Tiananmen football and the international language

  1. One of our favorite days on our journey. After class we walked to the infamous Tiananmen Square. As usual, Alexander had the world soccer ball attached to his hip like a barnacle.

Would the military presence stop us? What would the everyday Chinese people do and think? Would they scowl?

It sure didn’t take long to find out. We cautiously began kicking our soccer ball between us off to the side of the massive square. A soldier stood rigidly nearby. As we passed, I glanced at him and could swear I saw a slightly up turned smile. As Allie kicked me the ball, I ran by him and looked eye to eye. He WINKED!!!


Allie and I started looking for ‘playuhs’. From 4 years to 94, people wanted to be included. Not overtly mind you. The Chinese people are reserved and cautious of foreigners. But make eye contact and pass? You find a 20 year old with a little bit of skills. They stay and play then get on their way. An old lady that finds the ball at her feet, kicks the ball back. A baby who laughs and points. A pass, a smile, and always pure joy.

Kick someone a ball, get a pass back, and a huge smile from the unlikliest places. EVERYONE wants to be invited and included, the world over. Why can’t that be a rule. World leaders must bring a soccer ball to all world meetings, and be required to play for a day before they head off to ruin it for the rest of us?

(Below: Chinese girls watching, giggling, taking photos…and eventually playing, then autographing our “world ball”. Priceless.)

Seems wherever we go, that ball brings smiles for miles. Our big test yet were the police and military in Tiananmen Square.

But every so often…the sign says “no”

Beijing Day 2, sample of the perfect day

Nicholas: 8:30-11:30.

Alex 9:15-12:15. Video for all, 10 minutes, on Chinese acrobat dedicated training at 9:15. Open for mom and dad too.

Annika 9:15-11:30.

All three 14:00-16:00.  Video on Great Wall at 14:00-14:45 Open to all.

14:45 Guest dad lecture: Consolidating and organizing notes. Using live first hand research from yesterday’s Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and 798 Art Street walk to frame a talk, a paper or a video story. (Best job gets first dibs on Great Wall or Summer Palace talk Thursday.)

Chinese acrobat show 17:30 -19:00

Cohesion, arrival in China and DUCK!

One realization so far is that when the students are given brief or long form videos to preview the upcoming events, study or activities, their level of attention and engagement is expontially greater.

Before we begin to celebrate our arrival in mainland China, and a very intense stretch ahead, we had the students watch a video primer on ritual of Peking duck, and have video primers selected for each activity such as Forbidden City, Great Wall, Han Dynasty, Silk Road, and many more.

Duck! Stacia and I were amazed at the level of  joy, and familial interaction this celebration took on. Why this dinner? Why now? Is it the sudden group cohesion that stems from the shared sense…that his is real…and the anticipation that this is about to get really real?

What does that mean? Indonesia was familiarization and school, warm-up if you will. Japan was fascinating, clean and charmingly unusual. Breakneck standard setting for our expectations. Hong Kong was, as professor Gugick called it, “Tokyo in shorts and jeans.” But China…China! Has a unique color and power, a BEAST  all it’s own.

Hong Kong Interlude, family issue, travel docs

My dad has fallen ill with a nasty stroke, so off to Florida to support mom I went.

Back a week later to Tokyo where the family was studying in the monsoon week, frankly the first cruddy week since we left California. Next day we all headed to Hong Kong for a study week and daily afternoon long hikes on the mountains and islands around Central Hong Kong and Kowloon.

Each child got to go to dad’s Hong Kong office for one day to do all their school there. I can so clearly remember how much a delight that was to sit in my dad’s chair at WDW or DBL feeling like a Prince. I hope they someday tell the same story to their children. I know that Annika won’t soon forget as she begged to go every day. (She did all her work much faster too!)

We even got to go swim and have an Ion Pacific company outing on Hong Kong harbor in a junk. What a blast.

Finally, thank you to the wonderful Ion team for your kindness and hospitality, especially Denise for making the Visa acquisition process simple.  (Our Cantonese is horrible.)