty much would have had to leave to head to the airport. That was OK with me, though, because while we were standing in line the small boy behind me kept sneezing at full speed right on my backside…

These past nearly two months now in Asia have been incredible; I have learned so much and I would never trade this experience for the world! I am however VERY excited to be back home and see my family, friends, and dog again (and also the new refrigerator that my parents FINALLY got installed!) Courtney, if you are reading this, tell the kiddos that I got them all presents and I want to see them ASAP!

Love from Shanghai! I hope to see everyone who has been so supportive of me all summer very soon! <3

Maybe I’ll Win an Argument with my Brother for Once

Today we visited some of the A123 (a subsidiary of the Wanxiang group) facilities that manufacture lithium iron batteries. The batteries are typically used for hybrid and electric cars, but can also be used for… well, anything that might need a cell battery. We even got to see some prototype batteries for use in BMWs being made!

Prior to this visit I did have limited, basic knowledge of how a battery works. Put together an an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte, the electrons freak out looking for personal space (much like I am craving now right now), and bang, you have a charge, time to party! (I am sure I am oversimplifying this process and missing some steps, but you get my point) After today’s tours however, I have a much more intimate knowledge not only of the mechanisms through which these specific battery cells work, but also of how they are created.

I learned that the cathodes contain cobalt! Which explains (one reason) why cars containing these kinds of batteries are so much more expensive than their traditional, combustion engine-only counterparts! I do not know exactly how expensive cobalt is, (actually, that’s a lie, a quick google search, courtesy of NordVPN, tells me that a pound of cobalt will run you $12.47USD as of July 12, 2019 SOURCE:
http://www.infomine.com/investment/metal-prices/cobalt/1-week/ ) but I know it is notoriously pricey due to what I am guessing is its extremely high demand. So, what this means, and a fun fact: cathodes are the most expensive component of these lithium iron batteries.

With all of the extra knowledge I have learned today about batteries and their manufacturing process, I am hoping to win some arguments over the dinner table with my electrical engineer genius of a brother.

Smelling the Barn

It is officially a week until we return to the U.S.! While I have very much enjoyed my time here in Japan and China, I am excited to be coming home. I know this may sound odd, but of all the things I miss about home the most, I think I miss my autonomy (but 32 oz fountain Diet Cokes from Circle K are a very close second). For nearly two months now almost every second of every day has been planned and curated for me. I will be so happy to be back home, wake up in the morning, and think, “Today I wil do tasks A, B, and C, and if I have time, maybe things D and E!” I am also a fairly reserved and introverted person, so being back in a situation where if I so choose I can not hear or speak to anyone for an extended period of time will be the ultimate joy for me!

In other news, I have cemented the direction I would like to take my research proposal for this course in! I am very excited about this, especially since I now have about three weeks worth of numerical data on a spreadsheet in another tab as I type this. I looked forward to delving into the numbers, and have been told I can keep my Igeress air monitor through the fall semester, which opens up even more doors for me!

The wifi is being unreliable tonight, and we have a long day tomorrow visiting Wanxiang Precision Industries, so I will say goodnight and sign off before I lose internet! Hope all is well for everyone back home <3

Little Trouble in Big China

On Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat and a stuffy nose… The makings of a cold, but I figured I could power through it. Boy, was I wrong! I woke up Thursday morning, (yesterday), with a pain in my throat I had not felt since having strep as a six year old child and a head so congested my teeth hurt! I had to skip out on the martial arts lessons yesterday afternoon, which made me sad, but after taking a 4.5 hour nap and then getting a full night of sleep last night I am feeling so much better today! Just a plugged nose and a bit of a cough is all that is left!

I am glad that I decided to rest up yesterday because this morning we visited the Hangzhou Cuisine Museum! It was much cooler than I expected, even if most of the displays were just plastic foods. The foods looked so real I wanted to eat them… especially all of the many delicious looking plastic roast ducks I encountered. The museum is in a beautiful wetland type area, and though it was raining I still got to enjoy watching some baby ducks swim around (ironic, I know…), and see all of the beautiful plants in and around the water. We got to actually eat lunch at the museum, which was incredible! My favorite food so far is this sort of pork belly sandwich you make by splitting a steamed bun in half and stuffing it with pork. I need to learn how to prepare pork belly Chinese style so I can make it in the U.S.!

I am hoping my head cold is on its way out, as the weekend is approaching, and it is our last weekend here in Hangzhou before we head to Shanghai later next week! Much love from China, I hope no one back home is sick!

Zhejiang University of Technology Visit and Solar Power!

Yesterday evening we visited the nearby Zhejiang University of Technology to meet some of the students. Much like our ambassadors here at Wanxiang Polytechnic, they were very nice and welcoming. We got to speak with them about what university life is like in China.

They do play sports, although it is not as much of a large event as it is the U.S., and the concept of drinking alcohol at school events is foreign to them. Here in China though, students have opportunities to study abroad just like American students (the Chinese students I spoke with seemed to like/want to travel to the U.K. and Australia the most), and they also do volunteer work such as going to impoverished areas and tutoring children with limited access to education. Similar to U.S. colleges, universities here also have work-study opportunities, although I believe that college is (relatively) cheaper in China, so most Chinese students prefer to focus more on their studies than work part-time jobs for spending money.

This morning we had a seminar on solar power! I learned some new things, particularly about the differences between light-thermal conversion (converting solar energy into thermal energy) and photoelectric conversion (converting solar energy into electrical energy, the one I think that we all know and love the most!). Another interesting new solar technology that I learned about was “concentrator photovoltaics”, which uses mirrors to concentrate a bunch of light into one spot for maximum efficiency. I really thought that one was cool; so simple but still new-ish technology!

Hope everyone in the U.S. is enjoying their summer! <3

I am Really Bad at This

I am really bad at writing these blogs. I never know what is relevant or what people want to read or what people might think is a bad idea to write, or what I say is stupid. I will try to stop caring so much though and write more but it is very hard for me; I am generally shy and do not like to share my thoughts publicly much.

I will say that so far the Chinese language classes are very rough for me to follow at times. Maybe I am just bad at languages? I like knowing what each individual word means and the teacher teaches phrases/sentences instead of words so I am really struggling. For instance when I was learning a new language in an American high school, one of the very first concepts that I can remember being taught were the “5 question words”…. I still don’t quite understand how to phrase a question appropriately in Chinese.

In other news though, we have had some lectures on interesting topics! My favorite so far has been one on China’s efforts in renewable energy. They seem to very much prefer hydroelectric to other forms of renewables like solar, wind, or nuclear. I find this interesting in that by comparison to other forms hydroelectric seems to have some of the largest land impacts/negative ecological impacts. We have also had a lecture on coal, which was interesting in its own way… Suffice it to say the vibe I got from that lecture was that while China indeed invests in renewables, they still seem to prefer coal as the main energy source. I could very well be wrong though with language barriers and all!

So far we have had two rather disappointing visits. One to a natural gas plant, and the other to a hydroelectric dam. Neither were functioning at the time… In fact both facilities were “back ups” which run when current energy production is not meeting the grid’s needs. This only reaffirms my belief that China is still dead set on using coal as their main energy source for the time being. At the dam we didn’t even get to see the reservoir because the elevators were broken! That’s ok though because it is just happenstance, but still disappointing; two large cities are underwater up there and I wanted to see it!

I hope I am writing the things that people care about/want to read! So far a few people on this trip have gotten injured/sick, so wish them well and hope that the rest of us stay (relatively) healthy!

Paper Cutting Art is Not for Me

We had our second Chinese language class today. I am finding the grammar structure of Chinese to make much more sense than the grammar structure of Japanese. We also learned how to sing two songs, one of which is very catchy, and I still have it stuck in my head even though I can’t really understand all of it! The more I learn about pinyin and its pronunciation, the easier the tonal parts of speaking Chinese become! (The number system is also a lot more logical than Japanese, and I am grateful for that!)

Later in the day we learned how to do traditional Chinese paper cutting, which is a type of traditional folk art that is still quite popular. I am very bad at it. In fact, I am bad at anything involving scissors… We did learn about the different paper cuttings and their meanings though. My favorite was definitely the “twin fish”, which is a cutting of two fish together, each with one eye, so that they must stay together to see. I believe this particular design is popular at wedding ceremonies. My attempt, however, turned out looking like “twin pineapples”!

We also got to try our hands at “dough sculpture”, another Chinese mode of folk art. It is exactly what it says on the tin! Sculpture using dough! (The dough we used was very reminiscent of playdough.) We all made beautiful, neon roosters, and I really love mine! If anyone has any ideas for a name for a three inch tall technicolor playdough roosters, please let me know! He is currently nameless!

And just now some friends brought in some “candy” for my roommate and I to try. I am not sure if it was even candy, but upon translating the packaging with a phone application we all learned the “candies” are meant to be boiled for three minutes before eating…

First Free Day in Hangzhou!

After a week full of tours of Beijing, welcome parties at Wanxiang Polytechnic, and the first of our seminars, we finally had our first free day yesterday! (And our second free day today!)

Saturday started with our first discussion meeting, where we talked about two articles we had read. One on environmental history in China, and the other about environmental health in China and the progress (or… not progress?) being made to improve air and water quality.

After our meeting, Nicole Morris, Caleb Froidcoeur, and I decided to explore Xixi National Wetland Park. We had visited the park’s museum the day prior, but wanted to walk around the wetland itself. The Wetland Park is in fact right across the street from our hotel! Only about a five minute walk or so to get onto the trails!

The park has lots of ponds, creeks, and just general swampy areas. At one point on our walk, I saw one of my favorite birds, an egret! They are just the most beautiful, graceful birds I think I have ever seen, (besides flamingos of course)! We also came across a crab that had been stepped on, but it was still very… eerie looking… And of course we stumbled upon a pond with the most beautiful flowers, which I assume to have been lotus, growing. The Xixi wetlands is one of my new favorite places and I feel so privileged to be living so close to them for the next few weeks.

As far as cuisine goes, a few nights ago some of the student ambassadors from the university were kind enough to take us out to have hot pot. I tried all sorts of different foods, my favorite being the beef strips, shrimp balls, and lotus root. I also tried duck blood, which was very tasty, especially when cooked in the spicy “side” of the hot pot. I made my hot pot sauce with a bunch of garlic, red peppers, green onions, oyster sauce, vinegar, and soy sauce. Overall, it was an incredible meal, and one that I don’t think you could get in the States unless you perhaps visited a China Town in a large city.

Currently I am in my hotel room with the windows open and it is raining… so very relaxing… Maybe I will take a nap? <3

Quick Update Upon Arrival To Hangzhou

Beijing was incredible! We visited palaces, temples, and the Great Wall. The city was crazy busy, traffic laws seemed optional (actually, most rules seemed optional), but it was still a great experience to have. One night we ate Peking duck, which was delicious! (And one of my new favorite dishes!)

Yesterday, we took the bullet train from Beijing to Hangzhou, my first bullet train ride, which was roughly five hours at approximately 305 km/hr!

Now, in Hangzhou, we’re in the process of settling in. Luckily the wifi seems significantly more reliable, so more frequent posts to come! Air quality readings should be easier to take more frequently as well with our new accomodations, which is perfect!

As I am writing this we are about to begin our first official day with the Wanxiang Fellows Program, the ambassadors of which gave us an incredibly warm welcome last night, with welcome signs for the U of I system at our hotel included! Thank you all for being patient with my sporadic updates as I have been getting used to figuring out internet! Much love from Hangzhou, China!

Whirlwind Trip in Ashikaga!

The past two weeks have certainly been a wild whirlwind of a crash course in Japanese culture, language, and visits to a multitude of famous sites in and around Ashikaga.

This past weekend was spent with my host family, the Tajimas. They were so very kind and giving, and graciously welcomed me into their home right away as if I was family. The very first night I spent with them they took me out for my first true Japanese sushi experience. I tried everything I could, and was NOT disappointed. (One evening with my host family I even tried horse sashimi… yes, you read that right! Horse! It was not awful, but I do not see myself trying it again. “When in Rome”, though!) They seemed to be very taken aback by how much wasabi I liked to eat! On Sunday we went to Hitachi Seaside Park, an amusement park near… you guessed it, the Pacific! I had never seen the Pacific Ocean before, so what better way to see it for the first time than in a clear, plexiglass cart on a massive Ferriss wheel? It truly put Six Flags to shame!

My last night with my host family they dressed me up in a traditional summer festival dress called “yukata”. They made me feel so beautiful, but most importantly, they allowed me to partake in a very important part of their culture, especially for females. After they dressed me, to my surprise, they wanted to take me out to dinner wearing yukata. I was so scared I would get funny looks for being an American dressed in traditional garb, but my experience was in fact the exact opposite! Strangers would come to our table, ask for pictures with me, and buy me food and drinks. I learned from my host sister that many people here very much appreciate when foreigners respectfully take part in traditions, so my fears of being gawked at or feeling uncomfortable were completely unwarranted! This, among many other of my experiences here in Japan, have shown me how truly hospitable and open the locals are to foreigners, and especially the gratitude they have for those who take an interest in learning and participating in their cultural practices.

Yesterday we visited Nikko, a city in Tochigi prefecture which is home to the mausoleum of a great shogun. In the areas surrounding the mausoleum there are two famous wood carvings which were some of my favorites. One was of the three monkeys that “hear no evil, speak no evil, and see no evil”, and the other is of small sleeping cat, which I believe is meant to act as a kind of “guardian” to the Shinto shrine. We also took a boat tour of Lake Chuzenji, a massive and gorgeous lake surrounded by mountains, and finally, we got to see the connected waterfall, Kegon Falls. The waterfall was probably my favorite site on this particular daytrip. Not only were the falls themselves breathtaking, but so were the rock formations around them.

I have done so much these past two weeks, and will be sad to leave Japan soon, but am also anxious to arrive in China to begin air quality testing. Last night we received our equipment, which seems as if it should be easy to use! Thank you to all the new friends I have made here in Japan who may be reading this, and a HUGE thank you to my host family! Japan, you are truly incredible!

PS: Sorry for the lack of images, I am still learning how to work out the kinks with uploading! I promise pictures soon!

Ashikaga Day 2: Walking Tour!

The walking tour of Ashikaga showed us even more of the city’s fascinating features. First, we took a short hike up to the “boys’ shrine” and the “girls’ shrine”, where the first week of May every year the locals take their infants and write their names, along with “wishes” for them. I believe the most common of these “wishes” are for good health for their children. Both the shrines and the views from them were incredibly beautiful!

Next, we visited the Ashikaga history museum, which featured a lot of awesome miniatures of what the city had looked like at points throughout its history, which was probably my favorite part of the museum. I also learned that Ashikaga’s original industry was focused around textiles, which I thought were gorgeous!

After the museum we stopped for lunch where I had my first true Japanese ramen experience. I was surprised to find that the ramen here is even saltier than the instant ramen back home in the States! It was still delicious, and I can’t wait to try more varieties while I’m here.

From lunch, we headed to the Ashikaga Textile museum, where I got to see even more of those gorgeous fabrics I had mentioned before. It is so impressive to know that such complex fabrics were done on looms by hand before machines came around. The amount of time, effort, and attention to detail these fabrics must have taken to create I truly astounding!

Finally, we went to a Buddhist temple, where we met the priest who tends to the grounds and the adjacent cemetery. He and his wife were incredibly welcoming, and he showed the most beautiful print of “Buddha’s death” (which I learned is very important in Buddhism, as he then ascended to Nirvana). He and his wife even sat down and had tea with us, where we got to meet their cute little dog “Hime”, which is Japanese for “princess”, and she was most certainly treated like a little princess! I could tell the priest and his wife doted on the precious little dog. Once again, I was incredibly impressed by the amazing graciousness and hospitality of our hosts! This aspect of Japanese culture will never cease to amaze me!

Ashikaga Day 1: Bus Tour!

My first day in Ashikaga, Japan was incredible! I saw so many new things that I had never expected to see in my life. The day was spent mainly as a bus tour of the city, where we made multiple stops at some of the city’s hallmark locations. First, we went to Ashikaga University, which seemed at first glance quite similar to American universities! From there we went to Ashikaga Gakko, the oldest school in Japan, which had at one point suffered some fire damage but was still absolutely gorgeous, and the architecture was truly something to behold; a testament to Japan’s long legacy of the emphasis on the importance of education, knowledge, and wisdom. One of the most interesting buildings I noticed there was what was once a dormitory where students would sit and copy books by hand. Such a stark contrast to today when we can download our textbooks online in a matter of minutes!

After visiting Ashikaga Gakko, we then went to a shrine, which consisted of walking 200 some steps to get to the top, but the view was absolutely breathtaking! My favorite part of the day, however, was visiting the Ashikaga Flower Park. The park is most famous for its wisteria trees, some of which are over 100 years old, with their branches supported by massive wire frames that create incredible canopies overhead. I saw many flowers I was not familiar with, as well as some lizards and fish in the park’s many ponds.

The language barrier here can be tough to get through at times, but the people are so understanding and incredibly helpful, even when there are translation issues. I have traveled abroad in the past, but I have never before felt so welcomed in a country that is not my own. I am so much looking forward to what the rest of my stay here will bring me!

Floating garden at Ashikaga Flower Park: So incredibly peaceful and serene! Almost dreamlike!
One of the many flowers at the flower park I mentioned I was not familiar with! These might have been my favorites, although it is so hard to pick just one!