Impressions of Visit to China May 2012
Our arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport on 16 May 2012 was the beginning of an incredible cultural experience for our group of twenty-eight from WKU in Bowling Green, KY. The modern beautiful airport decorated with traditional Chinese art was a prelude to the incredible beauty of Beijing China, with its ancient history and culture underlying and supporting this distinctive international city. Throughout the two week trip, this successful blend of old and new was evident in most of the places we visited in the Beijing region. The trip exceeded my expectations in multiple ways.
The perception of China from afar is different from the China we experienced as guests of Hanban/CI Headquarters. Although I know that as guests, we were shown the “best face of China”, almost all cultures do the same. Our human nature needs to show our guests our best – we clean our home, offer our best food and treat our guests with respect. During our time in China, I felt that North China Electric Power treated us as their respected guests. They taught us about the Chinese language and some of the Chinese arts of music, folk dance and Kung Fu. Rather than just observing these disciplines, we participated. This adds much more value to the experience. Throughout our time in China, most of the people we met seemed honored to have us visiting their country.
One of the pleasant surprises for me was the food. The variety and presentation of the many cuisines of China is remarkable. The food experiences of those who came on the trip last year was helpful for us, as they introduced us to some of their favorite foods and places to eat them.
It is hard to isolate the best things about a trip that encompassed so many highlights. Each day was an adventure of amazing experiences. The key to enjoying each day was to remain flexible and open to new things. The following reflects my impressions of the various activities and events we experienced as Summer Camp participants.
- The Chinese language class was beneficial because from afar, the Chinese language of thousands of pictorial characters seems overwhelming and hard to learn. The Ah Ha moment for me was in learning how the tones worked.
- This class would be improved with more focus on connecting the pinyin with English words. The instructor used a lot of characters with the English words, and our time in class is too short to comprehend characters, except for maybe a couple of the most basic. This improved during the later classes.
- The Kung Fu class was good and particularly beneficial to participate in, even though it was difficult for beginners to grasp.
- Repetition is the best way for beginners to learn and sometimes we were asked to copy the instructor before we knew enough about the moves.
- The Chinese Folk Dance was a good class, and again, repetition is what was needed to learn this art.
- An improvement might be to choose dance movements more appropriate for men, as this was a mixed group of men and women.
- The trip to the Confucius Institute headquarters was extremely beneficial because it gave us an awareness of the mission of the CI program. It was interesting to see all of the awards for universities around the world that participate in CI. The cultural exhibits were very instructive.
- An improvement to the educational experiences might be to have two classes in the morning instead of one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This would give time in the afternoon to travel to another cultural site. On the days this was arranged, we went to the Beijing Botanical Gardens. Another day, we went to the Beijing Zoo.
- Great Wall and Summer Palace – this day was a highlight for me. Some may have thought it should not have occurred on the first day, as people had jetlag, but I think it was fine because we were excited to be there and really were probably fresher than we were later in the trip.
- The visits to all other cultural sites were very enjoyable. It was exciting to visit Tian’aman Square and the Forbidden City, the Olympic venues and the Temple of Heaven.
- For the most part, the guides on the tour buses were exemplary, but the tour guide we had for the visits to the Olympic venues was not very good. She was unfriendly and did not have much patience.
- Another highlight for me was the visit to the middle and high school. The principal was a great host and was proud to show off his school. The teachers in the classes we observed were friendly and accommodating and the students were a joy to see. I especially enjoyed talking to the English language students.
- The trip to Tian Jin was fun, as we experienced the buses, subways and high speed train to get to the city. It was great to see another city in China too.
- I especially enjoyed the Beijing Botanical Gardens, especially the Rose Gardens. Another great day was the afternoon trip to the Beijing Zoo.
IMPRESSIONS OF NORTH CHINA ELECTRIC POWER UNIVERSITY
- The accommodations were excellent, the beds, towels and linens were wonderful and the staff was usually friendly. The fruit and little welcome packages of toiletries were appreciated.
- An improvement would be to have internet access to talk to family at home and for some to access email, etc. for work purposes. It was hard to believe that a highly technical university would have so much trouble with internet access.
- Another improvement might be to have a bedside lamp for reading purposes before bed, so the big lights would not have to be on all the time.
- It was great to have the students on campus and to see them living their normal lives. I enjoyed interacting with some of the students. It seems students are the same everywhere, enjoying conversation and physical activities, studying together and having fun.
- The very best part of the university experience was the unselfish service of the two students assigned to help us with our stay at the university and China. Leonard and Sookie (American names), were the glue that helped keep the whole experience together. Their friendly personalities, their English language skills and their navigation skills made everything so much easier. They helped connect us to China because most of us have no Chinese language skills. They knew the best and safest places to eat, the directions to everywhere we wanted to go and the fun places to experience. They had a talent for interacting with all ages of people on our trip and most of us would say they made two new friends in China.
- We hope they will be compensated in some way for their service to us.
- The Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony in the Teahouse were a good way for us to begin our experience and to end our experience. The Closing Ceremony was fun and reflected the cooperation established during the two weeks.
- Communication can always be improved and that is something we all need to work on. People like to know what to expect and what is expected of them. My overall impression of the Summer Camp experience more than met my expectations. I appreciate this opportunity to experience China so much and thank the Hanban/CI for helping to finance this trip for us. When I think about the two weeks spent in China, I will always have good memories.
I think what I will leave with is that the people of China are like the people of the United States. Family and friends are important to us all. Most of the tourists at the cultural sites were Chinese, enjoying their multi-generational families. It was a pleasure to see them enjoying their city.
The Chinese people were happy when we gave attention to their children and very proud of them too. I was impressed with the emphasis on good experiences for children, from the child-friendly things to do at the zoo, to the children’s activities and games available at the mall to the way Chinese treat their children. Generally, most of the Chinese people we met were friendly to us.
In a larger sense, the numbers of construction projects and little forests of homes (along the way to Tian Jin) going up in areas around Beijing and perhaps most of China are remarkable. Signs of the progress of modern China are everywhere. We saw so many cranes that it prompted one of the people in our group to say, “Do they buy cranes by the dozen?” Another impression then is that we saw an evolving China – a China of the 21rst century, but a China that maintains its ties to its ancient cultural history.
So as I reflect on my Chinese adventure, I am left with the feeling that we are more alike than different. Despite cultural differences, we and the Chinese people want a stable family life with good communities to live in with safe food and water, available utilities and a sense of security. Hopefully, programs like the Confucius Institute will continue to foster that sense of outreach to others that will help to ensure world cooperation in the things that matter to all of us.
Thank you again for the opportunity to come to China as your guest.