My legs burned, my breathes came quicker, and my face was lightly coated in perspiration. Yet, none of that was significant to the fact that for the past hour, I had been walking the same steps that messengers, workers, and warriors had walked hundreds of years ago. I had reached the top of the Great Wall. As I looked over the edge, I sent thanks to those who had died and exhausted themselves to create such a wonder. I understood that the Great Wall was built from more than bricks and mortar, but was allowed to withstand time because of the blood that ran through its structure. Classrooms and lesson plans could not have prepared me for what I experienced. At the top of the Great Wall, I realized that this was a symbol of how astounding China truly was.
Weeks before we departed for China, I had been researching traditional Chinese buildings to receive insight on a Green home project. I remember reading that architecture in China is seen as a part of nature and meant to last. Both concepts are lost in American architecture. I could not have asked for a better opportunity than to see authentic Chinese architecture first hand. It is one thing to read about the structure of a traditional timber-framed Chinese building, but to see brackets, purlins, wall systems, and likewise with my own eyes is another.
Being able to interact with the people in China on and off campus was impactful. I love playing basketball, and a few times I would go to the basketball courts on campus and play with the students. Often times, my teammates and I had limited communication because of language barriers, yet we were still able play the game we all loved with each other. At grocery stores, service desk, and in streets, I was able to connect with workers, employees, and students. I can now say that I have friends from across the world.
While I was on the departure flight to China, I felt the excitement build inside of me. I took Chinese lessons from a kind lady beside me and wrote about everything that was to come. Now, I am thoroughly convinced that I could not have day dreamed nor could I have written anything close to the two weeks I had spent in China.
Overall, everything was organized extremely well. However, when we have large amounts of free time, it would have been nice to have a variety of pre-determined trips that were optional. Also, I wish the whole group could have gone to the high school to interact with the students. Lastly, being in China had so many different impacts on different people. Hearing everyone’s reflections in a group setting on the last night would be a good way to wrap up the trip.
I am so thankful I was able to be on this trip. Over the past two weeks, I have learned to appreciate the beauty and strength in a culture besides my own. From devouring amazing food to learning traditional dances, I am honored to that being in China is a chapter in my life.