November 23, 2014  |  By  | 

River with traditional shops in the Summer Palace Buddhist Ornament at a Buddhist Temple in Beijing, in one of the Emperor’s rooms, also one of the many places we were stopped by Garry so he could talk about this particular ornament. One of the first Group photos at the Forbidden City. Although the night in the suffocating rooms is extremely hot, the morning we arrive in Xi’an is freezing cold, and we spend the hour and half long bus ride to the Terra-cotta warriors listening to the repetitive chatter of our teeth as we joke and laugh, and enjoy watching the sleepless-city come to life in the early morning. The largest arena houses over 1,000 of the first emperor’s army, intended to guard him in the afterlife. Colorless soldiers of about the same height stand in rows before us, but the breathtaking view is a little disappointing when we learn that we cannot go as close to the warriors as we would like to. Temple of Heaven, located at the top of a hill in Beijing. Soon it is time to leave Beijing and to visit Xi'an, China’s ex-capital, and the transportation lives up to the excitement. The overnight train, Z19, composed of filthy bathrooms, cold hallways, thin walls, loud train noises that sound like shots being fired, and no regrets. There is just enough room in each cabin for a suitcase and four passengers willing to fit as if we were planks of wood. Yet somehow we managed to fit six people in three beds, and maybe we managed to do so because we had never done so before and we knew we were never going to be given the chance to do so again. Nevertheless, as we walk through sections where these ‘perfect’ soldiers lie in shards, the reality that even good things kill us in the end, oxygen in this case, ends up killing a bit of the mood instead. But that was when I discovered what I should have known since the beginning. Yes China is beautiful, but it is not just the place that makes it beautiful. It’s who we are in China that makes the difference. Not everyone gets a chance to visit such a place, which was clear to us when we worked with the less fortunate. But we did get the chance, and I am proud to say we lived it to the fullest.

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