October 1, 2015
Arrival in Beijing
After a sleepless night – (with the exception of the two hours of deep sleep, wherein I slept through my alarm and was an hour late for my 4:30 a.m. meeting with Dr. Evans for our trip to the airport) we miraculously made the plane anyway and were on the way to Beijing. I was stressed... actually, panic stricken, to be flying so far away from home- into a foreign land where I didn’t speak the language and was not entirely sure why I had been invited to talk about Arts Integration… What were their expectations? After two flights to get from Nashville to Seattle, I cannot say it was an uncomfortable eleven- hour plane ride from Seattle to Beijing. I can say it was miserable. Dr. Evans and I were packed into a small space with a large number of mostly Chinese people. At one point, when I did doze off for a short period of time, someone behind me took the back of my seat with both hands and shook it hard. This woke me with a start. I turned to see who and why someone would do this to me, only to find a very small and very old woman who pointed to her sleeping husband whose knees were pressed hard into the back of my seat. Rather than wake him, she had chosen to make me see her plight and upright my chair enough for her to squeeze by. When she got into the aisle she paused right beside my aisle seat and looked me dead in the eye and said something quite in a very didactic tone.... I don’t think it was thank you…
When we had gathered our luggage at the Beijing airport, we met our hosts for the first time. They were waiting for us, smiling and waving. I didn’t think the couple could be Dr. Shou and his wife Yingting Song, because they seemed so young to be the PHD and the CEO. (The older I get, the more this seems to happen to me...) The young couple were so warm and friendly. Mary Evans and I felt immediately comfortable with them. All our apprehension about our trip to China left us at that point. While I wasn’t sure these were indeed the people who had paid for our trip to China, in order for us to present training for teachers and parents during Beijing Week of Design, I soon realized that they were indeed our hosts and would take very good care of us during the next week. They would, in fact, become our dear friends.
Mary Evans and I marveled at our accommodations. Each of us had our own spacious room in the five- star Hilton Hotel and an incredible Chinese meal was ordered upon our arrival. We never did stop marveling after that. There remained many unanswered questions about why we had been chosen to visit China and what we could possibly do for these nice folks who had brought us here, but for now, they had made us feel welcome and at ease. It seemed to me, with our jet lag and lack of sleep that we had surely fallen down a rabbit hole...
Beijing Design Week
Some inner clock woke me at 4 a.m. We had crossed the International Date Line the day before and my body never seemed to know the time. We were told by our hosts that breakfast was complimentary at the fancy hotel. I do hope that this was indeed true and that our hosts did not pay for it themsleves, but every morning we had great Italian coffee and chose from an incredible buffet of both Chinese and Western foods. I had read and our hosts confirmed that we need not tip in restaurants, but I never felt comfortable not tipping. I had never had such service- maybe too much service. Sometimes up to three people would fuss over our table moving utensils and flowers as we ate. We were told that a driver would meet us after breakfast and take us downtown to see the place where we would present the next day.
Beijing is a mixture of everything I thought China might be and everything I never knew that it was. A totally modern city, skyscrapers sparkling brand new, with very fashionable young people weaving in and out of traffic, in all directions. At the same time, amidst modern looking restaurants and shops, old women could be seen standing in the doorways of fruit markets and a musician playing some ancient Chinese instrument seemed juxtaposed on a modern street corner. Our driver took us very quickly, passing other cars, buses, bicycles and small motorcycles on the left and on the right. Everyone seemed to make random and sudden movements with seemingly very few traffic rules at all. It seemed like a race as the driver passed anyone not going fast enough to suit and pedestrians just walked between cars with little heed. The one consistent thing in Beijing traffic is horn blowing. Instead of using brakes, everyone blows their horns. For several days, because of the extreme jet lag, this did not bother me at all. It was just part of the dream I was having.
Our downtown destination was quite a way from our hotel, but finally we came to a stop and there was our smiling Yingting welcoming us out of the car and past a large sign that read Beijing Week of Design. We walked into a very nice building with another sign that asked, “What is good design?” Inside were lots of apple exhibits by Microsoft, including, of course, their “Think Different” campaign, where we saw Bob Dylan and Albert Einstein’s pictures, among other innovative heroes, flash across a large screen. We saw the incredible artsy warehouse type room, where we would actually be presenting the next day. We moved tables and chairs in preparation for teachers and parents who would be there to hear us talk about Arts Integration in School Curriculum. We set up table where I planned to involve children in an art activity. We hooked up my apple to the projector and again it was dreamlike as I started my power point presentation and saw my own your students’ faces peer back from the large screen. I had brought them to China with me.
Presentation for International Arts Center- parents, teachers, children
The Tea Bar and Vietnamese Restaurant
Worked on presentation
The Forbidden City and One Heck of an Art Story
The Temple of Heaven
Fast Food Fondu
The Great Wall
Presentation at the School
Climbing out of the Rabbit Hole