The only thing more challenging than eating eel, octopus and jelly fish is writing a teen travel essay using 600 words or less. The only thing almost as exciting as experiencing Chinese culture firsthand is sharing the amazing experience with others. And, the only thing more difficult than coping with jet lag is choosing the perfect picture to attach to a teen travel essay. Thus, I have come up with what I think may be the perfect solution: share the blog address that I had created to document my truly remarkable travel experience. That address is: http://www.alliesjourney.com.
Traveling to China with my Global Youth Leadership Conference group from June 29 – July 11, 2010 was perhaps one of the best experiences of my life. Nothing could have prepared me for the unique culture that I was to be part of for the nearly two weeks that I visited the cities of Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Though conference staff gave us plenty of tips on what to pack, what the climate would be like and what we could generally expect, there were still many aspects of the visit that surprised me.
After all, I did not know how popular I would be in China. Frequently, I was asked to pose with random Chinese people in their photos. It was fun to see them review each photo, after they thought I had left, and watch them smile with pleasure as they realized that they now had a picture of themselves with a fair Caucasian person.
Upon arrival, group members were told by our guides that we were not to drink the water from many areas because it could make us ill, that we were to avoid shopping at street vendors so as not to be swindled and that we were not to give anything to beggars as they would follow us (often for as long as 10 minutes or longer). The advice was good. For those who did not heed the warnings, it was uncomfortable trips to the restroom, counterfeit change from their $100 Chinese Yuan and awkwardness as a handless or footless beggar attempted to follow them.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed visiting popular tourist spots such as the Great Wall of China in Beijing, the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, the West Lake in Hangzhou and “The Peak” in Hong Kong, I was equally intrigued by the native Chinese population. I loved learning that China is becoming a capitalist country; evident by the fact that everyone is given an opportunity to work. Though I was only told of factory line positions and other such jobs, I did observe Chinese people that had their own shop. (In many cases, their “shop” was a bike that had a small cart attached in which they used to sell food, Chinese goods, or other homemade items). At one point, I even saw an elderly man sitting at a small table and chair in an alley; asking if anyone needed him to fix their electric fan. Though technology has certainly advanced, that man had been fixing fans in that alley for many years and people still came to him for service.
Traveling to China, as I had with my GYLC group, allowed me the opportunity to experience the Chinese culture in a way that I had only read about in the past. I went to China with the goal of keeping my eyes open and “seeing” everything. As Henry Miller, an American novelist and painter, once said, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
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