Greetings! I am glad that you could join me in my travels to China! Follow me daily to see what adventures I and my fellow administrators from Pennsylvania are encountering as we travel through the countryside and cities of China.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Friday April 22 and Saturday April 23

Friday April 22 and Saturday April 23
The Pennsylvanians met up at the Shijiazhuang airport to fly to Shanghai. After checking in to our lovely rooms (more modern than the hotels in Xi'an and Xingtai yet still no wireless capability), we met up with the other administrators from New England, Ohio and Indiana. This was our debriefing, and we shared our thoughts as best we could about our experiences with our Chinese hosts, and plans for future exchanges between Chinese and US students and teachers. Those of us from Berks and Lehigh Counties will be doing a presentation on May 6 during the Asian Studies Collaborative, and we took some time to formulate our plans. Then it was off to explore Shanghai! And explore we did! Shanghai is the most beautiful city we had ever seen! Loaded with architecture both old and new, it looked spectacular especially at night, when all the buildings are lit with colorful lights. Very modern too in many places. There were more Westerners (as the Chinese call us non-Chinese) than in any other city we visited, even Beijing. And the shopping! Silk and pearls, pearls and silk, and lots of bargaining and negotiating with the vendors on the prices (that was the fun part).

Sunday April 24
Easter Sunday. Several of us were able to find a Catholic Church to attend Mass. We took a taxi to the beautiful cathedral that quickly filled to capacity with Chinese Catholics, all celebrating Easter Mass with the Bishop of the Diocese of Shanghai. This goes to show how much China has changed over the years. We had seen Buddhist temples many places on our trip, but I had no idea there would be so many Catholics. We were told by an Australian couple who accompanied us that while the government allows the practice of other religions, they only allow the Protestants to congregate as one rather than allow separate denominations. Interesting.
We left the hotel for the airport, crossing over the river into Po Dong, the site of the 2010 World Expo. Amazing! As we neared the Shanghai International airport we were told that the entire area was built on the sea. Talk about use of the available land (none). After saying our goodbyes to Ryan and Peiwui from CEI in Massachusetts, we left the beautiful city of Shanghai for Chicago, promising each other we would stay in touch.

I have met some of the most remarkable people on this trip. The administrators from the US were a caring group of people who always helped each other in any way we could. Traveling to a strange world where you cannot communicate with anyone who lives there forces you to depend on each other in the group, and we bonded more than I ever imagined. I made some wonderful friends during our stay in China, and we shared some experiences that most people can only imagine. We were all educators before the trip, but both our professional and personal lives were enriched because of the exchanges we had between ourselves and the Chinese. For that I am most grateful.

Thursday April 21

Wednesday April 20
After spending a period with a group of seniors in the Sino-Canadian program, who were unattended because their teacher called off sick, we headed off to Xingtai #4 Kindergarten school which was started in 1981 (don't ask me about the number thing, after repeatedly asking about it myself, I still do not understand what it means). In China children may attend kindergarten for 3 years, from ages 3 to 6. This school has about 800 kindergarten students, there are 40 or so children in each class but it is taught by 2 teachers. The children arrive at 7:30 am and stay here until their parents come for them at 5:30 pm. They eat 3 meals here, and take naps in the afternoon in tiny beds (see pictures - how cute!). The curriculum is focused more on socialization and free-play in the early years, but then has a more academic focus at ages 4 and 5, when they begin to learn English, reading, writing and math. I especially liked the area behind the school, where the teachers and students have planted a garden. The students water the plants and measure the growth. Then they learn what they can do with the plants when they harvest them. Most of the area was planted with wheat. Inside there was also an area on stage that displayed many of the teacher and student projects, many of which were made with recycled materials. It was a great visit!
In the afternoon we visited 2 other schools - a government (public) school and a private one. The first school, Xingtai No. 23, is one of 32 junior - middle schools in the city. It is made up of 800 students from grades 1 through 9. There are 24 Chinese teachers of English, and I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with several of them. The school is headed up by a head mistress as well as a party secretary.
The second school, Yinghua Education Group School, is a huge complex that houses (literally) 3300 students. The children as young as grade one live in the dormitories in rooms with bunks and little else. The primary and middle schools are separated by some distance, so after showing us the elementary campus the principal drove us to the middle school buildings. The school is quite progressive compared to the public ones we have seen. Students are learning English very early. All of them have a laptop. Every student must learn a musical instrument, take dance, learn to play chess, draw, learn calligraphy, etc. We did see, however, the strong ties to the Communist party in the room displaying all of the memorabilia and in the scarves of the Young Pioneers that all of the children were wearing. The principal was an extremely gracious hostess - she appeared very young, and yet she has been in this position here for 10 years. All indications were that she is very bright, and she, like all of the other teachers and principals I have met asked me to evaluate them and their schools. Mindful of the fact that I am a guest in their country, I always found complimentary things to say, and I always meant them. This principal, however, was so grateful for my words that she gave me a large Confucius silk scroll right off her office wall!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday April 19

Tuesday April 19
I was able to sit in on three different English classes. The teachers were given no prior warning; I felt badly that I was interrupting their schedule, since I think they have to stay on task. But I really wanted to have an opportunity to speak with the students and to give them an opportunity to practice speaking. The first class was a grade 11 class; it was very regimented. The teacher wore a wireless headset (in fact they all do since the classes are so large), and it was mainly teacher question, teacher answer. For most of the class, the students only answered chorally, and none asked questions, unless the teacher said, "This answer is open for discussion." The majority of this lesson focused on grammar and dictation.

The second class was grade 10 English with Ms. Chen. I found her style to be delightful, she introduced me as a special guest, and told the class that she would be changing her plans to accommodate my visit. She used this time to review geography, especially of Canada, and she randomly called on students to give responses that not only demonstrated their understanding of the question, but also freely expressed their ideas. She also used a turn and talk method with the students, and although it was a bit noisy (picture 65 or 70 students all talking at once) it was very effective. She then asked me to come upfront, and I welcomed the opportunity to have the students ask me any type of questions they liked. It was so fun! They all wanted to get their picture taken with me, and several of them wanted a hug at the end of class. One boy asked me for my email, another asked me if I brought him a present.

I also visited another grade 11 class, and this teacher was using the topic of California to discuss what things you would want to know about a country or place. The class then began paragraph reading first silently then aloud (all at once), and they were asked to find the main topic, etc. This class used a textbook that emphasized cultural knowledge, yet Ms. Chen and I discussed that there is a disconnect between the text and the examination the students must pass.

After yet another long lunch break with Mr. Lu and some of his friends, we picked up Mr. Li and drove 1 1/2 hours to a mountain village west of Xingtai City. What a drive! The mountains are so high, and the 400 people who live here in Yin Tan are so poor. They make their living on farming the mountainside, growing potatoes, raising chickens and goats, and making anything and everything they can. This village has a very old history. It was built around 400 years ago, and in the 1940's when the Japanese invaded China it became a place where the Chinese hid. There are 2 schools in the village; we visited the primary one. It reminded me of the schoolhouse in the movie "Not One Less." Unbelievable poverty. After meeting with several of the villagers (Mr.Lu called them peasants), we set off on a treacherous road to another village site - the home where Mr. Lu was raised. His mother now lives in the city with his brother (he is one of 6 children), and occasionally he comes back on the weekends to stay in the countryside. We drove through a small town to see the junior middle school where students from both villages attended school (about 10 km away).

Monday April 18th

After a Chinese breakfast of dumplings, tea, congee and hard-boileds eggs in my hotel room, Mr. Lu and I set off for school, accompanied of course by his driver. While he attended the weekly principals' meeting, I spoke to some of the teachers who speak English. They explained the school, the Sino-Canadian School, that is housed within Xingtai No. 1 High School. This school was started by a private individual from Beijing. The purpose is for students who attend and graduate will graduate with both a Chinese and Canadian diploma, and will be able to apply to universities in the US and Canada. There are 5 teachers in this international school - 3 from Canada and 2 from the US, and they work for the organization, not the Chinese school. Mr. Lu acts as liaison between the organization and the school, but according to the teachers he is just a figurehead. There are 94 students in this program, and it is competitive to be accepted. The students pay a much higher tuition rate as well. This school has been operating in Xingtai since 2008; this June will be the graduation of the first class, and I was told that all graduates will go abroad to continue their studies in either Canada or the US.

There are 8,000 students in Xingtai No. 1 High School and about 500 teachers. Class sizes are large - the classes I visited had 60 or so students in each. The students pay tuition to attend, and the amount that they pay is determined by their grades in 9th grade. Students who have the highest grades pay 800 yuan per year, while others pay 6000 or even 6600 yuan per year. The average teacher's salary is only 3,000 yuan per month, and it varies according to their performance, which depends mainly on how well the students perform academically. Each teacher is evaluated by the principal, their colleagues, and the students. Mr. Lu gave me a copy of the scantron sheet that the evaluators complete. I need to have it translated in order to understand the categories.

After what is a normal lunch (2 hours in length), we picked up Mr. Li and the driver took us to Bixiang County. Here is where the famous Han Dynasty peonies can be found. I was told that these 12 plants are the only ones remaining from that time period, and what makes them unique is that they have different flower colors on one plant. Also, they were at one time stolen by the Japanese, transplanted in Japan, but they died. In fact, they have never been successfully grown anywhere else. By the way, did you know that the peony is the Chinese national flower?

After the walk through the beautiful gardens (well, they would have been more beautiful if we would have visited 2 weeks from now when the flowers will be blooming), we stopped at the construction site of a new temple. I donned a hard hat to see how the workers were building the temple around what is the 2nd largest Buddha found in China. The Buddha is from the Tang Dynasty.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday April 18th

After a Chinese breakfast of dumplings, tea, congee and hard-boilers eggs in my hotel room, Mr. Lu and I set off for school, accompanied of course by his driver. While he attended the weekly principals' meeting, I spoke to some of the teachers who speak English. They explained the school, the Sino-Canadian School, that is housed within Xingtai No. 1 High School. This school was started by a private individual from Beijing. The purpose is for students who attend and graduate will graduate with both a Chinese and Canadian diploma, and will be able to apply to universities in the US and Canada. There are 5 teachers in this international school - 3 from Canada and 1 from the US, and they work for the organization, not the Chinese school. Mr. Lu acts as liaison between the organization and the school, but according to the teachers he is just a figurehead.

Sunday, April 17th

The Administrators from Pennsylvania were to be picked up by our counterparts at 9:00 this morning. I guess Mr. Li couldn't wait to see me, because as I was getting ready, my door bell rang (Chinese hotels do have door bells), and who was standing there but my old friend, Li Jianxong, accompanied by Mr. Lu, the Vice Principal for International Affairs, who was to be His interpreter for the day. After loading my suitcases in the car (which was humorous in itself- an act of Chinese ingenuity), we set out for Xingtai City. The school provided Mr. Li with a driver, and as drove I was amazed at the vast amount of land that was used to farm wheat. The majority of the flowers and plants I have seen so far are the same ones we grow back home in PA.

       After checking into my hotel, we walked through a park just behind the hotel, where children were doing crafts, playing small games of chance (I could have won a live rabbit, but what was I going to do with it?). There was also a flea market along the side of the street. Mr. Li used very little English all day, but Mr. Lu took every chance he could to learn a new word or two.

       We and lunch at a nearby restaurant, and several other people met us for lunch, including Mr. Gao, the new principal of Xingtai No. 1 High School. School administrators take 2 hour lunches (even on Sunday they were "working"), and, let me tell you, it is nothing like our American lunches. Much toasting!

       After lunch we walked through various parks throughout the city, visited a place where the government is undertaking a massive project to bring water from southern China to the north via hug channels. This area is so dry and dusty, my shoes were covered with brown dust. We also visited the largest park, in which there was a museum in honor of Guo Shoijing, a very famous Chinese scientist, who is mist noted for his contributions in the fields of water conservancy, astronomy, and the Chinese calendar. After a quick trip back to the hotel, I accompanied Mr. Li to his apartment for dinner. There were many people there, a friend of Mr. Li's who also works for the Bureau of Education and his wife, a cardiologist, a neighbor and his teenage son and wife, and Mr. Li's teenage daughter and his wife. The dinner was, what else, dumplings, but this time I was the cook. Mrs. Li was very patient with me as I tried to make them, but more of them looked like ravioli than dumplings. We all sat down and ate, but at that point I was too exhausted to eat much of anything. After much discussion about American Universities and teaching Chinese is our schools and the teaching requirements, Mr. Li brought me back to the hotel, where I soon fell fast asleep.

Saturday, April 16th

First stop today, the National Ping-pong Training Base. Actually, thus is a school where children from the age of 5 come from all over China to learn the sport of table tennis. There are currently 160 children, 2/3 of them boys, who live in the dormitories here and receive their education while trying to make it on the National team. The National team also trains here each year, preparing for the Asian games as well as the Olympics. All told, the athletes who trained here have won 52 world championships, 18 Olympic gold medals and many more. There are 3 full-sized gyms, each equipped with lots of tables. I got a chance to play against one of the boys (I am sure he took it easy on me), and afterward, we checked out the museum and other facilities.

Taking on the competition

       Next stop - Longxing Temple. Located in Zhengding, it boasts some of the top relics of Buddhism in China. Of course, everything we have heard has been the Best, Oldest, Grandest, etc. But nevertheless, the statues of the different Buddhas housed in the temple buildings were beautiful, and the gardens were beginning to show their beautiful blooms of peonies and flowering trees.

Longxing Temple

       In the afternoon we visited the Hebei Province Folk Museum and the Geological Museum. At both places we were treated kindly and greeted warmly (we may have even been the only guests there, I think they may have opened the places just for the Americans).

Friday, April 15th

    Today we were the students. We were the guests of the Hebei Provincial Education Department, and were greatly warmly at their spacious building. Hebei province has 900,000 staff and faculty members working in 30,000 kinds of schools. The number of students in this province, which we were told is roughly the size of the United Kingdom, is 13 millions. That's a lot of students and teachers! We were once again greeted by our host, Dr. Hou, who introduced us to each of the speakers. Shuxing Zong, a professor from the Hebei Education and Science Research Institute spoke about basic education, particularly the Compulsory Education Law of 1986. Xiaoyan Shi, professor and Deputy Dean of the Education College of Hebei University, spoke about her research into the methods of assessing teachers. Our final teacher was Qixue Chengdu, the Deputy Director of Human Resource Office of the Hebei Education Department, and an expert on teacher and principal recruitment. Except for an extended lunch in the middle of the day, we were seated in a large conference room and were able to ask questions of the Chinese, so as to gain a perspective of their education system before we begin shadowing our principals in their respective schools.

Thursday, April 14th

Chinese Exchange Initiative Group from Pennsylvania
Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School
Today we were driven to the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School in the city. There we were greeted by the assistant principal and members of the staff, including a high school teacher who spoke English and translated for us. We were first shown a video, then were given a brief overview of the school. Started in 1994, the school has 168 classes totaling more than 10,000 students and 700 teachers. The students here receive an education in all subjects, but concentrate on the foreign languages, which are English, Japanese or Russian. In kindergarten they have bilingual classes, which are mostly English and Chinese, and in junior and senior high they have an experimental bilingual program. There are 3 kindergartens belonging to this school, 2 of them are in different locations in the city. Since this is a private school (grades k - 8), prospective kindergarten students and their parents are interviewed before being accepted. We visited a kindergarten class that was doing their morning exercises and saw their tiny beds for nap time (how adorable!). We also visited with a class of 1st graders who were very eager to speak to us in English. One cute little boy even asked us how old we were, to which the teacher replied that was a secret :)


There are 31 provinces in China, but only 16 schools (this being one of them) that can recommend students directly to universities without taking the national exam. Each year 170 of their students go directly to the university, and they are very proud of this fact.

Teacher work room

After a tour of the marvelous facilities, we chatted with our colleagues at the various grade levels. We had great conversations about curriculum, teacher evaluations, and student concerns. This was a great experience. Educators around the world are not so different after all.

1st Grade

In the afternoon we visited the Shijiazhuang Art School. A contrast to the other, this school is public, and receives its support from the government. There are only 2 public art schools like it in Hebei, but many more private ones. While it is public, it is, however, selective, and students must pass academics, an interview and an audition to be accepted. The government, in order to encourage students to attend these types of vocational schools, pay the student a stipend each month. This promotes these schools to students because not all students in China can attend the universities, and after graduation they have better opportunities to find jobs. The curriculum in the school consists of academic subjects for half of the day, and the student's major for the other half. Students specialize in music, drama, or dance. There are approximately 1000 students in the school, and residency is required. Of course, if you saw their practice schedule, you would understand why. The students here range in age from 11 to 17, but all of them have such great talent! We saw the students practice dance, song and instrumental lessons, but the culminating event was a performance in the auditorium at which we were the honored guests. Afterward, we joined the students on stage for pictures. Wow!

One of the performance groups

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tuesday, April 12th - Climbing the Great Wall

A Perspective of the Steepness
Well, it is official. I am now what our tour guide called "a Chinese hero." I climbed the Great Wall, something most people only dream about. The Wall was built by the Q'in Dynasty to protect against warring countries like Mongolia in the north, but the majority of the Wall was built by the Ming Dynasty. We visited a portion of the Wall that is only an hour or so from Beijing. When we arrived, we took a cable car to tower 14, then some of us climbed to the tower at the top - number 23. The view was spectacular! Pictures won't begin to do it justice!  It was exhausting, but well worth the trip to the top.

Another view of the Wall
After yet another wonderful lunch, we traveled by bus to the Olympic Village. The site of the 2008 Summer Olympics, this complex is massive! We only had enough time to see one side of the complex, and took pictures of the Birdsnest (where the opening and closing ceremonies took place), and the Cube, the site of the swimming events. The shapes of both of these structures, square and round, was purposeful - both contribute to the feng shui of the country. We were informed that the architect of the Birdsnest is now imprisoned for his anti-government beliefs and his candid speech regarding them.
The Birdsnest - site of the 2008 Olympic Games

Another site visited this day was the Hutong. A Hutong is an area where the everyday people reside. Lined with narrow streets, the residences there consist of 4 buildings; the north building is where the older generation live because it is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The south building houses the living room and kitchen. The east building is where the sons live, and the west is where the daughters live. All of the buildings surround a courtyard. In most cases there are no bathroom facilities, the people use the local public toilet and bath (described by Merry, our tour guide, as a 0 star toilet - believe me, you don't even want to use a 1, 2, or 3 star one). We visited one house in which the owner described her life as a child, and how at one time more than 50 people lived in this small compound. Amazing! She even told us that during the 2008 Olympics, she was visited by Michael Phelps, who sat in the very spot on her couch as did our very own Dr. Markley from Oley Valley. By the way, travel through this area was really tricky- we got in and out of the Hutong by rickshaw.
Connie Skipper and I ride the rickshaw through the Hutong

After another good dinner (this time the restaurant was known for its beef noodles), we returned to the hotel. Several of us, feeling adventurous, decided to take a cab to the world famous Silk Market. We asked our Hebei Provincial guides Sophie and Mayuan, to accompany us. Of course our taxi driver got lost, but we managed to get there before it closed (and refused to pay the higher fare). We bargained and bargained for pearls, and I think we were quite successful, since we all came out with something to take home. Heading back to our hotel, however, we could not find a single trustworthy cab (private ones are dangerous and need to be avoided), so we braved the Beijing subway system, then walked the rest of the way back to our Hotel. This was, by far, the longest day, and I fell into bed and was fast asleep.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Faces from China

Child Artist 

Little Boy in Panglui Village

Our Host's granddaughter in Panglui Village

One of the vendors in the Muslim Market Place

Bride in the Streets of the Muslim market place

Some of us were greeted with Chinese children!

Wide-eyed at the "Westerners" as we were called.

Mr. Li and his daughter

Ms. Chen (aka Anita) teaching English at Xingtai High School

My hosts Mr. Li and Mr. Lu

Students in the mountain village school playground

My host from the Panglui village

Siblings at the Big Goose Pagoda fountain show

Day 5 Blog

Monday, April 11th 

Depart from Xian to Bejing.
We said goodbye to Richard at the airport. I think we were all a little sad to leave Xi'an and Richard and the Panglui school behind.
Stay at the Wang Fujing Grand Hotel.

We arrived in Beijing and were greeted by our tour guide Mike. Our friends from Pittsburgh and Manheim also flew in today. Our hotel is absolutely gorgeous! We can tell already we will be treated like VIPs. All of this was arranged by the provincial education bureau. After a beautiful dinner, we walked down to the shopping area, which was quite different than Xi'an and reminded me a lot like New York City. After going into the trendy stores, we ventured down the side street where the bazaar is located. And there it was! The sites, sounds, and smells of the market - complete with scorpions on a stick, deep fried bats, ducklings, squid, sea urchins, cicadas and other yummy treats.

Pictures to follow.

Day 4 Blog

Visit Pangliu School. Lunch at farmers’ homes.
Afternoon: Return to the city and see the Mosque and Bazaar, along with a traditional house complex.
Evening: Muslim dinner by the Bell Tower.

The village we were visiting was about an hour outside of the city of Xi'an. It was the place where our tour guide Richard grew up. The first stop was the brick factory. This area is known for its brick making, as it has the right materials necessary to make them. We watched as the workers mixed the earth with coal dust and water, put it through a machine that made a log of sorts, which they then cut. Through a series of transports in small trucks, the men put the newly-made bricks in the field to dry. After about 2 weeks, they are ready to be kiln fired, and we watched as men  placed them in the outside kilns, then sealed the kilns with an earthen mixture before firing them up with coal heat.

In this area we also saw how the people grow vegetables in the greenhouses that they put up - massive expanses of plastic that housed thousands of pepper plants.
The next stop was the school. Built about 60 years ago, it was the place of learning for about 100 elementary students from the village. The children greeted us at the front of the school, in what I can only describe as a rag-tag sort of band. We were also greeted by the principal and administrator in charge of the academic program. After a brief presentation in which Richard served as a translator, we went into the classroom where the children were. To each other they smiled; to us they looked frightened. But one brave little guy stood up and proudly sang the English song "Bingo" to all. Then we sang The Farmer in the Dell to them. What a great moment.

We toured the school, then had the opportunity to visit in the villagers' homes to eat lunch. Most of us have never seen poverty like that before. To tell the story of this school, the village and the incredible Richard Wang, I would need an entire day. So I will save this for another time.

Rather than eat the traditional Muslim dinner with the group (something with sheep, we heard) Connie and I headed off on our own. After a brief trip to McDonalds (I am embarrassed to say), we walked through the streets of the Muslim market. So many vendors selling interesting items, including unidentifiable foods on sticks, pigs feet, and silks and jewelry. As we were walking, we spotted a crowd coming toward us. It was a beautiful bride with her attendants, one on either side of her, and they were surrounded by people carrying pink Minnie Mouse balloons. And of course she was wearing the traditional red shoes! At one of the stands we met a young lady who spoke English very well. She told us that she was a kindergarten teacher, and that she graduated from the Xi'an Art University, and that she was one of the artists at the local art show which benefited the art institute. Connie and I followed her down the street to a youth hostel, where all of the works were displayed. We both selected some great pieces to take along home with us. It was a win for both the artist and the tourist!

Terra cotta warriors

 Terra cotta warriors

A closer look

Child artist at the Terra Cotta replica factory

Child artist at the Terra Cotta replica factory

Banpo Village

Banpo Village

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pictures are finally coming through!

This is the little girl whose parents took us in for lunch today when we visited the village school.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 3 Blog

Sightseeing: Banpo village, the Terra Cotta Warrior Museum, workshop with various Chinese handy craft making.
Lunch at the local restaurant in Lintong town, near the Terra Cotta Warrior site.
Dinner at a local noddles restaurant with local snacks as well.

The Banpo village is considered the most ancient of all Chinese settlements. Dating back 6000 years, this village was unearthed in 1953, and was really a matriarchal society. There were artifacts from their fishing, agriculture and pottery making, and the people lived in 3 different types of dwellings. Even the graveyards were interesting to see, as only the elders were buried there, and young children were buried just outside the houses to be close to their mothers. All were buried with pottery vessels; afterall, everyone needs a vessel in the afterlife.

After viewing both the excavations and museum, we were off again to see how the terra cotta warrior replicas are made. We stopped at the factory and our guide showed us the process from beginning to end, from the mold to the finished piece fired in the outside kiln (coal fired). There were many other artists there as well, those making lacquered furniture, rugs, and silk and embroidered paintings to name a few.
The archeological find of the Terra Cotta Warriors is considered one of the eight wonders of the world. And let me tell you, it is! There are almost 8000 warriors in one of the pits alone. These date back to the Q'in Dynasty, when the emperor, who was only 13, at the time, used 700,000 men to create these life-like warriors and their horses to guard his tomb upon his death. The emperor died 37 years later at the ripe old age of 50, but the site wasn't discovered until 1974 when farmers were digging a well in the field came upon a terra cotta figure. It was amazing!

Last stop on the trip - Big Goose Pagoda and a great fountain show set to music. People everywhere! Dinner at a local noodles restaurant, then back to the hotel to get ready for tomorrow.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 2 Blog

Sightseeing: The City Wall and South Gate Tower with a bicycle tour, The Museum of Forest of Steles, Hot Pot Lunch, the Big Goose Pagoda, The History Museum, a Dumpling Banquet and show.

After a most interesting breakfast, we set off to see the City Wall. Built by the Ming Dynasty, it is the only standing city wall I all of China. We first watched a demonstration and performance of Ming warriors and percussionists, then set out on bicycles to tour the entire city atop the wall. Connie and I decided to hop on a tandem bike, and by the time the entire 13 kilometer ride was over, we were again exhausted. Our bus was ready to take us to lunch, and we dined at a restaurant that specialized I hot pot meals. There were 6 of us at each table, and when the water in our pot boiled we took pieces of vegetables, meat, noodles, and even raw eggs and cooked them in our pot. Very interesting! I am trying to use my chopsticks whenever I can. After lunch we toured the Shaanxi Museum, known for it's artifacts from this province. The weather was warm, sunny (I think that was the sun), and the museum collection featured pieces that were prehistoric, as well as those from the Q'in, Tang and Han Dynasties. Beautiful! Some of us shopped, but most are waiting to go later when the prices will be cheaper!
We returned to the hotel for a brief rest, then went to the Tang Dynasty Theatre for dinner and a show. Dinner was the regional specialty, steamed dumplings. We had 20 different types, filled with pork, duck, chicken, tomatoes, walnuts, and other vegetables. Each kind was made to resemble what was inside! A few beers later, and some baby dumplings soup, which was supposed to bring you good luck if you got a dumplings in your bowl (I got none), the show began. It was a beautiful display of the music of the Tang Dynasty.. The costumes were spectacular!

Pictures to follow.

First day...

Depart from the U.S.
Wow, what a long flight from Chicago to Beijing! No one prepared me for the discomfort of being in the same seat for 13 hours, but after flying north across the Arctic Circle, the North Pole and over Mongolia and Russia, we finally arrived at 2:50 pm. on Thursday. We waited in the airport for Ryan and Peiwui, then boarded another plane heading for Xian. We met Richard, our tour guide, at the airport. We have been told many good thing about him, and so we are all anxious to hear all about his hometown of Xian, the oldest capital of China. After figuring out how to use the lights in our hotel room, sink in our bathroom, and connections for our electronics (no wireless here), we fell into bed hoping to get a good, well-deserved night's rest.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Getting Ready

Well, the days are dwindling down - only 16 days until we depart! Emails are flying back and forth daily among the administrators and folks from the Chinese Exchange Initiative in Massachusetts. Lots of information and advice, particularly on what to pack! It seems that is the cause of most of the anxiety (well, maybe just for the female travelers). My Chinese counterpart, Mr. Li, finally responded to my latest email. It seems that he has gotten a promotion since he was here at Weiser, and is no longer a high school principal, but works for the Bureau of Education now. His new position will allow him to spend more time with me as we visit all kinds of schools - kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school, and even vocational schools. My experiences now will be more exciting than ever! So stay tuned!