Wednesday, 28 May was the first official full day of the forum. It was also the day I learned what it feels like to be a pig on a spit because the Beijing sun was out in full force, beaming down a casual 37 degrees Celsius onto my alabaster white skin. (This also happened to be the day I attempted to buy sunscreen from a Chinese pharmacy for the first time. FYI making a shape of the sun using jazz hands and then rubbing your forearm does not adequately relay the message of ‘sunscreen’ to Chinese speaking shop assistants. They will just give you nik nak eyes and back away slowly.)
The whole forum (diplomacy, business, engineering and medicine) started the day off with an introductory lecture given by Dominic Johnson-hill; the owner of multi million dollar Beijing based t-shirt business ‘Plastered 8’ who was recently voted one of Beijing’s 20 most interesting people. Instead of the usual banal introductions people usually expect from these sort of things, Dominic was refreshingly funny in retelling the stories of his first encounters with the city and how he learned about and grew into the culture. He also taught us how to say “f*** your mother” (a widely used Chinese insult) in local slang, which was pretty badass.
After the lecture, the group split and we had our first proper meetings in our individual faculties.
All dressed up in our “business casual” attire, the Diplomacy 2 group split intro smaller groups with which we will work on collaborative projects to be presented on the last day of the forum. Ding Ding Hau (top top good or ‘best team’ in Chinese) spent some time getting to know each other, answering random questions like what your favorite food is and if you have a car etc…
The meeting wrapped up, we changed into our casual gear and bussed across the Beijing ring roads to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city.
The square was pretty cool. Much bigger than I thought it would be but there was nothing much exciting I do other than soak up the atmosphere and take horrific professional group photos; which I spent good money on buying unaware of the fact that I looked like an absolute swamp donkey in it.
Forbidden city (which is not very forbidden anymore as purchasing a ticket pretty much gives you free reign of the place) was amazing. The architecture and attention to detail in design was incredible. The size of the place was mind blowing- albeit slightly intimidating as we had to walk across the whole city.
It felt as if I was in the final scenes of Mulan when the group walked in. I was all “heeey this is where Mulan and Mushu and the team came in and saved china!” Like an absolute dork. Luckily, people where still friends with me afterwards.
The emperors must have been super skinny because the forbidden city is big. And when I say big, I mean big. We walked through the whole thing from the entrance to the imperial gardens and I haven’t sweated that profusely since I attempted to play sport in high school. Whomp whomp.
Crusty with dirt and covered in sweat, the group clambered back into the bus and made our way to Wangfujing Street where we were treated to a Peking duck dinner (apparently it’s a must have when in Beijing. I’m still not a fan of duck but the rest of it was hella tasty).
Day one was full on. Lots of learning, diplomatting, sweating and duck eating. Overall, my first day in china didn’t disappoint. The only thing missing was the infamous smog as the suns rays were shining down through a mostly clear blue sky.