My unexpectedly wonderful trip occurred my freshman year of high school; I had the privilege of traveling to China with my high school band and play during the opening of the Olympics thanks to Music Celebrations International. We arrived via United Airlines to a gray dreary day but an amazing city.
We spent the first part of our trip at the JiuHua Spa and Convention Center in Beijing, (www.jiuhua.com.cn). It is a grand hotel which offers 4000 rooms. From the moment we landed and throughout our entire trip, we were treated like royalty, it was truly fascinating. The buildings and the culture were so different from what I know in the United States.
We visited Tian An Men Square, and then moved on to the Forbidden City. Here I discovered what a celebrity I was in China. I towered over the Chinese, and with blonde hair and blue eyes, the men were standing in line to take their picture with me.
We had the incredible opportunity to perform in World Park for the kickoff of the Olympics. Words cannot describe how wonderful that felt and how honored we were to play with other teen bands from China. After taking a short bus ride, we marched to the Great Wall. With magnificent mountains in the back ground, our band played the Star Spangled Banner just as it started to snow. Considering we were all from Florida and most had never seen snow, this was remarkable. Lastly we had the opportunity to walk part of the wall with spectacular views from all angles.
We visited the Silk Factory, which houses silk worms and their actual cocoons. The silk was astonishing, especially when you consider the source. Our next stop was the Summer Palace, the summer residence of Empress Cixi, AKA the Dragon Lady.
We traveled to Xi’an where we were greeted with a welcome fit for a President, which actually occurred when President Clinton visited some years before. The administrators of our group were given the key to the city. The actual celebration was full of life and energy. The Chinese performed several different dances from various groups. The costumes were colorful, beautiful, and very fancy. We were once again treated like royalty. We stayed at the Jianguo Hotel, (http://www.sinohotelguide.com/xian/jianguo) not as glamorous as Beijing Resort, but very nice.
We had the pleasure of going to the Terra-Cotta Warriors Museum, (travelchinaguide.com). This museum is acclaimed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It was amazing, the warriors where in a pit and went on for miles. That evening we had the opportunity to perform a concert at the Xi’an University with a University Volunteer Band.
The food in China is reported to be marvelous. I don’t like Chinese food in the United States, but I did try several dishes and ended up eating lots of French fries. On the last day, I learned how to use chop sticks. Not an easy task. The bathrooms leave something to be desired, they are mostly open pits in the ground which you squat over and try to hold yourself up. It is also advisable that your bring your own toilet paper.
Lastly we visited an Orphanage where we were treated to an outstanding performance of Tai Chai. It was heart wrenching to see so many children without families, but they welcomed us warmly. Sadly we did have to return home, but before we left we took up a huge collection for the children of the Orphanage, that was a delightful way to end our amazing journey.
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