T-minus 6.

Good morning everyone!

With less than a week to go, the bounty of photos and reports today is plentiful. And by plentiful, I mean, yes, you guessed it, “a lot!” We have some fantastic photos of Mongolian kids, our kids, and pictures from a performance!

Just like the group in 2002, our Journey East gang has been fascinated and awed by the many sights and wonders of China. But the greatest thrills and emotions were realized when they spent time with the Asian children.

We visited a kindergarten in the morning; a kindergarten for kids who appeared to be aged 4 to about 5 or 6. This was a Mongolian Kindergarten. Nearly all of the students here (of the 500 total) are Mongolian. Instruction is in Mongolian, Chinese and there is also some in English. It is bright, airy, spacious and, surprisingly, very much like the Montessori School that Devin [Connor] went to in South Londonderry [Vermont], or to some of the kindergartens that I have visited in the WCSU [Windham Central Supervisory Union]. There was a lot of emphasis on play, social skills, etc., in addition to many hands-on activities. There was a strong emphasis on Mongolian dress, art, song and customs that permeated the atmosphere and activities in the school. Tom

It’s always so wonderful to see pictures of (our) kids. But try to keep from “oohing” and “aahing” when you take a look at these kids . . .

April 19, 2004

Today we saw the most adorable thing ever: Our group visited a Mongolian kindergarten where the kids range from ages three to six. Because we were "distinguished guests" of the school today, all of the students were dressed in the cutest little Mongolian outfits - in honor of our visit. We played with them on their playground and snapped hundreds of photos.

Later on in the morning, a group of little girls performed a Mongolian chopstick dance for us. After that, a group of little boys put on a Mongolian fashion show! It's amazing how the teachers at the school can make the children focus -- they were all very together for kindergartners.

At this age, the students are learning both Mongolian and English. They were all so eager to meet us; many practiced their English by shouting "hello!" when then saw us. Most of them spoke it very well! I guess it is much easier to learn such a thing at a younger age.

Tonight was our third performance in China, our first in Hohhot. It turned out to be quite successful -- the audience appeared attentive and we got a lot of laughs. However, poor Izzy (Bernegger) sprained her ankle in the last dance number. She's already doing better, though -- hopefully this is our first and last injury! Afterwards, all the Mongolian students wanted their picture taken with us -- they don't see as many Americans in Inner Mongolia so they made us feel like celebrities! Going home is going to be hard -- we're so spoiled here!

-- Julianne Rucker

Editor's note: My experience with children at the kindergarten today was one of the best experiences I've had thus far in China. We were taken all around the school to meet countless adorable children -- most of which were extremely curious and eager to meet us. As a prospective teacher, I got so much out of our visit. The children were already being taught Mongolian and English atop Chinese, their first language. It made me realize how capable young children are of taking in loads of information, and how much easier it is for them to learn at such a young age. If you reach children early on, they are statistically much more likely to succeed in the future; I've seen this demonstrated throughout our journey. We've been visiting many children our age and older, but I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend a morning with a piece of China's future. -- Emma Long

We performed in a gymnasium/auditorium tonight. Wow, what a cavern. We estimate more than 2000 people came to the show. The kids really had to project and it was difficult to mic the stage. Another one under the belt I guess. Matt

April 18

Living in China has become my lifestyle. Looking back on life in America is like meditation. As Joel [Eisenkramer] would say: “Living your everyday life is like living at the bottom of a giant pudding cup: You're in the thick of it and all you can see is the thick pudding immediately surrounding you. This trip has pulled me right out of the pudding of my life so I can examine the whole cup.” As I look back to America, there are both things I miss and things I am glad to have left. I know that when I get back I will be a changed and self-realized person. My life will no longer exist as it was at the bottom of the pudding cup.

I miss family, friends, a soft bed, and the clean air and water of Vermont. I feel thirsty all the time where bottled water, ping shuay, is as precious as oil. I am in love with the country side and cities of China and Mongolia. The countryside is as beautiful as the calligraphy paintings its people reflect upon.

The real beauty of China and Mongolia is their people. I have made dozens of friends here in Hohhot, both Chinese and Mongolian. My best friends here--JianZian, Haili, Lili and Nanching--are the kindest people I have ever met. Most of my friends speak close to no English. Even so, I know with certainty that I will come back to China to reunite with these amazing people.

Today was one of the coolest days I have spent here. In the morning we practiced the Mongolian chopstick/teacup dance with my crazy teacher Nanching.

Afterwards, while the dancers practiced swing dancing, I met a classical trumpet player named Wu Chan. I played jazz for him and he played a sonata for me. We hope to teach each other jazz and classical music respectively later this week. I then sang with my friends Lily and Jian Zian (Mongolian and American songs). It was also my friend Haili's birthday so we sang her “Happy Birthday” in English and Chinese. We did a run-through of our play after lunch and then split up. The instrumentalists went on to play with the college Army band where we played a march and then examined the blues. I met a trombonist and saxophonist who could improvise on the blues. The trombonist listens to Ornett Coleman and Miles Davis. The saxophonist listens to John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins. It was extremely surprising and awesome to find these two jazz musicians on the other side of the world.

-- Dan Rosow

Can you see what’s happening? Each day the journey is building in intensity and emotion. Just when it is time for these guys to come home, the journey will be reaching its peak -- just as it should.

This has been a marvelous day of reports and photos. The students’ reports have painted such clear pictures of the many and varied experiences, allowing us to travel with them throughout this journey east.

One thing is for sure . . . no matter how much they send us, we can’t get enough!

See you tomorrow!