In the spring of my freshman year, I was able to go to China with my high school band. The experience was unforgettable and amazing. From the people and living styles, to the traffic and ways of driving, everything was exceptionally different.
I never expected it to be the same or necessarily similar, but seeing it in person expressed the differences to another level. The people that I met while in the country were mainly high school students either my age or older. They were nice and friendly and very interested in the American culture and the teenager living style, such as music, clothes, and the activities we engage ourselves in.
The curiosity that they showed was exceedingly different from any other person I have met before. They had such a hunger and urge for experience and education that I had never personally seen in a student at that age. All they wanted in life was to be successful in school and the business world, to get into that prestigious college. It kind of showed what we take for granted here.
Those students are in high school, but it’s also boarding school and in order to receive a good education there, they cannot be with their families nearly as much as we are here in America. But all of this I just saw on the football field of a high school, where it is clean and free of poverty. The streets we drove on and roamed around were a whole different occurrence in life and this trip I took. Clothes hanging everywhere, filthy air and unclean living spaces, this is how they lived all the time; this was average.
I remember the hotel we stayed at in Shanghai was a five star hotel, and yet across the street was nothing special or fancy for tourists, which I personally liked because then you really do experience the city as it is, not just glaze over it American-style.
We saw the Great Wall of China, walked on it and took pictures, we saw the Terracotta Warriors, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and many other amazing old historical places that I am very grateful we went to, but seeing and walking among the residents is also something needed when in another country. Of course it is hard to just sit back and blend when in China, especially for me, a tall Caucasian girl, but at least I was able to walk among them all.
To be almost run over by a honking vehicle, just like very body else who lived there just added to the everyday life experience, or at least I can look at it in that positive light right? The traffic was crazy, with bikes swerving in and out of cars that almost, hit them without noticing or caring really. Turn signals, no, they do not believe in them I am pretty sure, they only honk when they get into the other lane. Seeing the adorable little babies all wrapped up in brightly colored scarves and hats because the weather must have been below zero was wonderful all on its own.
Because of it’s greatly freezing temperatures, I was able to get a hat that said ‘Great Wall of China’ on it, which I still use today, as well as my silk jacket with a vibrant Chinese style print on it from a silk factory that we went to. All together, it was wonderful, memorable, fantastic, so many words that can never truly express how much fun it was to start my worldly travels!
From the time we got off the plane in Beijing and were starting to realize that we were in China, really, as we passed by the neon billboards with the Chinese characters on them, to the time we left ready for home, but all so very glad that this journey took place, it was a great, tiring, remarkable experience. I took a thousand pictures and a million memories home with me and I will never forget it.
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