Vivian Richardson traveled with her granddaughter in China while nearly every turn released the memories that awaited. It was the treasure of a lifetime.
Richardson serves as chair of the directors for the African American Cultural Society. She is president of the Afro-American Caribbean Heritage Organization and secretary of the Heritage Crossroads Committee. Richardson tells it like it is in China.
Richardson’s excellent adventure
My trip to China got under way on the weekend of April 11, sponsored by the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce.
Director Rebecca DeLorenzo and coordinator Kathy Wilcox extended bon voyage following our group’s get-together for picking up luggage tags. We were made up of 16 Flagler residents, organization and business representatives, including my 15-year-old granddaughter Ashlee of Bay Shore, NY.
Most of us flew to New York a few days before the scheduled flight and met up at the JFK gate for an evening flight to Beijing. On the 13-hour flight, we were treated to the usual amenities of movies, pillows and blankets, and dinner and breakfast – and lots of liquid refreshments.
I had an aisle seat; Ashlee had the window seat. A young, delightful businesswoman had the center seat. She was a Beijing native, who graciously went over our itinerary, noting her favorite sites.
Because I am tall, I kept my legs limber by taking a few laps about the aircraft. I followed the trajectory of the plane on the monitor in front and saw that we traveled mainly over Canada and Russia. Before we knew it, we were preparing to land.
We met tour guide Angie, who was everything you’d want in a guide – a warm personality and very knowledgeable.
Wonder of Beijing
Beijing Airport was huge, clean and very modern, but I have to say at this point I was anxious to know what to expect. But Angie allayed any concerns we had.
Collecting the luggage, the group headed for a deluxe tour bus and we were on our way. It was now the evening of the next day.
As we motored to our first stop – a popular local restaurant – Angie pointed out the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics, a series of large structures with one resembling a bird’s nest.
The first meal in China was served family-style, the Lazy Susan “groaning’’ under the weight of the many dishes served: Chinese vegetables, chicken, beef, pork and fish, and always different varieties of rice with exotic condiments. We were delighted to be offered Pepsi Colas, tea and beer. We later agreed that this meal was the best.
Hotels throughout the trip were splendid. The rooms were more on the suite size, and the beds heavenly. Breakfasts, from the omelet station to a vast variety of selections, satisfied every taste. You had to be there to see.
We visited all the sights: beautiful lakes, summer palaces, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, Venice of China, and viewed the mountainous landscape from ancient temples. We lost ourselves in an open-air bazaar featuring entertainment, shopping, and sitting for a minute or two to enjoy a little tea.
We enjoyed a performance of the Chinese Opera, where colorful costumes and ferocious saber fights encompassed musical storytelling. We took a ride on the 431-mile-an-hour Maglev Train, which was awesome. We visited Old Chinatown and were chauffeured on a rickshaw to dinner with a local family. Later, the host serenaded with a solo on a zither-type instrument. We thanked the couple and the young interpreter for their gracious hospitality.
The grand finale
David, our other capable tour guide, met us at Shanghai Airport. He gave us numerous tips on culture, the economy, answered our questions, and shared a few jokes. We enjoyed delicious meals together, including the famous Peking duck.
Shopping was very gratifying although I wished I could have doubled-back to buy more of the really great buys. We purchased tea, herbal remedies, jewelry, jade, silk apparel, embroidery, carpets, and on and on.
Totally stunning, the grand finale was the city of Shanghai’s skyline, all lit up while cruising along the river in the evening. All cruise boats were alight, so the view was spectacular! David was there the next morning for our departure for JFK by way of Beijing without a hitch.
Overview by Richardson
Beautiful flowers were showcased everywhere. We stopped to watch mature people participating in exercises at nearby parks. David gave us an impromptu demonstration, which we tried and found to be exhilarating. He pointed out that seniors retire at about 55 years old.
Many assist their married children with babysitting, which is generally one child in a family.
We realized while traveling by bus that a serious building boom has transpired. Hundreds of high-risers were going up simultaneously. We constantly passed relatively new and beautiful high-rise apartment buildings with solar roofs. The oddity was the clotheslines out front with clothing hanging everywhere.
Public toilet facilities were dicey, flat, or traditional, but our tour guides looked out for us.
I finished my book early and learned the hard way that romance novels and things of that nature are considered porn and are not for sale at the airport.
There were a few stars among our fellow travelers: Regina “Gina’’ of Flagler Beach, Theresa, Brygitte, and Sam, a tall lanky southern guy. They contributed to everyone’s overall enjoyment and were true ambassadors. Oh, and we had two delightful Tonys. The English Tony promises to catch up with us to share pictures. And, as for my granddaughter, Ashlee, what a wonderful companion.
Ashlee took in everything and thoroughly enjoyed herself because everyday she texted her friends back home – and all was well. Along with other brave souls, Ashlee conquered the Great Wall. I learned so much from Ashlee, especially how to negotiate through airport security!
This was a trip of a lifetime, and I recommend taking the opportunity to visit China and other countries when you can. The world is beautiful. People are beautiful, and almost as great as those in our Flagler County neighborhood!
As always, remember our prayers for the sick, afflicted and bereaved.
Birthday wishes to Lucille Huesner, May 9; Alicia Pincham, May 12. Happy anniversary to Lloyd and Deborah Freckleton, May 9.