I have the challenging task of summarizing this group's trip experience. With these two and half days in Shanghai, a week of home stay with our Chinese families, and two and half days in Beijing, every one of us has experienced so much, and we've only been able to scratch the surface of a nation so densely packed with its distinct cultures and ways of life. I've been trying to come up with a running theme for our trip, something that can summarize our new experiences and the lessons we have learned. But I realized to do so would be a disservice to a place so large and so unique, a place that a million stories could not even begin to capture.
China is the thousands of years of tradition packed into the intricate, centuries old jade ornaments carefully preserved in the Shanghai museum. On the other hand, mere blocks away from the museum lay the stores Gucci and Rolex, signs of both Westernization and the rapid industrialization of China’s economy. China is the history exam explained to me by my new middle school friends at Shanghai Gaoqiao Donglu School. It is the facts about the Renaissance inventors and the Cold War filtered through the vigilant eye of the Communist party. China is the stunted conversations between my host and I, as she tries to explain her love of writing and the story she's been working on in her limited English, and my response with my limited Chinese. And China is the art galleries of 798 in Beijing, with a statue of a headless Mao sitting next to shops selling quality landscapes and masterwork embroidery portraits.
This trip to China had its ups and downs; it was not always fun. Living in a new culture and being without the comforts of home made me yearn to return to America quite often, but I have learned things here from both my host family and from so many people that I could have never met in my normal day-to-day life. I have gotten the great privilege of being exposed to history, culture, and many lives that I couldn’t have witnessed at home. In the process, I’ve discovered a lot about our world and myself. The trip has given me, and I think the rest of my fellow travelers, a beautiful memory/experience that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.