Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Getting into the Beijing Spirit

   I arrived in Beijing last night, and today was a whirlwind and my first full day in China! I learned today that Beijing has a motto, as seen in this flower display and on a sign in the subway: “Patriotism, Innovation, Inclusiveness, and Virtue.”  I love that the second word in there is our school’s name.  There are over a billion people in China, and they are certainly trying to do things in a new and creative way. That same spirit is why I love working at Innovation Academy.

Traveling here is different than any other place I have ever been.  Yes, it’s crowded, polluted, and people shove to get where they are going… but there’s something magic here. I love it already.

Our Staff Team

I will be helping English speaking high school students from around the world learn about leadership and change-making as they explore China through language study, service, and cultural activities.  I am so honored to be here. This is my first time in China, but I hope to share my love of global education, service, travel, and learning about other cultures with the students, who arrive on Sunday. I am working with a group of wonderful people who all speak fluent Mandarin, so I am confident that we are a solid team.

Today, our staff explored Beijing, visiting three of our community service sites where we will take students in the upcoming weeks.  I tried to soak up the newness of this place, from the packed subway cars to the eco-farm where we’ll be helping to harvest peaches, if we are lucky.  There were so many surprising sights, so I need to share just a few of my favorites:

The local director, Silvia, explains the schedule to our Chinese interns, Gabriella and Stanley. Awesome backdrop courtesy of the subway advertisements.

Is it a mini-piano? No! It’s a chopstick sanitizer at Mr. Lee’s fast food lunch.

Should I try the street food?

A ha! They do sell chicken feet here (at the supermarket).

Balloon salesman passes through evening street food area

Back in the United States, a taste of China is everywhere.  We eat Chinese food, walk through Chinatown, go to school with Chinese friends, buy clothes made in China, and more. Being here makes me realize how much we are missing when we assume that we know China based on these things.  Would someone who has watched MTV know the United States?  What about someone who eats a hamburger and watches fireworks on the fourth of July? These countries are too big, too special, and too innovative to be stereotyped.  China is ancient and modern, open and restrictive, clean and dirty, peaceful and busy, and many other ends of all sorts of spectrums. I can’t wait to explore it more.

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16 thoughts on “Getting into the Beijing Spirit

  1. William on said:

    I really like your pictures . It looks like a great place ! I love the architecture in Beijing . I want to be an architect some day . What is the biggest building in Beijing ?

  2. Melissa Kapeckas on said:

    Love the chopstick sanitizer! I never would have guessed what it is. Enjoy your exploring. Thanks for sharing your stories with us!

  3. anna s. on said:

    Hello Ms. Krakauer!!

    All these pictures, and description remind me a lot of my experience in Beijing.
    Memories are starting to come back! (Some of those people look slightly familiar.)
    However, I have never seen or even heard of a chopstick sanitizer.
    As for the chicken feet, if you want to, you can try some out.
    Then, for the street food, you can buy the watermelons. But if I were you, I’d be careful. The price might be purposely set really high, even though they food might not be worth that much money.
    Also, for the street food area, I wouldn’t go to eat at those places because they’re really dirty.
    But despite all these negatives, Beijing is full of history!
    You probably already know about this, but long ago, Chinese people made a earthquake seismograph. They made this object that looks like a huge pot. There were 8 stone dragons on 8 different sides of the pot. They all faced in different directions. Each dragon carried a stone in its mouth. When an earthquake would happen somewhere in the direction one of the dragons were facing, the stone would drop out of that dragon’s mouth, and into a can of some kind. The Chinese people would see the ball drop, and hurry to safety.

    You can go to this link to see what it looks like and for more information… unless you already know what it looks like and the information about it, of course:

    http://history.cultural-china.com/en/50H159H617.html

    Don’t get your spirits down!! China is still beautiful in many ways!!
    Have a great time in China!!
    ;) ~ Anna

    P.S. In the last picture (the one of you standing in front of a big building), where were you? Was it a super big train station? My family and I couldn’t make out the words on the building.

    • Yes, it is a super big train station. Thanks for your comments, Anna. I didn’t know about the earthquake seismograph — really interesting. I love China so far — there’s so much to learn!

  4. Glad you arrived safely. It looks like you will have an amazing experience! I am looking forward to all of your posts!

  5. zeenat on said:

    Glad you made it there safe and sound Sara. Loved reading your first post from Chinese soil. Enjoy every moment of the newness and embrace the unexpected. The students are lucky to have you as their teacher and guide.

  6. Hi Sara, we’re glad you’ve arrived safely!
    We’ve been eagerly awaiting the start of your blog about China. We loved the pictures. It’s great to be able to learn directly through your eyes about other countries.
    Jacob would like to know if you tried the chicken feet?
    Thank you for sharing your amazing experiences! We look forward to learning more about China! Enjoy your visit :)

  7. Sophia M. on said:

    I love all of the pictures! I can’t wait to see more! Everything seems to be written in Chinese. How do you know what/where everything is? Please answer anytime you can. Have a great time in China!

  8. Edith C 7th grade on said:

    speaking OF CRAZY TECHNOLOGY… what are their toilets like. I am genuinely interested. I heard they are high tech.

  9. i think the chopstick thing was really cool, thy should have a fork sanitizer that doubles as a mini piano so you know, if your chopsticks are dirty, but you have the urge to play you can do both. I just learned that my brother is going to teach English to students in China! But he doesn’t know any Chinese…

  10. Yvonne guy on said:

    I think the chopstick sanitizer is funny!
    Matthew Guy
    Starting 5 th grade IACS 2012

  11. Kavya A. on said:

    When I first saw the chopstick sanitizer I thought it was some kind of high tech instrument. I was surprised when I found out it was a chopstick sanitizer, that’s so cool!
    Ms. Krakauer, did you learn how to use chopsticks?

    Right now I’m visiting India, there are lots of beautiful places, though it is very crowded.

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