We just received the rest of Carrie Attley’s report (Each of the students will be sending reports throughout the trip -- this is the first). Instead of picking up where she was cut off, here is her report in its entirety:
Carrie Attley, freshman
March 31, 2005
Today was our first official day in China. We all appear to be suffering from a little bit of jet lag which kicked into gear during our visit to the Peking [Beijing] Opera. The costumes and makeup were amazingly elaborate, but the performance itself was a little hard to understand, and we were all tired.
We also visited the Forbidden City [where The Last Emperor was filmed] and the Temple of Heaven [a nearly 600-year-old site centered on worship for good harvest]. It was amazing. It's hard for me to grasp the concept that I am half way across the world experiencing all these things.
As we walked through Tianemen Square, almost every eye was on our group: I've never really had an experience like that. I felt so alienated. Luckily people were really nice. Kaylene and I met one couple who tried to drag us across the street to show us an art exhibit of theirs. Unfortunately [fortunately!] we had to go and meet the rest of the group.
The hardest experience of the day by far was our walk back to the bus from the Forbidden City. First, we were pursued by street vendors trying to push their products on us, the we encountered several beggars, many with distorted limbs. Others carrying sick children. It was a really hard thing to see and I felt so bad for the people. It was hard to stomach.
Other than that, the day was awesome. We're so incredibly lucky to be experiencing these amazing historical sites -- and getting to taste all of this great food!
Sounds like someone is getting into the food over there! Okay, so now maybe now you’re beginning to get the picture (sorry about the pun!), of how powerful this trip is. And . . . we’ve only just begun!
Let’s see what Isaac has to report:
Isaac Avenia-Tapper, freshman
April 1, 2005
I woke up this morning wrecked, completely unable to sleep any longer, but dizzy from lack of sleep. Luckily we were propped up in our bus seats right away and snapped up a few more winks on the road. By about an hour from the Great Wall, we had completely left the city of Beijing, jagged
rocky mountains and crumbling villages slowly engulfing us as we drew closer. The farther from the city we got, the worse the villages became; no longer just crumbling, but rather decaying and finally dying [or so it seemed]. Such poverty as we saw today is non-existent in small town Vermont. As we drove on, the bus slowly became quiet and every head turned to a window.
At the end of the winding road, we all poured off the bus and, after skirting VERY aggressive peddlers, we hopped on a gondola for a quick ride and found ourselves on the Great Wall of China. Of all possible adjective choices, "great" has to be just about the worst. It's an understatement.
First, the wall runs along the edge of some quite tall mountains so there is a breathtakingly beautiful postcard-quality view every way you turn. The mountains here are nothing like those of Vermont. Steep and rocky, their roughly hewn daggers stretch at the sky. And then there's the wall itself. It follows the contours of the ridge line, weaving its way with lumbering elegance. The stone and mortar that make it are ancient and crumbling in places and radiant with wisdom and age. They're not new or contrived, but beautifully old like many of the faces we passed in the villages along the way. The quiet giant streams on as far as the eye can see, content to meander. The scene fills me with a sense of humility at the awesome quality of such a creation, happiness at such wonder and beauty (I'm still grinning), awe, and a sense of healing.
Right now I feel like I could spend the rest of my life here just soaking up the deep richness of China. I'd call the experience of the day sublimely spiritual. This is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. And even if these words cannot convey the power of the experience, it'll be with me in all its richness forever.
[This wonderful day at the Wall ended back in the city with another great meal and a performance by one of China's many fine acrobatics troupes. Tomorrow we're off to Qufu. This group of kids is soaking it all in, relishing it; learning as they breathe. --Ann]
The kids will bring home the stories of the people and their firsthand experiences with China’s culture and society as it “really” is. Most of it will be magnificent and awe-inspiring (like the Great Wall) and some will be like what Carrie and Isaac describe in their reports. These kids will be dealt a lot of emotional experiences during this journey. This is not only a Journey East, but for these kids, a journey within!
Okay, so while you are recovering from these wonderful photos and reports, let’s talk about what lies ahead. The group is now leaving Beijing for Qufu (see the map). Qufu (pronounced (choo-foo) is the birthplace of Confucius.
But first, they’ll go to Jinan. From there, they’ll take a bus ride to Qufu. They’ll go back through Jinan on their way to Xi’an, where they have some things to do, and we’ll talk more about Jinan then.
Two of Qufu’s main attractions are the Temple (built around the house that Confucius grew up in) and the "Forest" (the Kong family cemetery). Over one hundred thousand of Confucius' descendants are buried here).
There, the group will visit schools, get a chance to meet other students, and will be performing their “Rock ‘n Roll show for the first time. Qufu is also where the kids transform from being tourists to being visitors and exchanging cultures with the Chinese people.
For those of you not familiar with the show the students will be performing throughout China, please click on the links “overview” and “dress rehearsal.” The dress rehearsal photos are the only ones we have of the performance at this time. Once the group begins performing in Qufu, you’ll see the the drastic changes from your kids rehearsing at Jamaica School, to becoming full-fledged actors, singers, and musicians!
We got word that the group has made it safely to Qufu. They had a two hour bus ride from Jinan to Qufu. Here are some photos of the ride. More coming later tonight, so we can expect a good report tomorrow about their first day in Qufu.