We start today’s episode with yet another birthday! I think this group is trying to keep up with the 2002 trip. We’ll have to look back and see how many Leland & Gray student birthdays have been celebrated in China! Happy Birthday Emily!

Hi there, It's a great day in the neighborhood, as Mr. Rogers was wont to say. We've had glorious weather; sunshine and not too hot. Easter day was spent at the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum and at Huaqing Pool. Ann and Julianne found their way to a church (in a roundabout, pretty exciting way, which I'm sure you will hear more about) and we visited some of the more spectacular historical sites in the world.

The attached photos are not great but they will give you a sense of the day's activities. I'm trying to get all of the students into the photos so that friends and relatives can see that all is well. Emily had another birthday cake! I have made friends here over the past four years and they take very good care of us. The cake was definitely a nice touch.

By the way, Dai Qingyun's family came to see us at the Bell Tower Hotel. I've included photos of her brother, daughter and husband. She has been great with our students and it was a pleasure to spend time with her wonderful family. Please let her know that the Li Bai poem has been a hit where and whenever we have recited it. We thank her. Tom

That is so cool that Dai Qingyan’s family could meet up with our group. Dai Qingyun has been such a valuable asset to our children and educators in the local schools.

We have extended the offer to all of you to share any phone calls you may have received from your kids during the trip. Any insights, comments, or observations are always of interest and enjoyment. Ellen Nuffer has sent us a summary of recent conversations she had with Emily.

We have had two phone calls from Emily, including one this morning at 7 am our time (boy, was I glad that I was a little late getting out of the house this morning!) She had a wonderful 15th birthday yesterday - everyone signed a card for her, and she had another birthday cake (we loved the picture on the website of her blowing out the candles on her cake during the three-way-joint birthday dinner). We didn't ask her if the cake was kosher for Passover, figuring that she was doing the best she could far from home in a country with no functioning synagogues! In addition, Carolyn Scully, her "pod-mom" gave her a lovely present (thank you Carolyn!) which especially terrific because with the re-packing of bags on this leg of the trip, the little present we had sent along with her (with a "do not open until your birthday" note on it) got left behind in her big bag!

She said that the show is going very well (she finally got her tap dance worked out, a treat we will all get to see when they return) and the show principals are holding up wonderfully. She confessed that she blew one of her lines during the first performance, but was comforted by the fact that the audience probably didn't know that!

Emily said that she has called a number of times (we added an international calling plan to our phone card) and had a difficult time getting through all but these two times. I don't know if other kids are also having problems, but if so, be patient - the phones apparently do work occasionally!

-- Ellen Nuffer

Thanks Ellen. What a great story about the party and the challenge of celebrating Passover in China! Gosh, the stories these kids will be able to tell for years and years and years . . .

More photos from Xi’an and an interesting story from Tom:

PS. This photo captioned "the Xi'an Incident" is not a great one but, a little background. This is where Jiang Kai Shi was headquartered for a time during the "Anti-Japanese War" (WWII) His generals wanted him to join forces with the communists to drive the Japanese out. They and the Communists wanted a United Front against the Japanese. He was intent on destroying the Communists first. He considere them to be a poison of the soul. His generals conspired and captured him on a hillside in back of the site where this picture was taken. He was held for about a month while negotiations went on. His lovely, Radcliffe-educated wife, Madame Soong Meiling, worked very hard to get the U.S. to support her husband and to resolve the situation. To be perfectly blunt, she captivated American politicians and eventually the U.S. threw their support behind the KMT (Guomindang or Nationalist Party) in its efforts to win the continuing civil war against the communists. There were many Americans who, early on, thought that we were backing the wrong horse. The KMT was rife with corruption, etc. Guess you know my thoughts on the matter, No need to print this, I'm just rambling on. Most Americans don't know that the Japanese invaded Manchuria, which was Chinese, in 1931 and that WWII for the Chinese lasted from 1931 to 1945. The battle between the Communists and the KMT continued from 1945 until Jiang was driven out in 1949, when he escaped to Taiwan. TC

Can you imagine what the Terra Cotta Warriors scene must be like in person?!

Tom shares a great point in the friendships he has developed over the years. Even in with one trip, the kids will meet Chinese and Mongolian students that will become lifelong friends. Many students from the 2002 trip continue to correspond with kids they met in Hohhot.

Great stuff . . .