HOORAY! We are all safely back from a phenomenal student tour in China!
I burst into tears of emotion when my fiance picked me up at the airport last night, so happy was I about what we accomplished over the past 8 days.
Here are the facts:
On the morning of Thursday 2/16/12, after a YEAR of planning, fundraising, and meetings, 42 Boston Students and 6 Boston teachers boarded a plane from Boston to Beijing, China.
Day 1: 30 hours after we left Boston (including all plane changes and layover time), we arrived in Beijing late on Friday night, 2/17/12. Because we’d gone “forward in time” due to the flight direction, we essentially skipped Friday! Our wonderful guide, John, picked us up and took us to a luxurious hotel in Beijing where we would stay for the next 6 nights. We really got our money’s worth on this trip!
Day 2: After a giant buffet breakfast at the hotel (which we had every morning, bless China and EF Tours), we toured: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace. Stunning. We then scarfed down a delicious Peking Duck dinner.
Day 3: We hopped on the bus to the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China! (This was different than the section of the Great Wall I hiked this past summer, and it was neat to compare.) We spent the next two hours climbing its steep stairs and curves and gleefully snapping photos. Students made friends with hikers from other countries, and one student even discovered that it’s possible to slide down the hand railings of the Great Wall! We then headed to a tea ceremony, a traditional family style shared dinner, and a Kung Fu show. What a day!
Day 4: It was a beautiful morning, warm for winter, and we walked to the Temple of Heaven: one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my whole life. Then we played sports (Chinese hackey sack!) and did outdoor aerobics/disco with the local people in the park! You should have seen our students dancing with elderly Beijing women to Britney Spears. We then did Taichi with a Taichi master (with a highly cool white silk outfit). Next, we toured the Beijing Zoo and saw pandas, llamas, tigers, and more! Finally, we took a rickshaw tour of a Hutong (a very traditional, old-fashioned type of neighborhood in Beijing) and had dinner with a local family. This was the highlight of the week for most students, who were moved and charmed by the hospitality of the Hutong family.
Day 5: We toured incense-filled, brightly-colored Lama Temple, watching the local people and monks pray, and gaping at the GIANT Buddha statue. We then frolicked through the 798 Arts Zone, which is a massive former factory area that has been converted into a warren of artist studios, sculpture parks, and art galleries. It was such a different side of Beijing, and so fun! Then we bargained at the hectic and exhilarating 6-floor Silk Market, and enjoyed a Cantonese dinner. Yum!
Day 6: On a misty, mysteriously gray day, we spent several hours in the Olympic Center, including the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Water Cube. Then we went to the Cotton Market for 6 stories of more hilarious bargaining. I may or may not have bought some knock-off Nike Frees. I bargained hard, but our students were better at bargaining by that point, and I should have gotten their help! We then hit the crazy Night Market which sold (to EAT) scorpions, spiders, starfish, and more. Our final dinner was dumplings.
Day 7: We arose at 4am, and our fantastic guide had packed us each a breakfast to take with us on the plane! We flew from Beijing to Tokyo, Japan, ran to our second plane, flew to Detroit for 12 hours, had a 3 hour layover (as our plane was delayed), then flew home to Boston. Since we flew “backwards in time,” it was still Thursday, 2/23/12 when we arrived, though we’d been traveling for 30 hours!
So those are the facts of the stunning things we did, but what of the rich, fascinating, and often hilarious stories behind each of these places?
For those, I shall let the students tell you in their own words. The next several articles of this Student Travel Stories series from Beijing, China travel will be in the words of students from interviews I conducted during our 30-hour travels home. Read them, comment, and enjoy!
And now, HUGE thanks to the students, teachers, parents, donors, and the EF Tours company for making our China travel adventure such a success! Stay tuned, all, for awesome upcoming articles and photos in the students’ words!