It all started on June 10, 2009. I had just loaded my luggage onto the bus and said goodbye to my family. It was finally time to start on our voyage to a new and unknown world. The bus ride to Chicago was just the first leg of our journey that day. At the end of the travel that day we would be half way around the world.
After a short wait, we boarded our first flight to San Francisco. We were in San Francisco for a little bit before we boarded our next flight. I said goodbye to the United States for a 17 day life changing experience. After 14 hours, and losing a day in the air crossing the International Date Line, we landed in Honk Kong.
I was traveling with People to People Student Ambassador Program and my delegation was going to spend 17 days in China. The first city on our trip was Beijing. The city was amazing. We went to the Great Wall and saw the Olympic buildings. Our next stop was Xi’an. This city was much older than Beijing. We attended the same welcome ceremony that President Clinton did when he visited China. We visited the Terra Cotta Warriors, and many local factories. We then moved to Shanghai. Shanghai was a more modern city with a very large population. We ended our trip back on the island of Hong Kong.
The best part of the trip was our home stay. We spent the night at a local village called Donghan Village outside of Xi’an. There were 4 members of our group staying at each house. We were able to experience the way that a typical Chinese family lived their everyday life.
The house was typical. There was a living area with some wooden couches and a TV. They had a round kitchen table with a lazy Susan in the middle and had stools around the table instead of chairs. There were 2 bedrooms on the bottom floor where members of the extended family lived. There were grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a couple of children living in the house besides Daniel, who was our age and spoke English. He was the only one in the family that spoke English. Upstairs there were 2 more bedrooms, a bathroom, and a sitting area that was just for us. These houses were bigger than the majority of the apartments we saw in the big cities.
The kitchen was its own separate building, not attached to the rest of the house. There were several windows but they didn’t have glass in them for ventilation. Inside there was a large wooden table used as a counter and there was a small stove for cooking. The sink was outside of the kitchen and was a multi-purpose sink. I did not see a washing machine, so the laundry would be done in this sink.
From this trip I learned a lot about culture and being an ambassador. We were student ambassadors, so while we were in China, we were representing the United States. Not only was I learning about Chinese culture while I was there, the Chinese were learning about the culture of American teenagers just from the way we acted. I learned a little about what it felt like to be a minority. People were always staring at me just because I looked different. I learned that not everyone has the same rights and freedoms that American do, and we should not take these rights and freedoms for granted. One day we may no longer have those rights.
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