Journal in China 1My Journal in China: An adventure to the Orient New Mexico State University 2009 China Study Tour to Beijing Normal University Susana Ríos June 6 – July 22, 2009
Journal in China 2Sunday June 7 – Sunday June 14, 2009: Quarantine as I wrote in a note to my Husband.My experience in China began with seven days under quarantine. The following is a note that I wroteto my husband, which describes my quarantine experience in China. The quarantine lasted the firstseven days of a two-week stay in China. This new location (Yanxiang Hotel) was better knownbetween the Study Tour participants as the “other location”. “There are six of us from the Study Tour who were identified as being close enough to a little 9year old who tested positive for influenza in our flight UA 889 from San Francisco to Beijing. DeanZhen from the Beijing Normal University notified us over the phone and then Dr. Kaye and CaptainBarry came to our room and told us in person that six of us were going to be put into a different hotelfor closer examination (reading our temperatures twice a day) and that we needed to pack clothes fortwo days. We all gathered in my room and Dean Zhen told us what was about to happen since theHealth Department already had contacted her. She explained that the guys from the HealthDepartment were coming to our room and we needed to cooperate for them to take a throat sample.The Health Department came into the room and requested to put our masks on and to prepare ourbags in a promptly manner (please check out the picture). They told us that the "bus" was downstairsso off we went. I must say that Dr. Kaye and her husband were with us at all times, very supportiveand resourceful. Taking samples Hotel Staff Members Four of Us from the group of six We then went downstairs and found ourselves in front of the “bus” which looked like a smallminivan. We all surprisingly fit with our bags. I did not realize that the “bus” was in fact an ambulanceuntil after I heard the sirens. So here we were six much freaked out individuals, laughing ofnervousness, taking pictures, crying, and telling stories in a vehicle that was taking us to our newdestination. We arrived to the Yanxiang Hotel which appeared to be okay from the exterior. The nursestook our temperature while we were still sitting in the ambulance. Mine was as 37 C. We werereceived by Chinese people dressed with masks and robes and were directed to the check-in area.Our passports were the first document that they requested and we were assigned individual rooms.They told us that it would be okay to visit each other in our rooms and to wander around the hotel butthat we could not leave the hotel under any circumstance. The bad news was that the stay was goingto be for seven days versus two as they told us at the first hotel. This news scared me and made mefeel numbly weak and helpless.
Journal in China 3 At the original hotel Center for International Academic Exchange at Beijing Normal University(BNU) the situation was not any different. Every guest from our group was also required to wear amask and not allowed to leave the hotel and to eat in their rooms. They also were allowed to wanderaround the hotel. The reason why they quarantined us is because we were within 3 rows from thepositive agent to the Influenza virus (the 9-year-old girl), and we needed to be watched more closely.We have been contacting Dr. Kaye every day, several times a day about anything that crosses ourminds. Capt. Barry Kaye, as a retired diplomat for the US Embassy in China, was able to makecontact with the US Embassy and notified them about our case. Our names and passport numbershave been disclosed to Maria Sand from the US Embassy and voiced a verbal waiver over the phoneto release our status to our family members as necessary. There is free daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner for us in a buffet setting. We get a little tray andtell the server what we want to eat. It is a lot of food and it is delicious. The people at the food areaare very nice and cordial and after some reflection they are only doing their job after all. We havebeen requested to wear a mask when we are in the hallway or when we get the food. We must comeback to our rooms to eat, but like I say, visiting others in their rooms is allowed. They are taking our temperature twice a day and supplying water, sodas and juices in a smallfridge for free every day. However, the room is a 1-star type thing and I am extremely uncomfortablewhile staying here. The carpet is simply nasty, there is yellow water to take a shower, the ceilingis pealing and falling on me and the furniture is from last century. However, I have internet access,free local phone calls and a TV. Again the cordiality of the people dealing with us overpasses thisperception of the room, for the most part. I want you to please be assured that I am ok; however I do not feel secure at all. I do not thinkthis hotel is safe and I know that any member of this study tour could make things change if theChinese government gives an order: China’s land, China’s rules. For example when leaving the firsthotel we were told that we were only going to be in quarantine for two days, however when we arrivedat the new hotel (Yanxiang) they changed the information to be a 7-day stay. Because I want to be safe and not to have more opportunities for anybody controlling where Iam or where do I sleep, I have informed Dr. Kaye of my desire to come back home as soon as I amreleased from this place. This is not 100% sure but there is a chance that they might release us bySunday at noon. Capt. Barry Kaye will take care of the arrangements of my flight change. My mind isso preoccupied to remain safe that every move I make is thoughtfully planned. Nothing is safe here.Please tell nothing to the kids, it is absolutely pointless.I will keep in touch every day.”
Journal in China 4Sunday June 14, 2009: Bye Bye to Yanzing Hotel View from the Terrace at the Yanzing Hotel Sunday June the 12th represented a glorious day since I got back my freedom and went backto our original hotel. My worries and feelings were still in the struggling stage but after being releasedmy perception of the trip definitely changed.Little girl who was also quarantined Group Picture at Departure Greeting Committee We prepared our bags with much anticipation and left the Yanzing Hotel at 2PM. Dr. Kaye,Dean Zhen, and Capt. Barry Kaye picked us up and it was a great feeling to see familiar faces. Theytook us back to the original hotel where we had chance to rest and then get ready for a walk to theBeiHai Park which is a touristic area by the lake with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops.Dinner at a Muslim Restaurant at BeiHai Park This is Dean Zhen and her family We then had dinner at a Muslim Restaurant in that area and enjoyed a much-needed soiree ata terrace, at a karaoke place with a beautiful view to the lake. Dean Zhen and her family came with usand we all had a great and relaxing time.
Journal in China 5Monday June 15, 2009: Park, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden city, Silk Alley and Pizza atSarpinnos, Li Qun Roast Duck Restaurant. We took a splendid morning walk to a park near the hotel. In this park, I observed how vivid the life is for the elderly. They were singing, dancing, stretching and doing exercise in large groups. Particularly I liked how Chinese people involve the elderly as part of the community. I observed how some women in their golden years walked backwards and stretch to warm up and how they gathered in large groups for morning exercising and meditation. I also observed how tender the adults cared for their children andtheir tone of voice was maintained in a low tone while talking to them. We then visited the Tiananmen Square, which is the plaza where in 1989 some students andintellectuals believed that the reforms to a gradual implementation of the economic reforms had nothad enough advancement. Therefore, the protests against the Chinese government started from thisgroup of people and approximately 2,500 people died in this incident. The plaza is huge and hosts the Tiananmen Tower, the Monument to the People’s heroes, andthe Mao Zedong Memorial Hall monument and some other statues that represent the struggle ofChina of its multiple wars. One of the graduate assistants took the group picture from BNU. Theywere so nice with all of us and very helpful at all times.We then visited one of the most amazing places in China, which was the Forbidden City. Thearchitectural splendor inundates the surroundings. All is beautiful…all is old…everything says so
Journal in China 6much. It was a privilege to be able to see the inside of the city. Its richness and the opulent livingstyle, which only a few enjoyed, I particularly found intrinsically related with modern days. The silk alley became a supply market for others and me. You can find everything with achance to bargain. More than two rounds to this place were necessary to acquire unnecessarynecessities. We ended the day enjoying dinner at a restaurant where duck is prepared “a la leña”(roasted) and degreased before serving by putting the duck upside down and all the grease falls intoa big pan on the floor. A must for a visit to Beijing for any tourist!Tuesday June 16, 2009: Discussion with Beijing Normal University (BNU) and Northern StarKindergarten staff + tea, lunch provided by BNU, Teacher Preparation Research Institute, SilkAlley & burritos. I had a better understanding of early childhood education in China once we had a richdiscussion between New Mexico State University, BNU and Northern Star Kindergarten membersregarding the practices in kindergartens in China. A discussion about the functions and organizationof these institutions took place. Dean Zhen shared with us the University’s willingness to create adocument that will function as a pioneer plan in terms of the early childhood professionaldevelopment in China because there are curriculum national kindergarten standards from 2001 butnot professional development guidelines. BNU Kindergarten is well known for a long history of good quality and has 500 staff membersto serve 2000 children. (BNU brochure). Their teachers are very professional and divide the childrenaccording to age groups forming 17 groups. BNU Kindergarten has ten all-day classrooms and twelve
Journal in China 7half-day classrooms. Approximately half are full-day and half are half-day care. (Class discussion onJune 16, 2009). Dr. Kaye gave some gifts to the kindergarten administrators and extended warmgreetings from New Mexico State University faculty. A delicious hot tea was served with the leaves init. A different experience indeed!Dean Zhen and Northern Our classroom Gifts exchangeStar Kindergarten administrators Northern Star Kindergarten staff and administrators also attended the meeting. They sharedwith us that Northern Star Kindergarten was founded in 1994 and has five different locations in themarket. Each location has its own character and all of them are based on music education and havetheir own professional development which ideology is based in interaction with community andparents. This kindergarten targets middle-level children and their families and their mission is to formchildren’s character through music education. They believe music education is the right way toeducate hard and the Chinese culture. We then visited the Sunglory Chinese Educational Research Institute which slogan is“Innovating early education and leading to a growth of success”. It is a six year-old private companywhich develops didactic material at the kindergarten level for teachers to teach children how to read.The curricular materials are offered in Chinese only and a large group of trainers are in charge offacilitating the training to teachers in the classroom to urban schools mainly. The materials have acost of 248Y per box ($37USD approximately). The company sends their facilitators to the schools,charges the cost of the materials to the parents, and teaches the teachers for free. The incentive topursue higher levels of education for their trainers resides in the fact that more education does notmean more money but it opens the opportunity to go to work for better kindergartens.Sunglory Chinese Educational Research Institute Sunglory Trainers Trainers & Mario
Journal in China 8 Friendly Vendor at the Silk Alley I found the people who worked at the Silk Alley as very friendly and passionate sellers. It iscommon that sellers grab your arm to get you close a sale and use phrases in multiple languages. Iremember one woman who told me “come back” in four different languages (English, Spanish,French and Portuguese) until she made me turn around and talk about our bargaining fact. At leastfor me, it was certainly a new marketing strategy. As part of this multicultural experience eating thingsfrom the street was something that I wanted to try and surely I had a very good “burrito type” thingwhile standing by the street and a triangle-shaped tamale, with some filling and topped with sugar.They were really goood! They were worth to try.Wednesday June 15, 2009: Summer Palace (Marble Boat), Temple of Heaven, Noodle KingRestaurant, Pearl Market. The visit to Summer Palace was a pleasant one. The marble boat is by far one of the mostamazing things that I have seen. The beautiful lake is semi covered with lotus and the enormous andelaborated buildings form a beautiful frame to the landscape. Every time that I had the chance, I tookpictures with Chinese children, which was of course a delightful experience and reminded me of myown children. I missed them so much!Temple of Heaven Chinese Child Simply Peaceful A boat took us to the other side where the marble boat was located. The patinee was splendidwhile enjoying the multiple gardens and buildings around us. We also enjoyed some shopping time atthe Pearl Market where we had the chance to go to Dr. Kaye’s favorite pearl store.Dragon Boat Marble Boat Temple of Heaven
Journal in China 9Thursday June 18, 2009: Online Teacher Training Center, Northern Star Kindergarten visit,Teacher Training Center, lunch provided by them, 798 Art Village, Subway night. According to the syllabus of this course, this study tour offers an opportunity for a betterunderstanding of the practice and theory of early childhood education in China. In my case,everything related with professional development and online training caught my attention. One of themost interesting visits during this Study Tour was to a private company, which designs online teachertraining. My interest was at its highest level; however further visits were not possible considering thetime constraint that we were dealing with at that time.Picture at the online Teacher Training Center The visit to the Northern Kindergarten was a splendid one. Full with life, children around andlots of joy. The classroom arrangement very much emulates the ones in the United States followingthe active learning approach, where the areas are distributed into centers; there are handmade toysat the child’s level and where the learning environment combines a balance between child centeredand teacher-directed activities. Children are exposed to music at a very young age. We had the joy tosee a five and a six-year older perform the battery and introducing themselves to the amused foreignaudience in English. In this particular classroom that we visited children were exposed to Englishsince it was considered an international classroom and they all greeted our group with “Hello myname is..”. It called my attention the fact that they allowed us to take pictures of children, the site and thestaff without any hesitation. Here is when highlighted differences between United States and Chinabecame clearer with facts. A few examples of the many differences between both countries are that,a) children stay at the school from Monday through Friday and parents pick their children up onFriday evening, b) teachers stay at the school as well or have the option to live out of the center ifthey would like to, c) there is not an established protocol to protect a child’s confidentiality. In the same sense some things that called my attention in China regarding preschooleducation are the facts: a) that in order for the staff members to work at a kindergarten (preschooleducation in USA), they require the equivalency of an associate degree versus a high school diplomaas in United States, b) the teaching workforce of the kindergarten is exposed to music educationinvolving dance, singing and playing musical instruments on a frequent basis.
Journal in China 10 2009 China Study Tour Participants Children after Physical Education Floor Interaction with Children The Northern Star Kindergarten counts with its own teacher-training center and we were verylucky to visit them. In that session Loretta, who is the daughter of the owner, explained to us thehistoricity of their family business and the rapid growth that this one has had in such a short time.They were very nice and gentle with us and they even brought us lunch. Our next stop was the 798Art Village which I found very similar to the art galleries back home in Guanajuato, Mexico, the onlydifference is that in Guanajuato there are much more people on the streets. Books, which I love tosee and look for bargains, were everywhere. All types of topics at affordable prices.Participants at the Teacher Training Center Artwork at 798 Art Village Friday June 19, 2009: Final Discussion with BNU, Packing Evening, Dr. Mao’s Session, OperaNight, Lake evening. Our final discussion with BNU took place in the classroom that was assigned to our group atthe College of Education and we all engaged in a prolific conversation regarding the action researchproject between both universities. A promising series of four booklets will be designed to propose aprofessional development systemic plan for early childhood practitioners in China. (Class DiscussionJune 20, 2009). A productive meeting concluded with the exchange of gifts, cards and good wishesbetween us all.
Journal in China 11 In the afternoon we gathered at Dr. Kaye’s room and Dr. Mao’s talked to us about the specialeducation program that she runs in Beijing for young children. She shared the struggle that she wentthrough in the initial stage to create the program, the book she wrote and the few children she startedwith. Then she read a paper regarding special education for about an hour. In this presentation, it wastransparent that the struggles for building special education programs for young children are rathersimilar in the US. It is never easy to start a program to care for young children with disabilities nor tosupport /maintain these types of programs based on low and inconsistent funding. Dr. Mao and Dr. Kaye Participants’ Group At night we had the unique opportunity to go to the Opera at Beijing which in fact was a tokenof appreciation from BNU and indeed a unique spectacle. I simply declare myself absolute ignorant inthe art of interpreting the beauty of the Chinese Opera. What I admired the most was the beauty ofthe unique clothing made of silk with silver and gold strings all around. The accessoriescomplimented the richness of the fabrics and combination of colors of the gowns. Chinese Opera Theater Irene & I Silk GownsSaturday June 18, 2009: Great Wall, Lunch at the Best Place for Sweet & Sour Fish, MingTombs, Dinner with friends & Pond. The Great Wall surpassed my expectations in terms of greatness. Nothing is similar to such anarchitectural piece. Despite the multiple lectures that I took during my Bachelors degree inArchitecture about its history, construction theory, and dynasties that took to be completed, beingthere was certainly a divine experience. The splendor of the surroundings is a breathtakingexperience. Overall, the Great Wall in China was the best thing that I saw during my trip.
Journal in China 12The Great Wall and I. I walked until the second farthest tower and then came back to be in time to meet the group. It wasbeautiful.Sunday June 19, 2009: Dirt Hill Market, Silk Alley, Russian Restaurant. The Dirt Hill Market is a humongous second hand market. It is designed in a well distributedopen area where merchandisers display their items in rows who sale the same category of items. Aspecial gift search took me the most part of my time but it was worth it. Irene and I visited again theSilk Alley since I needed to buy additional luggage. It was a good afternoon. Our study tour concluded with dinner at a Russian Restaurant where Dean Zhen and the Deanof the College of Education at BNU accompanied us to a wonderful place where four Opera Russiansingers cheered with us while having dinner. Some gifts were exchanged, and the vodka, beer, wineand excellent Russian food made the soiree a splendid and a memorable one.
Journal in China 13From left to right Joe, Grady, Me & Irene Me, Joe, Mario & IreneMario and GradyMonday June 22, 2009: Bye Bye China We checked out the hotel, said good bye to our good friends from China and headed to theairport, which without much trouble; we took the plane and returned home. The flight back waspleasant and got home after 26 hours of not sleeping.Mario, Kelly (BNU student), Irene, the chauffeur & I Dean Zhen and BNU studentsMe & Irene saying bye-byeBridge to Beijing Aerial picture of San FranciscoBye Bye Dear friends hasta la próxima…Bye Bye sister China and your people…Bye Bye little lake, park, and pond…Bye Bye infatuation with the unknown.Dearly,Susana Ríos M.A.