October 25, 2016
My children will find this hard to believe.
I am at a loss for words. I am not sure what to write.
Our family adventure has begun again and I am not sure exactly how to reboot my blog. Part of me wants to bring some great insight or revelation.
The other just wants to get back into the rhythm of writing.
A further complication is the fact that I am not sure exactly when this part of our adventure started. Susie and I girls arrived yesterday (Monday) in Japan. That would suggest that today is the right time to start.
But the boys joined me in China last Tuesday where I had already been for 2 days. I was attending the 2nd China Camp Education Conference as a speaker. We also, with the help of the wonderful Kate Hutson (our Director of New Camper Families) also had a reunion for our China campers.
During our previous trips, I have always blogged every day. My diligence was not the result of having tons of insight or wisdom. Instead, I wrote every day because I find that the discipline keeps me honest. If I allow myself to skip a day, I worry that I can rationalize a few additional days. So I try to make writing a habit. If we are traveling, I want to write.
So despite the fact that I have been traveling for over a week, I have decided to wait until now to begin the next stage of writing.
I, however, plan to cheat a little. I will share tidbits from the previous week in an effort to 1) provide you with some decent content and 2) assuage my guilt for waiting so long.
So before I launch into our Japan adventures, I would like to share a few highlights from China and Beijing.
Here is what springs to mind from our trip to Beijing. First, people work long hours and do so without a hint of complaint. To give you an example, I had a day where I attended 3 hours of keynote addresses, presented a 75 minute PowerPoint slideshow on counselor orientation, participated in the closing panel discussion with 3 Chinese school principals and hosted our camp reunion. Pretty full day, right? Nope. They added a meeting at 10PM that would last until 11:30.
By the way, that was on a Saturday night.
But despite these epic work ethics, I also see how camp can help people here. Camp helps children grow in confidence and competence. Campers hone face-to-face skills in a screen-to-screen world. And camp helps children experience failure in a safe place that fosters tenacity and perseverance. These gifts are harder to find in China than in the US.
But I want to share a few amusing moments. The hotel that hosted the Camp Education Conference was built in the 1980s or early 1990’s. I have seen facilities that are stunning in Beijing.
This was not one of them.
Note: our hosts were completely aware of the hotel’s shortcomings. I suspect a scheduling conflict relegated us to a “second choice” hotel with sub-par options.
Allow me to share two examples.
First, a group (not including your humble narrator) wanted to enjoy the widely-advertised karaoke bar in the hotel. They arrived and found a few disappointments. To start, the karaoke bar had no working microphones. While I am a fan of going low-tech, functioning mikes would seem to be on a short list of “must haves” for an activity that involves amplified singing. Second, all songs only had Chinese subtitles. Please do not think I am one of those people that expects everything to be in English wherever I go, but I DO expect English at Karaoke bars.
Why is that?
Over 80% of the karaoke songs are in English. I do not even know what it means to essentially lip-sync a song in English using another language. One would think the option to have the words in the native tongue would exist.
The only redeeming aspect of the karaoke bar was a set of inexplicably available mascot outfits that out team put on to horrify Kate.
So, as you can see, the evening was not a waste.
My second complaint for the conference hotel was the food (an aspect our refined hosts warned us of). Not only were the descriptions less-than-appetizing (including, I kid you not, “Ruined Cabbage”. I can only think that this meant “fermented cabbage”, but the description was rather off-putting).
Perhaps the best example of the food challenge at this hotel was the cheese tray. Before I share this picture, I should stress that our normal hotel provides a cheese tray with Brie, camembert, cheddar and edam. I am not indicting Chinese hotels in general, but I must share the struggles of this particular venue.
Here is the cheese tray.
While I was working, the boys had a stellar experience in Beijing. Having been here 5 years earlier, they had some strong memories about it. But they were also rediscovering an intriguing city.
It is worth noting that they did a fair amount of sightseeing and transportation on their own while I prepared for my talks and met with other camp geeks. As a dad, it is not easy to let go, but I have to remind myself that they are 19 and are truly adults. They are competent travelers. Of course, it helps that Beijing is incredibly safe, but they did get a chance to navigate the subway, feed themselves and enjoy their own personal adventures.
Not a bad start to the trip.
Tomorrow, I will tell you about Japan and great camp friends!