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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?




This Is It . . .

Make no mistake when I say, this is it!

You made it! Congratulations, everybody! Today is the biggest day of the journey -- your kids and spouses come home!! That’s right, they are on their way.

The group took off from Beijing at 3:45 am (our time - pm their time) on Continental Flight 0088. They should arrive in Newark (NJ) at 5:15pm (our time). They then board Continental Flight 8670 to Hartford, arriving at 10:19 pm (our time)! This is exciting!

Well, in addition to the excitement and anticipation of the group’s arrival “back home,” we have lots of photos and a couple of student reports to wrap up the last day in China. And I mean there is A LOT to consume today, so get ready, here we go!

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Let’s start off with a report from Jackson. His goes back a couple of days and will bring us up to date:

jackson iconJackson Batchelder, Msrlboro

There’s nothing like starting off your day with a tasty and filling breakfast to get you going. With a busy day ahead of us, this is exactly the kind of thing we were all wishing for. But as we all know, wishes don’t always come true.

When we were auditioning for Journey East, Tom Jenny, and Ron mentioned the word FLEXIBLE a lot. I know Tom, Jenny, and Ron joke around a lot, but this time they weren’t kidding one bit. Having a piece of bread, egg that has the texture and taste of rubber was exactly why they were so serious.

We all knew how tired we would be at the end of the day. With almost half of the class still somewhat sick, dancing first thing in the morning for 20 of us, a visit to the Inner Mongolia Provincial Museum, our performance and a collaboration performance on top of it, all I can say is that’s the “China Life”

Even though I’m not a morning person at all, and I’ve found out since I’ve been here that many of us aren’t, I was still excited to wake up and go to the Arts College for 2 reasons. 1: The dance that 20 of us started learning yesterday is really fun, and 2: I got to see and work with Hudele, one of the dancers who stayed at my house in the Fall. But trust me, it wasn’t just me who was excited to see Hudele, about 18 American girls from Vermont were extremely excited, much more than me.

Museum plus dress and final perf 284 copyWhen we got into the College auditorium ready to dance at 8:30, we had to wait around some, but pretty much got right to business right when Hudele walked in the door. Since we had learned most of the dance yesterday, we picked up from where we left off. The amazing thing about the dance was that Hudele made it all up on the spot over the course of two days. Plus you’ve got to hand it to him for making it happen with us, mainly kids who haven’t danced much. Since only 20 of us were dancing, the 7 musicians sat around and watched for the most part. After learning the rest of the dance and practicing many, many times, we packed up to head out for the Inner Mongolia Provincial Museum. But before we could rip them away, many of the girls ran to ask Hudele if he had a girlfriend or if he wanted to go stay with them at their house in Vermont, and finally for a picture. Lets just say they all had to bunch in pretty close and I had to back up a little to fit them all into the picture. Finally, we got out of there.

As we neared, Tom pointed it out, but I thought it must have been NASA because it was so big. Our first stop inside was the bathroom, and honestly that’s our first stop everywhere we go. With 33 people, someone always has to go. Next stop was to see dinosaurs and fossils from Inner Mongolia. Some of it was a little boring, but there were some facts that we learned that were really cool. For example: 80% of the bones and fossils from one dinosaur were real.

One species of dinosaur had traces of living on one continent and it’s offspring on another. But the dinosaur couldn’t fly or swim. How did it get there?

Dinosaurs have the ability to grow teeth when necessary, in fact, they can grow up to 2,000 teeth in 1 lifetime.

The thing I found the most interesting was that the museum had bones and fossils from 200million years ago.

These facts were really cool, but often times not just at museums, too many facts at once can be extremely overwhelming.

The second section we went to was about Inner Mongolian culture. There were some interesting artifacts that they showcased. There were also facts just about Inner Mongolia along with the culture. For example, Inner Mongolia stretches 2000 kilometers from east to west. The population is around 28 million. Inner Mongolians are known as the people living on horseback. Early Mongolians believed in Animism and Tibetan Buddhism. Mongolian Yurts can be set up in 30 minutes with the door facing south so they get the most sun because they worship the sun. These same yurts can be taken apart in 10 minutes so moving is very easy to do. All of these things that I just listed above were all things that I learned in this section and didn’t know before I came.

The third section and final stop was about Liberation, from 1912-1949. There was a lot of information that we got out of these long paragraphs explaining what went on through out that time period. But otherwise everything else was written in Mongolian so we had no clue what anything said. But not knowing what the photograph was really about because of a description, really let us connect what we have already learned so we could use our knowledge to figure out some of it and not just be told everything and not have to think.

By this time, we were all losing our focus anyways because we were all so hungry. We couldn’t wait to go to lunch. Lunch was at the Jiangnanzhijia restaurant (and no, I don’t expect you to know how to pronounce that right). The food was really good; at least I thought it was. The thing that’s good about the food here in Inner Mongolia is that it’s just so simple. You never stick some weird meat in your mouth and then find out it was pig ear. This lunch was simple which made it really good.

After lunch we ran back to the hotel before we had our sound check/dress rehearsal. We had about 10 minutes to do what was necessary before we needed to go back to the Arts College. We all met in the lobby, did a quick pod check and headed out. Our rehearsal was good, we smoothed out the rough spots in our collaboration dance, but we still wouldn’t look good. We went through it all, talked about issues in our show, got to know the stage and backstage, and got our show bags put together so they were ready to go. Also because we didn’t want Jenny to tear our hearts out if we didn’t.

Rehearsal was really helpful, but dinner was extremely necessary at this point. We had been dancing since 8:30 in the morning. We were hungry by the time we got to the bus from a meal. We ate at the Haowangjiao restaurant. The food was good; there was a wide variety of what was on the table. But we didn’t have much time to eat anyways, because we had to go to the hotel and grab a few things before we went to put on our last performance in China.

I think we were all excited to perform, but like usual, worrying about how bad it would be. But it actually went really well. We couldn’t do the full show because it was too long, but we had 40 minutes to perform. Some of the transitions were really tight, but we worked through it, here comes that word… FLEXIBLE… again. It’s amazing how often that word pops into my head now because I think of all the times when we’ve had to be flexible. It is basically a run-through of our whole trip. After our show was over, we sat in the crowd and watched a dance, but then had to get ready for our collaboration performances. The song that we all sang together, the musical piece that our seven musicians play in, and a chopstick dance with the other 20 of us. The song wasn’t too hard up until we had to sing in Mongolian and were expected to pronounce and remember what to sing. I’m pretty sure we all acted like we knew every word, but really had no clue what was going on. The musical piece, on the other hand, was really good. Everyone knew what they were doing, or at least really good at making it seem that way. It sounded excellent and the crowd seemed to really enjoy it. Last was the dance, which was alright as long as the real Mongolian dancers were positioned in front of us. I think we did a good job with getting as far as we did with the amount of time we had to put it together.

By the time we got on the bus away from the cameras and stage, it was 10:40, and also the last time Brandy would see her new friend Tao. We at least got to go back to the hotel and have a late-night dumpling and noodle second dinner.

As I said, some things just happen when you’re in China that you can’t control. Even Tom loses control sometimes (it’s really funny to watch because we all know he wants to do it his way but can’t.) We all have to be ready to be tweaked a little. If you could know the most important thing to have in China other than an extraordinary immune system, it would be flexibility.

If you don’t remember the photo shoot with Hudele, check it out.

Now, I wasn’t kidding you when I said we had a lot for you today. This is the longest page of the journey. If you have to get up and go do something, we’ll wait for you. Go ahead. No, go ahead. We’ll wait . . .

Okay, are you ready to continue? Good. Let’s join Will bass talking about the last day’s events at the Temple of Heaven and the highly-anticipated visit to the Pearl Market:

will iconWill Bass, Sophomore, Dover

In terms of this being the end of the Journey East book for our group, I had an odd start in this final chapter of a day. I was awake in bed for an hour before our morning call. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t tired. It was an odd feeling. When I actually got out of bed, I was a bit anxious, but that was only because I was in a rush to get to breakfast. I think it hasn’t hit me yet: that this is actually our last day, that this is the end of the trip. It’s similar to the beginning of the trip, and how it took me time to make the realization that I was in China. Maybe I’m getting too focused on the day, as opposed to this trip as a whole.

We have French students and Governor’s Institute kids around at our hotel. The French students are unable to get back home because of the business in Iceland, and the Governor’s Institute people are just starting their trip. I find two messages in these situations: Endings can be long and hard, whereas for every end of a story, a new one begins. A bit cheesy, but I’m thinking about what I’ll be doing after this trip. If this is the end of Journey East for me, then what story will come along next? I’m thinking about this too much, I think… I just need to do what the Chinese do: Go with the flow. The flow tells me to go to breakfast.

Being in the same hotel is causing major Déjà vu for me. The food’s exactly as I remember it. What would happen if the plane ride home actually took us back to China, and the trip was starting over? I would try not to change a thing. It’s odd breakfast chitchat, so we talk about the French kids’ predicament. No money, no room, no visa, stuck in the hotel. Jeez, even I can’t take this hotel much longer, so I need to get out. Ah, but first, I need to cash the last of my money for the Pearl Market later. What a fantastic hassle that was. People’s signatures weren’t accepted; my 50 dollar bill had a scribble on it and was denied… ugh. Brendan, Mr. Connor’s son, helped us out. It still took a lot of time to get out of that hotel.

I can feel excitement begin to build up as we get out of the hotel. Everyone’s a bit jumpy on the way to the Temple of Heaven. I was getting the sensation that this will be another monument with tourist attractions all around, such as what’s happened in the past. In the United States, I never got the chance to look this place up, so I was sure to take good notes! I can’t say this isn’t exciting, I want to take every breath out of China that I can.

Temple of Heaven and Pearl Market 091 WILLThe Temple of Heaven is a lot better than some tourist attraction. It’s filled with adults, and they aren’t tourists: they’re dancing, singing, listening to music, talking with each other… This place is a social gathering! I think it’s an amazingly pleasant place, far more so than anywhere else we’ve been. I want to hang out here when I get old. There’s green foliage for once, along side the birds, and artistically constructed buildings and walls. Mr. Connor says that this is his favorite place to go to, I can clearly see why.

Further in, we had a pit stop. Somebody finally finds Magnum bars at a store, which Mr. Connor has been raving about since before this trip started. I tried one, they are really amazing, and only 10 kuai, nice! I also found some pretty little ring watches. They are so cute in the dorkiest way possible. I love them. I buy one as a gift for someone. I talked to Nikki Ires, we decided that we’ll shop together at the market later. It works like this for us: Nikki finds the greatest things in the world (proven), and then I bargain them down to 2 kuai, because the Chinese say I’m cute (proven). Together, we can be an awesome spending machine from the Roaring Twenties.

A little bit of history: The temple was built beginning in 1409 during the Ming Dynasty by common workers to pray for a good harvest. If there were repeatedly bad harvests, the people would say the Emperor has lost his mandate to Heaven, and could even be overthrown. There’s symbolism thrown everywhere: 9 stairs representing the Emperor, 4 exterior pillars of a shrine represent the seasons, while 12 interior ones represent the months of the year. I wish I could understand all of this symbolism from a style different then a textbook. We see the Wall of Echoes, Bahman thinks it’s broken. (jokingly) Somebody put a 1000 yuan bill in one of those luck offering boxes. A bit of bait, perhaps? Along the way to another shrine, I dropped my ticket. Julian picked it up, because he’s awesome. I really do need to stop dropping these important things. We visited a last shrine that would make our voices resonate. Everybody and everyone took their picture on it. After that wait, we went to lunch and talked about our final event: The Pearl Market.

It’s exciting. Mr. Connor’s been building up this event forever, and I know exactly what I want. Everybody knows exactly what I want. I want a Chinese instrument, like the horsehead fiddles I’ve seen everyone playing at performances we’ve had. But first… a gift for my mom, of course. 80 kuai doesn’t put a huge dent in my budget. It seems like the first floor doesn’t have any music stores, even though it’s all so massive.

The second floor mostly had the same touristy stuff I didn’t want any other time I’ve seen a kiosk on this trip. Maybe I’ll look around further for some gifts later. I find Mr. Connor negotiating the price of pearls on the third floor with a bunch of students on the third floor. I think this is secretly his favorite part of the place. Nobody’s seen a music store, what a drag. I see some inexpensive items to buy, so might as well get some nice gifts for my uncle and cousin, right? Still not too much spent, only about another 100 kuai, no problem! I do need to get looking, though… But I can’t find anything helpful.

I know! I’ll use my Chinese-speaking skills to ask the people if they know of any musical store. What a fantastic mistake on my part. I get physically trapped in an aisle store by a woman. She insisted that her son run to her home and get her two horsehead fiddles to try and sell to me. Neither of them are good quality though. I felt bad, because I wasted her time, so I at least try to buy some things. Got a few more gifts, but she insists that I look at every item in her store before she lets me go. How unpleasant a person she was to deal with.

I guess I’ll just have to try talking to another vendor. She doesn’t have much unique stuff, but she does have some framed pictures. They look amazing. Julia advises me not to spend over 80 on one particularly astounding original picture, but I can only get her down to 130 from her original price of 650, which Julia predicted spot-on. She and Jessica Young help me get it down to 120, and then we give up, and I buy it. It really is a beautiful painting… But I’m nowhere closer in my quest to find a store that sells musical instruments… And now I’ve lost my journal. Damn it, I’m running out of time, too. This is immensely frustrating. I don’t think I can find any store. Nobody’s seen any store. My journal is gone, and with it my shopping list. I get panicky as I run around the store still trying to find it. Why hasn’t anyone seen one?!

Finally, a glimmer of hope! Ann Chase saw a store that had musical instruments that she said I might like. I dash over there, and I find it! Look at those instruments! Are they lutes? I see the same horsehead fiddles as before, blech. How much do they cost? They’re asking 1200~2000 yuan! That’s not bad! I still have… 400 yuan… left…

Auuugh!!! I can’t bargain this stuff down that low! Damn! I have to leave, what am I supposed to do now? Ok, calm down. What can I do...? I know! Emmet Mahdavi said that his dad had more than enough money for him when I roomed with him a while back. I need to find Bahman! Where is he? Aaah, I’m running out of time! In a panic I asked people where he was, it was a rush. He says to ask someone else? Who? I ask around, and thank goodness, Jesse Newton lends me 400, and Emmet himself lends me 200. That’s enough! I gotta get back!

Relocate the place, relocate it! There he is. I throw every yuan I have at him to buy one of the small ones. He accepts it in good humor of my rather… desperate situation. It’s a beautiful instrument. I have to show Mr. Kelley. Sarah Dickson tells me it’s not a lute. It has three strings, and looks like an antique. The man told me it’s 100 years old, and I can’t think of why he’d lie to me after I’d purchased it.

Phew. That was a close call. I still have 15 yuan left in my pocket that I forgot about. Might as well buy one of those cheesy little flute things that are everywhere. Now I’m perfectly spent, and in debt, even! Truly, the 1920s would be proud of me. I’ll talk to people later about how to tune the instrument, and even play it later. Right now, It’s time to get back to the hotel. Everybody shows their gifts around. At dinner, there were many toasts. It was more funny than excessive. One last thing on the menu: Baskin Robins.

I don’t have any money, so Mr. Connor lends me 30 yuan. Yes! Further in debt! Why am I embracing this? We all have a good time, and just generally all acting weird on our way to and from the store. I got the smallest item on the menu I could see, at 28 yuan. I suppose I’ll save the other 2 for when I get back home.

This is just about the end of the trip, getting back to the hotel. With my new personal item, I have exactly the limit of things I can take back with me, and I certainly couldn’t have that turn out any other way.

Wow. That was quite a story. Will had me on the edge of my seat. Whew. Always good to have a happy ending . . .

I told you we had a lot today, and we are just getting started!

Now, let’s check out some photos of the visit to the Temple.

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And now for an amazing illusion. We’ll make Chelby magically appear:

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And now more photos from the Temple of Heaven. Since we didn’t have the Titanic available, some found a very special place to greet the world:

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Good stuff. Now, Fabian shares his appreciation for the kindness of the people he has met on this journey, and one very special friendship:

fabian iconFabian Gaspero-Beckstrom, Sophomore, Newfane

The people of Inner Mongolia have made a profound impact on my perception of the world. Never have I met people of such kindness and hospitality who value their individuality as much as the Mongolians do. They are bold people who honor Genghis Khan as their hero and spiritual leader, yet they express much love and appreciation for other cultures such as ours. They are very different from the Han Chinese people, even the ones in Inner Mongolia, and they are proud of that fact.

I would like to mention one in particular who I am quite fond of named Wurigen, a guitarist/horsehead fiddler who I met in the fall when he came to Vermont with the delegation from the Arts College of Inner Mongolia. Though his English is not perfect, my friends and I connected with him very well. He is a very accomplished guitarist who apparently had a band that plays often at a local bar. When he mentioned this to us he invited us to come one night, so we did. At the bar he was extremely accommodating, making sure we were all satisfied with food and drinks even though it was unnecessary. This speaks to how kind and considerate he is as a person, and I think it is an accurate example of how the Mongolians care for their guests. Later, the first band began playing, and all the songs were sung in Mongolian. They make a very strong statement in singing in Mongolian: to emphasize their pride of their heritage. After the first band Wurigen invited us up to play. We played a few songs from our Journey East performance, and somehow a bar that seemed almost empty suddenly filled with about twenty more people. To my surprise people were clapping and some were even dancing. After us, Wurigen and his band played, which I enjoyed very much, then he walked us back to our hotel.

This was only one of the many experiences in Inner Mongolia that I feel that I will remember for the rest of my life. I suppose that what I found most striking is the fact that these people exist. I never would have thought that the Mongolian culture is as unique as it is; as unique as I saw it to be. They are proud, kind people who I deeply admire, and who I one day hope to return to.

Andi Anderson (former chaperone and JE parent) has a suggestion to help with your kids’ desire for Chinese food after they return. She found an authentic Chinese grocery store near Amherst College. Here’s what she has to say:

    Mom’s House. They have a take out from 4:30 -7:30 and it's the real deal. It even smells like a Chinese grocery store. It has all the unique candies we tried to survive on during our journey. Teas, Chinese medicine, frozen dumplings and shelf after shelf of foods I can't pronounce or even recognize. The smell of the soup really took me back. Mom's House is on route 9 about 2 miles east of Amherst college. 318 College St., Amherst, MA.”

Thanks Andi. I am sure many of you will want to check that out!”

Okay, everybody, all good things have to come to a close. This has been yet another amazing Journey East journey. It has been a pretty smooth ride with little turbulence. Tomorrow, we’ll reflect on this entire journey and wrap things up neatly with nice ribbon and a great big bow.

Here are three more Chinese web sites highlighting the our international superstars:

Report from Inner Mongolia Dialy:

Report from Hohhot Daily:

Report from Inner Mongolia Business Daily (3 photos):

Very, very cool!

We leave you today with some final shots of shopping at Pearl market.

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Enjoy those hugs tonight everyone. You waited a long month for them, ENJOY!

See you tomorrow for one last time . . .

[JE2010] [April 20] [April 21] [April 22]

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Program Director: Tom Connor
webmaster/narrator: John Reinhardt