When I was fourteen years old, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to China during the summer with my family. I looked towards the trip with much excitement. I had always been fond of foreign culture and ancient cultures of the Orient were especially interesting.
We began our voyage shortly after the school year ended in early June. The trip was long, we flew on American Airlines from San Diego to San Francisco and then to China. Our first destination was Shanghais. We arrived at our hotel late at night, it was a Holiday Inn and nothing like the ones in America, this Holiday Inn was a high-rise with a business floor and preferred guest services. We woke up the next morning and prepared for our tour of Shanghais, we had hired a tour guide who spoke English and a driver because it is impossible to get anywhere in China otherwise, unless you actually speak Chinese or know where in which direction you are headed. In Shanghais we visited museums and some historical sites, but mostly we visited tourist attractions. I remember seeing the markets, some consisted only of stalls of tailors, of men pulling noodles to be sold, of vendors calling out bargains. It was also in Shanghais that we attended a tea ceremony and learned about the different types of tea and their health benefits, we went to a jade factory and learned about jade and how to look for good quality jade and we went to a silk factory too and I bought a long silk coat just like you see in the movies. We ate a lot of dragon fruit and mango-steen as well as dishes whose names I never learned. Shanghai was fun, but Beijing was more enlightening.
In Beijing you saw the true work of the Chinese people. I saw men working with sledge hammers to break asphalt in order to construct a new subway by hand, I saw the famous Olympic stadium being built. It was from Shanghais that you drive to see the Great Wall and count how many towers you can climb on it. I saw the Forbidden City which stretches on for an eternity and I saw Tiananmen Square and our tour guide never mentioned the protests, even when my dad asked her if they had taken place.
I loved my trip to China, I want to go back. I loved the food and the people. We talked to the Chinese people. Their government and lifestyle is hard to accept when you grew up in America. The experience of going to China, a country so different from my own was enlightening because I not only had the chance to experience a very different and old culture, but I learned to better appreciate my own country. Since the trip, I have noticed that many individuals take our society for granted and it makes me wish they could take the trip I took. In America you can read any book you like, look up any historical event you are curious about, a block is never put on our communication devices and we are not permanently limited to the level of society in which you are born into. The trip itself made me want to travel even more, the historical sites made me more worldly, the people enlightened and broadened my mind to look at things not only one-sided and I learned to not only appreciate my country, but to appreciate others and their cultures.
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