Over 180 pupils (aged 12 – 18 years) and staff from BRGS spent part of their summer break on a trip of a lifetime to China. Organized by Mrs Kennedy, the party flew out to spend nine days soaking in local customs and culture, learning much about Chinese traditions and language.
The trip began in Beijing where students spent the first day visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the Imperial Palace for the Ming and Qing dynasties, culminating in a walk through the pavilions and corridors of the Empress Cixi’s Summer Palace and a peaceful sail across Kunming Lake on a dragon boat. The highlight of the trip for many was the chance to climb one section of the Great Wall at Juyongguan – strenuous but worth it, if only to say “I did it!”
The opportunity to get to grips with the chop-sticks and try authentic Chinese cuisine in both Beijing and the Shaanxi provinces showed how very different the food is from that served up in England. Visits to the local supermarkets revealed tanks of live fish and turtles waiting to be chosen by the customer for the evening meal, and the chance (not taken!) to buy slugs, chicken-feet in batter and various creepy crawlies – very crispy!
The overnight train to Xi’an was an experience in itself, but well worth the journey to see the Emperor Qin’s terracotta warriors and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Earlier temperatures of 40° C subsided just sufficiently to allow a circuit of the huge city walls on bicycles – great fun! Peace and harmony pervaded the Huaqing Hot Spring with its statues and halls and the Nine-Dragon Lake, the flowers of the lotus just beginning to bloom on its surface
Contrasting the old with the new, the students learned about the Chinese tea-ceremony and walked among the Ming Tombs, followed by a visit to the Olympic stadium with the chance to explore the Birds’ Nest stadium and even to swim in the Water Cube.
A couple of hours spent in the Pearl and Silk Alley markets caused great excitement and a chance for the young people to test out their negotiating skills and bag some bargains! Not a few arrived back home clutching reproduction ancient Chinese musical instruments and masks, plus the inevitable fans, chop-sticks and coolie hats!
Trips like this enable greater cultural awareness and cohesion and enable us to understand how other countries build on their history and respond to the pressures of modern life.