“Lawrence! Lawrence . . .”

T-minus 4

We’ve got some GREAT stuff today! So, get comfortable and get ready to be entertained. The kids made their trip to the desert and I am pleased to announce that we have surfing on the Gobi! Now, if we could get the Beach Boys or Jan and Dean playing in the background (some of you are saying, “who?”).

These photos really show you the magnificence of the sands. Matt has provided us with commentary, so I’ll give him the stage and let him guide you . . .

We've had another couple of great days. I've attached some photographs from the Honder school visit and performance yesterday. I've also been able to attach some photos from our visit to the desert today. We had a long but wonderful day today. Our hosts were able to arrange for some students and faculty from the University to join us on our trip to the "Singing Sands." Like most of us, it was the first time for many of the Inner Mongolian students to see the desert. It was truly a spiritual experience. While I'm probably going to be blowing sand out of the gears in my camera for years to come, I think we were able to get a few good shots. I'll try to give you a brief run-down so you know what you're looking at.

I think the "Camel" shots are pretty self explanatory [below, at the end of this report]. Yes, that is Julianne on a camel. I'm not sure if Ms. L. was actually bucked off her camel or if she was just acting. I have to quote Kim Stafford who exclaimed loudly after dismounting her camel; " I don't think I've ever had a worse wedgie!" The masked man is in fact Alex of the desert. I hear he plans an expedition across the Sahara this summer. Jean says "look, no hands."

(Right) We received a triumphant welcome at the Honder International School yesterday. Our kids stepped up again and performed in a "cafetorium." Our hosts were very gracious and so eager to just sit down and talk to all of us. After our performance we were treated to some performances by the Honder students.

(Right) Miles, Conor (not shown), and Emma are the stars of this class of 35+ students. Our students visited some English classes at the Honder school. They were welcomed by presentations and showered with gifts. The kids really appreciated the opportunity to converse with native English speakers. They were so nervous that we wouldn't be able to understand them and many of the people we've met here are very humble about their English speaking skills.

(Right) Our students posing with some of their Inner Mongolian friends.

(Left) Janet, Farrin, Jean, and Sarah, one of our interpreters climb the steep face of one of the dunes. I think this dune was about 300' high and I estimate the grade to be about a 60-70 degree angle! We're talkin' steep! Once we reached the top it was a paradise.

(Right)What does Harrison do at the desert? He dives down the sand dunes of course! Many students seized the opportunity to roll or slide down various dunes while others chose to sit quietly and just "take it all in."

(Left) I'm not sure if it will be clear in the web version of the photo but Tori's face is literally glistening with fine sand. The sand was so fine it got into everything.

Right) I don't think you could have chiseled that grin off Joel's face!

(Left) Go Elise! With her cast wrapped up in plastic so she didn't have to spend her last 2 weeks with a sandy cast, Elise joined the rest of the group in a toboggan ride down the dune. What a rush!

The kids are gearing up for a big day tomorrow; the conclusion of our collaboration. I think there will be some tears when we leave this very special place. None of us can believe that it is coming to an end, yet I think we're all looking forward to seeing our loved ones again. The menu for Friday night's performance looks delicious! Here's the order:

  • Wind Ensemble - Alex, Tessa, Emily, Daniel, Emma, Cody, and Kim will be making a guest appearance with the Inner Mongolian College of the Performing Arts Wind Ensemble, a 65 piece college level Wind Ensemble.
  • Swing Dance - Ms. L, Jean, Janet, Carolyn, and our students worked with the Inner Mongolian students to create a collaborative swing dance. We also scored a simple arrangement of "Take the A Train" and about 15 Inner Mongolian students will join our ensemble to provide the beat for the dance.
  • Horse Head Fiddle Ensemble - A group of about 30 horse head fiddlers will perform a couple of traditional pieces.
  • "Joe Meets Jazz"
  • Chorus - The Inner Mongolian choral Students taught us a piece called "Love on the Grassland," a song about the many wonderful things to love about the grasslands. Our students taught them Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. We made up an arrangement and will be performing that piece together as well.
  • Traditional Mongolian Longtones and Dance - Students from the College will be sharing some song and dance numbers with the audience.
  • Traditional Mongolian Chopstick and Bowl Dance - The Inner Mongolian students and teachers taught our students this wonderful but complicated dance to close the evening.

It will be a long day and night for everyone tomorrow but we're looking forward to the performance. Tom said Dr. Wong Juefei will be bringing a delegation of about 15 Vermont administrators who are currently in Hohhot collaborating on educational reform with Chinese administrators. Apparently Juefei reserved about 220 seats for tomorrow nights show! Dr.Wong visited us while we were working with the Honder students yesterday. It was a nice surprise.


Kids will find it difficult to leave here in a couple of days, as will the teachers. I've thrown in a couple of performance photos, some rehearsal photos (dance)and included one of the building that we performed in at the Inner Mongolia Agricultural University. As you can see, a huge, huge, new, modern building. Patrick Gym at UVM would fit very comfortably inside of it. If the students ever make it to Carnegie Hall, they will perform in front of a comparably sized audience. Quite amazing. Tom

Once the farewell banquet takes place tomorrow night and preparations begin for the return trip to Beijing, the anticipation of returning home will build. The long, hard work in Hohhot has been rewarded with the many new friends, the magnificent collaborative performances, and a feeling that something “magical” has taken place in the faraway land known as Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.

However, tomorrow the group will encounter something they did not anticipate: Saying goodbye to some very special new friends. They all knew they would meet people along the way, but they didn’t realize that the friendships they would build would be so strong. These are lifetime friends created in just more than a week. Wow. This is powerful stuff.

What an amazing day of photos . . . don’t ya love it?!

Meet you back here tomorrow!