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From country to city, From farm to fireworks…Through marriage & children, Through employment & ownership, Life continues to be an amazing journey…

Thursday, July 6

Gateways To China 2006

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People to People: GATEWAYS TO CHINA 2006...

Well, here’s my “baby” all dressed up and ready for the big trip to China. He left me on July 4th to embark on this journey of a lifetime. I managed NOT to cry at the airport, but I must admit, I shed a tear or two later at home. The “nest” is very empty without him here :)

There were 35 exceptional young men and women leaving the Reno airport today, all with amazing expectations of what they would see abroad. Here’s what’s in store for the kids on their wonderful adventure:

Day one began with a 3pm flight from Reno to LAX. After a NINE HOUR lay-over at LAX, the very long journey that will lose the first day crossing the International Date Line to Beijing begins.

Welcome to Beijing, with a guided orientation around Tiananmen Square that gives entry to the Imperial City and the Old Forbidden City. Chinese teachers and accomplished Chinese chefs welcome the kids to a vocational school where they will get lessons on preparing authentic Chinese food. Officials will guide the kids through the discovery of the Forbidden City built between 1406 and 1420 AD. It is home to the world’s largest and best-preserved Imperial Palace. This evening will end with a performance at the Peking Acrobatic Show.

The next day begins with a visit to a sports school which is the origination of several world champions. Learning traditional Ping Pong will highlight the morning with a sportsman’s lunch and a rickshaw ride through the old streets of Beijing. This evening ends with a fun visit to the Hard Rock Café.

The next day begins with the departure for an excursion to the Great Wall, Juyongguan Section. En route to the Great Wall, there will be a visit to a nearby cloisonné factory. Cloisonné is a type of enamelware like pottery that dates back over 500 years. The process is quite complicated, but the kids will learn, and have a chance to make something for themselves. Next, the young people get to learn Chinese Kung Fu at a training school and meet with the local students. This evening ends with a banquet honoring the USA delegates, and they will be served Peking duck.

This day begins with a trip to the Summer Palace, an immense imperial garden dotted with Qing architecture on the outskirts of Beijing. Then, off to the largest zoo in China, the Beijing Zoo. The afternoon will give opportunity to attend a pottery and craft class. Dinner is planned at KFC. After dinner, this day ends with an overnight train ride to Xi’an.

Day six starts by unboarding the train. After a trip to the hotel to freshen up, the delegation will receive a welcome ceremony held in the ancient Tang dynasty style. The kids will be able to see the city wall of Xi’an, which was built in the Ming Dynasty and has a history of 600 years. Xi’an is the only large city in China that still has a complete city wall system. After a buffet lunch at the hotel, delegates visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. This pagoda was built in the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. This evening ends with a Tang Dynasty show and dumpling banquet.

The next day begins by unfolding Xi’an’s history. A trip to the museum of the Terracotta Warriors will highlight the items of the retinue of unified China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang Ti. In 1974, a villager chanced upon what has become one of the world’s most astonishing archaeological finds, an 8000 man army in battle ready formation, each warrior a life size figure in pottery made over 2200 years ago. Before seeing the original warriors, the kids get to visit a workshop that duplicates the process to learn the technique. Upon return to the city, this evening will end with a trip to the Stone Steles Forest, the former Confucius Temple, and dinner at the local McDonald’s.

On this day, the ambassadors will drive to a nearby Donghan village, with a guided orientation to the village. The delegation will be divided into small groups and taken to the farmers’ homes to have lunch with host families. Later, a visit to a local farmer artist’s workshop to learn about Chinese art and paper cutting. Time permitting; there will be a friendly sports contest with local students. The evening ends with socializing and a party with local students at a gathering in the village.

Today, the kids will experience life on a traditional Chinese farm, learning to harvest fruits and vegetables. Late morning will take them to a meeting hall in the village to help local students with English lessons. The afternoon will be consumed with a flight to Shanghai, the largest and most cosmopolitan city with a population of over 14 million. The kids will explore this bustling city and see the influence of 19th century European trading companies and their massive European style buildings. Dinner will be at the hotel.

Sunrise again begins with the discovery of the Jade Buddha Temple. Built in early 20th century, this is one of the few Buddhist temples in Shanghai. The temple was constructed around a six-foot high white jade Buddha. There will be a walk along the Bund, a wide boulevard paralleling the Huangpu River. This is known as the Wall Street of the Orient. A visit to the City Construction Museum will show the past, present, and future of metropolis building. Next, a visit to a local silk factory to see the works of local workers and purchase of amazing goods at local prices. The afternoon will be spent as a delegation invited to sit in on the Neighborhood Committee that oversees all local activities within the local neighborhoods. They will learn about the government, residential activities, childcare issues, retirement, and kindergarten programs. Before the home visit, ambassadors will have time in the local market. After sunset, an evening cruise down the Huangpu River will highlight the beautiful night views of the city.

This day begins with a departure for Suzhou by coach. This city is known as the Venice of the East and is famous for traditional gardens. Before lunch, they will explore the Net Master’s Garden. In the afternoon, there will be a visit to a local gym to learn Chinese badminton. Finally, this day will end with a dinner of Zongzi, a pyramid shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves, very popular food during the Dragon Boat Festival.

The next day, delegates will enjoy a cruise on the Grand Canal, opened 1500 years ago, and still a busy waterway. The cruise will also include the narrow canals that spread around the city. They will discover the Silk Embroidery Institute with some of the most accomplished silk embroideries in China where artists work upstairs and stitch by hand depending on only natural light with no magnification aids. The afternoon will take them to the Suzhou Foreign Language School to meet with local students. The evening ends with a return to Shanghai with dinner at the local Pizza Hut.

A new morning begins with a trip to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport and a flight to Hong Kong. After an early dinner, there will be an opportunity to stroll along the Star Boulevard and see the stunning night view of the city of Hong Kong.

A new day will start the exploration of Hong Kong with a morning cruise of Victoria Harbor. The afternoon will provide a panoramic view of the city from Victoria Park and a look into the westernized style of Stanley Market. A short cruise in a junk boat at the Aberdeen Fishing Village will show another side of the lives in the bustling city. The evening ends with some time to explore the local flower market.

This ends the journey, except for a couple of days to pack and travel back into the United States. WHAT A FREAKING VACATION, HUH? Dwight Eisenhower originally started People to People in keeping with his vision of world peace. He believed that if foreign peoples were put together in fun circumstances for a long enough period of time, we would all find that it’s easy to get along and mingle and show off our differences and strengths. I am amazed that my son has had this opportunity, and I highly encourage you to take advantage of the People to People program in your area at any time your child may have the chance. Stay tuned for amazing photos and the story of the return home :)