MY TREK TO CHINA
I had the privilege and enjoyment of a trip to China this summer. The main reason for my trip was to accompany my husband, Tony Whitworth Ph.D, who on behalf of the University of Saskatchewan serves on the International Advisory Board that organized a five-day Conference for the International Meeting of University Administrators at Peking University in Beijing. However, I took this amazing opportunity to meet up with CGA colleagues from CGA China in Beijing and Shanghai.
I had been in contact via email with Phil Zhang, CGA, Senior Manager at CGA China, before making the trip and was thrilled to receive a phone call the day after our arrival from Phil who then came to our hotel and escorted us on a personal tour around the busy city of Beijing. We visited local communities that gave us a great sense of the culture as we watched citizens interacting and playing games in the park. Phil took us to his local traditional noodles Restaurant where the staff welcomed us although they only spoke Chinese and we English, we appreciated their greetings! Phil bought us the best peaches from a market and the took us to the CGA China, Beijing office where we met Bill Inkster, CGA a Canadian who now lives in Beijing and who teaches financial accounting and management information systems in the CGA program. With a taxi driver, Phil, Tony, Bill and I drove through the spacious but treacherous streets of Beijing. We arrived at an attractively-decorated restaurant and in a private dining-room, we met seven other CGAs for an evening of learning and development.
We enjoyed an evening of fine dining with Peking Duck being the delicious main course – I learned how to use my chop sticks to stuff a bread pouch with duck meat, veggies and sauce to make a delectable treat. The group asked me many questions as they have just established a CGA Chapter in Beijing and wanted to learn how best to get organized.
These CGAs received their designations in a country other than Canada. So can you imagine them studying Taxation, Auditing, Accounting, etc. using our currency, our tax laws and our auditing requirements? It was not easy but they chose to do so. They are proud CGAs as we are. Most of them are employed by international companies that recognize our prestigious designation.
As my husband and I embarked upon our Conference, we were privileged to attend such venues as the Opening Ceremony in The Great Hall of the People, a palatial building where apparently Admissions Ceremonies have taken place for new CGAs; the Chao Yang Theatre where we watched a famous Chinese Acrobatic program, The Peking Opera at the Qian Men Hotel, and we had a cultural experience at the Red Sun Restaurant that was beautifully decorated with Chinese lanterns and the tables were adorned with live song-birds in gilded cages. We met officials from the Beijing Municipal Government and were graced by the Princess of Thailand, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and the past President of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos.
The delegates from the conference were given one day in mid-week for sight-seeing so in the morning on August 25th, my birthday, we toured The Forbidden City, a must to visit. It is now called the Palace Museum and was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing (pronounced Ching) dynasties. Twenty-four emperors ruled the country for over 500 years from this “City” that consists of large halls, pavilions, squares and the Imperial Gardens where we saw exotic flowers and rare stones. In the afternoon, we drove 75 kms. north-west of Beijing to the Great Wall of China at Badaling which is 800 meters above sea level. Originally, walls were built at strategic points by different kingdoms to protect their territories but when the first Emperor of the Qin (pronounced Chin) unified China, he linked the walls together. Historical records show the wall stretches for over ten thousand miles. To climb the Great Wall on one’s birthday must go down in history as it did for me. It was not an easy fete but I climbed over 2000 uneven steps up and down this historic Wall and I will remember the beautiful scenery for a very long time.
After the Conference, Tony and I joined a tour group and travelled to Xi’an (pronounced Che-An), Suzhou and Shanghai. At Xi’an we visited the site where Terra Cotta soldiers, chariots and horses were unearthed in 1974 and learned how Emperor Qin Shinhuaug had these ceramic life-size warriors made to protect him in his after-life. It took over seven hundred thousand people over 38 years to make these warriors more than 2200 years ago and each one has a distinctly different face. Thousands have been found to date and archeologists are expecting to uncover thousands more in the surrounding fields. This site is deemed the eighth wonder of the world and is protected under UNESCO.
Our next stop was in Suzhou, the silk capital of the world. I finally got to shop after all our touring and made the most of my time buying many beautiful silk, jade and lacquered items as well as wall-hangings. We learned about the silk worms and how silk is woven and stretched. We visited the very embroidery institute that created a silk tapestry for a wedding gift to H.R.H. Princess Diana.
We learned lots about how Chinese are trying hard to learn English but it was quite funny to read translations on shops or bill-boards in Suzhou such as the Unite Hair and Improve Shin Salon and Come to Body and Food Massage advertisements. We saw in one store Ladies have Fits Upstairs presumably indicating the fitting room was upstairs!!
On to Shanghai where I am looking forward to meeting more CGA members after our post-conference tour. We cruised the HuangPu river just as the sun was going down. Once the lights came on, Shanghai became totally changed. On one side of the river is the new (or future) Pudong area known as the financial and trade zone with huge high-rise buildings all lit up. On the other side is the old (or past) area with low-rise buildings but similarly all lit up. We saw neon lights, floodlights, laser and other colourful lights – everywhere was full of glitter. It was stunning.
The next day we visited the beautifully tranquil YuYuan Garden with a history of more than 400 years and much balance and harmony with stone, water, plants and trees. Later that day we toured the Shanghai Museum with its famous Ancient Chinese Jade Gallery, Ceramics Gallery and Calligraphy Gallery.
That evening was our last with our tour group as we attended a dinner-show in a beautiful theatre. The dance of the ribbons, the costumes and the acrobatics were excellent. The next morning we said our goodbyes to our new found friends from all over the world and planned our next three days on our own.
I phoned the CGA China, Shanghai office and spoke with Sonny Zhou, the administrative assistant who also is a student in the CGA program. His English is impeccable. He came to the hotel carrying a white bag emblazoned with the CGA logo so we would recognize him. No problem as he saw my blond hair first and waved – there are not many blond haired people in China hence I received many stares and at one point on the street a child ran behind his mother to hide from me, a strange looking person!
Sonny was very entertaining and took us to meet the CGA office staff Lily, Amy and Barrac. That evening we had a tasty meal of Peking Duck (no, you cannot get tired of eating this delicious meal!) in a beautiful restaurant and then ran in the rain to the Sydney Bar (yes, run by Aussies) where we met seven more CGA members.
Everyone drank fruit juice and no one smoked. Sonny explained that educated people do not smoke so I asked what about beer and wine and thank goodness he said they were acceptable. Mind you, I never got a decent glass of wine while in China so we drank beer! Just like the Beijing group, the Shanghai group has just established a Chapter and wanted to learn more about getting it organized. We talked late into the evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
We were so well hosted, we moved into the spacious apartment reserved for academics from Canada who teach in the program. The apartment is just down the hall from the CGA office so we visited often. The apartment is also just down the street from the subway station so early the next day we went touring on our own. Although congested, the subway was clean, efficient and very fast. Once we found the right direction and the English translation of the names of the stations, there was no stopping us. We went to People’s Square, the Nanjing pedestrian road, along the Bund, and across the river to the Pudong area. We rode the elevator up for 6 seconds to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower that has a height of 279 metres, the tallest building in China and the third tallest in the world. The views are sensational. All the names of the buildings around the Tower are shown on screens around the viewing area. That is how we found the Super Brand New Mall. After descending the Tower, we headed for this Mall which is huge and had lunch at KFC. The food at KFC is quite different from our KFCs in Canada but we were impressed. Apparently, there are more than 1000 KFCs around China compared with only 700 McDonalds!
We said goodbye to our new found friends in the CGA office and headed to the airport for our flight back to Beijing. Lina Li from the CGA China, Beijing office came to meet us at the airport. She knew we had a bad experience on our first inbound trip to Beijing airport when we were almost accosted by taxi drivers wanting to take us downtown for 480 yuans (approx. $82.00); we ended up paying 300 yuans as we went to the tourist booth and requested a car with driver. However, Phil told us it should have cost no more than 100 yuans (approx. $17.00) so Lina met us and took care of the taxi for us. Again we were hosted in an apartment by CGA China, Beijing for our overnight stay but had time to shop at the very large Wu Mart store which is very close to the apartment and super modern. We bought lots of mementoes to take home with us. The next day, our last day in China, the taxi was at the door waiting to transport us to the airport with thanks to Lina.
We thank all of the CGAs we met in China for their hospitality and friendship. I was so impressed with their command of the English language and I truly wish them well in their future endeavours.
If you have read the recent articles in our local and national newspapers, you will agree that China is Rising and Open for Big Business! If you get the chance to visit China, you will be impressed and please, look up a Certified General Accountant as he or she will welcome you and provide excellent service as a professional accountant. As a CGA!
Written by Lin March, FCGA
CGA Saskatchewan, Canada