Are you having fun? Yeah, I know, this is great stuff! By the way, the Chinese characters at the end of Tuesday’s page said “Goodbye.” You knew that, right? Yeah, you’re catching on!

Okay, today’s page is filled with some pretty heavy stuff, so buckle up. Here we go . . .

April 5, 2004

All right, I think we’re starting to get used to this China business -- wake up, walk through the Qufu Teacher’s University campus to the building where we eat breakfast, and chow down. We’d better be on time, too – the food is on the table at exactly 8:00 am.

Today we took a bus to the Kung family burial grounds where Confucius is buried. The area was huge and the scenery amazing. Large patches of small purple flowers covered endless green grass, which rolled over mound after burial mound. Chinese-style temples and pagodas were everywhere. We even discovered a stone well. I am convinced that it holds treasure, though I was not allowed to explore further; an ancient-looking stone slab with a red triangle containing and exclamation mark and nay-saying chaperones prevented me.

On our way back to the University, we stopped in a village to explore. This was not an experience I will soon or ever forget. I reflected on it in my journal while we were driving away.

Debris. People living, breathing, leading their lives in what we would consider rubble. Dilapidated houses made of brick look as if they have been repaired a million times … and will be a million times more. Piles of straw are everywhere. Dirt streets separate a rough system of blocks.

Children ran down the street when they saw us handing out small gifts: Pens, pencils, stickers, postcards, brochures, and American coins were suddenly treasures. We found ourselves surrounded by a sea of small dark-skinned hands – palms open, waiting expectantly. I dropped a pen in the middle of the group and the quick-eyed kid was the victor there, quickly snatching up the pen and holding his hand out for more.

Even the adults wanted our treasures. I watched an old man receive a quarter and puzzle over it. My attention was drawn away, however, as I found myself suddenly giftless and in need of evasive action. I did not escape without being asked by annoyed women for another gift. Fortunately, Conor (Landenberger) came to my rescue with an instant remedy: a picturesque Vermont postcard complete with cows.

When a young boy pointed at my watch, the contrast between the haves and the have-nots became clearer to me than it has ever been in my life.

– Joel Eisenkramer

Editor’s Note: The hospitality of the villagers was astonishing: They benevolently invited us into their homes, let us take pictures of their families, made food for us, and let us hold their animals. Although our hosts were exceptionally friendly, our group was quite honestly overwhelmed by the mobs of people demanding our gifts -- not in a greedy unappreciative way, but in a way that you could tell this type of thing rarely, if ever, happens to them. Some of us felt oddly about our short visit: We felt we didn’t want the people of the village to view Americans in such a way – that is, people who step off a deluxe tour bus with new digital camera in hand, bearing cheap gifts, and who, after about forty-five minutes of handing them out, head back to a better place to reflect. I hope we are thought of as kind – just as the villagers are. Their day was vastly altered by our visit, and ours by this rare experience. -- Emma

As was so evident from the kids’ stories in 2002, these Journey East 2004 kids are being presented with life-changing experiences daily. On several occasions before the trip, Tom told this group they would see and experience things that would make them look at themselves, and others in an entirely different light.

On the morning they left for China, Tom told the 450+ students of Leland & Gray Union High school to take a good look at these Journey East kids sitting next to them, because they will not be the same kids when they return a month from now!

It is moments like these, so vividly expressed by Joel and Emma (above) that go to the root of what this trip to China is all about. This program is not about sending a couple dozen students to China as tourists to see the Great Wall and Terra Cotta Warriors. This is about sending young adults that, as a result of this program, become ambassadors that will serve our family, friends, community, country, and world.

The return on the investment in one semester and a thirty-day trip to China is immeasurable as these students will positively impact the lives of thousands of people, both in China and the United States. For the rest of their lives, they will share the values and firsthand experiences of the Chinese and Mongolian people.

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Okay . . . during their visit with the Attached Middle School, the kids got a chance to learn how to write in Chinese. Below are some photos from class.

I wonder what it is they are writing? Does anyone know? Do any of you students from 2002 recognize any of these characters? No, not the students (haha), but the Chinese language characters. Nice work, Mr. Martyn!

By the way, would you like to see what your name looks like in Chinese? Check out this site to see. Very interesting.

Okay, so that’s the scoop for today. This is the end of the road for Qufu. Quite an experience. They have done and seen a lot. And yet, the journey has just begin. We are a quarter through this adventure. A farewell banquet in Qufu and then it’s off to Xi’an (see the map). We’ll talk more about this fabulous place in the coming days. They will be in Xi’an till next Tuesday. Much excitement ahead . . . stay tuned!