Memorable moments were created here. So I take this time to look back on those times.
Every summer, Chinese schools invited its students to join in a China educational tour. It was a two-month program to not only study Chinese culture but also visit some of its tourist spots.
I was able to take the opportunity, and it took place at Xiamen. It marked my first time to join this tour. It also marked my first to travel outside the country. And I went with most of my high school classmates and some schoolmates, which made it more meaningful.
From there, I was able to meet students from Chinese schools in Cebu, and also those from all over the Philippines. And I was able to befriend several of them.
I remembered the first day. It felt a bit exciting and a bit weird. Everything felt new. And I felt a bit homesick. To lessen that, I thought of the tour as my usual vacation in a different place.
It was dorm life there. We had a scheduled time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We also had one for sleep. We had classes every day. When we had free time, we could go to the nearest mall/ store to unwind or visit the night market.
You had to live the Chinese way. You had to speak in Mandarin, which is in contrast to my upbringing of speaking Fookien. Although there were some locals who could speak the latter, we had to use the former. It's the national language compared to one of the local dialects. This made me work my best to learn to speak the basics at least.
I remembered the Class Level Evaluation. We were evaluated on how well we answered the given conversation questions, with 1 as the lowest and 10 as the highest. I wanted to be part of a class at the middle level. I wanted translations to help me understand the words or phrases better. But I was surprised to learn that I belonged to Class 9.
I didn't understand why considering my level of proficiency. I wanted someone who could swap levels with me. But who from the lower level could do that? When I learned that one of my high school classmates was there, I chose to stay.
Every class had these subjects: Chinese language, calligraphy, painting, music, and martial arts. My classmates were nice, friendly, and approachable. We were able to befriend each other easily. The teachers were kind as well.
During classes, I was amazed to see my classmates full of fluency. I had nothing to do but to stay silent, observe, and work on improving the familiarity of the language.
And as I was studying, I realized a few things. I had a certain level of comprehension in understanding the language. I needed to push myself in order to understand and converse right. Looks like I'm in the right class after all, but with some challenge.
When it came to the tour, there were enjoyable places. But there were remarkable ones.
First was Wu Yi Shan ( 武夷山). They are a mountain range located in the prefecture of Nanping. I loved seeing all of them. The mountains, the forest, and the river were a majestic wonder. They were an eye-catching and refreshing view. I would never forget the mountain walks we had. It was a tiring yet fulfilling long hike.
The second was Gulangyu (鼓浪屿). It's an island off the coast of Xiamen. We had to take a ferry ride from downtown to reach there. The place was notable for having few to no vehicles. The environment was clean, and I didn't mind walking there for a day in order to get to the places we wanted to go. How I wish every place was like this! No wonder why tourists visit here often.
The third was the Xiamen Botanical Garden (万石植物园). It's one of China's most famous and beautiful gardens located in the southern part of the island. It's known for their breathtaking view of plants and flowers, as well as their scenic spots. I had an amazing nature view when I visited. And it continued until we ended our visit with colorful fireworks on a rainy night.
When the last day of the tour came, I had mixed emotions. I was excited to come back home, sad to part with the new friends we made, and happy to be able to experience this.
Now, I appreciate my Chinese heritage. I'm thankful for all the people who made an effort to make me see the importance of this part of blood in me. I now take pride in being a Filipino-Chinese, and I will pass this on for the next generations to come.