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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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Rainy Days and Mondays . . .


Well, here we are on our first Monday of the journey. Has it sunk in yet that your child is really in China? I know! It is amazing!

A quick look at the weather forecast indicates that it will be about 55 degrees and cloudy in Chongqing today. About the same here -- except for the rain!

Before we get into today’s activities, we have a report from Emmet Mahdavi. Emmet shares with us a detailed description of Chongqing and the visit to the stone carvings.

Emmet iconEmmet Mahdavi, Sophomore, Newfane

Chongqing is currently the city with the largest population in China. Because of the titanic population, the city is now a municipality and has been broke down into 40 section. Dazu is one of those regions. Chongqing is a city in southwest China built on hills. Wherever you look there are gardens and trees. If the people find a couple of square feet of unused land near the highway, they plant a garden there. Unfortunately, the air is of poor quality here. One often smells smoke, gas and sewage. As you drive away from the main city the skyscrapers fade away and the peasants shacks appear from the shadows. Even when there are no houses in sight, the land is marred by billboards. In the flat areas where there was once farmland and villages now are factories after factories and greenhouses after greenhouses. Looming in the sky are endless powerlines that are never out of sight. Along the sides of the streets, along the sides of walkways and even along the sides of buildings lay piles of trash. There has been a major effort to clean up the city. In one year, Chongqing has planted 900,000,000 trees. Everywhere; in between buildings there are trees with white pesticides around the bottom of them. They are all in perfect lines. Lining the horizon are mountains that are faintly visible through the light fog that rarely parts in the Chongqing area.

So far, China has reminded me of Ecuador. The Great Wall was similar to the area around the Ecuadorian Capitol, Quito. It was both dry and mountainous with a quickly disappearing farmland and water scarcity. Chongqing, on the other hand, is more like the eastern part of Ecuador near the Amazon. Both have trees dripping with moss and very humid air. A major difference would be the constant presence of people here in China.

In Dazu, about a two-hour drive from Chongqing proper, there are no more skyscrapers, the occasional factory and many farms. The farms are mainly for rice. They’re dug into the red clay earth and filled with brown water that is seen here everywhere. When you think you are in the countryside, a town appears that has buildings being constructed inside the cobweb of scaffolding. Then, all of a sudden, it returns to countryside.

At the top of a winding mountain we reach the famous Dazu Stone Carving. The carvings begin modestly with a tall sculpture of the Buddhist monk who is said to have come up with the idea of these sculptures and who is reputed to have designed them. We continued down moss-covered stone steps and reached where the real carvings begin. They are all carved in rock walls and the walkway is winding along the sides of a jade-green river. Towering above us are trees and along our sides are bamboo and ferns. The smell of incense floats by and in the distance, the sound of firecracker ring. At the entrance of the stone carvings there are four carvings that of “poor quality” (our guide) because of disproportion. I was unable to remember the names of all four but one was LaoTse, the founder of Daoism, one of China’s main belief systems. We continued to see a large carving of Buddha with the mentor of the man who designed the carvings above. We then went into a man-made cave that was carved and painted to re-create the process of monk-hood. Continuing outdoors, we were taught how to treat animals and we saw the carved guards that were to keep demons out. Next, we saw the process of enlightenment through reincarnation. There were black gates for hell and a white house for enlightenment. The most detailed of all was of their heaven and hell. In hell were the evil-doers and their keeper, surrounded by 10 Bodhisattvas.(sp)( monks who sought enlightenment, not only for themselves, but for others.

In heaven, there were evil-looking guards to fight away demons and the teacher if the founder of this area above them, covered in gold. This teacher is missing several body parts because 800 years ago, when these carvings were done, there were many wars and little money. This, the grandest of all, was the final carving.

We then began our two-hour bus ride back to Chongqing. The ride is full of starts and stops and every 20 seconds or so there is a honk of the horn due to a potential accident. While the lines on the road in the USA are the law, in China they seem merely to be a suggestion. As we get further on down the road, more cars appear, the air gets stuffier and a skyscraper comes into view. We are approaching the city proper.

Emmet is the first to comment on the driving in China. Not only are the center lines a suggestion, driving behavior in general is a suggestion! Maybe we’ll get photos along the way showing the traffic and driving styles.

Today, the group put on their first “live” performance at a local middle school. By the time this journey is over, the kids will have performed many times, in front of thousands of people. Those with stage fright just a week ago, will become veteran performers by journey’s end!

Here’s a note from Jenny:

    “... Great day, great performance, school of 5,000 students and our kids are absolutely swarmed with students wanting to interact with Americans. Many of the Chinese kids said that they had never seen an American! Quite a heady time for our kids. 

The chance to spend some personal time with Chinese students is priceless -0 and vice-versa! Here are some photos (courtesy of Phoebe and Willow) of that get-together:




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new purchase

Anna and Maddi
with their new purchases


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This is the beginning of these kids establishing some life-long friendships. Throughout the journey, and especially when they spend a week in Hohhot, these guys will meet and bond with many Chinese and Mongolian students.




Zoom in on the menu (in the picture above) and you’ll see why Emmet looks dazed. Who wouldn’t go for a floss fly cake?!

After the group finished their performance, they traveled to Ciqikou Ancient Street (Emmet above). This area dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The group will see a place that is unaffected by modern influences. Porcelain was produced and exported here during the Ming and Qing Dynasties -- thus its name Ciqikou

While it may appear that our students are just touring sights each day, they are, in fact continuing their studies each day. Classes are held with lessons and discussions of relative subjects. They also use every opportunity they can get to rehearse their individual and collective parts of their performance.

NOTE: Tom is “under the weather” right now. The first week in China usually brings a few down with illness due to the many changes, people, and conditions. Let’s all give a collective shout out to Tom:


If you don’t think the group is having a fun time, check out these photos at last night’s dinner! Here’s Jenny and Sarah having a good laugh.


tn_Dazu, Indoor Market and Yangtze Cruise 188

tn_Dazu, Indoor Market and Yangtze Cruise 187 (5)


Stay dry!

[JE2010] [March 28] [March 29] [March 30]

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Program Director: Tom Connor
webmaster/narrator: John Reinhardt