On the Way Home from China December 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the Way Home

I am on my way home. This blog got forgotten in between educational, cultural and social activities. But there is lots to tell and in the next week I will post musing on our meetings with colleagues in Hong Kong and Beijing as well as some thoughts.

There are some thoughts fresh in my mind. Everyone should visit mainland China. To be honest, I thought Beijing, despite being an Olympic site, would be a rural city. In fact it is a very cosmopolitan city, complete with a central business district of corporate towers, beautiful architecture, restaurants and shopping, all surrounding the 600 year old Tianaenmen Square and Forbidden Palace. The museum we visited was like none other. It shows the growth of Beijing and plans for the future, but in 3D detail, maps you can walk on, LCD imaging. Everyone museum curator should see it.

China is definitely a country of yin and yang. A balancing act is going on between its communist government and “China in transition.” Capitalism abounds with McDonald’s, every luxury brand available, Starbucks and Christmas decorations everywhere! There is thousands of years of history here. Dynasties, emperors, concubines, Presidents. Temples next to 20th century buildings. Censorship and police oversight along side opening of dialogues and even some questioning by its citizens.

In our meetings we knew there were limited freedoms for our colleagues. Blue Sky Rescue Team (BSRT) does great work and is supported by the government in the form of the China Red Cross. The Red Cross takes government money and passes it to other organizations. BSRT won’t have their website up until the government approves it.

We all know China is HUGE…14 BILLION people live in Beijing metro area alone and the city proper is 120km by 100km. Given the needs, everything is big and has to be…buildings, malls, apartments, streets. Non-profits serve thousands, raise billions (government $ and not). They learn quickly and most of the non-profit staff and volunteers we met had accessed the internet and just did what they read about but on a bigger scale and without waiting for research to see if it would work in China. In 20 years they have eclipsed us in their fund development on many levels.

I found the people warm and open. Willing to try to communicate in broken English and Chinese and hand signals. It is a country I want to return to, to watch it change and grow. See how its transition moves forward, backward or sideways.

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