Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the tag “Tourist Site”

Water Cube to London

One of the major modern tourist attractions in Beijing is the Olympic Park from the 2008 Summer Games.  A few weeks ago, I visited the National Stadium (known as the Bird’s Nest) and the National Aquatic Center (known as the Water Cube) with the last group.  It was really great to see them up close, but we didn’t go inside. Today, in honor of the start of the 2012 games, we went inside the Water Cube, and got the nighttime experience.

The Olympics brought a lot of attention to China four years ago.  People around the world starting arguing about China’s pollution, and the Chinese government shut down many factories for several weeks to improve the air quality. China built new subway lines, buildings and parks to welcome all the visitors to Beijing.  China was on display, and they wanted to show their best side.  As the Olympics starts yet again, we see each country trying to show their best side. And I have to wonder — are we seeing the truth? Or is it all a big game?

However you are viewing these Olympic games, I hope you enjoy the upcoming competition. Many of these athletes from around the world are role models for people all over the planet.  Even though they are proud of their home countries, they are representing something bigger. And perhaps that is the essence of true global citizenship.

City of Lights

I don’t know if Shanghai has a nickname, but I would call it the City of Lights.  It’s modern, clean, and colorful. From old temples to the Apple Store, Shanghai has style.

Our first stop was at the Jingan Temple shown above, and there’s more exploring to come this weekend.

Guess what’s in store?

Greatest Wall of All

Today, we visited the Great Wall of China, a structure so large that it can be seen from space. There are many different estimates about the length of the wall, but it curves around so much that its length is easily twice the distance between Massachusetts and California.

It was an amazing day, even though we had to climb hundreds of steps and were all dripping with sweat.The air here is so humid that even if the sun isn’t blaring down, it still feels very hot.  I didn’t realize how high the wall really is!  It took close to an hour to get onto the wall in the first place.

I didn’t make the journey alone.  Here are some photo highlights of some friends I climbed with / inflated:

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Club Time at Temple of Heaven

Early in the mornings, the area around the Temple of Heaven is packed with people. It’s not only filled with tourists like me who want to see this sacred space where Chinese emperors used to pray.  Even more common is people meeting up to practice together.  They get together and do all sorts of things: dancing, tai chi, acrobatics, Chinese chess, writing Chinese calligraphy in water on the stone tiles, playing music, and more.

This morning as we walked around the park surrounding the temple, we were amazed by the focus, fun, and sheer diversity of interests represented.  Here’s a little video showing some of the activities.  See if you can tell which are our students. It’s amazing how many different types of recreation exist all over the world!

Speaking of recreational activities, we invented a new game at dinner tonight.  Shall we call it, “Pass the Peanut?”




The Center of the Middle

I found out that Chinese people do not call their country “China.”  This was a shock to me! In fact, their name for their own country is Zhong Guo.  This sounds nothing like “China.”  Long ago, Westerners named them after the nice porcelain goods that they got from Chinese traders, but China named itself Zhong Guo, which means “Middle Kingdom.”  For hundreds of years, Chinese people have thought about themselves as the center of the world.

Today, we visited the Forbidden City, which is the center of Beijing, the capital of China.  It’s where many emperors used to live along with their many servants and other staff.  It’s huge.  We walked around for hours and only saw a small piece of the massive complex.  At the front entrance, the Gate of Heavenly Peace overlooks Tiananmen Square, a place full of its own history.

I might not have mentioned it, but I am having such an amazing time so far! I’ve only been here a week and a half, but I am learning so much and really enjoying our little community.  The students and staff are fabulous, and our days are packed with adventure.  Here’s a little taste of some of the silly side of the past 24 hours:

The required jumping photo from our photo scavenger hunt this morning in Qianmen.

A new friend that I made in the hotel lobby:

Here’s a shot from a store window, featuring Obama in Superman underwear and Chairman Mao, in doll form.

Chinese BBQ! We’ve been trying lots of new foods, from lamb (pictured here) to Peking Duck tonight.


Chinese Time

Last night, we had a workshop about the history of the Chinese dynasties.  Well before the United States even existed, Chinese emperors were taking over huge areas of land, building thousands of miles of the Great Wall, and developing all sorts of new and creative systems for society.  It’s hard to imagine just how they accomplished so much with such little technology.

The other day, we visited the Drum Tower in Beijing. It was really neat to walk up the steep steps to the top, where we could look out over the city.  We saw a performance of drummers, which is what they used to use to communicate the passing of time. I took a little video to give you a sense of what it was like:

There were also amazing exhibits to show various interesting ways that the people used to keep time. They were so creative, using things like water and incense to keep track of passing seconds.

They used to burn these incense, and they acted as a certain kind of clock. When they were finished burning, they knew how much time had passed.

This was one of my favorite time innovations. As the incense burns, the bells on the dragon drop, and indicate the passing of time, like a cuckoo clock.

The Chinese have really figured out a lot of interesting innovations throughout history.  Today, they are still leading the way into the future.  One in five people on Earth is Chinese today, and their economy is one of the fastest growing.  I didn’t make this video, but we watched it the other night, and I think it shows how powerful China continues to be today.  Watch it and let me know what you think.  Is China still a cutting edge society for today’s time?

Hou Hai Paddling & Pinyin

Jin Tian shi xing qi er, er ling yi er nian, qi yue, san hao. Ming tian shi qi yue si hao!

That’s right. I’m learning Mandarin.  This says that today is Tuesday, July 3, 2012, and tomorrow is July 4th!  It’s written in pinyin, which is an English way of writing in Mandarin. If you look at the subway sign below, you can see that most text here is written in characters and pinyin, which shows how to pronounce the characters.  And if you’re lucky, signs like this one are also written in English.

In just two lessons, I’ve learned how to say lots of useful phrases, such as “bu la” if I want to tell a waiter not to make my dish spicy, or “Wo shi mei guo ren” if someone is wondering where I am from. I can also ask for dumplings (jiaozi), OJ (cheng zhi), or noodles (miantiao).  It’s very exciting!

Anyway, unfortunately my Mandarin is not strong enough for me to use to write about my day, but here are a few photos of one of the highlights, paddle boating on a lake called Hou Hai, in the Hutong Area.  It was really nice.

Colors of the Hutong

Today was our first full day with students!  In the morning, I joined the beginner Mandarin class.  In just a few hours, our little group was able to have CONVERSATIONS in Mandarin Chinese.  They were simple sentences, talking about our names and ages, or what we like to eat, but we were speaking and understanding each other. It was very exciting.

In the afternoon, we visited the Hutong, which is a traditional neighborhood of small alleyways.  Today, there are lots of modern shops, even though the overall feel of the area is still very “Old Beijing.”  One highlight was visiting the Lama Temple, which houses the largest wooden Buddha in the world. In this photo, you can only see his feet!

You can see the people bowing down to him, but you can’t hear the monk in the corner who was chanting, or smell the incense burning all around.  You can’t jump into the photograph and look up several stories at the giant wooden sculpture, made out of a single sandalwood tree. If you could do these things, you’d be even more impressed. Perhaps it’s best that you are reading this instead, because you get to avoid the outrageous heat that we experienced as we walked around.  It was very hot!  As we walked around, the students learned about Buddhism, from the eight auspicious symbols to the fruit offerings presented at their feet.  I really enjoyed sharing my love of Buddhism with the students.  In this photo below, a student is spinning her first prayer wheel.

After our visit to the temple and a lot of walking, we needed a break.  Students were jet lagged and we were exhausted. We stopped to get some juice at a nice cafe.  Mine was “honey melon” which I think might be a cantaloupe-related melon, but not exactly the same. Silvia, who is in the photo with me, got papaya juice. My role this summer is international director, and Silvia is the local director.  She is Italian, but she’s lived in China for about 6 years.   She knows the area very well and did a wonderful job showing us around the Hutong.

It might seem like Beijing is full of ancient sites. It’s true that there are many historical places to visit, but there are also many modern things to see.  Here are some of my other favorite photographs from today’s visit to the Hutong:



For now, I need to say “Zai Jian” (goodbye). Sorry that I could not take this adorable dog home, but I will continue to try to capture a bit of Beijing to send home to you through photographs.

Euro Cup 2012

Euro Cup Billboard

Did you know that Ukraine and Poland are hosting the Euro Cup this summer?  This is a big deal — it’s like the Soccer World Cup for Europe.  Our hotel is right next to the big stadium where the final match will be, and the whole city is clearly excited.  We’re seeing posters and signs everywhere!

Today, we visited a school in the capital, Kyiv School 57, where they are even teaching a class called “Euro Cup 2012.” We were all impressed with the students and teachers there, but I will save most of the details for another post.

I do have to share an amazing example of project-based learning.  The 11th grade students are entering a contest for which they had to design a model of the stadium.  They decided to make theirs out of legos, and they did the whole thing on their own.  The result was very impressive!  Here’s a video if you want to see the students talking about their work, and you can also get to see some of the detail on their amazing sculpture:

In a few hours, Carol and I leave for the overnight train. I’m going to try to work on editing some more video to post tomorrow! We saw a lot at School 57 today — much more than the legos.

Colors of Kyiv

Today was packed with learning about Ukrainian culture and seeing the sights of Kyiv.  In the morning, we went to the IREX office and had a lesson from our host, Iryna. She taught us about the history, politics, economics, and culture of Ukraine.  My favorite part was learning about the culture.  For example, here’s a clip of her telling us about how the view of personal space is very different from what we know in America:

Here’s a question of the day for you about Ukrainian culture.  Take a guess what you think might be correct, based on what we learned today:

Which of the following would Loki be LEAST likely to do if she were Ukrainian?

  • a) Stand very close to the person in front of her when waiting in line
  • b) Complain about how much she gets paid
  • c) Give a long story about how she is doing when asked “how are you?”
  • d) Move to a new city for a fresh start
  • e) Live with her parents through college and beyond

After our morning lesson, we went to lunch and then hit the town for a tour of important sites in Kyiv.  We visited several Orthodox churches, and since it is the day after Easter, it’s still considered a holiday.  Bells were ringing, and the colors were magnificent:

One of our favorite stops was a very interesting park, decorated in a most unusual way. Check it out:

Our day ended with a meal even more filling than yesterday’s!  This one included perogies (little dumplings stuffed with potatoes and cheese and other delicious things) and an apple strudel dessert with ice cream. It was a very full day… and meal!  Below are a few more of my favorite photos from today, from beautiful to quirky…

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