Here follows a great 'diary' from a client who recently visited a remoter part of china as
part of an international education programme. It was his first time into an environment
like this and his writing style shows a vivid eye and pen!
Arriving in Beijing was much more exciting. I didn't see much of Beijing except the
airport - a modern, efficient airport designed by the same designer of the QANTAS domestic
terminal in Sydney I am sure. But, it was just like Lee Ling Chin's weather report -
Beijing, crowdy and teeming! The place is a buzz and the univerity games are on in town -
a little warm up for the Olympics. I think we should all save our pennies up for 2008 -
Beijing's budget for the Olympics is equivalent to the Queensland annual GDP! It's going
to make Sydney look very tame. The locals up here are over the moon. The Air China flight
to Shenyang was fine - not the nightmare predicted. But Shenyang airport? What a dump! It
was first hint that there is a huge potential market for spray'n'wipe in China. All those
teeming millions and not a cleaner in sight!
But what a welcome! A delegation of bright shiny faced young Chinese kids (well late 20's
and 30's), among them a most beautiful young women, bright as a wip and with a killing
smile and a big bunch of flowers. And there was the Director, a round man with no English
and suffering behind a big smile his loss of face amongst his young students with their
eager and broken English. There was also a group monitor and my minder. They treated me
like visiting royalty and wisked me off through the throng of erratic drivers, Soviet era
trucks, Ming dynasty donkey carts and thousands of antique bicycles. It was early evening
but dark already and very surreal. The road passed through a landscape that resembles
photos of Berlin just after the war but springing out of the gloom here and there were the
most fantastic bright shiny ultra modern buildings imaginable.
The traffic! The rules! Rules? What rules? The traffic lights are purely decorative. The
pedestrian crossings should be marked "commit hari kiri here!" They say there is
hierarchy everywhere in Chinese society - well it is certainly true of the traffic. Little
vehicles give way to the big vehicles. No arguments entered into. Its is like a coral
reef. There are big lumbering trucks, taxis that cruise like sharks and bicycles that
swarm like fish. As we drove along the bicycles just swirl out of the way just like when I
have been snorkeling at Green Island.
The hotel, is a modern 3 star place and very comfortable. The staff speak fair English and
it makes a good refuge. After a quick shower and change I was taken out to dinner. A
Chinese restaurant (of course) and a private dining room. Enough food to feed half Korea
(North or South) and so gobsmackingly delicious! I think the culinary skills the Chinese
brought to Australia have been lost over the generations. This food is amazing. A major
feature of dining as an honoured guests is Gambai (literally "bottoms up")- lots
of short toasts wishing you good health and success followed by the need to drain your
glass in one swallow. And of course courtesy demands....So we all got very merry. The beer
relaxed the Director enormously and he even ventured a toast in English: "Good Ladies
and Evening Gentlemen!" I nearly drowned in my beer but managed not to give offence.
Imagine if he said "Good gentleman and evening ladies!" Then full to bursting
with food and beer we wove our way back to the hotel through the traffic - it was bad
Thursday morning I stayed in the hotel preparing my classes. In the afternoon I was picked
up and taken to the College. I learned that Cadre means Government College. What it really
means of course is college for sons and daughters of party officials! I soon figured out
that I was in the bosum of the Communist Party. Actually they are very nice people these
communists! And here I am to teach their sons and daughters the secrets of Capitalism! (I
am sure we all appreciate the irony of that one!) And what good little capitalists they
will be too.
Well, the college! This, like much of the architecture, is right out of 1950's Stalinism
and they haven't had a cleaner in since! The toilets! But I didn't care - I was surrounded
by bright, shiny clean faces - and they are such interesting looking people. There are no
plain ones at all. They are full of life and interest. I was shown upstairs to my class
room - the room they keep for very best. What a treat - I will have to get photos! Good
size chairs, 1950s designs but it good condition - and.......wait for it.....lace
antimaccasars (how do you spell that?) on every chair. I felt like Nixon visiting Mao!
Later I was taken out to dinner again, this time with the college President, a tall
ascetic man that looked a bit like Pope Pius XII with oriental eyes. I gathered he also
has a status not unlike the good old Pope too. I WAS being treated like royalty! They took
me to another restaurant for a meal that wasn't as modest as the previous evening. This
was a Banquet that would feed Bangkok for a year! And the food! Superlatives just aren't
enough. And, of course, more Gambai! Another of the students came to dinner - 40 I
suppose, a primary teacher with very good English and a home made dress the spitting image
of the Sisters of Mercy habits from the 70s. I would have sworn she was a nun but she has
a husband. They live in "Lantern City" on the Russian border where the husband
manages freight between China and Russia. The President took me back to the Hotel in his
Audi A6 - newer than a friend on mines! Wouldn't you think these communists could afford a
cleaner in a country so bursting with billions of underemployed human resources!
Nevertheless the evening was another great treat.
First day of classes. I was up at 6.00 (I am not used to this) getting my gear together.
The class went slowly - giving lectures with simultaneous translation is quite an
experience. The students were reserved at first but I soon had them laughing and chatting.
They took me off to lunch - another enormous and fabulous feast.
I met their English teacher, a Portugese woman from a language institute in Paris and she
has been a big help. The students adore her. She is late 30/early 40s I suppose and
single. Well when the students learned I wasn't married they were very busy matchmaking.
It is all good fun. The real treat so far, though was Friday night. One of the students
father is a high Party Official and he had tickets to the theatre - a China/Korea cultural
exchange event. So off to the theatre we go and I got to meet this students girlfriend.
Well the good capitalist son of the good Party Official Dad had to scalp off the spare
free tickets of the Glorious Party first! So, some pocket money was made and in we went!
The theatre was more good Stalinist architecture. Everything big and solid and very poorly
finished. I could have done a better job of the tiling in the foyer. My favourite was the
centrepiece of the chandelier - a great big red star! And so I got to sit in the front
rows amid the senior party officials and their families surrounded by this big concrete
building without airconditiong or fans in the height of summer and a day of persistent
rain. Mum, it was like going to see La Traviata in the Innisfail Town Hall! In a
lather of sweat I watched a marvellous performance by the visiting Korean all-singing,
all-dancing, all drumming troup with Korean orchestra. I was spell-bound. The music was
sublime (many melancholy songs - Hillary Jones at the Queensland Con used to say that the
Koreans were the Irish of Asia, they love a good maudlin tune). The Korean national
costumes were beautiful of course and so were the faces of the performers - drop dead
stunning everyone of them and so, so serene. One item was the dance I can only call
"The dance of the Sad Blue Nightie". Very poignant dancing and facial expression
Korean music. At one point the performer fell to the floor and emoted. I wish the cleaners
has swept! She then continued with what I call "The dance of the very sad blue
There is much more to tell about this performance so keep posted - I have to get off the
one computer in the college, I think before I ware out my welcome. But, I am having a
marvellous time, I am sure you can tell. Keep posted.