T-Minus 10 days and counting . . .

Good morning everyone!

How nice it is to see their faces. Ten days to go! I was thinking the other day about the space missions and how this is very much like those. We watch as the group rockets into space to a far away land. Each day we wait (im)patiently for any word on their safety and activities. We turn to the web site in hopes of seeing a photo of our child or spouse. Possibly a phone call or an e-mail. When that day comes and we see and hear they are okay, we rest a little easier. Counting the days till they return, we don’t want to rush the trip, knowing this is a lifetime experience, but we are anxious to have them all back home, safe and sound.

The kids will begin to experience the anxiety of wanting to come home, but not wanting this voyage to end. And so we now begin the final countdown. Ten days days to go . . .

Here is a report from Tom and then we have a bunch of new and fun photos of the kids in action.

We had quite a day yesterday; visited Dazhao Temple and Five Pagodas in the morning as well as the Inner Mongolia Provincial Museum. In the afternoon we visited Zhao Jun's tomb on the outskirts of Hohhot. Zhao Jun was reputed to be one of the "five beautiful women" of China. She was very well-known and is known for keeping the peace between China Proper and the peoples in this area.

We also visited Mengniu Dairy, a super modern, mechanized, absolutely clean, huge dairy in Helin County, about 40 or 50 Kilometers from Hohhot. The students were impressed by the facility, which was huge when we were here two years ago and has expanded significantly since. We all ate copious amounts of ice cream, some of us more than others.

We also visited the Zhao Jun Cashmere factory and were impressed by the high tech approach to the production of cashmere. There was one building with probably 40 German-made, computerized machines used in the production of the cashmere. The machines cost about $80,000 each. This building was a very small part of a very large operation. The Factory was very clean, hundreds of employees, mostly women in their late teens. It was difficult to determine how many hours per day, days per week or the amount of money that they make, as we got many different responses to questions about those things. The prevalence of computers in this and every other place that we visited was surprising.

We then visited a park where the kids had a great time running around with the Mongolian kids who accompanied us on this trip. The interaction between our kids and the Mongolians is beautiful to watch. Our kids have really settled in. Dinner at a nice restaurant in Helin County where we were hosted by Mr. Suo, President of Helin County and a very [prominent person] in these parts; the second time that he and I have met. We discussed the possibility of JE performing in a Middle School in Helin when we return in 2005. Mr. Suo got on his cell phone and summoned the Principal of #1 Middle School. He arrived about 10 minutes later and we had a productive conversation regarding future performance in this town. They have about 3,000 students in that school, which is one of three Middle Schools in this area. They discussed home-stays and many other things with us. It's nice to look ahead. Tom

Okay, this will date some of you, but there was a commercial “back when” where a golfer is on the green about to make a putt, and one of the people in the gallery says to his friend, “My broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says . . .” and then everyone, including the golfer and caddy stop and turn to the man talking, to hear what E.F. Hutton says. Then you hear the announcer say, “When E.F. Hutton speaks, everybody listens.”

Tom’s report made me think, “When Mr. Suo speaks . . . everybody listens.” And that goes for Tom too!

Now let’s get to what we came here for: the photos!!!



From the looks and sounds of things, the group is keeping quite busy! And that Mengniu Dairy definitely fits the bill! Banana shake to go, please!

It appears the weather there is quite nice, as it is here. Nice to see the group shots. Everyone looks good and it’s always fun to see the big smiles. They are smiling at YOU -- wishing you were there! And we sit here smiling, wishing they were here.

See you later.