Adventures in Mainland China

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 1983.
Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 1983.

In 1983, 22 students from the UBC Department of Geography, led by professor Marwyn Samuels and accompanied by two professors of Asian Studies, embarked on a six‑week adventure through Mainland China that would change the way they viewed the world. China had only recently opened its doors to visitors after years of Cultural Revolution, and this was the first inter‑departmental exchange between Peking University and any university in the West.

“In taking this trip, I had hoped to learn about another world – how a culture so completely different than ourselves lives – and discover China’s history and geography,” says participant Allison Jordan, BA’83, “but I mainly wanted to learn about and understand myself.”

After spending time exploring Beijing, their journey took them across thousands of kilometres. “We toured by bus and train,” recalls Jordan. “It was like travelling back in time a couple of centuries. The countryside was very agrarian and contained few roads. All buildings were similar – a stark contrast to the beauty of Beijing’s temples and gardens.”

Despite the warmth and hospitality of their Chinese hosts, Jordan says she and her classmates were often taken aback by the cultural differences they encountered throughout the trip. Their ever‑present guide ensured that they only travelled to approved areas. While dining at a restaurant, she recalls an employee joining them in a singalong of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” but being reprimanded by her supervisor because the song was too religious. Another time, workers accompanied them for lunch at the Shisanling Tombs, but quickly excused themselves “out of fear that we foreigners may have too much influence on them.” Even in an academic setting, only half of Peking University’s 40 professors of geography were permitted to interact with the UBC students.

Reunion in Vancouver, BC. From left around the table (clockwise): Charles Tremewen, Rita Tremewen, Christophe Sonnendrucker, Cathy Tremewen, Doug Marshall, Susan Bennett, Professor Dick Copley, Professor Peter Rowbotham, Cathy Moore, Allison Jordan, Mike Lucas, Gary Koch.
Reunion in Vancouver, BC. From left around the table (clockwise): Charles Tremewen, Rita Tremewen, Christophe Sonnendrucker, Cathy Tremewen, Doug Marshall, Susan Bennett, Professor Dick Copley, Professor Peter Rowbotham, Cathy Moore, Allison Jordan, Mike Lucas, Gary Koch.

“The differences in culture opened our eyes to a new world and the differences in the level of freedom,” Jordan says, “and we realized how blessed we are to be living in a democratic country.” Her experiences on the trip – both positive and less so – left a lasting impression. “I’ve encouraged my kids and their schools to get involved with a group called Me to We, which encourages kids to volunteer on a local and global level and to understand different cultures and diversity with all walks of life.”

In summer 2018, several participants from the trip reunited in Vancouver to celebrate its 35th anniversary. “As a group, we felt like a family. At the [reunion], we felt like kindred spirits and the years in between just vanished.”

Kenneth Johnson, BASc’81, MASc’86, was the proud recipient of three prestigious engineering awards in 2018. A distinguished and highly experienced engineer with expertise in cold regions, Ken was elected a Fellow to the Canadian Academy of Engineering for his substantial contributions to engineering in Canada. Notable among them is his continuous effort over the past 30 years to improve the quality of life in cold regions through the engineering of water and sanitation systems. Ken also received the Can‑Am Amity Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (for his work in advancing relationships between engineers in Alaska and Canada), and the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering History Award.

Allan Baker
Allan Baker

Allan Baker, BSc Pharm’82, RPh, was named the 2018 Canadian Compounding Pharmacist of the Year by the Professional Compounding Centers of America (PCCA) Canada chapter in recognition of the lasting impact he has had on his community, patients, and colleagues. After working in a national chain after graduation, Allan – a second‑generation pharmacist – wanted to become an independent pharmacy owner like his father. He went on to found Macdonald’s Prescriptions in Vancouver, which he has proudly owned and operated since 1992.

Bruce Butler, BSc’83, has released his second book, Into the Labyrinth: The Making of a Modern-Day Theseus. It tells the story of Project Spinnaker, a Canada‑US defence research project begun near the end of the Cold War and intended to give Canada the capability to monitor Soviet submarine traffic in its Arctic waters. The star of the project was Theseus, a massive autonomous underwater vehicle developed by a BC‑based subsea engineering company for the sole purpose of laying cable in ice‑covered waters. Drawing on his experiences as the vehicle’s systems engineer, Butler describes how the design team (mostly UBC graduates) overcame numerous technical obstacles before deploying Theseus on its arctic mission off the northern coast of Ellesmere Island.

Shayne Morrow, "The Bulldog and the Helix" book cover
Shayne Morrow

In his new book, The Bulldog and the Helix: DNA and the Pursuit of Justice in a Frontier Town, author Shayne Morrow, BFA’85, MFA’88, covers two landmark DNA investigations, both based on child sex slayings in Port Alberni, BC. In 1977, the town was shaken by the brutal murder of 12‑year‑old Carolyn Lee, who had been abducted while walking home from her dance class. Tragedy struck again in 1996, when 11‑year‑old Jessica States disappeared while chasing foul balls at a local fast‑pitch game, her body later found beaten in the woods. At the time of States’ murder, Morrow was working as a reporter for the now‑defunct Alberni Valley Times. His interest in forensic science led him to cover the States case and relate it back to the Lee case, which had gone unsolved for years. In his coverage, Morrow gained unprecedented access to the investigators and scientists who were on the trail of both killers. Emerging DNA technology in the mid‑1990s led to a renewed interest in the Lee case and ultimately to the conviction of her killer in 1998. The technological mechanisms put in place during that case would lay the groundwork for the capture of States’ killer a year later. The Bulldog and the Helix is a riveting portrait of a town rocked twice by the most heinous type of crime imaginable and a community’s unrelenting search for justice.

John Pozer
John Pozer

Drawing on 35 years of experience, award‑winning filmmaker and educator John Pozer, BA’86, has released his first book: 21st Century Film Student PRIMER: Everything You Need to Know and Do Before You Go to Film School. Geared towards helping students ensure that their investment in post‑secondary film education delivers the maximum possible return, Pozer’s book lays out a practical approach for scholastic achievement. He provides advice on how to build your voice, accomplish your best work, and make the most out of your creative time and efforts.

Daniel Kalla, "We All Fall Down" book cover
Daniel Kalla

Bestselling author Daniel Kalla, BSc’88, MD’91, has released his new novel, We All Fall Down (Simon & Schuster Canada). When NATO infectious diseases expert Alana Vaughn is urgently summoned to Genoa to examine a critically ill patient, she’s stunned to discover that the illness is a recurrence of the Black Death. Alana soon suspects bioterrorism, but her WHO counterpart, Byron Menke, disagrees. In their desperate hunt to track down “patient zero,” they stumble across an 800‑year‑old monastery and a medieval journal that might hold the secret to the present‑day outbreak. With the lethal disease spreading fast and no end in sight, it’s a race against time to uncover the truth before millions die.


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