Beijing Update

Lovell to Beijing, Series Finale

From Tongling, we returned to our Beijing 'home', the Nuo Hotel. After an almost six-hour high speed train ride, we arrived at the Beijing South station which was newer than the Beijing West station but just as large, crowded and confusing. Except for a one day trip to Shijiazhuang to visit Anna's original host family seven years ago, we spent the rest of our stay in Beijing. (Interestingly, Anna will be doing her required spring internship with her host mom working in one of her businesses)

You can't go to China without  visiting the Great Wall. We really didn't want to go on a guided tour or take public transportation, so we decided to hire one of the taxi drivers which we became friendly with. The ride from the hotel to the Badaling visitor's center was about 90 minutes but the traffic was incredible. Apparently, choosing the correct day to go is critical. Going during the National Holiday is not a good time. Our taxi driver sneaked into a back parking lot and we walked a long distance. It was bitter cold with a very strong wind. While waiting to buy our admission tickets, I spotted someone selling scarves. It was like finding a bottle of water in the middle of the Sahara.

The engineering history of the Wall is incredible. After walking and climbing the steep steps and looking out in the distance and seeing the Wall stretch out over the hills, I cannot believe that it was ever constructed. I can't imagine how all of the giant blocks of stone were put into place. Really worth a visit but try to pick a slow tourist day!

One other thing that was on my to do list was to see the raising of the flag at Tiananmen Square.This is done at sunrise every morning and is quite a site as an Army brigade marches (in impressive precision) out of the Palace, crosses the street to this large flag pole. The troops are followed by a band that plays the National Anthem as the flag is raised. We were told to get there early and we took a taxi to the Square and got there about 6:15 am for a 7:23 am sunrise. I thought we were being smart and crafty but as you can see from the photos, there already was a large crowd gathering on both sides of the street. After going through security (a routine when entering the Square, all train stations, subway stations and airports; although I detected less attention paid to us foreigners), we picked a spot by the Palace and were in the second/third row next to the barricade. Thanks to Anna, we spent the time talking to people and all of them traveled a long way to get there. We were next to a young man, his third time attending, who is the captain of the flag raising team at his school. Very proud of his country and stood at attention and saluted the flag during the entire ceremony. We wanted to go see Mao's tomb, which is open only in the morning hours, but the crowds were too big and you are only in there for about 30 seconds.

One place we visited multiple times was the Great Leap Brewery. A tremendous selection of craft beers brewed on site with all Chinese ingredients. During our time in China, the Great Leap was the only place where you might think that you were back in the western world. Outstanding hamburgers and fries as well!!!

When we were planning this trip, neither Rondi nor I had any idea what we would experience. We spent a lot of time getting Maine-based gifts for our various hosts and friends. Little did we know that we would be returning home with more gifts than we brought. Everyone we met welcomed us to their homes and were very generous with food and laughs; despite not knowing how to speak the other's language. There were some political discussions but not often and everyone was respectful. Rightfully, the citizens are very proud of their country and its rich history. But the United States is still a beacon, especially among the youth. Learning English is so important to the children and so many of them said they do so because they want to come to the United States. As for the many parents we met, from rich to poor, they all work hard and want the same thing we strive for -- to provide a better life for our children.

All in all, a fascinating country. And we are so very lucky to have stayed in the homes of so many families. And very humbling, that all of these people we met, living in diverse parts of the country, came about solely from our daughter's relationships developed over many years.

 

Comments

  1. David Mead on

    Great write up and photos. Looks like it was a true adventure!

    Lovel to Beijing, Part Three

    From Chongqing we flew to the Hefei Airport on an early morning flight that took about two hours. Like all of the other airports we went through, the facility was large, modern and efficient. Anna's roommate's Dad met us and we traveled about another 90 minutes by car to the town of Tongling.  We did cross the mighty Yangtze River on a long, tall bridge. Amazing that we also crossed the Yangtze in Chongqing. It is the third longest river in the world and the longest in the world to flow in just one country. The river was much busier in this section with lots of barges and boats.

    Of course, when we arrived in Tongling we drove to a residential subdivision where we stopped at a relative's house for a visit and lunch. As in every other house we visited in every city, we were treated with a wonderful display of food. The dishes here were quite different than in Beijing or Chongqing. There seemed to be more stews and vegetables. At what I thought was the end of the meal, came rice, soup and dumplings. Who can argue with that? Unknown to us, our hosts had reserved rooms for us at the Lake View Garden Hotel where Rondi and I had a large suite overlooking the lake and Anna had a separate room. That evening there was a large dinner in our honor at a very nice restaurant. The dining room was in a private room with the largest circular table that I have ever seen and it appeared to have a 'Lazy Susan' that rotated the food electronically. The men were all located at the top end of the table and that evening the Asian custom of toasting with what I call 'White Liquid' was active. A memorable evening!

    I knew that we were scheduled for a mountain hike at some point during our stay and didn't give it much attention. Until we arrived at the mountain village which was about a 90-minute ride from Tongling to Huangshan, a small town at the base of the Yellow Mountain. At the base, I wasn't certain as to what we were doing as we boarded a small bus from a terminal. It is important to remember that I am accustomed to hiking in the White Mountain National Forest. Throw that out the window as, except for the majestic beauty of the mountains, there are no similarities. The bus ride was on a very winding road with steep drops outside our window. When we got to the end of the bus ride we proceeded to queue for a gondola ride. Uncomfortable with heights, it was not what I was hoping for. In summary, once we got off of the roughly eight-minute gondola ride, we had a 4.5 hour hike to the hotel that we were staying that evening at the top of the mountain. There were concrete walkways, railings, restrooms and benches everywhere. Access to the mountain allows many people to visit the mountain and see the jagged mountain peaks poking through the clouds.

    There is a rumor that the Yellow Mountain will be on the 2018 AMC International Dinner Schedule. Stay tuned!

     

     

     

    Lovell to Beijing, Part Two

    With the exception of our overnight trip to Shijiazhuang, our first week was spent in Beijing. Took a public bus to view Anna's school to visit her campus and dorm. We hired a private guide to take us through the Forbidden City and later a tour of a Houtong neighborhood. Also, high on the 'to do' list was to walk through local neighborhoods and to have Peking Duck. Anna recommended that we go to the Beijing Wangfujing Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, in business since 1864. Simply spectacular! So good that we went back a second time upon our return to Beijing.  We flew from the Beijing airport to Chongqing via China Southern Airlines on a roughly three-hour flight. When planning the trip, I was apprehensive about flying domestically but Anna pointed out that would require a roughly 24-hour train ride. Nothing but high praise for the airline system. From security that was fast and efficient (and it seemed to me more thorough than our system) to the new airplanes and the friendly service, especially to the foreigners, to the airplanes that are well designed to handle large numbers of passengers. It is said that Chongqing is one of the fastest growing regions on the planet. And based on the traffic, stores/malls and people, it sure seems that way. Known as the city in the mountains, it offers spectacular vistas. The residents are also very proud of their spicy cuisine and 'Hot Pot'. When dining, our hosts always made sure that we had a cooler option available.

     

    Lovell to Beijing, Part One

    How true is it that so many of life's great surprises are unplanned? Rondi and I never imagined that one day we would be spending three weeks traveling in China, staying in both hotels and private homes. Our daughter Anna is studying in Beijing for a year, finishing her senior college year. This is her fourth extended stay there and we figured now was a good time to go. And all of this started because she decided to take Mandarin instead of Spanish.

    We planned our trip to coincide with the Lunar New Year as Anna, along with the rest of the country, take off from work and school. After spending the first few days in Beijing, we traveled to Shijiazhuang where Anna first went to school there while in her junior year at the Fryeburg Academy. Anna's friend Katie (her English name) and her Uncle met us at the train station. After a lunch at a local restaurant we drove about two hours to Katie's house in the countryside.

    Over the next several days, I plan on posting a variety of pictures of our trip.

     

    At School No. 42

    Beijing Update, Part Three

    My, oh my, how fast the time has gone by! It seems like only yesterday that we drove Anna to Portland in the middle of the night in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. She is now in the home stretch of her Beijing stay and is scheduled to return on the 23rd of June.

    On weekends, Anna has been blessed to be associated with a wonderful host family and has had the opportunity to experience the Chinese culture firsthand. She accompanied the family on a trip to their home town in the province of Shanxi where she visited many local buildings. She has learned to appreciate the temples and buildings and as Anna says,"...it truly boggles the mind when you think how OLD they actually are".

    Her host sister, Tian Jiao, is 16 years old and is a junior in high school. She is on track to attend college in England where her interests are fashion design and psychology.

    Shanxi is famous for its noodles (which look delicious) and its spices. Not sure what spice the gentleman is grinding and selling in small jars but I'm not sure if I would be brave enough to try!

    No trip to China would be complete without a visit to the Great Wall. Anna has been to the Wall three times at three different locations. On her most recent visit, Anna and her friends climbed the Wall's many twists and turns and decided to sit down for a rest. They began singing popular American songs and entertained the many people walking by.

    Anna has survived the rigorous HSK language test (although she won't know her final score until just prior to leaving) and gave her final 'paper' on the various modes of transportation in Beijing. Making sure that Michael Dana, her former Fryeburg Academy film teacher, would be proud, Anna incorporated video interviews of taxi drivers as well as videos of the subway system, buses, pedestrians and bicycles into her presentation.

    Due to arrive back in Portland on June 23rd, Anna is enjoying her last two weeks at the No. 80 High School. One person who played a major role in her daily life has been her dorm mother Zhang. Although she was responsible for making sure her room was always clean and tidy, as well as getting up on time in the morning, Anna will forever have fond memories of Zhang.

    Anna is enrolled in the Chinese Flagship Program at Hunter College, NYC and will start a summer program in July and will continue in the fall. Prior to that she is looking forward to seeing her friends, smelling the wonderful Maine air and swimming in Kezar Lake.

    Comments

    1. Forever on

      This is just the peerfct answer for all forum members

      Beijing Update, Part Three

      My, oh my, how fast the time has gone by! It seems like only yesterday that we drove Anna to Portland in the middle of the night in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. She is now in the home stretch of her Beijing stay and is scheduled to return on the 23rd of June.

      On weekends, Anna has been blessed to be associated with a wonderful host family and has had the opportunity to experience the Chinese culture firsthand. She accompanied the family on a trip to their home town in the province of Shanxi where she visited many local buildings. She has learned to appreciate the temples and buildings and as Anna says,"...it truly boggles the mind when you think how OLD they actually are".

      Her host sister, Tian Jiao, is 16 years old and is a junior in high school. She is on track to attend college in England where her interests are fashion design and psychology.

      Shanxi is famous for its noodles (which look delicious) and its spices. Not sure what spice the gentleman is grinding and selling in small jars but I'm not sure if I would be brave enough to try!

      No trip to China would be complete without a visit to the Great Wall. Anna has been to the Wall three times at three different locations. On her most recent visit, Anna and her friends climbed the Wall's many twists and turns and decided to sit down for a rest. They began singing popular American songs and entertained the many people walking by.

      Anna has survived the rigorous HSK language test (although she won't know her final score until just prior to leaving) and gave her final 'paper' on the various modes of transportation in Beijing. Making sure that Michael Dana, her former Fryeburg Academy film teacher, would be proud, Anna incorporated video interviews of taxi drivers as well as videos of the subway system, buses, pedestrians and bicycles into her presentation.

      Due to arrive back in Portland on June 23rd, Anna is enjoying her last two weeks at the No. 80 High School. One person who played a major role in her daily life has been her dorm mother Zhang. Although she was responsible for making sure her room was always clean and tidy, as well as getting up on time in the morning, Anna will forever have fond memories of Zhang.

      Anna is enrolled in the Chinese Flagship Program at Hunter College, NYC and will start a summer program in July and will continue in the fall. Prior to that she is looking forward to seeing her friends, smelling the wonderful Maine air and swimming in Kezar Lake.

      Beijing Update, Part Two

      The New Year is a major celebration in China and it provides the opportunity for families to get together and celebrate over several days. Schools and businesses are closed for an extended period of time and Anna has been off from school for almost one month. She took full advantage of her free time and traveled to several different parts of the country.

      Anna flew by herself from Beijing Airport to the city of Chongqing, China's fourth largest province in the southern part of the country where she went to visit Te and his family. Te worked for the Red Parka Pub in the summer of 2010 and spent quite a bit of time in Lovell. She was able to tour much of the city and even had a fancy boat ride one night. Te always bragged at how good "hot pot" was in his city and that it was much spicier than in the north. After sweating through one meal, Anna confirmed that Te is correct!

      After about ten days, Anna flew back to Beijing and spent the night with her former Mandarin teacher from the Fryeburg Academy. Early the next morning she took a train ride to Shijiazhuang where she spent six months in her junior year of high school. She visited her old high school, sat in on many classes, helped students with their English, participated in the Chinese Literature class and stayed with her former host family. She celebrated New Year's Eve in Shijiazhuang and was amazed (frightened?) by how many large fireworks were being set off throughout the city. The picture with the large number of fireworks represents only part of the total amount set off by her family.

      Anna is now back at the dorms at the No. 80 High School and is preparing for classes which restart on the 13th of February. Although Beijing is halfway around the world, Anna has had a number of visitors from back home in Fryeburg. This weekend she had a very special lunch with Mr. Hibbard, Director of Admissions at Fryeburg Academy, and Miao Wang, director of the award-winning documentary Beijing Taxi. Ms. Wang now is working on a film that explores the experiences of Chinese students who come to Maine for high school studies. Anna was filmed and interviewed regarding her exposure to the students at Fryeburg Academy, the friendships formed and her unique reverse experience of studying in China.

      Beijing Update, Part Two

      The New Year is a major celebration in China and it provides the opportunity for families to get together and celebrate over several days. Schools and businesses are closed for an extended period of time and Anna has been off from school for almost one month. She took full advantage of her free time and traveled to several different parts of the country.

      Anna flew by herself from Beijing Airport to the city of Chongqing, China's fourth largest province in the southern part of the country where she went to visit Te and his family. Te worked for the Red Parka Pub in the summer of 2010 and spent quite a bit of time in Lovell. She was able to tour much of the city and even had a fancy boat ride one night. Te always bragged at how good "hot pot" was in his city and that it was much spicier than in the north. After sweating through one meal, Anna confirmed that Te is correct!

      After about ten days, Anna flew back to Beijing and spent the night with her former Mandarin teacher from the Fryeburg Academy. Early the next morning she took a train ride to Shijiazhuang where she spent six months in her junior year of high school. She visited her old high school, sat in on many classes, helped students with their English, participated in the Chinese Literature class and stayed with her former host family. She celebrated New Year's Eve in Shijiazhuang and was amazed (frightened?) by how many large fireworks were being set off throughout the city. The picture with the large number of fireworks represents only part of the total amount set off by her family.

      Anna is now back at the dorms at the No. 80 High School and is preparing for classes which restart on the 13th of February. Although Beijing is halfway around the world, Anna has had a number of visitors from back home in Fryeburg. This weekend she had a very special lunch with Mr. Hibbard, Director of Admissions at Fryeburg Academy, and Miao Wang, director of the award-winning documentary Beijing Taxi. Ms. Wang now is working on a film that explores the experiences of Chinese students who come to Maine for high school studies. Anna was filmed and interviewed regarding her exposure to the students at Fryeburg Academy, the friendships formed and her unique reverse experience of studying in China.

      Beijing Update...

      Anna is busy studying hard at the No. 80 High School in Beijing. Since meeting President Hu Jintao in September, Anna has been able to explore the city and the larger metropolitan area. The program has high expectations and the students are tested frequently which means plenty of evening studying. Anna's roommate Perry's native language is Russian so they are forced to communicate in Mandarin. That helps to sharpen their language skills! Anna gets to leave the dorms on weekends when she visits her host family.

      She has had a visit from Christopher Hibbard,Fryeburg Academy's Director of Admission, who was in Beijing to attend educational conferences. Mr. Hibbard was also kind enough to carry a suitcase of items that Anna forgot to pack! She also met up with her old FA friend Eliza who is in Beijing for a semester.

      Street vendors are everywhere and Anna enjoys the variety of foods that are available. She also says that she is now quite adventurous in restaurants--that is frog on the end of her chopsticks!

      Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in China so today is another day of classes and studies. One thing she is thankful for is that now that November 15th has passed, the heat in the buildings has been turned on. Unlike her last stay, we are now able to Skype with her regularly as well as chat on the phone.

      Anna passes along "Happy Thanksgiving" wishes to everyone back home.

      Comments

      1. Jim Rowe on

        Thank you for update. Glad Anna's experience in China going well. It will open up many doors for her in the future.
        • bj80sucks on

          The following is a statement of my experience while working at Beijing No. 80 High School (北京第八十中学). If you are thinking about working there or find someone named Li Dequan (李德泉) as part of any organization you have been made an offer from then you should consider working elsewhere. I was told by Director Li that I would be teaching A-level or AP classes, but was made to teach other classes despite my pointing out the lie on his part. I was not picked up from the airport, had to take a taxi, and was not reimbursed for the cost. I was locked in the building overnight by Li Dequan then threatened with death afterwards and yet he claimed he didn't know I was even locked in the international department. The teachers were required to participate in a “voluntary” Marzano teacher training conference and were never paid for attending the whole weekend event. The air quality is extremely poor due to poor ventilation, abundance of dust, and formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals that are released from constant remodeling. Because of the poor air I got headaches within 1 hour of being in the building and sometimes my hands would start shaking within a few hours and other times my tongue would tingle and I would have a bad taste in my mouth from breathing the air. While on sick leave, I was fired and told I needed to leave the dormitory within a few hours. I returned all the school property and was taken to a hotel which the school paid for, but on the way there I was told that I needed to give the school over my passport such that they could cancel my residence permit. I did not hand over my passport and over 3 weeks I was repeatedly told that if I did not give my passport to the school then I would be breaking the law and may be blacklisted, if I did not cancel my residence permit with the Exit and Entry Bureau then I would be breaking the law, and finally that if I did not shorten my residence permit then the school would cancel my residence permit. They lied about it all. The school promised to give me a new release letter (since the old one was false), my cancellation of FEC (foreign experts certificate), not to cancel my residence permit, and to transfer all the documents to my new employer; but, they lied about that as well. My lawyer and I finally filed a case against the school, won the case, and now the school is appealing it. The suit includes request for payment of violations of my contract, of violations of labor law towards me, and of violation of labor law towards the Chinese government. The school has prevented me from fulfilling the contract of my new employer by not giving me the documents that they are legally required to give. As I wrote in the beginning, if you are thinking about working at Beijing No. 80 High School (北京第八十中学) or find someone named Li Dequan (李德泉) as part of the organization then you should consider working elsewhere. Also at the school are secretaries such as Zhang Jing/Selina (张静) and Xu Lei/Ethan, Director Wang Jing (王瑾), old Vice Principal Li Xiaojun (李晓君), new Vice Principal Jordan and Principal Tian Shulin (田树林) all of which you should avoid as well since they seem nice in the beginning but if they think you will expose their lies and deceit they will do everything in their power to fire you or harm you another way. The complete story can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/459rx1kl3ox5o2l/AADaeI7dyPyu7832yzVCZQ7ca?dl=0

          Beijing Update...

          Anna is busy studying hard at the No. 80 High School in Beijing. Since meeting President Hu Jintao in September, Anna has been able to explore the city and the larger metropolitan area. The program has high expectations and the students are tested frequently which means plenty of evening studying. Anna's roommate Perry's native language is Russian so they are forced to communicate in Mandarin. That helps to sharpen their language skills! Anna gets to leave the dorms on weekends when she visits her host family.

          She has had a visit from Christopher Hibbard,Fryeburg Academy's Director of Admission, who was in Beijing to attend educational conferences. Mr. Hibbard was also kind enough to carry a suitcase of items that Anna forgot to pack! She also met up with her old FA friend Eliza who is in Beijing for a semester.

          Street vendors are everywhere and Anna enjoys the variety of foods that are available. She also says that she is now quite adventurous in restaurants--that is frog on the end of her chopsticks!

          Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in China so today is another day of classes and studies. One thing she is thankful for is that now that November 15th has passed, the heat in the buildings has been turned on. Unlike her last stay, we are now able to Skype with her regularly as well as chat on the phone.

          Anna passes along "Happy Thanksgiving" wishes to everyone back home.