Lisa in China by Mitchell H.Q.
It is Monday afternoon and Lisa is in her bedroom, talking on the phone with her friend Ellie. Lisa is holding an official-looking envelope in her hand.
“It is from the Young Reporters Association,” Lisa tells her friend.
“I wonder… what is it about?”
“Go on then, what are you waiting for?” asks Ellie. “Open it right away, I’m so excited!”
Lisa opens the letter and reads aloud:
We are very happy to inform you that the young Reporters Association has randomly selected you to participate in the 1st International Photo Convention with your photographs. The convention will take place on 27-31July, in Beijing. You will also have another six days for sightseeing on a train-tour with Hu Tian, one of our Chinese members. The young Reporters Association will plan and pay for the whole trip. So, pack your bags, Lisa. You are going to China!
General Secretary of the Young Reporters Association
“They want to send me to China! I can’t believe my luck!” she exclaims. “I have never been to China before. What an interesting place to go!”
“Lisa! That’s great news!” exclaims Ellie.
“I know!” answers Lisa. “I have never been to China, but it has always been one of my dreams,” she says.
“Yes, it’s an amazing opportunity for you,” says Ellie. “And, when you get back, you could write a report about your trip for the school on-line newspaper. What do you think?”
“Oh, Ellie,” laughs Lisa. “OK. You never seem to forget your position at the paper, do you?”
“Well, I’m not the editor for nothing,” the girl laughs back. “Let’s hang up now,” she adds. “You have to do some research before the trip, don’t you think?”
“You’re right,” says Lisa. “China, here I come!”
After a long flight, Lisa finally arrives in Beijing. At the airport, a young man is waiting for her. He is holding a sign reading “Lisa, YRA.” Lisa goes towards him and the man greets her warmly.
“Nice to meet you, Lisa,” he says and introduces himself. “I am Hu Tian and I work for a local teen magazine here in Beijing. I will be your guide in China!” he says as he takes her suitcase. Lisa is relieved. Everything is so strange to her here and there are so many people everywhere! Hu Tian takes Lisa to her hotel by taxi.
“You must be tired after your long trip,” he says when they arrive. “Have some rest, and we’ll meet again in the afternoon. Then, you can have a taste of China.”
Lisa smiles as she goes to her hotel room. “I wonder what he meant,” she thinks to herself. “Oh, well… I guess I’ll find out in a few hours,” she says and falls asleep right away.
After her nap, Lisa feels like a new person. She meets up with Hu Tian and his sister, Mei. The two take her to a restaurant in the Old City.
“So that’s what you meant with ‘a taste of China!’ Lisa exclaims.
“Yes,” smiles Hu Tian. “You’re going to enjoy a traditional Beijing dinner.” Lisa remembers the delicious Chinese food in New York and is excited to try some authentic Chinese cuisine. Maybe it will be even tastier.
At the restaurant, Lisa sees a round piece of glass in the centre of the table.
“I know!” shouts Lisa. “It’s a rotating tray! The waiter puts all of the dishes on the tray so that the people at the table can turn it and try each of the different kinds of food,” she says with a smile.
“It is customary to try a little bit of everything. It is also polite to always leave the last bite on the plate,” says Mei.
When the waiter comes to the table, they order traditional tea and several different dishes.
“We ordered Peking Duck, it’s a famous dish here,” explains Mei.
The cook then brings the roast duck and cuts it in front of them. A waiter also brings different dishes to eat along with the duck. Lisa is impressed.
“What are all these little bowls?” asks Lisa. “There are pancakes in this one and vegetables and three different kinds of sauces.”
Hu Tian and Mei laugh. “Let me show you how to eat Peking Duck” says Mei. “First, you take a pancake. Then, you put some sauce and some vegetables on your pancake.”
“Ok, I got that,” says Lisa. “This is fun, actually.”
“Now put some duck in the pancake and wrap it. Enjoy!” says Mei, smiling to the girl.
“Mmmm, delicious,” says Lisa. “No wonder it’s so famous!”
They take turns turning the tray and tasting the different kinds of food. Hu Tian and Mei are eating with chopsticks.
“Is it difficult to eat with chopsticks?” asks Lisa.
“No, not really,” says Hu Tian and Mei offers to teach her.
“I’ve never learnt so much at a dinner table before!” Lisa says with a giggle. It is a fun evening of new experiences.
The next day is very busy. Lisa spends almost all morning at the Photo Convention, presenting her work and talking to lots of people. Then, she and Hu Tian meet with Mei and they go to Tiananmen Square.
“Wow, this square is huge! It is much larger than any other square I have ever been to!” Lisa exclaims.
“This, my dear, is the largest city square in the world!” boasts Hu Tian. “One million people can fit here!”
“And who’s that in the picture over there?” asks Lisa.
“It’s Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China,” explains Hu Tian.
Next, the three friends take a tour of the Forbidden City. Lisa is impressed by the artwork and history she discovers there.
“The Forbidden City is about 600 years old. It used to be the Chinese Emperor’s palace. You see, in Chinese history there were no kings or queens, we had emperors and empresses. Now the place is a huge museum, ‘The Palace Museum.’ Common people could not enter the Forbidden City; that is why they called it Forbidden,” says Hu Tian.
Lisa and her friends are now in The Hall of Supreme Harmony.
“The Emperor’s throne is here,” says Mei.
Lisa looks around. There are dragons everywhere. Lisa is impressed and asks Mei about it.
“The dragon is a symbol of power, strength and good luck,” Mei explains. “It was also the symbol of the Emperor himself.”
“In the Hall of Supreme Harmony, experts counted 13,844 dragons!” adds Hu Tian.
As they walk towards the exit, Lisa hears Hu Tian’s voice.
“Come on, Lisa,” Hu Tian shouts. “I’m hungry. Let’s have some lunch!”
“That sounds great!” Lisa replies. “Where shall we eat?” she asks as they walk towards the exit.
“I know! Let’s have a picnic near Tiananmen Square. We can buy some sandwiches over there,” Hu Tian suggests, pointing to a shop across the street.
They sit down on a bench and have a lovely picnic in the warm sun. Lisa is admiring a very large, modern building across the street.
“That is a beautiful building,” says Lisa. “It looks like a giant egg, doesn’t it?”
“You’re right, Lisa,” says Mei. “It is the National Center for the Performing Arts, but the local people just call it ‘The Egg.’ Concerts, operas and plays take place there.”
After lunch, they go to the Olympic Green, the most modern part of Beijing.
“Wow! Look at all those buildings!” Lisa exclaims. “That one looks like an ice cube.”
“Yes, it’s a very interesting building. That’s the National Aquatics Center. It housed the swimming and diving competitions of the Summer Olympic Games in 2008,” replies Hu Tian.
“See that one over there?” says Mei, pointing at a very strange structure, “That’s the National Stadium, the Bird’s Nest. Can you see why?”
“Of course, it’s like a gigantic bird’s nest!” Lisa replies. “China has certainly changed a lot since the times of the emperors in the Forbidden City!”
For Lisa’s last day in Beijing, Hu Tian and Mei have a special surprise for her. They decide to take their friend on a short trip.
“Where are we going?” asks Lisa at the bus station.
“We can’t tell you. It’s a surprise,” says Hu Tian with a grin.
“Yes, you’ll see when we get there,” says Mei with a giggle. “Now, let’s get on the bus.”
The scenery changes outside the bus window. The tall skyscrapers and cars of the city soon give way to smaller buildings and fewer cars, until there are only endless golden fields.
“Where we are going?” Lisa wonders.
Then, she looks outside the window and suddenly realises. “Wow! The Great Wall of China! One of the greatest wonders of the world!” she exclaims.
“How long is it, anyway?” she asks her friends.
“The Great Wall of China is 8,851.8 km or 5,500 miles long,” Hu Tian says proudly. “And it’s more than 2,000 years old!” he continues.
“The Emperor Qin Shihuang of the Qin Dynasty started the Wall around 221BC,” adds Mei. “But work continued during the Han and until the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century,” she says. “Thousands, if not millions, of people worked day and night to finish the Wall.”
“It’s very impressive,” says Lisa as the three walk to the closest part of the Great Wall. It is on a steep hill.
“This is a beautiful walk, but it is harder than it looks,” Lisa says, stopping to catch her breath.
“Don’t worry,” Hu Tian replies. “You will be able to relax later.”
“What do you mean?” she asks.
“It’s another surprise,” Hu Tian says, smiling.
“A whole day of surprises! This is so much fun! You two are great!” Lisa says as she takes photos of her new friends and the Great Wall. “Now say ‘cheese’!”
A little later, Hu Tian and Mei look at Lisa and smile. “It is time to show you a different China,” says Hu Tian.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m sure it’s going to be another great experience,” Lisa says, smiling back.
Another bus takes them beyond the fields until they reach a small farming village. They get off and see an elderly man and woman.
“Ni hao,” they greet the three friends in Chinese.
“Hello,” says Lisa and then turns to Hu Tian and Mei.
“They are our aunt and uncle,” says Mei. “They don’t speak English but they are very friendly.”
Then they all walk down a small road with gates and walls on all sides. They enter one of the gateways.
“This is our aunt and uncle’s house. It is very traditional,” says Mei.
Next, they all sit down and have tea together.
“Tea is very important in Chinese culture,” explains Mei. “Chinese people drink a lot of tea, and we also celebrate a number of occasions with tea ceremonies.”
“Oh, good,” smiles Lisa. “I love tea, it’s my favourite drink!”
On their way back a few hours later, Lisa remarks: “It was so exciting to see what life is like for people in the countryside. It is very different from the busy Beijing life.”
“Well, a lot of Chinese still live in villages like that, not cities,” explains Hu Tian. “What do you think of life in the village?”
“Hmm… the village is quieter and the countryside around it is very beautiful. However, there is more technology in the city and more things to do than in the village,” says Lisa thoughtfully. “I guess that city life and village life are both nice, but in different ways.”
The next stop on Lisa’s trip is even more interesting. After getting a good night’s sleep on the train from Beijing to Xi’an, Lisa, Mei and Hu Tian go to see the Terracotta Army. They take a guided tour of the ancient site.
“The Terracotta Soldiers’ purpose was to protect Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, after his death. His tomb has about eight thousand clay soldiers surrounding it. It is a truly amazing sight,” says the guide.
“I’ve seen nothing like this before,” whispers Lisa into Mei’s ear. “They look alike, but they are all different.”
“Each soldier’s face is unique,” the guide continues. “The soldiers are as tall as real people and they had swords, knives, crossbows and other weapons. Surprisingly, all these were as sharp as new! According to their roles, the height of the soldiers varies; the tallest are the generals and you’ll also find officials, warriors, chariots, horses, even acrobats and musicians. Some of them have missing parts and others are still in the dirt. However, some of the soldiers are in Very good shape and seem new, as you can see,” says the guide.
“I wonder how many people had to work to make this army,” Lisa whispers, and the guide hears her.
“According to Sima Qian, an ancient historian, more than 700,000 workers worked on the emperor’s tomb for about 38 years,” he explains.
“Wow! Amazing!” exclaims Lisa. “But where is the tomb?”
“Ah, the tomb is still a mystery,” adds the guide. “Archaeologists have found the tomb, but they have not opened it yet.”
“No? Why not?” asks Lisa. “Surely, there will be lots of treasures inside!”
“Well,” says the man, “that’s what Sima Qian’s book says. But archaeologists are worried that they might damage the valuable objects inside the tomb.”
“I see,” says Lisa.
“There is something else too,” adds Hu Tian. “There are traps inside the tomb. Dangerous traps, to prevent tomb raiders from stealing the treasures inside. At least, that’s what the legend says…”
“Oh, it’s such an interesting story! I guess we’ll have to wait and see!” Lisa smiles. “With or without the treasures from the Emperor’s tomb, this place is fantastic!”
The next day, Lisa, Mei and Hu Tian go to Shanghai on another overnight train. The first place to visit is an area called the Bund.
It’s a lively place by the Huangpu River, full of beautiful historical buildings.
They walk down a street called Nanjing Road, the main street of the Bund, and have lunch at a restaurant. Lisa tries Shanghai crispy chicken and she finds it delicious.
“I’m really getting used to using chopsticks. It’s actually a lot of fun!” Lisa says, excitedly.
After lunch, they walk a few blocks to the Yu Garden, in Shanghai’s Old City. It is a traditional Chinese garden with beautiful, old buildings called pagodas. It is very large and they take their time exploring it. There are various trees and rocks and small ponds with bridges. Ducks and fish are swimming in the water and there are dragons on the walls.
“The trees, plants and flowers are so pretty! And it’s so peaceful here!” Lisa admires. “It is the perfect place to walk around, it makes you feel you are at one with nature.”
“Well, that is exactly what the Chinese garden is about,” says Mei. “Here one can escape from the busy daily routine and have some time to themselves.”
After a pleasant walk through the Yu Garden, Mei and Hu Tian take Lisa to the Yu Market right outside.
“The Yu Market is so noisy and busy with people!” Lisa exclaims. “It suddenly feels like we’re in a different city.”
“Of course it’s noisy,” says Mei. “Shanghai has the largest population in China.”
Lisa has fun choosing a few traditional gifts: a pearl necklace for her mother, chopsticks for all her family and a beautiful silk dress for herself.
Then she asks Mei: “I want to get something special for my friend, Ellie. What do you suggest?”
Mei points to some Chinese silk scarves. “How about one of those? Chinese silk is famous worldwide!”
“Great, Ellie will love it!” Lisa says enthusiastically as she buys the scarf.
When Lisa wakes up the next day, she looks out of the window and sees that it is raining.
“Oh no!” says Lisa, disappointed. “What are we going to do now? We can’t see much of Shanghai in the rain.”
“Don’t worry, Lisa,” Hu Tian says, “We can still see a lot today. We just need to go above the rain.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that, but I’m happy to follow you on another surprise tour,” says Lisa.
First, they take Lisa to the Shanghai World Financial Centre. It’s a 492 metres tall building with 101 floors!
“We’ll go to the third observation deck on the 100th floor,” says Hu Tian. “I hope you’re not afraid of heights!”
“No, of course not,” says Lisa and smiles as she remembers her New York experience.
Once they get to the observation deck, Lisa takes a look around and says, “It is fantastic up here! We are even higher than the clouds. We really are above the rain.”
“We are 474 metres, 1,555 feet above the ground,” explains Mei. “Have a look at the view, it’s amazing!”
“What’s that building over there? It’s very interesting,” Lisa points out of the window.
“That’s the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. We’re going to visit it next,” says Hu Tian.
When they arrive at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower they visit the rotating restaurant. It stands 267 meters, or 876 feet, above Shanghai.
“This place is great! Hey look, I can see the SWFC from here!” says Lisa, looking out of the large windows.
“The rain stopped,” says Mei. Suddenly, a rainbow appears in the sky.
“Wow!” admires Lisa. “How wonderful!”
She has a great day in the Shanghai sky.
After taking the last train ride of their trip, Lisa, Hu Tian and Mei arrive in Hong Kong.
“I can already tell that Hong Kong is different from any of the other places we’ve been to. The cars are driving on the left side of the road,” Lisa says, during their taxi ride to the hotel.
“That’s not the only difference,” Mei tells Lisa. “The people here speak Cantonese. It is different from Mandarin Chinese, but they also have much in common.”
“Tell me some more about Hong Kong,” asks Lisa. “I don’t really know much.”
“Well, it is one of the most populated places in the world, with an amazing culture. Hong Kong’s landscape is also unique. There are hills and tall mountains, parks and nature reserves, and there are about 200 offshore islands. Visitors have a lot to do here. Just wait and see!” Mei says.
After leaving their luggage in their hotel rooms, they head to the Peak Tram. It takes them up to The Peak, the top of one of the nearby mountains, 396 metres above sea level. The view from the top of the Peak Tower is breathtaking.
“Hong Kong’s skyline is very impressive, as you can see. There are more than 7, 600 skyscrapers, but that’s not what makes the place so special,” Mei says.
“Yes. It is a great mixture of amazing buildings and beautiful landscape. The view is fantastic from up here!” replies Lisa, enthusiastically.
“Let me take your photo, the light is wonderful right now,” she tells her friends as she reaches in her pocket for her camera. “This picture will be suitable for the next Photo Convention,” she says and smiles.
Lisa looks out of her window at the Hong Kong skyline. The place looks magical at night, with millions of lights shining.
“It’s my last night in China,” Lisa keeps thinking. She feels a bit sad about it, but she is also a little homesick.
“I’m sure tomorrow will be a day to remember,” she thinks and goes to sleep.
The next morning, the three young people go to a place called Aberdeen, on a nearby island. On the way there, they pass by a park in Kowloon City. Lisa notices a large group of people who are all standing in the park, in strange positions.
“What are they doing?” she asks curiously.
“They’re practising Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art,” explains Hu Tian.
“Really? Can we get off of the bus and watch for a while?” Lisa asks.
“Of course,” replies Mei.
“People who practise Tai Chi do a series of warrior movements very slowly, concentrating on their bodies. It helps them stay healthy,” Hu Tian tells Lisa.
“How interesting!” Lisa says.
“Would you like to try?” asks a woman. “The class is free, and it’s only an hour long.”
Lisa is thrilled. “Mei, can you take some pictures of me practising? I want to show them to Ellie when I get back.”
Next Lisa and her friends take the bus to Ocean Park in Aberdeen.
“It’s a huge place with lots of attractions,” explains Mei. “We’re going to take you to see the giant pandas.”
“Wow! They’re so big!” exclaims Lisa when she sees the animals in the Giant Panda Habitat. “But they’re cute!”
“Pandas are in great danger; only 1,000 to 3,000 remain in the wild,” says Hu Tian.
“How about a visit to Aqua City next?” asks Mei.
“That sounds great,” Lisa agrees.
She’s right. Thousands of colourful fish and other sea animals, make their visit unforgettable. Lisa keeps taking pictures.
“It will make a great article for the school newspaper,” she thinks to herself. “Ellie will be thrilled.”
The three of them are tired, but their visit to Aberdeen hasn’t finished yet. Hu Tian and Mei take Lisa to the famous floating village on Aberdeen harbour. They call it ‘floating’ because it is a village of boats.
“This is incredible! There are so many boats that I can’t even see the water,” exclaims Lisa.
“All these people live on their boats; their lives depend on fishing and the sea. The ‘boat people’ of Hong Kong have lived this way for centuries,” Mei explains.
“Now,” smiles Hu Tian, “since it is our last dinner together, it must be special.”
So, they go to the Jumbo Kingdom, a famous floating restaurant.
“Give me a minute,” says Lisa and disappears for a while. When she comes back, she’s wearing her Chinese red silk dress.
“I bought it for a special occasion,” she says. “Well, it is a special occasion.”
Mei gives her a big hug and they sit down to enjoy their dinner.
The lights of the floating village make the place look magical.
The next day, the time has come for Lisa to say goodbye to her Chinese friends and board the plane back home.
“I am sad to leave, but I will come back to China some day. Now I have an extra reason… I have good friends to visit here,” she says to Hu Tian and Mei, with a smile.
“We must stay in touch. Promise?” asks Mei.
“I promise,” says Lisa, “And you must come and visit me some day, too!”
As she sits down in her seat, she thinks about her visit to China. The people, the food, the sights… everything was incredible!
“Well,” she thinks and a big smile appears on her face. “I wouldn’t trade this experience for all the tea in China!”