T-minus 8

It’s Patriot’s day in Boston . . . and the Boston Marathon! Unfortunately for the runners, it is supposed to be one beautiful “summer” day! Highs in the mid-80s! Let’s check in on the weather in Hohhot.

Speaking of marathons, we have a marathon of photos for you today. First, we have an update from Tom and then we’ll follow that with a student report, more photos, and an update from Matt. So, let’s toe the line and get this run underway!

A few photos from yesterday; home visits, pics of ballet class with young ballet students. There were 72 kids in the ballet class with one teacher. They were on-task, always. Emily said that the kids in Vermont thought that her body was pretty flexible until she watched the students you see pictured here for an hour or so.

The Mongolian wrestling exhibition was attended by two different groups. Our students and teachers in groups of 3 to 5 were hosted by 10 different families. Their experiences were each different but all were amazing. Our families back home will be incredulous when they talk with their kids. I'm not even going to try to communicate the emotion of yesterday. I hope that the parents are prepared to hear their children talk non-stop for a few days! Tom

The first photo (above left) shows Matt, Tessa, and Farrin with Mr. Chu and his family. Mr. Chu visited us last winter, entertaining us with his magnificent flute playing. Matt had the pleasure of “jamming” with him during that visit. I imagine they will be doing some of that in Hohhot.

April 16, 2004

I still find it amazing to think that right now I have seen and been to so many famous Chinese sites. The fact that I have walked on the Great Wall and that I have seen the Terra Cotta Warriors is still mind-boggling. I never imagined that I would get an opportunity to see such things.

There have been a few days when I’ve gotten a little homesick and wasn’t really enjoying it all, but I was able to overcome those feelings by keeping a positive attitude and by eating tons and tons of chocolate which I have discovered is definitely my comfort food. That and French fries. Sometimes you just want to eat something that you are familiar with, the ingredients of which you know. However, there is an orange-colored sauce we have on meat here that I absolutely love—and I have no idea what’s in it. But that is one of the ideas behind this program: to try to discover new things that you have never done or eaten before. The other idea is to create a peaceful relationship between China and America by communicating through the arts. In a way, we are like Jao Jung who was a peacekeeper between China’s minority groups and central China. Like Jao Jung, Journey East is trying to respect cultures that are different from Jao our own even though we may not fully understand them. Therefore, in trying to understand one another we create a peaceful relationship. Journey East is different than Jao Jung though, mainly because one of us would not give our body to a minority king as a peace offering. You see, Jao Jung was the emperor’s concubine and also his peacekeeper. She was not looked down upon for being a concubine; in fact, she was revered for keeping the peace. She is so well thought of that there is an annual celebration for her at her tomb which we visited today.

We also visited the largest Buddhist temple in Hohhot which was built in 1579, during the Ming Dynasty. Even though the temple is 425 years old, it is still an active place. We saw a dozens of monks in their traditional robes—many worn over jeans and sneakers. I found it interesting to see how they are able to hold on to their traditional clothing but are still able to dress in the style of the 21st century.

When we were at the temple I ended up buying a Buddha statue. I was looking at its detail and noticed how the Chinese were able to change the original Buddha into one with Chinese characteristics such as the shape of the eyes, the elongated ear lobes and the shape of the face. Our tour guide in Xi’an, Sally, told us about these Chinese details so I thought it was kind of cool that I noticed them.

During our tour of the temple, a few people noticed a small detail that I had overlooked. It was small symbol that was carved into one of the stone tablets. This symbol was what we know as the swastika. Yet this Buddhist temple had nothing to do with Nazi Germany. It turns out that going in the direction it appeared in at the temple, the symbol means good luck in Buddhism and in ancient times it represented the sun. I guess that shows how there can be cultural misunderstandings when a person does not know too much about a certain culture. However, that is why we are here. To help people gain a better understanding of American culture and for us to learn Chinese culture. In doing so, I like to think that with this better understanding of one another we are one step closer to a more peaceful world.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

-- Johnny Redmond

Johnny shares of his challenge to try new foods. This trip will provide these kids with the confidence to grow. They are faced with trying and doing new things every hour of every day. From this point on, many of of these students will not be satisfied with letting their life remain familiar. They will challenge themselves to try new things, go to new places, and meet new people. They will grow and the people around will too.

Thanks Johnny!

And here are some photos and update from Matt:

Johnny wrote about some of the sights [recently]. [Here are] some photographs that correspond to his report. The 2 monk photos [left and right] were taken at the Buddhist temple. A picture of Jao Jung's garden as Johnny wrote about [within Johnny’s story] and another of Kim and a little old man [above center] who said he climbs to the top of the garden to take pictures of the visitors. He said he has collected thousands of photographs of visitors to Jao Jung's garden. We talked for a while. He was very interested in our group and our mission. Until next time ... Matt

Wow. Good stuff.

Hope you all have a wonderful day. See you all back here tomorrow . . .