They’re baaaaaack!

The Journey East 2004 group had a safe and successful landing last night. Everyone is back home again - safe and sound. Around the world in twenty-nine days. Whew!!!

Before we close this journey, let’s have a huge round of applause for our outstanding program director, art director, and music director:

Tom Connor, Ann Landenberger, and Matt Martyn

These two people are simply amazing! This (Asian Studies and Journey East) program’s success is directly connected to the passion, energy, love, desire, and downright goodness of these two people! This Journey east program would not be the incredible program it is without these guys. So many times you hear the phrase, “People make the difference,” well, these two people DO make the difference!!

So, thank you Tom, Ann, and Matt from the bottom of our hearts!!

And let’s also take this opportunity to thank the chaperones of this journey: Jean McIntire, Carolyn Scully, and Janet Lucier. These people took a month from their families to make sure these kids had a safe and successful journey east. The four of you have our deep and sincere appreciation for what you have done for these kids and the program. Thank you!

Now, before we close this “reality show,” we have a final student report (just arrived), an entertaining description of greeting the kids at the airport and then being home. And then we’ll follow all of that with the answers to the JE2004 Quiz

Here’s Farrin . . .

April 22, 2004

Dear Vermont,

I am writing to you from the Gobi desert. In five days I return home -- but I am not the same Farrin I was when I left America a month ago. When I was told this trip would change me, I shrugged it off; everyone says that when they travel, and for me, nothing ever changed -- until now. Because of my disability, back home there were times when I felt like a one-woman traveling freak show. My limp took precedence over myself as a whole, and strangers often met my gaze with looks of fear or even disgust.

How surprised I was when I found this was not the case in China. The people here are quick to help, not quick to judge. I find that now my smile draws even more attention than the way I walk. China has given me the lens to view myself as a complete person, not just some girl lost in her disability. I find that now I am treated with dignity and respect, even by complete strangers. Here I am given the freedom to set my own limits, but always offered a hand when needed.

As I reflect on my day, I realize the amazing things I've done just in the past few hours. I've ridden a camel, and sledded almost uncontrollably down a 300 foot, 70 degree sand dune (after hiking up it). I've meditated, watching the purest blue sky against the indescribable color of the dunes. I've tried to describe the texture of the sand beneath my toes (butter and clouds), and I've wrestled with my friends among the dunes.

Lastly, I peacefully rode back to our hotel with friends both old and new (we were accompanied by friends from the Mongolian Performing Arts College). Here, I find a sense of inner peace and happiness that until my month in China, I had never experienced.

-- Farrin Sofield

Now, here’s a report from Pam Reid (Jon’s mom) describing the experience at, and after, the airport last night:

Every single kid and chaperone had at least one parent or family member, and usually two or three, represented at the United terminal. There were TONS of us. The other people getting off the flight were given disappointed looks (you're not them), except of course by the folks who had to fight their way through us to meet THEIR loved ones. When the group finally burst through the double doors, they were lead by Tom, who looked as pleased as punch, as of course he should have. ("See, I brought your kids home safe and sound and they had the experience of a lifetime, as I promised you they would.") And our cheers and clapping resounded through the almost empty terminal.

Every kid was wearing something he or she had purchased in China--a hat or an embroidered silk coat or just some designer copies they had found in Silk Alley. (Jon has red silk pajamas and Puma rip-off shoes and an Oakley-hot label at the moment, I gather-hat and Oakley sunglasses and a cotton Red Army hat and of course his big warm Red Guard hat seen in previous photos. He also bought a ton of inexpensive DVDs of hot new movies for about $1 apiece. He says only one of them doesn't work...)

Of course, there was lots of hugging and tears and laughter. And then we each took our loved ones and wended our way home. When we got home, even though it was close to midnight, Jon insisted on unloading his treasures onto the dining room table. Of course, we did not say no! The "riches from the Orient" filled the entire table. Paintings and temple bells and terracotta warrior figurines and wall-hangings and "worry balls" with lovely chimes and presents from his new friends: T-shirts and a Mongolian doll and a little camel. And there was a wonderful farewell letter from a new young female friend--she had apparently sat up a great deal of the night composing it with the help of an English dictionary. And Jon was awarded a Mongolian name, "Almas," which means "diamond."

-- Pam Reid

Answers to the Journey East 2004 Quiz

Here are the answers to the JE2004 Quiz. How’d you do?

  1. “Joe Meets Jazz”
  2. Beijing, Jinan, Qufu, Xi’an, and Hohhot.
  3. Johnny, Jon, Gordon, Devan, Cody, Lianne, Izzy, Leah, Torie, Myles, Callie, Annie, Farrin, Elise, Joel, Emily, Conor, Julianne, Dan, Kim, Emma, Alex, Tessa, Harrison, Tom, Ann, Matt, Jean, Carolyn, and Janet.
  4. “Lawrence of Arabia”
  5. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
  6. Meat fondue.
  7. A postcard from Vermont.
  8. Cody, Emily, and Carolyn.
  9. Principal Zhong
  10. Li Bai poem.
  11. Mount Taishen .
  12. Yuan. 8.27 yuan to the dollar.
  13. Zhao Jun
  14. Mengniu Dairy.
  15. 10 (2 are duplicated making 12 total, 10 original))
  16. Chopstick and bowl (teacup) dance.
  17. Jao Jung was a peacekeeper between China’s minority groups and central China.
  18. ”Andy” and “Jenny: Huijua; Li Haiqing; Liang Meiling; Dai Qingyun’s family; Mr. Suo; Mr. Chu; Na Chien; Jiao Wu; Tian Yun; Jian Zian; Haili; Lily; Nanching; Gray; Principal Zhong; Qi Muge,; Teacher Sun; Lin Ruigi; Na Qing; Si Li-are
  19. The Gobi Desert.
  20. Ping pong.
  21. Dr. Juefei Wang.
  22. Confucius.
  23. Take pictures of visitors.
  24. 9:00 p.m.
  25. Can’t be done. No one word can describe Journey East 2004. Nice try.

If I forgot anyone or make any mistakes, please let me know. Hope you had fun revisiting the journey!

he 2004 journey to China may be over, but the Journey East site continues as we post info about upcoming performances, school visits, and other JE activities.

We’ll also be publishing information about the (exciting) future of the Journey East program here at Leland & Gray and the new opportunities awaiting many young people to experience this unique adventure. We’ll also introduce some other fun stuff on the site as we move on to the next phase of this exciting Asian Studies program at Leland and Gray Union High School.

And so, all good things must come to an end. We thank you all for your support of the program and this site. It has been a real pleasure to bring this journey to you each day. Tom Connor and Ann Landenberger created the journey, we merely presented it. Our hats off to Tom, Ann, Matt, the chaperones, and the kids!!

. . . welcome home!