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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 2, March 30th

Today we went to some very historic places in Beijing. Our first spot was Tiananmen Square. Our tour guide, Julia, pointed out many visitors from rural areas of the country who have been waiting their whole
lives to visit because it is considered a "place of celebration and happiness,” contrary to the beliefs of many Americans. We then proceeded to the entrance of the Forbidden City where we took a group picture with Chairman Mao’s portrait in the background.

The Forbidden City was incredible and much bigger than we could have ever imagined. Each courtyard, garden, and living corridor was more intricately designed and painstakingly restored than the next. It seemed to go on forever, as we learned about the dynastic emperors of China, and all the hard work that went into creating this amazing place. It was truly astounding.

After our traditional Chinese lunch, we took a rickshaw ride through the Hutong district, which is a historic residential area of the city. We were also lucky to see a courtyard home and the family that lives there. This ride truly immersed us in Chinese culture, as we were caught in traffic jams with entertaining drivers and street noise in the background.

Our next activity was the Temple of Heaven, where Emperors used to pray for good harvest. It was a beautiful sight and we all enjoyed the circular "Echo Wall,” where one could clap and we could hear the echo three times.

We then went to dinner and the Pearl Market, where we did some great bargaining and bought gifts for our friends and family. Each purchase was an experience, as we haggled prices down and rejoiced in our successes in obtaining “the best price possible.”

Our last stop of the day was an Acrobats Show, where the President of Kazakhstan was also in attendance. It was spectacular, especially the finale which featured six motorcycle riders looping around in a spherical metal cage. Each time one of them joined, they would yell "Hai!" and the audience would react in fright. Something all of us will never forget.

Overall, we are as exhausted as we've ever been in our lives, but we could not have asked for a better reason to be. Thank you so much to Kohl's and Li&Fung for allowing us to experience this incredible journey. We have formed great friendships and learned so much about this amazing country.

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