I thought it appropriate to make my first actual post still link to my site name, the place where I experienced eating ‘starfish on a stick’. When I was 20 years old, I got the opportunity to take a trip to China while also getting college credit towards my required practicum. With the encouragement (and financial support) from my mom, I was able to embark on my first journey abroad with a group of classmates. I’ll admit that China was never on the top of my “travel” list, but I ended up having an unexpectedly amazing time.
First stop was Shanghai. This is where we worked with children as part of their summer school program. We were able to put together lessons on a variety of topics. Some topics that me and my teaching buddy taught included: American baseball, arctic animals, Mardi Gras, and Charlotte’s Web. This experience made me realize even more so that I knew I wanted to work with children. It also made me realize teaching wasn’t the exact route I wanted to take.
Besides being at the summer school M-F 8-4, I was able to explore all that Shanghai had to offer. This included visiting the Jade Buddha Temple, learning how to bargain prices at the Yuyuan shops, seeing the assortment of brightly lit up buildings on The Bund, and trying some amazing and different food. Some of the top highlights of Shanghai would have to be: going out to a karaoke bar, clubs that played California Girls by Katy Perry, $10 massages and $2 bowls of noodles (still the best noodles of my life!).
Second stop in China was Beijing.
When I was in Beijing, it brought up thoughts about my family. My great-grandpa was from China and fled to the Philippines, assuming around the time Communism came about. It was amazing to see where some of my own heritage came from. The neat thing about Beijing is that it is exactly what you would imagine China to be like. All of the buildings were red with intricate symbols and there were many zen-like gardens with ponds full of koi fish. In Beijing, I was the ultimate tourist and saw all of the must-see attractions. These included: The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing Street, Summer Palace, a silk and jade factory, and of course, The Great Wall.
Now backtracking to ‘starfish on a stick’, I got it at Wangfujing Street. This street is a filled with stands lined up of outdoor food on sticks accompanied by little knick knack shops full of souvenirs. There truly was everything you could imagine on sticks, from sheep penis, scorpion, beef, and dumplings. But honestly the highlights of Beijing were: riding a rickshaw through the Hutong, exploring the Forbidden Palace, and dancing in the rain on the Great Wall of China.
From my first travels abroad, this is when I learned how important it is to travel the world. In China, I was exposed to a level of poverty that we don’t see in the U. S. What I enjoyed so much about China was the culture. I had to fully immerse myself into a culture that is foreign to me. I am part Chinese, but I did not grow up with any Chinese traditions or culture. I had to learn to explore their public transportation system in an unfamiliar language, point to items on menus hoping that it was something I would like, and learn about their customs. It was my trip to China that made me realize that travel is essentially priceless. You can spend all the money you want buying materialistic items, but you can’t buy the experiences and memories from travel that last a lifetime. So, I must say, if you’re reading this and are scared to go out there, take a risk! Go out and travel the world! Travel is what I choose to spend my money on because learning about other people and exploring other places is the best adventure in life that you can take.