Week #1 – Random Thoughts

This week has been a phenomenal week full of work (yes, I said work), excitement, and adventure.   The week started with 44 Zhongguo Adventurers setting flight to China.   Oh, what does Zhongguo mean? It is a term used to refer to all territories claimed by the People’s Republic of China (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan).   The food has been plentiful and very delicious, with the highlight of the food (for me) being the roasted duck from the HePing Gate Roast Duck Restaurant.  Our hosts have been most gracious to us, and have truly taken care of all of our needs.  It is amazing how nice everyone has been to us, regardless of where we have been, who we have spoken with, and what questions we have asked.  A big thanks to our guides, Leonard, and Li Bo (a.k.a Cookie).

A week later, I feel like a local of China, as if I have been here all of my life.  We have been to great places such as the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), Lao She Tea House, and many of the local outlets, such as the Pearl Market and Silk Street, with many more great adventures to come.  It is also interesting to intermingle with other colleagues as everyone is navigating through.

Peking Duck
The HePing Gate Roast Duck Restaraunt, an enormous five story restaurant, that prepares many cuisines, but specializes in the “Peking Duck.”   The Peking Duck, is a roasted duck, prepared by separating the skin of the duck from the meet, and roasting it in such as way as to render the fat from duck, leaving behind a beautiful crisp skin. The best part of the whole meal was how crispy, and delicious the skin of the duck tasted, as it just melt in your mouth.

Saturday 7/16, we split into two different groups, and was bound and determined to adventure away from the safe confines of the campus, into the city of Beijing (Watch out Beijing!!!!).   One group went to the “Silk Street,” and the other group went to the “Art District.”

Silk Street
What is silk street you ask?   Silk Street is market that sells commodities such as shoes, bags and cases, leather, famous brands, causal wear, fashion clothing, silk wax printing, crafts, jewelry, and antiques.  If ever you need to brush up on your negotiating skills, this is the place to come. Wow, I have never been at a place in which the vendors are literally pulling and pushing you into their booths. Tip, go in knowing what you want, how much you know/think it is work (basically how much your willing to pay), be prepared to walk away from a deal you aren’t happy with, don’t be afraid to use their calculator, and know the currency rate.   All those tips will allow you to confidently purchase the items you want, and know that you have a great deal.

Art District
The art district commonly referred to as “798 Art Zone,” is a part of the Chaoyang District of Beijing that houses a thriving artistic community, which is often compared to New York’s Greenwich Village or SoHo.   Here you can enjoy the artistic ambience and flare, at the same time enjoy some of the cafe’s located around the site.   For more information please go to the following link, 798 Art Zone.

In conclusion, week one was chocked full of both lecture, language study, and also free time.   Weeks two and three will be much more intense, but will definitely be noteworthy. Stay Tuned!!!!!!

Day of Contrasts

After our morning lecture on Chinese Traditional Medicine, we went to the open market in town near the university. Produce vendors were selling a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and eggs. (How many kinds of eggs can you identify?) Five large enclosed areas, similar to a U.S. flea market, had vendors selling everything from computers and cell phones to household supplies and religious icons. It was very crowded, yet orderly, without the usual aggressive sales techniques we’ve experienced other places. This place seemed to be for the locals, not the tourists.

Then, we took public transportation (adventure!) to the 798 Art District in downtown Beijing. Located alongside a former Soviet-style factory, this District has a variety of contemporary art galleries and boutiques. Much of the high-end art is similar to what one might see in the trendy art galleries in New York and San Francisco. Many people were dressed in upscale, stylish clothing.

The Art District has many lovely cafes and restaurants. We ended the evening at a wonderful Chinese restaurant (Aren’t all the restaurants in China actually Chinese!?). We had a private dining room and a range of delicious dishes – one of our best meals.

China’s emerging middle class highlights the contrast of this day. Perhaps the best way to describe the contrast is Mr. Dan’s lecture that morning: Yin/Yang of China.

China – first week

The first week has been quite an experience.    We have had lectures on language development, traditional festivals, Traditional Chinese Medicine, practical Chinese speaking, and  active classes on folk arts, qi gong (similar to tai chi) and traditional dance.    We have been fed wonderfully.  We had the welcome banquet, a mongolian barbeque lunch, an authentic Peking duck dinner in one of the premier duck restaurants in Beijing, dinner and entertainment at the famous Lao She tea house, wide selections at the school cafeteria, and a few excellent lunches and dinners out in the local shops (the kung pao was great).    Our Chinese student volunteers have been extremely gracious and helpful.  We would all be lost without them. “Leonard” and “Cookie” are to be commended on their efforts to make our stay enjoyable.

The weather is hot and muggy.  The sun looks nearly like an eclipse and you rarely see shadows because of so little direct sunlight.   Fortunately is has mostly rained only at night.  However, last night many of us on excursions to the Silk Street or artist district ended up getting soaked on our journeys back to the hotel.

We visited the Hanban / Confucius Institute Headquarters.  Their China Exploratorium is impressive.  Besides their interactive displays, they have a lot of fantastic artifacts.    We have already been to Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Lao She Tea House.

Our group is a great mix of people.  Everyone seems to be getting along well and helping each other.  Each is getting their own perspective of Chinese life and society and finding ways to compare it to the USA and their own lives.

bus ride to the mall
Bus ride to the mall
Hanban group photo
WKU group at Hanban headquarters
Tian'anmen Square
temporary decaration at Tian'anmen Square
Natasha at Forbidden City
Natasha at one of several gates leading into the Forbidden City
seated dancers
Dance class - trying to figure out what these things are for . . .

There is so much more to come in the next two weeks.  Time is going quickly.

Why NCEPU for CI’s First Cultural Exchange Trip?

I am sure many are wondering why the Confucius Institute at WKU picked North China Electric Power University as the host site for its very first Summer Program, instead of a traditional University. The school was founded in 1958 with its first name being Beijing Electric Power College. The school was later renamed, North China Institute of Electric Power. Then in 1995, Beijing Electric Power College was merged with North China Institute of Electric Power, and was named North China Electric Power University. As the name implies, the school specializes in power and energy-relevent disciplines such as electric power engineering, automation, energy and thermal power engineering, and renewable energy. The school is ranked as one of “211 Project” Universities in China, referring to Top 100 Chinese Universities in the 21st Century. As you can see, NCEPU’s reputation rivals American Institutions such as MIT or Georgia Tech in the area of Engineering.

Still wondering why the Confucius Institute at WKU chose NCEPU for its cultural exchange school? What you may not know is that the school is much more diversified than just Engineering. They currently offer degree programs ranging from Industrial Economics, Masters of Business Administration, Project Management, Finance, Public Administration, and English Language & Literature. So, the school is not just an engineering/power generating University, it is a comprehensive University with a deep heritage in the area of Electric Power Generation. In addition, their English Language & Literature program is partnering with the Confucius Institute at WKU, and has began (AY 11/12) bringing a few Chinese teachers into the Kentucky school system to teach Chinese language and culture. Thus, it should make perfect sense why the Confucius Institute would make this University the site for the CI’s very first “Adult Summer Trip.”

Who’s Part of the China Experience 2011

The planning, and funding of this trip has been a daunting task. It has been a shared task by the Confucius Institute at WKU, various departments across WKU’s campus (i.e. Health Services, WKURF, Finance & Administration, President’s Office, etc.), North China Electric Power University, and Hanban. Of the 44 participants, all but seven individuals are WKU faculty, staff, or students.  See below for a complete roster and departments represented on this trip:

Michael Binder – Former Dean of Libraries
Nancy Binder – Community Member
Kathryn Burchfield – Enrollment Management (Office of Provost)
Richard Burnette – WKU Student
Margaret Crowder – Geography and Geology
Brandon Davidson – Interactive Video Services
Lynn Ferguson – Artist-In-Residence
Eric Fisher – Library Facilities
John Gott – Desktop Support
Erlene Grise-Owens – Master’s of Social Work Program
Erin Greunke – Geography and Geology
Stan Herren – Technical Support (College of Education)
Lisa Cooper-Holmes – Community Member
Ingrid Lilly – Philosophy and Religion
Rebecca Long – WKU Student
James Lowe – English Department
Hajara Mahmood – Ed.D Student
Kenyetta Martin – Ed.D Student
Terrill Martin – ICSET / WKU Center for R&D / Confucius Institute
Margaret Maxwell – Teacher Education Department
Laura McGee – Modern Languages
Ronald Mitchell – Dept. Chair – Professional Studies
Beth Murphy – International Student Scholar Services
Olivia Murphy – Community Member
Esther Orndorff – WKU Student
Kathleen Orndorff – WKU Student
Larry Owens – Social Work Department
Wei-Ping Pan – Assistant to the President / Director of ICSET & Confucius Institute
Alice Pan – Community Member
Nathan Phelps – Honor’s College
Clarrisa Priddy – Graduate Admission Department
Janette Ralston – Community Member
Neil Ralston – Journalism & Broadcasting
George Rasmussen – Executive-In-Residence (GFCOB)
Loren Ruff – Theater & Dance Department
Vicki Sharer – Art Department
Lee Ann Smith – SkyTeach
Natasha Smith – Planning, Design, and Construction
Martin Stone – Agriculture Department
Jeremy Thompson – Basic Skills for College Teaching (BSCT)
JoAnn Thompson – International Student Scholar Services
Steve Thompson – Community Member
Ta’Neka Vaden – Heath Services
Haiwang Yuan – Library Services

Please follow us as we document our independent and collective experiences in Beijing China. Our stay will be for a total of 20 days, so there will be plenty to both read and write about.

Chinese Hospitality

Our first full day in China was paced well, with an opening ceremony, a tour of campus, and a brief introduction to China in lecture+discussion format.

I should not fail to mention the meals that punctuated our day. We began with breakfast in what was apparently just one of several cafeterias on this campus of 30,000 students. The cafeteria nearest our on-campus hotel is designed to accommodate students of the muslim faith, for instance no pork is served there at all. A few posters on the wall underlined its purpose. At lunch there were a variety of very appetizing-looking dishes. Most in our group seem to have mastered their chopsticks well. Thank goodness there was time for a nap or a walk after lunch – or even both.

In the morning session we learned that NCEPU was founded in 1958, and that it is to be one of 211 universities of excellence in China in the 21st century. Its emphasis is on the sciences, primarily engineering and energy-related technologies, but it also has among its 10 schools a math and physics school, a business school top-rated for its research, a foreign languages school, and Chinese language programs. A substantial campus already exists, but construction of its largest building is still underway. When completed, that structure is expected to reach 230,000 m² = 2,475,699 ft².

The afternoon lecture was already compact without attempting to summarize it here. Nevertheless, here are a few facts that could become part of everyone’s general knowledge about China. Measured by geographical size, China is the third largest country in the world, right ahead of the USA. Beijing was named its capital in 1267, and the city now has 19 million inhabitants. NCEPU is in a north-northeastern suburb of Beijing. China has 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities, and 2 SAR (Hong Kong, Macao). Building on the Great Wall of China began in 770 B.C. The People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1, 1949. There are 56 nationalities total in China. The term nationalities seems to refer to ethnic groups or peoples. The Han make up 91.6% of these, and the others combined make up the remaining 8.4%. In 2009 the per capita GDP was $3,315, putting China in 106th spot worldwide, between Armenia and Iraq. China is currently undergoing swift economic and social change, particularly in the areas of higher population concentration (the southeastern portion).

Dinner was a hands-on cultural event: a Chinese banquet. In the hotel restaurant, a generous spread was presented on a large glass “lazy susan” at each table so that everyone could reach items to sample them. Suffice it here to say: Many toasts were made – by our hosts and to our hosts. What hospitality!

Safe Arrival & First Day

So far 43 adventurers have arrived safely, and awaiting our last adventurer to show up this morning. It is amazing how taxing such a long flight can be. I really pondered on whether to pay for the upgrade, as they all looked really comfortable. It was a long day, long flight, but the excitement overshadowed all of that. Most of us did not know each other, but we had plenty of time for that at the airport.

I am truly blessed to have this opportunity, and look forward to learning more about the Chinese heritage and culture. Today is our first day of adventure in China and look forward to it. check back later for more updates.