When I was 19 years old, I had the amazing opportunity to go to China with the Weber State Symphony Orchestra. I played the violin (still do actually) and was attending college on a music scholarship. The trip was scheduled for March 2000, my second semester at college; however, I found out about the trip months before I even began going to school.
When I heard about the trip, my initial reaction was not to go. I didn't know anyone in the orchestra (yet) and worried I wouldn't have a good time because of it. Thankfully, my mom, in all her wisdom, told me I should go. So, I went.
When the trip finally arrived I had made some good friends, and while I was nervous to travel so far from home I knew it would be a good experience for me. The 15 hour plane right wasn't that bad, but traveling with one of my most prized possessions, my violin, made things somewhat complicated.
The plan was to stay in Shanghai for 8 days. We had three different concerts scheduled in that area, one of which was combined with a Chinese orchestra. Due to limited stage room, only half of my orchestra was able to play with the Chinese performers, and fortunately for me I was able to play.
After our stay in Shanghai, our plan was to fly to Beijing and tour the area. No performing. We planned to see The Great Wall and Tiananmen Square just to name a few.
Shortly after arriving in Shanghai, it was evident that us Americans stood out, especially those of us with blonde hair. Young people, probably college students, who spoke English would run up to us on the streets just to talk. People were so excited to see us, were so curious about us for no other reason than that we were from the United States of America.
My best memory of China was along these same lines.
I was walking around the streets of Shanghai. I was not alone, but I don't remember who was with me. A Chinese man and woman approached me. There was an obvious language barrier, but the man pointed his camera to me, so I assumed he wanted me to take a picture of him with his wife. As I reached for the camera, the two shook their heads and I soon realized that they wanted a picture of me. I stood next to the man, his wife took one picture of us together and another of us shaking hands. And that was that.
They wanted a picture of me because I was an American. As long as I live, I will never forget that moment.
My trip to China was amazing. Not only did I see and experience amazing landmarks, I gained a greater appreciation for being an American. I was grateful for my freedom and was happy I didn't have to live in a city flooded with soldiers carrying machine guns.
It is really easy to get caught up in our differences. There are so many sides to each story. Tolerance for different opinions and lifestyles is steadily decreasing.
But, hopefully, no matter what, we, as Americans, can always appreciate what we have.