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different major programs of study and
originated from different countries
including South Africa, Chile, Puerto
Rico and Brazil. Our trip chaperones
were Mary-Jo Griffin, director of
outreach & development in MCC's
Public Affairs Office, and Helen
Wang, a systems analyst/programmer
at the college.
Before we embarked on the June trip,
we needed to complete the required
coursework. In addition, we all met
BTU International's U.S. employees
and toured the Billerica facility. When
mid-May finally came, we were so
overwhelmed with our final exams that
China seemed months away. In reality,
only three weeks remained until our
journey would begin.
On June 2, we left Boston and flew to
Beijing, enduring a total travel time of
almost 24 hours. During our week in
China's capital city, we stayed at the
University of International Business &
Economics. We saw many well-known
historical sites, such as the Forbidden
City, the Great Wall, Tiananmen
Square, and toured a violin factory,
along with many other activities. It
was a very busy week.
Although my favorite day was spent
climbing the Great Wall, the violin
factory visit was an eye-opening
experience of what China's typical
work conditions are like. It was less a
"factory" than a "sweat shop." There
was no air conditioning in the 100-
plus degree weather, work areas were
cramped and dirty, the workers' hours
were very long, and pay very little.
Although not what we expected or
even wanted to see, we were all
grateful to have visited an authentic
Chinese work environment that had
not been "prettied" up for the tourists.
Despite the beauty of the finished
handmade violins and cases, I couldn't
help but wonder if the final product
was worth the cost to the people who
assembled them.
After our week in Beijing, we took an
overnight train to Xi'an, a beautiful
city of old and new, with more than
3,100 years of history. During our two-
day stay, we climbed the Wild Goose
Pagoda, rode bikes on the ancient City
Wall, and saw the Terracotta Warriors,
among other things. For me, the
highlight of Xi'an was riding bicycles
on the City Wall, which was built in
1370 AD. It was almost a surreal
experience to ride on something so old,
yet surrounded by modern skyscrapers.
On June 11, we left Xi'an and flew to
Jinan. In contrast to Xi'an and Beijing,
Jinan is a very small rural town located
in the mountains. Our sole purpose
there was to visit Tai Shan Mountain,
an absolutely incredible place of
beauty, surrounded by dramatic peaks
rising up toward the sky. It was easy to
understand why the people of China
have dedicated it as a place of worship
for the last 3,000 years.
After our short stay in Jinan, we drove
to the city of Qufu, the birthplace of
Confucius. The only site we visited in
Qufu was the Temple of Confucius, the
second largest historical building
complex in China, after the Forbidden
City. Although Jinan and Qufu only
held two historical sites on our itinerary,
both were worth the extra travel.
After Qufu, we flew to our last
destination in China: Shanghai. While
there, we visited beautiful Zhujiajiao,
an ancient town built on the water.
Commonly called "the Venice of
China," Zhujiajiao was established
about 1,700 years ago. Around every
corner was a perfect "photo
opportunity" filled with graceful,
gondola-type boats navigating through
winding canals. The simplicity and
beauty of Zhujiajiao was something
that can only be experienced and not
accurately described. I, along with other
MCC students, could have stayed there
all day.
In addition to seeing the Great Wall of China and Xi'an's famous Terracotta Warriors (facing page), Middlesex
students also visited Zhujiajiao, known as "the Venice of China;" toured a Beijing violin factory; and rode bikes
on the ancient City Wall of Xi'an.