T-minus 5

Hi everybody!

Happy Earth Day! We don’t have any photos yet, but we do have a lot of wonderful reading for you today. A chaperone report and a student report this morning, and a few interesting items submitted by parents.

Before we get started, be sure to look at the main Journey East 2004 site for the schedule of Vermont performances. Now is a good time to mark your calendars. You don’t want to miss seeing these guys “in action!”

Before we start with the reports, Andi Anderson shares an e-mail she received from Cody. It is obvious from Cody’s writing that he is certainly having the time of his life! Here are some excerpts from the e-mail:

Hi Mom it's Cody!

. . . we just performed the last 2 nights and have another performance tonight. Tomorrow we go to the Gobi Desert which will be very exciting then we have another performance the next day so I am going to be totally beat. It's been a blast so far and I wish we could see more of China but we have to leave in a week and a half.

2 days ago we went to a Mongolian wrestling match with our host families . . . and I was interviewed and put into like the New York times of Inner Mongolia. [You can see Cody’s interview on the April 20 page.]

Since we got to Hohhot Harrison, Conor, Mr. Martyn, and I have been playing [a lot] of ping pong a day so we are masters at it now. . . it costs . . . like $2.50 [an hour] so its worth it.

We have been working on a performance with the Mongolian students here aside from our play. We are doing a Mongolian dance and singing some Mongolian songs which I think we will be doing as part of our performance on Friday. [The Mongolian students] are really fun to work with and even though they speak close to no English we get along just fine.

. . . I am having a ton of fun here [but] I can't wait to get back home and see everybody.

P.S. . . . I have no clue how I am going to pack everything to get home but I'll figure it out!

Matt wrote a really short note to let us know the group was heading off to see the Singing Sands. Sounds interesting. Find out about the Singing Sands.

We are hoping for a batch of photos to arrive soon. Now let’s hear from Carolyn and Alex (with an editor’s note from Emma):

April 20, 2004

Well! Where should I start? We are now in our final week of the trip. The kids are looking at a hectic performance schedule. Hohhot has been wonderful; the kids have become great friends with the Chinese/Mongolian students.

We have been invited to partake in a traditional grassland dance. The Mongolian students have been very patient in teaching our group, and the chaperones have been asked to join in as well.

We have been working on this dance for two hours a day for the past five days. It is very complicated. We start by running in a large circle with our arms raised; clinking porcelain tea cups between our thumbs and two fingers. After, we get into a smaller circle and get on our knees. We then begin bopping up and down performing a traditional Mongolian dance. The other chaperones and I feel as if we’re in an old “I Love Lucy!” episode!

On another note, we are just overwhelmed by the hospitality we’re experiencing. We have been treated so well – I only hope in the future I will be able to repay the kindness that has been shown to me.

See ya in a week!

-- Carolyn Scully (chaperone)

On the 17th we were able to spend the afternoon and have dinner with a host family. When we found this out, I was quite excited because it was unexpected. Mr. Connor put us in groups of three to each family; I was with Julianne and Gordon. We went to the nearby University to meet our family, and I was paired up with one of the head people at the school who happened to speak English very well.

When we met her, we got in a taxi to [make our way to her apartment]. Her apartment is very nice. We sat around drinking tea until her friend from England, Gray, came. She then called another taxi and were on our way to another place – a park.

Once we got into the park, I was not surprised – it seemed like any other park I’ve been to. However, we walked a ways and suddenly a flock of white birds swarmed around us. We got some food and began to feed them – they sat on our arms and shoulders; it was wild. After our food was gone, we kept walking through the park, and it turned into an actual amusement park! Our host brought us on bumper cars and a roller coaster – both were a lot of fun. We walked the rest of the way through the park, and while walking, Gray told us he runs a small school to teach young students English. He wanted us to talk to the [eager] kids.

When we arrived at the school, we found two classrooms filled with students our age and younger. We took pictures with them and talked to them for a while – most spoke English very well. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner.

On our way to dinner, we met our host’s husband who happened to be an actor and movie director. We went to a restaurant right near the English school and ended up having a very traditional Mongolian meal. We went into a smaller, private room, and tried sheep and many other [unfamiliar] dishes. After dinner we said our goodbyes – it was an experience I won’t forget.

-- Alex Scully

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our experience in Hohhot so far has been beyond enjoyable. During this stay, we are actually meeting and beginning to appreciate the real people of China. Since we have had almost two stationary weeks here, we’ve had time to make friends with whom we will stay in touch when we return to Vermont. Personally, I’m already planning to return to China within the next four years – my experience here has already influenced how I want to spend the rest of my life.

The people of Hohhot and China in general have shown me a completely different way of living; something most Americans know absolutely nothing about. It is the concept of Confucianism – the belief in benevolence. I’ve met and conversed with countless Chinese in these past weeks, and the strongest feeling I’ve encountered thus far is, indeed, compassion. Second is curiosity, as everyone here is so unbelievably interested in us. When we visit their schools, they hold banquets, discussions, and performances – anything to make us feel welcome. When we get off our bus at a college campus, students are waiting, lined up on either side of the street to greet us and cheer as we walk by – we’re literally treated like the Beatles.

I only hope American schools can learn something from this concept and possibly strive to focus on the study of China. After all, China has been around for thousands of years, while America has yet to reach three hundred.

-- Emma Long

Ellen Nuffer (Emily’s mother) tells us of a rather interesting discovery about “Journey East” . . .

I thought I'd pass along something that I learned about Journey East. When our older daughter Rebecca participated in the first Journey East, I remember that Harvey and I laughed about the direction that our students and their teachers would be taking - flying east to get to China seemed like the wrong way around the globe! But of course we realized that in Western culture, we refer to China and environs as "the Far East", so Journey East as a title for the program made sense.

However, I just discovered (although some of you may have known all along!) that the "Journey West" is a classic Chinese story known outside of China as "The Monkey King". In it a Chinese monk, Xuan Zang, travels to India to find the Buddha. The story relates 81 adventures in which Xuan Zang is accompanied by three animal disciples (including the powerful and mischievous monkey of the title), and contains multiple moral teachings. The phrase Journey West has now come to mean the passage from life into death, hopefully with understanding and acceptance.

I am guessing that our kids may have had more than 81 adventures among them, and that there may have been some mischievousness, but for sure, they all will leave with understanding and acceptance and in great health!

-- Ellen Nuffer

A big thank you to all the parents who have submitted side notes throughout the journey. Getting perspectives from “the folks back home” helps to make this journey a well-rounded experience. Let’s see, it’s nearly 8:00 p.m. in Hohhot right now, so maybe we’ll get some photos in the next couple of hours. If we do, we’ll get them up on the site.

    As mentioned earlier in this journey, Dr. Juefei Wang, Director and Founder of ASOP, has been instrumental in making this Journey East program at Leland & Gray High School a reality. We can’t thank him enough for all he has done and continues to do for us! Thank you Juefei!

    I encourage you all to visit the Asian Studies Outreach Program (ASOP) of the University of Vermont web site. It is jam packed with lots of marvelous Asian studies information. You can also find there find a terrific article about the Journey East 2004 program, written by Carolyn Lorie, Brattleboro Reformer Staff

    Duncan McCutchan puts out the free ASOP-VT News e-letter, which is currently tracking the events of our JE2004 group. If you’d like to subscribe to this marvelous publication, send Duncan an e-mail. Thanks Duncan!

Just think everyone, we have reached that point in the journey where each week day will be the last they spend in China. We now head into the weekend with a farewell to Hohhot, the return trip to Beijing, and then home on Tuesday!

Enjoy the day!