A Whirlwind of Activity: Two Cadets Visit China for International Week 2012

Article by 25674 Kevin Bernard and 25871 Khuong-Duy Tang

We started our journey on Friday the 18th of May with no real idea of what we were in for during the International Week in China, from 20-26 May. The next nine days for both of us turned out to be a whirlwind of activity. We started our trip with Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong from Toronto. Once we arrived in Hong Kong, we soon discovered that our flight would be delayed and that gave us a chance to find a comfy little spot to take a break for the night time layover in the terminal. With the morning came our flight to Beijing and by the end of the day we had arrived in the City of Chanchun at 0200 the morning of Monday the 21st. Fifty-two hours of travel later, we had finally arrived, a little tired but ready and excited for our week with the PLAAF.

Notre première journée commença avec la Cérémonie d’ouverture pour la Semaine internationale des cadets de la force aérienne. Des discours furent donnés par le Commandant de l’Université de l’Aviation de la PLAAF et par leur Commissaire Politique. Ensuite, nos hôtes nous ont donné un tour des campus académique et de l’entraînement de base, pendant lequel nous avons vu tous les bâtiments importants. Après le souper, on nous a démontré plusieurs engins et robots créés et construit par les élèves officiers chinois, ainsi que leurs installations de design et de construction d’avions radiocommandé.

Our Tuesday Morning started promptly with a bus taking us the Basic Training Base of the Aviation University of Air Force. There, the Guard of Honour was hard at work honing their already lightning fast drill movements. It was a spectacle I am sure the Sgt Major would have loved; each of the cadets had volunteered for this guard and had been working for over a year on their now-phenomenal drill routine. In the afternoon, we returned to the Basic Training Base to take part in a Range Day competition with the PLA standard Type 54 7.62mm pistol. The foreign countries put up some stiff competition, but the numerous hours of practice each Chinese cadet had on this pistol gave them an advantage, and victory for them was assured. After the competition, the foreign cadets took part in part of the confidence course, an obstacle course 30 feet off the ground built for the purpose of helping cadets with their fear of heights. In the evening, the different delegations gave presentations about what life was like at their different military colleges. Many of the members were taken aback at the beauty of our College as the pictures of our beautiful campus were met with a chorus of oohs and aahs.

Le mercredi matin, nous sommes sortis au terrain de parade de bonne heure afin d’observer leur pratique de drill matinale, durant laquelle leur garde d’honneur nous a faite une démonstration époustouflante. En avant-midi, nous avons pris un autobus à l’aérodrome, où nous avons observé une démonstration de parachutisme et une démonstration aérienne par leurs avions d’entraînement. Nous avons passé l’après-midi, dans leurs simulateurs de vol. Leur système est primitif, mais plutôt efficace, avec un arrangement de projecteurs, miroirs et d’écrans pas mal ingénieux. Nos hôtes chinois nous ont guidé à voler des circuits et à faire des acrobaties de base dans le simulateur.

Thursday proved to be an event filled day in which every company participated in a huge Track & Field competition. The competition was intense, as is all competition at the Aviation University, but the foreign delegates did manage to sneak away two first-placed finishes; the two Japanese female delegates won the 100m and 200m sprints. The event also featured several displays of military boxing, Tai-Chi and other military sports. In the evening, each of the cadets visited a professor of the University in order to participate in a traditional Chinese family meal along with their hosts.

Le vendredi, on nous a montré la ville de Changchun. En avant-midi, on a visité le parc forestier national de Jingyuetan, site d’un magnifique lac. Ensuite, nous visité le centre de calligraphie chinoise de l’université, et nous avons pu essayer d’écrire des choses avec des pinceaux et de l’encre. En après-midi, nous sommes allés faire un peu de magasinage dans le centre commercial le plus immense que j’ai vu dans ma vie.

After the departure formalities and more gift exchanging, we headed to the train station in order to board our overnight train for Beijing. Getting there meant a hectic street crossing during which we almost lost a British cadet, and a frantic rush for our train car with our luggage in tow. Thankfully, we were in the sleeper car and each of us had a fairly comfortable bunk.

Eight hours of sleep later, we had mystery meat sausage, IMP-ish bread and pickled cabbage for breakfast and arrived in Beijing. Saturday would be dedicated to tourism in China’s capital city. We couldn’t see very far, as the smog reduced visibility to about 1km, but we got to see the city up close taking a bus through it on our way to the Great Wall. The Great Wall was, as we expected, an incredible feat of ancient engineering and labour. It snaked up the side of the mountain range like a great dragon. We climbed to the top of the Wall, where we then mounted on the highest flat surface we could find to enjoy the view.

Our day in Beijing was the end of our whirlwind week in China. We flew back to Canada tired but proud, and thankful for the opportunity to experience a culture so different from our own.

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