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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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Good morning everyone!


Nine more days. Yesterday’s page was jam-packed with goodies and we hope to continue the smorgasbord of photos, reports, and updates each day now.

We are going to start our day with some photos taken on the trip out to the Gobi desert yesterday. Here is Tom Describing what you’ll see:

    The photos of smoke, cooling towers, etc. were taken around Baotou, where we crossed the Yellow River at its furthest point north. Water is pretty low right now and won't get high for a couple of months. We did get a pretty good sense of the width of the flood plain up here though. One reason for the low water level is power generation upstream and lots of water is also being taken off for irrigation before it gets here. The Yellow River was barely a trickle near Jinan because of the drought. They really need water up here.

So let’s take a look at the photos:

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Smoke on the Water

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Each journey, Tom manages to find interesting signs posted throughout China. There is usually one each journey where an English word is misspelled in translation. or one that leaves you wondering about the meaning of the sing. How about this one?

sign 1

As we keep close the civilization, let’s read Ann’s report of her experience in the Beijing airport during their travel to Hohhot:

ann icon1Ann Chase

Five hour layovers actually aren’t as bad as they sound; better than 15 hour flights, anyway. I prefer to sit in the airport, where I am free to walk around and move, not stare in the sky, cramped for space. Many beautiful things happen in airports. Jackie lost and then found 100 yuan (the equivalent of about $15 American); Caitlin and I figured out how to make the “Thriller” dance longer and I talked for a long time with a woman named Jenny.

Jenny, a 23 year old woman with medium-length red hair and blue eyes had just been on vacation in North Korea. She was born in Kansas but grew up in Portugal and Cambodia. She speaks English and Portuguese fluently, knows lots of Khmei (Cambodian) and Spanish, not to mention that she is trying to learn French, Italian and German. Because she was a person outside of Journey East who actually spoke English, we started to talk. After all, we both had the time.

We talked about many, many things, beginning with the situation in North Korea. She explained that things were very bad. There is famine everywhere and people are pulling up roots and grass for meals. North Korea wants to be self-sustaining so they won’t accept aid from any of their non-communist neighbors. The situation with the food, she explained, goes like this; farmers grow a certain amount of food that goes to the government and if they don’t reach their quota for the season, the farmer’s portion is cut, not the government’s. The result is that North Koreas is starving the cow but still expecting to receive milk.

Jenny runs a school in Sudan and works for an organization that helps traumatized children in southern Sudan.; children soldiers, children being trafficked by “spiritual leaders;” children who have been kicked out of their homes; children who had been raped or abused and on and on. Southern Sudan has been oppressed by Northern Sudan for years and this year is the first time in 48 years that Sudan is having a democratic election on whether or not the two should split.

Here’s Tom adding to Ann’s report:

    We were actually hanging out in Terminal 3, which is about as huge and impressive as one could imagine, for about 6 hours before we boarded the fight for Hohhot. As you can see from Ann’s experience, the time was really not wasted.

Now here’s Willow describing her experience with the sands of the Gobi desert . . .

willow iconWillow Coronella, Sophomore, Putney

Our first day in Inner Mongolia was spend in an endless to the eye, sandbox of singing sands call the Gobi Desert. I never knew that there were so many places that you could get sand, and in particular, this powder-fine stuff, which was a nightmare, as was the camel hair. Many of us took about an hour-long camel ride and, in my experience, one of the most tipsy mounts on which to spend an hour. However, on our ride, we passed some crumbling sand sculptures that truly awed me. How do you get sand to harden and stay together when there is little water close by and wouldn’t the wind blow it away? The wind, the wind was an ever-present element in the desert. I, expecting it to blow sand all over, was surprised; only a very thin dusting blew over the surface of the sand, never over the cuffs of my pants. But then I saw my footprints. Sand, which we think of a so small and easy to be moved, nonetheless spills back into a hole we dig. Yet the wind can blow a little at a time to erase any sign of humans away. A simple fact, yet so hard to remember: we really are so small. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make an impact, good or bad. While in the village there is more trash than houses on the ground, trees are being planted to stop desertification. Either way, small beings can make a difference, whether it be a small footprint or holding back an ocean of sand.

In many ways, the kids might feel like sand sculptures blowing in the wind, but they will have an everlasting impact on every one of the Chinese people they encounter. And vice-versa . . .

Now, here is a “heads up” of what the group will be doing over the next few days in Hohhot:

    Today: The group will visit Xing'an Road Primary School in the morning and then give a performance and have an exchange at the Inner Mongolia Kindergarten of Xingcheng District. A favorite, to be sure.

    Tuesday: They visit Dazhao Lamasery and the No.1 Middle School of Hohhot.

    Wednesday they visit Mengniu Dairy and the Zhaojun Cashmere Factory. 

Here’s Tom to comment on some of the people and the itinerary:

    Some varied and interesting experiences. Lu Shuping, Xing Changjiang and a young man named Li Yumin stopped by our room [upon our arrival] to say hi and to talk with Jenny and Ron about the musical collaboration. Xing Changjiang stayed with the Crowthers when he was in Vermont and he says hi to everyone. His wife, Lu Shuping, was in Vermont, as well. She's great and we have known one another for years. The young man with them is well-known to Mike Roberts, who was the music director for Journey East 2008. He is a throat singer, although Han Chinese. I recognized him immediately from our last visit here. Our kids will enjoy working with him.

The kids will now get to spend a decent amount of time with Chinese students, teachers, mentors, and performers. The stay in Hohhot is the icing on the journey cake.

As we wait for more photos and update, let’s take this time to talk about Inner Mongolia.

Remember the quiz I told you about at the beginning of this journey? (oh, you forgot, did you? or maybe you were hoping I would forget? Yeah, well that’s not going to happen!), Well the following will not only make you smarter about Inner Mongolia, but it might help you get a passing grade on the test!

There are 56 ethic nationalities in China. Inner Mongolia claims to have 36. Here are percentages of the top five in Inner Mongolia:

  • Han - 79%
  • Mongol - 17%
  • Manchu - 2%
  • Hui - 0.9%
  • Daur - 0.3%

As you all are 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 the previous groups did in 02, 04, 05, 07, and 08, have 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. This is no light responsibility.

From what we’ve seen and read so far, on this Journey East 2010, I think these guys are making us quite proud!

We should be getting more photos soon, so be sure to take a U-turn at some point today and come back.

And so, we leave you with a question for the day:



Have a great:
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Program Director: Tom Connor
webmaster/narrator: John Reinhardt