T-minus 7

One week from today . . . yes-siree-bob, a week from today, this journey ends and the next one (the one you all have been waiting for) begins!

Now, with only a week to go, this is a good time to look back through the early days of the journey to get a real sense of the accomplishments of this team of talented performers/ambassadors. Every day has been filled to the rim. And it will also give some comfort in knowing the journey is coming to a close and soon your kids and spouses will be back home again.

We have a lot of good stuff to share with you today. And by “a lot,” I mean a lot! Some marvelous photos of some Mongolian children all decked out in special dress, and of course, some great pictures of the kids . . .

Let’s get started. First up is a news report on the China View web site about the wrestling matches the kids went to see. Cody Anderson was interviewed! Here’s what Ann had to say about the news:

Cody, Emma and I were hosted by a pretty dynamic Mongolian family the other night. More of our stories --and others' ---of our evening out with Hohhot hosts will follow .

In the meantime, here's a fun tidbit. Cody [is] in the news. Among a cast of many at our dinner with the Mus that night were two reporters from XinHua, the Chinese equivalent of the AP. This story is by Tina, one of those reporters. Ann

Read the story or see below

    Hohhot hosts traditional "Boke" competition
www.chinaview.cn 2004-04-19 14:47:00


    HOHHOT, China, April 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Nearly 100 wrestlers gathered in Hohhot, capital of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomos Region, to attend the monthly "Boke" wrestling competition here.

    "Boke", with the meaning of "strong and healthy" in the Mongolian language, is a kind of wrestling practised only by the Inner Mongolians and is popular among people living on the grasslands.

    The wrestlers, armored with leather jackets dotted by silver buttons, hold each others' arms and try every means possible to floor their competitors to the ground.

    Li Baisheng, a local businessman who organized the competition,said the "Boke" is a showcase for both strength and agility with along history, and is evolved by people on the grasslands during their fight with the wild nature.

    Regardless of their gender, age, profession, any people who wants to can participate in the wrestling competition.

    Qi Muge, a sophermore from the Inner Mongolian Normal University, who took part in the "Boke" competition for the secondtime, said that she loves the sport in her spare time but lost a match to one of her school-mates last month, and surely wants to win back.

    After half an hour of harsh struggle, Qi managed to throw her competitor to the ground.

    Not far from the wrestlers, crowded audience formed a circle onthe ground and loud cheers were heard whenever the wrestlers make an attempt to throw their rivals down.

    Cody Anderson, a senior high school student from Vermont, the United States, said the wrestling was thrilling and wonderful and he had never seen such a fierce competition before.

    Fancinated by the exotic show, Cody, who is visiting China for culrural exchanges, spent the whole afternoon watching the wrestling though he was busy preparing for a performance next Friday.

    But "It's worth it," Cody said.

Cool! We have a fun report from Jon Reid today, talking about food and friends, but first, here’s an update from Matt and an intro to some of the photos you’ll see. . . .

Hi All,

Technology has been a little unpredictable here in China but of all places, Hohhot seems to be the best! I attached some [photos] of our dinner at Mr. Chu's where Farren, Tessa, and I helped prepare dumplings. And Tessa gave a quick flute lesson. We went to a Mongolian Kindergarten today. The students are aged 3-6 and they are learning traditional Mongolian lessons. Their first language is Mongolian but many of them speak Chinese and some are already taking English lessons as early as 4 years old! How about that?

While I think we all filled our memory cards completely here are [also] some pictures through the lens of Kim Stafford. These kids are so lovable. No sooner had we arrived did these little ones just take the hands of some of our kids and lead them out to play on the playground. Unfortunately they don't dress in these outfits every day. The principal said they only wear them for performances and for the arrival of very distinguished guests. Wow!

We had our first performance in Inner Mongolia this afternoon. It was an absolutely wonderful house packed with college students. They were a super audience and our kids would have really knocked your socks off today! While each performance of our show has improved, today the kids really "took it up a notch." Enjoy! Talk to you soon. Matt

April 17, 2004

Today I woke up to the sound of dripping clothes –the laundry Harrison (Zukas) and I did in the bathtub the night before. We wandered down to the lobby to start the day with a line rehearsal. I felt a little sick, so it was hard to deliver my lines adequately. Not being able to finish because of time, we climbed onto the bus and headed to the local Art College of Inner Mongolia University. I couldn’t wait to see my Chinese friends again!

We arrived and headed for the dancing room. I grabbed my decorative chopsticks with scarves on the ends, and we started to practice. I’m having so much fun with the dance, and I like the way it is slowly but surely coming together. I’m starting to get closer to all the students, too. One of the dancers, Tien Yun (or Tony, his English name), has been helping us a lot with the dance moves. It was wonderful for me to find out later that day that his family would be my host family for the night. After dancing, we rehearsed our songs a bit in the room next door. It’s amazing how quickly the college students are learning the song we’re teaching them -- “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Their pronunciations are very good, and they’ve learned all of the notes. One of the basses whom I’m getting closer to is Yung Tao. He is more of the quiet type so it’s fun to see him break out and fool around with us all.

When we returned to the dance studio later that day, our host families were waiting for us -- ready to take us to their homes. I was paired up with Kim (Stafford) and Carolyn (Scully), which was very good. Tien and his father were there to pick us up, and Na Chien (Nate), another dancer with a great personality, decided to come along with us, along with a female dancer named Jiao Wu (Diana). We took a taxi to their home and on the way Nate pointed out a dance club called “New York, New York.” I tried explaining to them that I was born in New York and they understood.

The taxi took us down a dark alley and as we walked to a grim-looking apartment building, I thought to myself: “This family must be poor.” We walked up dust-covered stairs, took off our shoes at the threshold and Tien opened the door for us. Inside, it was beautiful. There was a living room with a big TV and a huge fish tank, and on the curtain was a giant image of birds. The two bedrooms looked very comfortable. In the kitchen they had an assortment of nuts waiting for us. When we went into Tien’s bedroom we saw he had a computer that could pass as a nerd’s fantasy. It was loaded with speakers and lights; a very extravagant piece of equipment. He had a translator on the computer, so we had an easier time communicating. He also played some songs he had on his computer that he liked: They were pop and a little bit of rap, which was funny because I’ve never heard Chinese rap before.

Before we went to dinner, we exchanged gifts. I received a plush camel and a Mongolian doll. I thanked them very much and handed out our presents to them. They seemed to like them a lot.

We walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner, and the room we ate in was very fancy. The father taught me how to hold my chopsticks correctly, and I taught Tien how to hold his knife and fork correctly; we all laughed a great deal. The food was wonderful: We had catfish, lamb, goat eyes stuffed in pumpkin, and dumplings. It was one of the best meals I’ve had on this trip. We proposed some toasts thanking them for their wonderful hospitality, and they proposed a toast welcoming us to China. During dinner, Nate sang a Mongolian song for us. In return, Kim and I decided to sing “Swing Low” to them, and they ended up joining in. We then recited the Li Bai poem and they all clapped very loudly – it made me feel really good. Also, during dinner I decided to teach Nate an American handshake, and when we finished it, he was laughing hysterically. I was having so much fun; everyone was smiling and laughing. I was becoming friends with them faster than I’ve ever become friends with anyone, and we don’t even speak the same language. I enjoyed being with them, and they enjoyed being with me. They were great people. Parting with them was hard, but I know I’ll see them again tomorrow.

-- Jon Reid

Look at the smiles. Just look at those smiles . . . Fantastic!

Boy, has this been a great day for news and pictures - or what? Let’s hope this wave of “stuff” doesn’t stop as we ride the final week of this incredible journey east!

See you tomorrow, everyone!

    Pssssssst. Did I mention that your kids will be home a week from today? That’s right, we are in the final stretch folks. You are done with the hard part. Let’s get ready to party