Guest post: Ajia Richardson
On June 24th, 2017 I embarked on one of the most rewarding journeys of my life. After a very uncomfortable 13 hour flight, I stepped off of my plane to hear “Ni hao, ma? Welcome to Beijing,” and there was no turning back. With $300 U.S. dollars in my pocket, a suitcase, and a lot of curiosity, I spent
the next eight weeks in Beijing, China.
The Great Wall of China
Battling jet lag, I laced up my sneakers and headed to climb The Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Prior to my trip, I had surgery on my right knee. That made my trek to the top tough, but giving up was not on the agenda. I stopped to sign my twitter handle on the perfect brick, took pictures to remind myself that this wasn’t a dream, and marveled at nature’s beauty.
The wall is a manmade structure, but as I stood on those bricks and looked out into the distance that was all the confirmation I needed that Earth is a piece molded by the Creator. How lucky was I to be thousands of miles from home in awe of such brilliance?
When my classmates and I reached the top we sang, danced,
and encouraged one another in celebration. I stood on history and took in every moment.
Beijing Olympic Square Park
That very same week I took to the streets again. This time Olympic Square Park was calling my name.
Someone should have pinched me! I was at the home of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games where The United States came away with 74 gold and silver medals combined, barely escaping defeat from China. I watched every track & field meet, swim competition, and basketball game. Sports are a big part of my life, so I was like a kid in a candy store.
Along the walk to view the popular bird’s nest and aquatic pool
there was street music, food, and dancing. Mesmerized by the music, my body couldn’t help but move a little. While I danced alone, a friendly older man came and grabbed my hand and we two-stepped the night away. Everyone seemed to be impressed with my moves, but I was just happy to be experiencing their culture and living out my dreams.
Tiananmen Square/The Forbidden City
To reach the Forbidden City I traveled by subway and entered the streets of Tiananmen Square. Thankfully that day we killed two birds with one stone because the crowds were massive and the sun was unforgiving.
In a way, I felt connected to Tiananmen Square because of the unfortunate massacre that took place back in 1989. Many were killed during this demonstration toward justice in China, similar to my ancestors here in America. I took a moment of silence and further immersed myself in the culture and asked many questions to learn more and enjoy my experience.
The Forbidden City was just that, Forbidden. From the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty it was a palace for royal families, and now people from all over the world witness the breathtaking architecture and history of it all. Many of the popular tourist sites in China have similar architecture, and The Forbidden City has served as the blueprint.
Temple of Heaven
Last, but not least on my “Must See” list was The Temple of Heaven. The Temple is a very sacred place of religious practices that took place from the Ming to the Qing dynasty. The annual ceremonies were in preparation to ask the Heavens for a successful harvest.
Just as The Forbidden City, the architecture was insane. We also got a chance to enter many of the buildings where ceremonies took place. I’m not from New York, but It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t milly rock on this block (hence the photo below). I did and saw so much over the course of my two month trip to Beijing, and the temple was one of my favorites.
This site taught me the most about the history of Chinese culture, and I realized that in many ways we are the same, searching for guidance from, and living under, a higher power.
Beijing, China was top 2, and it wasn’t number 2! The two months I spent there taught me a lot about the country and their culture, but I also learned a lot about myself. In a short period of time, I became more independent and adventurous. I took a dream and made it a reality. There is nothing more rewarding than traveling, and whether you get the chance to experience Beijing, Paris, or even New York City, I hope you take it full on. No turning back!
Ajia Richardson, my daughter, and guest of Always LaTonya is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She dug up her Southern roots and transplanted them many miles, and several states away from home. Excited about traveling and seeing the world, Ajia has plans to fill her passport sooner than later. Follow Ajia on both Instagram and Twitter @AjiaTheGreat.