Day 1 & 2: Beijing Bound

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Blessed to have been invited to participate in the RDFZ Xishan International Summit in Beijing, China. I was fortunate to have met these amazing teachers from RDFZ this past summer at the Punahou Lab School. I attended the iSummit along with Liz and Doug from Punahou.

Liz and I flew out on Tuesday, November 19th on Korean Airlines. It was about 10 hours to Seoul, Korea, then another 1½ hours to Beijing. Somehow, we lost a day in between. Lance was able to take me to the airport. The flight wasn’t full, so we had the row of 4 seats to ourselves. I watched “Linsanity” on my iPad. (I won a gift card from EdCamp and was able to rent a few movies.)

We were picked up from the airport and stayed at the Holiday Inn. It was nice and only about 10 minutes from the school. (This photo was taken the next day, but we arrived at around midnight.)

I was greeted in my room with a plate of fresh fruit from the school.

Didn’t need to use the AC here. I left a window half-open and slept with a sweatshirt on. We experienced good weather throughout the week. It got a little smoggy at times, but it was really nice. It only got cold when there was wind.

There was free wi-fi in the hotel, and I quickly confirmed that Facebook and Twitter were blocked in China. Fortunately, I was able to post pics to Facebook and Twitter via Instagram.

So excited to be here! This is crazy….

Day 3: Great Day

Great Wall. This was absolutely amazing, surreal, and one for the bucket list.

Had a hard time adjusting to the time zone, and I woke up at 3:30am. There was this cool coffee maker in the hotel’s restaurant. I had a bowl of rice congee and three cups of coffee for breakfast. We were picked up by our tour guide Dannis Li.

No one told me that climbing the Great Wall was like hiking Koko Head. What was sad (humiliating) was when these old grandmas started to overtake me. I tried to take deeper breaths and push, but I just couldn’t hang with them. Ahh….

Still, what an amazing experience!

There were these locks, snack bars, and even graffiti along the path of the wall.

What a great morning.

Then we went to visit a Chinese pottery factory.


It’s an incredible process with skilled artists. I now have a deeper appreciation.

We had lunch at this massive restaurant. I was excited to have my first Chinese meal in China! Unbelievably, it was not good at all. Haha. It was a set menu geared toward foreign tourists. Broccoli? (Fortunately the rest of the food we had on the trip was excellent.)

We capped the tour with a visit to the Ming Dynasty Tombs.

Dannis gave us a lot of history and interesting information today. We also toured the museum of royal artifacts.

That evening we looked for the Hua Liang Mall, but got lost. I should mention here that the traffic is wild and the drivers are insane. I believe that their philosophy is “There’s a billion people here. We can do with one less.”

I also found that the puffy jacket is “all the rage” in China. I fit right in.

Reflected on the day of events. What a great, great day….

Day 4: iSummit

The International Summit began at noon on Friday. I tried to sleep in, but I still couldn’t adjust to the time difference. My legs were starting to sore from the Great Wall.

This is where I usually have my morning coffee in the hotel lounge. Because the air is arid, I kept getting static shocks on doorknobs and elevator buttons.

We had time before the bus pickup to stroll the neighborhood. We checked out some of the local markets and bakeries.

We decided to have an early lunch across the street at a strip of restaurants. We chose the one with pictures. Because the photos are not the most accurate (and neither is my eyesight,) we ended up with pigs feet. We had a fun adventure at this restaurant!

Our bus was late, so we were quickly ushered into the “Studio” (auditorium) for the opening of iSummit. It was great seeing our RDFZ friends, Jessie, Raj, & C.Y.!

After a student video and a greeting from Principal Shu, Dirk DeLo presented his opening keynote. We found that the student involvement in this event was not just peripheral, but in fact the primary focus.

This is Azure. She was my awesome student host & translator. She is amazing! Azure is in her freshman year and is relatively new to this school. She hopes to attend Dartmouth in the US to study economics. We hit it off from the very beginning and became buds. She gave me a tour of the school and showed me where my workshop sessions would be held.

Here is a link to my school blog for more information about the iSummit.

Our incredible hosts took all of the foreign educators to Xiaoxiang Fu Restaurant for a 23-course dinner! Here is the amazing core planning team. The hospitality we received over the week was indescribable.

Here is one of the 23 dishes. So cool!

But in my excitement, I dropped my fish into my cup of water. Haha. Great start to the iSummit. Making new friends from around the world and getting inspired.

Unfortunately, I awoke exhausted at 1:30am with a sore throat and no voice. Fortunately after prayer and an Airborne chewable vitamin, I felt a lot better at 5:30am. Big day tomorrow.

Day 5: Show Time

Today was the big day for me. I presented to my cohort on connected learning. I had 14 participants for the first session. Many were Chinese-speaking, so Azure translated for me (except for the part with my Ignite Talk.) For my 2nd session, 4 attendees returned along with 5 new people. There were educators from Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, and Finland. It was great that my friend Sunny from RDFZ stayed with me at all of my sessions! At first the attendees were uncomfortable with having a roundtable format. Soon, things began to loosen up. I think it went well. Oh yah, our bus driver got lost this morning so we were late again.

After the two sessions, we ate lunch in the cafe, then checked out the Charity Fair (raising money for a rural sister school) in the basement gymnasium. The students here are amazing. (They also drink coffee at a very early age.)

I bought benefit tickets for Azure and her friends to see a Wushu demonstration up on the school’s rooftop. The performers were from a nearby international school.

Then we had a formal picture taking session with Principal Shu, and the RDFZ students shared a cultural performance entitled the Chinese Heart. Click on the thumbnails.

Our hosts took us to our 2nd consecutive 23-course dinner. Unbelievable hospitality!

One of my favorite dishes was the scallops with vermicelli.

Yes, China has the best Chinese food!

Every night I wrote down my notes for my blog in this Moleskine so I wouldn’t forget. (Some things cannot be photographed.) Tonight I wrote, “Time is moving too fast. This is going to be over too soon.”

Day 6: Time to Say Goodbye

Finally had a good night of sleep! Slept 7 hrs straight and forgot where I was. Had coffee with Liz and Doug in the lobby. Just completed our final session today. Here is Maggie, one of the student emcees for the closing ceremony.

All of the dignitaries and student leaders were able to express their gratitude and share what they had learned. A student stayed up all night to complete the closing slide show. The song selected was “Time to Say Goodbye.”

Here we are presenting our gifts to Principal Shu and C.Y.

Then it was time to say goodbye to great friends. Here’s the amazing rockstar, Jessie.

This is my friend, King. Said goodbye to my student Azure, then got picked up by Dannis for another tour. Dirk & his wife and the three Finnish educators joined us on the tour.

This is Tiananmen Square. It was extremely cold here (I’m guessing in the 20s.) My ears were frozen. I was actually tempted to buy that panda beanie….

Then we entered the Forbidden City. This complex is said to have 9,999 rooms.

Again, another surreal moment. So blessed to be here.

The area is too large to cover in a few hours, so we were unable to reach the largest palace. We ended our tour at the gardens.

We got dropped off at the Dong Hua Men Night Market. This was another adventure!

I was able to split this scorpion with Doug. It was deep fried and crunchy. It also had some type of teri sauce on it. It was “OK” and definitely had that distinct insect flavor.

One of my dreams was to eat pigeon. Liz took video, so I went for the head. The meat tasted alright (yes, tastes like chicken,) but I was disappointed that the meat was so tough. It was actually difficult and messy to eat. Still, a lotta fun….

Taxi Story:
We tried to hail a cab to go back to our hotel with no luck. Every taxi that passed by had passengers. After about 20 minutes, one pulled over across the street. As the passenger was getting out of the cab, his door struck an oncoming bicyclist and cleaned him out. Katoosh! While they were arguing, we ran across the street and jumped in. We just started laughing! No one got hurt, so it was a blessing in disguise. (BTW, taxi fares are very low in China.)

A little while later, Jessie, Raj, and C.Y. took us out for dinner. It was so nice to have spent this time. Although I saw amazing things on this trip, my highlight was spending time with these wonderful friends.

This is the famous Peking Duck (Peking the ancient name of Beijing.) It was incredibly delicious! Our friends started ordering these amazing dishes and it became another one of those hundred-course dinners. And they wouldn’t let us pay for any of it.

And then it was time again to say goodbye.