The Other Side… What’s it like?

A three-week students trip to China with Huawei’s Telecom Seeds for the future

5 august 2014
Getting a briefing at the Huawei headquarters in Brussels

Leaving so soon?!

[11/08] “China, the country of innovation!” That’s what I've been told throughout the history lessons a few years back. The question for me though, is if they can still be called the former? That, and many others are lurking around the corner, impatiently waiting to be answered. Fortunately, I can lay them to rest for a while, as they know for certain they’ll get their answers soon enough. Just in less than two weeks, I’m leaving for Beijing with the Huawei Telecom Seeds for the Future project. It’s a concept where Huawei sends a few selected students from an University to China, so they can learn about the culture and habits. It’s also a way for them to educate the next generation of students and to give them an (perhaps) experience that will stay with them forever. As you all have guessed by now, I am one of the lucky students to be selected for this program. For this, I had to go through a three round selection, involving an essay, a video and a face-to-face interview at Huawei Brussels. During the selections, I never hoped to get this opportunity, but you know what they say: “No guts, no glory!”.

As the departure date is coming closer, I thought of sharing my thoughts and viewpoints before I left. To be honest, I really don’t know what to expect of China itself. I’m not the kind of person to base thoughts on the prejudges of people, so I’m just going blank and open minded. As for the trip, I am expecting a lot! First of all, we’re gonna study a few days at the university of Beijing. This means that we’ll be able to see the cultural difference for students first handed! We’ll also be able so see some Chinese landmarks like the Olympic Stadium, The Chinese Wall, … and we’ll get education lessons in telecommunication by Huawei itself in Shenzhen! I’m awaiting many breathtaking moments, thoughtful idea’s and most of all an experience that I will be able to tell my grandchildren with great enthusiasm after all those years. Hopefully, you’ll follow me along on my three week journey, as I’ll get to experience China in a very unique and interesting way!

Flight HU492
Brussels to Beijing
23 august
Departure: 13h45
(Belgian time)
Arrival: 5h30
(Chinese time)
Our Huawei correspondent for the first week, named Maria. She’s quite the energetic and caring person!

Landed safely!!

[24/08] Yeah!! We’re in China!! The trip was long, but we made it safe and sound. It took us about 10 hours to fly from Brussels to Beijing. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to keep me occupied during that time, but it passed swiftly by. The seats were comfortable (within reasonable marges) and the interactive tv-system was the perfect way to keep me busy. I watched some episodes of How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Top Gear, … and listened to a lot of music! There was also the option to learn a bit Chinese, to play some minigames, to watch movies, etc. It was a flight like I had never experienced before. I tried to catch some sleep, but it didn't work out so well. I’m not tired though at the moment (8h50 Chinese local time), so I’ll try to get a good nights rest this evening! As soon as we landed, we got our luggage really fast and followed our corresponding Huawei-colleague (in the picture) to the minivan. It was only a good half hour drive to our hotel, where we checked in quite quickly. We’re getting the chance to get some rest in our hotel room now, but our busy schedule will continue in a few short hours… I’m really excited about what we’re about to see today and the following three weeks!! Can’t wait!!

A first impression..

The first meal we had together at the restaurant of the Beijing Language University campus.

[24/08] Wow, it’s already evening.. I’m not even aware of the fact that another day has passed this quickly! I guess the non-sleeping part could had had some influence in this.. As we decided not to sleep this morning — because we were not that tired — my roommate Klaas and me decided to go on a little walk. We ended up in a local supermarket where we bought a 5l water bottle. The tap water here isn't trustworthy, so we thought it would be best if we could brush our teeth with clean, filtered water. Not before long, the noon came and the first impression of a typical Chinese meal became a fact. At first, we were all led into a small room, as other people were sitting in groups in other different, separated rooms. We had to sit together at this big, round table with in the middle, a rotating glass-plate (see the picture above). The custom over here is simplified described as following. You count the number of people that you are eating together with and that will be the number of different dishes you will order. In that way, everyone will have the chance to taste many different things! This was a bit weird at first, because while there was still a lot of food left on the glass plate, more and more just kept on coming. I can’t say that I liked all the dishes, but for the most of them, I was surprised in a good way.

The amazing, gold plated dragon figure at the pavilion in the garden of the Forbidden City

After lunch, we went on the bus to visit the Forbidden City. We saw the many different gates, leading up to the resident chambers of the emperors that once ruled this land. In his great garden, there was a pavilion with an amazing figure at the ceiling (picture left). Afterwards, we went on the little mountain to get a good view of the Beijing skyline and the Forbidden City (as viewed in the picture below). I was amazed by the symmetrical structure that had been put into this city. For the last activity of the day, we went to one of the best restaurants known for the local delicacy, the Peking Duck. Again, I was overwhelmed with the amount of food! For the Peking Duck itself, it was actually quite good! They prepared the meat up front, but we ate them wrapped up in a little thin pancake, with soy sauce and bits of melon. An odd combination, that surprisingly tasted well! After a little wait, we went back to the hotel, so we could get a great nights rest and that’s what I’m gonna do right away!

A view from the rear entrance of the Forbidden City

我叫比约恩!

The openings ceremony, taking place in the Huawei courtyard, in the middle of Beijing

[26/08] Two days have past since the last post, and I can say with certainty that this trip will be an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime! Yesterday, we had our first lesson in Mandarin. For the most part of the lesson, we were just pronouncing the different tones and accents, but we also learned some first words and how to sing Brother John (Broeder Jacob) and Happy Birthday in Chinese. This was very fitting as it was Klaas his birthday that day! After a nice, but little bit spicy lunch in the campus cafeteria, we had a lesson in calligraphy. For me personally, it was very hard as I’m not the kind of person to do very precise work with brush and ink. Still, I had fun trying my best to paint my given character. At the end of the class, we stood up and presented all our characters next to each other. The text eventually said: Happy Birthday Klaas! Afterwards, we got refreshed and suited up for the Opening Ceremony of the Huawei Telecom Seeds program. It was staged in an amazingly beautiful courtyard, in the middle of Beijing. As the weather was really clear, it was a beautiful evening. We had some drinks and speeches, there was live traditional Chinese music playing, we got ourselves a Chinese zodiac animal made out of clay, the food was really good (a mix of Belgian and Chinese food) and Klaas got an immense birthday cake. We had lots of fun that night and I really felt that the bond between us seeds was getting stronger and stronger.

Francis and me practicing our Chinese, by holding a dialogue in front of the classroom

As the sun rose in the east, we awoke early in the morning, eager to learn more about this challenging language. We learned a few basic conversations and a bit of grammar. In the afternoon, we took our brush up once again. This time, it was to paint — another skill that I haven’t been able to master — and the result I got out of it looked really pretty (to me at least).

Korean Hot Pot with a typical Korean drink (grapefruit juice)

After the class was over, we visited a well known Korean restaurant, that was located around the hotel area. The food there was so spicy, that almost everyone had to order another extra drink! Still, I really think that the degree of spiciness around here could be a lot worse. Back in the hotel, we picked up our textbooks and started learning in our rooms. As we have an exam planned on Friday, it’s really necessary that we practice this extraordinary language. It’s a lot to take in though and we’re moving along pretty fast, but practice makes perfect! After everyone was done, we went for a little trip to the city center. We took the metro and visited the local market. There we saw living scorpions, starfishes on a stick, octopus parts with soup, crickets, dried snakes, … The smell was sometimes unbearable, as if someone had just puked on the pavement. Later in the evening, we returned safe and sound to the hotel with the taxi. And so, this Telecom Seeds Program is really starting to become a reality for us, as we explore different bits of the culture and language in China.

This was filmed at the local market. As you can see, the scorpions are still alive before buying them. They just fry them and then they are ready to be eaten.

Aced the exam!

Me holding my certificate that I passed the courses in the Beijing Language and Culture University

[30/08] Our last evening in Beijing.. It has been lot’s of fun, but tomorrow, Shenzhen is awaiting us. First of all, let’s reflect upon these last few days. Three days ago, we had the chance to practice some material arts. This was amazingly fun! The teacher showed us a bit taichi and kung-fu and we tried (and mostly failed) our best to perform them well. After a good three hours of practicing, the lesson was over and we went to the K-tv. This is an unique Asian Karaoke. Once entered, we went into a room, that was close off just for us. We sang our hearts out for about two hours (and had no voice left afterwards). To me, this was one of the most fun experiences so far of this trip! After we had eaten, we went back to our hotel and prepared for our exam. As the exam consisted of two parts — oral and written exam — we decided to prepare for the oral part. We took it very seriously and made a little theatrical piece involving Chinese dialogues, kung-fu, some dancing and some singing. Afterwards, we studied some more and went sleeping.

So yeah, we were kinda having loads of fun at the K-TV. We skipped the traditional way and just sang along with all of the song we played!

The next morning, we overslept a little bit because we were really tired (but we still made it in time for our lessons). We finished our Chinese textbook completely that morning. In the afternoon, we had the chance to do a cultural exchange with the local students (that knew English). The first part consisted of introducing ourselves (some in Chinese, some in English, some both!). For the second part, we had to show of some of our talents. Anna did some kung-fu, some of the boys sang Broeder Jacob (in English, Chinese, French and Dutch). They even thought the local students how to sing the Dutch version. I told all the students during the introduction that I knew how to play the drums and so they were expecting me to perform. Not having prepared for this, I just stood up, went to the front of the classroom and looked out for things that would make a reasonable sound! For the rest of my performance, you can see it here below ;)

Later in the evening, we all were studying hard, so we would score great on our exam the day after! As it were more then 200 words, we were up quite late studying! After another short night, we were facing our exams with lots of courage! Luckily for us, the studying payed of really well and we all really aced our exams! The local teachers said multiple times that, of all the 12 groups that were here with the seeds program (from different countries), that our performance or theater piece was the best one they had ever seen!

非常好! — (Very good)

The teacher almost cried when we had to say goodbye to her… After we got supper at the VIP room in the university’s restaurant, we went to the cafeteria to spend our last money on our cards. We bought some drinks and went back to the hotel. After a few hours of laughing and talking, we decided to go out to a nearby club, called the Wu-club. It was an amazing night! The music was very European, like in Belgian clubs, but the prizes for the drinks were way cheaper!

The most steep part of the whole Great Wall was the part we had planned to do.

After another really short night, we went to the Great Chinese Wall! It took us about two hours to get there. Once there, I was amazed and disappointed at the same time! It was amazing to see this great monument with my own eyes, but it was a really foggy day, so we couldn't really enjoy the full view of the wall. The slope was steep and the steps were really high, but it was something we just had to do! It would be weird, going to China and not having climbed the wall. Still, it was really hard for all of us, as we were all still a bit tired from the night before. After lunch, we had a long bus ride going to the Temple of Heaven. In the old times, this temple was used by The Emperor to pray for a good harvest so he would only go there two times a year. Personally, I think it was an overwhelmingly big space that was used up, just to go there two times a year. As we counted, everything was back in nine or three. For example, the amount of steps leading to the next plateau were 9 steps and there were 3 plateaus to the temple or monuments. This is done a lot in China when having to do with The Emperor.

MK, LV, ROLEX, … You name it and Hongqiao market has it at an amazing price with good quality!

After we left the domain, we went to the Hongqiao Market (or as our guide would call it, the fake market). It’s an enormous complex with 5 floors, just filled with fake handbags, shoes, clothing, jewelry, watches, … I had an amazing time there! I loved to negotiate the price and to see how low it could drop. This was something really unique and I still talked about it to the others hours later, when we were sitting together in our room, watching some tv and realizing that this was our last night here. Tomorrow, we’re getting up early again and we’ll be flying off to Shenzhen in the afternoon!

The real challenge starts now!

With it’s 18m above the ground and 6m below, this enormous wooden statue of Buddha is the biggest one in the whole wide world

[01/09] Waking up in the morning, realizing we were leaving this beautiful place behind was weird and kinda sad, but the thought of going to another place filled with technology, opportunities and mystery overwhelmed these negative thoughts. Once we had our breakfast, we got in the bus to go to the Confucius temple. At first, I thought this was going to be just another temple, but it was so much more. In the old times of the dynasty’s, it was used as a school with very wise teachers. There was a beautiful statue of one the great Confucius himself in the garden. Afterwards, we went to the Lama temple, a Buddhist temple not that far from the temple we just went. There we saw several Buddha statues, each with a different meaning. At each one, we did our prayers and watched as the statues became more and more imposing. The greatest statue (as seen above) was really jaw dropping. It was just enormous! Leaving this temple behind, we headed to the airport. We had just one cultural sight left though. While we were in the bus, we passed the Olympic Stadium from the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. The Birds Nest. It was imposing, even from such a distance! Arrived at the airport, we ate and said goodbye to our local Beijing guide Maria. About an hour later, we went on the plane and waited for it to take off. The problem though was that the weather in Shenzhen and Beijing was really bad, so it wasn't really safe to fly at that moment. So we waited for the ‘storm’ to pass… And waited… And waited even more… After about four hours, the plane finally left off, leaving us with our last gaze of Beijing.

So long Beijing, we’ll miss you!

About a small three hours later, we safely landed in Shenzhen. It was already dark there, so the view from the plane was pretty amazing! We were happy to get our suitcases rather quickly. Exiting the terminal, we met our Shenzhen local guide, called Laura. She led us to an Huawei bus, which we took to the Huawei campus to get a good nights rest.

A path that leads around the inner garden in the Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen

The day after, our first official day at Huawei started. For the next few weeks, we would learn all about their technology’s, about their solutions and about their way of thinking. To start the hot and tropical day off, we had a course to introduce us to the company and it’s (core) values. After this presentation was over, the teacher needed two volunteers to use in a stop motion commercial. Sanne and me were so excited, that they’d let us do it. Hopefully, the end result will be as great and beautiful as we are expecting. In the afternoon, we visited several area’s in Huawei. The most appealing area for me was the future area. It was a space where there were all sorts of presentations, predicting how the future for Huawei and the world would look like. For example, they are striving to get the internet of things connected to the physical world, while communicating through perhaps already 5G networks, with a setting date of only 2020! This was just one of the many things that amazed me today. I got a chance to see one of their data centers, their mobile cloud containers, their enterprise solutions, … For me, it was the extra excitement that made me happy and even more willing to learn about the technologies Huawei provides.

Inside the Huawei company, showing and demonstrating their telecom solutions

After we had supper, we went to the swimming pool. When i talked before about the Huawei campus, I really meant the Bao Cai Garden. It’s an enormous domain, covering more then 100 000 m², with lot’s of nature. The swimming pool was scaled to these proportions. It has lot’s of place to play, relax and to swim (50m length). We ended our first day, watching one of the movie classics of all times, Pulp Fiction. For me, it was my first time seeing the movie, but I totally loved the dialogues and scenes. As it’s already late now, tomorrow will come quickly and I’ll be embracing it with open arms. Let the technology courses come!

Cloud — Pipe — Device

Inside of the beautiful K-TV building

[03/09] Wow! We almost can’t keep up with the speed or the courses we’re following! Yesterday, we had an introduction into Cloud, Pipe and Device. This is the basic architecture for every cloud solution. As the course went on, we got in depth more and more. For me, these lessons are just wonderful, as I’m making my way up to my masters degree (Cloud Computing). It’s just hard concentrating every second of the lesson, because if you don’t, you’ll end up not being able to know how we got to an exact point. After all our courses were done, we went back to the hotel and put on our swimming suits! The pool here is just amazing. We played our own special form of water basketball. This meant that we had to score the basketball in the goal. That was the only rule that applied and so, sometimes, we would go a little bit rough on each other. Not that we minded though! After our skin was a bit wrinkly from the water, we got out, took a shower, ate and went straight to the K-tv. We sang our lungs out and danced till our legs were immensely exhausted. Returning to the hotel, we all had a good nights rest. The next day, we had another day of courses. This time, it was about the 2G/3G/4G connections and transitions. It was really a lot to take in at once. In the evening, we ate at a Huawei restaurant, studied a bit and went to sleep…

Three nights to remember

A selfie taken at the crazy party night at the Face Club with McKidor

[06/09] Finally, after a long time of hard courses, we are getting some time off!! The last three days were just amazingly wonderful! On thursday, we had some lab practice in the Huawei building. It involved 2G/3G/4G communication technology with firsthand Huawei devices as the BSC6900. As we quickly finished our exercises, Anna, Olivier, Jolien and me went for a coffee in the nearby building. While we were walking towards the shop, we heard some clouds colliding. A storm was coming. Unknowing of what would happen, we sat on the terrace, enjoying our coffee. After a while, an immense wind was present, taking water bottles, garbage bins and signs with it. We were still enjoying our coffee and ignored the weather. Suddenly, we saw lightning strike and almost immediately, we heard the clashing sound of clouds. It was deafening. Quickly we went inside the shop, where we witnessed a lot more lightning and heavy rain. As we had to leave with the bus soon, we asked for some garbage bags to but our shoes in and to pull over ourselves. That way, we made our way back to the hotel without getting wet too much.

A brief picture of the Shenzhen skyline, taken at a Chinese hotpot restaurant

After we had refreshed, we got the opportunity to go to the city center (for the first time) to attend a traditional Chinese opera. At first, we read about the story on wikipedia, so that we could follow along better. It was called the Leifeng Pagoda or as translated, The legend of the White snake. It tells the story about a white snake becoming immortal and having the power to change herself into a human form. As for the opera itself, it was mindblowing! Of course, there were some moments of long dialogue that we could not follow, but still, The dancing, costumes and sword fighting amazed us so much. A real experience to never forget! After a nights rest, we had our last course at the Huawei training center. It involved how the Internet works and what the future of networking will bring. It was immensely interesting as I now finally understand some basic fundamentals regarding the IP-network. As a fun fact, I would say that our teacher for that day, named Mao Ping Gui, was family to the Great Mao Zedong. In fact, the father of Zedong was the brother of the great grandfather of Ping Gui! In the evening, we had a bus arranged to bring us to Dongmen Market. This was an immense shopping district, located in the center of Shenzhen. Once we were closing in on the market, the real Shenzhen became clear. A huge amount of lighted skyscrapers filled the Shenzhen skyline and we were amazed again by the greatness that China has to offer. Once we got out, we decided to split up and meet up again later at the Mc’Donalds. Oliver and me looked around a bit further up ahead and we came across a weird little store with lot’s and lot’s of anime and Kpop mugs, posters, statues, … Everything you could think off! I had an amazing time just looking through all the stuff they had lying there. When we met up again with the others, we recommended to go to the LunaPark we had passed on our way back. This way, my dream of dancing on a DDR station became reality. I danced, played some drums and percussion games till I literally couldn't take it anymore. My shirt was soaking wet from giving it my best.

The LunaPark, with at the left, a DDR machine and on the outer right, a Roland Drum

Afterwards, we walked around and asked some foreigners where the best place to club would be. They firmly informed us that we should go to the Face-Club, which was reachable in a good fifteen minutes. Once there, we got to the fourth floor, where all people attending the party where just sitting at tables, drinking, playing games and talking. This is the way to party in China (with lot’s of champagne), but for us, it isn't. We wanted to take the party up to the next level, so we decided to go up front and party along with the dj’s. They totally loved it! The McKidor gave us some wine, shook our hands and interacted with us once in a while. His mate, the other DJ, was a Dutch DJ (which we unfortunately did not know at the time). We had such a great time, but six of us, including me returned to the hotel a bit earlier then the rest. For us and for this night, we had had enough. Personally for me, it was one of the best nights of our whole China trip.

A short movie to show how the amazing vibe in the club was. Just us ten partying, while the locals where just sitting at their tables

Waking up the next morning with the thought that we only had to get on the bus around one o’clock was wonderful. I turned around and slept some more. Around nine, Anna posted a message on our groupchat to ask who’d accompany her and Tom for breakfast and as I was wide awake, I got ready and went downstairs. Afterwards, we put on our swimming suits and took a little dive. The water felt enormously good and refreshing. We sunbathed a bit till noon and afterwards, we went shopping for BBQ-food. After our drive to the beach — which was a two hour drive — we had some fun in the ocean. It was a small area where we could swim, but it was big enough for all of us. As the night was making his entrance, the light of the sun was lowering like it was being dimmed by a switch. After a while, we got off the beach and started our great BBQ. The meat was nicely cooked and it tasted amazing. When the BBQ was over, we went for one last swim underneath the moonlight sky. It was really beautiful… If you ever get the chance, you should totally watch a Chinese opera, go clubbing in China and swim beneath the moonlight sky! I can recommend it!!

Francis is having some selfie fun at the beach
BBQ, warm weather, beach, moonlight and amazing friends… This is the life

Mid-autumn Festival

A view from a sunny day in the city center of Shenzhen, with in the middle, the 2nd highest building in the whole city

[8/09] The end is nearing… We are feeling it and it comes to mind more and more, as we’re closing in on our last few days. The fact is though, we’re not done yet and we’ll surely make the best of it like the past weeks! Yesterday morning, we drove back to the city center to go shopping and sightseeing! In the morning, we went to the great fake market of Shenzhen. It was totally different as from the Beijing fake market and personally, I liked the one in Beijing way more. When we arrived, we saw a huge shopping complex with 5 floors that stretched out really far (picture below). The problem was though, that it was only 10:30 and most of the shops only opened at 11:00. As we walked through the building, just watching the shopping vitrines, we were followed by a few shop owners, trying to lure us into their shops. It was totally obnoxious. We just peacefully wanted to walk around a bit and enter e few shops. When we finally got rid of them, we went inside some of the shops. There, the great difference between Shenzhen market and Beijing market was clear. In Beijing, the shops were all little and they showed of their products. You could just pass, bargain and buy! The quality in Beijing was fine too if you looked good enough and the price was really cheap. In Shenzhen on the contrary, it were two extremes against each other. In some shops, you could see that the bags and wallets were fake from miles away. Here the price would drop really low, but who would buy this? In some other shops though, you would just see a few good quality products and you would get a catalogue to look in. You just had to select the wallet, handbag, … you wanted and they would get it for you. The quality and eye for detail were amazing for those products, but the price could not drop nearly as low as in Beijing.

The Shenzhen fake market, with five floors of little shops

After a little two hours inside, we went to eat and drove to traditional Chinese village (so they told us). When we arrived, we thought that the expression of ‘traditional Chinese village’ must have been lost in translation somewhere, because we were in some kind of ‘amusement’ park. It was full off little versions of the great monuments, buildings and temples that China is so proud of. The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and the Terracotta Army were just a few of the monuments we saw there, in their miniature form. You could compare it to Belgium’s “Mini Europa”. We also got to see a Mongolian horse riding show, which illustrated the battle between the Ming and the Qing Dynasty and a dancing show that lasted about an hour. Back at the hotel in the evening, we opened our books and learned a bit, as we had our test the following day!

I got a haircut in China for almost no money. It also included a head and neck massage!

Waking up after a good nights rest would have been amazing, but as the amount of sleeplessness was getting higher, it also got a bit under our skin. Still, after a good shower in the morning, I’m widely awake! When we arrived at the training center, we first had a last time of lab practice. We had to configure a DSLAM to let us get connected to the voice, IP and IPTV service. Afterwards, we had our little test, which was totally different from what we had expected. The questions were far too easy and it was an open book test. For example: “Which of these are not a social network”. Way below what we learned I think. In the afternoon, we practiced our song we had to perform tomorrow at the closing ceremony. The song is a traditional Chinese love song about the moon as a metaphor. It fits perfectly as today is the Moon Festival, also called the Mid-Autumn festival. After practice, some of us went to the city center and Tom, Anna, Jolien and me went to the hair saloon. It was a real experience for us. At first, they washed our hair for about half an hour, including a head and neck massage. Afterwards, I showed them a picture of George Clooney and his hairstyle and I wondered what they could do with my hair to make it like this. Fortunately, it worked out well! In the picture you are seeing above, my hair is a bit big and voluminous, but when I’m doing it now, it comes out great! In the evening we went swimming and walked around in the neighborhood. As we were still in our swimsuit, with tshirt and shorts (and towels), people were looking weird at us. Tom did not have the fortune of having his shorts with him, so he just walked around in tshirt and Speedo. All of the people we passed stared at him and laughed! For us, it was really fun as we were making jokes all the time. Back at the hotel in the evening, we met up with the others to ask what they had done. After a few great stories from both sides, we went for a good nights rest, because in the morning, we would have to face our Closing Ceremony… Wish us luck!

The end has come…

[13/09] It has come.. The end of our amazing trip.. It’s just unbelievable that we are heading home again, after all we have experienced! It’s so sad, but we knew from the start is was going to end someday… So with this last post, I’m giving you a final view into the passed four days of our China trip.

All of us in front of the Closing Ceremony board, full with pictures from during our trip

Tuesday, the big day! We had our first good nights rest in a long time! Except for Anna and Tom though. They had to get up early to prepare for their speech and presentation. After all, this was the day of the closing ceremony! I took a nice long shower, did my hair and put on my tie and suit. Classy and stunning looking, we all went to the reception room. There, we patiently awaited the Belgian Ambassador and his delegation. When everyone arrived and took seats, the speeches began. They were very inspiring, even the one from Anna and Tom. Afterwards, we got our certificates one by one and we were all really proud. Tom and Anna were extra proud though, because they had been selected as the outstanding two students. That way, they both got a Huawei Ascend P6. This was a huge step forward for Tom, as he still was using an old — but indestructible — Nokia. We also had to do a little performance for all the people attending so we sung Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin, whilst each holding his own rose. At the end, we all gave our rose to the attendees. As the closing ceremony came to an end, we were send to the exhibition hall, where we had to do our first of many interviews. This time, it was for KanaalZ and Trends Magazine. They asked us about the trip, what we had learned, … When that was finally over, we took a bus (arranged by our lovely guide Laura) to the city center! First, we went to a restaurant in a shopping mall. Like the real Chinese we are, we ordered many dishes and just tried them all out. The most exquisite dish we had ordered was turtle and I have to admit, it wasn't bad at all! All stuffed, we went inside the shopping mall, bought some drinks and sat outside underneath a little tree.

Underneath the tree, from the left to the right: Me, Tom, Francis, Klaas and Karel

There, we played a game called “I have never”. For those who are not familiar with the game, the concept is to say something you have never done before. That way, all the people who have done it before have to drink and have the chance to share their stories. It was really fun to hear all those crazy tales from the others! At around midnight, we decided to go to a club and so, we ended up at Lily Marleen. It was a crowded club, full of Chinese people, willingly to meet new friends. Some even bought us drinks (and even chicken). It really was an amazing night and we all had lots of fun! The next day, we visited one of the Huawei factories, called Songsan Lake Factory. There, they are manufacturing a part of the smartphones. I had always been wondering how this process worked and how they actually did the check ups. The amount of automation was big! I even saw an automated SMD line! After we got lunch, we got back to the Huawei campus. We had to do another interview with KanaalZ / Trends, but this time, we had to be at work in the test lab. Afterwards, we just spend some time in the hotel. I used my time to research the Huawei Honor 6. I first laid my eyes upon this ‘monster’ when we arrived at the Huawei HQ last week. When I heard the ridiculously low price tag, I was sold. I wanted to know what version to buy, as it had to work in Belgium too. In the evening, we just gathered in one of the rooms and talked, listened to some music and watched a part of “The Wolf of Wallstreet”.

A commercial for the Honor 6 and the Ascend P7

After another good nights rest, we put on our suit again for the last interview. This time, it was with Huawei People Magazine and we just had to answer some basic questions about our trip. He wanted us to share our stories. When I had finished my part, I went back to the hotel to out on some more comfortable clothes and went straight for the official Huawei Shop. Honor 6, welcome to the family!! In the afternoon we took the bus to the famous Shenzhen Electronic Market. It was the combination of official and unofficial shops. At some places, you could even buy spare parts for some smartphones. I personally looked out for some cheap smartphone accessories, as cases, screen protectors, adapters, … Around six, Laura came along and we drove to the KK100, the highest building in Shenzhen (11th highest of the world). There, we went all the way up to the 96th floor. The view over the skyline was just breathtaking. Combined with a Chinese girl that was playing piano in the background, the moment was perfect. After a few minutes, darkness came to the city and everywhere, lights popped up from the buildings and streets. So unbelievably beautiful. We also got to eat the enormous and delicious buffet on the 95th floor. Combined with the spectacular view (and that this was the 2nd highest restaurant of the world), the price tag was huge, but it seemed Huawei wanted to invest this capital in us. Once back in the hotel, Laura had prepared a little gift for us. The first one was a really slick and slim external battery. The second present was emotionally worth so much, as she gave us a photo album with lots of different pictures taken during the whole trip. We were all touched. Back in our hotel room, we all made sure that our luggage was as good as finished. A little bit after midnight, we went downstairs to have a quick drink on our past few weeks, but also on Pieter his 20th birthday! Not long afterwards, we all went to bed to get our last night of sleep in the great land of China…

The Shenzhen skyline, as viewed from the KK100

Friday… It’s over… It’s done… It’s our very last day of an unbelievable experience. For starters, we all got some breakfast and checked out. Ready to go, we said goodbye to our lovely guide Laura. It was with lot’s of sadness in our hearts that we had to leave her. She had been like a little Chinese mother to us these past two weeks. We saw that it was at least as hard for her too, as we saw some tears rolling from her cheeks when we left for Hong Kong. The trip only took one hour and half. It’s just unthinkable how two city’s with populations around the 10 million can only be so far apart. Arriving at Hong Kong, we stepped into another bus and drove straight to the top of the immense city. The Victoria peak! It was the highest point of the whole city, where we could see another amazing skyline. We also at a nearby restaurant and celebrated Pieter his birthday with cake and presents!

A selfie taken at the Victoria Peak with the new Honor 6. In the background, you see the amazing Hong Kong skyline and an idea of the could-have-been-better weather

After some local shopping, we got back into the bus and drove back into the city. There, we got on a little ferry who took us across the river. As the weather wasn't that great, we decided to do some more indoor activities. That way, we ended up in a big shopping mall, full of shops selling highly expensive brands. Some examples were Gucci, Omega, Rolex, Michael Kors, Uggs, … After an hour or so, the rain stopped and we walked down the Star Avenue. There were a lot of stars of Chinese actors. Sadly, I only recognized Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee their stars. Once we arrived at the end of the lane, we got back on the bus and drove into the city center. We stopped at some little streets, lighted up by the huge amount of neon boards from the local shops. We walked through a little market and ended up at our place to have dinner, somewhere in tent in the corner of a street. After everyone was finished, we got back on the bus and drove to the airport. As some of us were still a bit hungry and had a lot of time left, we ate some McDonalds. It tasted the same as in Belgium, but at the time, it was really good. I hadn't eaten something like this in a long time. A bit later, it was time to go to our gate and witness the enormous plane we were going to board.

The airbus A380. With it’s two floors, it is the biggest passenger plane in the world.

The Airbus A380. If you look at the picture above and compare the plane with the truck on the left, you can estimate how big the plane is. It was really comfortable and the 8-hour flight to Dubai passed quickly. There, we drank some coffee and after a good three hours in the terminal, we boarded another plane going to Belgium. This time, it was just a Boeing 777. We had the immense luck that there weren't many passengers on this plane. This way, we could take four seats for our own and just lay down, get some sleep and dream of the unbelievable journey of the past three weeks… It was amazing…


FAREWELL CHINA, UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
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