The Beijing Dong-Gaodi Foreign Language School in the Fengtai District of Beijing gave the Irish a tremendous welcome, with the schoolboys and girls lining the entrance waving Chinese and Irish flags and giving a cheerful welcome to all. The entrance was also draped with a large banner saying “Welcome friends from Ireland to our School” in both English and Chinese.
On arrival we were also formally welcomed by the school Headmaster, Deputy Head Master and Staff. After a short meeting the entire entourage were brought outside to the school Campus where 250 Students went through their morning exercises, a daily occurrence. Very brief speeches by both the Ambassador and Chef de Mission in Chinese were greeted with tremendous applause.
A tour of the school included visits to the Classrooms where Irish Culture was being studied and there we were greeted with the first verse of the Irish Nation Anthem in English. The Ambassador, accompanied by the Irish present then sang the National Anthem to all present, in Irish. It is the intention of the students learn to sing the anthem at the Irish Welcome in the Olympic Village in 2008.
Also visited were the classes where the English language is being thought and both the Ambassador and Chef de Mission had the task of teaching the class a sentence in English.
The final class visit was where magnificently coloured “silk flowers” – a traditional Chinese craft – were made by the students and flowers were presented to all members of our visiting group.
All the students treated us with tremendous respect and made excellent efforts to speak to us in English and to explain what they do.
Finally, in the board room, a meeting of all the Irish entourage and Chinese School Staff plus BOCOG personnel took place with speeches by the Headmaster, Ambassador and Chef de Mission. The details of the sister school in Ireland, Scoil Mhuire in Howth were then handed to the School Authorities. It is hope that they will have the Chinese Students and Irish Students in communication by e-mail soon.
Also, the school had prepared a banner in the boardroom which was their celebration of the Irish and Chinese involvement in the Olympic Games, a very important aspect of the banner, which also honoured our visit was the fact that it was 4.78 meters long (478 days to the Opening of the Games) and 2.008 meters high (the year of the Games).
Before departure an exchange of gifts took place between the Ambassador Declan Kelleher and the School and the Chef de Mission and the School.
Overall, the Heart to Heart programme visit was a marvellous occasion and the welcome from the school authorities and students was overwhelming.
The Irish Delegation included:
Ambassador Declan Kelleher
First Secretary Therese Healy
Chef de Mission Dermot Henihan
Deputy Chef de Mission Tom Rafter
Olympic Attache Patrick Parsons