China: By Journalists Eyes XIII. - At school
Our bus finally stops at the end of a long, dirt track, in which about an hour ago has changed as if by magic a modern six-lane highway. My worries we will finish up on the roof, fortunately not materialized, we drove past woods and gouged out before us, football pitch right and green has left. Everything was dominated by ground shabby, battered gray building - school.
Harsh view suddenly changed. In two lines from the school door ran incredibly beautiful little children in costumes that are just filled with colours. I've never seen so many perfectly honest joyful smiles at one point. Schoolchildren and six-decade to perfect the wall of the lined up so that the first girl stood right in front of the bus door.
It started an incredibly emotional welcome. We were getting off the bus and the children one by one hung on neck the white scarves as well as on the farm, a tribute to the clients and friends. The moment we were all decoration, then to properly sort the pupils began to nudge, their natural laughter turned into laughter, the boys in brown or gray hats play started, we pulled over fist cameras and cameras and both boys were ecstatic. Grapes surrounded us, trying to get as close as possible lenses, posed, constantly laughing and obviously experienced a lot of remarkable moments.
Girls were more relaxed and shy, even if they black eyes shone and were laughing faces. I was really heart in her throat - so much beauty and purity touched me deeply. Girls in long skirt decorated with coloured embroidered red caps from which to them on the back and shoulders hung dozens of black long braids. The little “models” had on their hats attached to various extra trimmings - beads, flowers, coloured feathers ... Yellow, blue, red, purple, green - complete range of colours at a gala dress perfectly underscored children's skin colour of milk chocolate.
Order and drill by Chinese
We enjoyed the masquerade on school yard, took pictures, filmed, when suddenly the bell rang. The children, as if someone shot - all fell to the school door, dutifully lined up and we for them suddenly ceased to exist. Discipline, that our Western world has lost perhaps a hundred years ago. Shocked, we stood and waited to see what happens. Negotiations with the teachers and our guides turned out great - we can into classes, of course, in peace and quiet.
With my college - cameraman we are entering to the school building - apart from a few doors to the families there is no decoration, no boxes, images, only the bare walls cracked faded. We divide with college journalists in class rooms. At our class kids have mathematics. I am absolutely appalled - I know how exotic we are for the children are to have a special day today, yet when we cross the threshold of class, not turn our eyes to even one of the students. All eyes gaze intently toward the board, which is described for us the whole coded eyes, in Roman numerals there crouches a single number - the 349. Their teacher tell the sort of propositions and children choir declaim. Then he begins to cause the board - perhaps all hands are up, nobody wants to be left behind. And again - drill, drill - in my view teacher downright yells, small schoolchildren sits as ruler on hard chairs and a tack and correspond with one voice or repeat after their great model.
I observe the class and I feel that I was transferred to the 19th century. Teacher´s desk and benches are made of wood, a closer look reveals that he served several generations, the design is minimalist. Every child has a well-thumbed book bench, where writes by pencil. They are happier ones have a paperback book. But there is nothing more we find.
Finally, it rings and we have a break. Little schoolchildren again turn into a bunch of rogues. The boys convince gestures Slovak cameraman to play football with him. Many of us resist and take children into the arms - for those bystanders is that for some reason, incredibly funny and laughing heartily. I'm trying to find out more about this school from one of the teachers.
We are one of the most backward areas of China, compulsory education came here recently and we have the honour with illiterate children of half of nomads who live in the mountains, feeding on pasturage and only descend to the lowlands in the cold winter months. The government in Beijing is trying to change their lifestyle to many pushes to move to the cities. Officially in improving their economic situation, but the footnote is clear that the central government is trying to gain control of outlying areas.
The local school has 5 classes - education that gives children, roughly corresponds to our first grade. Compared with elementary schools in the more developed provinces, but here is teach the Chinese, math and sports. The more objects there is no time - namely education ends at the moment when winter hits. The school has no heating and no money to upgrade yet. I see. So here we are - Western journalists – we should spread the message to the world to that there is a corner of the world, who would welcome help. In Qinghai exist many schools that can be compared with ours - but the majority is the result of painstaking work various Western foundations and donors. Etch this in mind and I know about "our" school really going to write.
Although local facts come to us sad and unfair, these children live a wonderful and happy life. At least for now. The question is, which way primary education makes it more pleasant in the future. At the end of visit, therefore, schoolchildren still asking questions, what they would like to be an adult - all in just one match: "I want to be a teacher. I want to be a teacher." Amazing. The authority and respect for people who give them education and thus perhaps open the way to a simpler life is absolute.
Text/photo: Andrea Fantová
Ta'er Monastery stands in its place under the mountains near the capital city of Qinghai province since 1560. Main wings shining with colours, teeming with monks, but the buildings with curly roofs that stand up in the hills, doesn’t seem so vividly. In the past, there supposedly lived about 3 thousand monks. Today, there's a fifth of them.
We are still in the far northwest of China, in the region, which is interwoven with Tibetan culture and history. After dense doses our Beijing hosts are served us bait to persuade Europeans ignorant about the interest of the central government in the development of local underdeveloped economy, improving people's living standards while maintaining support all the attributes of the original culture
Classical Chinese carpets have described Marco Polo in his travelogues, but till today in the world are still not too much to seen and know little about them. I look forward to our visit carpet factories in the province of Qinghai, Xining on the outskirts of the city, to widen my horizons. The lives of local workers I try to plug deeply into the subconscious and try to see the beauty around.
Exploring the China is join with infinite variety of impressions, perceptions, experiences and surprises for Europeans often shrouded under a veil of mystery, many time but just ignorance. I did get out of this country dominating feeling - China is incredibly colourful. Colourful from drab uniform gray to a beautiful rainbow combination.
To leave the province of Qinghai and thus few days of life in the past, sometimes the century before, it was the more sensitive nature really hard. Local on many places the virgin nature, proud mountain ranges, deep green valleys, vast dry plains, miniature boxes, herds of yaks and colourful mix of nationalities, often pristine civilizations us captivated, amazed, left imprint on the hearts.
We are in Shanghai, in a metropolis shrouded by hundreds of "firsts" that is, in the largest Chinese city. One "the best" there certainly lacks – the historic one. Shanghai, unlike many other Chinese cities has relatively short history, after the Middle Ages, you won´t find any foot mark.
When I looked at the city in evening from promenade of colonial Bund, Oriental Pearl enchanted me with its graceful shapes, and I watched long how at it clothed in new and new colours in regular intervals. I do not know, which one suits her most...
The second day in Shanghai. I slept great, the apartment from Chinese Ministry in one of the most modern hotels in Pchu - tung district, hardly compares to the most luxury holiday model.
Till the start of the World's Expo remains less than 11 months. Here in Shanghai the word Expo is inflected to suffer. Sky blue mascot of Hainan - pao exhibition more than a year before the outbreak this exhibition´s madhouse smiles from windows, posters, winks from light boards, and I decided to bring one teddy home.
The first ever Chinese word that I learned, and it still did not forget, is the "pi-jo". If you seem familiar, you are right - though vastly different languages, for favourite golden-coloured brew has phonetically very similar name as Czech and many other Slavic languages. Drinking beer is a hobby that is definitely common with the Chinese.
In China, people drink really everything you can think of. Everyday drink is inherent tea, whether green or black, fermented or semi-fermented. Water and hundreds of species of non-alcoholic beverages are part of food as well as beer or very popular traditional rice wine. On the tables of local "higher" classes but there are also wine from grapes, until recently marginalized drink.
To move on the other side of Euroasia is nothing easy for those who don’t know how. Especially when they are going to have a personal contact with a Chinese family, business partners, or politicians and officials. For such a stay it is good to make some little preparations, otherwise you will experience more than one faux pas.
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.
We have all this Christmas martyrdom behind us, more or less. New Year’s eve after-effects are the past now and everyday life came back again. Far in the east of our planet the holiday season is getting to its peak.
We had many formal meetings during our journey in China with government officials or top managements of some companies that tried to make themselves more visible through us, European journalists. In a hurry after these precisely scheduled meetings I always gathered prepared business cards and carefully placed them to my notes.
We all got used to all these superlatives surrounding China. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she achieved some primacy every week.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
Again our bus is going on the new highway, which I'd read that it was probably built for only one reason - to make available the Tibetan Buddhist monastery Ta'er. And really, this time not waiting for us any boneshaker dirt road and conveniently parked outside the gates of a large complex at the foot of greenish mountains.
Qinghai Province fascinates me at every step, or rather at every kilometre. A mixture of Buddhism and Muslim world humbly exist together is incredibly interesting phenomenon, especially for journalists from far, accelerated, often impersonal and intolerant Europe. This time we are heading into the valley that lies in Rebkong area, the centre of Tibetan art in the province.
Profane language and pornography shouldn’t be on the Internet. We would certainly agree with that if only this wasn’t just a cover for endless clutch of the Chinese Internet censorship. Under the cover of a protection of national cultural heritage, and public interest and prosperity the Chinese government tries to hide its rough cleansing.
China's hard work and discipline accompanied us at every step and a visit of Beijing Foreign Studies University just confirmed it. Here we had a chance to appreciate even more characteristic of Chinese - adaptability.
The third day we devoured spell of western China and the knowledge that we have somewhere "behind" Tibet is our "ugly," said attractive. There, under the auspices of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, certainly can´t go, but Tibetan culture we meet at every step.
Finally Beijing. Our journalistic team has battled a series of security checks and we find ourselves in an endless airport lounge. The feeling that the local crowd have to absorb us was not correct. Then we see a smiling Chinese lady and in minutes everyone sit in a luxury air-conditioned bus.
China - land of unlimited possibilities, a country which, unlike the developed world is growing and whose economic growth in today's world seems like a miracle. Country with many cultural and historical monuments, a country, that sends a man into space.
From the bus window, we could see Beijing crisscross, authentic atmosphere of the streets and alleys and hundreds of thousands of people in them, but we sucked up in the role of hikers and then of course after "bedtime" is ended with an official dinner with selected potent and our tired guide disappeared behind hotel room door.
Huge China is a country of contrasts. It consists of several climatic zones, there you can find a noisy city full of glass skyscrapers and smog, but also the traditional mountain village with mud houses and rice plantations.
Being in China and not visit the Great Wall is equal to savagery. The official program that the Chinese government has prepared us is this trip only alternative and we have to earn deserve it. From early morning we sit in the Red Hall headquarters of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and pretend to listen to propaganda papers enthusiastic speakers.
We "elect" could see the Chinese megalopolis through largely a luxury air-conditioned bus with a smiling dude behind the wheel. It is also part of local standard, certainly not just for a small group of natives and of course for wealthy tourists.
After four days in Beijing we packed suitcases and with our guide got on the plane. Before us is a big unknown - we are moving into one of the poorest provinces of China to west to the Tibetan border. It won´t be surprise just for us, but also our girls will visit Beijing - Ai Qing the first time in their life.
The first dining experience in China didn’t impress me too much. Five stars beautiful hotel, a lot of fuss on arrival our journalistic delegation - a bow and waving fans welcomed us beauties in traditional dress, from the table.
Ancient city of Xian, or Si-an is about 3000 years old. It is one of the most important places throughout Chinese history, since it is here that housed 11 Chinese imperial dynasties. At the time when Beijing was a mere village, golden Si - an shone by bright colours of temples, wide boulevards and architectural excesses.
World media today proclaims that the Chinese state television CCTV triumphantly finished its job and officially opened a new headquarters in Beijing. The futuristic-looking building that should symbolizes the emergence of China on the world stage, journalists dubbed it - thanks to the remarkable shape for her grace in the world called the Chinese "Great boxers."
Morning view from hotel window in Xining reveals a breathtaking backdrop. The city is surrounded by high mountains, over which the sun shines and I'm really looking forward for today's trip, which has sometimes copied the former trade artery between Asia and Europe - the Silk Road. The fact that I wet my feet in the Yellow River, it is still like science fiction.
Beijing is for us concentration of paradoxes. Endless skyscrapers, luxury living residences, shops of all tech brands on one side and then thousands of artifacts, ancient Chinese culture. We are interested in both of it, but the traditional one is but much more interesting.
Our bus goes on the perfectly smooth highway, where we ones a time meet some man in a hat, with a scarf over his face and a broom in his hand - he is alone, far from him you can´t see anything of civilization, the high mountains on both sides, and he sweeps the shoulder.
If you would like to have a stop in a locality, where the time is passing in another rate of speed, where everyday hunt for activity and stress do not have any chance, so, you arrived to the right spot. It is Yangshuo, small Chinese town, situated in nature karst along Li and Yulong rivers.
Visit of Beijing food market and edibles of all kinds, shapes, smells, often of unknown origin and a long life even more dangerously we were really stunned for a moment and quietly wandering Chinese traders staring at the blonde, which move at a rate of marathon runners. Phew. We are off and miraculously in front of us pleasantly familiar signs shucks "Starbucks Coffee".
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský