The Trip

I suppose any blogger owes readers an explanation.

I’m writing because I have a worthwhile story. Though I’m eighteen,  I will not attend college this fall. I’ve deferred my enrollment at Amherst college for a gap year in China.  In high school I studied Chinese, and I spent six weeks in Beijing on a homestay program during the summer of 2009. The memories lie on my shelf: snapshots with the local shopkeepers, a thermos dressed in calligraphy, a snapshot with the shopkeeper who conned me into buying that thermos, a lighter that sings the national anthem, and yellowed boosterism from Mao’s rule. Other memories, like Fidel’s favorite cigar, were confiscated at the gate.

This time, along with my friend Greg Kristof, I’ll study Mandarin at Tsinghua University, work for a newspaper, and volunteer at a local school. To defray some of the cost we’ll also teach English. On this blog, I’ll record some of my experiences, from poorly translated signs (“public notice board” once became “pubic notice board”) to observations on an ancient city leaping into a fast-wired world.

I leave tomorrow on a direct thirteen and a half hour flight from Newark. Last time, in the height of the swine flu epidemic, government officials in surgical masks boarded the plane and checked our temperature. Chinese law stipulated that anyone with a high temperature—and all passengers within two rows—would be quarantined for two weeks.

Sure enough, when an official checked the woman in front of me, the machine flashed red and began beeping. Passengers craned their necks while the masks descended upon the new patient. She pleaded over the rumble of the plane.  “I was wearing a hat the whole flight!” she said. “Look, that’s why I’m sweating! Please, try it again!”

After talking it over, the officials waited five anxious minutes before testing a second time. One by one, they waved their devices over the passenger’s forehead. One by one—with relieved sighs between—the machines passed in silence. Scattered applause and whistles broke out as the pilot turned off the fasten-seatbelt sign. We filed off the plane, preparing for the world ahead.

We’ll see what this year’s day one brings.


About rickaltieri

The account rickaltieri is shared by Gregory Kristof and Rick Altieri. Greg graduated Scarsdale High School in 2010 and will attend Harvard University in 2011. Rick graduated Regis High School in 2010 and has deferred enrollment at Amherst College until 2011. During their gap year, Rick and Greg will take Mandarin classes in Beijing at Tsinghua University, volunteer at a local school, teach English, and work at a newspaper.
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8 Responses to The Trip

  1. Taniqua says:

    wait, why didn’t you go to college? cause you too lazy and burnt out?

  2. Declan says:

    This looks like it will be entertaining and informative.

  3. Lucas Wozny says:

    Is Taniqua the Ledster?

  4. Chris Kelly says:

    I’ll be following this closely, child.

    Good luck.

  5. Liberal arts student says:

    *Amherst College

  6. Carrie Altieri says:

    Looking forward to hearing how you are doing. Are you trusting people???

  7. Alvaro says:

    Hi Ricky I’m in the Att store in Pembroke pines trying to get a new I phone they are back order can u believe it. Any way I’ll be happy to hear about the new fly also they are opening a new Hunan

  8. Starr and John says:

    Hey Ricky: Have a wonderful time and confirm chop suey (spelling?) is not a Chinese dish. Jake checked into Hampshire a few days ago and is attempting to soften up Amherst for your eventual arrival – though he expects to be rather busy softening up Smith and Holyoke all-girls colleges first. Your good friends, Starr and John

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