By T.R. Laputka
Director of Technology
On Thursday, March 7, 20 students and two parents from MMI embarked on a nine-day educational tour of China. Coordinated by Education First Tours, some of the major stops included Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. The tour was led by T.R. Laputka and chaperoned by MMI faculty members Christina Spencer, Michael Mele, and Christine Lizbinski.
Upon arriving in Beijing, students met with their tour director, Zhang, who accompanied them and taught them about the history and culture of China and its people. He also shared information about each of the sights they encountered.
On Saturday (March 9), they visited the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and learned about the location where the Chinese emperors prayed to Heaven for a good harvest. They walked along Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City to learn about the palace of the emperor. For dinner that evening they had Peking duck, a local delicacy. After dinner, some of the students went to the Legend of Kung Fu show, which told the story of a young boy in his pursuit of becoming a Kung Fu master and the obstacles that he encountered along the way.
The next morning, the group visited the Beijing Shaolin Wushu School, where the Wushu students put on a karate demonstration and then taught the students some karate moves. The group, in turn, taught the Wushu students some American dance moves.
Traveling to Badaling, students walked along the Great Wall and hiked to the guard tower at the top of the mountain, followed by a traditional Chinese lunch. This was followed by a tea ceremony, where the group learned about the importance of tea in China, experienced the different properties of Chinese teas, and sampled different kinds of teas. They then took a rickshaw tour to a local family residence, where they had dinner and learned about city life in Beijing.
On Monday (March 11), they visited the Emperor’s Summer Palace on Kunming Lake and had a lesson in the practice of Tai Chi. The group then boarded a plane to Xi’an, where they viewed the sights from individual bicycles on the city wall. After dinner, the group enjoyed a reflexology massage, where they learned about Chinese concepts of acupressure therapy.
The following morning, they visited the Terra Cotta Warriors museum, where they experienced the 2,000-year-old sculptured soldiers of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor. The group learned all about the archeological history and recovery process of this historical site. After they came back to Xi’an, they were able to experience modern art paintings in a small museum depicting Chinese culture and then went to a calligraphy class so they could practice writing Chinese and their names with Chinese brushes. Then they walked along Beiyuanmen Street to sample various Muslim foods. After dinner, some of the group went to see the Tang Dynasty Show.
The group woke up early Wednesday (March 13) morning to catch a flight to Shanghai, where they traveled to the 100th floor of the World Financial Center and shared spectacular views of the city. They went shopping on the famous Nanjing Road and, after a specialized dinner of a variety of Chinese dumplings, they enjoyed an acrobatics show.
On Thursday (March 14), the group toured the Jade Buddha Temple, where they learned the history of Buddhism and saw many different representations of the Buddhist forms. This was followed by a tour of a silk factory, where they experienced an interactive tour of the silk-making process.
The afternoon included a walk on the waterfront and a tour of the Yu Garden. An MMI alumnus joined the group for dinner to share his experiences in China. He also accompanied them on a nighttime Huangpu River cruise to enjoy the spectacular nighttime skyline of Shanghai.
On Friday (March 15), they tiredly bid farewell to China and Zhang, the tour director who made sure that they had the best experience possible. After a long flight and bus ride from the airport, they met their families at MMI, who were very happy to see them again and hear all about their trip.
It was an enormously fulfilling trip for everyone involved – not only educationally but also personally, since most people only see these sights in pictures. The encounters and memories made, things learned, places seen, and food tasted will be remembered for a lifetime.