At the hotel, the room swipe cards (electronic key) were handed to us and the information about the hotel was explained to us in Chinese through a translator in English. We were told one could access electricity when you opened the door with the swipe. The saddest part of all I did not follow that and just entered the room without placing the swipe where it should be. The room was so dark, so I had to call the receptionist, immediately they came to my rescue and I was showed again how to use it. I then successful used it throughout all my stay in that hotel.
After relaxing for a while, I take my bath and then I went down to floor two for dinner. I was very hungry and anxious to eat, but when I saw the food, it was not my taste. I was expecting to eat African dishes but it turned out the other way. While watching other participants eating, Baindu, Isata and Alieu walked to me and asked if I was not eating. I told them my choice is not there.
Then, Isata told us that she came with benni, ‘kainda’ and pepper. I breathed a sigh of relief and asked one of the waiters to serve me rice, which we managed to eat. The following morning all of the 177 participants from 44 African countries were at the hotel ready to make a call at the China Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from there to the ministry of commerce.
We were divided into different groups. I and my other colleagues were in Bus one (B1) with four Chinese friends who can speak English. It was fun all the way to the Foreign Ministry as the other Chinese friends had never been to the ministry it was a privilege for them.
We were given an Obama welcome by the Minister and Vice Minister of that Ministry. Addresses were made and group photos taken. From there we went to the Ministry of Commerce for a brief conference, where the Vice Minister of Commerce told us that if any one discovered that goods coming from China are not of high quality, information leading to that will be compensated.
He told us that goods from China are of good quality and up to international standards.
Indeed that was true. Goods that are flooding Sierra Leone with the perception that they are from China is not true. Some of these mobile phones, clothes and electronics that are flooding are not from China. When we went to shop it was very difficult for us to see these phones including two sim mobile phones. We went from shopping mall to the other to find some of these cheap stuff that are sold in Sierra Leone we could not see any.
After the press conference, we were taken to the Great Hall of people for the official opening of the festival (the same hall President Koroma and entourage were welcomed when they visited China recently).
There the President of China Hu Jintao addressed us – though he had a tight schedule but he addressed us and shook hands with nearly all of us. He was so open to us and even asked if we had suggestions or comments to make to do it on a piece of paper and address it to him, and he will look in to it. From then on, anywhere we go we were escorted by Police.
From there we were taken to the welcome banquet at Beijing Hotel. There we met with a representative from Sierra Leone Embassy in China, Mr Minah. We had dinner together and explained to him about the late arrival of our luggage.
We watched performances done by prominent Chinese dancers, and musical groups.
The next day, we visited to Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited (ZTE). ZTE is a global provider of telecommunications equipment and network solutions (They manufacture TIGO’s internet modem). We were taken on a tour of their facilities and given one of their products.
From there we went to Sino Hydro Corporation Limited which operates as a hydropower engineering and construction company. The company engages in architectural projects, electric power investment, house property and real estate, research and development, and design and manufacture of construction equipment.
After lunch, we visited the Beijing Olympic venues. We were all anxious to see that wonderful Bird’s Nest stadium. It is really a tourist attraction as people from different parts of the world came to look at it, but unfortunately we were the only blacks there. Where we were standing over 200 hundred Chinese has gathered around us watching us, instead of them going about their business. Some of them came to us taking photos and touching our skins comparing ours to theirs.
From there we went to the Great Wall of China. Indeed the Great Wall is in the great World of China. You can walk on that wall for a whole day without reaching the end. We attempted to climb some. There again, we met people from different parts of the world, especially Indians wanting to see that Wall.
After that we returned to watch an acrobatics show at Chaoyang Theatre. The show was scary and we almost left the theatre. Some of the performances were scary and we thought it was witchcraft. Can you imagine 12 girls ridding on one bicycle spreading like a pea cock without falling over. The background of the stage was also scary. From there we went back to the hotel for dinner.
By Abibatu Kamara