Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Trip to China

This is the first in a series of journal entries that I kept on my recent trip to China.

Saturday, November 1, Beijing

Yesterday we visited the Study Year Abroad School for American students who want to learn Chinese and experience Chinese culture in an American-style educational setting. We sat in on a Chinese language class. The students were so welcoming and friendly. 

From there we drove to the National Museum just off Tiananmen Square. Each member of the group was paired with a Chinese student. Mine was a fourteen-year old boy named Toby. He was a typical teenager. Hopes to play in the NBA some day. He is about 5'6", very bright and spoke great English. He wants to go to high school and college in the U.S.

We had lunch at a noodle restaurant near Tiananmen. Then back on the bus for a 2 hour drive to the Great Wall. This section of the Wall is in the mountains and we took a chair lift to the top. The Wall is truly spectacular. Toby had been there twice previously. It was the second time for me. You can't help but be impressed with the Great Wall. 

Our trip back was in awful traffic--the worst I have ever experienced in my life, and we did not arrive at our restaurant until 9 pm. Their specialty was Peking duck, which was delicious. I am getting better with chopsticks. 

The air pollution in Beijing yesterday was awful. Some in our party chose to wear air masks. I didn't because I am not convinced it really helps very much.

Today we are leaving the Crowne Plaza Hotel to visit New Oriental headquarters. They are a huge educational consulting firm and traded on the New York Stock Exchange. They help Chinese students prepare for tests in their country and, also, find schools for those interested in study abroad. Last year they placed 20,000 Chinese students in international schools. 

[Later the same day] We held our student interviews at the Peninsula Hotel, Beijing, all afternoon. Some of the students spoke great English. Others were weak. We are looking for the best students to come to our schools. Other schools involved in the fair were Charlotte Country Day, Providence Day, Ravenscroft, Westminster Academy, St. David's (Raleigh), Augusta Prep (Georgia), and Greensboro Day. One of the Beijing newspapers interviewed me after the fair. We drove to the airport for our flight to Wuhan, later that night. 

Beijing has a population of twenty million. The scale and pace of Chinese life and enterprise is startling. The economic transformation even since I was here 10 years ago is remarkable. 

Monday, November 3, Wuhan

Wuhan is a city of 7 million people about 500 miles (my estimate) southwest of Beijing. After an early lunch yesterday, we travelled to a local conference center for more student interviews. These students' English was generally not as good as those in Beijing. We met with parents afterwards and answered questions. Our 5-mile bus ride to the restaurant took 2 hours. The volume of traffic is unbelievable. The roads are bursting with vehicles. The restaurant was worth the wait. It was built on stilts in a lotus-filled wetland. There were boardwalks between different parts of the restaurant. It is known for its regional cuisine, particularly a local fish dish. It was delicious. Afterwards back to the Wanda Realm Hotel. I caught up on messages and was asleep by 10:30 pm.