Thursday, October 19, 2006

Australian Youth Delegation to China part 2

I was rather tired whilst typing the last post and I did indeed miss some photos as Paul pointed out; I've since added the missing photos to the previous post, so check those out. Also, I'd like to give you links to Thomas' and Fiona's blogs.

And now for part two.

The flight from Beijing to Guangzhou was really entertaining, as I sat next to Eric and David, and we discussed, amongst other things, The Spiderman and The Moose- if anyone knows what they are, feel free to express your disgust or delight in the comments.

Touching down that evening in Guangzhou, I was firstly impressed by the recently built airport, and then by the incredible humidity; it was a nice change from dry Beijing. Warren and Henry busted out the guitars while we were waiting for everyone to get ready (another photo courtesy of Fiona).

The Guangzhou hotel was a Ramada, very nice, although with a lot of the staff there, their grasp of Mandarin was far from perfect. This made it much harder to make yourself understood than in Beijing (or maybe lack of sleep was making me speak like a stupid 老外).

There was a small dumplings stall right near the hotel, which also sold fairly reasonable Zhu Jiang (Pearl River) beer. The dumplings were damn good, and it most appropriate that we would drink Zhu Jiang beer, as we were later to visit the very factory which produces said beer!
It was another night of laughter, perhaps even 'dark laughter', as Kerouac wrote.

The next morning, Thursday, it was again asked of us to be up early for breakfast and then on the road. Our first destination was Sun Yat-Sen University (中山大学). This campus was both nicer and dirtier than Tsinghua's campus. Nicer because I personally find tropical plants to be very beautiful, and the campus had lots of such plants, and a large insect population that delivered a majestic ambience to the otherwise quiet campus. However, it was also dirtier because of all the pollution; and Beijing isn't exactly clean, so this was really bad. It was noted by David that the pollution actually appeared like a mist, which did give the place a mystical vibe, but our collective lungs were not to be fooled, and the pollution manifested itself in the most irritating ways. For example, at the soccer stadium, the chairs were coated in thick blackness, a direct result of all the smog. Eric, who recently delivered a speech on Chinese Economic History, explained to me that a lot of factories have been built over the border of Hong Kong since the HK Government placed restrictions on HK factories; so the HK companies just went and built their factories over the border, polluting as badly as ever. What they didn't account for was that the pollution would make it's way back into HK; the resulting acid rain apparently does millions of dollars damage each year to the buildings in HK, so the pollution is actually hurting economically. Also, Eric also said that errosion is a problem throughout many parts of China, and that the Gobi desert is expanding rapidly. Thus, regardless of politics, this is a problem that needs to be solved.

These two photos are from a website James Morris set up after the trip, (I'm not sure why he chose the name either).

We firstly had a forum and smaller discussions with the Sun Yat-Sen students; it's still a very highly regarded university which usually comes in at number 10 in China, although Tsinghua often comes in at number 1! The students, however, were extremely laid back and fun loving, and the head of their university was a cool guy who gave all the students who attended the discussion groups a holiday the next day, to come with us to the beer factory.
After the group discussion, we were shown around the campus, were treated to a lovely lunch and then it was time for The Soccer Match.

I was a little sick at the time, and moreover I'm an uncoordinated, useless piece of reptillian shit when it comes to football games, so I refrained from gracing the field. However, we had a formidable line-up...

As did the Sun Yat-Sen team...

We lost, however, by a close 3-2 or 4-3, no one can remember.

Warren got a head injury, which was skilfully handled by nurse-in-training Fiona...

That evening we went to a nearby restaurant, and then, we went again to Sun Yat-Sen university, this time for an evening of cultural performances from both countries.

The Chinese performances were the most impressive, in particular the guy from Xinjiang province (if he was indicative of the lot, the Xinjiang people have a very peculiar, distinctive appearance), the various gorgeous female singers and dancers, and the duel of the two brothers, based on the historical story.

The Aussies, however, didn't disappoint; Warren was easily the star of the evening, playing various accompaniments on guitar, and also a solo Chinese flute performance. Also noteworthy was Laurie's opera rendition, and of course the absolultely rocking power trio at the end of Warren, Henry on guitars and Laurie providing Elvis from Beijing on the vocals (if you can imagine that). I was looking forward to playing some drums that evening, but a kit was not able to be arranged.

However, we have decided that at some point in the future, we shall definitely need to form the All Australian Communist Youth Band.

Warren and Henry, just before Laurie (大江)leapt onto the stage...(these 2 photos also courtest of James Morris)

and Warren about to start accompanying Alex, who sun a Chinese song...

Had many night-caps that evening again.

The next morning we had our first late start of the trip; we were able to wake up at 8.30-9.
And it was a very special day, as it was the fateful trip to the beer factory. Whilst we were greeted in a fairly standard fashion, there was one guy in particular who stood out. I asked him where the toilet was, and he shrieked back at me in a voice which was equal parts eunuch and lunatic, "WELCOME TO THE ZHU JIANG BEEEEEEEER FACTORY!", before bounding youthfully and joyously up the stairs in such a way that could only be described as crab-like.
I thought, what manner of position could a man of this nature occupy in the beer factory?
The bosses son? Asylum escapee? Test subject? Oompa-Loompa (picture Cooper and the Beer Factory)? He was perhaps of all of these things, and more, as it turns out he was the Party Representative of the factory.

We were given free beer for the duration of the tour, which was nice of them. It was quite an impressive factory (although I don't really have much to compare it with). Notable was their employment of Germans to oversee the operation. Thomas took a great photo of the factory production much beer...

Went for a really nice lunch afterwards, and then we went over to a shopping district; more market-place than designer-label. One might deduce that not many tourists go there, for the salespeople all assumed we were foreign students; they didn't approach us in English, but rather affronted us with Cantonese or (poorly spoken) Mandarin. Granted, that might just be because they couldn't speak much English, but they didn't seem at all surprised when Warren responded in his rather good Cantonese (he lived in Shantou for a year). I bought a weirdly sexual implicit shirt, which I will probably never wear, but it's nevertheless got comedic vaule. I'll take a picture at some stage.

That evening we went to the best hotel in Guangzhou to meet the Guangdong provincial leaders; it was very special, and CCTV were there to capture the occasion again. Laurie did a fantastic speech, and the food was great. After the dinner we had a cruise down the Pearl River; this was a highlight of the trip. I hadn't realised how pretty Guangzhou is at night, it seems they've really put in a lot of effort into the lighting of the city. The lasers off the buildings were particularly great, and probably only look so good because of all the smog.

Here's the said lasers...(these 3 photos, again, taken by Fiona)

Guangzhou almost resembles Hong Kong or Shanghai at night...

And here, 007 and 008 are debriefing on the mission...

Saturday morning we went to Shenzhen. Previously, I'd only ever been to the Lo-Wu shopping mall in 2003, so I barely had an idea of the city. Moreover, I think Shenzhen is one of the fastest changing cities in China. There was a cool moment crossing the border where one of the guards stopped us for our passports, which we didn't actually have with us at the time, but then one of our government minders told the guard that we didn't need to show him our passports. The guard didn't believe that our minder was from the government, so our minder whipped out a phone, called a number, and handed it over to the guard.
In an instant, the guards expression changed from anger to meek, smiling submission- it was very funny.

The traffic was pretty crap; I took this photo when were crossing a lane when we shouldn't have been- all these cars had a green light..

We first went to a skyscraper in the middle of Shenzhen, up to the 64th floor I think, which gave great views of the city. It was a surprisingly clear day for what I've heard of Shenzhen. The viewing level also had various sections of displays, sort of like exhibitions, but very peculiar ones.
Such as this one of Deng Xiaoping and Maggie which you can see behind myself, Henry, Thomas and Laurie. (thanks Fiona)

There was also a strange display with a robot, and some pirates.

And we'll have to leave it there. In part 3, we visit the LNG factory!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Australian Youth Delegation to China part 1

I remember when I started this blog saying I'd aim for one update each week.

Well, yeah.

Anyway, a few months ago I was contacted by my Chinese lecturer, informing me that I'd been nominated by the university as part of 46 Australian uni students invited by Premier Wen Jiabao to visit China for a week. I happily agreed to it, but I wasn't expecting anything to actually eventuate. It never does.

Except this time, it did! And it was a fantastic trip. We left on the Monday 25th of September, first flying to Sydney, then straight to Beijing.

CCTV was at Sydney airport, you can see the video here.

Watched MI:3 (above average but not good) and Lucky Number Slevin (1st half good, 2nd half crap) on the way over.

We were welcomed at Beijing airport by a Chinese delegation which included Frank from the Foreign Department- very nice guy-, and some other government officials. The girl who I took the flight over with, who was from Beijing, was really impressed with this welcoming group.

Whilst in Beijing, we stayed at the Beijing Hotel. Not a very impressive name, but it was a very impressive hotel!

Here's me on the balcony having just arrived. I love the sensation that you get when you first arrive somewhere far away; that realisation of the distance between where you stand now and where you stood 12 hours ago, around the bend of the earth..

And here's the view onto Chang An Jie (the street the hotel was on, which I believe translates to Long Peace Street).

We went down to the lobby afterwards for drinks, where we also met some of the 'adults' on the trip; The Honourable Greg Hunt MP (member for Flinders), his assistant John Deller, Nick from QANTAS (QANTAS provided both the domestic and international airfaires for the trip, very generous! Thanks QANTAS), and Dr Amy Yeung from Curtain University. And it was also when I got to meet most of the other students on the trip, in particular my room-mate David, from QUT, team leader Henry from ANU, and Laurie, Thomas and Fiona from UNSW. Laurie was in room 008, and I happened to be in room 007...very cool.

It was decided that more drinks were needed, and that we should also go out and hit the streets of Beijing. The solution was to go and drink on the streets of Beijing. This proved to be a portent of things to come, as myself and a consistent group made sure that we didn't waste a single night whilst we were in China. As a result, I only got 5 hours sleep each night, and got sick, but it was worth it. If you're only a country for a week, you shouldn't waste time sleeping.

Nevertheless, it was a very busy schedule. The next morning, Tuesday, we went to visit Tsinghua University, which is one of the top in China. We had a forum there regarding volunteer work and the Olympics, which proved to be very interesting. All of the students at Tsinghua are really intelligent, which I suppose is only natural given how hard it is to enter the university.

I had to ride a bike for the first time in about 4 years, with Diana (a Tsinghua student) on the back! Whilst there were multiple occasions where we were both nearly killed by a car, or my own clumsiness, there was no accident.

The campus at Tsinghua was breathtaking. We were guided by Diana, Thinker and Frank, who were also in our discussion group at the forum. Here's us by one of the lakes.

After Tsinghua, we went to the Australian Embassy. This turned out to be very educational, as we were given an informative speech by one of the diplomats there, Andrew. Everyone at the embassy seemed really attuned to the current events in China (although I suppose I should have expected this from them). We had lunch there, and chatted with the guys who work there, then headed off to the Forbidden City. I'd been before, but it was still good to see.

Then it was back to the hotel to get changed for our trip to The Great Hall of the People.
This was particularly special. The Great Hall isn't open all the time for tourists, and when we went it was after visiting hours, so it was open just for us. It's very opulent inside, and the feeling of walking down those halls with so few people around was almost surreal.

Here's Thomas.

The room we were taken into was beautiful, as was the dinner. We met some other university students there, and Greg met some officials. I believe there was a Central Committee member present, which is no small thing.

We walked back to the hotel afterwards, via Tiananmen Square. They had a pretty cool Olympic and 3 Gorges garden on display, with many neons and flowers. Hard to describe, here's a picture from Thomas' site.

Out drinking that night, to a slightly better pub this time. Beers were 10 kuai, which didn't seem too bad. So in that first day: Tsinghua uni, Australian Embassy, Forbidden City, Great Hall of the People, pub afterwards. I believe we ended up quite late that night, but it was our last night in Beijing. Here's some photos from the the good times that night (taken by Fiona)...

Up again very early Wednesday, firstly to go to the City Planning Exhibition. Sounded dry, but turned out to be really cool, particularly this huge model of the city. My directors eye immediately saw the potential for it to be used to make a new Godzilla-like film...

It was then back to the hotel for a very important lunch with Mr Zhou Qiang, First Secretary of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China. I had to give a speech there, Chinese and English. Could have been better, but at least I managed to get a laugh when I translated the Telstra "Too Many Rabbits in China" joke for Mr Zhou, without causing any obvious offence.

After the lunch, we had to go pack our bags, and then it was off to the Great Wall. We only had 30 mins at there (!!!) but I managed to climb a bit with Sehee and Kayli, and take this photo.

Then it was off to the airport to take the evening flight to Guangzhou.

We'd only been in China for barely 2 days, yet already made really good friends and seen some great sights.

I'll post the next half soon.