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Where “We Wanderers” Came From

The most difficult part of the whole process of starting this blog was finding a title.  I wanted it to capture everything I was looking to use my blog for; to share my own experiences in travel, inspire others to have their own, provide some with a way of seeing the world through my eyes (when unable to travel), and include something else I love – reading. “We Wanderers” is a piece of a quote from the book The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.  This book is definitely one of my top five favorites; it is almost like a guide to how to live your best life, how to cope with difficulties, and how to understand human nature.  The whole quote is:

We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.

As many quotes as there are about traveling (I have plenty of favorites), I feel like this excerpt is the best at truly showing what it means to be a wanderer. To travel around the world twice, and still feel the pull of far away places. To always have a new destination in mind, and to constantly be on the move. “Ever seeking the lonelier way” is especially meaningful to me – I travel alone just as much as, if not more than, I travel with a companion.  And I absolutely love it.  I enjoy the solitude, the ability to experience without feeling self-conscious, and being able to truly fill myself with my surroundings and not worry about if someone else is enjoying it. But I cannot say that traveling with a partner is not just as amazing; having someone else share an experience is an incredibly important thing.  Just as in terrible situations, where having someone who understands what you’ve been through is important, in situations of immense beauty, wonder, and amazement, having a person who you can revel in the moment with is an amazing feeling.  I hope to convey everything I have felt, experienced, and wondered at in my adventures with my blog.

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A Leap From The Comfort Zone

From 2010 to 2014, I attended Central Michigan University.  Going in, I had already planned out my future.  I was going to major in Biology, minor in Spanish, follow the pre-med track to be accepted into medical school, and upon finishing med school, I would become a pediatrician.  After a year, I changed my mind and switched my major to Communication Disorders (CDO) with a minor in sign language.  The new plan was to get my Bachelor’s in CDO, get accepted to and finish a Master’s in Speech Pathology, and become a Speech Pathologist in a hospital.  At the end of my junior year, I decided that I wanted to take a year off in between graduation and graduate school, just to have a break from 16 years of school, save some money, work, and get some real-world experience.

Fast forward to fall/winter of 2014.  I was working as a patient sitter at the U of M hospital, and hating every minute of it.  It was mostly incredibly boring, and when it wasn’t boring, it was incredibly stressful.  I submitted applications to the 3 grad schools near home, took a trip to visit 2 friends across the country (Arizona & Texas), and got hired to work at a clinic related to my future career field.  I also decided to apply to work in the DTW airport for several airlines – as a ramp agent and as customer service agent, in hopes of getting hired and earning travel benefits working part time while I worked in the clinic.  In January 2015, I finally had an interview with the company I currently work for – for the position of ramp agent.  My interviewer decided I would be better suited for customer service agent.  However, this required leaving in a few days for a two week, out-of-state training, and the career-related clinic job wasn’t willing to give me time off to do so.  First tough decision – stay with the job that would give me real-world experience related to my career, or go with the new job, unrelated to anything I had planned, but would give me the chance to travel more? I think you know the answer.

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So I worked in the airport.  The job itself was okay – sometimes it was really stressful, sometimes it was boring, and sometimes it was fun.  I was still planning on going back to school in the fall, though.  I attended an open house at University of Toledo to be in the running for a scholarship. We got a tour of the clinic, met some of the current grad students and scholarship recipients, did interviews for the scholarship.  But the passion I had felt for my career choice just a year ago was gone.  I just felt out of place.  I set those feelings aside and waited (impatiently) for an acceptance letter to any of the universities I had applied to.  Eventually, Eastern Michigan University accepted my application, and from May to August, I fully planned on attending.  My classes were scheduled, I went to a meeting with my adviser, and I even got my student ID.  Meanwhile, my job at the airport was getting more interesting.  I had gone on a few trips using my benefits, and loved every minute.  On top of this, I was trained to work at the gate and send out flights.  Doing this gave me the opportunity to talk to the flight attendants who were working said flights.  I asked them every question I could think of – what they loved, what they hated, what their schedules looked like.  What was a work day like, and what about accommodations on layovers?  And just like that, I became interested in becoming a flight attendant.

In late July 2015, I decided to talk it over with my mom and get her advice – she had been the one to push me to take the first leap into the travel industry… She was very encouraging.  “Do what will make you happy,” was the main takeaway from her speech to me.  Mom didn’t want me to get stuck doing something just because it was what was expected of me, and what I had planned for myself.  She wanted me to have adventures, to love my job, and not to worry if anybody else approved of my decision. She wanted me to do what would make me happy in the long run, and she knew that becoming a flight attendant was the key to this. So I decided to leap out of my comfort zone and withdraw from my grad classes.  Even though I hadn’t gotten any interviews with airlines yet, it was now or never, and I chose now.

In the end, I applied for about 4 airlines, including the airline I already worked for.  In October, after 8 hours of group and individual interviews, pageant questions, a group activity, a drug test, tons of paperwork, and a healthy dose of anxiety, I finally was hired in as a flight attendant with the company I had been working for!  The best part of this was that one of my friends from work had also applied, interviewed, been hired, and we would be going to training together.  On November 19, 2015, I began the month long training class to become an FAA certified flight attendant.  These 4 weeks were the most nerve-wracking, anxiety-ridden, intense studying weeks I had seen since finishing college.  After all, I wasn’t actually guaranteed the job until I passed training.  After performing CPR, naming and explaining every piece of emergency equipment and how to use it, operating an oxygen bottle, and (fake) evacuating an aircraft on land and water, I passed with flying colors! I was given my wings and a hug, and sent back to Detroit to begin my career, and the rest is history.

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There are days that I can’t stand my job.  Days that I sleep through 7 alarms because I only got 5 hours of sleep, and drag my feet coming into work.  There are days I don’t have the patience to answer the same 500 questions I get asked on a daily basis, and days that I crave a normal 9 to 5 schedule, where I have every weekend off.  Days all I want is a home-cooked meal but I’m stuck eating airport or hotel food.  But those days are only that – days.  Few and far between.  The trips that I come into work just to unexpectedly find I am working with some of my favorite coworkers, who I don’t have to worry will have my back in tough situations, are more common than not.  Running into people from all over the country who I have flown with before but haven’t seen in months are more common than not.

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Beautiful views from the airplane windows at sunrise and sunset, and sometimes seeing the stars and constellations so clearly from the cockpit windows are more common than not.  The thousands of passengers we get to bring home, or take on vacation, or to see loved ones, who are so kind/funny/incredibly grateful outnumber every bad day 30:1.  The benefits (OH, THE BENEFITS), that get me across the world more times in 1 year than I’d likely get in 10 years in any other career path, make up for the bad days.  And my abnormal schedule? Not always a bummer.  Everyone complains about Mondays, but how can it feel like Monday when you don’t know what day it is, or you only work for 3 to 4 days at a time, or you get a 4 day weekend?  Not to mention how you miss rush hour every time you go in to or come home from work – my 5 am showtime means I’m out on the highway before most people.  And I love that I can go grocery shopping at midnight after I get home from a trip and miss out on the lines, or go Christmas shopping at noon on a Wednesday and miss the crowds.  Or take off 7 days in a row and not miss out on any hours.  I absolutely love my job, and now that I’ve had some practice jumping out of my comfort zone, I’ve found out that I really enjoy it out there, and I try to do it more often.

Making this decision was the best decision of my life.  If later on I decide to pursue something else as a career, I will still have all of my experiences, my travel memories, my stories, and my love of this part of my life.

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The Point

You know, when I started writing this blog, I figured I would only be writing about all the traveling I had done & my adventures while traveling.  But I’ve come to realize that my favorite, and longest, “adventure” was not while I was traveling.  I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to make a post about it, but given the fact that I have met some amazing people through this particular adventure, I’ve decided to dedicate one post to telling the story of the two summers I spent working at the #1 amusement park in the world (at least while I was there).

During my sophomore year of college, someone in my dorm had recommended to apply and work for Cedar Point over the summer.  I had been going to Cedar Point practically my whole life, and I thought that working there would be a good way to save up some money over the summer and be able to have this awesome experience.  I mean, how many people did I know that had worked at Cedar Point? (One) So I applied, interviewed, and got hired for my first summer in 2012. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was in for the best summer of my life.

I was hired in through the rides department, and I was assigned to Monster (left) and Witches’ Wheel (right). One crew would staff both rides, and those rides were what you were assigned to for pretty much the whole summer.  Sometimes other rides would ask for some extra help, and people from our crew could get pulled or be transferred, but for the majority of the summer, we had the same crew.  Our rides weren’t really the most popular – they were pretty much fair rides & “not as cool” as working on the roller coasters. I had a completely different opinion, though.  Monster and Witches’ Wheel were pretty great to me because first of all, it was a great workout.  I mean, pulling up 40 pound buckets on Monster at least 8 times per ride cycle (~every 7-8 mins) really improved my upper body strength.  And not to mention how much walking we did around the platform, especially at Witches’ Wheel (I looked up the circumference – it’s about 220 feet around).  So you walk around once to lock everything before the ride, and then you walk around again after to unlock everything.  So 440 feet/ride cycle (~4 mins, being generous), and you are stationed at the ride for let’s say an hour at a time. You’re walking at least 6,600 feet per hour, which is 1.25 miles every hour.  I would guess that working at Monster is almost as much walking too (honestly I did this math to satisfy my own curiosity, I’ve never actually thought about calculating how much walking we did).  I can tell you I walked through at least 2 pairs of shoes in 4 months (like, holes in the soles walked through).  The other AWESOME thing about Monster was that you had manual controls.  It was a lot like driving heavy machinery.

100_5696.JPGLearning how to do the controls was pretty tricky, but it was still really fun to work the ride.  Witches’ Wheel’s controls were not as fun – you pretty much just pressed buttons and the ride worked itself.

DSC00324.JPGIt looks like a lot of buttons, but you really only used maybe two besides the switches to open and close the gates.

Now, besides the logistical awesomeness of working at Cedar Point, the best part of working at my favorite amusement park was my crew.  Both summers I worked at CP, I worked with so many amazing people.  We had a lot of international employees – people from all over the world who came to work at CP for the summer.  This is how I know people in several countries – I have a friend in Russia, a few in Bulgaria, Moldova, and Slovakia (he now lives in Poland, and I just recently got to visit him! He will be mentioned in a later post when I catch up to present).  And the most important person I met at Cedar Point is my best friend Rebekah.

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Rebekah worked at CP both summers I worked there.  The second year, we lived together in the dorms.  What’s funny is that she went to college 15 minutes from me, out of all the places in Michigan to go to school.  Both summers, we had a lot of people ask if we were sisters!  In 2014, Rebekah moved from Michigan to Arizona, then to Reno, NV, and she is the reason I have so many adventures out west (again – look for those in some later posts).

And this is my crew from 2012.  Notice the awesome tan lines in the second picture, from being outside all day everyday in our uniforms.  These people are who made my first summer so amazing, and I’m hoping I can get to traveling overseas to visit the three who live outside of the US.

Some logistical info before I move onto my next part.  Each ride had two people in charge – they were called TL & ATL my first summer (Team Leader & Asst TL).  They’ve changed the titles since then.  When the TL & ATL were both gone, they designated a 3rd in charge (like if the TL had the day off & the ATL was on a lunch break).  Brad was my ATL the first summer.

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He graced me with the position of being 3rd in charge at the ride.  About a month and a half into the summer, our TL left Cedar Point.  Brad got promoted to TL, and they looked for another ATL.  Brad, being the amazing leader he is, put so much faith into me, taught me, and I got promoted to ATL that summer.  I had never before been in a real leadership position, and I absolutely loved it.  He taught me how to be a good leader, how to be fair, how to handle all kinds of situations, and he was so encouraging.

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When you start at Cedar Point as a team member, you get a red name tag.  Leadership gets a blue name tag.  The day I got pulled into the Operations office and given my blue tag, I was ecstatic.  It was the first ‘promotion’ I had ever earned at a job, and it just gave me so much confidence knowing other people were noticing my potential.

When I came back in 2013, I was hired in as the Team Leader of Monster/Witches’ Wheel.  Again, I was given an amazing crew.

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These people were so much fun, were some amazing friends, and again, I had such an amazing summer with them.  I also got the chance in the 2013 season to work Halloweekends (CP is only open on weekends from Labor Day to Halloween, and the entire feel of the park is different from during the summer).  I had decided not to work in 2012 because I went to school 4 hours away, but I just really wanted the experience the second year.  My ride wasn’t open on Fridays during Halloweekends, so I got to work on other rides!  I got to work on Dragster, Millennium Force, and the Matterhorn Triangle (Matterhorn, Scrambler, and Dodgem).  This was absolutely amazing because since I was in leadership this year, and most of the previous year, I didn’t get to work on other rides unless I wanted to come in on my days off (which was once a week).  This was so much fun because every ride is different in how it works, what the controls are, what you have to do on the platform, etc. I have to say working Dragster was probably my favorite besides my rides.

All in all, I truly feel that these 2 summers were the best summers of my life.  The second season was my last summer as a student, so I haven’t really had the summer “off” since. I met so many awesome people, I had a blast working on the rides, I got to go into the park and ride on my days off, and the whole experience was just amazing.  I can’t say that it was all sunshine & cake, though.  Sometimes it was really stressful.  Sometimes we didn’t have enough team members to work, so we pulled 12+ hour shifts. Sometimes the job itself was just stressful – being a leader of this large crew with all different personalities, some of them clashing. And other times my personal life just got in the way.  But that’s with any job.  I left CP behind feeling nothing but love and happiness for the two summers I was there.  And to all of you who worked with me, either year – thanks for an amazing summer!

A few of my favorite anecdotes:

  • 2012 – We would get ride nights where just the employees, after the park closes, can go and ride other rides (it was only one ride per ride night).  One night, they did a Soak City “ride night” where about half of the water park was open.  Part of our crew went together and the 5 of us all got into the lazy river with a bunch of tubes and made a train.  We ended up getting maybe 10 more people to join their tubes to ours and just made our rounds around the lazy river as the lazy river express.
  • 2012 – Every year they update our ride manuals with the number of riders achieved in the previous season.  We were looking at our manual and comparing these numbers and decided we wanted to beat the previous year’s numbers.  So we revamped our system – how we loaded the ride, how we did our checks, and basically streamlined our system to try to make it quick & efficient.  On numerous occasions, we would end up racing each other to finish all of our checks.  I mean, we were full on sprinting around the platform to finish first.  I never got our numbers, but I am pretty confident that we beat the year before.  Not to mention that we had a blast doing it.
  • 2012 – Rebekah and I had spent the evening riding roller coasters in the park. It looked like it was going to rain, so we headed back out to the car.  On the way in, we passed one of the stands that had this delicious looking frozen custard with fruit all over it and we decided we would just grab it on the way out.  Well, the storm came in faster than we could get to the car, so we got caught in the pouring rain, running to the car with frozen custard.  The traffic out of the park was horrendous, so we decided to take the alternate exit down the other causeway.  What I didn’t know, was that this causeway was about 3 times longer than the one we normally come in on, and my gas tank was on E, not to mention that the traffic on this causeway was just as bad. We made it to the gas station, with my car running on fumes. Not knowing for the last 20 minutes whether we were going to make it to the gas station kept us laughing the whole time.
  • 2012 – There were additional uniform pieces you were able to buy, and keep at the end of the season.  One of these was a rain suit, a waterproof jacket and pants, that you could wear over your uniform when it was raining in order to stay dry. Rebekah and I had this genius idea to test them out and see if they were truly waterproof – we were going to ride a water ride in them! So we walk up to Thunder Canyon, in full rain suits, and sit down in the ride.  I can’t tell you how many weird looks we got from the employees, who had to have known we were also employees.  We stayed incredibly dry the whole time, and laughed hysterically the whole way around.
  • 2013 – Someone on the crew came up with this game “copy paste”.  What would happen is someone would say something that, out of context, sounded really weird.  So the person listening would yell copy, and whenever they said paste, the person who said it would just have to repeat the out of context phrase. Paste was yelled in a lot of random situations with strangers who didn’t know what was happening, and ended up being absolutely hilarious.
  • 2013 – A couple of the crew and I had decided to visit the Toledo Zoo, since it wasn’t that far of a drive from CP.  Apparently we hadn’t checked the weather that day, because about halfway through the day, the tornado sirens went off and everyone had to take cover.  We wound up in the basement of one of the restaurants in the middle of the zoo with a bunch of other random people, for about an hour.
  • 2013 – Cedar Point introduced the Fast Pass this year, and it was a bracelet you bought in order to skip the line on most of the rides.  Every morning, when I picked up the paperwork for the day, a piece of paper with the color & ride on the Fast Pass bracelet (to check & make sure they were valid) was in the paperwork. So it would say something like: Fast Pass: Green Gemini, Fast Pass Plus: Blue Dragster.  I’m not sure who started the whole tradition, but at one point, someone started drawing puns of the Fast Pass rides.  One was Gate Peeper & Gate Sleeper (Gatekeeper was the ride name), DragStar (for Dragster, with a picture of Patrick Star).  I will have to upload pictures of these when I get home from the trip I am on, so you can see what I’m talking about.

The Spark

I guess I’ll start where it all began – the People to People Student Ambassador Program.  The program was designed to help students travel and educate themselves about cultures around the world, and basically create culturally aware citizens.  I was interviewed and accepted into the program in 2006.  I was part of a group with around 50 other students from all over the US, and we spent 17 days traveling around China.  This was the first time I had traveled without my parents, and the longest I had been away from home at one time.  I was scared, but also really excited.  I saw so many amazing things that I still can’t believe I saw at that age (I went between freshman and sophomore year). I owe this trip to my family & friends of the family – it took a lot of fundraising and donations to go on this trip, that came almost entirely from these amazing people (if you are one of these people – THANK YOU again!)

IMG_0419Day 1 in China, we arrived in Beijing.  This is Tiananmen Square, which is the largest public open square in the world and covers 100 acres. It gives entry to the Imperial City and Forbidden City.  After we walked around the square, we went to a restaurant and ate our first authentic Chinese meal.

IMG_0456In China, almost all of our meals were served like this, several different dishes all put onto a lazy susan.  This way, everyone was able to take something they wanted off every dish.

We started day 2 with a tour of the Forbidden City. Each temple has a number of animal statues on the corner of the roof, and this signified how important the temple was – the more animals, the more important it was.  9 was the highest number of statues.

IMG_0506BAfter the Forbidden City, we attended a Vocational School and learned how to prepare typical Chinese dishes.  (See if you can find me!)IMG_0652On Day 3, we visited the Beijing Sports University (where many world champions have been trained), we rode rickshaws around the Hutong (a small village) and got to see typical homes.  The homes were made up of several small rooms surrounding a courtyard.

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Rickshaws

We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner – of course it was American food and not much different from any Hard Rock here in the US.

The 4th day was one of two of my favorite days. We first started at a cloisonne factory.  Cloisonne is made with copper and colored sand, and when finished looks a lot like ceramic.

 

We had the chance to color our own cloisonne, and our two designs won.  We got cloisonne chopsticks as a prize (which I still have!)  After the factory, we visited the Great Wall of China and had the chance to climb the Juyongguan section.  I decided I wanted to make it to the highest part of the section, so I stayed with our chaperones and climbed up.  I have to say, my determination to get to the top was the most determination I’d had in my life at this point (being about 14 years old).  It was steep, the stairs sometimes were over a foot tall, sometimes they were so narrow your whole foot wouldn’t fit on the stair, and I wasn’t really in that great of shape either.  My picture taken at the top is my favorite of the trip, and I have it framed in my room.

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Our group picture in front of the sectionIMG_0797AIMG_0004

“I made it!”

After the Great Wall, we went to a Kung Fu school (incredibly talented students), and then had a Peking duck dinner.  I was not that fond of the duck, to be honest.

We ended our visit in Beijing with a trip to the Summer Palace, and then the Beijing Zoo.  The summer palace was where the emperor and empress would spend their summers. It was gorgeous – it was surrounded by green, it was situated on a lake, and of course the Chinese architecture was beautiful.

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IMG_0867For those of you that know of my love for pandas, the zoo was heaven to me. I don’t remember anything except the pandas.  At the end of the day, we boarded an overnight train to Xi’an (pronounced she-ahn).

Upon arriving in Xi’an, we attended a welcoming ceremony (it was presented in ancient Tang dynasty style), and was really interesting.  The city has a wall around it, and we got the chance to walk around the wall as well.

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Welcoming Ceremony

IMG_1156AStone Steles Forest (Confucius Temple)

After the welcoming ceremony, we walked through the Stone Steles forest, which was formerly the Confucius Temple.  This was mostly different stone plaques that had different inscriptions on them.

 

On day 7, the whole day was dedicated to the Terracotta warriors.  We first went to a workshop where they make replicas for souvenirs.  We learned how the originals would have been made, and then got to make our own small warriors.  We then visited the original site of the Terracotta warriors. This was amazing – the warriors are over 2,000 years old, most of them are still completely intact, and just the history surrounding these sculptures is incredible.  The sculptures not only include warriors, but also horses, chariots, and even some non-military people.  It was all built for an emperor, so that he would have an army standing guard over his tomb.  The site was discovered in 1974 by some farmers looking for underground water.  Just the sheer size of the area where the sculptures were buried, as well as how many sculptures there are, was astounding.

The next day, we got the chance to stay with a local family in a small village.  This was a great part of the trip – we got to see what a typical family house looked like, we got to eat home cooked meals, the whole village would get together to do different things, and the family was very welcoming.  The family I stayed with was a mom, her daughter and son, and her niece came around very often.  We played basketball with the kids in the village (and lost), and there was a celebration that night.

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Welcomed into the village
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Our basketball game score

We left the village the next day.  Before we left, we had the chance to go to the fields and pick peaches.  The peaches were different from how they taste in the US.  We had lunch, and then we went to the airport to catch our flight to Shanghai.  The homestay was my other favorite part of the trip, just because we really got to experience local culture this way, and like I said, the family I stayed with was extremely welcoming.

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Our first stop in Shanghai was the Urban Planning Museum. They had past, present, and future models of Shanghai in the museum.  This one is the present Shanghai.  IMG_1348

After the Urban Planning Museum, we went to the silk factory to watch silk being made.  IMG_1462

Finally, we visited the Jin Mao tower, which is 88 stories high.  The elevator only took 45 seconds (if only all elevators could be that fast)!  This picture was taken on the 88th floor, looking down into the hotel lobby which was 30 floors below.  The view of the city from the top was amazing as well.

On Day 11, we drove to Suzhou (pronounced Su-Joe), nicknamed the Venice of the East.  We had lunch of zongzi, which are pyramid shaped rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.  After lunch, we took a dragon boat ride down the west side of the Grand Canal. This is the longest canal in the world, and it was absolutely beautiful.  Houses line the canal, and plenty of people were out on their porches.

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Grand Canal

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Master of Nets Garden

We departed Suzhou and visited a Foreign Languages Summer Camp to see the kids perform different songs and plays in English.  They were pretty good, and these kids were around 10 years old.  To finish off the day, we visited the Master of Nets Garden.

IMG_1707When we left Shanghai, we took the Maglev train to the airport.  At the time of my trip, this was the fastest train in the world, with a top speed of 431 km/hr (~268 mph).

Hong Kong was our final stop in China, and I have to say Hong Kong was so much prettier and cleaner than mainland China.  We arrived in HK at night, and after we checked in to the hotel, we went out to Victoria Harbor to watch a light show.  It was fun to watch because the lights would illuminate the water different colors.

IMG_1791Victoria Harbor

In the morning, we rode a junk boat out on the harbor (this was not the condition of the boat – the type of boat was a junk), and we took the peak tram up to Victoria Peak.  Views from the peak were absolutely amazing.  Victoria Harbor is surrounded by mountains, so on one side you just see water and mountains, and on the other was the harbor, with boats, buildings, and mountains.  The sky in Hong Kong was so much clearer than in mainland China (no smog).  Also, the currency in Hong Kong is different than in mainland. I thought it was interesting to note all of the differences between the two, when they are all the same country.

IMG_1904The View from Victoria Peak

All in all, this trip was absolutely amazing, and I still can’t believe I got the chance to experience everything that I did.  I would love to go back on my own and see some of this again, and of course see a few new places.  I truly believe that this trip sparked my interest in travel, and who knows where I would be if I hadn’t been invited to attend some information session from a program I’d never heard of?

*The pictures used in this post were not all taken by me.  All of the pictures I had taken were saved to a computer that ended up crashing.  Luckily, our chaperones had asked each of us to submit pictures of the trip, and they compiled a CD with everyone’s pictures.  I can’t give credit to anyone because 1) I don’t know who took what pictures, and 2) I don’t know anyone from the trip anymore

I will be uploading more pictures (because I have a ton) into a separate post with just pictures, keep a lookout under the China category in the sidebar