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British Int’l School of Chicago, China 2017

June 10-11, 2017

We are finally here in Beijing after a very exhausting, long flight. We have officially traveled 12 hours into the future. Like an ocean wave, we rolled through customs and out of the international terminal in our sweet, blue Global Works t-shirts. And can I just say, we looked good. We were greeted with smiles as we met our Global Works leaders Willy, Lindsey and Christiana. Luckily everyone’s bags made it safely from Chicago and we were able to get out of the airport quickly. We boarded our private bus and were off to our home for the next week, the Fensiting Hutong. Traffic in China is completely chaotic, messy and out of control, but somehow it works. People seem to be very in-tune with one another and the world around them just naturally flows. We were mesmerized as cars, mopeds, bicyclists, rickshaws and people zipped in all directions. Many of us drifted off on the bus ride to the sound of blasting horns. As we made the hour long bus ride back “home” we were filled with curiosity and wonder. What will the food be like? What are we doing tomorrow? Where can we score fake Yeezy shoes? When do we go to the Great Wall? And when can I go to bed? We finally arrived, where we were dropped off on a street corner near our hotel. Our bus was not able to take us all the way to our hotel because it was so wide that it could not fit down the extremely narrow alleys, or hutongs, as they are called here. Our hotel is surrounded by a maze of hutongs, weaving throughout Beijing’s 2nd ring. After a delicious family style meal and birthday celebration for Cole, we headed off to bed, dreaming of tomorrow and all the interesting things we will encounter.

-Lindsey (Global Works Leader)

June 12, 2017

Not being used to the jet lag, many of us woke up around 4 o’clock in the morning, many hours to go before we would begin any of the activities planned for the day.  Once it came time to leave the hotel and embark on the journeys of the day, we began a scenic fifteen minute walk to the Lama temple, the route filled with small street shops and locals that were very interested in the different cultures that our group brought to the area.  Once we arrived, we passed through several intricately designed arches and explored the vibrantly colored interior of the temple.  Smoke filled the air as people kneeled in prayer to the various statues scattered throughout the area.  After exploring the temple, we walked through the busy streets to lunch, taking many shortcuts and detours to make our way through the crowded streets safely.  Once we arrived we enjoyed trying the dim sum dishes, some of which none of us had ever tasted before.  Afterwards, we had a lesson from a Tai Qi master in a beautiful park near a historical temple called the Temple of Earth.  We watched the master perform a brief routine before returning home for team building and dinner.

-Caelen, Sam, and Isabella

June 13, 2017

The day started out great with breakfast at the hotel, and soon after, we split into groups for our daily excursions.  In group 1, we used the slightly scary, humid, and packed public transport to get to our cooking class.  While it was a scary moment, it was a worthwhile experience.  Similar to the traffic in Chicago, the public transport in Beijing was chaotic; we were all crammed in like a pack of sardines, unable to move anywhere.  We were relieved to finally reach the cooking class in the humble home of Chao, our teacher for the morning.  He explained to us the difference between dumplings and the proper ways to form them.  Some of us really struggled with creating the dumplings while others showed their natural ability; a true talent to add to any resume.  But, overall, it was a great opportunity to learn.  We enjoyed our scrumptious, homemade lunch and then met up with the other half of our group.

When we got on the bus, they raved about their morning.  They had made their way up a set of stairs that were essentially vertical to get to the very top of the Drum Tower.  As they climbed, the sound of drums filled the corridor, and unsure of what they would find when they reached the top.  They watched a traditional drum ceremony and had an incredible view of the city.  They then met Lars, a master of Hutong and Chinese history for an in-depth, behind the scenes tour of these historic alleys.  Meandering through, they learned about the variation in doorways, with certain markings representing higher or lower socioeconomic status.  One of the most interesting parts of the tour was hearing how these hutongs have changed over time, and what they represent to the people of China.

Both groups ended the day with a trip to Beijing’s 5th ring road on the outskirts of the city to an orphanage, where we instantly felt a connection with the kids.  They performed songs for us and we performed songs back, our hearts were full of happiness.  Many of us joined in for a soccer game with our new mates as others sat and laughed with the children.  Another day packed full of adventure, we can’t wait to see what will happen tomorrow!

-Rachel, Yinka, and Yash

June 14, 2017

After breakfast, our class headed to the British School of Beijing, located on the outskirts of the city capital. The school was massive, and beaming with pride. We split up into smaller groups for a tour of the school, given by fellow year ten students. After the tour, the boys played an intense game of soccer while the girls played in a relaxed game of softball. Even though most of us girls were not highly skilled in the art of softball, it was a great way to get to know the British International students. It happened to be Indonesian food themed day for the school’s lunch, a nice chance up from the traditional Chinese food we have been eating for lunch and dinner. After lunch, we drove to Beijing’s art district and visited many different art galleries. The art we saw ranges from traditional religious paintings, experimental modern art, interactive pieces as well as many 3-D installations. Many of the pieces were created to provoke conversation and thought for the viewers. While preparing to go back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner, the group enjoyed ice cream from a local vendor. Dinner was in a beautifully decorated restaurant where we enjoyed some southern Chinese cuisine. Many of us dove in to what we thought was chicken, but to our surprise…it was fried, crispy shitakke mushrooms. Feeling energized, we opted for an after dinner workout. We rented paddle boats and cruised around a small Lake. Endless karaoke bars filled the streets and we soaked up the music and lights from our peaceful boats. It was a long day, but worth every minute!

-Brigid, Anika and Emma

June 15, 2017

For the first time this trip, we took a public bus in China, and we found many similarities to the CTA in Chicago.  It was really amazing to see how alike the US and China are in that way.  Upon departing the bus, we traversed down the alley of the Hutong where the cooking school was situated.  We then went through a one-buttoned door and into the courtyard.  The cooking instructor spoke amazing English.  We all thought that the class and the dumplings we made were great!

Those of us who did not go to the cooking class went on a walking tour of the Hutong area of Beijing.  In exploring the more hidden parts of the area, we unearthed secrets that would have otherwise gone unnoticed despite being in plain sight.  We walked through narrow streets that were seemingly far from the beaten path, but walked past the houses of past generals and royalty that lived hundreds of years ago, since having been covered as new governmental regimes took over.  We learned about the different indicators of class and intricate social hierarchies in every community, realizing that there are years upon years of stories in everything from the largest mansions to the colors of doors.

After lunch, we walked through the sweltering heat to Tienanmen square and the Forbidden City.  We explored the historical areas while applying knowledge that we had learned from the walking tour to the sights that we saw.  We had dinner at a restaurant with a small awning that opened up into a beautiful sprawling restaurant, then we caught a bus back to the hotel for a relaxed night of preparation for the Great Wall the next day.

-Cole, Caelen, and Kayla T.

June 16, 2017

On Friday, we first got woken up at 7:30 am and had breakfast at 8 in the hotel.  It was excellent! After that, we got on the bus for an incredibly long bus ride to the village near the Great Wall.  Once there, we were instructed to leave our belongings in the bus but to take our water bottles which were necessary because it was super hot! We left the bus and took refuge in a restaurant for lunch.

Once inside the restaurant, the chef showed us how to make noodles.  We attempted the task.  It was very hard, but we figured it out.  After they cooked the noodles, we created our own noodle bowls from the noodles we crafted as well as various sauces, meats and vegetables.  After lunch, we went to the Great Wall itself.  It was so cool! We travelled 15 towers across the Great Wall, which totaled 7km.  After we went on the Great Wall, we took a toboggan ride down the mountain.  It was amazing because we went so fast.  After this we had dinner in the same village. Our meal was really delicious!

-Marissa and Jason

June 17, 2017

We began the day with a short trek to a small project called Bamboo Bicycles Beijing.  There, we learned about different methods of sustainable travel before learning how to make bicycles from bamboo frames.  We assembled ourselves into teams and, through a long process of trial and error, successfully created a set of fully functional, environmentally conscious bamboo bicycles.

After a quick lunch and a bit of rest, we caught a bus in a beautiful place know as the summer palace.  We learned about the vibrant history of the architecture of the buildings and the events that transpired within their walls.  We then caught a bus back to the hotel to rest up before our final full day.


June 18, 2017

Today, the first place we went to after breakfast was the Jingshan Park, which had a truly astounding view of the entirety of the city of Beijing.  Whilst walking around, there were many small independent groups that sang with passion, as we could hear their songs all throughout the park.  The park was covered in Willow and Gingko trees, as some of us sat and enjoyed the fresh breeze, others climbed to the top of the hill where we could see the entire layout of Beijing.  Because Beijing is a city built on a cosmological axis, we were able to clearly see definitive points to the North, South, East, and West.  After we had left and had lunch, we took part in a Senior Citizen Language Exchange.  We each talked to different people, many who had traveled just to be here to speak with us.  As English learners, we were impressed by their openness and willingness to be vulnerable.  They inquired to us about many different aspects of our Chicago lives, we too were curious about life in Beijing.  It was very enjoyable as they were all very interesting, joyous, and fun to talk to.  While this was a bit of awkwardness in the beginning, most of us felt comfortable sharing in conversations with strangers, who instantly became friends.  Also, today was the birthday of one of our classmates (Isabella).  She was presented with a beautiful chocolate cake at lunch.  We ended the day with souvenir shopping.  Many scored the fake “Yeezy” shoes we dreamed of , silk scarves, handmade jewelry, snail facemasks, sunglasses, Starbucks, teapots, fans, fabric, and of course, “Hi-Chews”.  The street bustled with people of all ethnicities; Beijing in that moment felt like a melting pot that combined tradition, culture, and faces from around the world.  For our last dinner, we dined in a beautiful courtyard, as plate after plate came out with fish fillets, shrimp, noodle dishes, and chicken from Southern China.  Our days in China will never be forgotten.  Whether our favorite thing about the trip was the historical aspect, the plethora of food we tried, bartering in the market near the great wall, or the connections we made with our friends, everyone has something to take home from this trip.  Beijing, we won’t forget you…until next time!

-Destinee, Ramman, Juan, & Lindsey