Beijing - Wet and Wild and a Woman of the World
Everyone enjoyed a more relaxed start to the day, with many children relaying the highlights of the trip so far with Mums and Dads on the phone this morning. But we were still on the bus and away by just after 8am, heading to the northern side of Beijing, and the Olympic Park.
We hopped off the bus to find another school group waiting patiently for rest of their class to join them (38 in all) and for their teacher to take them into the athletics area for some calisthenics. For 8 year olds, their ability to stand still and in two (very) straight lines put our bunch to shame; and the little Class Captain at the front was a stern sergeant major, calling any fidgetters into line quickly. We managed to coax a few smiles as we lined up beside them and shared our two Chinese songs. They reciprocated with a lovely little song, before marching off to their lesson.
With another well-timed drive, we were first in line at The Water Cube and had the slides and pools to ourselves for some time – what a treat! The children spread out to try their own level of challenge, and then came together when the ‘warning message’ was broadcast. They enjoyed the benefits of a typhoon-produced tsunami in the wave pool, before cranking the thrills up a notch with higher and faster rides. Four brave souls conquered the vertical free-fall slide (3 young and 1 old). Although some were unable to have a go as they did not meet the 40kg weight requirement, I managed to just sneak in :) Good fun was had by all and it will sure to be one of the many memories that stay with the children for some time to come.
From there, we headed back out into the bright sunshine and closer to the city centre. Wangfujing Street is a brilliant demonstration of all that Beijing has to offer. The pop-up international brands market showcasing the newest Tesla and BMW, in front of Zara, Mont Blanc and Louis Vuitton; then one of the oldest department stores in Beijing alongside spectacular modern glass high-rise buildings; Macdonalds beside the traditional favourites of candied fruit (tanghulu), spun toffee, and an amazing variety of kebabs (squid, beef, scorpions, starfish and grasshoppers, to name just a few). This city is definitely a marvellous mix of the past and the future.
Our afternoon was spent enjoying the hospitality of the New Zealand Embassy. Gracie Kim (class of 2002) has been posted to Beijing for 3 years and told the children about the role of the Embassy in China. She shared her motivation to join the diplomatic corps, including personal reminiscences of her early childhood as a young Korean in New Zealand. When asked what advice she would offer to our Year 6s, Gracie encouraged them to think of Kristin as a fabulous buffet and to try everything on offer. “Just do it!” she said. She explained that once they leave school it is much harder to give different things a go as you are expected to choose a direction and stick with it. She felt her time at Kristin was invaluable in helping her discover her passions for languages, singing and history, and it gave her the confidence to step into her career while still pursuing a number of innovative entrepreneurial business interests.
First and foremost, Gracie relished her self-described role as a Promotions Manager for New Zealand. Let me tell you, this country is lucky to have her. The children were genuinely in awe of her poise and enthusiasm, and we hope to welcome her back to Kristin for a visit sometime soon.