Ingrid and Dieter Schubert, Dutch illustrators
We have made friends
The days are full and long. We are incessantly bombarded with impressions that have to be stored and processed. Many conversations, many exchanges with colleagues. The group is slightly too large for it to be possible to make contact with everyone. As soon there are no more commitments, everyone seizes the chance to go off and explore Beijing.
Who can possibly say a bad word about that?
The day before yesterday, a small group of us visited the Hutongs, which are traditional districts in the old part of the city. Many people have had to make room for the enormous urge to expand that modern Beijing has. There is now a growing realisation that parts of China’s old cultural heritage are disappearing, and some of the Hutongs have now become conservation areas.
The streets are narrow, the houses often have no sanitary installations of their own and there are communal public baths. The newspaper informs us that these precincts are gradually becoming extremely sought after by the yuppies. It is impossible to stop gentrification anywhere in the world - and naturally the question also is if that is desirable. After our city walk, Dieter and I also pay a visit to the Tibetan Lama Temple. Many people - young people in modern dress too - pray and bring incense offerings. I feel extremely moved.
What is striking is that people are so helpful. In the metro, a young woman helps us to find the right connection. On our way to the platform she tells us quite openly about what she does, where she comes from - and she asks us questions. Curiosity, interest: that is what we repeatedly encounter. There is no need to break the ice.
Yesterday morning, we had our reading for 60 schoolchildren. Here too we met with frankness and openness. No well-behavedness or imposed discipline: they listen, are open, try to do their best with their few words of English. Jeroen, our interpreter, is marvellous. With great adroitness and, above all, sensitivity, he is able to translate our story at lightning speed. Signs are universal. That is our strength, and the children and increasing number of adult spectators look on with great pleasure. Afterwards, there are presents, kisses and good wishes. Who can possibly say a bad word about that?
That afternoon with Hans Hagen off to the Great Wall. We walk almost completely on our own along this gigantic construction.
Another highlight is the dinner with our Chinese publisher David Fu from Tomorrow Publishing. After the excellent and copious meal: many speeches, many toasts, open personal conversations and warm, genuine interest.
We have made friends during the short time we have been in Beijing. Friendship is something to be cherished.