Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Whole New Experience (Entry 13)

Day 13 (January 12)

One of my favorite parts of flying within the US is being able to look out and see the clouds in the blue sky. Flying out of Xian, it is difficult to see anything but a thick layer of smog covering the city. It reminded me of the smoke that is in the kitchen when I accidentally drop cheese in the bottom of the oven. The only difference is the smog stays much longer. Nevertheless, we flew safely through the smog to Shanghai. Shanghai is home to over 19 million people and until recently was home to the tallest building in the world. (Dubai now has the title.) Although we would eventually return to Shanghai, we didn’t stay long. Instead, we traveled, by bus, to Suzhou. Suzhou is often called Little Venice or Venice of the East because it is built along a system of canals. The city of Suzhou is dependent on the canals for the prosperity of the city. Our first stop in Suzhou was one of Asia’s largest dry noodle and beverage manufacturers. There I was able to see the process of manufacturing and distributing large quantities of food. Output at the facility was so huge that for every second production was stopped, the company would lose thousands of dollars. After visiting the noodle factory, we went on a boat cruise down the canals of Suzhou. The term cruise brings to mind many things, but our “boat cruise” was not one of them. I should preface my description by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of Suzhou. It was fascinating to see the architecture and history of an ancient Chinese city. It was also enlightening to see the way the people of Suzhou live. The water in the canals was brown with absolutely no transparency and despite the condition of the water; people still bathe in the canals. As we slowly rode through Suzhou, we also saw some of the markets where fish and vegetables were sold. In America, we obviously have the safest food supply in the world, but it is hard to realize how unsafe it is in other countries until you see it for yourself. Seeing the markets made me thankful, once again, for government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Agricultural Marketing Service. It was with a feeling of gratitude for American agriculture that I ended the day.

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