Well, the time has finally come to basically end our trip. Within 24 hours we will be boarding a plane for home. I fully admit I am ready to head home. I certainly have enjoyed many aspects of my time here. The hospitality is great, the food is excellent and inexpensive, the city is clean. Generally, Chinese people are some of the nicest and most hospitable I have met, except for last week’s incident.
I also have learned a lot about Chinese higher education, the challenges that they face here and how that is reflected in U.S. higher education. I enjoyed meeting new colleagues and we already have plans to collaborate. I have also been invited back to stay/teach longer like a semester or a year. That, however, is a long-ways off and we will have to see. I can safely say that I would certainly like to visit China again, but I would bring Mrs. ROB with me if possible. I would also like to visit Shanghai and Hong Kong just to see the differences between the three major cities, which I have heard are quite different.
The past couple of days we have basically said our good-byes and got to do a bit more sightseeing. Here are some of the highlights:
Thursday, June 4th
Today, was primarily a day to say good-bye to my colleagues at Beijing Jiaotong University. However, before that my colleague Wing-kai was able to arrange a meeting at Baidu, the Google of China. That was pretty cool. We met with Kaiser Kuo, the Director of International Communications at the company. We basically got to spent an hour or so asking him about China’s media scene, the work culture at Baidu, and also got a tour of the place. It was really cool to see.
That night we had a farewell dinner. It was just a couple of hours of drinking, eating, cheering, and saying good-bye with some of our Chinese colleagues. Afterwards, many of the students decided to go down to Houhai, which is known for a lot of its nightlife. Although I was tempted I was tired. Also, we had to be up early for our sojourn to the Great Wall of China in the morning.
Friday, June 5th
So our final day in Beijing we decided to book a tour of the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs. Let me start with the Ming Tombs. To be honest it was kind of anti-climatic. I mean it was cool, but I was expecting we would actually go into the tomb. However, apparently they haven’t opened it up ever because they are afraid precious artifacts will be destroyed. I certainly get that. And the buildings were certainly impressive, but I admit I was kind of expecting more. C’est la vie.
In the morning, however, we took a tour to the Mutianyu part of the Great Wall of China. I purposefully booked this tour for a couple of reasons: 1) it is a less touristy place; 2) this part of the wall is a bit steeper and excellent for hiking; 3) there is a chair lift that takes you to the top and a tobbagon ride, if you want, that takes you to the bottom (I think that is why I really picked it).
The Great Wall of China was well worth the wait. It was amazing, awe-inspiring, truly one of the seven wonders of the world. I decided to hike actually to a pretty steep part of the wall. That might have been a mistake b/c I was soaked in sweat by the time I started down. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. It took me about an hour, but I did do it (I guess that isn’t that unusual to take about an hour).
I ventured back and took the tobbogan ride down. It was certainly fun, but it wasn’t like I was going like a bat out of hell. It was a fun experience. And I would certainly do it again. I also met some Chinese friends on the hike. We actually took several pictures together. So that was fun.
Instead of going to more sites we actually told our tour guide to take us back to the hotel. Two reasons for this: 1) we were all tired after being up by 6 and venturing out for 9 hours; 2) I have to admit I am disappointed in the tour. In fact, I have to say that our tour guide was not a good experience. I have used this company on a number of tours and have always been satisfied. This tour guide was just not good. He seemed pushy, didn’t provide a lot of actual guiding of the tour, and just didn’t seem like he wanted us to be there. That kind of put a downer on what was an amazing experience of the Great Wall.
1) In conversations with our tour guide I learned that you can only “own” your apartment for 70 years. Then you have to give it up. You can own a house in perpetuity, but apparently you only “lease” the apartment from the Chinese government for 70 years. That may change in the future, but for now you only lease I guess.
2) Apparently being a bit overweight is a huge taboo in China. On a daily basis I have had at least three cracks about my weight. Yes, I know I need to lose weight, but the cracks were grating on me. Maybe that is why I also didn’t like the tour guide he made several cracks about me being “American” size and that I didn’t need to eat lunch. Yeah, not a smart thing.
3) One thing that I haven’t mentioned is the security here in China. There is security everywhere and I mean everywhere. You have to go through security checks to board the subway, on the sidewalks out Tiananmen Square, etc. I certainly don’t feel unsafe, well sort of at least.
4) I don’t know if this just a thing where we are, but the students and it seems a lot of people at dinner LOVE watermelon. Every night at about 9pm you can see dozens of students at various kiosks sharing a small watermelon. Watermelon has been served at every meal that I have had. It is great, but I didn’t realize it was such an important fruit or a refresher in China.
5) i can’t think of anything else so I will just leave it at that.
Right now it looks like thunderstorms are rolling in. In less than 24 hours we will be on a plane for home. Hasta luego China, hola los Estados Unidos.