01 May 2018

Trip to China 2018

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Year 9 and 10 students enjoyed a Mandarin study trip to China over Easter, visiting Shanghai, Wuzhen and Chengdu.

One of my favourite parts of the trip was the Mandarin school in Shanghai. Although it is a lot harder than other languages I am learning, it was really fun, and our teacher was very patient with us because we were learning it from scratch whereas the others on the trip had already been studying it for a while.

After the Mandarin lessons, we would regroup and then do an activity, such as making dumplings. We had to wrap the filling in the dough and press it together. They tasted wonderful! On the last two days of Mandarin school, we did calligraphy and painted some modern and traditional Chinese characters using calligraphy, and also painted a fan.

During the trip, we learnt about the traditions and culture surrounding tea in China. On the first day, we engaged in a traditional tea ceremony, sampled three kinds of tea, and were taught the correct way to brew tea according to ancient Chinese tradition. Overall the experience was enjoyable and very calming, especially after the long flight. We also visited a museum dedicated to tea, which had exhibits on tea-sets, different forms of tea and the significance of tea throughout Chinese history. The tea-set exhibit was particularly enjoyable due to the beauty and detail in each piece of crockery, and the museum allowed us to form a greater understanding of the culture surrounding tea. The tea was one of our favourite aspects of Chinese culture; there are hundreds of different varieties and we never drank the same tea twice.

After the last Mandarin lesson, we travelled from Shanghai to Wuzhen. Because of its canals, Wuzhen has been nicknamed Venice of the East. The town was established in the late ninth century, but it is thought the first settlers were New Stone Age people. It has beautiful wood carvings and architecture and ancient stone bridges and pathways. We arrived there in the early evening, so after dinner, we walked around the town. There were lots of lanterns lighting up the waterways and paths. I think Wuzhen was one of my favourite places because it was so beautiful at night and in the daytime. Even though it is quite a famous place for tourists, many of the people who lived there seemed to be surprised to see us. They would often stop to stare and take pictures, and after a while this got a bit annoying.

Another enjoyable part of the trip was the evening entertainment. One evening we went to watch an acrobatics show. Each act was unique, involving including bicycles, acrobats, catapults and motorbikes, and filled with gravity-defying feats which exhilarated the audience. In Chengdu, we watched a variety which showcased the various acts found in Sichuan Opera, of which both the fire-spitting and face-changing were most unique. The fire-spitters were costumed performers, each holding torches. As they exhaled, their breath caught alight, resulting in plumes of flame erupting from their mouth. The face-changing was incredibly impressive – actors in brightly coloured masks would swap masks in the blink of an eye, without any trace of the previous mask, as though it had never existed in the first place.

One of the best aspects of the trip was the food. There is so much variety and it all tasted wonderful. There were also plenty of shopping opportunities so we had a lot of practice at haggling and communicating with the stallholders. Something we were surprised about was the number of bikes on their roads compared to those in England. We learned pretty quickly that you have to be three times as careful when crossing the road because their road safety is very different and some drivers are pretty reckless!

The main highlight of the trip was volunteering at the panda zoo for a day; it was incredibly fun, with many learning opportunities and enjoyable activities. After arriving, we donned blue overalls and split into groups, each following a guide to the panda enclosures. We then proceeded to break up bamboo before depositing it in the enclosures for the pandas to eat. We swept up the courtyard and cleaned out the indoor enclosures. After this, we were able to feed a panda through the bars of its indoor enclosure, which was an exciting and memorable experience.

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch before watching a documentary about the Chinese government’s conservation efforts, and projects involving the introduction of a captive panda, TaoTao, into the wild. After feeding the pandas a second time, we learned how to make and shape ‘panda cakes’: nutritionally dense bread-like cakes used to boost the pandas’ health. Once the panda cakes were finished, we received our certificates for completing our day of volunteering.

Overall, the trip was an incredibly memorable and enjoyable experience. Both the unique offer of activities and the immersive culture formed a fantastic trip and an unforgettable adventure.

Katerina Panayiotou and Esme Southern

View all the photos from the trip here.

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