I had the opportunity to travel to China in early April for a nine-day trip (seven days plus two for travel) and I am so glad that I accepted. The trip was made possible through a group called CITSLINC, an organization bringing Chamber groups from the United States and Canada on this once in a lifetime trip. I traveled with seven other Chamber directors from around the United States.

Day one my trip started with an early morning flight from Boston to New York. After arriving in New York and checking in to our international flight, it was time to have my last American meal for the next nine days. The flight from JFK to Beijing was a long one -- over 13 hours. China Air made a great effort to keep passengers entertained with inflight new release movies, games and music but, it still was a 13-hour flight. For me, this was my least favorite part of the adventure.

When we landed in Beijing, we were greeted at the airport by the CEO and several staff members of CITSLINC, including Wally, our tour guide for the Beijing portion of the trip. While in Beijing, we started the sightseeing with a trip to the Ming tombs. From there we went to the Great Wall. Later we toured the Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty and were offered a traditional Peking duck dinner, a delicacy originating in Beijing. A highlight of the Beijing portion of the trip was taking a rickshaw tour through the Hutong Village. This area is considered a historical area, where the outside of the buildings must remain the same.


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A local family opened their home to us for a traditional lunch and we were able to converse over the meal about traditions and their daily lives.

Before leaving Beijing, we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, both of which were fascinating with their history. The final stop was visiting the Temple of Heaven, a three-level traditional Chinese building.

While we did plenty of sightseeing in Beijing, there was also time to shop. We visited the jade factory and saw the workers hand carving ornate jade items, stopped by the pearl factory and learned about the different types of pearls many harvested locally and visited a cloisonné factory to see the employees working on the ornate pieces.

After spending four days in Beijing, we flew to Shanghai and boarded a bus to Suzhou, the name meaning "silk city" and the city that opened up China to trade with Europe. Suzhou is approximately 2,500 years old and is also a city full of canals. While here, we toured the silk factory, visited the Hanging Gardens and took a boat ride through the famous canals.

Suzhou is also the epicenter of innovation in China. Twenty-five percent of all laptop computers worldwide are produced in the Suzhou Industrial Park. Beats headphones have their factory here and produce their headphones to ship around the world. As part of the Chamber Delegation, we toured the industrial park and visited the Suzhou Industrial Park Urban Planning Exhibition Center to learn more about the many everyday products produced and manufactured here.

After the tour we proceeded to the next city, Hangzhou. Hangzhou means "boat city," receiving its name from the boat of a former emperor who brought his boat to build canals to prevent flooding. The city is a very wealthy city and is home to Alibaba, a worldwide Ebay type website. It was also the host of the G20 Summit last year. Growth and innovation abound in Hangzhou but there is still a peaceful countryside. The famous pagodas along the river leading to the West Lake and the many tea plantations producing the majority of the world's green tea are highlights .

The hillsides were full of tea bushes and workers diligently working to get the early harvest of green tea. After visiting the tea plantation and having lunch, we took a boat ride on the West Lake, a peaceful lake with breathtaking scenery all around.

After Hangzhou, it was time to head back to Shanghai for the final few days of our trip. Shanghai is a city comparable to New York and is full of skyscrapers and worldwide economic prosperity. We took a leisurely stroll along the famous Bund and walked the area full of European hotels. We also visited Chinatown which is a market area that has anything you may be looking for.

Our final stop of the tour was a show of the Chinese Circus, a Cirque de Sol-type venue with acts that leave your jaw dropping in amazement. Absolutely a must-do when you travel to China.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to travel to China, this was an amazing experience and I treasure the memories and new friends I have made. The Chamber will be sponsoring a trip for anyone interested in traveling to China in the Spring of 2018. The trip will be an all-inclusive trip (flight, three meals a day, tour guide, entrance to the tourist attractions and 5 star hotel accommodations). For more information contact us at the Chamber and we will tell you how you can make this a reality: 978-425-5761.

Ribbon Cutting

Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, Town of Pepperell Administrator and Members of the Board, the Pepperell Business Association, and members of the Pepperell community welcomed Fitness Your Weigh to their new home at Pepperell Place, 20 Mill Street, Suite 155, Pepperell on April 27.

Fitness Your Weigh opened its doors back in April 2007. As their client base continued to expand, their need for larger space increased as well.

Fitness Your Weigh owner and trainer, Steven Levesque, says, "There seems to be a specialist for every part and function of the human body and mind. Personal Trainers are the specialists responsible for your overall fitness. They tend to tie all parts of the human mind, body and soul together, making you feel fully functional. Sign up for personal training at Fitness Your Weigh, and I promise that you will achieve great things!"

Learn more at http://fitnessyourweigh.com.

Boys & Girls at Phoenix Park

On May 3, 14 students from the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster visited Phoenix Park in Shirley to meet with various business leaders. The opportunity was made possible through the partnership with Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America is the country's largest youth development organization and the fastest growing youth agency in the world. The Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) programs.

First stop on the tour was Golden Girl Granola, where owners Terry and Deborah O'Kelly talked about starting a business from beginning concept, to cost of goods, to reconciling inventory. Students were able to taste a variety of granolas and asked important questions about quality of product.

Next stop on the tour was at Closets by Design, where students were walked through the process of having a new client, customizing a product for that client's needs, and the importance of reviewing measurements. The team then showed students the machines they use to create the different sized pieces and how to finish the edges.

Students also met with Jeff Schwarz of ISS, where they learned the importance of brand development. Jeff showed examples of the many different ways a company can promote their business and how ISS can help with the branding. Then students went into the production room where brochures were printed.

Final visit of the day was with Swing Labels. Students learned about a business's investment in machinery, and the process for creating colored stickers. At each business, the students -- our future business leaders in Nashoba Valley -- had great questions and were very eager to learn from these business leaders.

Melissa Fetterhoff is the President and CEO of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, a 600-member organization covering 16-communtiies. Learn more online at www.nvcoc.com.