Before we get going with today’s reports, we want to share with you something really unique. During the Journey East 2002 visit to Qufu, three students (Alex, Rachel, and Elayna) celebrated their birthdays.

Believe it or not, it’s happened again. Three students celebrated their birthdays in Qufu. And so, from all of us to Cody, Emily, and Carolyn -- Happy Birthday!

Pretty cool.

Okay, we have lots to cover here so let’s begin with a report from Tom:

Carolyn, Cody and Emily celebrated birthdays with large cakes that were scrumptious. The frosting was superb. The hosts presented Carolyn with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The people here in Qufu are like family. Tom

We are sure the people in Qufu feel the same about you all, Tom!

The students are all in the performance venue getting ready for tonight's performance. We spent the morning at the Attached Middle School where the kids played soccer, basketball, and ping pong with the Middle School students during the school break. Tom

And here is a report from Annie Conley. The stories about the food are beginning to make it to the forefront. And the little quirky engagements with others who speak a different language are always enlightening. Here’s Annie:

April 4, 2004

Today was our first day on the campus of Qufu Teacher’s University. I woke up to the sound of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” being randomly pumped through the sound system outside my window. The randomness reminded me of the plane ride into Jinan during which the out-of-place “Let it Snow” was played upon landing.

I went out walking with Emily (Liss) early in the morning. There’s grass here and I couldn’t resist the urge to walk through it barefoot; I got some strange looks from a couple of Chinese students, but then again, strange looks here are fairly common whether you’re barefoot or not! We all ate breakfast together in a building a couple minutes walk from our living quarters. We had what I presume was the Chinese version of an American breakfast; it was my least favorite breakfast we’ve had thus far, but I suppose there were others who loved it. It’s funny what kind of special foods we get because we’re American – I have eaten more French fries here than I ever have back home because there has seldom been a lunch or dinner here without them. After breakfast we went to the “mall” to buy water before rehearsal. This “mall” has two stories and about seven shops – one of them sells sweatshirts that say [random] things like “Various People” and “Impregnated.” I bought some water in one of the two grocery stores in the mall. When the woman tried to give me change I thought she wanted me to give more money. I stood there for about five minutes trying to understand the fast wave of Chinese coming out of her mouth which was, of course, pointless, considering my vast Chinese vocabulary consists only of phrases like “hello,” “thank you,” and “where is the bathroom?” In the end we figured it out and laughed; at least we could understand one part of each other’s language.

Rehearsal started at 9:00 am and lasted about three hours. We originally wanted to run through the entire show but we ended up just working out the kinks in the dance numbers. After rehearsal we ate lunch and had some free time before we got into the bus at 2:00 pm to go to a temple built in memory of Confucius as well as the Confucius family mansion. There was a group of men that followed us around throughout our tour and took pictures of us. They tended to choose tall blonde people to be the “American poster children” in their pictures.

Dinner was a banquet, and we all watched the head table and mimicked their first moves. After we ate we recited our poem and sang “Waters of Babylon” for our hosts. It was, of course, an amazing day!

Reporter, Annie Conley

[Qufu is all about Confucius. These entries will reflect that. –ed.]

And finally, saving this as a surprise, we have photos and commentary of the first major highlight of the tour -- opening night performance. The Journey East group took to the stage in Qufu. Twelve hundred people watched in amazement as our kids brought their magnificent show to life. Here is what Tom had to say:

Many photos from yesterday. Last night's performance was great; over 1,200 students, teachers and leaders in attendance. The photos of the crowd will give you a sense of how much they appreciated the performance. Tom

Enjoy . . .