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JE 2008

China time and date:


May I Have This Dance?

Good morning everyone!

group 4-15

What do triple Whopper, the Empire State Building, King Kong and this page have in common? That’s right, they’re all huge! And I’m not talking huge, I’m talking HUGE! We’ve got a report from Graham Brooks, a ton of photos (I think this is a record day for pictures!), and insight from Tom. AND . . . we have sound files coming soon! Do want fries with this?

The JE gang begins their stay in Hohhot with a flurry of activities. I’m telling you, folks, these next 9 days (did I say 9 more days? Where has the time gone?) are going to buzz by with everything on the Hohhot itinerary. And, of course, my personal favorite: the Gobi desert is coming down the road!

Okay, so let’s get started with this huge day. Here’s what was in store for the group: a visit to the Dazhao Lamasery and the Five Pagoda Temple. lunch at Badawan Restaurant. a rehearsal with dance, and time spent working with the vocal and instrumental teachers. Cool.

Let’s start of with the visit to the Dazhao Lamasery and the Five Pagoda Temple. Located at the Dazhao Qianjie in Yuquan District, Hohhot, the Lamasery was built in 1579 A.D. It is the oldest and the most influential of all the 15 lamaseries in Hohhot.

The Five Pagoda Temple was built in 1727-1732. It’s special structure makes it a treasure of Hohhot City.

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Dazhao lamasery and
Five Pagoda Temple

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After the morning’s history lesson, the students had a full day of rehearsals and music and instrument lessons. Here’s Tom:

    The Mongolian Rock piece that Mike and Saquirila are working on with Graham, August, Melissa, Bo and Tyler will bring the house down at our final performance here. [Tom]

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Let’s check in with Mike as he introduces a new sound file for us. Mike?

    Ikh Mongol is a tune that I have been digging for a couple months now and is by the Ulaan Baatar folk rock band Altan Urag. When we arrived in Hohhot on Sunday, Sachirlaa (one of the Arts High School Horse Head Fiddle Teachers) told me he was planning on having our students play it as a collaboration with his students. This is a recording of our first rehearsal (believe it or not) from yesterday afternoon! It was hectic and crazy - Sachirlaa, Lu Xu Ping and myself were rehearsing the group, arranging parts and translating things on the fly. It was one of the most exciting rehearsals I have ever been in, I think. Hopefully we can get a better recording of the piece when it is more polished, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to tune in on the learning process for some of our musicians. Graham is on electric guitar, August is on bass, Tyler and Bo are on the drums, Melissa is playing clarinet, and there are two fiddlers from the college, a yonching (hammered dulcimer player) and a throat singer. And of course, you can hear the three teachers (though I'm in disguise as a Mongol speaker here) trying to bring some order to the whole thing. [Mike]

While these guys were working on their rock piece, others were working on their dance collaboration. Tom has more:

    Meg and a good number of our students worked for over 2 hours with Huhe, the dance teacher who was with the delegation last October. They made great progress and I have tried to capture some of that. The teamwork between Meg and Huhe is beautiful to watch. They are so in sync that a translator is present but not so necessary. She has picked up the dance in a flash and is able to communicate it to our kids very quickly The vocal collaboration will be excellent. many of the students know the song, which Mr. Xing Changjiang composed and taught to our kids in October. Country roads will be a breeze for the Arts College students.

    Amanda and Lauren had fiddle lessons with Chuck and Baisarina. Melissa and Cassidy had flute lessons. Lena went to an art class and divided her time afterward to the dance rehearsal and the instrumental collaboration. Maggie and Gregg went to a vocal music class, which ended up being canceled but they spent time with the vocal music students. Kurt, Carol and Vera spent the afternoon with Sun Xiaoyan and visited two of her classes. [Tom]

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Practice, Practice, Practice

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This is great stuff. This group has been traveling for three weeks seeing and experiencing China. As we have mentioned, the time has been spent preparing them for this final stay in Hohhot. They are comfortable now “living” in China and they can now focus on their collaborative work with their Mongolian friends. This is when the real “umph” of this journey happens.

Here’s Graham Brooks giving us his impression of the day’s activities. Take it away, Graham!

Graham Brooks, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia 4/14/08

While in China, I’ve seen Taoist temples and mighty rivers split in two. We’ve been to the ultra-modern cities of Shanghai and Chongqing and to poor villages and towns. Although there is such a vast contrast between the two economic extremes in this country, it seems as though there is a constant rhythm to life in this society

Upon entering Inner Mongolia this rhythm seems to syncopate into something totally different. In the college, the sense of community is strong and its seems as though the teachers, students and alumni are all members of their own close community.

After eating a filling breakfast at the hotel this morning, we set out for the lamasery. It was a thrilling experience to be at this place with a history of 500 years. The main building was dimly lit. Prayer flags adorned the towering ceilings as incense wafted through the hall. As the tour guide informed us about the history of each object, the echoes of a monk chanting in an unearthly monotone reached my ears and I couldn’t help feeling that we were intruding upon these people. 

We visited the Five Pagoda Temple, the majority of the complex was newly built, except for the stone temple at the back of the complex, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

That afternoon, we went to the Arts College to collaborate with the students. Some of our students went to work on dance or take private lessons. I was part of an ensemble with a Chinese dulcimer (the Yang Qin) two horsehead fiddles, myself on guitar and August on bass and Melissa on clarinet. Bo and Tyler were on drums and one exceptionally talented throat singer who demonstrated his hoomei style singing throughout the piece. Within a couple of minutes the piece sounded very cool. I always like the new styles like merging hard rock and Mongolian styles together. I enjoyed the experience and hope to have more like it.

That evening was the Welcome Banquet. I did not expect any of the events that occurred. After spirited toasts we feasted for a great 45 minutes until a group of horsehead fiddle players gave a short performance fully clothed in their Mongolian garb. We were all presented with scarves in the traditional Mongolian welcome ceremony after Tom was honored with the task of making the first cuts into the back of a sheep. At the end of the night we watched fireworks exploding in the street opposite from our dining room. We all felt very happy to be there with our Chinese friends. 

We teach them. they teach us. We learn their style, they learn ours. In the days ahead, these two groups will go from a group of American visitors and a group of Mongolian students, to one united group of young people working together as one. Brings chills thinking about the connections taking place. The week will begin as a blank canvas to a masterpiece by journey’s end.

Next is the Opening Banquet, always a fun and very special time. More from Tom:

    The scenes from the Banquet speak for themselves; an awesome display of long tone singing, hoomei (throat singing) horsehead fiddles and dance. [Tom]

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    The clear highlight of the evening for our Chinese/Mongolian friends and for our students and teachers was the dance of Huhe and Meg Van Dyck. Huhe is one very animated guy. He invited Meg to come out to the middle of the dance floor for what she and others thought might be a brief, polite dance involving two dance teachers. Ha! What followed, to cheers and whistles from the entire group, including the Mongolians who were there to entertain us, was an incredible, five minute, totally improvised dance between two people who looked as though they had known one another and been dancing together for years. According to Kurt, the Arts College teachers, many sitting at one table, were buzzing about it for a long time after the dance was over. I heard one of the leaders tell Meg that she should come to work at the Arts College. One never knows. A great evening. [Tom]

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Dancing with Stars!

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Now this is the real “Dancing with the Stars!” Man! Can you imagine being in that room? I can hear the music and the cheering, can’t you? 

Before we close, here is your “Inner Mongolia” lesson for the day. (Hey, why should the kids be the only ones having to study?) You are studying as we go, aren’t you? Quiz time approaches.

With an area of 1.18 million square kilometers, Inner Mongolia covers 12 percent of China's territory and is the third biggest of the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the Chinese mainland.

There are 56 ethic nationalities in China. Inner Mongolia claims to have 49. Here are percentages of the top five in China:

    Han - 92%
    Zhuang - 1.3%
    Manchu - .8%
    Hui - 0.8%
    Miao - 0.7%

Okay, as you get anxious for the return of your kids and spouses, their is great comfort knowing that they are totally immersed in their stay in Hohhot. They are among family and friends there and every hour is devoted to learning, experiencing, sharing, engaging, giving, and living out this adventure.

This group, as did the previous groups in ‘00, ‘02, ‘04, ‘05, and ‘07, has chosen to carry a very large and proud tradition of representing their families, communities, school, state, and country. What they do and how they act is the impression many Chinese and Mongolians will take as being representative of ALL Americans. We are all very proud of what they are doing.

In a previous journey, to help parents pass the time quickly, I shared a nifty little trick my dad taught me as a method of making time pass quickly. I think it it time to share it with you now. It is called the “time warp.” By focusing all of your thoughts on a time and place beyond that which you’d like to go, you’ll reach your desired destination almost immediately. Yeah, I know, 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 absolutely incredible! They have been going at this for three weeks now. Remember how the first week took forever to pass?

Okay, so you’re thinking this time warp stuff is a bunch of baloney? To prove the time warp works, let’s choose April 25th as our desired destination. This is the day after the JE 2008 gang returns home. The day parents are really looking forward to. In order to make that day come faster than normal, I want you to focus on a time beyond April 27th. For instance, let’s focus on Mother’s Day (psst, hey guys, it’s May 11th). Now, focus real hard. Close your eyes and focus . . . focus . . . f o c u s . . .


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