A group of 66 students and nine staff from the Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick are back home after a 10-day trip-of-a-lifetime to China. Year 11 student Gabriel Brown writes about the experience.
Having been on the trip of a lifetime, I can confirm it is truly just that. The amount of things we did and the overall variety of these activities made the trip so much more enjoyable, such as eating in a different restaurant for lunch and dinner every single night! That itself is an achievement really.
The difference in cultures really shone through, with not only the different style in buildings and China’s major contrast between the new and old (especially in Shanghai), but how their people reacted to us.
Being treated like celebrities is something that’s quite rare for a group of high schoolers I can imagine, but that’s just what happened. Asked to take many photos with random people we’d never met, and treated like special guests from our twin school in Shijiazhuang, made us feel like we were some kind of royalty!
The whole experience was brilliant, with some activities that I had been looking forward to ever since they were announced for the programme topping it off. The Great Wall of course was a major highlight, and I’m pleased to say I climbed to the top of the section we went on; another achievement for myself.
Things like the Pearl Tower with its glass floor were both amazing and slightly weird. Lying flat on a glass floor staring down at cars several hundred metres below you is a very strange experience.
The only downside of the trip was our first flight home, from Shanghai to Dubai, being cancelled! Although this wasn’t overly bad, as we got put in a nice hotel to get some well-needed extra sleep and nice food. After that, things went pretty smoothly, and the flights didn’t even feel that bad to be honest. I think students were incredibly pleased with the in-flight entertainment, especially since I heard some of them quoting a film I had seen beforehand throughout the trip.
Overall I think everyone loved their time in China, and from every photo that was taken, the happy faces can’t really prove this wrong. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, a country I would definitely go back to-do and potentially be welcomed like a hero.
Extracts from Gabriel’s blogs from China
Friday, March 25
The Great Wall itself was amazing! I’ve always wanted to go on it, and finally doing it was brilliant! Trekking up it was like trying to move after having a roast dinner, but it was definitely worth it not only for the experience, but the views at the top too. Stunning.
We also walked the road to heaven and saw many different statues, both human and animal. Some great photos were had here, with many different group poses! Travelling over to the Ming Tombs was cool too, climbing up to the temple and seeing the wonderful views.
Saturday, March 26
I know I was looking forward to the Forbidden City, but wow! The Summer Palace was amazing!
There was an incredibly long outside corridor, covered by a stylish roof and beautiful paintings. Apparently the emperor who lived there had it built for his Mum so she would not get wet from rain when returning to her quarters. What consistently amazed me, and has been this entire trip so far, is the attention to detail. Every single painting on the corridor, big or small, was unique. Every individual one was completely different, and painted to perfection.
The huge marble boat was interesting, how it was just sort of there. I just don’t understand why you would build a boat you can’t use? It was all incredibly busy, with so many photos being taken of us by the Chinese people. We also crossed onto a tiny little island which gave us beautiful views, and a small mini group photo including trip organiser Mr Burrow.
The Forbidden City at first surprised me, being much smaller than know believed to be. Then I walked through the next few sets of gates, and I can see why it earns the title of a city. It was great to finally walk around it, if so seeming a little sparse- but incredibly busy. The green hoodies really do come in handy!
The restaurant we went to for lunch was weird. It was a sort of DIY dining, where you picked your food up with chopsticks (a skill I have been attempting to master over these last few days) and dipping it into the sort of hot water “pot”. Very worrying, as I kept checking to see if the meat I picked was cooked all the way!
After dinner we saw a kung fu show, which was spectacular. The performances in that were incredible, with some amazing moves and techniques being shown off. It really had to be seen to be believed. And apparently the acrobatics show is supposed to be even better, so I’m definitely looking forward to that!
Sunday, March 27
Spending day today!
We visited the flea market and silk market and they were brilliant! Lots of bartering and spending done all around I think.
We also visited the Hutongs, the old area of Beijing, and got a ride on a rickshaw- which was amazing! On the return rickshaw trip, me and Ruairí tried to see how many people would wave at us. I count around 10 waves, a couple smiles and hellos, and one very awkward look off of one man!
The atmosphere of the flea market was great, with it being the proper market I was expecting it to be. And it was massive! I got some gifts for my Mum, Dad and brother, which I will give them with when I get home (and hope they like them!)
The silk market was very diffierent-similar to the pearl market. It was a sort of cheap, bartering shopping centre, with about six floors and many different stores. I had some fun bartering for a small Buddha statue getting it for 60 juan.
Tuesday, March 29
Went to the number 1 school today, before taking a sleeper train to Shanghai. The sleeper train was a very interesting experience, to say the least. The cabin sizes were exactly as expected, the width of a person standing up. With three bunk beds packed on either side, it was very cramped getting in , but once everything was sorted it seemed on. Sleeping was quite relaxing and comfortable to be honest, and I only woke up once for a reason unknown to me.
The school itself was huge! All the students were very welcoming and fun, and it was nice to hang out with a couple of them at the start of the day. After, we attended two separate art classes- which has always been my worst subject next to music- which we had after! We learnt how to do some calligraphy, and also paint bamboo, so I now have some awful looking souvenirs of my own to take home!
The music was interesting though. We listened to performances given by the students, on various instruments. It was great to hear as both the music and the instruments originated in China. Our school attempted a ceilidh dance outside, which worked… for the most part!