Saturday, November 21, 2009

President Obama Goes To China: Some Views From Beida

In the aftermath of President Obama's visit to China this week, I asked a few students at Peking University about what they observed on the ground in Beijing and what overall impressions the trip left them with...

A student from the central part of the country...

As it is known that president Obama has come to visit China, there are news on the internet, I wonder whether you can get through to the net, what we can know is through the internet.

Personally, I think this is a good thing for the relationship between China and America. Usually, it is good for two countries that the president of each visit the other and communicate with each other. President Obama has been to Shanghai and communicated with the students there, he said that China and America need more cooperation rather than confliction. It is also said that more Chinese students will be welcome to America to study.

A student from China's southwest corner...

Acording to my own experience, anything about President's Obama's visit we just get reports or message from TV , Newspaper and Internet. I think this is same with you. Maybe the only difference is that we experience atmosphere, but everything goes as usual on compus. And yesterday I went out to the downtown, it seemed that nothing was different. You know,on bus and subway, even taxi, nobody talked about this visit.The moving TV on bus, subway and taxi is continuing showwing President Obama's significant events with Chinese state leaders, and other visitng activities, such as meeting with the young chinese generation in Shanghai, and climing the Great Wall in Beijing. Besides these normal things, we receive nothing.

But there is a funny story I heard from compus BBS, it said that during the meeting with young chinses generation, students who have chance to put question to President Obama are prearranged,not freedomly, maybe they are young officials of universities in Shanghai, not the real college students. I cannot affirm the credibility of this message, but it's funny.

A student from the southeast Cantonese region...

A lot of Chinese are discussing about why President Obama chose Shanghai for his first station of visiting China.

As they mentioned, the ex-core of PRC has a big influence power in Shanghai till now. Does
Obama's schedule show that American care more about the relationship with ex-core than present core?

A student from the northeast...

Most of the newspaper and magazines had big space to report the
Obama's visit, as far as I saw the media mainly focused on Obama's trip to the Imperial Palace and great wall, the menu of the state banquet, how he hugged his brother here...things like that. It is more like a show. But I'm worried that the media thought too little about the deep inside of this trip, they gave too much praise. For me, I'm more concerned of the clean-energy-source trade contract and the high-tech export from US to PRC. I think the media thought too positively about the Obama saying "america and china should be strategic friends", all country will do things to its own interest, China should be more aware of this.


PS: Across China, the sale of wildly popular "Obamao" merchandise was banned during the president's visit. Given Desi's track record, why do I have a hunch she would have had no problem breaking through...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My High School Tour

This year, I entered seventh grade. I recently began receiving invites to open houses at local Catholic schools. So far, I have gone to four of these open houses. Here is a little bit about these schools...

Georgetown Prep has a great location, campus, and academics. The location is next to Julie's school, something like a five-minute walk away. Both schools are about a fifteen minute drive from our house. The campus of Georgetown Prep is huge. It has a nine-hole golf course, a football stadium, an indoor tennis stadium. It also has a beautiful church. It seems to be an academically achieving school with great teachers.

St. Anselm's Abbey School also seems to have great academics, and is a small school, with only a little more than three hundred students. Based on what I saw, the teachers are really thorough and work their students hard.

Dematha Catholic High School has a nice campus with a number of big and small school buildings. In addition to the academics, the sports program at Dematha is really good and famous. Danny Ferry went to Dematha!

St. John's College High School is the only co-ed school that I have visited so far. It has a huge new ball field that is very impressive. They have a strong overall education program, with ROTC, band, and lots of options for getting involved.

One school that we have not visited yet is Gonzaga, which is located down in DC by Union Station. I hear they offer Mandarin as a foreign language!

With all of these schools, at least I have a year to decide!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Mountain Music Project

Here's a little story about being in the right place at the right time and randomly stumbling into something pretty cool.

Z and I were bumming around DC one day a few weeks ago, and we found ourselves in the vicinity of the headquarters of National Geographic. "Hey, why don't we go check out if there are any interesting little exhibits on display right now!?" This was not an unreasonable suggestion, as we have seen some neat programs there over the years.

Walking into the building, I was struck by just how many people were doing exactly the same thing as us. (Sidebar: Our attention was also drawn to the fact that there will soon be some terra cotta warriors at the museum.) Looking at a list of events, I quickly realized we had shown up literally five minutes before the start of the US premiere of a film entitled The Mountain Music Project. Seeing that the movie had something to do with Nepal, Z and I decided to take a chance and grabbed seats in the auditorium.

Here's a primer on the film. Two old-time, blue grass musicians from Virginia's Appalachia trekked all the way to some remote mountain villages high up in the Himalayas. As they roved from place to place, they swapped stories and played with local musicians. Along the way, both sides discovered that the themes, instruments, and cultures surrounding their respective musical traditions are remarkably similar, despite the fact that they live halfway around the world from one another. This realization had a very powerful and uplifting effect on everyone involved.

For Z and I, the seminal moment of the experience came after the movie was over, when the filmmaker came out and introduced the two Americans who were the stars of the documentary. A few songs, questions, and answers later, and Prem Raja Mahat joined the crew up on stage.


That's exactly the question Z and I were asking ourselves. As we quickly found out, Prem Raja Mahal is a Nepali musical legend, a man who has been described as the Bruce Springsteen of his country.

Now you're talking!

At one point in the brief performance, the musicians announced that they were going to play Pre Raja Mahal's greatest hit, a song that apparently everyone in Nepal knows and loves. It was fun to watch, even for the two of us who obviously are total newbies when it comes to the musical culture of Nepal. An unexpected ending to an unusual, yet in some ways totally typical, DC afternoon.


PS: The only reason Z and I got the chance to see Prem Raja Mahal perform was because he has relocated from Nepal to Baltimore. Why would he do such a thing? As he himself has put it, "I miss Nepal, because they love me there. I miss being famous. But in my country there is fighting and death and poverty. That is why I left. Every parent in the world...wants to do well for their children. I am no different."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In The Chips

A few weeks ago, a reporter from Blair's own Silver Chips approached and asked if he could interview me about my experiences during last year's adventure. Never unhappy to relive my Chinese life, I delightedly agreed. Armed with twenty-plus questions, Eli devoted four lunch periods, plus an hour phone call to writing furiously as I detailed the wonders of our journey. He even spent some time talking to Steve and the kids to "round out" his story.

Equipped with enough information for a short novel, Eli was then tasked with sifting through page after page to nail his first-ever story. The result, "Blazing Through Beijing: Balla Journeys Overseas," was a two-page spread, well received. He nicely focused on a few recurring topics like preparation and communication, and highlighted the stories (Ping'An and Inner Mongolia) that were truly seminal moments for me.

In a school of over two thousand students and close to two hundred faculty and staff, it's been nice to hear, every once in a while, from individuals I've never met or spoken to, "Hey, aren't you the one who went to China last year? Must have been an experience of a lifetime!"

I'm thinking, "Yes, it was quite an experience!"

Once in a lifetime...Not so sure about that!