Living Appropriately: Musings From a History Teacher in Colombia

Ahoy, dear readers! Sincerest apologies for my dearth of posts this spring. It began when my phone got splashed by an ocean wave in the Philippines over the Chinese New Year and I lost all the photos I had planned on putting up from that vacation. After that I was fiddling with some of the settings and widgets that I use for the blog, downloaded a new plugin for an improved system for readers to leave comments, and then all the previous comments save for a few somehow got deleted after I made the change. So a couple of frustrating, minor setbacks that simply got me out of the habit of making regular posts over the past few months. Now I find myself with a backlog of a number of things that I want to get everyone updated on, so there’s no time like the present.

Our Model UN team participated in our second big conference of the year a few weeks ago. Once again we found ourselves heading to China, however this time it was off to Beijing for a few days’ worth of intense deliberating, trying out new restaurants, and a chance for all of us to do a little sightseeing while we were there. We didn’t have much time for the latter, but at least our hotel was directly across the street from the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, where many of the events were held when China hosted the games in the summer of 2008 (has it been six years already? Golly):

 

Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium, Beijing

Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, Beijing

 

We were also able to take a couple hours one morning to check out Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City, which was the heart of the Chinese Imperial dynasties from the Ming in the early 15th century up until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911. (If you’re curious to learn more about the “end of history” as far as the Chinese are concerned–i.e., the end of between three and four thousand years of dynastic rule with Sun Yat-sen’s 1911 revolution–check out the movie The Last Emperor, which won no fewer than nine Academy Awards in 1987, including Best Picture. It also starred Peter O’Toole of Lawrence of Arabia fame, who just passed away a few months ago). We actually didn’t get to go inside the Forbidden City itself, as the line was quite long that particular morning and we didn’t have all day. But within a few minutes after leaving Tienanmen Park we found out the reason for the long line: a few blocks north of the compound, as we were walking back to the main road to hail a cab, we were abruptly stopped from crossing the street by a couple large Chinese security guys. A few seconds later there were probably around 20 identical black SUV’s whizzing by us and into a rear entrance of the Forbidden City. I recognized the symbol on the windows and was almost positive that it was an American government official of some sort. But only a very high-ranking official would have that sort of entourage; I wasn’t aware that Obama was in town, so my best guess at the time was US Secretary of State John Kerry. Turns out Michelle Obama was in town for a vacation with both of her daughters, and they happened to be touring the Forbidden City that same afternoon.

In any case, a good time was had by all at the conference. I’m looking forward to coaching the MUN team again next year and continuing to improve the strength of our program. Events like these are a good opportunity for our students to hone their debating skills at an event that looks great on college applications, not to mention that they offer the kids a chance to step outside our boarding school weekend routine as well, which is healthy from time to time. Here are a few pics from the event:

 

ICA Harvard MUN participants, March 2014

ICA Harvard MUN participants, March 2014

 

Myself and 10th grader Barron outside the Forbidden City

Myself and 10th grader Barron outside the Forbidden City

 

Hotel lobby, day 1

Hotel lobby, day 1

 

En route from Taipei to Beijing

En route from Taipei to Beijing

 

Always a jokester in every bunch!

Always a jokester in every bunch!

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Andrew Leniton