What a trip! China was something I didn’t have many expectations for, but it blew me away. I can’t remember how many times I told Dave I was loving it or how many times I had sensory overload and was filled with a rush of excitement (mostly in the food markets!). We travelled with a lovely group of 20 people, we spent time with some really wonderful kids, and experienced wonderful Chinese hospitality.
There are two sides to this story, the tourist in China side and the International China Concern/working with children side. So let me give you a brief bit on the tourist side and follow up with a post specifically about how our experience with ICC.
Tourists and Travellers
We went with a goal of seeing the thing in China that you have to see if you are going to China: that big wall! It really was pretty incredible to see and climb around, and though we had about 2 hrs to explore, I certainly could have spent a lot more time there. And what great exercise! (No, I am not about to do the Great Wall Marathon.) Some parts were really steep and I ended up using my hands to climb up. At the end we took a little go-cart like contraption down the hill, which was fun until you hit a traffic jam of people. They would send about 30 people off a short distance between each other and you really are only as fast as the slowest person!
The other big highlight was going to Xi’an and seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors. I really didn’t have any intentions of seeing them when we went, and actually forgot about them until someone mentioned that we were only an hour away and a couple other people on our team were going to go. So on our weekend off, we spent one day going and checking them out. It ended up being quite the journey to get there since it was crazy busy with the Chinese Tomb Sweeping holiday happening, but it was worth it. What was almost better was going to the old walled part of Xi’an and checking out the Muslim Street filled with street food and thousands of people. Dave can tell you I was so overwhelmed that I thought my head was going to pop off with excitement. I just wanted to eat everything (except the crawly creatures on a stick).
Beijing was also a really nice surprise. The smog was horrendous, something you just can’t imagine, but that aside it was a really lovely city with green areas, lots of great shops and easy to get around. We managed to visit The Forbidden City, The Pearl Market and The Temple of Heaven. I would definitely go back again to explore more.
Aside from tourist attractions, which really only held my interest a little, was the time we spent in Sanmenxia learning about Chinese culture, eating local dishes, and serving the kids at the welfare centre. Unfortunately, I can’t post any pictures of the kids as the Chinese government doesn’t allow it and International China Concern does not want to hurt their relationship, but I do have some photos from around town to share. We had a lot of fun at the city centre line dancing on a Sunday night with the locals, drinking bean smoothies, checking out the local outdoor food market during the week and taking local transit everyday…and surviving to tell the tale. The people were so great and friendly, and Dave had a lot of chances to practice his Mandarin, especially when people were always wanting their picture with him. In a very Chinese centric area, our group were the only white people in town, so we were stared at everywhere we went. Nothing like feeling like a rock star for a couple weeks! :)
More on ICC and the Centre in my next post.