Journey East Trip to China 2005


Created at Leland & Gray High School in Townshend, Vermont, supported by the Asian Studies Outreach Program (ASOP) at the University of Vermont (UVM), and funded primarily through a grant from the Freeman Foundation,

Journey East, as a whole, consists of the Asian Studies Academy and Sino-American Performing Arts Exchange at Leland and Gray Union High School; the integration of an Asian Studies curriculum throughout the Windham Central Supervisory Union, and the introduction of Chinese language programs into the district.

Dr. Juefei Wang, Director of the Asian Studies Outreach Program University of Vermont, is a recipient of the prestigious Goldman Sachs Award for Excellence in International education, on behalf of the UVM, Asian Studies Outreach Program.

The Leland and Gray Journey East program is deeply indebted, and extends its heartfelt thanks, to Dr. Juefei Wang, without whose effort and support this program would not even be possible!

Thank you Juefei!

Leland & Gray
Journey East IV

Tom Connor
Program Director

Ann Landenberger
Artistic Director

Matt Martyn
Music Director


Hey everybody! Get ready for a gorgeous weekend in Vermont. The forecast for our area is sunny and 70s. And rumor has it the temps will reach 80 by next Wednesday Yeeeehaw!! What winter . . . ?

Alrighty then. I am pumped ‘cause this is a big day. It’s full of photos and a report and other interesting stuff.

So, llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllet’s get ready to rummmmmmmmmmmble!

First, before we get underway with the first collaborative sessions, let’s go back to yesterday (which was yesterday for us and the day before yesterday for them. Or, at least a day and a quarter, or was it yesterday for them and, oh never mind, let’s let Jen tell us her story about their first night in Hohhot! Listen up everybody. Okay Jen . . .

    Jen Landman, Senior
    April 14, 2005

    Happy birthday, Kristin!

    My night to write a piece for the Journey East site happened to fall on my best night yet and the day we flew from Xi'an to Huhehaote (That's right, not Hohhot, but Huhehaote -- that's what the sign over the gate at the airport says.) They told me I wouldn't have much to write about since today was looking like a plane ride, jetlag and a few extra hours of R&R, but man were we underestimating what was in store. Tonight's events made everything fall together.

    To celebrate Kristin's birthday at dinner, our Mongolian hosts served cake with plenty of Cool Whip. Then I'm not sure how it all got started, but as the group gathered around Kristin and sang "Happy Birthday," Hujia [Juefei's nephew from Beijing, our wonderful companion and interpreter] snuck some topping from the cake and planted dollops of it on several noses. Ms. Landenberger was his first victim: He got her as she was passing by! Then he got most of us kids at his table. I'm happy to say I was in on the Cool Whip "fight," too. As cake was being brought around Cory, Ray, Dylan, Adam, Isaac, Devon, Ali, Hujia and I settled back at our table. Somehow we managed a small friendly conspiracy. Hujia definitely didn't see it coming, though I think the rest of us all knew what was up. None of us planned to taktn_Kristin's Birthday and first night in Hohhot 07002e it too far, but Ali -- please excuse the pun -- took the cake for scheming. She scooped up a handful of Cool Whip and plop! In the blink of an eye, the left side of Hujia's face was coated in fluffy white topping. Laughter and grins burst immediately from everyone at our table (Hujia, too) as Tom eyed us and gasped from across the room, "What?! What are you doing?! You can't do THAT!" and Hujia got Ali back with the white goo from his slice of cake. I think it's safe to say the whole room got a kick out of it.

    Eventually, our beloved rabblerousers each went off to find a sink, but the moment, its images and lightheartedness were bound to linger on. I also met Susan tonight. She's going to host me for the day trip/home stay on Saturday. She said she'll teach me to fly kites, and I told her I'm looking forward to spending time with her and her family. Something Tom said yesterday developed a life of its own when two of our hosts played their horse head fiddles after dessert. He'd said, "No matter where you go or what time period you look at, every culture has music." Watching the two fiddle players and absorbing their enchanting sounds were the final strikes that finally drove the last nail tightly into the wood, assembling the idea: I'M IN CHINA. Before it had all felt surreal. Everything I saw, touched, heard, tasted -- even the smells: It was all as if I had been in a dream state. For all I knew, it could have been a STATE, back in the US, just one that none of us had ever known. As of this evening, though, the fact is solid: WE'RE LIVING IT.

    The entire JE 5 group relaxed and joked around tonight. Hujia was a friend, not just an adult for whom we had to be on our best behavior. A woman from Inner Mongolia has invited me to spend time with her at her home. Two performers put on a show for us. It wasn't completely formal -- I'm sure they'd rehearsed it for Kristin's birthday -- but to me it felt like a couple of friends were having a jam and letting us sit in on it. I'd love to write more, but I should stop pushing this pen before its Steph's turn to write and my log entry eats up her space on the site. I just want to put one more thing out there: Tonight made China feel like home to me. Good night.

It sounds like they are beginning to relax some (in this case, a lot!). And partly because they have come to realize where they are, what they are doing, and how things work. These guys have spent nearly three weeks with each other and their sense of “team” should be melding nicely by now. Just in time for the all-important collaborative performance piece. But even with the growing comfort level, each day’s events bring new thrills and spills as they continue this magnificent journey.

Next, we have photos of their first collaborative session. With their big performances at the end of their stay at Hohhot, there is much work to be done. Ann is busily working with the students (both ours and the Mongolians) in helping to develop a program of entertainment. This is not an easy task and is challenged by the skills and capabilities of all the students.

But Ann is an expert at this stuff and these are the challenges she lives for! She takes the flavor of each student and carefully crafts a recipe that results in a marvelous and delicious cinnamon roll, er, bundt cake, yeah, that’s it a bundt cake.* What? Pay no attention to the man behind the screen . . .

The next set of pictures are from the morning collaborative session of the first day:

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Morning Collaborative Session -- Day One

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This is great stuff. If some of the kids were still wondering when the real “umph” of this journey was going to happen, they’ll be realizing it now. One collaborative creative session and the gellin’ begins.

We teach them. they teach us. We learn their style, they learn ours. In the days ahead, these two groups will “come together” as one.

While Ann is busy working out all of the details of the performance piece (pieces) , Matt is busy working his musical side of the equation. His challenge it to take his musical overachievers and channel that talent into a fine blend with the performance. Additionally, he must mix and match our western style with the Mongolian style. Matt, too, lives for this challenge.

They have been given a blank canvas and a set of spectacular colors -- let’s see what they can do.

After the morning session, the kids have a better understanding of what to expect. Now they can really start to rock and roll!

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Session Two

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This is fun . . . watching the puzzle being built, without seeing the picture on the cover of the box. That, my friends, is the surprise in the Cracker Jacks box.

Next, we have photos from the Welcome Banquet. Tom has a little to say about this special event, made even more special by the attendance of some very important people. Tom . . .

    There were two very “heavy hitters” from the Inner Mongolia Party Government who were guests of honor at the banquet last night. It would be the equivalent of having very important political people from Vermont State government in attendance. This is an Autonomous Region of millions of people, so it was quite an honor for the college and for us that they attended.

Wow. It’s stories like this that remind us how much prestige this program has. The kids may not currently grasp the importance of their work in China, but as time goes on, they will. Simply said, it’s huge! HUGE!

Somebody get the lights, please. Okay roll the film . . .

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Welcome Banquet

for Journey East 2005

Hohhot, Inner Mongolia

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Hmmmm . . . I’m looking for the food fight pictures . . . Carey, what are you thinking?.

Tom has a little more to add about the events of the day:

    I was interviewed by two newspapers yesterday, both with circulation of quite a few million and photographs of our kids collaborating were taken in abundance.

    The weather here is great but it is dry as a bone. Sore throats are the order of the day. Kids are drinking bottles and bottles of water every day.

Whoa. Did I get that right? A circulation of over one million? The circulation of the Reformer is only 11,500!

Well, this has been a big day for the JE Group. And you can expect each day from here on it to be just like this. Next up is the home stay experience. This is where each person will have their own story to tell. And, this is where several life-long friendships will begin. Some are resuming after the homestays of some of the Mongolian students in Brattleboro. The connections just go On and On.

My dad taught me a method of making time pass quickly. He calls it the “time warp.” By focusing all of your thoughts to a time and place beyond that which you’d like to go, you’ll reach your desired destination almost immediately. It seems impossible, but it really does work.

Just for kicks, go back and review some of the earlier days of the journey. You’ll be amazed by how much these guys have done. It is incredible. They have been going at this for almost three weeks now. Remember how the first week took forever to pass? In many ways, though, we’ve only just begun.

Okay, so you’re thinking this time warp stuff is a bunch of baloney. To prove the time warp works, let’s choose April 27th as our desired destination. In order to make that day come faster than normal, focus on a time beyond April 27th. For instance, focus on Mother’s Day (psst, hey guys, it’s May 8th). Focus real hard. Close your eyes and focus . . . focus . . . f o c u s . . .



moment of zen . . .

If you haven’t already seen this, it’s a must. It will take a bit to load on dial-up, but it is worth it. There is much discussion as to whether this is fake or not. Regardless of what you think, the (real) juggling is quite remarkable. What do you think . . .





* You might be wondering what relevance the cinnamon roll and bundt cake have with any of this. It’s simple. None at all.

[JE trip 2005] [Dress Rehearsal] [Itinerary] [Press release] [March 29]