After nearly a year of planning, Gladney’s China Service Trip is underway! Our team left the US on Friday, July 10th and spent a long day traveling to meet up in China. We started our trip in Beijing – probably the best city in China to visit to learn about the history and culture of this amazing country, and our first two days of the trip were spent doing just that!
Saturday morning we started bright and early with our wonderful tour guide, Rocky, taking us to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was pretty powerful to stand in Tiananmen Square as we learned about its significance to Chinese history. And I think we were all in awe of the size of the Forbidden City and the beautiful architecture.
We next visited a traditional tea house and participated in a tea tasting. It was surprising how naturally sweet many of the teas were – we really enjoyed them.
Next we headed off for a rickshaw tour through the Hutongs. This is in Beijing’s oldest part of the city. Traditional housing in China consisted of several family homes built around a central courtyard, the narrow alleyways that run between the various residences are called hutongs. There are not many hutongs and houses left, most were torn down as the city grew and became more modern. In recent years, the government has worked to preserve the remaining hutongs and we were able to visit one of the oldest remaining hutong residences. We were also invited to have lunch in one of the homes by a local family – the food was amazing!!
Saturday evening we went to an acrobat show – it was immensely impressive and scary at the same time! I think we were all holding our breath for the majority of the show! The performers did not use any sort of safety measures as they were flying through the air on silks hung from the ceiling other than holding on to each other! There were incredible tricks showing the performers great strength, grace and balance. The show ended with 8 motorcycles all being driven inside a large (but not that large!) metal cylinder cage all at the same time!
Sunday was another early day. The first stop was Olympic Park where the 2008 Summer Olympics were held. We were able to view the Bird’s Nest arena, the Water Cube and the Olympic Rings.
Next, we headed out of the city towards the Great Wall! Before reaching the Great Wall, we stopped at a jade factory and learned about China’s most precious and valuable stone. We learned about the different types of jade and how to spot imitations. Of course, there was a massive store filled with everything you could want made out of jade! Our credit cards took a pretty good hit!
Finally, we made it to the Great Wall!! The mountains were green and lush, a welcome retreat after being in the city all day the day before. Despite the nearly 100 degree heat, we made a pretty good climb up the wall! The climb was much steeper than we all anticipated, and most of the steps were almost a foot high! We pushed ourselves and were rewarded with beautiful views!
Upon our descent, we had a surprise birthday party for two our team members. Rocky arranged for a beautiful cake to be delivered – sugar was very much welcomed after our excursion up the wall!
On the way back to the city, we stopped at a Cloisonne factory to learn about the enamel decorations. The colorful vases and other wares look like they are porcelain, but in fact are made of copper! We learned the unique process of how each piece is made and were able to view many amazing pieces.
Our day ended with a late flight to Chengdu. Now, it is time to get to the main reason we have traveled so far from home – to offer our service to the orphaned children of China.