Trip of a lifetime

A group of area residents recently went on “a trip of a lifetime,” as they got to explore a country halfway around the world.
A week trip to China, that was offered through the Wapakoneta Area Chamber of Commerce, attracted several people from not only the Wapakoneta area but also surrounding area and other states.
“The chamber did it all,” Wapakoneta resident Pam Lange said of the chamber, who planned the entire event. “We did tourist things, along with other things, such as having dinner in someone’s home.”
Approximately 3 dozen people traveled to Beijing and Shanghai, along with other areas of China.
Between experiencing the culture and food to the people and shopping — a few said they toured from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day with expenses prepaid.
“I liked Shanghai,” Wapakoneta resident and chiropractor Amy Elkins said. “We went on two trips. We went to Beijing, and it was like a trip to Washington, D.C. We saw the Great Wall of China and the weather was colder there.”
Their second trip was to Shanghai, which Elkins compared the weather to the climate in Florida.
“It was warm like Florida and had many palm trees,” Elkins said.
Lange noted she enjoyed seeing the Great Wall of China, as it was something people have to see if they visit China.
Elkins and Debbie McElroy, director of nursing at The Gardens of Wapakoneta, said the food was an adjustment.
“We would go through sugar withdrawal,” Elkins said. “Their portions sizes were so much smaller.”
Also, people who live in China do not consume coffee like Americans do, as tea is their hot beverage of choice.
“We always drink coffee, and they are big tea drinkers,” Elkins said.
Elkins mentioned they do not use tea bags, but instead they have tea leaves in their mugs.
“They look at the medicinal values and use herbal remedies,” Elkins said. “In a natural way.”
This tea is grown in tea farms in China.
McElroy said they would have rice with every meal, and they would have vegetables and meat — such as pork, chicken and fish.
“There was no real mystery meat, we knew what we were eating,” McElroy.
“You really have to like the vegetables,” said Connie Brincefield, who is nurse and a Wapakoneta resident. “Vegetables and rice were a large part of Chinese diet.”
She also noted they had Peking duck on occasion while there.
“Their dessert was tomatoes and watermelon,” McElroy said, noting the healthy eating they observed in China.
In China, the menus were in both Chinese and English, so they had no trouble with that.
McElroy said one time they were drinking tea from small teacups, and they had little saucers they thought were for the teacups, but were really small plates they ate off of.
Brincefield said the shopping and items they bought there was another part of the trip.
“We took a taxi ride to the Harley (Davidson) dealership so we could buy Harley t-shirts,” Brincefield said. “In Beijing, we wanted to go shopping, but we were on our tour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
Elkins said their prices were comparable to what people in the United States would get charged for the same items.
“Everything there was planned to a ’T,’” Elkins said. “I thought prices would be cheaper, but they are not.”
McElroy said the equivalence of their currency to American dollars is six yen for every dollar.
McElroy said there was a women who was making a silk rug, and she would thread the silk thread one strand at a time.
“Their patience is amazing,” McElroy said.
McElroy also noted they focus on philosophies in China.
“One of their philosophies is ‘If it makes you happy, buy it,’” McElroy said. “They did a lot of philosophies. They don’t stress as much as we do in the states.”
The ladies had the opportunity to visit a doctor, who was a Chinese herbalist.
“The doctor puts three fingers to where you check your pulse on your wrist, and he knew right away what was wrong with the person.” Elkins also said the physician would look at tongues and eyes and could determine the health of a person.
But Lange said one of her favorites parts was her massage.
“The massages were to die for,” Lange said.
Lange also said the people in Shanghai were well dressed.
“They are very stylish over there,” Lange said.
The most popular form of transportation in China were bicycles.
“Only 10 percent of people drive because of the expenses,” Elkins said.
McElroy said Chinese people have to study in a driver’s education course for five hours each day for five months.
She also said the cost of license plates were $14,000.
“When smog was bad, only certain cars could drive,” Brincefield said. “This usually depends on the license plate number and whether it was odd or even.”
McElroy said citizen there did not own their own land where their house was, as the government owned it.
“You don’t own your own property, but you can own your own house,” McElroy said. “The government owns the land.”
But if the government decides they want to do something with the land a person lives on, they will not put the person out, as they will find a similar house and land for the family.
“Also you can only have one child per family, and if you have more, they could lose their job,” Elkins said. “If you had other children, the parents had to pay for their education, too.”
The average retirement age for men is 60 years old and the average age for women to retire is 50 years old.
“They do this so there are more jobs for the young people,” Lange said.
Each of the four women said they enjoyed traveling to China with the others from the area through the program sponsored by the Wapakoneta Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s neat they get people from a small town to go here,” Elkins said. “Most people did side trips of their own, too.”
This trip, which costs less than $2,000 per person for most expenses, was planned out for the attendants by the chamber’s Executive Director Dan Graf, who traveled to China in the fall with other chamber directors.
Graf coordinated the event and explained places to visit. He shared information and photographs from his trip and excursions while in China with his wife.
Elkins said she used to think Chicago was big, until she traveled here, as there are 19 million people in a 40- by 60-mile radius in Shanghai.
“We just got a little taste of it, but it was an adventure,” Elkins said.
Lange agreed.
“I would love to go back in 10 years to see what has changed,” Lange said of the growing economy in China. “If anyone has the opportunity to visit, it will change their perception.”
“It was the trip of a lifetime,” Brincefield said.