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Friday, May 22, 2009

Arrival in China and Peking Duck

The transition from Wednesday to Thursday was a little blurry for the I-CAL team as we left our hotel for the airport at 1:00 AM on Thursday morning without having a chance to sleep. At the airport, we had to say our last goodbyes to Adel and Chien, our U.S. Grains Council representatives. It was hard to say goodbye because we ha d such a great time with them for the past 2 days! They did such a fabulous job of educating us about the U.S. Grains Council’s role in Vietnam and Vietnamese agriculture in general. We boarded our Air China flight at 3:40 AM and headed for China. This was our opportunity to finally catch some shut-eye.

Upon arriving in Nanning, China, just north of the Vietnamese border, we went through the security customs and health inspection point. While the majority of us moved through immigration with no problems, we realized that Londa had suddenly disappeared. Apparently the infrared system, used to measure body temperature, indicated that she had a higher than normal temperature. After being escorted to an examination room, a man entered, put on a doctor’s coat and latex gloves, and took her temperature. While he was scribbling notes away in Chinese and reading a manual where the only English words on it were “Swine Flu”, Londa felt her body temperature naturally rising due to the fear of possibly being quarantined in China. Turns out, her temperature was 36.6°C and she was thankfully released. Londa said, “I was scared and didn’t want to be quarantined in China. I don’t like it that much!”

Even with the holdup in customs, we were able to catch our connecting flight to Beijing, and safely arrived in the afternoon. After a satisfying Pizza Hut lunch, which lacked the exotic flair of the other cuisine we’ve experienced on our trip thus far, we headed to Tiananmen Square with U.S. Grains Council representative, Rachel. Tiananmen Square is the heart of the old city that includes Tiananmen Tower, the Great Hall of the People, the Monument to People’s Heroes, and Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. You’re probably most familiar with this name because of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, where hundreds of student protestors were killed by the Chinese Army. Today it was pretty low key and scattered with tourists. Being able to see something in person, that has graced the pages of so many textbooks, was very cool.

Tiananmen Square is located directly in front of the Forbidden City, which we had the opportunity to tour as well. The Forbidden City is an Imperial Palace where 24 emperors reigned for over 500 years. The construction of this massive complex, which happens to be the largest in the world, began in 1407 and it includes 9,999 rooms that are surrounded by a 6 meter deep moat and a 10 meter high wall. The whole group felt overwhelmed by the size and detailed intricacy of the many palaces.

After freshening up, we met with the U.S. Grains Council staff from the China office for a Peking Duck dinner. Peking Duck is a local favorite traditional dish that ALL of us really enjoyed. In addition to duck, we ate a variety of “real” Chinese food. The whole meal was delicious and we all left happy and content as well as more aware of what the U.S. Grains Council is currently doing in China. During dinner we had the opportunity to discuss the basics of agriculture, government, and education in China with the staff. It’s safe to say, we all had a great time and are excited to meet with the U.S. Grains Council staff tomorrow morning to learn more about the specific U.S. agricultural products’ roles in China.

Brooke Jameson – North Dakota State University
Kelly Moyer – Colorado State University


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