Countdown -
 
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Lesley launched this week's activities with a reception at the Great Hall of the People. The Hall is the same age as the PR China, built with a strong Russian influence. It was wonderful to walk on the red carpet and listen to the military band, though the reception itself was like a wedding without a bride and groom.
Today got off to a sticky start when Ali arrived at Kunming airport to discover Freda and Edie had tickets but he didn’t. It seems that in some pre-departure changes in Simao Ali’s booking was cancelled. Fortunately people are realising it’s not a good time to be travelling to Beijing and the flights are very quiet. From tomorrow some of the main tourist attractions will be closed in the run-up to the National Day celebrations so unless one of the lucky ones with a special pass – THAT’S US!!! -  you might as well stay at home and watch TV.

Lesley visited the VSO office and spent the day arranging childminders for Freda and Edie over the next few days. They will be living it up in the hotel. Believe me, that’s a luxury. Our suite is more luxurious than our Simao flat and the meals. Well, let’s just say the tailor was wise allowing an extra inch in our newly made clothes!

The programme for the next few days is:

Tuesday

a.m. “Expository Meeting” – apparently a speech from the Bureau (not sure which), probably all the rules and restrictions for the coming days.


p.m. Friendship Award Ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square

eve. Photos back at hotel with Freda and Edie!

Wednesday

a.m. Free (to recover from the fabulous breakfast of cereal, croissants, bacon, fresh fruit juice, real coffee etc etc

p.m. State Leaders meet Friendship Award winners and spouses at the Great Hall of the People, followed by National Day Banquet, same venue

Thursday

a.m. Military parade on Tiananmen Square with State Leaders

p.m. Some other even on Tiananmen Square (all very secret at the moment; ‘no need to know’ basis)

eve. National Day Evening Party on Tiananmen

Offering us help with Freda and Edie are some VSO friends – Kruti, who works as a volunteer in the VSO Programme Office; Eilidh (from Kingussie!), who works as a volunteer with a small human rights organisation in Beijing; Wang Yanhui, the VSO Programme Support Officer for Basic Education. Thanks to their support Ali and I can take part in this special programme of events to celebrate 60 years of the People’s Republic of China. Whatever one’s political orientations, this is an historical moment.
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Lesley getting through her ironing for the week in our small apartment on the 10th floor of the Beijing Foreign Experts' Mansion, a stone's throw from the Olympic Plaza.



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