Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mt. Tai at Sunrise

[posted on behalf of Abby D.]

There is a lot to report this time around! Our overnight stay on Mt. Tai, the holiest of China’s five sacred Daoist mountains, was amazing — the favorite part of the trip so far for many in the group. We broke into three camps: those who climbed from the bottom of the mountain (Ian, Jess, and Lisa), those who climbed from the halfway point, and those who took the cable car and climbed at the very top. No matter which way we ascended, we all had a wonderful experience. Thankfully the weather was overcast and cooler in the morning, so the thousands of steps we climbed weren’t quite as challenging. Along the way we saw examples of calligraphy carved into stone, many of them written by emperors who made the climb long ago. When we approached the top, the clouds cleared and the sun came shining through. After lunch we were all able to explore the temples, lookouts and paths all around the mountain with spectacular views.

The best part of the experience was still to come. After a short night of sleep, wake-up calls went out to everyone in the hotel around 4:00 am. Bundled into our fleece jackets and long-sleeved shirts, we perched ourselves on the rocks and waited for the sun to come up. Surrounded by hundreds of Chinese tourists, we happily welcomed daybreak from such a glorious vantage point.
In the interest of time, we all took the cable car down the mountain and then packed ourselves into the bus for an 8-hour drive to Weihai. Along the way, we were treated to personal stories from our tour leader Huajing and our guide Mr. Zhu. Mr. Zhu was a high school student during the Cultural Revolution and suffered greatly during this time. He was sent to the countryside to work for 11 years, and like others of his generation, he was not able to continue his schooling during this time. At age 30, he was finally able to go to college and begin rebuilding his life.

Huajing shared stories about her childhood, special memories from her life in a small village, and her own experiences as a young child during the Cultural Revolution.

After such a long bus ride, we couldn’t have been happier to reach Weihai. Since Weihai is a port city, we enjoyed several wonderful seafood dishes for dinner. Most of us also took walks by the water to breathe in the sea air, watch boats coming in and out of the harbor, and stretch our legs.

Tomorrow we will visit several schools and teach short lessons for middle and high school students studying English. We look forward to meeting new friends.

Photos: 1) part of group headed up the mountain, 2) calligraphy carvings along the way, 3) a view from the top, 4) Brooke at sunrise, 5) Nancy at sunrise, 6) sunrise from Mt. Tai.

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