As some may know I spent the last part of November and most of a December in Beijing for a visiting professorship. It was a remarkable experience to tap into the rich culture and immerse myself in the community. Usually I do these programs for the US Dept of State but since they are preoccupied with, ahem, other issues, this was a direct invitation form the Beijing Language and Culture University. As a result I forwent my usual five star hotel accommodations for a very modest but pleasent apartment. I wouldn’t have traded that for anything. Everyday I bought groceries and other daily needs with my extremely poor Mandarin while the shop owners patiently waited for me to count the number of bananas I wanted. I also interacted with the community in which I lived, taught and learned.
I also ate parts of animals I didn’t know they even put in dog food, but also some amazing Peking duck and other Chinese delicacies.
I visited the Summer Palace, Forbidden City and many other landmarks. I’ve attached a few photos.
The students were, as I expected, extremely dedicated and hard working. What I didn’t expect was how open they were to new concepts. I was there to teach music improvisation, esoteric percussion and rhythm training. I had a chance to drop into the highest levels of Chinese music and percussion due to my teaching position and the Chinese musician I was collaborating and traveling with.
One image is staying with me. I was walking through an alley where a young Chinese boy (about five years old) was running as fast as he could. He tripped and feel (hard). I was about to go and check on him expecting him to be crying. He got up shook himself off and his mom behind gave a sort of loving, warning chuckle loosely translated to, “next time you’ll watch where you are going”. That one episode was something of a synopsis of my experience with Chinese Students and their American counterparts. I’m not holding any China funds now but I think I might be looking.
I hope you may enjoy some of the pictures.
Wishing everyone a Happy Healthy New Year! RM
Thanks for posting images. Reminds me of some sites we visited almost 15 years ago.
That was before the RE-led crash in the US. But from what I saw then there, I was "sure" that the RE crash would happen first in China [but I was wrong]. As we rode in the tour bus, we saw hours of NY-Manhattan like highrises with no people visible in any balconies.
Music is a language in itself - no translation required.
Shanghai stocks peaked in 2015 and are down a lot from that peak, https://www.morningstar.com/indexes/xshg/000001/quote
Great stuff, RM! The picture of eating the goop soup reminds me of a buddy who was taking a big ferry up some river there back in '82 or '3 He was on deck in the "dining area" eating a bowl of something when he noticed there was absolute quiet - on a boat of a few hundred folks. He looked up to see about 100+ people all silently staring at him eating with his chopsticks. Steven King unnerving he said. Do you ever get to Japan?
@rhythmmethod Great post, thanks. I've always been interested in other people and places.
@Bizman I read the Paul book a while back, I love books like that. There is an author, Mike Meyers I think his name is, that wrote a really good book called "In Marchuria", might want to check that out. I hope I got the title and author right. I remember that he had the same name as a fairly well known actor.
Thanks, I'm glad some people enjoyed the posts. I meant to make the pictures of me smaller and last but my command of uploading pictures to this site, while better than my Mandarin, is still lacking. I'll look for a few more pictures of the scenery and upload. If anyone is interested in seeing video (we took a lot) you can find me on Facebook or if you are interested and don't know how to find me send me a direct message and I'll connect with you. The videos of the interaction with the students are really where the magic of the trip lays, IMO. I'll check out the referenced books, as well! Thanks! Once again best wishes for the New Year ... and beyond! -RM
It was the usual approach. I went to another temple that was only opened twice a month and I was lucky to see the monks and trainees in devotion. It was very powerful!
Thank you, rhythmmethod.
At the Lama Temple, was it a specific holiday, or just the usual approach on visiting?
Thanks for posting, RM! I worked with several people from China (mainland and Taiwan) in my university job and they were a lot of fun and shared their culture, often through food. One moved back to Beijing with her two (U.S. born) kids and husband who had just earned his PhD in an astronomy-related field to teach at a Chinese university.
I enjoyed your stories and postings. I (and my wife were there for a month in 1991, just two years after the events in the "SQUARE". Hardly any Westerners, no tourists to speak of. I was there on a UN project to give lectures at various places starting in Bejing but also out in the "country". My specialty is spatial statistics and one of the applications is to mining. I had a translator and a "purser". In 1991 cars were rare and even rarer for non-government people. I was assigned to the Bureau of Mineral Resources. I had a laptop with me but computers were still rare. I had to use a small blackboard to lecture and wait for my translator after every sentence or so. Many of my "students" were of the age that had gotten caught up in the "Great UnPleasantness (Cultural Revolution). My wife and I were taken to many of the tourist sites but also to places where tourists would not see. At a very large copper mine (in operation for almost two hundred years) I saw the same equipment brands you would see in the US (Euclid, P & E) and they were just putting in a new computer controlled flotation unit. However we also saw women crushing rock by hand and sweeping an unpaved road with a twig broom. They offered to take my wife to a nursery school, she asked to see the HS as well as the hospital (she is a nurse).
When the British were big in Hong Kong and China they brought in English people to teach the language, when I was there they wanted Americans since they wanted to learn American English. We had people stop us on the street because they wanted to practice their English. At one time they were bringing Russians to teach that language but by 1991 they had lost interest in Russian. My translator told me he had a Russian group coming after I left and expected the Russians to speak English.
We were allowed to go around in Bejing on our own quite a bit, finding a minibus to take us to the Summer Palace (all basically by sign language and waving our hands). We had been given cards at the hotel that had information about the hotel in English on one side and Chinese on the other. At one point we needed to go by taxi back to our hotel and showed the card to the driver, he thought it very funny. Likewise the conductor on a city bus. We rode the subway on our own, got in line with everyone else to buy tickets.
In the hotel dining room they had recorded music playing, it was Christmas Carols (we were there in May).
There has been a huge building construction project since we were there, it is all changed.