Written by Clifton Yiu
The hardest part of the day was definitely the early morning wake up. With our flight being at 7:30am, we had to leave the hotel by around 5am. Our complimentary hotel breakfast was served in large takeaway bags, which I have never experienced before. Our flight to Shandong was nothing out of the ordinary and provided us with an opportunity to catch up on some sleep.
The Shandong Elementary School visit was a very pleasant experience. I am sure many of us imagined that we would be in the presence of many elementary school children; our group had prepared a presentation for the assumed attendance of elementary school kids.
However, we were surprised when that it was a set of teachers who had prepared two school lessons for us! The first lesson was a how-to session on creating a Beijing opera mask, complete with samples of masks as well as explanations and meanings of what each colour and pattern represents. Our group was able to create some very artistic and meaningful masks (looking at you, Kimberly) as well as some others who are more… *ahem* harder to look at.
The second lesson was a wonderful music and dance lesson led by a music teacher named FeiFei Laoshi. The dance was reminiscent of other Chinese cultural dances I had seen before, and was fairly easy to follow. Many of us struggled with the dance, but as time passed, the dancing talent within our group started to appear.
The final event (and definitely the highlight) of the day was the Shandong Government Dinner. Getting dressed for this event was exceptionally difficult. Given the condition of our formal clothes, all the men rushed to get an iron to quickly freshen up. With only about 40 minutes of time before our departure to the restaurant, there was little time to do anything incredibly fancy.
At the dinner, I was entrusted with the task to be the main communications liaison between the government official and the rest of my table. At first it seemed like it was a daunting task, however as time passed, it gradually became a much more comfortable practice. Our official turned out to the youngest of the four, and had a sense of humour to boot.
While at the dinner, something my group and I found interesting was the hierarchy within the government officials hosting the dinner for us. Although they were all government officials, there were very clear definitions of superiority and subservience. The gentleman at our table had left the table numerous times to do small tasks for the higher ranked government official at the main table, such as taking care of the gifts that the Mon Sheong Foundation had given to them. We do not see as much of this in Canada, so it was interesting to see the employer-employee relations within China.
To finish the night, we left the restaurant after saying our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel. We had also heard some good news: Alex got wind that he had passed his CFA exam, and we celebrated with him. The sleep I had on this night was the best I had this entire trip.