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A father and son volunteer vacation in China

This spring, David Cohen took his 11 year old son Andrew to Beijing, China for 10 days. Inspired by Mark Solon, and organized through Globe Aware, David and Andrew worked in a school for the children of migrant workers who have no government services. David’s goal was for his son to experience more of the world and to learn how many others are not as fortunate as they are.  “Mission accomplished,” relates David.

Globe Aware is pleased to share their daily observations, impressions and experiences while on their volunteer vacation in China:

Day 3

I had hard time sleeping last night at the airport hotel. I was awake from 12-2 and lying there think how far away from home I was. Andrew seemed to sleep well. We both woke up at 5am. We both read until 7 then showered and we went down to breakfast which was included with the room. it was actually pretty good. scrambled eggs and french toast etc. even ok bacon, i hope. we were done by 830.

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Mastering chopsticks. Kinda.

back to the room to wait. this was a long stretch as there is nothing to do at that hotel with an 11 year old. 11am finally came when we were supposed to meet our volunteer coordinator, marcus. we went to the lobby to check out.

11am came and went and the thought crossed my mind to go get on a plane. 10 minutes later marcus appeared to pick us up. his ‘friend’ (who was never identified and spoke no english) was driving, probably his car. we loaded our luggage and got in, feeling like this was the real start of entering another world. it was.

no seat belts in the back seat. and hour and fifteen minutes of true gridlock on a late saturday morning. the smog was intense. yesterday when we had arrived i took a photo of andrew with the sun behind him. you could look right at it with no problem, the haze was so thick it looked like a harmless yellow light in the sky. today is the same, but now we are in the smog. marcus has his window partially open. andrew dawns his mask and buries his head under his blanket. “i dont trust this air” he tells me. i begin to wonder if this is bad for our health.

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Andrew at the Chinese “Center of the Universe”

marcus answers a few basic questions in broken english. it takes me a while to realize this is english, and i have to listen very closely. on the drive we review the schedule. there is no work planned saturday (today) or sunday as the school is closed. we learn that today we will go to the temple of heaven although we have no idea what this is. tomorrow we will go to the Great Wall of china, and then have a tour of the school in the early evening. we learn that the school has 600 students from ages 12-14. they are all children of migrant workers. most live at the school all week and are with their parents on weekends. some are just day students. 100 foreign volunteers per year, last week were harvard students who come every year. the school is an old factory that is a labor of love of the founder and principal.

we arrival at our hotel which is our new home for 8 days. basic is a good description. the toilet is in the shower. two beds, a tv with one english news channel. no time to unpack now, we are off to the temple of heaven. the car drops us off in a busy area. first, we stop at a chinese restaurant. dumplings with tomato and egg, chicken, and beef. the chicken platter is slightly disturbing, the head served with everything else. andrew and i eat very little until the rice comes. we are joined by marcus’s fiancee and one of the teachers from the school. luckily they eat most of it. andrew shows off his new chopstick skills which i taught him this morning at breakfast. there are no forks which helps him learn.

after lunch we get on a bus for 30 minutes. it is literally packed, so packed that getting on and off is an art. standing.

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At the Temple of Heaven

we arrive at the temple of heaven and it’s a huge park and we walk for about 5 miles while there. we explore all the buildings and take lots of pics. it’s about 600 years old, which i piont out to andew is much older than america. its from the ming dynasty.

some of the buildings there house displays of artifacts including some that are over 2000 years old.

when we leave, andrew asks if they have pizza there. he is hungry, he didn’t eat much at lunch but i gave him a granola bar during our tour. no pizza anywhere near us (shocker) so we go in a bakery and get a bunch of stuff for our room, including some breads with fruit in them, muffins, etc.

we take the bus back, this time less crowded and we get to sit for half. off the bus, and into the grocery store. we buy bottled water and a few fantas. taxi back to the hotel.

no english spoken at this hotel so marcus comes in to be sure we are ok. the heater is broken so we get a new room. good thing he came in (its quite cold out). he had a shouting match with the hotel people and apparantly he won. everything is a shouting match here. it’s just normal. we unpack and eat.

andrew is super beat. he falls asleep within 20 minutes of eating. i make him put on pjs. he’s out by 730. it’s almost 9 now and i am tired too. hopefully we sleep later than 5.

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Marcus, our host

tomorrow the Great Wall of china.

i think of my family as i fall asleep, missing home already.

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A father and son volunteer vacation in China

This spring, David Cohen took his 11 year old son Andrew to Beijing, China for 10 days. Inspired by Mark Solon, and organized through Globe Aware, David and Andrew worked in a school for the children of migrant workers who have no government services. David’s goal was for his son to experience more of the world and to learn how many others are not as fortunate as they are.  “Mission accomplished,” relates David.

Globe Aware is pleased to share their daily observations, impressions and experiences while on their volunteer vacation in China.

Day 1 and 2

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About to board for the 12 hour flight to Beijing in SFO.

Travel, international date line, etc. Writing from Beijing. This morning, we woke up at 5:45am in boulder. Andrew had been up since 5 with a bloody nose. On the way to the airport Andrew was silent. On arrival I asked if he was excited or scared. He said both. It seems Andrew does not like to fly. Sort of scared of it like when I was younger. On the flight I remember giving him his glasses and him actually wearing them. Looking outside at the view. He is reading his kindle and playing with the Itouch on this flight. We talk a little. On descent his sinuses give him sudden extreme pain which lasts until landing. Hopefully just related to his recent cold. It’s gone as fast as it came.

While in SF to get the connecting flight I learn the details of work issue. It’s ugly but I trust the team and remain off the grid.

From sfo we get our connection direct to Beijing. On the long 13 hour flight we got an upgrade to business class. Upper deck of the plane. Andrew thinks its cool. Tv with on demand movies will help on this flight as will power for the itouch. A strange departure pattern is announced which gives us a fly over of the Golden Gate Bridge at 3000 feet. Wow. Too much food offered, but we did have the ice cream sundaes. We both sleep about 2 hours near the end of the flight. Overall a long but good flight. landing in Beijing we see the dense smog and snow covered mountain peaks.

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Airport lounge in SFO

Exiting the plane walking towards customs Andrew develops a huge limp. He has to stop walking several times. We take our time. Stiffness from the flight or missing an alleve dose on time are the causes I hope. He’s been fighting swelling in his leg lately. 30 minutes through border patrol and we are in china. An enormous airport. Trains, busses, and finally to our hilton airport hotel. Everyone speaks english and everyone provides incredible service. andrew notices both. Andrews leg seems ok now. Hotel is huge and modern. Its now 6pm in beijing and about 4am in boulder. We are tired but now hungry. andrew tells me he has left his itouch on the plane. i remember asking him to check for his things before we left the plane. then he finds it in his bag. We go downstairs to dinner. It’s a buffet. Andrew gets Hawaiian pizza and penne. I get tomato penne. Chinese food will come later. A quick bath and Andrew reads his kindle. He is Asleep by 8pm here and I hope he can sleep most of the night. I cant help but check on the work problem on my phone during the bath. It’s hard to disconnect 100%. But I did no work on all those flights.

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First sight in Beijing. You can stare at the sun due to the dense smog.


I read most of the book “how will you measure your life?” Which I am really enjoying. I am fighting to stay up writing this until 9pm. It’s now 6am in boulder, 24 hours after I left. Andrew just rolled over to ask me what time it is. In the background airplanes are still taking off. I miss the rest of the family. We are far away. We spend night 1 in the Beijing airport hotel, not yet “in it”, but a good transition.

 

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