Reservist follows The Silk Road

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Reed Robertson
  • 446th Airlift Wing
The Grand Canyon, Washington D.C., Niagara Falls, Route 66 - these are just a few of the most sought after destinations and routes many Americans aspire to visit in their lifetime. For others, their long-awaited destination may take them 6,000 miles and many time zones away.
Following one of her long awaited goals, Staff Sgt. Grace Qiu from the 36th Aerial Port Squadron here recently flew to Beijing, China to travel on the ancient transcontinental trade route called The Silk Road.
Sergeant Qiu was born in China and lived there until her family moved to California to live with her grandparents when she was 10 years old.
"When we moved to California, I didn't speak English. I didn't even know my ABC's. It was a difficult transition for all of us, but because I was the youngest, I think it was easier for me", she said.
In what would equate to someone driving from the West Coast to the East Coast and half way back, Sergeant Qiu and others traveled along this now museum-laden road that represent thousands of years of Chinese history.
"Seven of us traveled along the Silk Road for 7,000 kilometers. We were piled into two cars for our 12 day trip," said Sergeant Qiu.
Sergeant Qiu was accompanied by her best friend, her husband and four of his cousins who still live in China.
"The two cars we used belonged to our relatives there and one in particular had a few mechanical problems" she said.
Day one saw a broken fuel gauge, that was followed by a flat tire. Then on the third day, the fuel pump went out. Throw those delays in with the poorly maintained roads, forcing them to slow to 10 mph, and it makes for several long days.
"The further we went from the center of China, the worse the roads were. Big trucks destroy the roads and make it really difficult for smaller cars to travel on," she said.
Even the long days were not enough to dampen the spirits of these seven traveling companions.
"We had wanted to take this trip for a long time and we finally decided to all get together and do it," she said. "The Silk Road represents several thousand years of Chinese history and we stopped at many museums along the way."
"There are several things that stand out to me as memorable moments during our trip. We were surprised to see snow on the ground after driving for hours in a sandy desert environment. We were so shocked that we pulled over and had a snow fight with each other," she said.
She continued, "Another thing that stands out to me is how blessed I am. As we drove through farming villages, I saw folks so poor that their houses had no roofs and their restrooms were nothing more than a hole in the ground. Seeing how poor many of these villages are really makes me appreciate the opportunities I've been given. It was a little uncomfortable going to a restaurant in one of these villages, realizing that what is just a few dollars for us means a week's pay for some of them. It was hard to see the poverty that is their reality."
Even before her trip to China, Sergeant Qiu was not ignorant to the benefits granted to all Americans. Awareness of her blessings inspired Sergeant Qiu to join the Air Force Reserve and serve her country. After completing college, she enlisted in 2000.