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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?




Beep Beep’m Beep Beep Yeah!

Greetings to all of you!

Today is a turning point in the journey. The group has been traveling quite a bit since they landed in Beijing 11 days ago. Now, they head to Qufu where they will settle in for a week’s stay. I am sure they all will happy not to be riding in planes, trains, (buses) or automobiles for a while.

We’ve got LOTS OF PICTURES and a student report today, so let’s get right to it.

We are going first to yesterday’s performance at Tanghu Middle and High School. By now, the kids are starting to fit into their performance roles and are becoming more comfortable on stage. These performances not only help to share, entertain, and bring an American culture to the Chines, they help bring the students of this journey together. Special bonds are being formed, respect for one another, helping and supporting in each in this collective endeavor. For the rest of their lives, the students of this journey will have a special place in their hearts for each other.

Lights, camera, action!

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For those of you who saw the dress rehearsal a couple of days before they left, you can already see a huge difference the group’s confidence and performance level. Can’t wait to see them after their return!

    Here’s Tom update:

    Quite a day. Excellent performance at a high school about an hour and a half from our hotel. Kids did really well. Off to see the pandas and tonight, for a little change of pace, McDonalds or Pizza Hut!. We gave our host, Mr. Li ,and his assistant the night off and the kids went to either McD's or Pizza Hut for a little “home-style” food. Good break.

    Most of them are now walking around a pedestrian mall next to our hotel. Pretty upscale place. Chengdu appears to be a very prosperous city.

Let’s now go to Chelby Nystrom’s report to find out more about those pandas (and ice cream!). I think Chelby loves panda bears. What do you think?

chelby iconChelby Nystrom, Freshman, Brookline

As you were all sleeping soundly in your warm, cozy beds, we were all wide awake enjoying our last day in Sichuan Province. It is so cool to look at the clock and say, “Wow, I’d be sleeping right now”- or, “if we were back in Vermont we’d be in Chinese class right now.” But, as we look around, we know that we are not in Vermont and we are definitely not sleeping. We are on the other side of the world enjoying a unique and very different culture that for me anyway, is mind blowing! Different scenery, different people, different food, different language, different time zone different continent!! Sometimes the concept is difficult to grasp but I’m enjoying every minute of it.

“Where are you from?? “Can I take a picture with you?” “What is your name?” These questions ring through my head like a never-ending bell. Trying to push your way through a mob of eager Chinese teens is like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands; impossible. Today, we were at Tanghu High School; our fourth school performance. Their students also performed for us. We saw and heard everything; from Chinese folk songs to a reenactment of “High School Musical,” which was especially amusing. We were then all ready to eat and relax. However, our “dreams” were shattered when we were thrown back on the bus after the show was over. My dreams were quickly rebuilt when I remembered where we were going.

We were headed to the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center in Chengdu. I’ve been waiting for this day forever!! Finally, we will get to see the pandas.

After a quick lunch, we finally arrived at our intended destination (and my personal favorite) The Panda Breeding Center. When we stepped off the bus, we immediately became in a trance from the sweet-smelling fresh air. All you could see was bamboo and an assortment of breathtaking flowers. We then followed the winding trail to (drum roll, please) the PANDAS. So adorable! They sat there without a care in the world, nonchalantly munching on their bamboo. My favorite was a group of three, one-and-a-half-year-olds who were cuddling together. They look so innocent and precious! After cooing at these lovable creatures, we moved on to see the “Red Pandas.” Red Pandas are a member of the raccoon family and are no relation to the panda bear, except in name. At the end of the tour, many of us treated ourselves to some ice cream. We also did some shopping, our specialty.

Tonight, we get a long-awaited treat; dinner wherever we want! Many of us have been dreaming about American food and plan on feasting. Most of us are looking forward to Pizza Hut and McDonalds but others are fantasizing about Dairy Queen or Haagan Daz.

I, personally, am planning on getting some pizza and breadsticks and then topping it off with a large ice cream from Dairy Queen.

So far, this program has been enchanting and breathtaking.
Each one of us making more memories as we go, memories that I’m sure none of us will ever forget.

We hold a special bond as a group that cannot be explained to people outside of the group. We have all made this exotic journey together to a whole different land, enjoying many new things. This has been an amazing experience that has opened my eyes to many new things and I will cherish it forever.

Okay, so back to reality. We are all climbing into our cozy pajamas, brushing our pearly whites, and viewing the Chengdu skyline that illuminates the dark sky. We are all tired and ready to drift off into dreamland. You are all getting out of your warm, comfortable, soft beds, with tired, droopy eyes.

And so begins, and ends, another day.

We go from the quiet world of Pandas to the bright lights of the city at night. Let’s hear what Tom has to say about all of this:

    As you can see, Chelby is sort of fanatical about Pandas. It was a good day. Pizza Hut was reasonably good, as was McDonalds. Can't go wrong with Haagan Daz or Dairy Queen. Many of the kids walked with teachers around the pedestrian mall and did some serious window shopping. 

And now a personal note from Tom, reflecting on the gracious hosts and good friends:

    Although I am looking forward to Qufu, where I have some very good friends, it's with a tinge of regret that I leave Chongqing, and Sichuan. Our hosts, old friend Mr. Li Yinsheng, and his assistant, Dan Dan, are exceptional in their friendliness and their helpfulness. I will miss them and truly hope that I might see them again.

We can’t thank Mr. Li Yinsheng and Dan for all they have done to make our group’s stay in Chongqing (and the area) the very best it can be. It should be noted here that not only will the kids be making friends with many of the students along the way, The group adults do as well. Tom has made so many trips to China that he has become a valued member of so many “families.” He shares this close relationship with the members of the group, helping them to always feel like they belong and that they are, in many ways, “at home” wherever they go. Priceless . . .

Order up!

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    The countryside is so impressive, the agricultural abundance is incredible. The cities are not only burgeoning with people and cars, they are just charged with energy. I am so glad that we expanded our program to include these eight days in southwest China as the experience provides all of us with a much broader view of the diversity and wonder of this part of the world.

Many times throughout each journey, the students comment on the traffic in China. Take a good look at these two photos. The next time you get backed up going through Brattleboro, it may not seem so bad! Beep Beep!

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So, this closes another chapter in this journey as the group now heads of to Qufu via Jinan. The “Where Are They Now” link (at the top of the page) will show you the route they are taking.

The gang is off to Qufu!

Just got the word that the gang has arrived safely in Qufu. Here is Tom’s update a few travel photos:

    Flew from Chengdu to Jinan, about a two hour and fifteen minute flight but what a world of difference in the terrain. Whereas Sichuan is so lush with water, water, everywhere, one would be hard pressed to see any water in the terrain that we traveled over on the way from the airport to Qufu.

    Sichuan terraced rice paddy after rice paddy; Shandong is flat, dry, dry dry, flat, with the exception of some very rocky mountains and planted with wheat. There is a whole different feel to Shandong. The villages look different and, as opposed to Chongqing and Sichuan, are not interspersed among literally hundreds of factories. The air here is better, at least at this point in time.

    We flew over the Yellow River on our way in. It is yellow; one of the most silt-laden rivers in the world.

    Nice to arrive on the campus and be greeted by our many old friends; names and faces that will be instantly recognizable to the 200 or so past Journey Easters; Director Li Haiqing, Xing Chunlei, Liang Meiling and others who have been so instrumental in the succes of the program here in Qufu over the past ten years.Li Haiqing and Meiling have kids who we have known since they were 10 years old. Meiling's daughter Xiao Xiao graduates from college in Beijing this year and will be moving on to do post-graduate work in Beijing and Li Haiqing's son is now studying at another university in Beijing. Time does march on.

    The Leland and Gray students who were in our first [pilot] program back in the year 2000 have graduated from university and are now scattered all over the world. I wonder where these kids who we have with us now will be in ten years? I'm sure that many of them will have matriculated at a college and expect that, as has happened with many of our alums, China will beckon them and they will return.

    Kids are happy to be here; mellow, big campus; room to roam; less structured time; more time to stretch their legs.

Thanks Tom. So happy to know everyone is “safe and sound” in Qufu.

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Okay, everybody, get out there and enjoy this magnificent day in southern Vermont (and Qufu!). Already in the upper 50s here, might even hit 80! Spring is here!

We’ll see you all in Qufu tomorrow as we start in with some fascinating and educational experiences. Can’t wait. Beep beep!

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Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.
Chinese philosopher & reformer (551 BC - 479 BC)

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Program Director: Tom Connor
webmaster/narrator: John Reinhardt