China’s 70th Anniversary: A Dinner for Foreign Experts

Before getting on the bus, we paused for a picture outside of our university’s main building. Shown above are our fellow CFAU “foreign teachers” and Lynn, our Chinese university liaison (third from right)
Special Invitation to attend the Foreign Expert’s Dinner. Once at the hall, each invitation was scanned and our pictures were displayed to ensure we were the person’s using the invitations.

Along with some of our university colleagues, we were invited by our university to attend a special dinner for foreign experts who are living and working in China. We arrived in buses and, for our benefit, the entire highway was shut down on the way to the dinner, which was held at The Great Hall of the People adjacent to Tiananmen Square. Some 2,000 foreign experts were in attendance and treated to an amazing dinner and speech from Vice Premier Han Zheng. He praised foreign experts for assisting the country of China in reaching its current strength and status on the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party in China.

Standing on Tiananmen Square, waiting to enter The Great Hall of the People behind us.

At our table was a couple from the Ukraine, a woman from Mexico City, a man from the UK, a man from Russia, another American man, and two Chinese hosts. We had a delightful time getting to know them. Unfortunately, cameras and cell phones were not allowed in the hall. We did get pictures of our group at the university and outside the hall.

Incidentally, after the dinner the entire crowd exited the doors to the front of the hall, while I (Chuck) slipped into a restroom at the rear of the hall, behind some heavy curtains. I was there for just a few moments when an entourage of young men in business suits wearing ear buds entered the restroom with the Vice Premier himself. I was surprised and could only think to say, “Hi” to him. Afterwards I exited, holding open the curtain for him as we walked out together. I remember thinking, “Why are these security men allowing me to be so close to the Vice Premier.” Then I remembered the worried looks on their faces. Obviously, this bathroom break was unplanned and worrisome to those whose job it was to keep him safe. I caught them off-guard.

Buried Secrets

While working with clients in a court-mandated anger management course, one of the surprising things we learned, (as some volunteered to share with us) was the fact that so many of them had experienced the same family characteristic– secrets! We were shocked to see this apparent connection between family secrets and dangerous anger.

We recently completed a 2-day trip from Beijing to Xi’an where we saw the 2,200 year-old terracotta warriors with our son, Jeremy, and his wife Rozana. We were amazed to learn the lengths to which China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang went in order to keep a big secret– that he had built an extensive underground world, a massive tomb mirroring his above-ground world.

How did he keep the site secret? He killed anyone who knew about it! Workers who brought the life-sized army, horses, chariots and weapons to the site were tragically buried alive with them. Thousands of concubines, those failing to produce children for the young emperor, were also buried alive and the entire site was buried many meters deep.

In 1974, farmers in the area were digging a well and came across some pieces of the buried army. Today, a massive archaeological effort is still underway, and apparently most of the site is still buried.

It makes one wonder: Who and what do we sacrifice in order to keep secrets? The motivation for most family secrets is “protection.” In our experience, when we try to protect those whose actions should not be condoned, we end up violating or betraying others. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic: when we bury our secrets we need to ask ourselves who is being buried alive with them.

Pit #1 of 3. A very small section of the massive first pit.
An actual hospital bed is used to perform “surgery” on broken terracotta warriors.
archaeologists working on the terracotta horses
Terracotta horses with carriage
Even the age lines are showing on this warrior. Every warrior was hand-crafted and unique.

Ever Wonder Where the Great Wall Ends? We Found it!

A group of us sat around one day and said, “Hey, where does China’s great wall end, anyway?” Next thing you know, we found the end–where the great wall hits the ocean. Check out these pics:

LaoLungTou (Old Dragon’s Head” is the name of the spot where the wall meets the ocean.
Chuck and Laraine Chamberlain at LaoLungTou (Old Dragon’s Head)
The Great Wall descending from the nearby hills on it’s way to the ocean. In the foreground, the “Great Wall” is more like mounds of dirt. You can see how the wall disappears. Then, closer to the ocean, it was restored.
This is an original part of the wall that led to the water. Many parts of the wall have had the bricks removed to use for other projects

Our trip included fun in the sun and sand at the beach, waiting in a visitor’s waiting room to cool off after our long trek, colorful kites, antique doors, the Goddess of the Sea, various historical figures, and even a very tall city wall connecting to the Great Wall.

The Motley Crew outside our university excited to get on the bus and head out to see where the Great Wall ends. (L to R): Kevin, Joseph, Eli (child), Mike, Stacey, Ruth Ann, Laraine, Ryan, Harris, Sai, “Zhurki”, Luke (child), Chris, Chuck

Chinese Students are Surprised by Leadership Concepts

Statue of former Premier Zhou Enlai and CFAU President Chen Yi in front of CFAU auditorium

Remembering that first class day in September when a new crop of leadership students at China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) looked up at me expectantly, I could almost see the questions forming behind those beautiful brown eyes.

“Who is this American, and what will we be doing in this ‘leadership’ class?” “Does he really think we need to learn about leadership—something so far into our future?”

On that first day, I looked into their skeptical eyes and got no response when I said, “Raise your hand if you think of yourself as a leader.” Polling the class, I verified what I had already discovered about most students in China: they think of leadership only in terms of positional power.

I then did something unexpected: I showed four short video clips of orchestra conductors leading their orchestras. Each had a unique style. One kept a steady metronome-like beat, showing no emotion on his face. Another closed his eyes while swaying and waving his arms in oversized motions. A third conductor did an exuberant little dance while gesturing with his arms. The fourth was the most unusual. He did nothing with his body and, strangely, kept his arms folded while simply raising his eyebrows occasionally and pursing his lips. This brought some nervous laughter from the class.  

As the music went silent, I looked around the room at puzzled expressions. Breaking the silence, I said, “The true essence of leadership is simply manifesting your most important values. Can you tell what the first conductor valued?”

Getting no response, I continued, “The first conductor valued a regular, steady rhythm.” I then imitated this maestro’s robot-like precision.

“What about the second conductor?” Again, no response. I closed my eyes and made big motions with my arms. “Can you tell this conductor really valued the emotions of his music?”

“What about the third conductor?” I asked. Finally, a timid student piped up, “He likes to dance.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “He seems to value physical movement and expression.” Several students nodded in agreement.

“How about the fourth conductor?” This brought snickers as the students remembered the conductor who seemed to do nothing. “Can you tell what he values?” All heads went down to their desks.

“It might be hard to recognize, but can you see that this conductor valued the musicians’ individual and collective expression and interpretation of the music—even without his involvement? He wants them to come forth with their own expressions. But it doesn’t make him any less a leader, does it?”

As the school year progressed, students became less skeptical, more engaged and more determined to be “values-expressing” leaders. They joined me in exploring leadership through discussion and memorable activities. We went through John C. Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership, examining case studies, working in teams to make critical decisions in simulated conditions, and even analyzing Deputy Barney Fife’s humorous behavior as a “Level 1” leader in the old American sit-com, The Andy Griffith Show. We worked through concepts in Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High (Kerry Patterson et al.) by creating simulated conflicts and allowing students to practice newly learned techniques to resolve those conflicts. We used unusual, right-hand/left-hand writing and drawing methods developed by Dr. Lucia Cappachione (The Power of Your Other Hand, etc.) to become more self-aware in order to more effectively lead others.

Students kept a leadership journal, starting with a list of their most important values. As the year continued, some were able to share from their journal and examine how well they had expressed those important values with others in their class, in their teams, in their community and at home.  

Finally, at the end of the year, we examined Fortune Magazine’s list of the 50 top world leaders. Choosing the top twelve who happened to be leaders in government, business, activism and philanthropy, we discussed what they all had in common. Because the list included male and female, old and young (even a 16-year- old), rich and poor, employers and employees, etc., the common element was obvious. Each leader had been successful in identifying a value within themselves and moving heaven and earth to express and manifest that value. Students’ understanding of leadership and their roles in it had taken a huge jump forward from the first day of class.  

China Foreign Affairs University is the “cradle of diplomacy” for China. All Chinese diplomats must receive training at CFAU, and a large percentage of China’s diplomats have also received undergraduate or graduate degrees at CFAU. It feels good to know this powerful nation’s future is in the hands of those who have a better understanding and passion for leadership.

What might the world reap from the seeds sown in my “leadership crop” this year?

A view of the “new campus” in Sha He area of Beijing
New campus “teaching building” for Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors
Gate to “Old Campus” in heart of Beijing (Xi Cheng District) Seniors are taught in the main building (shown)
Statue of Founding President Chen Yi in front of Main Building of Old Campus
Lobby of our residence (International Exchange Center)

GuBei You Say? A Chinese “Water Town”

GuBei You Say? A Chinese “Water Town”

Key to images above:

  1. Water Town scene
  2. Water Town scene
  3. Odd figure outside a pub and pizza place in GuBei
  4. “Foreign” teachers from CFAU on our excursion to GuBei, including Chinese Opera Stars
  5. When you see a giraffe leaning against a wall, you just gotta follow suit, right?
  6. Where they dye cloth
  7. Where they dye cloth, and two mysterious creatures hiding in the cloth.
  8. More cloth
  9. Marcus Freitas (from Brazil), Ruth Ann Martin (South Africa), Cory (from Utah) all teaching here at CFAU
  10. A rare scene of outrageous affection
  11. Where they make the wine
  12. Where they make the wine (we tried to let them down easy that “no, we don’t even want a sample.”
  13. Scene within the GuBei town.

Why Do the Chinese Butt in Line?

My wife and I recently stood in line at an American-style fast-food burger shop in Beijing. When it was finally our turn, we reached for the laminated menu card near the cash register and started looking at the menu options. Out of nowhere, a young man pushed forward, grabbed the menu out of our hands, and started giving his order to the cashier. That’s when I reached over, quickly slipped the card out of his hands and blocked his view of the cashier with my body while we proceeded to order.  

This wasn’t the first time we had encountered this kind of behavior during our stay in China. In fact, over the 18 months since arriving in Beijing from America, we’ve seen it nearly every day in various situations and venues–from train ticket queues to subways to grocery stores to airplanes. Everywhere we’ve turned, we’ve noticed locals who do not seem to accept or honor the concept of “wait your turn.”

We enjoy talking about cultural differences with our Chinese friends. One friend, a medical doctor, heard me lament about this encounter. He thought for a moment, then proposed a possible explanation. Recent research into an emerging field called “epigenetics” indicates that animals and human beings may pass along ancestral memories via their genes. In short, our behaviors, attitudes and preferences may be greatly influenced by environmental factors suffered by our ancestors. He postulated that trauma from serious famine in China’s past may now be to blame for an unreasonable feeling of urgency, pushing a person to skip ahead of others in line to be the first served.

I believe that whatever experiences we’ve had, or whatever traumas our progenitors may have suffered, we do have the ability and responsibility to overcome our own programming to act in ways socially acceptable in the current environment. We cannot blame our genes for bad behavior. However, the doctor’s explanation has caused me to re-think my own responses to these behaviors. Instead of reacting with irritation, I am now more likely to feel compassion for those whose genes might nudge them to move ahead of me in line. If echoes of China’s past whisper to the person behind me that he is starving, I may see his behavior differently and choose to respond accordingly.

Sand, Gnats and Mad Max: Exploring Mongolian Sand Dunes

Part of our National Week (October, 2018) tour took place at a desert resort in the sand dunes. We did not stay the night, but enjoyed several hours at this very unique venue. We had certainly been to many American dunes, which are usually very undeveloped.  We didn’t know what to expect at a sand dunes in Mongolia. We were surprised to see a massive tourist site with able cars, odd post-apocalyptic dune buggies, a Disney-like train, a large swimming complex, camel rides, sand sleds, and even a massive tent arena all plopped into the middle of an ocean of fine powdery sand.

Most of our fellow tourists were Chinese nationals taking their week-long holiday with us. It took over an hour in line to finally climb onto our cable car ride to the dunes. During our wait in line, we were engulfed by tiny little gnats that descended in swarms. We had to cover our mouths so we could breath without sucking in little creatures. Once we got to the dunes, there were no gnats (thank heavens!)

The view from inside one of our “Mad Max” post-apocalyptic vehicles.

 

Each “Mad Max” sand boat (or dune buggy?) carried 30-40 people. They traveled easily in the sand and it felt a bit like floating on water.

Is it just me, or does everyone else feel like their in a Star Wars movie?

Ahead is a large tent where theatrical productions are presented.

Sitting on cushions on the sand floor of the arena, we saw a traditional Mongolian wedding with all the dances. It was very interesting and surreal at the same time.

No sand dune trip would be satisfactory without connecting to a camel. We’ve come to love our camel rides in China and Mongolia. They seem like such docile creatures, although we understand they can get quite belligerent. It was only a five minute camel ride but it was fun.

We took a “Disney” train to get us back to the gate of the gate of the resort.

Cable car rides are enjoyable when you’re with good friends. Here is Leslie Pelton, Laraine, and Barbara Openshaw. We again had to stand in line to catch this cable car back to the bus.

Family Makes a Visit

In October our second daughter, Brandi, and her fiance’ (Rob) were traveling with a tour group through China.Their few days in Beijing wouldn’t have been complete without some time with her mom and dad. Here she is trying something new . . the Chinese version of a candied apple. It is a “Hawthorn apple” candied skewer, a popular treat in Beijing. 

 

Taking a selfie is an art form that we do not have a handle on, as you can see. What good is it to show yourself in China if you really can’t tell where you are?

It is always nice when family comes to China. Brandi and Rob were on a tour but we did snatch them away for  a few hours.

It took a long time to find them, but we finally met up with them in Forbidden City. Maybe next time they’ll learn to hide themselves better. 

Can you picture this couple in ancient times? What role would they have played in the court of the emperor?

Rob and Brandi make a cute couple on the moat outside the Forbidden City. They seemed to enjoy themselves, even if it was with the ‘rents (parents). A strange thing happened later in their trip. Their last venue before leaving Beijing was the Summer Palace, a sprawling estate that takes several hours to walk around. It was a Saturday morning and Brandi’s parents were also scheduled to go with their university to the Summer Palace in the early afternoon. Therefore, it didn’t appear there would be any overlap, so all goodbyes were said on Friday. However, as Brandi and Rob were leaving the Summer Palace, her parents were just arriving, so their was one last hug before they left the city.