‘Arm Chair Travelers’ embark to China from Grand Lake’s Juniper Library on Wednesday | SkyHiNews.com

‘Arm Chair Travelers’ embark to China from Grand Lake’s Juniper Library on Wednesday

Grand County, Colorado
Photo by Katie Looby/ Sky-Hi Daily News

Bill Heiss will share experiences and slides from China with community members at the Juniper Library, 316 Garfield in Grand Lake, Colorado, on Wednesday.

Heiss, a local resident and retired university professor, was a visiting professor in the Henan Province of China nearly 20 years ago. He will talk about his visit to Jing Jo, Xian, the location of the Qin Terra Cotta Army Museum, the Great Wall of China, Beijing, and the Chinese culture.

There will be a follow-up program on Wednesday, Dec. 3, titled “China Revisited- 2008” to see changes from the past two decades. Kathy and Bob Means, a local couple who are visiting China right now, will also share their experiences with the group.

Adult services Librarian Edie Strate started the adult program, “Arm Chair Travelers,” which has become one of the most popular programs at the library.

“We’ve got little shades we can pull down,” said Sue Luton, Juniper Branch and Children’s librarian. “Most of them (presenters) do a talk and they do a slide show.”

The program has also featured Africa and New Zealand vacations.

Community members sit in chairs, and a big screen for a slide show and speaker system is set up in the children’s area. Usually between 10 and 60 people come to the shows. The programs take place once a month on Wednesdays and are open to the public. They usually start at 6:30 p.m. and last for one hour to an hour and a half.

Heiss’ trip to China

Heiss visited China just after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

For three months, he taught 28 Chinese graduate students who could all read, write and speak English at a Chinese University built by the Russians in 1995.

“The campus was fascinating,” he said. “The students were very interesting and I taught research methods. It was the first time that these Chinese students were exposed to research methods … The students did not have very many, if any, research books.”

The president of the university had to have a communist assistant with him at all times, he said.

“That’s the way that most government things were done at that time,” Heiss added. “(They) were required to always have a communist assistant with them to check on what they said, what they wrote.”

The Chinese government paid for the students’ education.

“The students were terribly polite and everybody was very poor,” he said.

During his stay, he also took a train to visit the Qin Terra Cotta Army Museum.

“When I got back the president of the university was furious because he said it was too dangerous,” Heiss remembers.

He also enjoyed the meals there.

“The university cook was excellent, he was a former cook for the Chinese army and our meals consisted of eggs, peanuts, vegetables, some fish ” very little meat,” Heiss said.

He couldn’t drink the water of even use it to brush his teeth.

Heiss stayed in touch with some of his students once he returned home, and some of them were interested in studying in the United States. Heiss tried to find them scholarships but was unsuccessful.

During his “Arm Chair Travelers” presentation at the library, Heiss will also show “slides of everyday Chinese life.”

Heiss has also traveled to Pakistan, Germany, Sweden, England, Ireland, Mexico and Canada.

“I loved every place,” he said, adding that he also lectured in Pakistan.

Heiss is a former University of Colorado and Virginia Commonwealth University professor.

It will be exciting to compare the separate trips to China, Librarian Strate said.

“I thought it would be interesting to see their viewpoint compared to his viewpoint.”

Presenters usually give a slideshow or PowerPoint presentation. The programs are casual and people can interrupt and ask questions or interject comments. Light refreshments also are included, she said.

This is a good way for the community members to meet and “get a chance to see another corner of the world,” she said.

She organizes programs for the adults, and chose this activity because she thought it would be of interest to locals and guests.

She started “Arm Chair Travelers” last spring.

“People kind of know what to expect,” she said. “So many people up here like to travel.”

” Katie Looby covers government and education for the Sky-Hi Daily News. You may reach her at 887-3334 ext. 19601 or klooby@grandcountynews.com.

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