Chantal French (left)

Chantal French (left)

Lakecity students tour China over spring break

Students from Williams Lake and Columneetza senior secondary schools spent their spring break touring through three cities in China.

Students from Williams Lake and Columneetza senior secondary schools spent their spring break touring through three cities in China.

The trip was through Education First Tours, the largest student tour company in the world, where students learn as they explore new cultures.

We landed in Beijing after a very long 12-hour plane ride — the first plane ride for many of the students.

The students learned some basic Chinese from our tour director, Cathy, who was with us 24/7 for the entire tour. Cathy made sure all our needs were met during our tour and taught us about China every day.

The students were overwhelmed as we got on our bus from the airport and drove to our hotel.

The city is huge and the traffic is intense. After a great authentic Chinese dinner we enjoyed a good night’s rest in our beautiful hotel.

The next day we were up bright and early to explore the Summer Palace. The Dragon Lady had created this magnificent place which included a man-made lake and beautiful gardens.

We learned Taiji from an expert and took many pictures of this beautiful, serene place. We went to the Temple of Heaven and walked through the amazing park watching people exercising, dancing, and enjoying the green space.

We feasted on Peking Duck that evening — a specialty of this region. Then we watched an amazing acrobatic/Kung Fu show that taught us about the ancient Chinese principles.

The following day we walked through Tiananmen Square and saw the huge portrait of the late Chairman Mao, their beloved leader. We continued on to the Forbidden City where the last emperor spent his life in this walled city.

We went to a pearl factory and saw how they create cultured pearls — one of China’s specialties.

The next morning we were off to the Great Wall of China, north of Beijing. This was an amazing sight for all of us and we were very tired after climbing the many stairs.  Most of the students had lunch at KFC or Subway — a reminder of home.

That evening we ate dinner with a Chinese family who cooked delicious foods for us. We were all stuffed.

The family spoke to us and answered our questions about life in China.

Another highlight for the students was a rickshaw ride that turned into a rickshaw race with the students encouraging the drivers to go faster and faster.

Much laughter and cheering echoed through the neighborhood.

The fourth day it was off to the city of Xi’an which was the capital city for 11 dynasties.

This was part of the Silk Road where Marco Polo traveled.

We saw the famous Terracotta Warriors, more than 6,000 life-sized models which are all unique.

They were created to protect the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.

The students got to ride a bike along the ancient city wall of Xi’an.

We also visited a private high school where most of the students are preparing to go to University in North America.

In the evening some of the students went to the Tang Dynasty dinner and show which was fantastic while the rest of us enjoyed cooking our dinner on a hot pot. Where did those noodles disappear to?

Our final stop was the financial capital of China, Shanghai.

We took the bullet train from the airport into the city and reached speeds of more than 430 miles per hour.

The train is very smooth and quiet as it travels above the rail on a magnetic field.

We went up to the top of the highest observation tower in the world and looked down at this massive city sprawling out below us.

We then left the modern city and went to the Jade Buddha Temple to see the massive Buddhas that were brought from Burma by a Chinese monk in the last century.

Then it was off Yu Gardens to see the goldfish ponds and the classical Chinese landscaping.

We also went to a demonstration of silk making and learned about the strength of the thin silk fibers and why silk is so valued.

Many of us parted with some Chinese money as we bought silk dresses, robes, etc. Student Teagan Lauriette thought this was “an amazing cultural experience unlike anything we know at home.”  She would love to go back to China some day.

Brittany Denny loved the Great Wall of China and having dinner with the Chinese family — and the crazy rickshaw ride.

Patrick Newsome agreed with Brittany.

The students from both schools had a great time and were very respectful and polite.

They were open to trying new things and meeting new people and I know that they will continue to travel in the future.

Spring  break of 2013 we will be taking students on a fabulous trip to Italy and Greece with a three-day cruise through the Greek Islands including a stop in Turkey.

People interested in making the trip with the students can pick up brochures from Sharon Smith at Columneetza or Susan Kurkiniemi at Williams Lake secondary.