China proves to be an eye-opening experience to different cultures

Mollie Cramer, staff writer

The Great Wall was built for protection from those who were different; the Forbidden City walls were built for separation from the commoners. The walls we build in our heads can also be strong, made of the unbreakable silk of our minds. We build walls between ourselves, others, places and cultures. Recently, my restrictive walls have come tumbling down.

I went to Beijing, China for spring break with my family. I saw the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Lama temple, and probably ate the maximum amount of rice and dumplings a person can eat.

We can’t keep telling ourselves that taking a trip into the city every once and a while makes us adventurous people: it’s exploring outside your own backyard where you don’t know the language, the people, or the culture and just diving right in. I’m not saying that everyone should go to China because I completely understand that’s not possible for a lot of people. It’s important to broaden your horizons and experience people and cultures you’re not familiar with because it breaks down your walls and opens your mind. I believe open-minded people are praised in our society, and travel builds that.

In China, one interesting thing I learned was the difference between city and country folk. There’s a huge gap between the way city people and country folk view each other. Country folk cannot buy houses or go to school in the city. City people even call the country folk “foreigners”. They’ve closed themselves off to each other, and something that I really gained from my trip was an understanding of this fundamental human instinct. We try so hard to separate ourselves, but in the end we’re all human.

Not only are the people in China putting walls up against each other but also the government builds its own walls for the people. Many websites and newspapers in China are blocked, which I learned firsthand when trying to work on my research paper for English. The Communist system is a whole other conversation about China, but it’s simply just another wall built to close peoples’ minds.

In the emperor’s palace at the Forbidden City, our tour guide warned us that “foreigners” were going to want to take pictures with us because they’d never seen Westerners before. I’ve never felt more like a celebrity in my life. Here we are, all living on the same earth, and they’d never even seen people that looked different from them before.

Huran Yahya, a famous Turkish author, once said, “I often wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the Earth. Then I ask myself the same question.” So after my trip I ask, why is China such a crazy place to go, why wouldn’t you want to see the Great Wall before you’re eighty years old and too tired to climb it? We learn the most where we begin knowing nothing, and it creates that open mind.

On my trip I saw people eat scorpions, and I saw people dancing in the street. I tried to order food from a restaurant where no one spoke English, and I watched an acrobatic show where a woman held herself up on top of 6 chairs. We draw lines between the world and ourselves because we have our walls built, but in order to immerse ourselves in culture and life we must open our minds.

Teenagers shouldn’t feel restricted; we should break down our walls. We have to build dreams of seeing the world and of improving ourselves by opening our minds. When you’re on top of your own wall, when you’ve conquered your limits, you’ll experience the feeling I felt of being on the Great Wall of China; you’ll see endless land, endless sky, and endless possibilities.