Today took us to Kaifeng City, one of the eight ancient capitals of China. It was particularly to learn that Kaifeng had been the capital during the Northern Song Dynasty, which we learned yesterday was one of the most prosperous and stable dynasties in Chinese history.
On the way to Kaifeng City, our tour guide, Albert, spoke to us about life in China – both nowadays and in Kaifeng City during the Song Dynasty. Our students were taken aback to hear that Chinese students preparing for the entrance exams to university spend their last year of high school studying from 5am to midnight, with only a few breaks for meals! Albert also taught us how to say certain phrases in Chinese and sang some traditional songs to us!
We started our day at the Millennium City Park, a reconstruction of Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty which was based off of a twelfth century painting by Zhang Zeduan of 'The Qingming Festival by the Riverside' (depicting life at the time). It was great fun to walk around the park, as everywhere people were dressed in the traditional garb of the time. There were also a number of little performances allowing us to get a sense of what life at the time was like.
We then went to lunch at a famous restaurant, where we were treated to an incredible spread! Everyone was enthusiastic about trying new things!
After lunch, we took a tour of the Memorial Temple of Lord Bao. Lord Bao is a Chinese hero from the Song Dynasty, as he was an official who fought courageously and unyieldingly against corrupt officials and protected ordinary people from being exploited. Our guide explained his story and showed us around this special temple. It was a beautiful and peaceful spot!
We then went to the Iron Pagoda, a 13-story pagoda built during the Song Dynasty. Although the pagoda is actually built of brick, it appears to be made of iron from a distance (because of the color of the bricks). Three of our students braved the climb to the top with Emily as the rest of the group spent time at a nearby playground...where they discovered some very friendly pigeons!
After the drive back to Zhengzhou, we had dinner in another fantastic restaurant and returned to the hotel to get ready for another full day tomorrow.
Today was another fabulous day! This morning, we attended the Closing Ceremony of the MMUN China Conference. Inspiring words were spoken, and the committees voted on the resolutions they had written. It was very exciting! We were particularly thrilled as one of our own students was selected to be the person to read the resolution from their committee – in front of more than 500 people!
The pictures today aren’t great, as the lighting was very poor, but it gives an idea of what the event was like!
After a hearty lunch, we headed back to the hotel to change into more comfortable clothing before going to the Henan Province Museum, one of the biggest museum’s of Chinese history. Our tour of the museum started off with a beautiful performance featuring ancient instruments. It was truly spectacular! After that, our guide took us around, explaining the different artifacts from different time periods in China’s 5,000 year history. The visit was truly a special experience!
We ended the day with a delicious dinner at a restaurant (large enough to fit all 300 people traveling with us!). It was our first real Chinese meal, and definitely appreciated!
Tomorrow we will be up bright and early to go to Kaifeng City!
Days 2 & 3:
What an incredible couple of days this has been! It has been truly phenomenal to see the MMUN in action. Emily, Leslie and I spent our time moving from committee to committee, sitting in the back of the different rooms to watch the proceedings. It was amazing to see the students’ hard work pay off – they all found meaningful ways to participate! For some students, this meant collaborating with others during the unmediated caucus (when there is time for small group discussions); for others it involved the delivery of the speeches they all worked on. Regardless of how they chose to participate, each student was able to get a lot from the experience. Each committee started with the roll call, after which the president of the committee reviewed the general procedures with the students. Then, with the occasional prompting from the dais, the students started figuring out how to go about these formal discussions. They started by setting the order of the agenda, setting the speaker’s time and establishing the speaker’s list. It was a pleasure to see that ‘Costa Rica’ and ‘Thailand’ were listed on many speaker’s lists! At this point, the different committees took different paths. Some spent time listening to various speeches while others dove into mediated and unmediated caucuses much more quickly. It was amazing to see the members of the dais coach the students through these different steps, offering them suggestions – without ever taking over. By the end of the two days, resolutions on each topic had been written, to the immense satisfaction of the students. It was a pleasure to hear their reflections: over and over we heard that once people started to work together, it was really very easy; that the whole process was easier then they had expected; that it was fun! Tonight, some of the students were lamenting on the fact that the discussions were already over – they felt that it would be better to increase the length of the conference from 3 days to a full week! And of course, they are already discussing when we will be able to do this again...
Our evenings have also been full of fun! Last night we had the pleasure of attending the Cultural Event, when students from different schools perform and share their own culture. It was amazing to see the diversity of performances and wonderful to see how supportive all the students were of each other. Tonight was the Social Event, which provided time for the students to connect with each other on a purely social level – it was greatly enjoyed by all! Our students particularly enjoyed the moments when music started playing and the whole group started to dance!
Our students have made wonderful friends!
Some of the performances were spectacular!
Tomorrow is the closing ceremony and the beginning of new adventures as we start our tour of the different cultural sites we will see. The time is flying so quickly!
It has been a busy day here in Zhengzhou. We all enjoyed our first night in our hotel. Though the journey to arrive here was long, the hotel is lovely. After sleeping in and enjoying our very comfortable rooms, we were amazed by the brunch buffet. It offered an eclectic meal that we feasted on. The food ranged from more traditional Chinese menu options of noodles, buns, and stir fried dishes...to snails, crayfish, dragon fruit, sushi, and the very appreciated chocolate fountain. After lunch we completed our official registration and received our official delegate packages. The students were very impressed by the delegate cards with their names and country flags printed on them. We took a short stroll outside to a nearby botanical garden and stretched our legs. The garden was very tranquil and beautiful. We ate an early dinner and got dressed in our formal wear for the Opening Ceremony at the conference center. The ceremony was led by the executive director of the MMUN, Judith Cunningham. We heard from local Zhengzhou elected officials, a former NFL football player, and an ambassador from Sri Lanka. It was an exciting day and we look forward to first day of committee debates tomorrow! Here are a few pictures from today's adventures.
Best wishes,Team China
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