Homestay Reports from Hohhot

 

Brent and Rajit:

We stayed at the home of Mr. Guo, whose sixteen-year-old sister Nancy came to his apartment to live with us for the two days.  We had met Mr. Guo previously, as he had been driving along with us and taking pictures for us on our trip through Inner Mongolia.  We communicated with him in Chinese, and although Nancy’s English was very good, we tried to speak mostly Chinese with her as well.  When they first picked us up, we went to the mall and browsed the stores. We played in the mall arcade and tried our hands at some pottery. Both of us were surprised by the sheer number of floors in the mall (12!). Then we stopped at a restaurant where we ate spicy fish with lychee and shrimp. Later, we played badminton and grew an affinity for the game despite being relative newcomers to the game in the beginning.

In the evening, we bicycled around a large park on two-seater and four-seater bikes, with Mr. Guo’s girlfriend and Nancy’s friend accompanying us. Mr. Guo told us that Lwazi had arrived at the same park to enjoy barbecue, so we shouted his Chinese name out as we biked. Unfortunately, we did not meet Lwazi. After we returned the bikes, Mr. Guo gave us delicious fried tofu from a cart on the street and informed us that it was Mao Tse-tung’s favorite food. Finally, we arrived at Mr. Guo’s apartment and watched forty minutes of Pacific Rim as Mr. Guo’s girlfriend prepared a scrumptious dinner consisting of egg, beef, two chicken dishes, and noodles.

The next day, we ate both breakfast and lunch in the city, and we got to visit a princess’s palace. We took a photo with an excited security guard who said he would proudly show the photo to his son. Next, we drove to a restaurant and dined on multiple dumpling dishes. Appreciative of all the Guo family had given us, we bid them adieu back at the hotel after giving them a few parting gifts.

 

Andrew and Jeremy:

Our host, Du Ren, was the main tour guide during our time in Inner Mongolia. Du Ren has been very helpful throughout the trip, and he was no different while we stayed at his home. He is considered among the students as the most awe-inspiring man ever. Du Ren and his family did not speak English which was helpful for our practicing speaking Chinese. Our activities consisted of visiting the huge 12-story mall for lunch and passing time at the arcade. Later in the evening, Du Ren took us and a few of his relatives to the basketball courts for a few pickup games. At dinner, Du Ren’s relatives were all good to us, and the family-prepared dumplings were fantastic. Miraculously, Du Ren allowed us to sleep in (the exact time is unknown) as he prepared breakfast and lunch himself. The morning was filled with lots of relaxation and bonding with Du Ren’s family members.

 

Lwazi:

I spent my homestay with Zhou Buo, a student at a local school going into tenth grade next year and who is 16, just like me. After leaving the hotel at 10 a.m. my host took me to a barbeque in a very large park in Hohhot, the same one Rajit and Brent went to evidently. At the barbeque, I got to meet some of Zhou Buo’s classmates and enjoy some classic Inner Mongolian barbeque cuisine. After we went paddle-boating in the lake in the park, we went home tired. But the day wasn’t over, as my host insisted that after dinner we go to a fountain. But this was no ordinary fountain, oh no; Zhou Buo explained that this was the largest fountain in Asia (which I am not so sure about) and it had the most beautiful display. Even though the first part of that statement need fact checking, the second part was spot on. When he had said it was “very very high” and “very very big” he wasn’t over-selling it. It was a spectacular display: the water danced to the rhythm of beautiful music wearing a costume of projected laser lights. It was a water-laser light show. It was a sublime way to end the day. After breakfast, we went for a game of basketball with Zhou Buo’s friends. An unusual but great way to start the day. For lunch, I had the best noodles on this entire trip: braised noodles with meat and vegetables. Then we spent the last few hours of our time together playing PlayStation. And after some gift exchanging we separated and probably the best experience, at least for me, of this trip came to an end.

 

Jacob:

I spent my homestay with XiangXiang and Riley and their mothers. Riley and her mom picked me up at the hotel around 11 AM and we went to pick up Xiang at her school where she was meeting with teachers about her GaoKao score. From here, Riley’s mom drove us to the mall where I shopped for some extra gifts. Two of their friends met us at the mall for shrimp, chicken, and noodles. One in particular, LiKeChen, was very kind and we spent a lot of time talking about the current events of the NBA as well as our favorite teams and players. After our delicious lunch, we all headed to the arcade where we competed in racing competitions in roller coaster-like chairs and fighting brackets in Street Fighter. Mid-way through our outing, however, LiKeChen had to leave to attend his driver’s-ed class so we said our goodbyes and continued our contests. After the arcade, we stopped for smoothies and some “octopus balls” which moved as if they were still alive (and I believe that they were, even though my friends tried to convince me it was because of heat). After drinks, we saw “The Mummy” movie with Tom Cruise which was as good but a little corny.  Next was home with XiangXiang and Riley by taxi and some delicious home-made pork dumplings. We decided it was a good day for an early night and so we did. The next day was very relaxed: a late wake up at 9 AM and a short trip to have the best noodles ever — beef noodles with a hard-boiled egg that marinated in the broth. It was amazing. Next we went to an Internet Café where XiangXiang was working on her college choosing process. While she was going over choices with the moms and Riley, I met some friendly people with whom I played League of Legends until it was time to return to the hotel. At the hotel, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Their hospitality was greatly appreciated and I’m happy to have spent some time as part of the family.

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Homestays in Hohhot

There is no student-written blog entry today because the boys all scattered to their different homestay locations this morning.  Ms. Bai and I explored the city all day today, mostly on foot.  The highlight was finding and wandering around the fascinating and bustling Muslim neighborhood in Hohhot.  I can’t wait to hear about the boys’ different homestay experiences tomorrow when we re-convene in the afternoon.  Tomorrow’s our last full day in Inner Mongolia.  On Monday we take the overnight train to Beijing.  Do any of you have special plans for July 4th?  –Peter Fry

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Far from Ho-Hum in Hohhot

By Rajit Khanna:

The boys enjoyed their latest morning of the trip, waking up for a 10:30 brunch containing delectable shao mai. Duer (our head tour guide in Inner Mongolia) even said that the relatively cheap shao mai elicited much more fanfare than the far more expensive FULL LAMB we had in the grasslands on Ms. Jin’s birthday.

Afterwards, the group went to a “culture square” (literal translation from Chinese to English), a peaceful space in stark contrast to the constant hustle-and-bustle of Hohhot.

Inside the square, the boys walked inside a bow-and-arrow store and shot arrows at a target nearly 10 feet away. Jake managed to hit the bull’s-eye. Then, the group entered a museum that had documented the evolution of Mongolian traditional instruments. Our tour guide was a professor of music from a nearby college. The group saw violin-type instruments with two strings made from horse-hair with different animals at their heads, including horse, antelope, and deer heads. The horse-hair strings later gave way to steel strings, like those on a modern guitar. Moreover, the museum paid homage to the respective masters of the instruments it had on display, including the world’s most famous cellist.

Finally, on to the highlight of the day, the students walked from the hotel to the nearby massage parlor. There, the students received a toe-nail clipping and back and foot massage.

Thoroughly relaxed, the group ventured on to the Hohhot Grand Prix International Judo Federation tournament where they watched multiple highly contested matches, while being slightly confused about the rules.

After a quick dinner near the hotel, the boys checked in for the night, in anticipation of the beginning of their homestay the next morning.

 

P.S. from Peter Fry:

Rajit forgot to mention one other event from today: After watching the judo matches and before dinner, we were driven to a nearby university athletic complex where the boys played some lively 5-on-5 half-court basketball with a group of friendly (and more skilled) undergrads:

 

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Goodbye, Grasslands. Hello (again), Hohhot.

Here’s a list of the things we did today:

  1. We woke up for the last time (during this trip, at least) in our cozy yurts in the grasslands.
  2. We ate our last breakfast in the grasslands in the big dining yurt.
  3. The boys (and Ms. Jin) went for a ride on a fleet of small ATVs: 
  4. We finished packing.
  5. We boarded the bus and headed back toward Hohhot.
  6. On the outskirts of Hohhot, we toured a giant, ultra-modern dairy products facility, one of the largest of its kind in the world:
  7. We checked back into our hotel in Hohhot (the same one we stayed in before).
  8. We ate lunch at a simple but delicious noodle shop just down the road from the hotel:
  9. We saw the new Transformers film (in English, with Chinese subtitles) at a movie theater in an enormous 12-story shopping mall about a mile from the hotel:
  10. We ate dinner at a barbecue karaoke restaurant near the mall/movie theater.  Several students (and teachers) took a turn with the microphone:
  11. We walked back to the hotel, arriving back in the lobby at 11:30 PM.

Time for bed!

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday, Ms. Jin!

We had a quite a birthday celebration for Ms. Jin last night  in our dining yurt.  Not only did the dinner feature a magnificent whole roasted lamb and a specially ordered cake from Hohhot, but there was much singing — even by our boys!

Ms. Jin managed to blow every single candle out in one try.

What a wonderful way this was to spend our final night at our Mongolian yurt compound on the grasslands.  After breakfast this morning, we head to another town to work with some students and and to learn more about Inner Mongolia.  (Peter Fry)

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One More Horse Picture

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Photos from Today’s Big Ride on the Steppe

Riding today on the wide, windy steppe

Here we are after our epic ride today. The man in the middle (between Ms. Bai and Mr. Fry) was our leader — a terrific Mongolian rider.

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Temple, Factory, Performance, Dancing, Horseback Riding

The following entry was written this afternoon by Brent Gorton:

On Tuesday morning, we visited a two hundred-year-old Tibetan Buddhist temple.  It resembled the temple we had seen in Hohhot very closely because it was the summer palace for the original when the Hohhot weather became too hot.  Several monks had come on the same day as well to honor a high-standing lama who had recently passed away, and we were able to take a picture with the group.  In our bus, we then made our way through the small city to a dairy factory.  Inside we walked along a hall overlooking several rooms with different kinds of interesting machines.  In the other section of the building we took a break and enjoyed various dairy products, which tasted like chewy candy, and drank sweet and salty milk tea, a signature Mongolian beverage.  For lunch we ate at a restaurant nearby, where we tried a sort of flat pancake stuffed with seasoned ground beef.  For the main event of the day, we drove to a place on the grasslands and witnessed a magnificent horse-riding performance.  Even yaks and camels were a part of the act, and riders on horses performed impressive acrobatic stunts, such as riding standing straight up on the horse’s back and another more complex move that is too difficult to explain in writing.  On our way back to the yurt camp, we stopped by a small river to collect round rocks that would be used to cook that night’s dinner.  In the large dining yurt we ate lamb that had been cooked in the lamb stomach by the heated rocks.  Preparing it involved placing blocks of chopped meat carefully into the stomach along with evenly dispersed hot rocks.  At night we traveled back to the same area where we had watched the horse-riding show to see another horse-riding performance, but this one was much shorter and involved more music and dancing.  At our last stop of the day, we ordered sodas and lamb kabobs at a small restaurant for a late-night snack.

On Wednesday morning we finally got to ride horses on the steppe of Inner Mongolia, something we had all been anticipating for days.  It was my first time riding a horse, and I was excited to get going.  At around 10:30 in the morning, the eleven of us, along with two guides, set out on our horses for a four-hour-long journey around the grasslands.  Most of the time, our horses either walked or trotted, but towards the end of the ride, our horses broke into a canter a few times, which is a thrilling, swift speed faster than a walk or the quick, bumpy trot, but not as fast as a full gallop.  After we hopped off our horses at the end of the four hours, our legs were so tired that it felt strange to walk, and we rested for a while in the afternoon after lunch.  Tonight, there is more to come, as we will be celebrating Ms. Jin’s birthday on our last night in the grasslands!

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Another Great Day in the Grasslands

 

This afternoon, we watched an equestrian spectacle just down the road from our yurt camp. The riding was amazing.

Before heading to the equestrian spectacle, we had a delicious lunch of Mongolian “calzone”: home-made bread filled with ground beef, garlic, onion, etc.

Before today’s lunch and equestrian event, we visited a beautiful 18th-Century Tibetan Buddhist temple: Xil-Amuren Temple in Damao Allied County (Inner Mongolia). An important ceremony was happening when we arrived, which is why there were so many robed monks present!

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Photos from Today

Groton Boys in Traditional Mongolian Attire

Our Mongolian wrestling champ: Brent Gorton!

Tea Break in a Yurt

 

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Groovin’ in the Grasslands, Part II

Lwazi Bululu (’20) wrote today’s blog post!

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Groovin’ in the Grasslands

Everyone woke up refreshed and energized after having had the chance to sleep for at least nine hours last night (the first time this has happened the entire trip). Our day started off with a trip to a farm, which was very close to our camp. The farm was mainly a horse farm where they milked the mares, and we had a chance to sample the milk. It had been milked the day before, so it was fermented and that did not tickle the taste buds of most of us there. It was an “acquired taste” as Mr. Fry put it. But we were told that it had many benefits including helping with diabetes, high blood pressure, diarrhea, and losing weight. After having an hour or two of downtime after the farm, we headed to a Mongolian “ranch”, if you will, where we did so many awesome things. Firstly, we were introduced to Mongolian wrestling, in which you try to get your opponent to fall to the ground while only using your hands above his/her waist and using your legs to trip him/her. Everyone had the chance to fight each other, in traditional Mongolian wrestling attire; even Mr. Fry and Ms. Jin joined in on the action.  In the end, Brent was dubbed the champion after beating our instructor, Tubu.  But we all enjoyed it. We also took pictures in traditional Mongolian dress, saw a milk tea-making demonstration, saw alpacas, and did some archery. It was truly a magnificent afternoon and everyone left the grounds smiling.

In the evening, we had a barbeque and were joined by a special guest, “Ranger,” a 17-year-old student from Hohhot who is going to be attending a high school in Canada this year. Our barbeque consisted of incredible food, mostly meat including lamb, fish, and even chicken cartilage. Mr. Fry even tried pickled chicken feet for the first time! His lips might have been numb because of the spiciness afterwards, but he thoroughly enjoyed it. Don’t worry, parents, we did have some fruits and vegetables too like carrots, peppers, apples, and very juicy peaches. While the adults cooked, we kids played Frisbee, soccer, and banana grams. What a fantastic day on our first full day on the Mongolian grasslands.

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Greetings from the Grasslands

Since we didn’t finish dinner this evening until shortly before 11:00 PM, I’ve decided to let the boys retire to their yurts so that they can get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

We slept last night at a  comfortable hotel in Dalateqi, near Baotou.  After meeting this morning at 8:30 AM in the hotel lobby, we had a very good breakfast in the hotel dining room.  We then drove to the fascinating weapons museum in nearby Baotou, where we saw a number of decommissioned artillery guns, tanks, and fighter jets.

After our leisurely tour of the museum, we got back in the bus and drove about an hour to Lake Hasuhai, a beautiful freshwater body of water with magnificent views of the nearby Yin Shan mountain range.  Our lunch at the lake featured different types of freshly-caught carp, as well as bream, shrimp, and … sharksucker.

After lunch, we strolled on the boardwalk alongside the lake, attracting the gaze of some of the Chinese tourists.  I don’t think people in this part of China see many foreign tourists, and since our group is particularly (and beautifully) diverse, we tend to get a few extra looks in this part of the country.

After lunch we embarked on a long but quite scenic drive across the mountains and into the Inner Mongolian grasslands, ultimately arriving at a camp of cozy, well-appointed yurts in the middle of the Inner Mongolian steppe.  Believe it our not, as we pulled into the parking area of the camp, a stunning rainbow appeared, followed by a lovely sunset that seemed to be competing with the rainbow for natural beauty.

Dinner in a large yurt featured delicious roast lamb, which we all  learned to cut in the traditional way.  And the dinner ended with stirring live music: two local musicians — a female vocalist and a male Matou Qin player (who also sang beautifully) — serenaded us in the yurt for a solid half-hour.

My goodness, what a trip this has been.  We can’t wait to see what might happen tomorrow.

We all send our best wishes to friends and family, wherever they may be right now.

(written by Peter Fry)

Our new home on the steppe!

Here we are at the official gateway into the Inner Mongolian grasslands.

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Desert Adventures in Inner Mongolia

Since we stayed in the desert last night, an update was not able to be given and thus this entry includes two days of activities. On Friday, we ate a quick breakfast at our hotel in Ordos, then loaded the bus and drove about 45 minutes to the tomb of Genghis Khan. This “mausoleum” was enormous, dedicated to the great leader of the Mongols, who created human history’s largest land empire ever about 800 years ago. We saw many statues of Genghis Khan, as well as paintings on the walls commemorating him. It was amazing to see the memorial of such an important figure in history. Afterwards we drove to a restaurant in Ordos and had a great meal there. Then we got back on the bus and drove towards the not-so-distant desert.

After a few hours, we stopped at the Sand Geology Museum, a large museum in the middle of nowhere. We might have been the only tourists there, but nevertheless it was a learning experience. Once we got through the museum we drove a little further and stopped to ride camels. That was one of the best experiences we’ve had so far. We rode on the camels for quite a while; everyone was having tons of fun. When we were finally forced to leave, we did so reluctantly. We arrived at the place where we would be staying. It was a small piece of land with yurts and Jeeps and welcoming people. They gave us all a ride in a large vehicle resembling a shark (I’m not sure why) around the sand dunes. It was very fun. When we came back we pitched our tents, since we would be camping for the night. They welcomed us with a large dinner, with amazing food. No complaints. After dinner, we set a huge bonfire followed with singing and dancing and fireworks. It was a real party. Then we pulled out floating lanterns, on which we wrote our wishes and ignited them and sent them to the sky. Some of ours burned down on the first try, but eventually everyone’s lanterns were on their way. After a long day, rest was much needed.

The following day we woke up well rested, ready for another day in the desert. We ate a simple breakfast and then the local people took us in their Jeeps for a joyride once again. It was exhilarating — we drove up and down all around the sand dunes. We stopped at the top of a hill to take pictures, and then plunged down the steep hill back to camp. When we got back, rain started falling, postponing our plans for a short while. So, we had a little bit of downtime. Then we were assigned to plant trees, part of an effort to reclaim the desert. We each dug holes, quite deep actually, and planted small saplings. We were proud to have helped. While we were planting, a herd of sheep came along and started feeding on our hard work, so we had to protect our precious plants. Then it was lunch time, and as always the food was delicious. After lunch, we loaded our bus early so we didn’t have to do it later, and then we set out for a long trek through the desert. This may have been my personal favorite part of the trip. The view was breathtaking. The sand was so smooth and cool; the breeze was gentle (for the most part). Our journey lasted three hours, but it didn’t feel tiring. We hiked to a lake that was quite a distance away, and hiked back. On the way back, we picked up trash we saw, just like we had done on the Great Wall. When we got back, we washed off as best we could. Then we ate our last dinner on the desert, which was a hotpot meal, one of the best we’ve had. We then set out to our hotel about an hour’s drive away in another Inner Mongolian city, and the trip continues.

Here we are near the end of our 4×4 ride in the desert.

Camel Ride!

Our desert accommodations.

Andrew & Lwazi during our spectacular desert hike yesterday afternoon — right before dinner.

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Ordos

Today w

Here’s a picture of our hotel in Ordos (the Tulip Inn). Opened in April.

as full of excitement and adventure. We started off the day with an exquisite breakfast in the Phoenix Hotel in Hohhot, which marked the beginning of our journey into the grassland. Having traveled for an hour and a half, we arrived at a small village where we had a tasty lunch. We had vegetables, a pig leg, chicken, lamb, and a fish professionally caught in the Yellow River, and left quite a few leftovers. Afterwards, we went to a local greenhouse, where we picked fresh peaches and nectarines. We then made our way to Ge Zhe Cun village where we met the party secretary of the village. He is the highest-ranked government official in the village, and was elected by the people. He kindly gave us a tour of his home during which he showed his lovely courtyard and farm, where he had chickens and sheep. He generously invited us to stay for dinner so that he could roast a lamb for us, but as tempting as that sounded, we had to pass on it for we had to proceed on our Inner Mongolia journey. After a few hours of more driving, we stopped at a place where we played with a few exercise toys. We finally arrived at Ordos, where we would be staying for the night. We had the chance to rest for a few hours, but due to the rain we were unable to go out for dinner so we were satisfied with a fancy box dinner. The day closed with a spontaneous photo shoot of the boys wearing the hotel robes on the dock with a great view of the bridge.  After the eventful and fun evening, we all went to bed with a great day behind us.   (written by Jeremy Jin)

Picking nectarines in a greenhouse.

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More Pictures from Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Hohhot

With our Hohhot friends at the beautiful centuries-old Buddhist temple.

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Hohhot Pictures from Today

Meeting Chinese Friends outside the Hohhot Museum

Admiring the local wildlife

I’m not sure why these photos are posting sideways. Sorry about that! Here’s a picture of today’s lunch.

Posting a card at a Hohhot post office. We can’t help but wonder how long this will take to get to South Africa.

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Happenings in Hohhot

Today the group had an early start with an 8am buffet-style breakfast. Afterwards, we headed to the Inner Mongolia Museum where we met some high school seniors who would accompany us through the rest of the day. A tour guide then brought us through three exhibits of the Inner Mongolian history, starting with the prehistoric history. There were displays full of fossils as well as models of dinosaur skeletons that towered over our small group. Second, we learned about China’s journey towards space exploration which happened, for the most part, within the Inner Mongolian province. With the help of some surprisingly life-like mannequins, we saw how the people built launch pads and helped the cause of putting a man in space as well as some of the massive antennas used by the government to communicate with the space craft. We then proceeded to the third and final exhibit which gave a diverse look at the wildlife that populate Inner Mongolia today. From the king of the grasslands, wolves, to the fuzzy horned reindeer, the province holds an astounding amount of wildlife.

With the museum behind us, we headed to lunch which, as always, did not disappoint. We traveled to a Hohhot soccer team’s stadium which housed our lunch destination. The food was endless with the addition of a local drink made of a sour, orange berry. Next was the post office, where many postcards were sent to family back home. After the short stamp endeavor at the post office, we traveled to a 400-year-old Tibetan Buddhist temple which had been preserved because of its use as an ammunition depot during the Cultural Revolution. The temple was a complex of multiple smaller temples, each with its own praying purpose. The main gate was guarded by four gods who brought good fortune and prosperity to the area. In front of the main temple were two massive columns used twice a year to hold the large painting of the Buddha (which was also 400 years old). Each building held massive statues of different deities, elaborate woodwork colored with reds, golds, and deep indigo. One particular room had two dragon columns, made of rice, water, paper, and clay, that had survived since the founding of the temple. Right across the street from the temple was a shopping street, filled with vendors selling an assortment of merchandise. The students had an hour to shop for friends, family, or personal pleasure. A vendor caught the eye of multiple students who saw his work of painting pictures by burning them into leather. From there, with a quick pit stop at the hotel to drop off some items, we headed to dinner which was different than our dinners before because it was not in banquet style. Like breakfast, it was buffet-style with a variety of meats, fried doughs, and noodles.

With full stomachs we traveled to a local school where we conversed with the students about a variety of subjects: from American culture, food, and society, to why we were so tall and what our home towns were like. The two hours of conversation flew by and was over much too quickly. Before we left, the students sang us their school song beautifully. Sadly, there was not enough time for us to return the favor. Throughout the day, some of the seniors had filtered off back home and by the end of the night only two remained. We exchanged gifts with the lone survivors and said our final goodbyes before retreating into the hotel, ready for a rest. Tomorrow we have a long trek into the grasslands. (written by Jacob Kissell)

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Musical Dinner at the Phoenix Hotel in Hohhot (Inner Mongolia)

Here are the seven boys singing a song to the table (a tune they all know from morning chapel at Groton)

The songs these Mongolian musicians played were wonderful: full of strong melodic themes and passionate, skillful singing.

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Happy to Be Here in Hohhot

I’m writing a brief update now since it’s quite late (nearly midnight) and I’m running out of battery on my laptop (and my charger plug won’t fit in the outlets here).

We had a very pleasant journey from Beijing to Inner Mongolia this afternoon.  We took a bus directly from Kemsley Academy’s facility in Tianjin to the Beijing Airport and had an easy hour-long flight to Hohhot.  We were driven straight from the airport here in Hohhot to our hotel (the Phoenix) in the city center.

I wish I could adequately describe the evening we just had here at the hotel.  We dined in a private room with Ms. Jin’s cousin and two local friends — and we were treated to an unbelievably delicious meal of many different Mongolian delicacies.  As we were nearing the end of our feast, a group of Mongolian musicians (dressed in traditional costume) entered the room and performed splendid music featuring spectacular singing.  I will try to post a video when I have some more time (and power).  The boys even did some singing for the table, which was a special treat for the adults in the room.

If tonight is any indication of what the next two weeks in Inner Mongolia will be like, we certainly have much to look forward to.  I’ll do my best to get one of the boys to write a blog post tomorrow.  Best wishes to you all!  –Peter Fry

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Group Picture at Tsinghua University

Here we are yesterday with our hosts at the entrance to the old campus of the venerable Tsinghua University in Beijing

We had an amazing banquet in Beijing two nights ago, at a beautiful restaurant next to our hotel. Several Groton families in Beijing hosted this splendid event. Many thanks to our hosts for their warmth and generosity.

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Tsinghua University and Panshan

The day began quite early today with the group waking up at around 6:30. This was the last morning in Beijing. After a quick breakfast consisting of bao zhi with various desserts and a ridiculous fee of 90 yuan for a blood-stained pillow case mistaken to be calligraphy, the group was off to Qinghua University. Transportation was provided by Kemsley Academy, founded by Mark Kemsley, who accompanied the group throughout the day. The group was welcomed by the admissions team at Qinghua who then gave the students a presentation on insight into Qinghua’s rankings and statistics. The presentation left the students with greater interest than they had before in going to university overseas. To note, Groton’s very own Roan Guinan acquired a scholarship to Qinghua. Following the presentation, the group embarked on a tour of Qinghua’s massive and beautiful campus in the blistering sun, though now it was nothing they weren’t used to. The grueling yet rewarding hikes in the wilderness of the Great Wall had prepared the students for whatever was to come. At lunch, surprise! Even more Peking Duck. This marks the students’ fourth time in the past three days having Peking Duck, and certainly nobody saw it coming today. In the afternoon, the group headed to Kemsley Academy Panshan. Mark gave the group a tour of the campus and even gave each member of the group a Kemsley Academy Panshan exclusive fidget spinner. At dinner, no Peking Duck. Nonetheless, the food did not cease to impress. To wrap up the evening, the group headed up Panshan mountain to watch a show produced by students of the nearby performing arts university. The setting was surreal, with the stage having been incorporated into the mountain face. The show itself was filled with original music and followed the life of the emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and many members of the group agreed that it was one of the most beautiful displays they have ever seen. (written by Andrew Lei)

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Another Busy Day in Beijing

Today the boys had an early breakfast (at 7:30) before making the half-an-hour drive to the Summer Palace. The group  was accompanied by local students who explained the historical significance of the place. After ambling about the empress’s quarters and enjoying the view of the lake, the boys walked or, more accurately, climbed to the top of the emperor’s palace. First they enjoyed the view and stared awestruck at the magnificent statue of Buddha, before starting the trek down through a small garden. Along the way, the group encountered a flutist and saxophonist whose musical prowess rejuvenated tired legs and gave the students the strength to make it to lunch.

At the Summer Palace

The lunch consisted of seemingly never-ending courses. Highlights included giant meatballs, vegetable dumplings, and peking duck. Afterwards, the students reached a nearby shopping district that was home to all manner of stores selling colorful trinkets and never-before-seen foods. The boys (hopefully) took the opportunity to buy souvenirs for their families back home.

Then the students spent an hour in the hotel, alone, and relaxed in their rooms. Some showered in preparation for a colossal banquet at a nearby hotel. Also at the banquet were familiar faces and some that have yet to grace the Circle, as current and soon-to-be Groton students and parents dined side-by-side.

Finally, with full stomachs and bright smiles, the boys retired at 9:45 and started packing in anticipation of the 7:10 departure from the hotel tomorrow.  (written by Rajit Khanna)

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Beijing Update

Yesterday night we met up with a few Groton families to watch a comedic play at the Haidian theater, and we enjoyed this morning our latest wake-up time since we arrived in China: 7:00 am to get ready for breakfast.  At the hotel we ate stuffed buns and a dumpling soup.  We left the hotel by car and, once we made it further into the city, joined up with Chinese students of ages ranging from twelve to eighteen, whose teacher we already knew was guiding us around when we got to the hotel a day before.  These students would stay with us the whole day in the city, and we exchanged conversation about our experiences in school and life in our two different countries.  Our Chinese friends served as

Here’s our group before entering the theater last night.

excellent tour guides as well as we visited various landmarks.  We first made our way to the Forbidden City.  As we walked closer, we noticed more and more police officers, and we finally entered through the gates of the imperial palace after a security checkpoint to witness a breathtaking scene of a vast stone courtyard sitting in front of an enormous palace of red, yellow, blue, and green.  We spent the majority of the morning exploring the immense courtyards, halls, and palace structures.  Then for lunch we ate delicious Peking duck and spicy chicken.  We later headed to the giant National Museum of China, the largest museum under one roof in the world, where there were several artifacts and paintings from several dynasties, including Yuan, Ming, and Qing.  We came back to the hotel for a short while to rest, and then we walked from our hotel to a different part of the city for dinner at a Shanghai restaurant.  Finally we said goodbye to the Chinese students and took a taxi back to our hotel after an exciting but exhausting day. (written by Brent Gorton)

Here we are with our local Beijing friends as we are about to enter the Forbidden City.

And here we all are INSIDE the Forbidden City.

Today’s lunch in Beijing — which included delicious Peking Duck…

Here are the boys at tonight’s dinner. Clearly, we are not going hungry in Beijing.

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Great Wall Litter Cleanup

 

Here’s a picture from yesterday’s hike on the Great Wall. We all spent part of the hike collecting litter that had accumulated near this portion of the Wall.

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Back in Beijing

We made it safely to our hotel in Beijing earlier this afternoon.  The drive back to the big capital city from the mountains was quite easy.  No hiking this morning.  Instead, we were allowed to sleep in (much appreciated by all, especially the teenagers among us) and then had a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs at 9:00 AM.  After breakfast, we watched a fascinating documentary called “The Eagle Huntress” about a Mongolian girl who learns how to trap, train, and hunt with an eagle.  If you can find this film on Netflix (or somewhere else), we strongly recommend seeing it.

After breakfast, we finished packing our bags, presented a couple of farewell gifts to our wonderful hosts (William and Xi Lindesay), and then rolled away from our guesthouse just below the spectacular Great Wall.  Those two days of hiking up to and along the Great Wall were quite magical, an experience none of us will ever forget.  We learned so much about the wall from Mr. Lindesay during these excursions.

It’s very warm in Beijing, but the air-conditioning in the hotel works beautifully.  The hotel is extremely nice, by the way.  We head out later this afternoon for a little sight-seeing, followed by a dinner at a restaurant that Ms. Jin assures me will serve excellent (and authentic) Chinese food.  I think we are seeing some kind of theatrical performance after our early dinner this evening.  I’ll have one of the boys report on the production in our next blog post.

Our hotel is called the Bei Jing Jun Wang Fu Hotel.  The hotel telephone number is 86 10-65855566.

We have a big day of sight-seeing planned for tomorrow.

I hope all is well with all of you parents and friends back home.

The picture below was taken just before we left our mountain guest house.  The silver-haired gentleman in the green t-shirt is William Lindesay; his wife, Xi, is standing between Mr. Lindesay and Ms. Jin. (written by Peter Fry)

 

 

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June 15 Great Wall Hike

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Our Post-Great Wall Hike Dumpling Breakfast

 As it turns out, there were still PLENTY of dumplings left for everyone!

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Group on Wall After Litter Collection — June 15, 2017

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China Day Two: More Great Wall

Day two, beginning as early as day one had at 3 a.m., would be filled with a hike along a different section of The Great Wall and some cleaning up along the way. However, a lot of us students, except Brent, woke up with long faces not because of how early we were forced to leave our beds but because we had all slept through dinner last night, a dinner where we would be making and then eating dumplings. But after scolding Brent for not waking us up for dinner and hearing that we would be compensated by having dumplings for our late breakfast, we were content and set off.

Today’s hike was on a completely different trail. The hike was certainly easier than yesterday’s, during which we were faced with a 38 degree climb on the wall. We reached the Wall just before sunrise, and after catching our breath, we were given an awesome performance by William Lindesay and his son Jimmy, in which William told a story of some Nomads from the North coming to raid China encountering the Great Wall. In between, Jimmy would add some flavor to the story by adding in some historical details to better the story. One detail was the fact that the Chinese had land mines made with gunpowder and nails encased in a hallowed rock activated by a trip mine.

The way down was full of steep downhills in which we almost lost some members of our group, namely Aaron and Jake. But just as yesterday, we were greeted back in the barracks with juicy watermelon and dumplings for lunch, as well as two hours of playing Catan (a board game).  –post written by Lwazi Bululu

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First Full Day in China: Early Morning Great Wall Hike

Here we are atop the Wall learning about the history of this Ming Dynasty section of the Great Wall from William Lindesay O.B.E.

We have had an extraordinary day already today — and it’s only 10:00 AM Beijing time!  Here’s a summary of what happened.

We got to our guest lodge in Xizhazi (about 65 km from the center of Beijing) last night (a two-hour drive from the airport) at about 8:00 PM.  When we arrived we had a wonderful multi-dish meal freshly prepared here for us.  We then retired early (at around 9:30 pm) so that we could get up early in the morning.

And by early in the morning, I mean VERY early in the morning.  Our distinguished host, Mr. William Lindesay (OBE), woke us all up at 2:45 AM (!) so that we could be on the Great Wall just as the sun was coming up over the horizon.  It took us a little less than two hours to reach the wall by hiking (first, briefly, on a paved road, but then in the woods on a  true hiking trail).  Thanks to very clear skies, we began to have wonderful views of the Wall on the ridge-line during our hike.  And when we finally did reach the wall itself, the views were, in a word, breathtaking.  (We will try to post some photos once this text entry is posted.)

After reaching the wall and enjoying the sublime sunrise (which gave us gorgeous views looking in all directions), we then hiked along the Wall for quite a ways, stopping at different places to listen to Mr. Lindesay talk to us about the Wall’s history and significance.   By the way, Mr. Lindesay is one of the foremost authorities on the history of the wall, has lived in China for many years, and has published numerous books and articles on this topic.  We are blessed indeed to have him guide us here.

After hiking back to our lodge (which used to be a village school), we had a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, bread, and juice.

It’s now rest time for us.  We will visit the Wall again tomorrow, to learn more about this magnificent structure.  How fortunate we are to be in this beautiful place with such a nice group of Groton students, all of whom seem to be doing very well.

 

 

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Departure from Groton

GEO China prior to their 5:45 AM departure.
Watch this space for future postings.

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Pre-Trip Planning

The three trip leaders (Ms. Jin, Ms. Bai, and Mr. Fry) are meeting right now with Mr. Das  to talk about various details related to our upcoming trip.  Only four days until we leave the USA!

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Final Post

           Today when five of us sitting at Fridays in Beijing having our last meal, sharing our reflection and highlight of the trip, I suddenly felt that everything seemed really unreal to me. After nearly a year of preparation, Groton China Trip 2012 ended with no regrets. We had not only built a road for Zhongyingzi Primary School and painted five walls for them, but also built a strong connection with Chengde No. 3 highschool and Zhongyingzi Primary School. Both schools promised to maintain the relationship with Groton in the future. Before I started recording our last two days in Chengde, I would like to say thanks to those who have helped me make this trip happen: Mr. Rolle, Mr. Lamont, Ms. Shih, Mr. Das, Ms. Hughes, Dr. Reyes, Mr. Fry; my lovely trip members: Nancy, Indira Byanka; and, most importantly, my parents and Dylan’s mom who helped to arrange this trip with me.

  

 

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Day 8&9

We woke up early in the morning as usual and headed to the worksite. With the help of local teachers and students, the road was pretty much done. So we continued on painting the wall. It’s getting really hot in Chengde and it has been so sunny recently. Everyone was sweating but we kept the good work. After several days of hard work, we finished painting all five walls and I was actually pretty impressed by ourselves. The music wall and the sports wall were designed by Mr.Lamont with different colored instruments and all types of sports. The wall symbolizing Zhongyingzi primary school was designed by a local teacher with the school logo and traditional Chinese painting. It came out pretty cool. With the crest in the middle and the Latin motto on the side, theGrotonwall caught the attention of many local students. They were all curious aboutGrotonand asked many questions about the school. The sign wall is on the right of all five walls. We signed our names on the wall and created many beautiful decorations. We left most part of wall blank so that people can keep signing on it during futureChinatrips. We are all pleased and excited that we finished all our work and we are also satisfied to see that the local students all love our art work a lot.

 

We had another Calligraphy and Paper cutting lesson today. Our teacher showed us the most beautiful paper designs. She had made a dragon and phoenix. She told us that together they symbolized love and that they were traditionally given as wedding gifts. We began with a simpler assignment, a star, but we moved quickly up to a symbol of wedding prosperity and free-style designs. Paper-cutting is an incredibly versatile art that is due to make resurgence in the upcoming years. I can feel it. We were given time to work on a formal assignment. We had to deviate from the traditional forms she showed us and create our own symbols with paper. We produced some inspired pieces, I must say.

The calligraphy lesson was shorter but we continued and made sure to remember writing basics, keeping a straight back, relaxing your shoulders, holding the brush correctly, and applying the right pressure at the right time. Our teachers, so patient and kind, were happy to have us as students, they said. After both our lessons, we took pictures of our work and group photographs. Now, it’s time to choreograph a dance for a performance at our good-bye party. We can’t wait to get dancing.

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Day 6&7

Day 6

These past two days have been a blast. I don’t know where to begin. Vicky, Byanka, and I have definitely been spoiled. Every morning for breakfast we’ve enjoyed Zongzi, a steamed rice triangle wrapped in corn leaves with fruit inside it. This delicious treat is especially enjoyed by the kids of the family. After breakfast, we joined the family in a clean up effort and watched some very popular Chinese cartoons. Byanka taught everybody Pianzi or BS. It’s become everybody favourite game. We played countless rounds and laughed a ton. Lunch was delicious. Nana, Grace’s grandmother, prepared delicious noodles for lunch and Byanka and I perfected using chopsticks. The family discussed traditional dance, schooling in the U.S vs. schooling inChina, and our plumpness during dinner. I was asked to join the evening dance celebration and I quickly agreed. I felt very honoured. After lunch, we called Mr. Lamont and checked in. He seemed to be having a great time, visiting mountain caverns by day and playing video games by night. He mentioned that his Mandarin was improving. ModernChinawill surely be a blast next year so everyGrotonstudent reading this should take it.

       More card-playing followed and we were all taught the evening dance before dinner. It was definitely more complicated than any dance we had learned previously. Thankfully, all the footwork was the same. When we felt that we had learned the dance sufficiently, we became the dance teachers. We taught those typicalGrotondance moves and some steps from that beloved American dance, Swing. The dancing kept us moving until dinner-time

       Finally, the moment of truth came and it was time to perform after dinner. Everything was a blur and I tried my hardest to keep up. Nana was surprised I could keep us at all. I was too. After a half hour, the dance ended and I was covered in sweat. Vicky and Byanka cheered for me from the sidelines and made conversation with the folks who gathered asking “Who’s that weird kid dancing?”.

       All that dancing made us tired and we headed back to the house and got ready for bed. We watched Grace’s favourite show, Happy Hour, right before bed and Byanka and I were pleased that we had begun to recognize words. I fell asleep pretty quickly but I was told this morning I was a pretty loud sleep-talker. I was just too excited to completely fall asleep.

Day 7

Visiting Chengde has been a trip of many firsts. It’s been the first time I visitedAsia, the first time I said anything in Chinese, the first time I played pool and the first time I made dumplings. I’m very grateful to my attentive hosts. Before lunch, my host’s younger brother Shing invited everyone to play pool. Vicky, Byanka and I along the way explored more of the village. The village is small, no more than 200 people and relatively isolated but very close to the mountains. Our pool hall was outdoors and we were protected from the brilliant sun by a makeshift metal roof.

       Shing taught us all to play pool. He was a smooth player and really seemed to enjoy it. I went into the game thinking it would be pretty simple, after all, we were playing against a seven year old. But Shing beat us every single time. He beat us quickly and with great skill. We couldn’t convince Grace to play with us and form a super alliance against her brother. Oh well. Family has to stay together.

       Arriving home, we played card-games and Try to pronounce this Chinese word correctly. We passed the time enjoying the presence of our host family. Close to dinner, Grace’s grandmother called us in for dumpling making. She was carefully kneading and dividing dough while Grace’s mother cut up leek for the dumpling fillings. We entered the room with reverence. The women were so focused. Breaking the silence with a Ni hao, we entered and watched the dumpling making process. Grace’s mother placed the thin circle of dough in her palm and placed some leek at the center. In a process too quick to describe she scooped it up, pinched the edges, and in a second created a perfect looking dumpling. Dumpling making is a truly a skill. If you don’t make them correctly, they can explode or stick to other dumplings. Our first dumplings looked like lumpy balls with green specks. But after twenty or so failed attempts, Byanka and I perfected the art of dumpling making. Grace’s mother and grandmother were incredibly patient with us. With Vicky’s help, we were able to thank our host family and talk about life at home, farming, and life in the U.S. Vicky was a great sport during this entire host stay. WithNancysick at home inBeijing, Vicky really had more work than usual and she was great the entire time. I’ve already thanked her but It’s important to thank the Student Trip Leader in more ways than one.

       Our dumplings were delicious. We ate too much and too fast but we were excited for the afternoon performance. It was the 91st birthday of the Communist Party and Grace’s grandmother, along with other premium dancers, prepared a special traditional dance to honor the party. When we arrived, I couldn’t believe that the square could be more vibrant and more full of life. Men and women and children of all ages performed dance routines, songs, poems and played musical instruments. People danced and sang and truly enjoyed themselves. I was sad to go back home when everything ended but it had been a good day and we were all tired. It was a wonderful way to end our last night with our host families. Tommorrow, we would wake up at 5, exchange gifts, and head to the No. 3 Chengde High School.

 

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Day 5

We woke up in time for breakfast, a great feat for mankind and a giant leap for the volunteers. Breakfast was scrumptious as usual, but with a side dressing of Kael who refused to sit with us and eat, and instead settled for watching us and walking around. Nancy said her goodbyes in the hope that she would get better sooner. We then proceeded to wait for the bus. When we hopped onto the bus for just one yuan, we had to squeeze ourselves among the other travelers. There was barely enough space to wiggle about and yet the bus kept accepting more travelers. How we all managed to fit I do not know, but I am sure that the bus was sizzling hot with so many crammed human bodies. After 15 stops, we met up with the school’s art professor, the dance teacher and her son. We paid for the admission ticket and stepped into the world of old China. It had been the summer home of Kangxi Emperor. The park seemed endless, complete with hundreds of elegant buildings and a river. I will not try to describe how beautiful the park was because I would never be able to but just be sure that it was most definitely worth the 28 hours that it takes to travel to and from China from Newark. What was definitely a treat was getting to watch Indira and Mr. Lamont trying to get a flash mob going with the new Mongolian dance that we had recently been taught. Alas, my poor dancing skills and my shyness handicapped me from actually joining them, every one else took pictures and laughed. We ended the tour of the park with lunch calling to us. I had dumplings for the first time in my life. It was dumpling heaven Vicky ordered more than six different dumpling plates. The KFC about 50 yards away no longer tempted us. We said goodbye to the teachers and took the bus back with Kael. We packed up for the weekend and played BS with Mr. Lamont while waiting for our host family children to finish school. Indira, Vicky, Grace, and I took a 30 minute taxi ride to her home out in the outskirts of the mountains. (Grace is the English name we gave to our host) We met two of her grandparents, her dad and her little brother. Her mom works in the city and comes home twice every month. We were given a room with an enormous bed which Grace, Indira, Vicky, and I were supposed to sleep in. It was ROCK hard, so were the pillows, which seem to be filled with sand. Shortly afterwards we had dinner. To our surprise the food was just as good as the food we received in the #3 school, they even made some of the same dishes. Later we found out that all the vegetables were home grown. After dinner, we were introduced to the bathroom which was nothing more than a stall outside the house with a hole in the ground and a tube leading out of it. Night fell and we walked down to the town square in which the older women gather around and dance. We received many stares as we were the first foreigners to have come in a long time. We were told by Grace’s grandfather that the last foreigners to come were Japanese. We left the square before the third dance started, but not before we were approached by a mob of people commenting on how big our eyes were. What was the funniest thing of all was how everybody thought Vicky was American and they let her know that her Chinese is not too bad.’ We went back home and got ready for bed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 4 – Hard at Work and Play

       This morning was a doozy. Mr. Lamont’s voice permeated window. Wake up! We could all hear him in our rooms and awoke quickly. Oversleeping had not been a problem for us yet but I reckon the hard work took its toll on our growing bodies or maybe I just forgot to set an alarm. Who knows? The important thing is that we dressed quickly and headed straightaway to  Zhongynigzi School that was eagerly awaiting us.

       With the help of very strong and agile students, we continued laying rock foundation in the effort of leveling the road. A couple of assembly lines later, we were a little more than a quarter done. While taking a much needed break, Team Leader Vicky Zhang’13 proposed that we continue work on a mural of the Groton School Crest and Flag. Nancy, Byanka, Vicky and I tackled that project while Mr. Lamont continued to help with the road. White-washing isn’t as easy as Tom Sawyer makes it out to be. I ended up with more paint on myself than on the wall. Thankfully, Nancy (Future Artist of the Issue, Groton CV?), was there to guide me and we were able to successfully coat the wall with two coats of white paint. While Byanka and Vicky decorated a music mural, Mr. Lamont joined the primary school students in the national dance they perform everyday. Needless to say, it was a hoot but I heard he can’t continue teaching Modern China without it.

       Interaction with the students was wonderful today. An incredible group of school children taught me various phrases and characters. One boy, who was particularly good at English, served as my guide and introduced me to every child that gathered around. He even translated a brief description of my life atGroton. They were pleased to hear that I was going to college or rather the college I wanted to go to. High School students here recently took the “Great Exam”, a very difficult college entrance exam that all high schoolers in the country take. Getting to attend the college of your choice is very difficult if your scores don’t rank among the highest in the region. Contented with the fact I’m college-bound; I continued our conversation with a brief geography lesson of whereGrotonis relative toChengdu. My guide and other school children helped me draw a map of the world on the wall with chalk. It was great fun. They were all great teachers. My clumsy characters paled in comparison with their well-developed writing. They were convinced that I would get better but alas, I certainly need more practice.

       After lunch and a brief nap, planning for the Culture Room continued. General ideas turned into detailed and precise blueprints. Our plans of a multi-media library and hanging commissioned art pieces byGrotonartists will be brought to fruition by upcoming generations visitingChengdu. There was a particular emphasis on making the room interactive and welcoming instead of creating a museum space that I appreciated. Working on a China/US History timeline with Mr. Lamont was great fun. I learned some Chinese History and brushed up on my American History. An English teacher helped us with some Chinese history and I felt very much like a student next to two good teachers. Our draft was completed and we all felt very accomplished as walked to our next activity.

       Now, I was never one to regularly attend Groton School Dances but I might have if we danced a Mongolian traditional dance. Our dance teacher, endowed with the gift of patience, made the most wonderful moves look easy and helped us do the same. The dance was upbeat and mimicked riding a horse, a very elegant horse. I discovered the joy of moving my hands and feet at the same time to a rhythm. Our dance teacher was very clearly a professional who moved gracefully with great focus. We had all broken a sweat before she even finished explaining the first part of dance. Dance is very much apart of the way of life here. School children learned national, regional and school dances. Many people are interested in older traditional dance as well.China’s rich cultural history is very alive in the movements of all dancers here of all generations.

       After our workout, we were all joined by Cayo and Angel, two college students. Cayo’s mother works at the #3SchoolofChendu. Cayo and Angel were wonderful dinner companions with whom we discussed everything from the Great Exam to the Emperor Kangxi’s reign to popular films and video games to dating advice. Tomorrow they will accompany us to the Emperor Kangxi’s Summer Villa close to the downtown area ofChengdu. I can’t wait! Everything I learn aboutChinaintrigues me more and more. It’s still pretty early in the trip but I’m certain that this kind of learning experience will prove very valuable toGrotonstudents. Knowledge of different ways of life enriches your own life so much more. Tomorrow when I head to the summer villa, I’ll certainly imagine that I am an Empress in the Qing Dynasty but most importantly, I’m going to focus on the life of that incredible emperor and the lives of the people living under him and the people living here, in Chengde, now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 2 — Tiring and excited!!

We woke bright and early and had another wonderful meal. We eagerly headed to Zhongyingzi Primary School where we were greeted with a happy school yard chant. Our objective at the school was to make a drive-way leading to the school building. We were supposed to dig 15cm deep and clear the area of rocks. As soon as work began, we knew it was going to be tough. Pick-axes and shovels came down on the hard earth. After about an hour an a half of digging, we realized that our method was ineffective and made plans to hire a mini bulldozer for the next day. After that, we spent time interacting with the primary school students and we thanked our helpers for their hard work. Mr. Lamont taught the students a couple of basketball moves and we all passed the ball for a little while. After that, we made plans to paint a wall to symbolize our friendship with the school. Our preliminary ideas include a Groton School Crest, the chapel, self-portraits and portraits of the students. It certainly will be exciting to see how that will turn out.
After that, we came back to the High School to enjoy lunch and then quickly headed to the bank to change some American money. The city was thriving. People were playing Mahjong in the streets and young workers and families bustled up and down the street. After returning from the bank, we started learning “yangge”, which is a very traditional dance in north-east China. The process was fun, and sometimes even tiring. Most of us got confused first but soon started to really get the dance. The dance class is really special and we all love it!.
After that, we enjoyed dinner and fresh fruit. Over dinner, we all decided to start eating dinner and possibly lunch with the students. It’s a great plan and we all can’t wait to interact with kids our age. So far, this trip has been a blast and we all can’t wait for what’s in store tomorrow.

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Day 1– This is so COOL

  Our arrival toBeijingInternationalAirportwas pleasant. Passing through customs was a breeze. Lines were quick and the transaction went smoothly. I was happy to give a rating of “Excellent” when I was surveyed about my customs experience.

  Mr. Lamont, Byanka Lugo’13, and I were greeted at the airport by Vicky Zhang’12 and Nancy Xue’16 with the most gorgeous flower bouquets. They welcomed us with style and gave me some quick tips to avoid jet-lag. After a fourteen hour flight, it was much appreciated. After initial greetings and ni hao’s, Vicky’s mother and Dilong Sun’s (’11) mother accompanied us to Chengde, our destination.

  On the way, we stopped for a bit of ice cream alongside the road. Delighted at the thought of adventure, I chose a bean-flavoured popsicle. You just can’t get that kind of taste in theU.S.We all enjoyed our popsicles and after a quick pit-stop, we were on our way.

  Upon arriving in Chengde, we headed promptly to the No.3 High School of Chengde and straight to dinner. Dinner was much better than what we expected. Being treated as a bunch of really honorable guests, we went to a nicely decorated room and sat with the headmasters of the school. Headmaster Wang greeted us with great passion and he welcomed us happily. He proposed a toast and Mr. Lamont and Headmaster Wang enjoyed a special Chinese wine for the occasion. After the toast, my meal began with my choice of hot tea or Coca-cola. I choose both. I fiddled around with my chopsticks and learned proper holding procedure. Headmaster Wang let us know that out of everybody, only Mr. Lamont held his chopsticks gracefully in the proper way. (Obviously the Headmaster hadn’t seen my stabbing technique) When our food was placed in front of us, we were shocked. The quantity of food was astounding and the variety plentiful. We all made sure to try everything and ended up with several favourites. I enjoyed a spicy salad type dish called “liangban youmaicai” and “cang cu li ji”, which is also known as sweet-sour pork. It was truly a wonderful dinner that proved that the Chinese had some of the best cuisine in the world. We were all grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Wang  and the preparers of our delicious meal. After tasting and explaining the name of every dish, our conversation turned to sports and to questions about the region. We learned that the male faculty of No.3 High School plays a quick game of basketball with the Headmaster every morning. Mr. Lamont was invited to the faculty game which was due to begin the next morning at 6 A.M. We also learned that the high school housed 1700 students and that the room we were eating in was reserved exclusively for faculty members. The students ate in another room below us.

  After our satisfying meal, we turned in for the night and got a chance to spend time in the student dorms. We were four to the room and we each had our individual twin bed and locker. Poor Mr. Lamont slept alone in his dormitory. Nancy, Vicky, Byanka, and I got used to our Spartan accommodations. Sleeping on a hard surface is good for the back, I hear. Jet-lag set and it was sweet dreams until tomorrow.

 

 

 

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