Beijing, a World of Difference

After over thirty hours of traveling, we finally arrived in Beijing, the capital of China. I will be breaking this blog up by city and then by day. With Bei as our tour leader, we do over five things everyday so it is going to be hard to talk about everything, but I will try my best! Please enjoy!

Day 1:

After arriving at the airport, we met with our tour director, Sunny. Sunny is absolutely amazing and Bei has been working with her for the past couple of years so Sunny is super excited to be working with us! We immediately board our coach bus and our itinerary begins at full speed. Our first stop was lunch in the center of Beijing. Lunch was traditional Chinese food, which wasn’t too shocking, however, I didn’t get out of the restaurant without some culture shock! Apparently in China, there is something called a squatting toilet, I’m sure you can figure out why this was shocking! Continue reading “Beijing, a World of Difference”

24 Hours of Night – China Day 1

Written and posted March 3rd, 2018

Departing from Westtown (on Thursday) we took a bus to the Newark International airport. When we got to the airport, we found out that someone on the flight had a medical emergency and there was not enough oxygen for us to fly to Hong Kong. All of the options we were given were bad, especially with the impending winter storm the next day meaning we’d lose at least two if not more days. However, after much deliberation between the teachers and the airport staff, it was decided that they would give a stipend to thirty people who left, and our group had priority to stay. We all made it on the flight and landed in Hong Kong at 5:30 AM on Saturday. Hong Kong was the first time we had seen daylight in a little over twenty-four hours.

After one more plane ride, this time only two hours, we made it to Beijing. We met our tour guide Sunny at the airport. While we were driving, Sunny told us a bit about the history of China and Beijing. Sunny mentioned something called a political blue sky which I found interesting. A political blue sky is when a political leader is coming to Beijing and all the factories close so there is no smog and the sky stays blue. I was surprised that Beijing knows their air is extremely polluted but does not do anything to prevent it except for powerful figures.

Sunny also took us to lunch near the Olympic village and the Birds Nest, the Olympic stadium. The restaurant was similar to Westtown, in that it was family style. There was a lazy-susan in the middle of the table with all of our food which we spun when we wanted another dish. However, a major cultural difference was the utensils. I have never been good with chopsticks and while I struggled to use them, I know it will get easier as the trip goes on. Another cultural shock was the bathroom in the restaurant. I had to squat over a hole and bring in my own toilet paper, very different to bathrooms in the States.

When we went to the Olympic village we saw the Birds Nest, the swimming pool, a winter only man-made ski hill, and people doing tricks with rollerblades. The park also had buildings that, when looked at together, were in the shape of a dragon. After leaving the park we walked around the Houhai Lake District and went to dinner, which was in a similar style as lunch and was very yummy! While this was only a brief preview of my day, I’m experiencing extreme jet lag, so I am going to get some sleep. Thanks for reading! I’ll try to post again tomorrow.

– Anna


Entrance to the Olympic village

Birds Nest

Dragon made of buildings

Performance rollerblading

Lake Houhai District

歡迎來到中國 – Welcome to China


Hello! My name is Nick Sokoll, and I have been at Westtown since seventh grade! For my Senior Project, I am departing on a trip to the opposite side of the world to explore the nation of China. I speak no Mandarin and have never been to Asia, which makes this trip all the more exciting to me. I initially became interested in exploring the East in my World Religions course with Teacher Brian. We were learning about the religions of the world, and I did a project on Chinese Pure Land Buddhism. Ever since learning about this fascinating form of Buddhism, I knew that I needed to explore China.

On this trip, we will be visiting seven different cities around the country, ranging from the ultra-modern cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai to Xi’an, home of the Terra-Cotta Warriors. My flight leaves in just a couple of hours, and I still have an essay to write for my English class, so this is all for now! I will keep you all updated, through this blog, as I explore the opposite side of the world. 謝謝, thank you!

– Nick

Prologue​ to China: Classroom to Reality

Written and posted February 25th, 2018

你好, 我的名字是 Anna Harrison. For those of you who do not speak or read Mandarin, I said, “Hi, my name is Anna Harrison.” At least that is what I hope it reads. I (as well as the majority of the people reading my blog, I assume) do not know Mandarin either. I asked one of my good friends how to write that sentence and, hopefully, she is not making a fool out of me. I have tried to learn Mandarin, believe me. I have been using Duolingo every day, asking my friends how to say words, and going to the weekly cultural sessions my teacher, the trip leader, has been hosting since I decided to go on this trip to China back in October. However, learning a new language is not as easy as it seems. I should know. I have been taking Spanish since Kindergarten and, yes, I am in Spanish 5 at the moment. Yes, I can understand, read, write, and speak Spanish, although I am nowhere close to fluent.

You might be wondering, “Anna, you have been taking Spanish for most of your life and know very little Mandarin, why in the world are you going to China instead of a Spanish-speaking country?” Well, the answer to that question is, IT IS CHINA! I have been to Mexico a couple of times, for service and for vacation and, while I would love to go back or go to another Spanish-speaking country when I heard that China was an option for a Senior Project, I was incredibly excited! 14 days, 6 cities/provinces, mouth-watering food (Dim Sum), the Great Wall of China, Terracotta Warriors, Tang Dynasty show and dinner, and so much more! I could actually visit the Forbidden City, the former Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty, in person. Images from my five-pound, highlighter-filled history textbook would be brought to life. I also chose to go on this trip because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of course, you are thinking that sounds cliché, “once-in-a-blah blah, everyone says it, okay, we get it,” but it truly is. Without this trip, the opportunity Westtown and my parents and family have given me, I believe that I would have never gone to China. While I wish that was not the case because I love to travel and want to go everywhere, most travel abroad programs default to western European countries instead of Asian ones, and I do not think China is a place I would travel to on my own. I am extremely grateful for all everyone has done to put this trip together and cannot wait to be watching at least six movies (it is about a sixteen-hour flight) and relaxing on the plane four days from now.

See you in China!

– Anna

P.S. I want to let you know that my other blog posts will (I hope) not be as long as this one. I really enjoy photography, so I plan to accompany each post with lots of photos. I also want to let you know that China limits access to sites, and I may not have WiFi for a majority of the trip. I may have to post my blog posts when I get back to the States. However, feel free to keep checking in case I do get WiFi and can post. Thank you for reading!