Location: China

After an exciting first day of the trip, we were thrilled to see that the second one did not disappoint. We left Datong and started by visiting the hanging monasteries. Not only were they amazing, but the view was incredible. Several people conquered their fear of heights to explore the magnificence of this holy and historical place. Next, we boarded the bus and drove to lunch at a gorgeous hotel. Everything from the glass napkin holder to the sparkling chandeliers was perfect—; not to mention the delicious food. Then, we drove to a sacred Tibetan monastery, called Wu Tai Shan. It has been referred to as the “Mecca of Buddhism,” and is the most famous (and holy) Buddhist site in China.

Many people save for years to visit, pray, and take in the surrounding beautiful view. Finally, we embarked on the bus, arriving in Taiyuan in time for a quick dinner and bed. After sleeping in slightly the next morning, we nabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and went to a state-run orphanage. We were fortunate to be allowed into the rooms that Little Flower had there. Guided by Florentine K,. we visited the baby rooms, the toddler room, and then outside to interact with some of the older kids, whom all have cerebral palsy. They were incredibly sweet and we loved singing, playing and building things with them. While the Chinese food has been delicious, as a much-needed taste of the West, we got to eat at KFC.

Not only was it great to chow down on French fries and chicken sandwiches, but also to see the Chinese interpretation of a common fast food chain. On a more somber note, we visited the hometown of many of the kids from China Little Flower. We walked through a church used by the famous sister, Assunta, and then took a brief hike up a mountain to see another Catholic Church. It was incredibly peaceful up there and we took a quiet moment to reflect on everything that had been going on. We concluded our visit by spreading the ashes of ten babies from China Little Flower. While it was sad that their lives had ended so early, we were glad to know that they had been taken care of and tried to have been the best life possible. The bus ride back to Beijing was quite memorable. After an adventure involving squat toilets, we spent the next few hours playing cards, singing, telling riddles and writing a story where each person added a sentence, after only being allowed to read the previous one. We arrived at the hotel around 10:15 PM, and went next door to what was one of the funniest dinners we’ve ever been to. Finally, we returned to our rooms, exhausted but happy. Although it had been a long day, we were thrilled to have had the opportunities we had been given, to explore and take in the culture. We can’t wait to see what’s next!!