• Posted on: July 8, 2014

[Think China 2014] Day 1 | Taking Our Seats at the Table

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July 7, 2014 Beijing,

[View Day 1 Photo Gallery]

The hot and humid room carried the formality of a United Nations meeting. 14 young leaders from the Northern California Delegation of the China-United States Exchange Foundation () arrived at their primary classroom – a boardroom that has served the brightest students, educators and foreign dignitaries. The task ahead of them is to learn about Chinese social, political culture while considering their own identity within a global context.

Gathering energy was slightly elusive as the delegation began lectures a mere 8 hours after arriving in Beijing and 15 hours off their normal sleep patterns. Yet, the students of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) and Oakland Unified School District’s Office of African American Male Achievement (AAMA) committed to bringing their best character and active curiosity. The students are accompanied by a host delegation of four students of from the host college, Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU). Classes are being held at the China-United States Exchange Foundation’s facility on that campus.

Monday’s agenda included a lecture on China’s 4000-year history and a 20th century reflection of Sino-United States relations. In the afternoon, the young leaders participated in a rigorous art lab on Chinese calligraphy and flower drawing. Each student received a calligraphy brush set and parchment as part of the class. The day ended with a formal welcome ceremony at the 600 year-old Peking Duck Restaurant and the group arrived back to its hotel at 9:30 pm to reflect and prepare for Tuesday’s itinerary.

Here a couple of the young men’s entries…

Rodney: The first day on the journey to China was pretty interesting. We all, well most of us arrived at the EOYDC with our parents on time. Right when I arrived at EOYDC, I had to interview with channel 5 news as it pertains to the trip. After the interview we took more pictures with Congresswoman Barbara Lee who was also there to send us off. When we were about to leave, the EOYDC van started and all the parents had said goodbye. Then my mom was peeking in the back door still trying to say her last goodbyes. The ride to SFO was filled with excitement and we were too juiced to be leaving the country.

 

Joshua: On the way to San Francisco I looked at my city Oakland and said my goodbyes. As Oaktown fell into the distance I saw some parts of San Francisco that I have never seen before. I had no idea that behind all the skyscrapers of SF there was a regular city.

 

Rodney: We arrived at the airport and were dreading the airplane ride ahead of us, but at the same time we were super excited. There was another reporter who met us at the airport so a few different people had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the trip. We went through security without a hitch and ate food in the gate area. When it came time to board, I couldn’t locate my boarding pass. I was so nervous. Ms. Regina gave me the look of death and I found it about five seconds later. Upon entering the plane I was asleep instantly. I slept for about 9 ½ of the 11 hour flight.

When we arrived in Beijing, the atmosphere was completely different. It was humid, foggy and maybe a bit of particulate matter in the air. We took a bus ride to our hotel which was extremely nice. The staff from the China-United States Exchange Foundation were very hospitable. The most memorable part of the day was when were at the second airport arriving in Beijing. I got on the elevator and the tour guide told us Level 1, but it was -1. So Lorenzo and I were lost in the airport trying to speak English to the Chinese workers. That experience, although we did get back to our group, was pretty challenging, nerve wrecking and memorable!

Joshua: We got to the airport and went through security. I started watching 3 movies, anything to get through the flight. As it finally ends, I get off and smell something. I asked “what is that?” someone says “it’s the humidity in the air”.

Jackson: Today I woke up this morning very excited  I headed down to EOYDC with Ms. Regina. There I connected with the whole 2014 group. Also a surprise guest was there, Mark Kelly with Channel 5.  I said my goodbyes and we were off to the SFO airport. Franklin’s wife made fried chicken for our journey. We arrived at the airport and headed on to the airplane to attach our 11 hour flight. I sat next to one of chaperones, Pendarvis (Pen). I learned a lot about him and he learned a lot about me. I spent hours watching comedy and action movies. Then my worst nightmare came, I started feeling nauseous. I told Pen and Ms. Regina they handled it quickly by asking the flight attendant for a sprite. After the scare I fell asleep. Pen later woke me and said that we would be de planning for our connection to Beijing. I couldn’t believe it. We got off in Korea and an airport staffer gave us stickers and moved us quickly toward a shuttle to the gate for the flight since the connection was very short. As we moved through security again, my second nightmare came and I couldn’t find my boarding pass or my passport.  I pulled out clothes, food, everything was on the ground as I nervously looked for my documents. Ms. Regina came and recovered it from my backpack. We were then good to go! On the plane I spoke to Pen and learned that it was his birthday. Our flight finally landed and we were kindly greeted by the China-United States Exchange Foundation. We took a long cab ride to arrive at our gorgeous hotel. We ate Oreos and tomatoes. It really has not hit me that I am in China, probably because I am so tired. Hopefully tomorrow will be full of adventures and treasures!

 

Joshua: I woke up today thinking that the trip to China would be easy. I was wrong. The plane ride was 11 hours. I got to watch movies. The food on the plane was very good. They had pasta, beef and chicken. I had the beef which was excellent. When we got to the Korea everybody was very tired. The flight from Seoul was very relaxing. I finally got to catch up on some reading. When we arrived I was surprised about the smog. I knew China would be covered in smog, but not this thick. I really have to get used to the air quality because it hit me hard. Monday is going to be very fun, I can’t wait!

 

Lionel: Wow that was quite a trip. We are finally in Beijing, After a total of 18 hours of traveling check-ins waiting and anticipation, we were finally at our hotel, Aloft. My trip, day started out disastrous. I was late to meet with our crew and missed an opportunity to share my excitement for this trip. Upon the loading the van, I gave Congresswoman Lee a hug and thanked her for the opportunity. Once we arrived at SFO we had little time to gather our thoughts and emotions regarding our trip. At this point is where the reality really hit me and I began to fill up with even more excitement. Although I knew our trip would be long  I was even ecstatic about that.

I spent the first few hours watching movies, sleeping in between and then the last few catching up on reading. I stood up and walked around several times to stretch. Glad I did. After landing in Seoul, we had to rush to catch our connecting flight. Long story short, we made it. I found out that I am rooming with Vanclee, aka Van. He seems like a quiet guy but I will definitely attempt to break him out of his shell. Funny thing is, I was once him – meaning that I was very shy and to myself. To sum my emotions and feelings in one word, I am ecstatic. I can’t wait to see what each day brings.

 

Destin: Today I traveled from Oakland to China. I would describe it as fun and painful, because I got a knot in my back. I learned a lot, even simple things like don’t record a Korean Airlines Officer on snapchat while boarding. I was actually pretty scared when he called me over to him. They went through my phone and everything. I also learned to not ask a customs officer to throw things in their trash cans. The plane ride was bomb, they had everything from games from all the food. The seats were incredible, you could move them all the way back. As we got off the plane in Beijing it instantly got really sticky and hot. Everything felt wet but over these two weeks I have a lot to learn and I will adjust to the environment.

 

Clayton: I felt like Alice in the Rabbit Hole, like the plane ride would never end. I took lots of mental pictures. Back at EOYDC I was really nervous. I’ve been on planes before but the magnitude of this trip still has me star struck. Everything felt normal until I got on the plane and realized, there is no turning back now. So many different thoughts were going through my head, nervousness, excitement, thrill, fear. We are here on a mission to represent Oakland, EOYDC, ourselves as individuals, and the United States. This would be both educational and once in a lifetime. Even if one of us returned later in life, I can guarantee that it would not be anything like this. If I keep my mind and eyes open to everything China has to offer, I know that I will return a changed, young man.

 

James: Found it interesting that there was a Starbucks here. Thought they were only in America. I also thought that it would be more clear. I couldn’t see the moon or the stars.

 

 

 

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