The Day We Sneaked Out of the Summer Palace

Foreign guests are invited each year to join a fall walk at the beautiful summer palace in Beijing. Everyone was given identifying stickers, a bright yellow backpack, and a jacket to wear, and encouraged to mingle with hundreds of foreigners and Chinese hosts as they make their way around the palace grounds via a marked path.

Our university invited us again this year (our third year) to join the group. We had another commitment in the afternoon, but thought we would attend just the opening ceremony of the walk before quietly and unobtrusively leaving.

To our surprise, however, before the walk started we were honored on stage with big colorful “longevity” banners as the announcer said, “Charles and Laraine Chamberlain, American experts, are recognized for being the most outstanding walkers.” Apparently, we were the only ones who’d attended the event for three years straight.

After this honor, we felt so guilty about walking away, we stayed for at least some of the walk, then skulked away from the marked path and plethora of organizers by ripping off our stickers and hiding our bright banners as much as we could. Our hearts were beating fast as we sneaked away. “Outstanding walkers” indeed!

China does an outstanding job of opening up opportunities for dialogue with foreigners. It is obvious that a great deal of focus, energy, and money is spent on presenting a friendly face to the world. For instance, when an important global trade or government meeting is to be held in China, it is very common for the meeting to be held in one of China’s “tier two” cities. This gives the country an “excuse” and a deadline to renovate and upgrade that city. Travel anywhere in China and you’ll see massive road and landscaping projects in addition to the building boom. It reminds us of families who hold a daughter’s wedding reception in their backyard. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see the family remodel the living room, family room, and back patio in preparation. Now if we could just get more attention to those bathrooms!

Dear Friends from Hong Kong

For a very short time, our friends Diana and Albert from Tai O Village in Hong Kong came to visit us in Beijing. When you bond with people born on the other side of the world, whose culture of origin is quite different from your own, you recognize the fact that we are all truly brothers and sisters.

Diana and Albert join us at Beijing’s ancient “summer palace”

Sneaking Around the Summer Palace on a Bum Knee

China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) participated in an annual activity with other schools at the Summer Palace in Beijing. The purpose was to walk around the large lake which constitutes the majority of the center part of the property. Instead of doing the 8 kilometer walk this year, we decided to sneak off the path and see other sights there. We realized that by staying with the group, walking the perimeter of the massive estate like we did last year, we missed out on many of the wonders of this beautiful area. Because there were checkpoints located at various spots around the property, and we were wearing the blue sweaters provided by the organizers, we had to sneak around so they wouldn’t keep telling us we were lost. So we did NOT get a certificate or a prize for completing the walk. Instead, we got a greater appreciation for the palatial beauty of the area.  It was awesome. 

Danger! Deep Water! No Romping!

With his knee bothering him from so much hiking, Chuck sat at the bottom and waited for Laraine to come back from a hike up the stairs to the top of the palace. Going up would have been no problem for him; it’s the coming down part that’s bad.

Laraine’s climb was to the top of that building in the background.

The view was rewarding from the top. Here’s the sunset over the Summer Palace grounds in Beijing.

Lots of stairs to hike. Chuck and his bad knee did okay. He only chose to sit out on just one of the climbs.