Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Super Secret Trip to China and Tibet!

Hi everyone! I am SO excited. I just got back from a really cool trip to China and Tibet. See if you can find both on the map (hint…they are in Asia).

I didn’t get a chance to tell you about this trip, because I was traveling with my new friend Michael. He works with Kristin at the Stanley Foundation. I met him when I was in Cambodia and Thailand earlier this summer.

Right after I got back from that trip, Kristin called and said Michael offered to take me to a very special place. Cool! But then Kristin told me that I would be going without her. At first I was worried. I have never gone anywhere in the world without Kristin. But Kristin told me it was going to be OK. She also said she wished that she was flat so she could go with me. Wow! I knew right away I was going on a COOL trip.

Traveling with Michael was different, but he’s a really nice guy. And, his family was very nice too.

Our first stop was in Beijing. Michael told me that Beijing is the capital of China. I had NO idea! He also told me the Olympic Games in 2008 will be held in Beijing. I guess there is a lot of construction happening for the Olympics. But we didn’t go visit those places; instead, Michael took me to a place called, “The Forbidden City.”

The “Forbidden City” is located in the middle of Beijing and it has lots of buildings that remind me of some of the palaces I have seen on my other trips in Asia and Egypt. Michael told me the Emperor of China used to live in the palace. Normal people were not allowed in, which is why it was called the “Forbidden City.” I’m not sure exactly what an “emperor” is, but I think that means he was the king or ruler of all of China.

Michael also told me there are nearly 1000 buildings in the “Forbidden City.” Who knew? The buildings have lots of neat wood carvings in really cool colors.

The “Forbidden City” is located near a place called “Tiananmen Square.” It is a BIG square where lots of public events happen in Beijing. Michael told me it is the biggest square in the world. He also told me the Chinese hold big parades in “Tiananmen Square.” Wow, it would be cool to have a place like this in Muscatine to hold parades! “Tiananmen is also a really cool place to fly a kite. If you go to the square early in the morning, you can see lots of kites flying all around.

Michael also told me that many famous events in China’s history have also taken place in “Tiananmen Square.” Some of these things must have been very bad, because I saw lots of policemen patrolling the square.

Here I am near the main entrance to the “Forbidden City.” Michael and I are standing in "Tiananmen Square" in this photo.

Do you see the big painting above the arch? That’s a picture of Mao Zedong. Michael told me he was a Chinese leader and was founder of the People’s Republic of China. He also told me the People’s Republic of China is China’s formal name. I had no idea! But I guess this makes sense because I don’t always say I am from the United States of America. I often say I am from the United States, or America, or the US.

Mao Zedong must have been VERY important. I saw photos and paintings of him everywhere in China.

Next, Michael told me he was taking me to a place called, “The Great Wall of China.” I wasn’t so sure I wanted to spend time looking at a wall. That sounded really BORING. But Michael promised me I would have fun. Michael was right! The “Great Wall of China” is really awesome!

Now I know why Kristin wishes she was flat. And I am sure my Aunt Lynn is really jealous too!

The “Great Wall of China” is a REALLY long wall that looks like an ancient castle or fort I see in the movies and on TV. Michael says it was built between 5th Century BC and the 16th Century to keep bad people out of the Chinese Empire. The whole thing is almost 4000 miles long. That means it is longer than the distance between Washington, DC and Los Angles, California (which is roughly 2700 miles). Who knew!

I thought it would be really fun to walk across the entire Great Wall, but then I realized it would take me MONTHS to do that. Plus, Michael told me he was taking me to a place called Lhasa. Lhasa is the capital of Tibet.

Michael says the history of Tibet is very complicated. Tibet is now part of China, just like Iowa is part of the United States. But it is called an “autonomous region.” I’m not sure what that really means, but I think that means Tibet is special.

I also learned that someone called the “Dalai Lama” is the religious leader of Tibet. But, the “Dalai Lama” isn’t allowed by the Chinese to live in Tibet, so he lives in India. I told Michael I was really confused and he told me it was OK to be confused.

Lhasa is really nice. It is located in the famous Himalayan Mountains. Lhasa is also almost 12,000 feet above the ocean and one of the highest cities in the world. I had no idea! I do know that Denver, Colorado is called the “Mile High” city because it is almost one mile (nearly 5300 feet) above the ocean. Lhasa is more than twice that!

It is really neat to be that high on a mountain, but Michael told me it can also make you sick if you are not careful. That’s because the oxygen in the air is thinner than it is in Muscatine. Who knew? Anyway, I had to get plenty of rest and drink lots of water so I didn’t get what Michael called, “altitude sickness.”

Lhasa is very important to the people who follow a religion called Tibetan Buddhism. I guess this is a bit different that the Buddhism in Thailand, but at least I have seen a Buddha before! The picture above is of a place called “Potala Palace.” This is where the Dalai Lama lived before he left Tibet in 1959. After visiting Potala, I realized that many people view the Dalai Lama as the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. I think that means he is kind of like the pastor at my church, except the Dalai Lama is FAR more famous.

Here I am in front of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Michael says it is the holiest temple for Tibetan Buddhism. Many people visit the temple to pray to Buddha.

It is hard to tell, but the Jokhang Temple is 4 stories tall and has a roof made of something called “gilded” bronze tiles. I know pennies used to be made out of bronze and the color of the Jokhang Temple looks like a shiny new penny.

After our visit in Lhasa, Michael took me to see the “Yarlung Tsangpo River.” Michael told me it is the highest major river in the world. So I guess that means it is almost as famous as the Mississippi River that runs through Muscatine.

It is hard to tell from the picture, but not very far from where I am standing, the “Yarlung Tsangpo River” turns into the “Brahmaputra River.” The Brahmaputra River runs through a country called Bangladesh, which is south of Tibet.

That’s just a small glimpse of the cool things I saw on my secret trip to China and Tibet. I want to give an extra special THANKS to my friend Michael and his family for taking me along with them. I learned so many things and met lots of very nice people.

Until my next adventure…bye!