10 students from the Chinese classes at Christian Renewal School had the awesome privilege of taking a language China trip.
Some left Whangarei 3am Sunday morning (NZ time) and arrived with the 5 adult chaperones, at the youth hostel in Beijing 2 am Monday morning (6am NZ time the next day)
To say we were all tired was probably an understatement!
We kangaroo hopped via Qantas to Sydney, waited an hour or two, and then flew for another 12 ½ to Beijing. The airport must be big, because we taxied for 20 minutes to the disembarking bay, mucked around customs for another hour, then took a train to collect or luggage.
The drone of the plane … the squash … the stuffy dry air was finally over!
Who knows how long our little bus was waiting for us but we were happy to catch it in the early hours of the morning; travel soggily for a season, and then walk along back streets to the hostel.
Late arising and Maccas for brunch. I know what you are thinking, but there are 2 dining establishments in the same building and only one of them is McDonalds. ($NZ 4 for a hearty Chinese meal)
Next we sorted out Chinese sim cards for every student in case we ever get separated. That took hours ; followed by a trek to the nearest subway to rehearse the routine for tomorrow’s subway travel to Tiananmen Square and to buy the smart cards for the journey.
Dumplings Chinese style for dinner, followed by a night-raid on the “hole in the wall” to get cash to pay for our lodgings. (They only take cash from Kiwis at our hostel)
Group devotions: Two young ladies shared words on faith & trusting God and how we should be courageous like Joshua.
We head off. It’s about a half hour walk to the subway.
Intersections and traffic here move in random chaos where pedestrians, bikes, electric bikes, 3-wheelers, cars, buses all ignore the traffic lights and dance together in a great bitumen opera. It strikes me as very funny every time I watch it. The society as a whole is so organised yet it appears to me that the street is a place where you can make your own protest at the rules, and not get arrested. Some sort of collective emotional release for society!
We took the subway blue line for 3 stops and then transferred to the red line to Tiananmen square to experience the public toilets and to wander and gaze at the vastness of things in China.
Then it was under the street to the forbidden city where previous Emperors from previous dynasties lived in their own ginormous walled space. The smog has cleared and the sun has appeared today and we walk from the Tiananmen square entrance to the garden exit. Constructed from 1406 to 1420, the forbidden city consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 hectares. It’s big and has millions of stones underfoot to wear down the group’s weary feet. Four of us get separated at the exit, but thanks to our group sim card purchases yesterday, we are soon re-united.
Next we get a little fudgy-lost looking for the subway, but walk for another 45 minutes and find another one. Several teenagers work out how to connect back to our district with line-swapping. I am proud of their deduction and leadership skills.
A good hearty meal that afternoon, fixes many things as well. All tired, but happy.
Morning devotions with 2 young men on the secret place of the Most High and trusting the Lord.
Sorting out paying for the hostel. China is a bit of a closed-wall with everything done through their phones or internet banking, but it is all internal. Overseas banks and cards are not generally accepted unless it is via a “hole in the (great wall of China).” That’s all very well, but if you are trying to pay for 15 people to do anything major, there is only so much funds you can get out of the “great hole in the wall” and then you need a rickshaw to carry it to the office. (Oh we all had fun, fun, fun till her daddy took the Tee bird away- sung to the tune of a 60’s Beach Boys hit)
The team had worked out how to get to a shopping mall, so that’s what we did after lunch. We walked the by now familiar trot to the subway and took a line, transferred to another and we were there at the 3 story mall. Hustlers, hawkers and hopeful merchants. Most of them pushy and eager to get a sale. Everyone had fun with their bargaining. “My love for you it’s only 900 yuan” … pause …. Grab it put it in your bag … grumpy face … Ok, ok 450 then! No you don’t like! Ok ok 149 final offer!”
Such fun for those who like shopping, but us older males like to decide what we want, go in to the shop and get it and go.
The team loved the experience and once again our younger friends found their way around the subway with ease.
We had a great day.
Devotions with 2 young men. Friends are important and should be treasured. Iron sharpens iron. Psalm 136. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
The young subway-leaders amongst us take us under the world of Beijing to the zoo. Half of Beijing is there with their families. The other half is on the streets or welding or grinding on the side of the road without screens, masks, hoods or any sort of safety at all.
It’s an old-fashioned zoo with small cages but a wide diversity of creatures over a very expansive area. Folks believe me … NZ zoos are great!
But naturally we had to see the pandas flop; pandas eat; pandas lie about; panda bears; panda shops; panda to our stomachs.
The sun was out, the smog was gone, the air was charged with excitement and we were off. Keeping track of each other was like keeping track of fleas on a monkey, but we survived and managed to all come home intact.
There was the man blowing toffee into intricate shapes. There were the food stalls. There were balloon sellers and even Lydia seller of purple!
Of course the ladies managed to “stumble” upon a Chinese clothes market packed with every cheap garment you could think of (or couldn’t think of)
Tonight we have a divine encounter with a Chinese shift manager here called Tanner, who made some suggestions to get us out of our various bullet-train to Shanghai dilemmas. The drama unfolds tomorrow.
Following the plan outlined the night before, Tanner was there to meet me after devotions this morning.
As before, China is a bit of a closed wall. You are captured on video everywhere; your photo is taken with every receipt at the shops; your passport is photographed along with every major transport ticket bought, and Visa or Mastercard (or debit card) is only good for the money machines. So for foreigners it is cash all-the-way! This creates issues when paying for 7 day’s accommodation fees for 15 people. (It’s a large amount of cash and the money machines hit a top-limit.
A lovely Chinese friend back home paid for our hostel via the net to get around one of the walls we struck, and Tanner came to the rescue when it came to buying the 15 tickets for the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai. For a start, they could not be bought on the net. It was going to take a trip to Beijing Central with 15 passports to get them.
Tanner offered to drive me on his electric scooter and buy the tickets. He and I set off into the traffic madness without helmets but with passports. Since scooter, Tanner and Wayne didn’t stop for traffic lights or pedestrians we were back in a little over an hour complete with our “tracked tickets”.
It only required me to get out a truckload of cash and get photographed and receipted at the office and life for us adventurers was sorted again. Praise the Lord!
To celebrate, we went back to the markets to buy gifts for those back in the land of the long black cyclone.
Tomorrow we hit a different wall!
The aim is to catch the first bus to Badaling section of the Great Wall.
This means putting our walking shoes on the busy dusty road just after 5am. The bus stop looms into view at 5.45 and we watch breakfast being served on the side of the road, accompanied by the usual cacophony of yelling, honking and bartering.
The bus grinds north for about an hour, leaving us high up in the cold mountain air half a kilometre from the ticket office. Flash the usual passport, get your ticket and join the pressed human sandwich through the gates to the start of the wall steps.
The wall is impressive. Constructed hundreds of years ago to keep out the Mongolian invaders. It can be seen from outer space, but back here in China space, the day is beginning to turn out to be a scorcher.
We climb a step or two, miss a few, ninety-nine a million! It is steep and gruelling in the hot sun, but we all make it to the top tower and it’s well-worth the climb. Well done guys!
On the way we see a couple of street artists painting and etching their gorgeous artwork. A finger painter of charcoal and a stone tapper, both craftsmen in their own right and well worth the price they are asking.
The cable car and the sliding carts turn out to be outside of the students’ daily spending budget, but that’s OK. We have walked our legs down to the knees and people got lost and found several times. Thank God for our Chinese sim cards we purchased many days ago.
It is Tracey Scott’s birthday and a surprise cake had been ordered. We all dined at a Chinese restaurant where no English was spoken, and after singing “happy birthday” in Chinese, we walked back to the hostel. Lo and behold! Another surprise cake. This one from the hostel management. Lights out; light the candle and sing another round of HB
Everyone shattered from the exciting events of the day before. We had a time of singing and sharing from the Word, then a rest-morning.
After lunch the shopaholic ladies spent the afternoon at a department store while the rest of us joined Ada at the Beijing Normal university grounds and played table tennis with some locals, did some filming for a Chinese film competition, and watched students play basketball and volley ball.
These two are great leaders. Many thanks!
By popular choice the subway takes us to the “Queen’s summer Palace”. A thousand hectares of get-away buildings, parks, rivers and lakes. Pity about the smog! I recall the old song … “smoke gets in your eyes” In spite of this, it is a very pleasant day, and we even take a boat ride on the lake.
When we get back to our neighbourhood we venture into a large supermarket to buy packets of noodles for the 5 hour journey on the train tomorrow.
We arrive at our usual dinner joint about 6.30pm. The split-personality Maccas and Chinese.
After dinner it’s pack-up time ready for tomorrow’s trip on the bullet train to Shanghai
8.30am the Uber van arrives to take our luggage to the Beijing South railway station. Wayne, Brodie and Marcus have been elected to accompany the luggage in the van to the station. The others will walk to the subway and join us later.
It’s a hair-raising ride in the van. I decline the offered cigarette. We weave, we rock, we roll, we make-it. Traffic is heavy! In fact it is so busy we can’t be dropped off at the station door, but are deposited on sub floor B in the parking building below. Brodie is sent to find the rest of the team while Marcus and I wait underground making sure the 20 something cases don’t walk away.
Brodie txts back. The team is found. Some more boys join him to transfer bags to the fast-train station. Have security scan, produce tickets and passports, climb aboard. It’s 11 am and the start of another adventure.
The train is wide and fast! It travels at over 300ks yet feels like we are on a slow bus. There is food and fruit and hot/cold drinks on-board.
It’s an easy journey till we arrive.
Trying to buy a subway smart-ticket to our hostel proves to be challenging, but we are up to the task thank God. A new hostel. A new dawn awaits!
Shanghai has a different feel to it. It’s cleaner and more orderly. Shops are laid out better. We’ve even seen and heard some birds!
There’s no outside signs of churches in China (where we have been anyway) Odd since there is a higher percentage of Christians in this nation than there is in NZ.
Devotions this morning centered around a question one of the boys had about Eve; deception and rebellion. (easy-peasy questions to answer – lol)
At 9am we were joined by Xue Ying who is to be our guide today. Such a blessing too! She helped us buy our subway/bus smart-cards and then we caught a bus to the central Shanghai museum which is in the middle of a pretty little park.
The museum was very well set out and maintained. A credit to them.
Then on to lunch at a clean food hall in a flash mall. Next we hit the downtown street markets for a catch up on bargaining skills and a fresh chance at getting gifts for others. (from a drone through to tea and everything in-between)
By the time we got back to our hostel, only a few felt like eating anything substantial. Most just flopped! I think that we have walked a combined distance of Whangarei to Invercargill since we have been in this nation. Tonight our feet are sore.
Did you know? Google search does not work here. The Google play store is blocked. WordPress was randomly blocked for 3 days in Beijing. Was it something I said?
Facebook is blocked. Some internet sites are just plain on-again; off-again. There are as many “selfies” as there are Chinese!
Everyone uses their phones constantly and they communicate with an app called WeeChat (like “WhatsApp only lime green).
Some stores don’t take cash, but use AliPay or ApplePay on the phone. Cards are not for money, they are for trains and buses.
Loo paper does not go down the toilet. It goes in the rubbish bin beside!
Chinese food is not full of MSG like NZ, but it does not taste the same as what we are used to. Sometimes good, sometimes not so much.
You could survive here on Big Macs, KFC, Burger King, etc (God help us!)
Chinese city folk don’t sell a cup of tea. If you are thinking of visiting here, bring tea bags. You cant buy Marmite (surprise; surprise)
Fonterra products are hard to find. You are more likely to see German or French dairy products than Kiwi.
Destination. Museum of Technology. It’s huge and modern and impressive. Not a lot of technology though. Animals (stuffed); geology; the earth; robots; childrens’ playground; health & medicine; theaters. I think the robot shooting arrows was the favourite of the group.
Then we joined our new-found Chinese friend and explored a very old church. Some of the team practiced “Amazing grace” in Chinese and it sounded full and amazing in the rich acoustics of the old building.
On through the main street of Shanghai to a Christian bookshop in a back lane. Our friend booked us in to a very fine Chinese restaurant for dinner. A celebration meal. Beautiful and delicious. Exotic food shared with lovely people.
Lastly, down to the river-side to watch the lights of the city across the water. The carnival atmosphere and the skyscrapers and wall to wall people impressed the Kiwi travelers.
Subway and home to bed late.
Our last huge day! Bye bye Shanghai.
Three of us head off in the van to the airport, loaded down to axle press with the luggage while the rest struggle with the subversive subway.
The leaders make it home 28 hours later. Van; Airbus; Dreamliner; Courtesy coach; Church van; bed!