Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday was another sunny but cold morning, with strong winds. We decided to visit one last tourist attraction, the Antique Market… an outdoor market place, for the most part, the size of at least two football fields. There were thousands of items for sale, some of them antiques, but mostly products by local artisans. We stayed about 90 minutes, but were freezing in the cold temperatures. We returned to the hotel around 11:00AM, and checked out. We had lunch at a restaurant that had some Chinese dancers and musicians, took some photos of the “BirdsNest”, the main stadium for the 2008 Olympics and “The Bubble”, the swimming venue for the Olympics, then headed off for the airport. We arrived about three hours before our 5:25PM United flight to Chicago and had some tea. We left on time, and after a 13 hour flight, arrived in Chicago at 4:20 PM the very same day. We transferred our luggage, and waited for our final flight to Hartford, which eventually left at 8:05PM and arrived in Hartford around 11:15PM. Except for the ride home, our amazing journey was finally complete! Over the next few days I would be emailing The Century School to thank them for their hospitality and try to make arrangements for the exchange of more staff and possible students.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday morning was not too special. Breakfast at 7:30AM and we departed for the train station at 9:00AM. Traffic was light in Jinan, a city of 6-7 million, and we arrived at the train station about an hour before our 10:20AM high speed train back to Beijing…a three hour ride, where at times we were going 244 kilometers per hour. As we approached Beijing we finally saw the sunshine and blue skies…the very best weather yet. “Bing”, our Beijing guide, met us at the airport and we all got in the Mercedes van for our trip back to the Jiang Xi Grand Hotel Beijing. Along the way we stopped at a restaurant to grab a quick lunch…of course, more Chinese food. Surprisingly, in the restaurant were photo graphs of Laura Bush and Colin Powell who had previously visited there. We arrived back at the hotel around 3:30PM, deposited our bags, and promptly headed off in a taxi to visit The Temple of Heaven, a temple on a hill where past emperors went to get close to heaven as possible to pray. Along the way there were hundreds of people singing, dancing, and playing old Chinese instruments. The sinking sun shown against the Temple of Heaven making it shine…but the wind and the bitter cold made it difficult to stay too long. On our return we bought some scarves from a local vendor and caught a taxi to shop one last time at the Silk Market. We bought some last minute purchases, ate at a nearby restaurant, and topped off the night with an incredible head and foot massage at a local spa.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday was yet another cold, windy and cloudy day…but the rain had stopped. We had breakfast in the hotel and left for the train station in Weifang, the closest city with a high speed train connection to Jinan. The train left at 10:20AM and the trip took just over an hour. As we approached Jinan it was clear that there was a much more substantial snowfall around Jinan…on some cars in Jinan there was at least six inches of snow. We took a taxi to the hotel in Jinan and were greeted by Wang Peng, her husband, and daughter “Wendy”. Wang Peng had visited AMSB in October; taught two of our Mandarin Chinese classes with Wu Bo, and had stayed at Mrs. Frank’s home for the week. After lunch Peng (pronounced “Pong”) took us to several Buddhist temples on a mountain near downtown Jinan. The park and walk up the mountain included a cave that had 28,000 Buddhas in it…some simple portraits while others were huge statues. About halfway up the mountain we had photos taken of us in traditional Chinese clothing and we had a traditional tea ceremony performed for us near the top of the mountain. We returned from the top of the mountain in the dark and took a taxi back to the hotel. For dinner were met by Mr. Han, his wife and an English teacher/interpreter from the Shangdong Experimental High School. Mr. Han was the first Chinese teacher who visited AMSB and AHS in October/November in 2008. He had stayed at my home for a week and I had visited him on his trip to China in April of 2008. Following dinner, I visited Mr. Han’s new apartment and Mrs. Frank went out shopping with Peng. I returned to my room at 11:00PM and called back to Bethany using Skype. The charge for the call was only two cents per minute, and it was nice to get updates from Mrs. Beecher and Dr. Tracy.

Thursday PM, November 12

After the morning tour we returned to the hotel for lunch, then attended a very formal letter signing ceremony at The Century School. The ceremony was taped again for television, which would be broadcast that evening over the local TV station for the entire city of Shouguang…with a population of one million people! We had a tour of the residential area for international students and staff, which reminded me of a small college dormitory. Finally, we had a farewell dinner at the same restaurant were we ate the very first evening.

Thursday Morning, November 12

Thursday was rainy, cold, and eventually the rain even turned into snow flurries! We started the day by getting a tour of one of the 300,000 greenhouses that populate the fields in the agricultural area around Shouguang City. We visited greenhouses in the nearby Sanyuanzhu Village along the Mihe River. There was even a greenhouse museum of sort, which documented the origination of the current greenhouse design, and honoring the father of the modern greenhouse, Mr. Wang. Mr. Wang began the idea of cultivating the land in the winter, using bamboo poles, a plastic covering, straw mats for cover at night, and earthen materials for the north side of the structures. Approximately 300,000 greenhouses in the area now supply vegetables for the entire country through the cold winters.

Wednesday Afternoon, November 12, 2009

We had another large lunch at 11:40AM, consisting of about 20 separate food dishes. Two of the six assistant principals joined us along with our interpreters Ping and Jessica.
For the afternoon a trip was arranged to Weifang, a city of 9 million people about forty minutes away. There we visited the Weifang Kite Museum. After the museum we drove another twenty minutes to a lovely area where Chinese crafts people, made traditional Chinese crafts…including the construction of kites, woven materials, wooden lattices, and original prints. It reminded me of Williamsburg, VA, but in a very distinct Chinese style. Finally we returned to Weifang for another delicious dinner of their local food…meat, fish, mushroom soup, cabbage, and dumplings. We did of shopping in a department store near the restaurant, purchased some green tea, and some other Chinese grocery items. The store seemed to be an upscale combination…of Stop & Shop and Macys. Finally we returned to our hotel by 8:30PM. Mrs. Frank worked on a final art project that she wanted to do for the students she taught while I updated my diary and sorted through the many photos that I had taken.

Wednesday, November 12, 2009

It was going to be a long day…but a very good day. It started again early, after breakfast we were picked up at the hotel at 7:40AM so we could be at school for the first class which began at 8:00AM. Mrs. Frank had previously volunteered to teach two sixth grade art classes, and it was arranged it for the first two periods today. Mrs. Frank prepared a PowerPoint about American artist Georgia O’Keefe Tuesday evening, and it was used to introduce O’Keefe’s work. Her lesson was also designed to have students to replicate O’Keefe’s style. Mrs. Frank’s presentation was outstanding. It delighted the students and teachers who observed it both periods. After the lesson she shared other PowerPoint presentations that she had previously prepared about the art program at AMSB. For the next 90 minutes, Mrs. Frank was invited to work with art teacher Zhang Huifang. Mrs. Frank shared many examples of student work from Bethany. Mrs. Zhang also showed Mrs. Frank how to paint Chinese art forms. During the time that the two art teachers exchanged ideas and student work, I took advantage of the time to take some photographs of the many buildings on the large school campus.