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


T-minus ZERO!

This is it! I can see those big smiles on your faces. The group comes home . . TODAY! The plane will arrive around 9:00 pm tonight. Thirty days later . . .

NOW what do you think about that ol’ “time warp” trick? It really works, doesn’t it? I mean, here you are!

The Beijing communicado problem still plagues us so today’s page will be on the “lite” side. But hey, who cares, the kids will be here in a few hours!!!!

For those of you going to the airport tonight, all I can say is “E-N-J-O-Y!” I can’t tell you how powerful an experience it is to see your child or spouse come through those doors. But you will soon know for yourselves. And the hug. Oh, the hug. Don’t let go, you have a month of hugs to make up for! Huuuug!

Well, we have a photos of the last day in Beijing (if you’ve been doing the quiz, you’ve had a chance to relive many of the previous photos), and we have two student reports and a Beijing send-off report from Ann, so let’s get right to those.

    Katherine Seaton, Freshman
    April 24, 2005

    Today was a very hard day for all of us. We had to leave the people we'd become so close to during the ten days we were here. We started the day by loading our bags onto a bus for Beijing. After the farewell performance, we had stayed up late into the night packing, so this morning everyone was tired.

    Our schedule for the day was to go sightseeing, so our first stop was the Inner Mongolian Provincial Museum. We learned that the first dinosaur fossil ever found was discovered in Inner Mongolia in 1923 and the largest dinosaur ever found-26 meters long -- was standing in that museum. Next we visited an exhibit on the different people in Inner Mongolia. There were four main parts to the exhibit, each of which explained the ways of life for the Daur, Ewenki, Orogen and Mongolian cultures. The last exhibit we saw was on the "Revolutionary History of China from 1919 to 1949." It was very interesting because China's struggle to find its identity then was so hard.

    Next we headed to a clothing and art factory. There were about ten girls there working on traditional clothing and ten painting and sewing. Working at the factory was part of the girls' schooling because they will be sewing or painting for the rest of their lives. After some shopping at the factory, we left for lunch. When the Mongolians came to Vermont, Kate Piniewski and I hosted a man named Guligalaxi and he met us at noon to
    take us to lunch while the rest of the group ate downtown. He hailed a taxi for us and we raced through Hohhot to a restaurant where Guli's girlfriend and two other friends were waiting for us. We sat down at a table with a big bowl in the middle that was filled with a beige liquid of some sort. We found out later that it was milk tea with millet and bits of meat and dofu in it. The meal arrived: dumplings, mutton, noodles, peas and lamb's heart. Kate and I declined on the lamb's heart, but we ate everything else and loved it. It was nice to have a meal with someone we knew so well on his own home turf where he feels more confident.

    After lunch and a little shopping in downtown Hohhot (where a group of us
    splurged on some pizza -- it was amazing), we all went back to the hotel to get ready for the event that were all waiting for, yet dreading: the farewell banquet. About a half hour into the banquet, many of us were already tearing up -- we would be for the rest of the evening. We sat down
    with our Mongolian friends and had a short dinner. Live spontaneous music started almost immediately and for the rest of the night we sang songs and danced. We had so much fun, in spite of the tears.

    Ms. L. belted out "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess and Travis sang us
    "You Can't Touch This" by M.C. Hammer. A few boys from our group sang "My Girl" and Riley melted one girl's heart. The night was amazing because there was so much emotion in the air. At the end, Tom asked us to look into the eyes of a Mongolian. I did and what I saw amazed me. When I looked into their eyes, I could see a kind of curiosity and love that I've never seen before. This is seriously what I saw and it surprised me.

    The banquet ended with Tom saying "This is not a preparation for anything; this is life" and asking us what seemed like a simple question at the time: "What is all this about?" As I left the banquet hall with Carrie, I thought about that question and all the responses that could possibly answer it.


    Pat Stevens, Junior
    April 25, 2005

    Ah, a refreshing return to Beijing after a sad and difficult departure from Hohhot. It's been just less than a month since we were last in Beijing, but in that time it's turned about as green as Vermont. Well, the trees and grass are green, at least. Our journey east is winding down. I can't speak for the rest of the group, but I'm excited about the (excruciatingly long) plane ride home. The time here has been amazing: Words in my vocabulary fail to really give an adjective that righteously sums up the trip ('amazing' is all I can find right now).

    Today, during a brief interview with Ann and Matt [on the boat ride across the manmade lake at the Summer Palace on an exceptionally clear and beautiful Beijing day], I was asked what I'd learned over the last month. I knew well to look past the first thing that came to mind: the Mongolian scarf dance! More importantly, I've learned not to judge people based on other people's generalizations. I used to be a far more judgmental person, but now I'll never make an uneducated judgment again. I will think things through.

    I've loved this journey: It's an opportunity not to be taken for granted. If you apply yourself well, you get the most out of it and it will change your life.

There you have two more windows into the hearts and minds of the young people who have grown a lot in a little space of time. Before we close with Ann’s reflections, and some of my own, here are some parting shots of the kids in Beijing . . .

tn_Last night in Beijing plus 011

tn_Last night in Beijing plus 017

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 002

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 003

tn_Last night in Beijing plus 028

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 015

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tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 027

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 033

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 041

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 059

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 008

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 078

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 070

tn_Summer Palace and SYA Beijing 079

Visual reflections on a journey. And so, summing things up nicely, as she always does, here are Ann’s comments as she and the JE group leave China . . . Ann . . .

    Ann Landenberger, Journey East Creative Director
    April. 27,. 2005

    I just bought my last Beijing Starbucks. A gaggle of Caucasians were gathered there-like pilgrims at Mecca-ordering in English in as many accents as the variety of drinks offered. Beijing might as well be Manhattan, at least in this neighborhood. So cosmopolitan; so many light
    years from Hohhot -- and in the blink of an eye we'll be light years from here -- home in Green Mountains with you all.

    Eager to be home, but melancholy at the thought of leaving, I'm perusing myriad snapshots in my head. This is so much more than a trip. A trip implies a surface-scratching experience. Granted, we're only here for a month, but in that time, we explore beyond facades; we rub elbows with peers. We have conversations; we struggle to understand another culture intensely. At first we approach gingerly; by the end we feel confident
    enough to dive in.

    I think of the Wednesday night jam we held in Hohhot. That was paradigmatic. At the opening each contingent, American and Inner Mongolian/Chinese took turns playing songs and modeling dances. The dream was to jam, though, to give the kids a chance to share informally. Finally one very talented young horse head fiddle player timidly stepped up to join our band in an American tune. That was it. The catalyst. Soon several other horse head fiddles joined in; then the flute, then the erhu, and then vocalists-and it was rocking. From that point on through the end of the evening we played as one. Would that world affairs could run like that.

    As a teacher on this journey one gains the immense satisfaction in watching our own kids grow. I just ran into another teacher with a different group here at the hotel and was asked: "Any problems? Any major incidents" It's funny to hear that question asked first. Of course there are moments, but the beauty of all this -- of working with these kids -- is that we go so far beyond the "school trip" modus operandi. They aren't anonymous; they know that misbehavior could seriously muck up the works for all of us; in down time they play more like cousins than anything else; they razz us in playful ways. But when it's time to work, perform, focus, listen, they are serious, earnest, present. They have been
    challenged in countless ways; they have risen to the challenges because
    they have had to.

    I had several wonderful conversations about teaching with peers in Qufu and Hohhot and gained insight to build on. One conversation in particular comes to mind right now. A Chinese colleague spoke admiringly about how we American teachers form relationships with our students. We get to know them. When they mess up, we let them know, when they do well, we praise them. She was especially impressed by the praising to the extent to which she tried it. "In class yesterday," she reported, "my students did so well that I ended by saying: "I am so proud of you!" My students looked so shocked. And then they smiled. We spoke on a bit -- I saying that there is just as much about teaching that we can learn from our Chinese colleagues. The evening had to end. But we vowed to continue the conversation. I expect your kids will be continuing myriad conversations, too.

    Well. time to head to the airport. We'll see you soon. Please remember
    to join us at the homecoming show Saturday at 7:00pm.

For some of you, this is your second time around, and you know all of this. So the following is for those of you who are JE first-timers. Just one more thing to consider . . .

We talked earlier about these students being ambassadors for Vermont and for the U.S. Everything they said and did was a big deal, everyone they met was anxious to see them, talk to them, be with them. Banquets, guests of honor, celebrations, gifts, etc. They were the story. Everything, every day, was about them. They have been treated like “celebrities” for a month, a lifetime.

Now, they return to Vermont where they are what they were a month ago, themselves. No big deal. This will be a challenging adjustment for them and for you. They will expect, and deserve to a certain extent, for people here to pay attention to them like they have been in China. Most people don’t even know they have been on this journey, let alone what they have experienced. They are just another “Vermonter.”

For several days after their return home, we will give them that deserved recognition. Their fellow students and teachers will also give them praise and attention for what they have done. They will certainly see life in a different light, questioning and comparing everything they used to take for granted. They are coming home with a wealth of knowledge and understanding and they need to share it, to test it, to use it.

In time, these young people will work their way back from this exhilarating experience to being themselves again. They will never be the same, that’s for sure.

Over the next couple of weeks, these guys will be able to transition slowly from their celebrity status as they perform and share their journey with students throughout the state of Vermont. Their journey will become a “star” for many young people to look and wish upon. The young people who experience the JE troupe will see that this might be them one day. Maybe. Hopefully.

We mustn’t forget that this journey is the result of the the previous journeys’ successes (2000, 2002, and 2004). Had those efforts not proven worthy and successful, this journey would only be a “what if.”

Well, we’ll close for today. This is a very special day. Thirty days after and here you are. Congratulations everybody. Tonight your family will be whole again. You’ve worked hard for this -- this night belongs to you!

See you tomorrow . . . one more time.





























































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