From the Arch to the Great Wall

1. Home, Away Home

On June 13th, 2004, I picked up my backpack, got on the bus, went home, opened the door to my room and fell asleep on the bed.

Only this time, my backpack was my luggage, the bus was a chartered tour bus, my room was inside a Holiday Inn, and home was not Chesterfield, MO, but rather Beijing, China.

My name is Rich Yueh and I am an 18 year old incoming freshman at Purdue University. I attended Parkway West High and was able to travel to China with a group of 22 students from St. Louis University High School (SLUH). Together with my friend Jason Huang from Lafayette High, chaperones Mr. Bob Overkamp (a fellow teacher at SLUH) and his wife Susan, and under the guidance of Dr. Ching-Ling Tai, a Chinese teacher at SLUH, we spent 16 memorable days visiting 8 cities in China: Beijing, Xian, Luoyang, Zhenzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.

Although the trip started on June 12th, 2004, preparation started almost two years ago. Forms and money were due in the fall of 2002 and a meeting was held during the winter to discuss packing lists, travel tips, and some facts about each city we were going to visit. As plane tickets were reserved and hotel rooms were booked, it seemed like we were fairly ready to leave. But then in early 2003, the SARS scare arose in China and immediate action had to be taken. Dr. Tai cancelled all plans and postponed the trip until the end of the 2003-2004 school year.

As SARS began to clear up, preparation activities arose once more. One meeting was held in late 2003 as an informal meet and greet. Another was held in May to finalize packing lists, go over rules, and hand out itineraries. Due to conflicts with work, I was not able to attend either one; I received my information secondhand through my parents. When June rolled around it seemed as if this was going to be it- there was no turning back because everyone has made it this far. I made some trips to the store to get some granola bars and packed all my luggage by Friday night, June 11th.

On Saturday, June 12th, everyone had to meet at Lambert Airport by 8:30 in order to check in two hours before departure. I arrived fairly early and checked in my luggage smoothly. The time between reaching the gate and boarding the plane was not long. We were only there for about half an hour - just enough time to return passports and hand out boarding passes - when we heard the boarding announcement.

Our first stop was Minneapolis en route to Tokyo. The flight to Minneapolis was only an hour and 40 minutes, not bad at all. I noticed the Minneapolis airport wasn't like an airport at all but more like a shopping mall. There are stores lined up on both sides of the terminal and a huge food court was located near our gate. Everyone got an hour or so to eat and explore the stores before the designated check in time. After lunch I went to play cards with Jason and 3 new friends: Pete, Darryl, and Mike. It was a good time to learn names and get to know them better, two things I would be doing a lot during the trip.

The flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo was predicted to be around 12 hours. We were delayed at the gate so the actual time on the plane was around 13 hours. At first I thought that I would never make it through 12 hours of just sitting around, eating, some walking, and watching movies or reading. Then I realized that that's what I've been doing almost every day since I graduated so I figured it wouldn't be "too" bad. My seat was near the back, one away from the right-hand side aisle. For the first part of the flight I read my book and tried not to sleep so I wouldn't miss dinner. After dinner I finished my book and took random naps up until breakfast. From breakfast until touching down in Tokyo seemed like one long moment. Everyone was restless from the plane ride and we were all ready to get to our hotel rooms and crash.

The delay at the gate in Minneapolis drastically cut down our time to get to our connecting flight in Tokyo. An airport attendant let our group cut in front of the line at the security checkpoint and we ran all the way to the gate. There was no waiting; everyone else was already boarded so we walked right on. This flight was scheduled around 3 hours. By this time, I was almost out of it. I had energy to run to the gate but the soft airplane seat and the warm blanket knocked me out. I turned down the first round of drinks and missed some sort of meal in order to sleep most of the way to Beijing.

I breathed a sigh of relief upon arrival in Beijing. I knew that we still had to clear security, pick up luggage, and go to the hotel, but at least none of that involved sitting on a plane. After picking up luggage, we walked out to the main terminal and Dr. Tai went to go find our tour guide. At first he didn't introduce himself so we just followed him to the bus. Later on he told us that his name is George and that he would be our guide throughout our stay in Beijing. We went directly to the Central Plaza Holiday Inn and checked into our rooms. I spent some time taking pictures of the lobby and then showered and went to sleep.

It might have been walking out of the airport, or on the bus ride, but somewhere along the way it hit me: I was finally in China. Walking on the pavement in China is no different than walking on the pavement in St. Louis; the big thing is that I'm walking on the pavement "in" China. I cherished this feeling and think about it to this day. There's nothing quite like being in a home away from home.


(一) 家的感覺



這次,我的背包是個行李箱,公車是輛遊覽車,我的房間不是位在密蘇里州Chesterfield的家,而是處在中國北京中環的假日大旅館(Holiday Inn)。

我是岳群,今年18歲,即將成為普渡大學的新鮮人,甫畢業於聖路易西派克衛高中,我有了這個機會與22位聖路易大學高中的同學一道去中國訪問旅遊,同行的還有我的朋友,也是今年自聖路易拉法葉高中畢業的黃奕傑。我們這個團的領隊是聖路易大學高中的中文老師戴慶齡博士,還有隨行的另一位老師Bob Overkamp和他的太太Susan。我們在中國停留了寶貴難忘的16天,共訪問了中國北京、西安、洛陽、鄭州、南京、蘇州、杭州和上海八個城市。







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