After 10 days of excellent cultural exchange, brilliant friendships made and lots of fun, the 20 strong group of Sixth Form students returned to Wales having grown a little more as people after the amazing experience in China.
Having met on the first Sunday of the Half-Term break to travel from Heathrow’s terminal 5, the group excitedly boarded the BA flight to Beijing. For many this was their first time to visit Asia and they were all certainly looking forward to discovering new experiences as they touched down on a surprisingly clear day in the capital.
Beijing certainly seemed clearer and the famous ‘smog’ that normally hovers over the city seemed to have moved on. They were treated to the most brilliant sunshine as they completed their tourist experience by visiting the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven, both beautiful monuments.
Our second day saw pupils and staff visiting the ‘Great Wall’ and, according to Chairman Mao, becoming ‘Heroes’ by the very nature of their visit! Again, they were greeted by sunshine and blue skies which just added to the majesty and impressive scale of the wall that just seemed to go on forever. The visit to Beijing was enhanced by great food – extra special wood fired crispy duck as well as Chinese hotpot and other wonderful fare.
The trip was punctuated by sumptuous eating experiences from School lunches to homemade noodles, and pupils and staff were treated to many culinary delights throughout their time in China.
Having experienced Tiananmen Square, the famous Mao Portrait and the endless ‘Forbidden City’, the party from Christ College participated in some bartering at the ‘Silk Street’ outlets where half the fun was entering into a tense agreement for items that they probably didn’t even need!
It was then on to an overnight train to the ancient city of Xi’an to meet Christ College’s first host school and to experience the wonder of the ‘Terracotta’ Army. The overnight train was such an interesting and fun experience. Granted, they may not have slept incredibly, but the fun of squeezing into cabins, playing cards and board games and generally laughing lots made the journey a memorable one.
In Xi’an pupils and staff were treated to their first experience of Chinese hospitality. The school and families that hosted our students were so warm, welcoming and kind. The days in Xi’an were punctuated by lessons in Chinese Calligraphy and the art of Kung Foo. Mr Johnson taught drama lessons to classes of 60 and Miss Jones showed her mettle on the football pitch with an impressive debut. All of the students embraced each new experience and many made life-long friends with their Chinese counterparts.
A visit to the ancient City Walls was thoroughly enjoyed, with a royal welcome as the whole party received a certificate to say that they had passed through the guarded entrance as special guests. A new venture in Xi’an are tandem bicycles and the group embraced this with much fun and laughter – it was a great way to see the city once more.
Before saying goodbye to such fabulous hosts the boys and girls visited the spectacular World Heritage Site of ‘The Terracotta Army’ where despite it being a very cold and rainy day, they were able to enjoy some great views of these detailed treasures.
Following an internal flight from Xi’an to Shanghai, it was then on to meet Christ College’s second host school. Again, they were overwhelmed by the warm welcome, with students lined up in (more) rain to greet them. The pupils and staff joined in with the school day, enjoying a number of discussion groups, morning ‘eye exercises’ and playing their second football match which became known as ‘Shanghai Away’. They were taken to an older part of Shanghai before heading into the City to enjoy the ever expanding modern hub, full of vibrancy as buildings spring up in every direction. A Chinese Acrobats show was observed and the students were in shopping heaven as they passed by every brand imaginable – including Marks and Spencer and C&A just to make them feel at home!
Thankfully there were no vertigo sufferers amongst the group as they visited the very tall WFC tower (at 492 Meters High) which is shaped like a bottle opener and has amazing views, knee-trembling glass floors and futuristic lifts which added to the overall experience. From up in the clouds it was great for all to see the rate at which the city is expanding and to witness just how many building cranes there were at work.
So after an amazing 10 days of unforgettable sights, lots of laughter and fun, some tired but happy boys and girls made their way back on the 12 hour flight to London. All of the pupils agreed that the trip had been the most amazing experience and no doubt there will be a multitude of stories to be told and endless photographs to be shared with families back at hom.
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