Our trip began today with meeting the students and one adult at the RDU airport. This is the first time in several years that Fran and I have flown out of the RDU airport so we wanted to get there in plenty of time to get details taken care of. We got there and everything seemed to go like clockwork. We greeted students/parents, got tickets, went through security and made it to the departure gate. Everyone seemed to be excited about making the journey to Beijing. Flight to Detroit was on time and uneventful (thank goodness). Once we arrived at the Detroit airport, we met up with Ben and went to get some lunch before the long haul flight to Beijing. Interestingly, we found that cameras were set up at the gate to take our photos as we gave our ticket and passport to the airline attendant. The camera in the line I went through didn’t work…fine with me. Everyone onboard and ready for the long flight.
We arrived in Beijing after the long flight, but unfortunately for some passengers on the plane the turbulence was too much. The last ten minutes of the flight was a little bumpy which resulted in some passengers getting sick, but luckily not our delegation. After exiting customs, a couple of people went to ATMs to exchange money and we met the student interpreters who would be working with us during the science competition. About an hour on the bus and we arrived at the conference center hotel. Long day, but everyone was able to get some dinner (dumplings and noodles) and then the students had their welcome presentation videotaped before going to bed. Everyone needed a good nights’ sleep for a long, busy day ahead.
I made it to the breakfast area around 6:40 am (a little earlier than scheduled) so that I could get a table for the delegation. We had access to a buffet style breakfast with a few American items such as boiled eggs and …. Yes, coffee. After breakfast, the students and Fran went to set up the projects while Ben, Meredith and I went exploring around the university campus including a visit to the gym where the students were setting up. It was good to stretch and get some fresh air. The air quality was good and the temperature good for walking. After lunch, we attended the Opening Ceremony … short and sweet. Nice arrangement of cultural activities and student “welcome” video presentations.
Today the student projects were judged. All of our students were prepared to discuss their research and answer any questions posed by the judges. During this time, the adults were in attendance at a Teacher’s Forum. Three hours is a long time to listen to guest lecturers…then off to lunch with the students. Afternoon visit to the Gaolianghe Porcelain Art Studio which provided the adults with the opportunity to see how ceramic/porcelain pieces are made and hand painted before being sold in the local store. We even got to paint plates of our own creation which were the take away for us. After they were processed, they were delivered to the hotel conference center prior to our departure into downtown Beijing. The Welcome Banquet was arranged differently this year. It was set up in a less formal way so that delegations could socialize and enjoy the music and other entertainment. Another long day…
Big day for public visitation and viewing of student projects during the first half of the day and then in the afternoon we went to the Beijing Science Center where Emile and other selected students provided a “brief” presentation of their research. Emile did a great job…he’s a natural presenter. Back to the hotel in time for dinner before going to the Awards Ceremony. And the winners are…all of our students! Jenny and Emily took first place in their categories and Emile and Geoffrey received second place in their areas of science. What a great way to end the day!
Now that the student project work has concluded, the Beijing Association for Science and Technology staff took us to visit the Palace Museum aka Forbidden City after breakfast. They hired a tour guide to take us through this iconic site. Afterwards, members of our delegation went across the street to the local park at the suggestion of one of our interpreters. Beautiful, peaceful views of the Forbidden City and surrounding area. Back to the hotel for dinner and preparation for next day.
After breakfast we visited the Great Wall with many of the other delegations. The weather and air quality were good for hiking and riding the sky lift. Nice day for enjoying the Great Wall before going to the hotel in the downtown area of Beijing. Ready for a couple of good days with the team.
Everyone enjoyed a good breakfast at the hotel (real food) before going to the Summer Palace with a tour guide. Seeing all the wonders it has to offer before shopping, walking, shopping, and more walking in the Wangfujing District. The students got to experience what the locals eat…food on a cart (scorpions, grasshoppers, corn on the cob, crepes, sea urchin, octopus, etc.). Then a great dinner at a restaurant that the guide and hotel recommended for Peking duck. Great meal!
After breakfast everyone finished packing and the tour guide picked us up and took us to the main section of the Forbidden City which we couldn’t see earlier when BAST took us. A quick photo opt and on our way to the Pearl Market – shopping for gifts. This is where the locals go. After shopping we got dropped off at the airport and arrived in plenty of time for the flight. Once through security, most of the delegation got a quick snack and the students played cards near our departure gate. On the flight and on our way back to North Carolina…It’s always good to get home. J