Our trip begins soon! Be at school for a 1:45 AM departure.
Please check back for more information as we progress!
We are anxious to begin!
Tuesday, June 4, 2007 --9PM Beijing
We are here! Four movies, 3 meals, and 12 1/2 hours brought us from Chicago to Beijing. That was a trial for some, but most of the students slept much of the way. As we flew over the polar ice cap, we could see the ice beginning to break up below. We also experienced the midnight sun -- there was no darkness the entire way!
Customs went smoothly and we were excited to meet one of our Chinese guides, Betty. We have already experienced rickshaw rides through the old hutongs (traditional neighborhoods) of Beijing. We visited a 200 year old home in the hutong, and then enjoyed a family style meal of traditional food from this region. Yes, we did use our chopsticks!!
After basically loosing 2 nights of sleep, a shower and bed are now our main goals! We praise God for answered prayers in safe travel and a great beginning.
Wednesday, June 5, 2007 -- Beijing
A busy, phenomenal day! The Forbidden City is huge, ornate, and beautiful. We were part of the masses of people pouring through the gate where originally only the Ming emperor could enter. Viewing TianAnMen Square with Chairman Mao's picture hanging over one of the entrances to the Forbidden City reminded us of the drastic changes that have taken place in China over the past 100 years. Evidences of dynasties, Communism, The People's Movement, and modern progress surrounded us.
Our guide said it was cooler today -- only 99 degrees F. -- so cooling off and refreshing at lunch helped reinvigorate us. We then continued to the Temple of Heaven where the emperor (considered the Son of Heaven) would worship and sacrifice. This made us conscious of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
We enjoyed some shopping in the Pearl Market, where several U.S. presidents have also shopped.
Our final highlight was a Chinese acrobatic show. We witnessed amazing strength and control, bodies that bent in ways that seemed impossible, and up to 13 acrobats climbing onto one moving bike.
Our only mishaps were 2 lost cameras ( both have returned), one shaky health (now improved), and one skinned knee. Once again a shower and bed are SO inviting!
Thursday, June 6, 2007 Beijing
Our day began with a visit to the Summer Palace. Again we were amazed by the extravagance of the dynasty in control. One example was a canopied walkway for daily exercises that had a ceiling elaborately painted with beautiful art. A man-made lake and mountain made us wonder about the servants that hauled the dirt!
Our guide skillfully broke up the long ride to the Great Wall with a stop of shopping. Almost all of us purchased some jade jewelry. Jade is the traditional "living stone" of China.
The Great Wall!! We now all can claim, " I climbed the Great Wall of China." Some made it to the 4th Tower, some to the 7th, and the most ambitious to the 11th Tower ( Greg, Chris, and Cameron went the furthest, with Mr Welton, Nick and George close behind). We were each "adopted" by a local guide/vendor along the way. Our personal guides would point out details, fan us while we rested, and then bugged us persistently to buy their souveniers when we got back down.
Friday, June 7, 2007 -- Xian, A Day of Many Religions
A 5AM wake up call helped us get to the airport for our 1 1/2 hour flight to Xian.
This morning we viewed the pagoda where Christianity was first brought to China in the 7th Century. It is now a Buddhist site. From there we toured an active Taoist temple, and then the Big Goose Pagoda which is a Buddhist temple.
The adventuresome part of the afternoon was free time on the old city wall of Xian. Most opted to bike the 14 kilometers around the top. Yes, all the chaperones made it around. Tommy and Nick went around twice -- because they missed the stopping point on the first time.
Tonight we are in a beautiful new hotel overlooking that same wall where we biked. All are well and having a great time.
Saturday, June 9, 2007 --Xian
2,000 terra cotta soldiers and horses -- each different, acres of covered unexcavated sites, probably 4 times as many figures still buried. This is the amazing tomb of China's first emperor. The soldiers were to guard his tomb and help guarantee happy eternal life. Thank God for Jesus and His way!! This moring was a highlight of the trip thus far.
This evening we enjoyed a cultural show/dinner theater. We were served dim sum -- more than 15 types of small dumplings stuffed with everything from fish, pork, cabbage, walnut, and cabbage.
Ashley won the brave eating award for trying black fungus ( like a chewy, curly mushroom) and sea cucumber (which Greg described as shredded bouncy balls). Nicole and Amanda voted for Wendy's or Taco Bell.
Sunday, June 10, 2007 -- Lhasa
This morning we flew into the capital of Tibet. The entire day is given to rest and adjusting to the 12,000 foot altitude. Symptoms include tingling fingers, shortness of breath, and slight headaches. So far no one has altitude sickness. Hopefully by tomorrow we will have adjusted. Now that we are in Tibet, it will become increasingly more difficult to contact you, so do not worry. All is well.
Monday, June 11, 2007 -- Lhasa
These next 2 days have been spent enjoying the Tibetan capital of Lhasa -- which is an interesting mix of the old and the modern. The streets are shared with cars and buses, but more numerous are bikes, rickshaws, and pedestrians.
We have seen 3 monasteries -- each unique. The Drepung Monastery is the largest in Tibet for the Yellow Hat Order of monks. It was the home of the 2nd through the 5th Dalai Lamas. Before 1051 it housed more than 10,000 monks. Evidences of these people's deep faith are the pilgrims spinning prayer wheels, adding yak butter to the burning candle pots and the incessant chanting.
A highlight today was the animated discussion of the monks at the Sera Monastery. The courtyard was a din of instruction, questioning and arm swinging claps.
Everyone seems to have adjusted well to the altitude. The hundreds of steps at 12,000 feet still wind us quickly!
Tuesday, June 12, 2007 -- Lhasa
Today we saw 2 more sacred sites. The Jokhung Temple -- home of the early Dalai Lamas and the most sacred place in the city. We saw hundreds of pilgrims prostrating themselves repeatedly in front of the temple.
The Potala Palace -- this was the home of the later Dalai Lamas until the current one exiled to India when the Chinese took over Tibet. We were amazed at the amount of gold in the elaborate, huge tomb stupas on all the later Dalai Lamas. Climbing up the steps to the Potala Palace was another VERY strenuous climb, but well worth it.
Tomorrow we begin our journey in earnest to get to Mount Everest.
Saturday, June 16, 2007 -- Mount Everest!!
The last 3 days have given us an appreciation for the vastness and ruggedness of Tibet. We were pleasantly surprised to discovered that the road was paved almost all the way. We have been driving on the 2-laned "Friendship Highway" which we shared with 3-wheeled motor bikes carrying big loads, tracters pulling carts loaded with people, modern tanker trucks, 4-wheel drive vehicles such as ours, and herds of sheep. If you need to do repairs, you just stop right on the road and work!! (There is really no place else to pull off.)
We have now been to the North Base Camp of Everest. The last mile of our journey was in mule drawn carts. Although the clouds did not clear from the mountain while we were at Base Camp, the summit did peak out while we were at a roadside stop on the way. Rugged, cold, and windy!!
Our days of driving have been broken up by several interesting stops. We have seen more monasteries and the world's largest bronze Buddha. One monastery would not allow people to wear shorts inside -- but they graciously provided pants for Greg and George and a wrap around skirt for Nicole. Quite a fashion statement, but they were good sports! Can you picture a pair of pants from a 5'3" Tibetan on one of our 6'3" students?
Another interesting stop was at a Tibetan elementary school -- 72 students per class, about 80 students per dorm room the size of LWCS's classrooms. The school had 397 students altogether.
Sunday, June 17, 2007 -- Goodbye, Tibet -- Hello, Chendu!
Happy Father's Day to all of you fathers. Your children are thinking of you.
This morning we flew for about 2 hours over more rugged mountains and landed in the Sechuan Province, the most populous area of the country. It is great to be back at a lower altitude and breath easier again.
We went immediately to the Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding. There are now about 1600 pandas in the wild and 200 in captivity. We saw some of 59 pandas at the research station. Sarah and Brittany had plans to wear special panda T-shirts for this occasion, but holding a baby giant panda cost $100+. But several students did take the opportunity to hold a baby red panda. The general consensus was "They are SO cute!"
We are now checked into a beautiful hotel, complete with its own bowling alley. The students feel like they are living in luxury. They are all well -- and starting to miss home.
Monday, June18, 2007 -- Chendu
We are enjoying breathing easier in the beautiful Sichuan province. After experiencing rush hour in the city, our travels today took us through beautiful farmland. We stopped in a rice field and also viewed tea terraces.
Our main event today was viewing the LeShan Buddha -- the biggest Buddha in the world. It was carved out of the mountainside to protect the fishermen in a dangerous place where 3 rivers meet. It is huge -- 78 meters high. Quite a feat considering that it was carved in 713 A.D. We first viewed the Buddha from below while we were on a boat looking from the toes to the top of the head, and later climbed many steps to the top of the head.
Tonight we enjoyed a Western style dinner and then some went out again to sample a traditional Sichuan "hot pot" (supposedly some of the hottest food in the world). The students are preparing lists of the fast food that they will eat when they arrive back in the States. Tommorow we catch an early morning flight to HongKong for the final leg of our journey.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 -- Hong Kong
We have skimmed through Hong Kong. After our flight in on Tuesday morning we experienced several mass transit systems. We took 2 ferries and a bus out to the Po Lin Buddha -- the newest of all the Buddhas that we have viewed. It was quite a hike to the top. We felt like midgets when we got next to this gigantic Buddha. On our trip home we discovered that our second ferry had just pulled away for the evening. The alternate route placed us on the harbor directly across from the famous Hong Kong skyline. Because Tuesday was a holiday here, there was a special music and lazer light show occurring in the evening. The lights on the giant skyscrapers were choreographed into a dazzling show. Just one more once-in-a-lifetime experience on this trip. (Followed by a 2 mile walk along the harbor back to the hotel and a reward of KFC.)
Wednesday morning we experienced more of the traditional Hong Kong highlights. We viewed the city from Victoria Peak, rode a sampan through the Aberdeen fishing village, and shopped in a busy outdoor market.
Wednesday afternoon the students are free to shop, eat, and relax in our beautiful hotel.
All are anxious to head home tomorrow. Parents, stack your refrigerators with pizza and ice cream!! Your children will probably sleep and eat for a week!!
Our wonderful China experience is completed. We praise God for safety and the many blessings of the trip.