Coweta teen's June adventure 'was just great'

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Dallas Prince pictured on the Great Wall of China.

By ALEX McRAE alex@newnan.com In a few days, Dallas Prince begins his freshman year at East Coweta High. If his teachers ask how he spent his summer vacation, Prince will have quite a tale to tell. He didn't spend his school break hiking the hills or catching the waves at the beach. From June 9-27, Prince, 14, was among American students who visited China in the People to People Student Ambassador program.
"It was just great," he says. "It was even better than I thought it would be." Prince says he was nominated to the People to People Student Ambassador program in August 2008. He didn't think twice about accepting the invitation. "I said, OK, I'd like to do that," he says. Prince was among 20 students from the metro Atlanta area that made up a Georgia delegation. The group met four times prior to the trip to study Chinese culture and lifestyle and learn a few Chinese phrases, including "nee hao" (hello) and "sai jan" (good bye). There was also considerable discussion of Chinese cuisine. "Most of us were worried about the food," Prince says. "I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure what I was going to be eating. I expected it to be similar... but different." Just getting to China was a challenge. The 24-hour flight left from Atlanta, but included stops in Dallas, Los Angeles and Hong Kong before reaching the tour's starting point, China's capital city, Beijing. For the next 16 days, the student ambassadors met locals, saw the sights and of course, sampled the local food. Prince says it wasn't exactly like the Chinese restaurants back home. But he admits it was good. "In places near the coast we had lots of shrimp and seafood and when you got inland there was more chicken and pork and beef," Prince says. "Watermelon was in season so we had that at almost every meal. The pork dumplings were very good." The students were required to keep a daily journal recording their impressions of the sights, sounds and people they encountered. They were also set up to visit local businesses and industries, and in a few cases, to lend a hand. Prince spent part of one day making dumplings at a food processing facility. He enjoyed getting a first hand look at the operation. "It was really neat, but it took some skill to make them," he says. "It's not as easy as it looked." Prince also got to study kung fu with a Chinese martial arts master and played soccer and basketball with the locals. He says China's famous tourist attractions were even more impressive than he expected. The students toured Beijing's Forbidden City, which for centuries had only been open to royalty. They visited Tienanmen Square and checked out the "Bird's Nest" and "Water Cube," athletic facilities built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Prince and his fellow ambassadors also visited the legendary Great Wall of China. "It was all just really neat," Prince says. "It's hard to believe people built it. It was amazing." One of the smaller towns the group visited had its own wall. Prince and some friends flew kites from atop the wall right next to warning signs in English that said, "Beware of Safety." "It was funny but we knew what they meant," Prince says. The itinerary included stops in Xi An, Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuzhen and Dong Han, where students watched villagers play a game called mahjong and learned how to play themselves. Prince says Wuzhen was a canal city, much like Venice, with waterways and canals instead of streets. Cars were confined to a few roads that ringed the town. "It was very interesting," Prince says. "It wasn't like anything else we saw." The students also got to pick apricots at a Chinese farm, but were not allowed to eat the food they harvested because it was irrigated with local water that did not meet sanitation standards. At several stops, the students were greeted with signs or banners welcoming the Student Ambassadors. A reception in Shanghai featured a dumpling dinner and a show by Chinese acrobats. "The things they did were amazing," Prince says. "I'd never seen a show like that before." All the new experiences weren't on the ground. On one flight between towns, students were served mayonnaise and pickle sandwiches. "We didn't expect that," Prince says. "You never knew what you were going to get." The last stop was Hong Kong, which soon became Prince's favorite Chinese city. He prowled the street markets where merchants sold everything from dried snakes to live fish and songbirds. He strolled the busy streets and rode a tram to the top of Victoria Peak, which overlooks the island of Hong Kong, the city's famed harbor and the Chinese mainland. "It was fabulous," he says. In Hong Kong Prince also saw Hollywood Boulevard-style stars on the streets honoring Chinese actors including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat. Prince had great time and says he will treasure the memories forever. He has already been nominated to participate in a future People to People Student Ambassadors trip. He'll stay home next summer, but says in another year or two, he might be ready to see some more of the world. "China was great," he says. "But now I'm ready to go someplace else. Europe might be good."


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