China Extended Study Trip – Part II

Freezing temperatures and extreme smog gripped the city of Beijing during the first week of December, but that didn’t stop Ally and the rest of the MZS group from having the time of their lives. With pure energy and excitement, and in the guise of a “flock of pandas (and a penguin),” the teachers and students braved China’s cold and gloomy conditions. They spent every waking hour (which was A LOT) seeing the country’s magnificant sites and immersing themselves in its rich culture.

The group accomplished every task that they set out to do. With an itinerary that took them from the Terra-Cotta Warriors in Xi’an to the Great Wall in Beijing, they, surprisingly, found enough time to have a snowball fight, eat chicken brain, and haggle in the markets. The trip was all about making memories that mattered.

MS Arrives in Bali Fashion Craze Ensues

A quick shot of the MZS students and teachers after landing in Bali. With visions of falling snow, they couldn’t wait to arrive in the northern hemisphere. Ally is standing in the second row, second from the right.

Xian Gate

A picture of the group after purchasing souvenirs from a government owned shop in Xi’an, famous for its replicas of terra-cotta warriors and reproductions of ancient furniture. Before buying souvenirs, the students  recreated their own terra-cotta warrior using the same strenuous process of molding, drying, and firing that the shop’s artisans use to make reproductions for sale. Ally is standing in the back row, directly under the light on the right.

Bike Ride Ancient Walls of Xian

The students and teachers rode bicycles around the Xi’an City Wall, which is 13.7 kilometers from start to finish. Ally is standing on the far right straddling a yellow bicycle.

Ally Biking

Ally, Mae, and Ms. Tammy riding their bicycles.

IMG_6557 View from Xian Wall

Xi’an beyond the City Wall. Xi’an’s smog index was high, but not as  high as “Smogageddon,” a term used by news outlets to describe Beijing.


The group practiced tai-chi with an 87-year-old martial arts’ master on the City Wall. Everyone was more than happy to learn and participate.


A photo-op with the Terra-Cotta Warriors. The students and teachers are scattered among replicas that are strategically positioned in front of a backdrop. Ally is crouched down in the front row, second from the left (wearing the burgundy scarf).

IMG_6642 Warrior Ally

Ally standing behind a bronze replica of a terra-cotta warrior.

IMG_6737 Chicken Head 1

Ally and Jemimah were the only two students who were brave enough to eat chicken head and brain. Ally stated that the head tasted like chicken meat and the brain tasted like butter.

Ally on the Bullet Train 2

The group of students and teachers rode the bullet train from Xi’an to Beijing. Jordan, Cleone, Tilly, Iona, Aurelia and Ally being silly and passing time on the six-hour ride. Ally is seated on the far left.

SShot Bullet Train

China’s bullet train can reach a top speed of 350 kilometers per hour.

IMG_6805 Fresh Air

Beijing’s air quality index reached above 500 when the group arrived on the 1st, but the country didn’t issue a red health alert until six days later. December 7th was the first time in China’s history to declare a red alert. During those six days, it maintained a “burgundy alert,” which indicates “very unhealthy” conditions. China’s multi-tiered pollution index stops at 250, which is considered “dangerously high” and would deem a red alert. As mentioned above, the air quality was double that during the MZS trip.

Forbidden City and Panda Hats

A flock of MZS pandas (and a penguin) near the Temple of Heaven. Ally is in the very back with her panda hat covering her face. Brrrr!!

IMG_6888 Chinese Fashion

By this time, the students were sporting panda hats AND masks.

SShot Ally's Lecture

Ally all dressed up for Beijing’s zero degree weather and smog.

IMG_6844 Mao

This picture was taken outside the Forbidden City. If you notice, none of the Chinese people are wearing masks. That’s because they only wear masks when they are sick and want to protect others from getting sick. Ironically, they don’t use masks to protect themselves from smog.

IMG_7100 Beautiful Day on the Wall 3 best

Winter at the Great Wall of China.

IMG_7089 Ally on the Wall 3

Ally, Tilly, and Charlotte (with Mr. Shaw and Mr. Gary in the background) trekking up the Great Wall. Everyone is wearing multiple layers of sweaters and jackets to block the cold during their 10km hike. Ally is standing on the right.

IMG_7054 Beautiful Day on the Wall 2

Another view of the Great Wall. The group was incredibly lucky to have clear, blue skies that made it easy for them to enjoy the views that stretched on for miles and miles.

IMG_7065 Ally on the Wall 1

It snowed the week before, making the wall slick and icy, but those conditions didn’t stop the MZS flock of pandas (and a penguin) from enjoying it to the fullest.

IMG_7145 Snowman

Weeks before the trip, all Ally talked about was wanting to build a snowman on the Great Wall of China. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, there was nothing left but compacted snow and ice. Fortunately, the remains of a snowman was left for her to enjoy and photograph.

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