For Deb Johnson, Manager, Inflight Training, a trip to China was met with overwhelming hospitality and a true cultural immersion.
“My husband and I flew from MSP-SEA, then SEA-PEK. We were picked up by a friend of ours who was traveling to China at the same time. She grew up in Taiyuan, China. Her nephew was getting married, and we were invited to the wedding. We never met him until he and his fiancé picked us up in PEK. We spent three days with them (the week of their wedding!).
The first day, we visited the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The Forbidden City was incredible! The next day we drove a little over one hour to the Great Wall. We rode the gondola to the top and rode the Alpine slide on the way down. Highly recommended!
That evening, the groom-to-be booked a Mongolian hut for us to have dinner. Not only that, he paid for singers to perform just for us in the hut. We found out that they sang the same song to us that they sang to President Obama and his family. That brought me to tears. This groom is getting married in three days, and he wanted to treat us. Amazing.
The third day, we went to an ancient city to do some shopping and exploring. We also got tickets to a live musical theater where the audience followed the cast from room to room. Thankfully, our friend interpreted for us as it was in Chinese, but the experience was unlike any other!
We rode the bullet train to Taiyuan the next day, and we were warmly welcomed by our friend’s family. Many family members gathered and couldn’t shower us with enough hospitality. It was overwhelming, as everyone wanted photos with us and wanted to “cheers” with Chinese liquor. You have to be careful there.
We walked through a beautiful park, where there were individuals playing music and singing. One of the singers came and sang to me. My husband got it all on video. The crowds gathered and many were taking photos of us. We really stood out.
There was a very small girl in pigtails, I would say about 5 years old. She walked up to me and shyly said, “Hello, how are you.” Her mother said that she was learning English, and she pointed at me from a distance and said she wanted to meet me. I was very touched. She was a beauty!
The final day we attended the wedding. We were thinking that we would sit somewhere in the back so as to not disturb or distract. They seated us as ‘guests of honor’ at the head table. Up front! Additionally, they asked me if I would give a speech. I graciously accepted. The parents of the bride and groom were the only other ones that gave speeches. The bride and groom and families were so honored that we traveled so far to attend and we felt that.
Overall, the hospitality and culture of the people of China was so rich. I went away thinking we have a lot that we can do for others that will leave lasting impressions.”