In the spring of 2013 I was lucky enough to be invited as a chaperone for a trip to China sponsored by my high school and EF Tours. The trip was two weeks long and brought us through Beijing, Pingxiang, and Shanghai. I went with my brother, old principle, few other faculty, and a group of fantastic high school students in the Mandarin program. We toured monuments, museums, and schools, and even were assigned to live with grade school student families in Pingxiang a few nights. Unfortunately, I did not have the blog up and running then and couldn’t document the ventures – but will recall a few of my favorite stories in this throwback post… Now let’s see… What do I remember…
First week in Beijing we went to Tiananmen Square. Huge crowds and tons of guards gave a feel that we were constantly being watched. I was yelled at right after taking this picture because the guard was in it. Overall, fascinating to see but the area definitely had a ‘communist’ vibe to it.
Ironically, soon after being yelled at by the serious guard – I saw these guys balling in an open court for guards. Basketball was a very common recreation in most of the places we visited in China.
EVERY in China people wanted pictures. Of us. It was quite common for a group of us to be pulled into a random groups photo shoot. On the Great Wall, my brother even had a man take a picture of just my brother with his wife.
The Great Wall is much steeper than you would ever imagine. It is extremely difficult to go far up and down the wall – especially since the masses have worn down the steps to flat slants. They have small gondolas that sometimes bring you up, but most people walk. Be ready to sweat if you want to find a photographic spot.
Right to left – Ms. Geary (former principal), Mr Ghosh (new principal), and myself. They were probably the best faculty anyone could ask to travel with – we had a great time.
We spoke in a lot of classrooms, and, as expected, most of their english was phenomenal. Everyone was excited to practice different words and phrases with us and they handed us a lot of written letters. My favorite letter was a poem about how handsome and clean I am… Will try to find it later and post 🙂
In Pingxiang my brother and I were assigned to a host family. There were two young brothers who spoke decent English, their mom, and their aunt. They were very cordial and wanted us to feel at home. Unfortunately, once I started playing video games on the Chinese servers, I did not feel at home… I did not stand a chance. I played one game of League of Legends and our student host refused to let me play against anything but bots after. My b!
Everyone was highly gift oriented. Our host family presented us with this gorgeous scroll from a local artist. We gave them a gift basket of American goodies from Hopkinton High School, but compared to this art, it was a little underwhelming. That said, they loved it all and were very gracious!
My brother’s feet were ‘slightly’ bigger than any sandals in all of China could fit. He tried to walk indoors just socks, but our host family wouldn’t let him saying his feet would get cold (probably thought it was unsanitary). So he was forced to walk like this for a few days.
They also prepared us ‘steak’ in the hopes that it would make us less home sick. We explained that we love their cultural food and have no problem eating what they normally cook, but we decided to try the steak anyways. They had never made steak before, and this was probably the hardest to cut that I have ever had. Not to mention, all I had was chopsticks and no knife. So as I was trying to figure out a way to eat it, I accidentally flipped the whole plate onto my lap. Solved that problem.
When we visited the school during the day, we were legitimate celebrities. Pingxiang is further inland than the other two cities we visited – so they do not get a lot of foreign visitors. We were drawing massive crowds, signing shirts, books, taking pictures, etc.
When I say celebrities I mean it. This game of a Chinese version of hacky sack drew a small crowd because it was during class, but the 5v5 half court basketball game my brother and I joined probably had about 250 students watching. We lost.
We also visited a couple of public parks. Hundreds walked around here and exercised, practiced tai chi, hung out, or sold goods to others. The amount of elderly exercising and practicing tai chi was astounding. One woman – who looked to be around 70 – was doing stretches on a wall with a complete vertical split.
This Chinese version of hacky sack called ‘Jianzi’ was all over the place. It is played with a birdie made of washers and colored feathers. We kicked it around in groups trying to keep it off the ground, but there are many other possible game types.
We ate arguably the spiciest noodle bowls of all time in Pingxiang. This picture says it all.
There were so many other great stories and events that went on – but I think this is a good enough collection for now. Until next time.