Lee Hodges, eighth grade world geography teacher at Andrew Lewis High School, was selected to attend the Fulbright-Hayes summer program in China this past summer. He spent this July experiencing China, and he shares this summary of his trip with So Salem:
I was chosen to be one of the participants of the Fulbright-Hayes Summer Program. I was one of sixteen educators from Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas. Our goal was to learn about the culture in China. This would enhance our lessons in the classroom. I am a World Geography teacher so this was a great opportunity for me.
Our trip started on June 28th. We left Roanoke to fly to Dulles. Then we flew from Dulles to Beijing. We flew close to the North Pole using the Greater Circle Route. The flight took 14 hours. That was the longest that I have been on a plane for. We arrived at Beijing and we were told to remain in our seats while the health officials came on board to take our temperature. If any of us had a high temperature the whole plane would have been quarantined. We all made it through. In the airport there was another screening. I set off an alarm so I had to have my temperature taken again and fortunately it was normal.
Our first week was in Beijing. It was amazing to walk around this city. China is very safe. We did not have to worry about going into the bad areas of the city. During our first week we visited the Beijing Normal University. This is a teacher training University. We spent a day at the Peoples Education Press. We were given lectures on the education reform that is going on in China. We toured around Tiananmen Square. This was the site of the 1989 student protests. The famous Tank Guy photo was taken here. The CNN team took the photo from their room in the Beijing Hotel. In Tiananmen Square is Mao’s Mausoleum. People line up everyday except Mondays to see Mao.
On July 4th we went to the Great Wall. It was about an hour bus ride from our hotel. It was amazing to walk on the Great Wall. It gave me goose bumps. It was a hard climb to the top where the fortress was, but it was well worth it as the views were fantastic. I will always remember that day. On July 5th we had another great experience. We visited the Forbidden City. This was the Imperial city and is where the Emperors lived. The construction of the Forbidden City started in 1406 and was huge. It had been repainted for the Olympics. The place was packed with visitors. Emperor Puyi, the last Emperor of China, was the last to live here. During our stay in Beijing we visited the Summer Palace. This was the where the Emperor would go to get away from the city. They built a lake specifically for the Emperor’s pleasure.
Our second week we flew to Chengdu. This is in the Sichuan Province. Last year this is the site of the earthquake which killed over 100,000 people. We visited with the Ministry of Education for the Province. We visited Du Fu’s home in Chengdu. Du Fu was a Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty. He wrote about 300 poems which people still study today. We also visited a 2000 year old dam called the Dujiang dam. It had been damaged during the earthquake. There are two Dragon Temples on this site and one had collapsed. The Government is rebuilding it. In Chengdu they have the Panda research and breeding facility which we visited. I was somewhat disappointed with it. They had these huge enclosures that were outside but all the pandas were in cages inside. We could have had our photo taken with a Panda it would cost 1000 Yuan which is about 150USD. I chose not to. One interesting thing that I learned was that 45% of the births at the center are twins.
Our third week we flew into Xi’an. This is a famous city for two reasons. First it’s the start of the Silk Road and secondly it is the home of the Terra Cotta Warriors. I have been looking forward to visiting this city. We arrived at midnight. It took about 30 minutes to get to the hotel. I was in bed by one am. We had to meet the bus at 8am. We were all very tired. The day was good and we went to a private school. The students came back to school during their vacation time to visit with us. They asked us about Universities in the U.S.
The next day was the exciting day. We were off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. The Terra-Cotta Warriors were created to guard Emperor Qin’s Tomb. They were discovered in 1974 when four farmers were drilling for water. They found pieces of the Terra Cotta. There are over 8000 Warriors in three pits. There could be a lot more. Each Warrior is different and has its own face. 1100 Warriors are on display in museums around the world. They will be in Washington D.C. in October.
On the last day in Xi’an some of us rented bikes and cycled the Xi’an city wall. It is nine miles around the city. It was a fun ride. After the ride four of us wanted to see the monument for the Silk Road. We got a taxi which cost us 50Yuan which is about 7.50USD. It was great standing at the Monument. I teach about the Silk Road. I now have photos of me standing at its beginning.
We decided that instead of flying back to Beijing for our final week that we would ride the night train back. We were hoping for a day time departure. It was a fun experience on the train.
Back in Beijing was good. We went to see a Buddhist Temple called the Lama Temple. Across the street is the Confucius Temple. We visited another school. They had a nice welcome sign for us it read “Welcome American Educators.” They showed us a video on their school’s accomplishments. We were video taped by the teachers. They will show the students the video when school starts.
The last days were free days for us. We shopped and went to places like Mao’s Tomb. We lined up for about 90 minutes to see Mao. As we waited we saw the eclipse. In Beijing it was only 60%. We did not think we would see anything because of the haze from the smog but it appeared right as we entered into the tomb.
I would like to thank Dr. Seibert, Mr. Hicks, and Mrs. Washenberger for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I would like to say thank you to all the staff of ALMS for their encouragement and messages while I was in China.