Chapter President Jean Kelley recently returned from a trip to China. Did she do any genealogy research there? Nope! Genealogists are allowed to have "a life" too, and here she tells us about a trip of a lifetime. She and her husband Ron celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary there. Happy belated anniversary, Jean and Ron. That's a photo of Jean (at the right>), at the Great (brick) Wall.
By Jean Foster Kelley
I recently returned from the trip of a lifetime—three weeks in China. To celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, my husband and I participated in a guided tour, along with 34 other people.
The Chinese people are 30-plus years past the Cultural Revolution, and 18 years past Tiananmen Square (an extensive open area in central Beijing, China, the world's largest public square). Both of these events were traumatic and remain crystal clear in their memories. While the government still owns all the land and controls things, business is booming and there is a growing middle class.
The people are wonderful, very polite, and friendly. However, they still sometimes do not completely grasp the concept of queuing up and taking turns. Cars now replace bicycles to a large extent, although there are still a lot of bicycles and motor scooters to be seen. The sun in most cities is obscured by the pollution from the coal burning plants they use for electricity production, as well as from the surging mass of new cars and drivers. Our guide likened China's pollution to that of the United States 40 years ago before the clean air acts. However, many Chinese places use the new CFL light bulbs that are just catching on here.
We visited Beijing, a fast growing, modern city which is in full swing preparing for the Olympics next year. Here we climbed the Great Wall and visited the famous Forbidden City. We went to Xian, where 22 centuries ago the first emperor to unite China made his capital. As a tribute to himself, he commissioned a huge tomb complex which included about 8000 life sized and individually styled terra cotta soldiers. It truly is an amazing display. We visited other large cities, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong and smaller villages, too. China has more than 100 cities with populations of 1 million or more, most of which I'd never heard. One of those places is Chongqing, where 32 million people live. We were there only a few hours, but during that time I got to pet a real, live giant Panda!!
We took in some wonderful scenery and some good food, too. I tried my hand at the Chinese game of Mah Jongg and also at guiding a sampan. All in all, it was both fun and enlightening. For me, among the best parts was learning that the Chinese people we encountered are genuinely welcoming and friendly. That's certainly better than most alternatives I can think of.