A Memorable Trip to China with the ARS

A group of ARS members in China

BY Rita Hintlian

The Armenian Relief Society of Western U.S.A. Regional Executive organized a trip to China from May 19 to 30. Eighty-two participants mostly from California, and including those from the Bay Area and Fresno, Houston, Seattle, Chattanooga, Tenn., Providence and Cairo on buses and on three occasions, boats and ferries toured China.

The group explored museums, historical buildings, vast gardens and lakes, including the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) and the Summer Palace in Beijing, West Lake in Hangzhou, Tiger Hill in Suzhou, Turtlehead Park in Wuxi, and acrobatics show in Shanghai.

On Sunday, May 22, after the group climbed the Great Wall of China near the hills of Beijing, the group visited the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Beijing. Arman Israelian, Counselor, and Mnatsagan Safarian, General Consul, stationed at the Beijing embassy welcomed the ARS group as the biggest number of Armenians visiting the embassy. On behalf of the ARS-WUSA Regional Executive, as one of the three Regional Executive board members who went along on the trip, I spoke about the ARS-WUSA programs and philanthropic role, presented the other two Regional Board members, Kristine Keshishian and Carmen Libaridian, and the other leading ARS members from the various chapters.

One Armenian coin, with the image of King Drtat I, was on display in the Roger and Linda Doo’s collection of Silk Road Coins section of the Shanghai Museum.

In a park, we observed elderly calligraphers, who practiced and shared the art of Chinese calligraphy with others, using giant brushes, a bucket of water as their “paint” and parkland asphalt as their “paper”. One such calligrapher enthused our group by writing “American” and “Armenian” in Chinese with his giant brush.

During the trip, impromptu sign language went a long way with that of rudimentary English and a few words of Mandarin Chinese. It was a feat, if you could communicate when tour guides were absent. Several group members excelled in the art of bargaining for gifts during numerous shopping excursions.

During the many hours that the group spent on the buses, many shot photographs of high rises, especially those under construction. One of the eight Chinese guides said that this was his first tour group, which had sung and danced on Nanjing Road in Shanghai. It was an impromptu affair, as everyone gathered for the appointment time to get back on buses, and as one person dropped some coins into a hat, the excitement only increased.

Carmen Libaridian, who as Fundraising liaison, coordinated the tour, was asked about where the ARS was heading next. Last October 2010, several participants had been on the ARS Centennial pilgrimage to Der Zor, Armenia and Artsakh. This trip too allowed ample time to build new friendships and strengthen old ones. It also served to inform participants about the ARS and to recruit new members. Imagine, ARS members travel all the way to China to recruit members at home!

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