Six very lucky students (Jen deGroof, Jessica Gamble, Garrett Lemery, Megan Maxwell, Amanda Gordon, and Kim Gosline) were given the opportunity to spend their last weekend in China in Hangzhou, the second of two optional weekend excursions. After visiting the Shanghai museum on Friday, we made the two and a half hour trip to Hangzhou, and the trip proved to be worth every minute of waiting and traveling. After arriving Friday night and doing a little bit a shopping before checking into the hotel, we kicked off our weekend Saturday morning exploring the Lingyin Temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in China. We climbed through caves, admired all the different statues and wall-art along the way, until we finally reached the temple itself where we were given some time to explore what was inside on our own.
After leaving the Lingyin Temple, we took some time to visit a tea farm where the students were able to dress up as tea farmers and pick some of their own tea leaves. We spent some time navigating the field and had a blast joking around with each other before our tea ceremony. The tea ceremony wasn’t what a lot of us were expecting; it was very informal and we learned a lot during our time spent their. At a typical Chinese tea ceremony, one must first smell the tea to ensure its freshness before drinking. However, after we smelled the tea we were instructed to put our face to it so to clean our eye sockets and freshen up. It sounds a little odd, but it was actually quite nice; we all agreed we felt more refreshed after.
After our first sip, we were all in awe at how fresh-tasting the tea was; in fact, the tea we tasted was the best green tea in all of China! How much luckier could we have gotten?! Also, at the ceremony, the instructor showed us three different green tea leaves: one harvested in March, one harvested in April, and the last harvested in May. The later the harvesting date, the darker in color they are, and also the less fresh. For the leaves harvested in March, it only takes one pinch of the leaves to make the tea and you can use that same pinch five different times throughout the day. Also while we were there, and before we had the chance to buy some tea and souvenirs to take back to the states with us, we partook in an experiment showing us the health benefits of this tea and how well it cleans out the toxins in our bodies. It was absolutely fascinating.
To end an almost perfect first day in Hangzhou, the last activity on the itinerary was to take a trip to West Lake. The views around the lake were astounding and at times didn’t feel real to think that something could be that beautiful- same goes for the views at the tea farm. While four students (Jessica, Garrett, Megan, and Amanda) and our professor (Dr. Angi Semegon) walked around the lake, the remaining two students (Jen and Kim) and our accompanying P.C. for the weekend, Y.J., toured the lake on an hour long bike ride.
Upon leaving the lake, we had dinner as a group and later checked into a new hotel closer to our activities scheduled for Sunday. This weekend trip has most definitely brought us closer to one another, and it’s such a beautiful feeling to be able to say we’ve formed our own little family- same goes for the people that remained in Shanghai. All in all, this entire trip has been been such a blessing and an incredible experience, and our weekend in Hangzhou was the perfect ending to it all.