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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?




The Eagle Has Landed!

According to a short note from Tom, the group landed in Beijing China at 1:40am (our time), 1:40pm their time! They are SAFE AND SOUND in China! Yeah!

The group got through customs, arrived at the hotel, and everyone in their assigned rooms. After spending the last (nearly) 24 hours traveling, I can just see everyone of them flopping backward onto the beds, not wanting to get up! Admit it, you would too!

With a 2:00pm arrival, this first evening will be spent experiencing their first real Chinese meal, getting organized for their stay in Beijing, and an opportunity to get to get some good sleep in a real bed.

We have our FIRST report and photos, everyone!

First, let’s hear from Tom:

    The first photos are of the kids in Hartford. The small plane is the commuter jet we took from Bradley to Newark. I would definitely not want to be on that for a long haul. Smooth flight, just a tiny plane. There are a few taken on the plane from Newark to Beijing, including some out the window shots of the Artic Circle; pretty spectacular.

    Major turbulence as we started descending into Beijing; Again, not a pleasant way to start your air experience. We all survived it.

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Up, up, and away . . .

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And here’s Tom again, to introduce the next set of photos:

    After meeting up with Hu Jia, pictured in one of the photos, we had an absolutely scrumptious meal with an abundance of fine tasting yummies. Quite an intro to the cuisine of China. 

    Fully a third of our students had heads on the table, asleep, by the end of the meal.

    [We are all] looking forward to going to the Great Wall at Mutianyu tomorrow and then it’s off to Chongqing.

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Do pillows come with that?

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They sure do look tired, don’t they? And rightly so! They have been traveling for 24 hours and are eating dinner at what would normally be 7:00 this morning here.

Each day a student will report on that day’s activities. Not only will they share with us what events took place, they will reflect on their own emotions, observations, and life-changing experiences. First up is Brandy:

Brandy iconBrandy Reynolds, Junior, Windham:

“As I sit here with Vaughn outside on the Chinese patio/rock garden, I enjoy thinking about my day so far and the long flight over. Because it was my first flight ever and it was 13 hours long, it was rather treacherous. The airplane food left a lot to be desired but I scarfed it down still, like it was my job. Don’t ask me why or how, I guess I was just trying to soak up the experience. I watched “Gone With the Wind”, wrote in my journal some and stared out the window whenever I got a chance. I felt like a bird flying high above the world, soaring to a foreign land. I began to get scared when behind me a woman got sick. At that point I tried to avoid the back of the plane as much as I could and stayed up front visiting with Caitlin and Emma. I did really well until we started our descent from 39,000 feet . Every bump and noise, every turn of gravity made my stomach flop. It was a very long, and for the most part, monotonous ride but relaxing at some points and I felt comforted by my friends around me and the promise of a great month ahead of me.

Now, I sit here with Vaughn at the Yanxiang Hotel in Beijing.
Would I go back to America now? Not even if I could. China is tranquil although to endless forests of smokestacks and run-down apartments surround these peaceful moments. The water bubbles next to me but is sadly overpowered by the beeping of horns and running engines down the street. The China that I see now is brown; strange but true. This time of year is no good for this part of China; everything just sort of melts together in a not-so-pleasant palette of browns, tan, beige and blah. China is so foreign to me; everything, from the smells, the sounds, the street sounds and the overall feel. It’s like nothing I’ve ever known. It’s new, and exciting and fun, and yes, so foreign. Inside the hotel smells like cigarettes and Chinese food Outside smells like pollution and sulfur. Sometimes I can taste it slightly. It makes me want to chew a piece of gum. I try to smile at the people I see but no one seems to be friendly, at least not in the way I would expect.

It feels strange here, yet so comfortable. I walk into a room and smile, even when no one is watching. Behind every door, beneath every stone and lurking in every serene pool, I can sense optimism and serenity, excitement and pure curiosity,all at once. And, imagine, this is only the first day!

We went out to dinner at about 6 tonight.
The food is so different! It’s hard to get an accurate picture of dinner in China. About 9 kids gather around a round table with a large lazy susan, centered on it. On it are three strange dishes that I have never seen before. I’m a little scared, as some of these textural, colorful and fragrant foods look ( and smell) a little intimidating. As we indulge ourselves with lotus root, beans, prawns, different exotic vegetables and sauces, the food just keeps coming. Here comes the fish, so decorously displayed it’s a shame when someone digs in and breaks off a piece. The duck was cooked to perfection, or Vaughn must have thought so because she dug into the head eagerly to see how it tasted. By the look on her face, she was a little disappointed. Each one of us tried something strange and a little out of our element. For example, I at chicken with chili peppers and peanuts, a combination I found quite appealing. Dinner was so much fun, but, by the end of it when none of us could fit anymore food into our little American tummies, we were so tired that it was a relief to retire to our rooms for the night.

Some of us will use the time to reminisce about the day’s goings-on but a great majority of us will fall asleep before we blink our eves . . .

Aaaaah yes, the food. The food will be discussed throughout the journey. And we’ll be talking about the food as well, with recipes, sites to Chinese cooking, etc.

Their day is almost coming to an end and when we are all getting ready for bed this evening, their “tomorrow” will be getting underway.

Speaking of tomorrow, the group will hit the ground running (literally) as they climb the Great Wall of China!

In the past, the gang has spent 2-3 days in Beijing, visiting all of the major sights. This journey, however, the group will visit the major Beijing hot spots on the back end of the journey.

To help you get better acquainted with Beijing, Here are a couple of links to help give you a better idea of what Beijing is all about:

Did you know the population of Beijing China is over 24 times that of Vermont! That’s right, over 12.8 million people in Beijing. To give you better perspective of how many people that is, New York City is just over 8 million; Los Angeles 4 million; and Boston at 600,000. And the entire population of Vermont is less than 600,000!

Now, one thing to keep in mind as we travel along. With the 12 hour time difference, we will often be getting photos and reports for the previous day. So we will be talking about things they are doing today and, at the same time, reading about things they did yesterday. They are out and about while we are sleeping. 

I know, this journey will be a little zany at times, even wild and crazy, but that’s what makes this whole journey (from our perspective) fun. There will be lots of emotional moments but there will also be plenty of “laugh out loud” moments as well.

Okay, so the game is on. Our Journey East gang is safely on the other side of the earth, and we are here experiencing an absolutely beautiful Spring day in Vermont

We’ve only just begun . . .


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Program Director: Tom Connor
webmaster/narrator: John Reinhardt