This blog post was written by Special Olympics North Carolina youth leader, Alyssa Tafflinger, during day 4 of the Global Unified Youth Exchange.
What a day! Today started with a trip to West Lake in Hangzhou, China. The lake was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Walking into this scene was so serene; there were groups of dancers doing thai chi, beautiful trees and flowers, and the most amazing view you could ever see. To attempt to describe the beauty, the water stretched on for what seemed like miles, and in the far distance there were a backdrop of mountains behind the lake which you could see through a faint fog. I loved being able to share this moment with my new friends from North Carolina and China.
We then went to a school for children with intellectual disabilities called Hangzhou Yanglingzi. As soon as we got there, we were greeted with a welcoming ceremony. This ceremony melted my heart! There was a class of older kids, maybe high schoolers, who were playing the drums, dancing and twirling flags. I could see how proud each of these kids were to be performing for us. We walked inside and I was absolutely blown away; the design was amazing! We walked upstairs to the gym where they welcomed us again with an opening ceremony. Another group performed a dance and then, to our surprise, they had everyone join in the dance together, using the Special Olympics athletes as a guide to follow. The experience was amazing. I was surrounded by my new friends from the China Exchange as well as athletes and partners from China. We all did not speak the same language or look the same, but while doing this dance, it seemed as if the barriers disappeared. We were all trying to follow the same dance, all of us struggling, and all of us laughing together through the experience. We were all one in the same, learning and dancing together. As one of the Unified Partners from China said, “these Special Olympics athletes are the same as us, only having more kind and pure hearts.” By something as simple as performing a dance together, Hangzhou Yanglinzi taught me that we share so much in common with each and every person, especially with Special Olympics athletes from around the world, and all it takes is one shared moment together in order to connect and feel loved.