Ni Hao! Or Hello in Chinese, my name is Clayton Carley of rural Crescent City and I am currently serving as the 2011-2012 Illinois FFA state Treasurer. It has often been said that the journey of a thousand miles starts with just one step. Recently I had an amazing opportunity to take the journey of over 20,000 miles to China and back and I will be writing a series of blogs about this amazing learning experience. Our travels began on January 4, 2012 as I boarded a plane in Chicago to fly out to Los Angeles, California to meet up with my four other teammates form Illinois as well as 59 other state officers from across the nation representing 22 different states. All of us were able to engage in open discussion about what we thought China would be like as well as many different agricultural ideas and cultural lessons that we may learn. After a day of orientation we all headed over to LAX and boarded our international flight on a sunny Thursday afternoon. As we flew thought the night on our 13 hour trek we crossed over the International Date Line and skipped most of Friday landing in Beijing, China on Saturday morning. Our group of willing learners hit the ground running as soon as we made it through customs. We started off in the cultural and political center of Beijing in the world’s largest town square, Tiananmen Square. To stand here is like standing in the National Mall at Washington D.C. From this square we could see The Great Hall of People, which is the Chinese Capital Building, The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, where the first communist chair of China now rests in memory of his actions, The Museum of the Chinese History, as well as The Forbidden City. After Taking in the grandeur of this 108 acre square we walked through the 600 year old gates that until 1925, no commoner had ever walked through before; The entrance to the Forbidden City. This home of 24 different Emperors is so beautiful and masterfully crafted. It took over 100,000 artisans and a million civilians 14 years to complete this 178 acre city complex including several gates, a 32 foot wall and moat surrounding its completely wooden halls and palaces made without a single nail. After touring more of the Forbidden City we ventured further into the city of Beijing holding over twenty-two million residents. We were able to walk the steps of the Temple of Heaven, the place where emperors would visit and pray at least three times per year to ask for bountiful rain, good weather, and a prosperous crop. Everything in this culture and ancient buildings has great symbolism worked into it, including the colors of the paint and the amount of supports in thebuildings. Hope you enjoyed my first entry! My next blog will feature the second day of our journey, which will include a visit to the largest wholesale market in China and a stop on a cattle farm outside of Beijing!
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