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Gap Year Abroad

1 posts from November 2014


The Silkiest Road in China


Once again, so very sorry for the rediculous delay, maybe it's taking longer than i thought to get into a routine. Ayways, thank you for your lovely patience.

We have alot to cover in the last MONTH (or so) so lets get started, shall we?

So, while you are off doing whatever it is you do in your day to day life, in late October, all of CIEE went on a week long trip. We had the choice of going on one of four trips. Some went to Hong Kong (mostly business A.K.A. NOT for me), some went to Yunnan provence to do service oriented activities and outdoor shenanigans, (could be for me but didn't feel quite right), some went to Taiwan to experience some more leisurely activites like laying on the beach and snorkeling (definitely could have been for me but still wasn't feeling it), and the others, including me, went on the Silk Road trip. 

I LITERALLY have no words to sum up my experience in a small little sentence or whatever so here we go. Hold on to your seats kids West China is calling our name! 

This blog post, like the others, have some sort of weird theme and this one is KUNG FU!!! I watched Kung Fu Panda just before leaving for the trip and I believe I relate to Po, the protangist panda, on a spiritual level so he has channeled into my pictures. Just a warning...

So my journey begins on October 25th at 4:00 A.M. 30 zombies slithered out of their beds placed the 10 closest articles of clothing in a bag and zombie-ran to meet the rest of the group to go to Pudong International Airport. After a quick little delay we were on our way to destination #1. 

Where you ask? 



Xi'an, translates literally into Western Peace, and a very fitting name it is. This city was comforting to me was we listened to a traditional bell show and relaxed a little, mentally and physically preparing ourselves for the coming days. Aside from the smell of stinky tofu that my poor nose really is still NOT used to, I enjoyed seeing another Chinese city. 

After a much needed looooong sleep, we were back on the move and traveled to the infamous Terra Cotta warriors, where we spent the majority of our day in awe of what we were witnessing. For those of you who don't know, it's essentially this Chinese emperor who wanted an army to protect him after he died, so he had all the sculptors he could find build him 8,000 life size warriors and horses with carriages and all. But get this, each and every warrior that was built is unique. Every single one has it's own personalized face and size and shape and is doing a different stance or whatever. Too cool, I barely passed ceramics class so this is just, you know, MINORLY impressive...


That's me freakin' out. I mean, what's new? LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE SOLDIERS. 

Oh, and get this, from what I can remember, there is a whole OTHER massive palace area where the emperor's body actually is, but I guess archaeologists don't think that they have the proper tools to preserve what they find, so they haven't touched it yet. I get that, I mean, how would you feel if you ruined thousands of years of history just to get some good pictures? Better wait. Good call, China. 

NEXT we went to see Xi'an City wall. Fun fact, this awesome wall is actally OLDER than the United States, just to give you some perspective. Rediculous. Beautiful.


(Excuse my face but, CITY WALL KUNG FU!!)


So Peaceful. After some DELICIOUS green noodles (oh, yes. green.) we were on the road again!

然后 (Next) We hopped on a bus and took a (unexpected) 6 hour journey to a personal favorite city of the trip, Xiahe. There were some issues going into the new provence, but it was figured out eventually. After 6 hours though the 30  zombies once again returned. Some people really do not wear 6 hour bus travel well. 

Man, oh man. It was so worth it. 

Xiahe is without a doubt the most remote location I have ever been in my life. It didn't even feel like China anymore everthing was in Tibetan and the even the people looked different. The entire town is Tibetan Buddhist and simply driving into the town I just felt this energy come over me. Honestly, it was a kind of calm I've never experienced. As we got closer I could just feel myself feeling calmer and despite the fact that it was around 50 degrees, I felt almost warm. A feeling I will not soon forget. 

If you wanted to, you could run around the entire town in like 15 minutes, but the kind of spiritual energy that was surging from that place is something that can blow a city as big as Shanghai out of the water. Looking at it, it doesn't seem like much. It is pretty run down (aside from the gold temples). Everyone is just kind of walking or doing this repetitive motion where they put their hands by their waist than above their head then they lie down and so on. 

I soon found out, it was prayer. Which makes sense because Xiahe is prayer. It is meditative peaceful prayer. It is love. Of course this is just one person's opinion, but if I felt anything, it was just pure love. Because to me, love is a town where you see the most joyful hilarious monks ranging from ages 8 to 80. Love is a town that is welcoming and is home to people who uncondtionally honor their souls.  IMG_0241





At night, we had the absolute priviledge of teaching a little under an hour's worth on english to children at a nearby Tibetan orphanage. We split into groups and each taught a class of maybe 8 or 10 students. All of the students were the kindest and happiest kids I've met in a while. When we met them, this is where they were.  IMG_0372

Now, it could be they were just very happy to see Americans, something they see maybe once a year, or they were just happy kids, but we all had a fantastic time. After indtroductions and some real school stuff we played the game "Simon Says" with them, (edited to Eddie says because he was the M.C. that night) and they LOVED it. All a little embarassed, eventually they felt comfortable enough to talk with us and play with us. Definitely the most fun i've ever had playing Eddie (Simon) says. 


I plan to visit them again someday. All I could think about is where they are gonna be when they're 18 like me. Will they have the opportunity to leave their community? Will they want to? I really don't know. I will be back though. 

After one of the most humbling experiences of my life, it was off to bed for the night in the single most flamboyant hotel with no heat that i've ever been to, and absolutely no complaining... not as much as usual anyways. 

After some more shenanigans (and new winter wear),IMG_0395

we were off to Lanzhou to take an over night train to Dunhuang!

Dunhuang is home to the most delicious street food i've had, deserts and CAMELS. All you really need in life, right?

First activity in Dunhuang was visiting the Great Jade Pass which is this super super old pass. I was scared to look at it so touching it wasn't even an option. It was very large and had a KILLER view. Unfortunately I don't have access to the killer view pictures so you can use some imagination.

After the pass we saw the oldest wall in China. That's right, the Great Wall in Beijing is not the oldest. Although I do believe it's a little more effective than this one... IMG_0426

For those who can't tell this wall is about 2 feet off the ground. But it was made in 1st century BC so that is more than enough for me not to want to go near it. Well done wall. 

After a very yummy dinner we headed to bed early preparing for an exceptionally lovely day the next day. No zombies can be present for this day. 

It seemed that waking up the next day was much easier. First we had the absolute treat of visiting the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang. This was without a doubt one of the most sacred things i've ever seen. It was a testament to human kind and the kind of things that we can create and I was in literal awe. These caves were built by buddhist monks traveling from India to China on the silk road to trade.

These monks felt a spiritual connection to this road and were called to build these caves. They have found 735 caves so far. 735?!?!?! WHAT??? And they're not just caves. They have these amazing and beautiful paintings of buddha and stories and they have sculptures inside them. These caves are home to one of the biggest buddha statues in the world. I could literally live inside the toe of this Buddha. Would i want to? Absolutely. Wouldn't you? 

Anyways, here's me freakin out about the caves. 


In my defense it was an exceptionally sunny day... I wish I could show you the beauty that is these caves but no pictures were allowed. I guess that means you'll just HAVE to come see for yourself then. Gosh darn. 

After the caves we had the priviledge of going to a local farmers home for lunch! The family prepared a delicious soup noodle dish that was so delicious I literally inhaled it in about 5 minutes. I inhaled the seconds, too.... And thirds... 

We talked with the family and they told us about how much they love where they live, and that living in the desert is a fantastic place to live. He told us all about much he loves his house and that it has been in his family for many generations. 

It was very hard for me to understand, honestly, staying in one place all your life and not even having desire to leave. I've always felt the world is such a large place and is absolutely all ours to see, so why not? Why stay in one place? It was a hard concept to grasp. Was...

After lunch we headed back over to the desert, our lovely home for the week. 



After some freakin out about the beautiful day and wondering what in the world I did to deserve this kind of day, we made some new friends! My new friend was minorly smelly, however a very kind soul. 


Meet my good buddy, Ditu A.K.A. Map. Why did I name him Map you ask? The better question is why not? My deep answer is that he guided me through my spiritual journey through the desert; he was my map.. to my soul. Booooom!!!


Here's me and bud.



After some sand dune riding and going to see a beautiful temple in the middle of this desert, I said gooodbye to my lovely Ditu, and my even lovelier desert. 



I mean come ON. This is not a final goodbye. NO. I'll be back, dear Gobi desert, don't worry. 

After that tough goodbye we were back on the over night train going back to Lanzhou. 

Back in civilizatio (and pollution) I have to admit I was a little sad. Being secluded with absolutely nothing but sand, camels and some clouds, it made me think. And I came to the conclusion that if I was born and raised here, in this kind of peaceful area, why would I leave? Why would I WANT to enter a world that introduced anything other than peace? 

Again, just me and my quite frankly hippie opinion. 


Besides, Lanzhou has some pretty beatuiful secrets of it's own. 



After an... interesting trip on a shady boat down the yellow river, we boarded a plane and returned back home to Shanghai.

Going over what I've written thus far I've realized how much I say that things were "amazing" or "Changed my life" and saying all these really intense dramatic things. I want to make something clear about that. Yes, I am a little dramatic, as I've told you before. Yes, I do feel things pretty intensely. However, what this trip has given me, what it's shown me about this world and myself, what it's made me question in this life... THAT is something that rightfully deserves some dramatics. 

Until next time, my lovely readers...


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