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Beijing

Well, we’re back. You can see all the photos here. Here’s the breakdown:

We took the last train north from Wuxi on the night of Mar. 30th. We arrived in Beijing about 11 hours later.

The thing to understand is that Beijing is BIG. It doesn’t loom over you like skyscraper-packed Shanghai, but its medium-sized buildings seem to go on forever in every direction.

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We spent the 31st wandering through the area just southeast of Tiananmen. We went to the Forbidden City, but it was nearly closing time so we decided to come back another day. Coincidentally, this was the day that the Olympic Torch arrived in Beijing. We saw lots of preparations for it, but we didn’t see the torch itself.

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The next day we visited Huijia Private School, our initial reason for the trip. We’d been offered teaching positions there, and we wanted to see the school before we made our decision. What we saw was beyond anything we could have expected.

Having taught in a number of local schools in Zhangjiagang, we’ve often seen too-big classes stuffed into tiny rooms with shoddy furniture and few teaching resources. It came as quite a surprise, then, when we found that Huijia’s facilities were comparable to what we might find in a modern American school.

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Another major point was that unlike most Chinese schools, creativity and artistic expression were integrated into the curriculum. They also have a large music department (100+ piano practice rooms for the elementary school!).

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The middle school science department (where I would teach) had laboratory facilities far better than the vast majority of American high schools. Dedicated labs for physics, chemistry, and biology, with all the equipment I could ever want.

As for the local environment, the school is located in Changping, a suburb of Beijing which is northeast of the city center (near the mountains and the Great Wall). It takes about an hour to get there from the city center, but it’s an easy trip: take the subway to its northeasternmost stop (2 RMB), then take a local bus from there to the front gate of the school (1 RMB). Total cost: less than $0.50 US.

The area around the school is natural, creating a very peaceful location. The facilities for the teachers were quite good (the apartment is a bit smaller than our current one but much more modern). They also offer the teachers free meals on campus, as well as lots of other amenities (swimming pool, gym, BBQ area, barber, bowling alley, and a dedicated teachers’ bar).

All in all, we were very impressed with the school, and after discussion with the management, we signed the contracts that day. We start on August 25.

The next day, the 2nd, we made our way to the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City is massive. Not wow-that’s-really-big massive like a mountain, but holy-crap-this-place-is-HUGE. It would take you almost an hour to walk from the south end to the north without stopping. You go through a gateway off of what you think is the central courtyard only to find an even bigger one beyond it. And most of it is built at single-story height, so it’s easy to get lost. We wandered for most of the day. I won’t post all the pictures we took here, go to the Flickr page if you want to see them all.

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One interesting thing about the Forbidden City was that it was… shabby. The most popular exhibits were well-maintained, but many of the areas we saw were in desperate need of maintenance. Paint was peeling and most of the artifacts looked like they hadn’t been dusted in years. It seemed strange that China, with its vast number of workers, would neglect basic upkeep in such a significant place.

After the day’s wanderings, we decided that we really ought to try Beijing Duck while we were here. So we wandered until we found a suitable restaurant and gave it a try. Yes, it’s quite delicious.

On the 3rd, we headed to the National Museum. Once we arrived, we found a sign which informed us that the National Museum was closed for renovations until 2010. So we instead headed to the National Military Museum, which was recommended to us by a friend. There we found everything from bronze relics, thousands of years old,

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to the most modern equipment,

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to the simply bizarre.

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We explored the museum for most of the day, then headed to the train station to catch our overnight train back. We arrived back in Zhangjiagang this morning.

There’s lots more to do in Beijing; we haven’t even scratched the surface. But if we’re moving there next year, we’ll be seeing much more of it!

{ 1 } Comments

  1. wench | April 5, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Yay! I’m so pleased for you two!!! :D

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