Written by Norhan Hassan Salem (Egypt, ITP 2017), Museum Educator and Cultural Event’s Coordinator, The Egyptian Museum, Cairo
A few days ago I came back from Beijing. I participated there in the International Training Workshop on Capacity Building for Professionals of Science Centers and Museums 2019, which was held at the China Science and Technology Museum (CSTM). I was not only the Egyptian or Arabic participant but also I was the representative of the African Continent in the programme.
There were many sessions, tours, presentations and team-work projects during the workshop, and all of them focused on STEM, this abbreviation means, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Although I am not a STEM member and I do not work at a science museum, working on designing programmes was the reason for my acceptance.
CSTM offers scientific experiments, educational exhibitions and activities that target children and families as the audience. These activities aim to enhance the concept of STEM and to make it accessible to visitors of all ages.
Aside from the programme, the Chinese food I tried was varied and really tasty. There were two dishes I found unusual, the Jasmine Flower with brown soy sauce and the Lotus Flower with beans and the strawberry jam. I was surprised by the idea of cooking with flowers when a Chinese colleague told me the ingredients of these two dishes at the farewell dinner!!
I was also very lucky to be able to visit some places and sites, including three of the 55 Chinese World Heritage sites:
The Forbidden City, which contains about 980 buildings, has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 because of the largest number of ancient wooden structures in the whole world. It is called ‘forbidden’ because the entry to the city was prohibited without the permission of the Emperor, and only the Imperial family and high officials were allowed to pass its gates.
The Temple of Heaven was originally called the Temple of Heaven and Earth. It has been considered a World Heritage Site since 1989. The view of the trail which led from the entrance to the area of the temple, made me feel like I was walking in a piece of heaven on Earth. I was visiting the China Natural History Museum when I found that the Temple was nearby.
The Great Wall of China is not only a World Heritage Site since 1987, but also, it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. In 2007 about 100 million persons around the world voted for the site to be added to the list. The wall, with its castles, crosses mountains, a desert and a sea, and it was originally built as a defense system to protect China. I wanted to walk a part of the wall, but unfortunately, there was not enough time, as it was the day of my departure. However, before I left, I visited the House of Tea where one lady presented to us some varieties of Chinese tea used as remedies for many illnesses.
China is very big and visiting various places is not that easy, but the Chinese people are so kind and nice. Many people asked me to take photos with them as I looked for them very Egyptian. Almost everyone recognised my nationality easily. One Chinese man gave me a traditional souvenir on the street because he knew that I was Egyptian. I was very grateful for that. The Olympic Park is famous for music performances, and people come there to dance in groups. I had a great time dancing with them.
Even though it was cold, I enjoyed the weather. Despite the sun, the temperature hit -8 degrees, and I was told that it would be even colder and snowy next month. As an African, it was so nice to experience a different climate, even just for a couple of days. I discovered I actually liked winter.
My trip to China was my fourth international travelling experience – after going to the UK for the ITP I then travelled to Italy and Japan. I have made many new friendships, visited new places, got to know new cultures, eaten new types of food and done some shopping! There is a quote which I would like to share with you – travel has helped us to understand the meaning of life, and it has helped us become better people. Each time we travel, we see the world with new eyes!!