The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity (really, the whole trip has been so far). I can’t say enough about the amazing teachers that I’m able to spend time with, and how much cool stuff they’ve all done (programs and teaching in Japan, South Africa, Russia, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan, etc.). While we’ve spent an enormous amount of time on the bus, sitting in the inevitable Beijing traffic, we’ve also managed to pack in really interesting lectures and visits (and I’ve managed to pack on a few pounds ). The amount of salt in the food is unreal; we’re all suffering from some swelling to some degree or another.
Yesterday, we started with a talk from a professor about US-China relations “right now.” It was interesting in a “be careful what you say” sort of way. Our speaker answered questions through an interpreter and his focus was very much on making sure he didn’t say anything too revealing. Lots of “China’s focus is on peace and stability” and “things should be resolved peacefully.” I gotta give it to my colleagues, they threw him some hardball questions that I would have been afraid to ask (and the guy was clearly afraid to answer).
The afternoon was a visit to the Dandelion school, a middle school (grades 7-9) for students whose parents are migrant workers in Beijing. In China, you are registered in your birth city. In order to get public services (education, housing, etc.) you must stay in your birth city. If you are not registered in Beijing, your child (or children) cannot attend school in the city and you cannot buy an apartment. The Dandelion School is a boarding school for those students of migrant workers who otherwise might be working, or just doing nothing. I spoke at length with a girl name Lena (English name) who will be returning to her home province to attend high school. Her parents will stay in Beijing while she cooks, cleans, and studies on her own. Here’s a picture of us:
She wants to go to Harvard. Her English was very good (in fact, all of their English was quite good; we were all very impressed). I hope she succeeds!
After the Dandelion school we had dinner, then we went to the Wangfujing market, a night market. It was ridiculously packed! But guess who I ran into?
This girl! Ok, we didn’t actually run into each other, it was carefully planned. But it was awesome to see Jena again! She’s teaching English with Disney in Beijing and she’ll be here until the end of August. Lucky duck!
Now if only Katie K. could come to China for a visit ;)
This morning (Wednesday) we went to the Communications University (journalism, theatre, music, media studies). The school song is on the outside of the building! Loved it :) Our talk was from a media/journalism professor who has done research on social media and youth in China. it was very interesting, even if she did say we asked too many questions about censorship (how can you resist?)
Our afternoon talk (to which we were an hour late because of traffic) was at the World Wildlife Fund, Beijing Office. Three of their staff spoke to us about conservation, policy efforts, and advocacy efforts in China. Since we’ve only had three days of lectures, I’m going to not make blanket statements about what we’re seeing so far. I will say that the amount of spin has been obvious, but that China is as complex and diverse as the U.S., and has as many shades of opinion. Of course the “tea vs. coffee” (or hamburger vs. dumpling) dichotomy is helpful, but never truly applies to everyone, as we’ve seen with the variety of our speakers.
The WWF is headquartered the in the People’s Cultural Palace (or something like that) and behind the building are some beautiful gardens with trees upwards of 300 years old (the red placard denotes that this tree is one of the oldest).
The gardens have a temple dedicated to ancestor worship, where I got to ring a super huge bell. It was pretty sweet.
The icing on the cake was the acrobat show tonight. I’ve seen many acrobat shows in the US. Some elements were similar (the girls piling on the bicycle, the guys tossing and catching pots on their heads, the girls with the spinning spools on the strings, the guy balancing impossibly high..you get the idea). There were two elements I’d never seen: the “facechanger” who kept on switching his masks with the flick of his hand, and the motor cycle daredevils. Holy crap. There’s this big globe and the guy gets inside of it and spins around like a little hamster or something. Then another guy gets in and everyone’s like, “oh no!” and then spin super fast ridiculous circles. And then it gets even more ridiculous from there. Five motorcycles are in the globe going every which-way (perfectly time of course), spinning and barely missing one another. Then the shut the lights off and everything was glowing. It was breathtaking.
Tomorrow we’re off the Great Hall of the People for the closing ceremony of the U.S. China People-to-People Exchange, at which John Kerry and the most senior-ranking female Chinese politician will be speaking. We’re all stoked about being invited to this important ceremony!
That’s all tonight from Beijing everyone. I hope your day was splendid :) Thanks for reading!
Mondays in China
Hope you enjoyed this post from my sister’s trip to China in the summer of 2014 that I’m reblogging every Monday.