Tuesday, August 02, 2005

# China Synergy Program

The sixth Chinese Synergy Program for Outstanding Youths, 10 July 05 to 25 July 05, is one of the best experience I have had this year! Consisting of 197 delegates from all over the world, we participated in exploration and exchange activities in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Xian, Beijing and Shanghai.

This is a trip for me to search for my roots, as a Hainanese descendant from China, I had always wanted to know more about the country that my grandfather came from. This trip has proven to be a fantastic chance to know more about China, in terms of its economic, social, political, technological and cultural development.

I have to say I have gained so much from this trip – visiting the historical sites, learning about the cultures and traditions, touring major development project centres, participating in exchange activities with local youths, meeting government officials, etc. More importantly, I have met many outstanding and interesting youths and have forged friendships that I treasure so much. The 16-day tour has given a chance for us to get to know our group members well and foster friendships. This type of friendship is valuable as it is neither for the needs of business advantage nor just for the purpose of networking; it is the true feeling of liking of one another and the brotherly love that pull us together.

Spending time with the fellow delegates really opened my eyes in a lot of matters. I feel so happy that we can discuss many issues openly, each one explaining their own views while listening to the others’ too. We saw clarification in many issues, and hope in solving many other conflicts in future.

Each place and each activity gave opportunities to absorb new knowledge and experience. Tours of historical sites gave me more exposure on the history development of China, and understanding my Chinese roots. Talks, seminars, forums provided chance to speak out our minds, and learn from others in return. Touring cities let us feel the lifestyle of different cities, and just being in the country made us realized as Chinese, we may be in different parts of world and yet, we share so much in common.

What I have learned is not confined to historical and cultural understanding; more importantly is the integration and the understanding of one another. The same root that connects us all in the past, is the factor that affects what we are at present. I found my heritage, my roots, my identity.

Hong Kong
Here we had the Commemorating Ceremony. A visit to the Hong Kong Museum of History was enriching in building our knowledge about Hong Kong. In the museum, I was delighted to see depicts about the Opium War which I had been interested in, and to learned about the local traditions, educational system, the famous housing management in HK, the anti-Japanese era and finally the return of Hong Kong to China.

A trip to the Police Training School was fun-filled as the police officers were very friendly. Observed the information system, training process and various other features in the training school. We even had a chance to see a demonstration of scenario training and watched gun-shooting training. The other groups went for visits to HK Airport authority, Trade Development Council, Tourism Board, Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and Independent Commission Against Corruption. Felt a bit pity we did not get to visit the ICAC because HK anti-corruption unit is famous around the world.

In the Be a Hong Kong citizen program, we went to Mongkok and other shopping streets like the bird market, flower market, goldfish market and Lady’s Market. Enjoyed the ‘kai dan zai’ and hong kong noodles. Went to Victoria Peak too for a panoramic view of Hong Kong in the dusk.

Well, my impression of Hong Kong is, it is a very busy city with high-rise buildings and exciting activities. It is a great place to do shopping but I think I would prefer some quieter place to stay. 

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The most vivid memory I had about Guangzhou would be the tasty food! I would say the best food we have tasted throughout the trip was in Guangzhou. It has certainly lived up to the expectation as a food heaven.

I was impressed by the project of University City which combined several universities at the same place, letting them share the common facilities such as sports ground, research centres, etc. This kind of planning not only saves up cost, but also encourages integration among different universities. From the seminar, we got to know that the planning considered the environmental factor too, but this is yet an issue to be debated as I think that changing certain landscapes to accommodate for university grounds is not really that environmental friendly.

We spent the night having dinner with the Guangzhou government officials and were entertained by performances and games. I was particularly pleased when the performer of ‘changing face’ came right in front of me and miraculously ‘changed’ her face! It was a wonder how she did it so fast as I did not even blink when she came up to me.

The next day we went to visit the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family and later on had a Seminar on the Pearl River Delta Economic Development. I would say that this seminar is not up to my expectation; it was a good account of past development but provides little insights to the recent growth and future opportunities, also the speaker could not come up with satisfying answers to questions on the various problems in the development. Perhaps it is also because of the language barrier that affected the communication between the speaker and the audience.

Our stay in Guangzhou is too short and I do not have a good chance to really explore the city. I missed the chance to meet up with Sophie and Zhihua from British Council Guangzhou too due to limitation of time. I think I would have to come down another time to properly enjoy this city.

Xi An
The Ancient City Wall, the City Tower, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, the hot springs, the 72 royal mausoleums and the Cave Dwelling Community – such were the attractions of Xi An.

We could not help feeling nostalgic when being in the oldest city in China, which has been the capital of many kingdoms in the past. Everyone was awed by the magnificent sight of the Terracotta Tomb, and the great view from the City Wall. The Seminar on Chinese History and Culture was mind-awakening as the archeologist Han Wei explained about tombs excavation and relating it to the history. However, I would say the seminar was a bit unfair to people who have not had too much knowledge in Chinese history because the speaker assumed we all have Chinese history background and spoke in much detail about archeology.

The most vivid memory that was engraved in my brain was the trip to the Lan Tian Cave Dwelling community. We visited the local school and observed the poor conditions of facilities and resources. Yet the children are so eager to learn and their innocent faces just made such a big impact in my heart. We visited the village and I noticed they do not even have clean water supply and basic amenities. While the delegates are gulping water from the mineral water bottle, the villagers are sharing water from the well and washing clothes from a stagnant pool of water. While the delegates put on layers and layers of sunblock and insect repellent, the children ran around bare-footed. Such was the vast difference between our fates. I believe there were many more villages with similar conditions and that certainly needs development to improve the quality of life of the people and to bridge the gap between the rich and poor.

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In terms of weather, Xi An is a dry city; in terms of historical values, Xi An is a city rich with history and significance. I have to say, I actually like this city.

Our stay in Beijing is the longest in the trip. We visited various sites such as the Great Wall, Palace Museum, Yuanming Garden and Yi he Garden. Also, visits to Peking University and Tsinghua University caused much excitement among the delegates. We were given good reception at the military camp as they demonstrated the military practice and showed us around the camp. The visit to the National History Museum, however, was a little disappointing as I did not see many displays available in there. The best I have got out of the museum was the exhibition about the Zhenghe’s Expedition, while the other wax museum and the exhibition of the national treasures are just so-so. I think most have been brought to Taiwan…

The best experience I have got here is to be chosen as one of the three representatives to speak at the Great Hall of People. I remembered the choosing process in the van, the drilling practice in the HQ and the rehearsal in front of all the committee members of CSP. But the most unforgettable memory was the moments of walking up the stage of the Great Hall, standing in front of the podium and speaking to more than 300 audiences in the hall. That feeling was exciting, although my stomach was full of butterflies. I was really grateful for the chance to give a speech here because it really helps a lot in my public speaking, and I secretly realized speaking in public is quite a fun thing to do too! (One tiny setback though: I missed out the interesting Seminar by Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games due to the rehearsal for the speech)

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Shanghai is a vibrant city with presence of cultures from all over the world. As the economic centre of Asia Pacific, it boasts of fast development in the financial, hi-tech, industrial and semiconductors fields. It is the window, the gate, the key and the bridge to the Chinese Economy and it welcomes overseas Chinese like us to invest our future there (I might consider too,  )

We visited the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Yuyuan Garden, Chunghuang Temple and Huangpu River. Also we did not miss out the visit to the Qibao Ancient Town to see the old shops and architecture. We had our farewell party there as the Chinese delegates will part with us in Shanghai. I used to think that I will be cool enough not to shed a tear, but ended up crying like everyone else. I think that our bond has grown stronger than we thought it has. I am touched to know that the tears are tears of true friendship, the tears of love and care for each other – we have somehow etched in our hearts the love for our brothers and sisters in the group.

Back to Hong Kong
I had a funny experience when passing the Airport Immigration. I was quarantined a while due to having high fever (I didn’t even know I had!) and was suspected for SARS. I was advised to seek hospital treatment later and was released, luckily. So I went to the Baptist University Hospital and WOW, the bill amounted to more than HK$600! Omigosh! I ended up having to use my credit card to pay the bill. I certainly hope that I can successfully claim the medical insurance I bought during CSP because this is just too exorbitant! Lesson learned – try not to get sick in foreign country while traveling or you will have to pay your price.

Adios CSP6 fellow friends! We will be in touch!

To friends who are interested in taking part next year, please go to the CSP website.

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