Despite our aching feet, we are having a ball here in Beijing.
Our days have been filled with activities, sightseeing and educational experiences. The Forbidden City with its opulence and mystique was fascinating; a window into old-world China and the absolute power of the ancient ruling dynasties. Following our morning visit we were treated to a traditional Chinese welcome lunch complete with shadow puppet show—they were both magnificent.
In the afternoon, local students at the Beijing Foreign Language University welcomed us enthusiastically and were keen to show us around their campus before joining us for an enjoyable lecture by Dr Qin MA on the do’s and don’ts of Chinese Business Etiquette. On the same campus we also visited the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press Centre before heading off to an entertaining performance by acrobats, contortionists and a tap-dancing juggler.
Our third day was all about the children. We had the opportunity to visit a social enterprise space dedicated to assisting the mental and social welfare of many thousands of rural children who have been left in the care of their grandparents and extended family when their parents come to the cities to work. We then travelled to Beijing No 7 Middle School. This also is an opportunity for bright children from rural areas to come to the city to study. It is highly sought after and the children work very long hours each day to achieve good scores on the National Exam and ensure a good placement for their further studies. These children are all teenagers and most of them have had little Western contact and are very shy. Our appearance certainly elicited some excitement and many of our younger students were mobbed like movie stars.
This morning was a particular highlight as we made our way up to the Great Wall. There had been heavy snow overnight so the trees and the battlements were adorned with white and the scenery was spectacular. It was a moving experience, both in terms of the sheer magnitude of the structure and its position atop so many high mountains and also in the sad history of the many thousands of Chinese workers who remain buried in the granite. They were simply buried where they fell; many Chinese say the Wall is the world’s largest cemetery.
There are many more exciting days ahead, but for now, a hot cup of tea and some quiet refection is in order.
Written by Jan Farrell