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Journey East web site




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.

We wish to thank Holden Waterman, Director of the Asian Studies Outreach Program University of Vermont, and Dr. Juefei Wang, (former Director of the ASOP).

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

Leland & Gray
Journey East 2010

Tom Connor
Program Director

Jenny Connor
Ron Kelley


Mary Martin
Diane Newton
Bahman Mahdavi


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Where Are They Now?




What Kind of Fool Am I?

Greetings everyone.

What better way to celebrate the first day of April than with lots of photos? Sounds good, but we don’t have any photos today -- April Fools!! (Sorry, that was bad).

Before we hit the road, does anyone need a beard trimming? Next, pleaset!


“I said, just a LITTLE off the top!”

But first (yeah, yeah, it’s always a “but first” . . .), we need to take a step back in time. For those of you who feel the days are going by slowly as you miss your child, we have a report about the Great Wall we need to share with you. The Great Wall? That was a long time ago. See? Time really is flying by!

The group visited the Great Wall last Friday (March 26) and Vaughn Willis has a fantastic report that will not only take you back in time, it will get your day started off with some smiles and reflections . . .

Vaughn iconVaughn Willis, Senior, Jamaica

I first woke up at 2 this morning, looked around the room with sleepy eyes and said to myself “Where the heck am I?” Then, it finally struck me: I AM IN CHINA!! I stared at the ceiling letting that fact sink in and engrave itself into my mind. I went over some warnings in my mind of “not to drink the water;” “stay with the group!’ “don’t talk to strangers, and so on.” I finally closed my eyes and passed out again on the rock-hard bed. I awoke again at 6:07 A.M. and thought “Oh God, it is 6:07 P.M. in Vermont. I stood up as quietly as I could to avoid waking up Julia, my roommate and snuck into the shower. As I was showering, I almost opened my mouth and drank some of the water, which would have been a no-no. I quickly got out and dried off, finally fully awake. I checked my drying clothes that I had washed last night and was happy to see that they were mostly dry. I put on some clothes and Julia got up.

Jessica came over to borrow our shower because her bathroom was not in great shape. I went to breakfast as Jessica was showering, forgetting first my room key and then my breakfast card. When I finally got downstairs and went into the breakfast room, I saw that I was the first student of our group to get there. I proceeded to pile my plate high with chicken and beef sausage, fried potatoes, pancakes and all sorts of fruits and vegetables. I had three cups of tea and two bowls of a delicious soup. After literally stuffing myself full of food, I went upstairs to pack my backpack and prepare myself for our trip to the Great Wall. I went downstairs and started I-M ing people. I was amazed that I was talking to people on facebook but it was nice to be able to talk to anyone. It made my heart soar to know that there were people who missed me and couldn’t wait until I got back.

Then, of course, today was my day to write in my journal, which I had conveniently left in my room. I dashed over to the elevator and rode up with five Chinese people and then I blasted to my room, grabbed my journal and made my way quickly back downstairs to Jenny. We all loaded ourselves into a bus, which, amazingly, is the same bus that the U.S. Olympic Basketball team had used in the 2008 Olympics (with the same driver who drove the team, TC) So, now I am on a bus on a crowded roadway, heading for the Great Wall, writing this first part of my journal hoping that the Great Wall is as cool as I am hoping it to be.

The bus ride was interrupted by a quick stop to order lunch for the way back. We then went on with our travels through the busy main streets of China into a rural area right before the Wall. Poor puppies with gross, matted fur, tied ruthlessly to domes lying down on the ground. Hooray! We arrived at our destination at the bottom of a mountain and began walking through dozens of shops after a bathroom stop. We were waiting in line to head up the mountain on cable cars and many of us were being harassed by vendors. Mr. Kelley was one of those being harassed. The woman harassing him asked his name and Mr. Kelley replied ‘ Umm, George.” Not his real name, obviously. Once we escaped the pestering vendors, we rode cable cars to the top of the mountain. I went with Anna, Willow, Maddie and Diane. We exited and went to meet with the other students. I was breathless in both ways. When I saw the Great Wall, it seemed endless, it was just amazing. It had a mysterious air to it. It had surpassed my expectations. I was in awe. We all began making our way towards a summit. I took 35 minutes to go through to steep ups and subtle downs. I was exhausted by the time I reached to top, with shaking legs. The summit was well worth it, though. The view, which went on forever, left me speechless. I was the first to head down from the summit and I continued to where Jenny and Mr. Connor were. We were all together after a while and headed down the more than 1,000 steps to our destination. I was attacked by vendors as soon as I stepped away from the exit of the cable car. They were quite persistent and would block your way. I bargained myself through a couple of deals. I bought my brother a present that was originally 480 RMB. Then I was grabbed a few times and pushed through. I was conned into a shirt stand and escaped with a cool shirt but then I spied Brandy in the same predicament. I walked over and grabbed her arm and told the stand owner, “Bu Yao’ – don’t want and “Zai jian” (goodbye) as I dragged Brandy away. That wasn’t the worst, though A man conned us into almost spending 40 Kuai but Jenny saved us and we got onto the bus after finding a missing student. We then had lunch, which was amazing and delicious. I love the lazy susans that they serve food on. I used a Chinese toilet (as opposed to a western-style toilet) for the first time. I am not a fan.

 We had lunch on the way back and then stopped at the area where the 2008 Summer Olympics were held. I felt too tired to move so I stayed in the bus and wrote much of my journal entry. So, I took a well-deserved nap after we returned. We set off for dinner at about 6:30 where I ate a small spicy pepper and made 10 kuai (RMB) off Will Bass,.

Diane had her birthday today and we had some marvelous birthday cake. So, we’re back at the hotel and, in a few hours, head off for Chongqing. I can’t wait.

Pretty cool! Vaughn touched on the Chinese money for the first time. Chinese money is called Renminbi (RMB), which means "The People's Currency." The popular unit of RMB is ”yuan" (also known and kuai). The current exchange rate is one yuan equal to about 15 cents (about 6.8 yuan per one dollar).

Now let’s hear from Phoebe Gunther-Mohr as she reflects on the joy of simple being able to be ”one” with her new environment, taking it all in, and relishing every moment. Phoebe:

Phoebe iconPhoebe Gunther-Mohr, Newfane

Round, wrinkled, old women’s faces stare, they stop hoeing the rich ground as our shiny bus hurtles through their small village, stopping their lives for a moment to look into ours. Both tainted perceptions by what little we know of one another. I look upon their lives in a probably misinformed idealistic way. Living on and from the fertile lush green fields, working to stay alive, and all they need is the land. The life style I see when I look at the villagers appeals to me: depending on the land rather then electronics that I so often find myself depending on. I imagine they think of our lives in the same idealistic light. However, in reality we don’t know much about one another.

tn_Hushi Primary School and ride to Leshan 135We got up early this morning packed up our bags and set off from Luzhou to the first primary school visit of our trip, around a half an hour ride. Looking out our windows, mountains and fields appeared, everything the color of newly born spring, the dark brown lines in between rows of plants formed beautiful patterns across the land. The layers of the land: the mountains, trees, terraces and rows of green and brown, they are so foreign to us I wanted so badly to experience them out side of our bus, to feel and see the land to the fullest. The fields were soon replaced by small, poor looking cities, vibrant colors painted on the buildings and families consisting of 3 generations, puttering about the dirty streets. The further we drove the narrower the streets became and the more stares we received, some friendly some kind of questioning. Turning a corner we drove down a lane tunneled by giant trees leaves to the entrance of the primary school. Spilling out of the bus with fits of chatter and giggles we found formally dressed teachers gathered around awaiting our arrival. A Chinese woman gave a long speech introducing the school and its values. Another woman briefly translated the woman’s long speech, and told us that it was a school that was based around Confucianism. After the introduction of the school we walked into the front gate of the school where we found thousands of kids all in ridiculously straight lines facing away from us. When I saw this mass of perfectly orderly children all in matching neat uniforms I looked around our group with a different perspective: a bunch of untidy teenagers, walking around with our bad postures and messy clothing, the difference between us was very clear in that moment.

tn_Hushi Primary School and ride to Leshan 016They then started to do their morning exercises, all in perfect unison, we were told to join, we clumsily joined in laughing, a little bit embarrassed, we followed the small child’s movement in front of us always 5 or 10 seconds behind. I cannot imagine the discipline required to memorize all of those little exercises especially at such a young distractible age. Imagining my elementary school trying to do them was funny. It made a strong opening impression on all of us. We then exchanged performances and got to “meet” some of the kids. Once the teachers told them that they were able to talk with the American kids, they changed drastically. One moment they were in straight lines completely silent, operating completely as one entity and the next they were running around trampling us grabbing for our small gifts. For around 10 minutes I was completely surrounded by 100s of Chinese children all grabbing at my bag of candy. We visited some of the classrooms and then went on a walk through the fields and terraces.

Ever since we arrived in Sichuan province all I have wanted to do is walk and be immersed in the cities and countryside’s instead of passing them by in a bus. I want to learn more about what is around me, I want to learn more then just what I see. We walked out of the small village onto a small road twisting around the fields and terraces. The walk was one of my favorite times in china so far. The road was beautiful, surrounded by flowering trees and valleys of steamy green. I don’t feel like writing about it will even begin to express what it was or how it felt, but I loved being there surrounded by the trees, red blossoms and rich soil. It made me want to take off my shoes and go garden with them. We walked to lunch and then got back on the bus for a 4 hour ride to Leshan.

Every day there are new things to smell, taste and see, my mind is always busy taking in everything around me, I find that I don’t think about anything besides what is happening in each moment. I always strive for this type of mindset but I have never really experienced it until I came here, it makes me feel so clear and happy.

Beautiful. Let’s take a look at some of the scenery Phoebe describes above. Tom says:

    We walked about two and a half miles to a restaurant along a river and through the countryside after we left the school. Some of these photos will give you a good sense of the land and people.

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Amazing . . .

And now for the moment you have all been waiting for, the pictures of your kids! Here is Tom:

    {Here we are at the] Hushi Primary School, which, as you can see, was a scene!

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As it was in the previous five journeys, these Journey East 2010 kids are being presented with life-changing experiences every day. On several occasions before the trip, Tom told this group they would see and experience things that would make them look at themselves, and others, in an entirely different light.

At one point before they left for China, the students of Leland & Gray Union High school took a good look at these Journey East kids sitting next to them. The person they saw will not be the same kids returning in three weeks time!

It is moments like these, expressed by Vaughn and Phoebe (above) and all of the other students, that go to the root of what this trip to China is all about. This program is not about sending a couple dozen students to China to be tourists visiting the Great Wall and stone carvings. This is about sending young adults that, as a result of this program, become ambassadors that will serve our family, friends, community, country, and world.

tn_Hushi Primary School and ride to Leshan 172The return on the investment in one semester and a thirty-day trip to China is immeasurable as these students will positively impact the lives of thousands of people, both in China and the United States. For the rest of their lives, they will share the values and first-hand experiences of the Chinese and Mongolian people.

This is one incredible journey.

Care for a snack?

Okay, everybody, this should hold you over until we get more news and photos from China. On this first of April, I leave you with this . . .

According to Wikipedia ('_Day):

    April Fools' Day or All Fools' Day is an illegal holiday celebrated in various countries on April 1. The day is marked by the commission of hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbors, or sending them on a fool's errand, the aim of which is to embarrass the gullible. Traditionally, in some countries, such as the UK, Australia, and South Africa the jokes only last until noon, and someone who plays a trick after noon is called an "April Fool." Elsewhere, such as in France, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S., the jokes last all day. The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392). Many writers suggest that the restoration of January 1 as New Year's Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.


“Be Somebody... or Be Somebody’s Fool.”
(Mr. T, 1984, motivational video)













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Program Director: Tom Connor
webmaster/narrator: John Reinhardt