China: my first impressions

My first impression of China is: impressive, vast, huge, organised and efficient. I arrived in Beijing yesterday and after a pretty long flight from Melbourne that involved a lot of calmness and problem solving. Today, was our first tour day and we went to the Forbidden City.

Emperor's Palace
Emperor’s Palace

I found the experience awesome, because I have always been interested in Chinese history and how it is portrayed in the cinema. I thought I knew how big the Forbidden City was but until you are here and get the opportunity to walk the palaces within the palaces you don’t really understand the complexity associated with both the historical politics and private life of the different Emperors, for example. If I had more time I would have waited in the two hour line to see Chairman Mao!

I have never been so cold though. I felt (as did the students) that my nose, cheeks and ears were going to fall right off from frost bite. It was freezing, and it was hard not to buy every fury hat that came my way.

After the Forbidden City we headed to a restaurant for an authentic Chinese banquet that also had a shadow puppet show as our backdrop. We (students and me) learnt that it is always the host who gives permission when to eat. The food was exceptional and I enjoyed the authentic Chinese foods on offer and especially the sharing style of a Chines meal/banquet.

In the afternoon, we visited two social enterprise Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to find out about the various environmental projects that are occurring in China. One organisation was the Protective Ground Friend System and the other one was Magic Cat. We had the chance to hear first hand how China is beginning to move into action for environmental concerns and how rubbish can be turned into artwork. Not all students are always aware of NGOs in terms of how closely they may work with Government and small communities to help them economically, spiritually and for the well-being of a whole community. I always love hearing from students that they have learnt something new and begin to think ‘big’ and what it means (to them) to be a global citizen.

Two students (Louis and Al) presented Swinburne gifts to the two NGOs. These students were purposely approached just minutes before the presentation concluded. The students were invited to represent Swinburne in thanking our hosts. I always really enjoy the opportunity that this brings to our students; to take the lead with these important ceremonies and especially when it is asked at the last-minute. It is employability-important that students have the opportunity to welcome and execute adaptability, be very flexible and be willing to use their oral communication skills, and at short notice. I was very proud.

Written by Rachael Hains-Wesson (PhD)