The Chief

An experience out of this hemisphere

Michael Riggi, Editor-in-Chief

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Rather than celebrate the beginning of summer at the beach or with a nice refreshing water ice at Ralph’s, I was hiking up and down one of the seven wonders of the world.  

This summer, myself, along with 34 other Massapequa students and parents, were fortunate enough to travel to the other side of the planet on a once in a lifetime trip to two Chinese cities: Beijing and Xi’an. Following five years of Mandarin Chinese classes in Massapequa, we were eager to tackle China and all it had to offer.

Mrs. Tracy Pi, the Mandarin Chinese teacher at Massapequa High School, accompanied by Mrs. Gail Hayes and Ms. Ledgerton, led the large ensemble and helped prepare us extensively for the trip.

After years of preparation and a particularly cumbersome 13 hour flight, the broad stripes and bright stars dimmed over the misty light red warming skies of Beijing, the capital city of China. From the first moment that my classmates and I stepped foot into the foreign country, we knew that we would be in for a treat.  

Partnering with Beijing University and students on the campus, we were shown slivers of what the massive hundred mile wide city had to offer for the first five days of the trip. Cultural landmarks such as the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Place not only impressed us by their sheer size, but also by their beauty.

Within these first few days we also had the opportunity to visit important historical landmarks as well, including Tiananmen Square and the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Birds Nest stadium.

Between visiting these locations we were given the opportunity to tour local markets at our own pace and buy unique goods from the country. Unlike America, a lot of what you buy in China can be bargained down for with the vendors, as they often raise prices significantly when they see tourists. After some practice, we all were able to bargain down prices with the vendors and buy gifts for home for dirt cheap prices.     

Not only were prices for general gifts much cheaper than America, but prices for food were much cheaper as well. Distinctly different than our local Chinese restaurants down the street in Massapequa, meals such as the famous Beijing roasted duck helped solidify real non-Americanized Chinese food as some of the best tasting food around.   

Even though Beijing might not have had the famous mouthwatering slices of New York pizza, it certainly had more than enough crazy traffic to make it feel just like home. Cars, mopeds, and buses (oh my!) converged in five lane intersections, a lot more than we would have liked. Due to such high population, mopeds were often seen zooming down the streets next to cars since there is limited space and limited license plate availability for Chinese people.

Downtime at the university and at night allowed students to partake in unique Chinese experiences such as painting classes, a tea-drinking class, karaoke, and even a massage session, which was well worth the price. The opportunity to meet with Chinese students at a local high school was also a delight, and helped us realize that we all have many similarities with one another.  

But after days of ominously looming in the background, it was finally time to tackle one of the main attractions: the Great Wall. Stretching miles long above endless hills of bright green trees, the Great Wall was beyond words. Both visually and physically breathtaking, the hundred degree beating sun couldn’t even put a stop to the true beauty that the thousand year old jagged wall radiates off of its light brown bricks.     

After braving the Great Wall, we then braved the process of repacking and hopped onto one of the country’s famous three-hundred miles per hour bullet train to the next city: Xi’an.  

Much smaller than the country’s near coastline capital, the inner country city continued to awe us with the wonders the country had to offer for the three days that we were there.

Whether it be riding bikes on the Ming Dynasty wall in the heart of the city or visiting the “eighth wonder of the world,” the Terracotta Warrior Soldiers, Xi’an continued to delight. Definitely sticking out from the norms of the country, Xi’an was where our true American tourist nature came out and where we took the most pictures with random groups of Chinese people, as Americans are a rare oddity in China.

Nearing the final days of the trip, Massapequa students and parents geared up in Hawaiian attire and posed for pictures in front of the impressive gold-slated Buddhist temples in the Wild Goose Pagoda. The end of the trip is what really hit hard the most: all of the beautiful landmarks, all the group bus rides between traveling sites, and all of the memories would fade away in just a few hours.  

But all good trips must come to an end, eventually. Thirteen hours later and hundreds of pounds of luggage lighter, we landed back in America. Jetlagged, cranky, and missing pretty much every piece of luggage feasible, we sat in the airport and shuttle bus home in dead silence. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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