It’s great to see them all together like this, isn’t it? Yeah . . .
Today marks ONE WEEK into the trip. To all you parents out there, congratulations on surviving this first week. The anxiety and adrenaline of seeing the first photos of your kids and hearing that everything is going as planned has carried you through this first week. Now we sit back for a few days in Qufu and enjoy the show. One thing for sure, there are no real slow days with this journey!
We’ve got a lot of photos today, a student report, and an update from Ann, so let’s get started. Yesterday the group rehearsed their show, visited the Confucius residence, and they had a formal “Welcome to China” banquet last night. As we mentioned yesterday, this banquet is the first (of many) opportunities for the kids to see how big of a deal all of this is. Speeches were made, gifts were exchanged, and the realization that the group’s presence is more than just that of visitors. Our group has been expected and plans have been in the works for many months getting ready for their arrival.
One thing for sure, these kids are getting plenty to eat! Oh, the stories you’ll hear about the food!
Okay, so let’s here what Lili has to say about the journey so far . . .
Lili Bischof, Senior
April 3, 2005
"I can't believe I'm in China!" Those were my first words once I stepped off the plane in Beijing. As the group and I made our way out of the airport and after the baggage was claimed, we breathed our first breaths of Chinese air. Trust me, after a 14-hour-plane ride, fresh air is exactly what we all needed. In the warm (75 F) air, I sighed with relief and satisfaction. Being in China for the first time was indescribable, so unfamiliar.
Now it's been four days since and I feel I've been here for weeks; I feel so at home with everything. I can't yet explain the beauty, scale and importance of the sites we've seen so far -- from the Temple of Heaven to Tianemen Square and the Forbidden City; from the Great Wall to Confucius' mansion. I've learned so much about these places; now seeing them for the first time is exhilarating.
I'm very taken with the children here. They're all so beautiful and innocent-looking. I've already shot at least two rolls of film just of little kids! Parents always want me or others to take pictures of their kids. It's so cute. My brain is flooded with thoughts and emotions right now: I look forward to sharing my adventures and all I've learned when I get back.
Part of the day was spent touring Qufu. Here are photos of some of the sights (and some of the kids Lili mentions) the group encountered (and I see a couple of rehearsal photos in the mix):
This is great, huh? Don’t you just love those photos of the children in the backs of the bicycles? Aaah . . .
And now here is Ann’s update on things:
It's 7:30 Monday morning and the campus is wide awake. In fact, in the yard adjacent to our residence hall, hundreds of teenage students have gathered to start the week with the raising of the flag and various exercises. On a run earlier, I caught tai chi and dance in progress around the perimeter of the track as a couple folks here and there were moving and shaking to get their chi in gear and others still were working out at brightly colored fitness gear in a sand lot next to the track. I made note to pass that along to students who were considering a focus on Chinese medicine, health and/or fitness for a final exhibition.
Our time in Beijing is so important, but here in Qufu, we have an opportunity to immerse, to ask questions, to interact, to learn more organically. Our students will have instruction in brush painting and calligraphy, they'll visit several important sites the speak miles of background in Confucianism, they'll interact with kids a t a few different schools, and they'll perform for high school and college students. They'll have classes with me and Tom, too, but these might seem a little lackluster in comparison to the hands-on learning. Ten days ago they were discussing Confucianist philosophy with Tom in a little classroom in Townshend, Vermont; yesterday, they were at Confucius' mansion; ten days ago they were reading excerpts from the Book of Songs as part of a poetry unit in my Asian lit class; and here they see the culture from which that poetry sprang. In fact, Adam negotiated the purchase of the two volume Book of Songs at a book stall yesterday. He's doing his exhibition on poetry and wanted access to original text with translation. Pretty cool.
Of course, not all learning can be like this, but when one tastes it once, one seeks it again and in so doing we live the world.
Best to all, ACL
It is important to note here, because Ann brings up the point, that these kids are not tourists, but students touring China. They continue to have classes each day, studying as if they were back here at L&G. One major difference, of course, is that they are actually in the environment of which they study. And so, in perspective, these students are studying, learning, traveling, performing, engaging the Chinese people and culture, and being challenged continuously to adapt to a strange new world -- twenty-fours a day!
Today (Monday), the group will visit the Affiliated (attached) Middle School of Qufu Teachers University. They’ll then have a big rehearsal in the afternoon in preparation for their first (joint) performance in the evening.
Qufu offers the students an opportunity to get out and about to see the area and a chance to interact with Chinese students. I know Ray and Corey will be dominating the ping pong games (make us proud guys!)! The group will get a chance to do some shopping during their stay here.
Maybe now is a good time to discuss the Chinese money. The common Chinese currency is called “yuan.” It is pronounced “ye-wan.” One American dollar is equivalent to . . . 8.27670 (CNY) Chinese yuan. Now, this rate changes, just like any other international currency, and you can keep track of the exchange rate by using this nifty site: xe.com “The Universal Currency Converter.”
To find out more about ALL the Chine currency, how to pronounce everything, and even learn how to count in using your fingers - Chinese style, go to China Talk: Chinese Money and Counting. If you click “next” at the bottom of the page, there is a China map that can be printed and colored.
Okay, so that’s all for now. One week done everybody. See you tomorrow!
Oh, and one more thing, (it’s always one more thing, isn’t it?) we are now exactly 12 hours behind China . . .