Nothing quite beats quite beats the feeling of accomplishment when standing at the very top of the Great Wall of China. 25 hours of straight travel, lack of sleep, the pure exhaustion from walking up the countless steep and mismatched steps and yet nothing can take away from that feeling of knowing you have reached that goal. For many people, climbing The Great Wall is a dream, another impossible thing on a crumbled piece of lined paper titled ‘Bucket List’ in the back of a wardrobe. However, to many students (and some staff), that became a reality this February half term.
The Great Wall wasn’t the only highlight of our trip. We stumbled into China after a ten-hour plane journey into a rather surreal amusement park, complete with ninety-year-old men with more flexibility than most Olympic gymnasts and giant ladybirds. This day ended with the Temple of Heaven, a beautifully painted temple glittering in the bright blue sky we were promised wouldn’t be there. Afterwards, we were treated to a well-deserved good night’s sleep.
The second day of our trip we were treated to an experience in the heart of Beijing. Tiananmen Square (the world’s largest city square) like the Temple of Heaven, was beautifully built and painted. Students had the lucky experience to see Mausoleum of Chairman Mao, where his body has been preserved in a glass coffin for the last 50 years. Many people would usually wait hours in line for this privilege, but we timed it perfectly with the Chinese New Year holidays.
We were then led to the Forbidden City, a beautiful palace in the heart of the city, which, rather ironically is visited by many thousands of tourists every day. Here, we were treated to many beautiful gardens, dragon statues and trees thousands of years old. The locals were very happy with our presence, flocking to take selfies with us.
After lunch, we were treated to a traditional Chinese tea ritual. This was a strange but oddly relaxing ritual that involved rolling tea cups on our face, drinking in three gulps (for longevity) and left Hannah longing for her PG tips. This was then followed by a brisk walk around Behai park, a Buddhist garden filled with hidden treasures, such as places where Mitch could go get his photo taken dressed like an emperor.
Other highlights of our trip included the Summer Palace, where we learnt about Chinese history, particularly the ‘Dragon Lady’, a fierce and determined lady that ruled over Chinese royalty, much like Catherine Benbow over the Sixth Form. We also tested our haggling skills in Silk Alley market and ate the world’s largest apples.
On behalf of the students I would like to thank Hannah Moreton and the Sixth Form team for making this amazing trip possible and the staff for coping with us for a whole six days in a foreign country.
Natasha Manchester (Year 13)