Monday, September 10, 2012

Chinese Bride (?!)

After school on Thursday, I had arranged to go to Beihang University, to the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, to meet a couple of students and their professor and learn more about aerospace engineering in China. I was running quite late because I needed to go and get cash (the reason I will discuss later) and also top up my blimmin' SIM card after all the blimmin' faff trying to get my Caxton Card unblocked!

Anyway I then met up with Wang Yiwei, a graduate research student at BUAA (who honestly I had made no assumptions regarding the gender until I met her) and a couple of her friends. They were kind enough to show me around their beautiful campus and discuss student life in China, also inquiring about mine in the UK, all in English but me trying out my very limited but newly-acquired Mandarin where possible! They were very modest about their English skills but actually spoke quite well and had a good accent and grammar. I helped them with some vocabulary too, and them me too!

Bath Uni is very similar to Beihang, in that it developed about 60 years ago as a breakaway technical college from another major University (Bath originally being part of Bristol). It has a nice campus in the city centre, lots of trees and green spaces and sports facilities (though few sports pitches) and was linked strongly with the Beijing Olympics. They have a lovely lake as well, seen here with Wang on my left, where swimming and skating are prohibited! The University is very new, many buildings built since the year 2000, and unlike Bath is continuing to expand at quite a rate - clearly an exciting time.

I then went for about an hour's discussion with their lecturer Professor Zheng at the University. It was really interesting to hear about the history, the geography and the development of the Aerospace industry in China, especially that of commercial engines and aircraft (which of course Zheng was more at liberty to discuss) and if you're intrigued, please do read up on the COMAC C919 commercial aircraft which is very much hoped to supplement the A320 and B737 narrow-body regional airliners. It already has a lot of orders and I wish them all the best with it! Of significance, however, is that the avionics and engines are the only components supplied by other countries, mainly due to the difficulty in replicating reliability and efficiency within China.

I was kindly invited to join Wang and her friends for dinner in the University canteen, and on the way we came across a collection of cruise missiles!!! I asked them whether anyone minded me taking photos, of course...

Wang's friend, to whom I apologise to for forgetting her name, asked me at one point if I liked 'Chinese Bride'. It was a bit awkward to answer, I didn't know what she was getting at, but I explained that it's a sort of joke in the UK that people who can't get a normal wife will buy one from China. And no, it didn't interest me. But then with embarrassment Wang explained that her friend had meant 'Chinese Bread' since we were on the way to the canteen! Never mind, no harm done :-P

Many of the Undergraduates and Graduates live on campus, which I think is a good idea, and means that they have a huge canteen where we ate. Wang refused my offer of paying for their dinner! So I was treated to a couple of tasty dishes, a meatball, dumplings and rice and of course a drinking yoghurt for dessert. It was a great big canteen, the food was pretty good (even if my beef curry was very very bony...)

My plan was initially to take a taxi back to the hotel - however by this point it was now raining heavily and, pleased of the umbrella I had brought along, we waited for some time as full taxi after full taxi drove past - this was rush hour as well! I therefore decided to get a bus and Simba (one of the friends) selflessly offered to accompany me! Not knowing precisely where I was, I suggested that we went to Wudaokou where I knew we could transfer back to a familar bus back to the hotel. The whole ride took about an hour and a half and despite the umbrella, I got quite wet walking and waiting on the crowded street. Despite my insistance that I paid for his cab, Simba elected to walk home! I am so grateful to him for coming, but it later became obvious why he walked - Wudaokou was quite a detour and I had spent all that time just going 3 blocks, it would have been an easy walk...  At least buses are only 1 Quai - 10p!
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  1. Hi CJ. Wonderful wonderful accounts of your next stage of adventures. Loved the story about 'Chinese Bride'- just have to be mindful how you order 'freshly baked/sliced/seedy' etc. in future....AOL Mum xx

  2. Ha! Brilliant! Talking of chinese bread, if you haven't found a pineapple bun for breakfast yet, you have to! They were my favourite breakfast when I was in HK. I've enjoyed looking at your China adventures, there are places you've stood to take photos that I've stood on too and have exactly the same pictures!! x