Friday, June 30, 2006

It is 6 am on Saturday morning here in Beijing. I have now figured out that our hotel overlooks the Beijing Zoo.
This City is so huge and modernized - everywhere are very tall mixed use buildings with housing above and commercial space below, not just in the downtown center, but everywhere we have gone.
Displacement of older housing and neighborhoods is going on very quickly as the Nation prepares for the 2008 Olympics. The National pride of a strong and prosperous China is everywhere [including in my heart as well].
But the stark contrasts of the relatively younger yuppie middle class here with the extreme poverty of many, especially in the rural areas makes me uncomfortable. As one of my colleagues said yesterday, this is no longer a 'classless society' unfortunately.
I broke away from our tour group briefly to visit a 'Wal Mart'-like big box store across the street from the Hotel. I believe Wal-Mart has a number of stores in Beijing and there is a local big box chain called Wu Mart as well. Our visit has been limited to school visists and lectures and discussions on Chinese Culture and History.
On Friday morning we heard an eloquent speech from the Vice Chair of the National People's Congress, Dr. Xu Jialu, a professor at Beijing Normal University. The students who we met with there remind me of my students at San Francisco State University. Both institutions share the responsibility of educating the next generation of teachers and educational leaders for our futures.
In the afternoon we were fortunate to visit the Great Hall of the People. I met the Minister of Education Dr. Zhou [the rod paige/margaret spellings of China, I guess] and accepted a donation of books from the PRC's education division to our school district. I am one of 16 group leaders here among our 400 or so delegation from the US. Our group is visiting Jinan in Shandong Province on Sunday and Monday. The head of their education commission has been tagging along here in Beijing. We will get to see the schools in Jinan tomorrow.
The great hall and tiananmen square and everything around them are just completely awesome. I can't even think of the words to describe how i feel about being there. We had a rare opportunity to go room by room in the Great Hall building. If only the walls could talk...
The cultural revolution-era murals of Mao with the national minorities of China and other historical murals were the high point. The low point was my fatigue from the trip.
I need to save up energy for the walk up the Great Wall this morning.
Mao said you are not a 'true man' unless you've walked the Great Wall. We'll see how I do...
Lastly, one of the best parts of the trip has been learning from and bonding with my fellow educators from around the US. I was surprised to see my good friend Debbie Wei from Philly on the trip. She's a curriculum specialist in their school district and a longtime activist and a founder of Asian Americans United there.
I hope to break away from the group to see the Lu Xun museum, in addition to our planned visits to Tiananmen and the Great Wall.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Flying from SF to Beijing we saw the incredible coastline of Alaska and the barren landscape of Siberia before coming upon the smog-covered metropolis of Beijing. The skyline of Beijing is breathtaking - but the archietecture is an unusual mix of old/new, eastern and western.
Though I have never been here before, I feel a weird kinship with the people here and with China.
I awoke to a big fireball of a sun peering through the smog in my room at the Nikko New Century Hotel in the Haidan District.
I am now rested at 6:30am here and ready for our full day of meetings, banquets, etc.
Our group of 400 educators from the US are sponsored by HANBAN, China's Office of Language Development. The trip is called the Chinese Bridge for American Schools.
We are going to Beijing Normal University for a campus tour and workshops on Chinese language, history and culture.
Later in the Great Hall of the People we will hear from the Chinese Minster of Education, head of the US College Board and others. Afterwards we head off the modern Landmark Towers Hotel and then to a cultural celebration at the 21st Century Auditorium.
It is amazing how fast China has modernized in 50 years, but especially in the past 5-10 years, but the inequalies and contradictions all around me are making my head spin.
Off to see Beijing!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

After teaching my Ethnic Studies 220 course, Asians in America at San Francisco State late this afternoon I rushed to my SF Board of Education meeting, the last one of the academic year, where we approved the budget, unfortunately laid off a number of employees and adopted a stronger small schools policy for our district.
I take off for Beijing along with our Superintendent Gwen Chan, and a handful of adminstrators, principals and other school board members in a few hours.
The lonely planet guidebooks and various podcasts have been very useful. But I have also relied on perspectives on US China relations from folks like my colleagues from Asian American Studies at SF State Marlon Hom and Lorraine Dong, global thinkers like Walden Bello, the late William Hinton, Dave Ewing of the US China People's Friendship Association, Chinese Progressive Association activists, Small Schools Project folks like Sue and Mike Klonsky, newly retired Prof. Ling-Chi Wang, Monica Ly who went through the Roots Program set up by Chinese American history scholar Him Mark Lai, head of Elementary Education at SF State Laureen Chew and, of course, my family.
I hope to learn much more from the people in Beijing, Jinan and Shanghai.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Photo: I-Hotel 2006. Community activists, tenants and social justice organizations have ensured that San Francisco's International Hotel has risen again.

In preparation for my trip to China I took a few photos of our Asian American communities here in the SF/Oakland/San Jose Bay Area.

The other photos are of SF's and Oakland's Chinatowns, San Antonio and Fruitvale Districts.

With current gentrification and displacement struggles ongoing in SF's JapanTown, SOMA, Mission and Chinatown, I will get to see the parallel issues in cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

I found the Discovery/Times Canadian Broadcasting TV Documentary Series China Rises and the McNeil Lehrer reports fascinating.

By seeing some urban areas up close, I hope to better understand the contradictions and rapid changes going on in the political, cultural and economic lives of the Chinese people. I am curious too how I will perceived by my 'brothers and sisters' in China.

In 2 days I take off from San Francisco to Beijing for a short delegation of teachers, principals and superintendents from around the US.
I intend to blog about my experiences as a 'jook-sing' Chinese American guy visiting the motherland for the first time.
To get prepared I watched Hao Wu's documentary Beijing or Bust this evening, a film about Chinese Americans who left the US to work and live in China. Filmmaker and Blogger Hao was arrested on February 22nd by Beijing authorities. And though he wasn't charged with any crime, the police did not allow access to a lawyer and refused to give any information about Hao's whereabouts to his family. Over 100 days later family, friends, filmmakers, bloggers and many are working hard to Free Hao Wu.
Outside of my look at the Chinese school system and how global capitalism is impacting the cities and rural areas and intensifying inequalities, I hope to get some R&R in as well.
I have also been listening to the music from the Beijing Rock Scene -
Kaiser Kuo, one of the featured Chinese Americans in the film, writes about the growing music scene in Beijing at That's Beijing. Kuo is now a rock columnist, and for a period played with Tang Dyansty, the stadium rock group out of Beijing.
I have been listening to 45 year old singer Cui Jian, considered by some to be the Bob Dylan of Chinese Rock. His 80's anthem "Nothing to My Name" has been an inspiration from Tiananmen to San Francisco.

I am giving you my aspirations
And my freedom too.
But you always laugh at me
Because I have nothing

Interestingly, Jian was a classically trained trumpet player [so was I] who gravitated towards the Chinese cultural underground music scene and Western Rock for his influences.
I hope to check out the new music scene while in Beijing, Jinan and Shanghai.
One other goal is to check out the Chinese Basketball leagues - from Yao Ming's Shanghai Sharks to the Beijing Ducks!
I have filled my iPod with tunes and am ready to rip....