Over the last month we, Journey East 2014, have had the opportunity to explore and consider the differences in US and Chinese educational systems. We visited a Mongolian kindergarten where Summer insisted that she had brought an empty backpack so that she could fill it with one of these pint sized Mongols and bring him stateside. Aaron’s connection to his younger brothers was apparent as he ran through the playground chased by a small hoard of would be Ghengis Kahns. At middle schools, students were anxious to try out their English language skills and to exchange “selfies” and email addresses with our students who look like teenagers in Chinese ads where marketing to Chinese students means light skinned models with Caucasian features. Continue reading
Day 25 Time with an Old Friend
It was almost like we got to sleep in today. Our wakeup call was at 7:30 this morning, but I don’t think I woke up until about 8, this was a real treat. For our first activity of the day, we went to the Inner Mongolian Museum. This place was huge! There was turf grass covering parts of the building and steps going in all directions. It all reminded me of a futuristic home.
Our group went to five different exhibits. There was only so much written in English in each one so you couldn’t read about the artifacts and statues. Out of all the exhibits, my favorite was about fish in the ocean. It showed their skeletons and on display was some organs from a whale. The heart was almost two feet wide! After we were finished with each room, we would all wait outside in the hallway and end up sitting on each other and eating whatever food we had. Continue reading
This morning we headed over to the Arts College to rehearse our performance for tomorrow. It’s been really amazing to work with the dance students because of their experience, talent, and determination to do the best they can possibly do. These students are selected from all over the Inner Mongolia to go to this arts college for their particular talents. So their whole future depends on how well they do now. In America, it’s a completely different story. The students themselves choose what they would like to do, and half the time they don’t even stick with their original decision.
During our rehearsal, the girls and boys practiced separately. The style of dance is extremely different from what we’re used to at home. First of all, the boys in our group have never really been exposed to dance lessons, so almost everything is new for them. Most of us girls are used to trying to be “graceful” and “pretty” in ballet lessons from our early childhood, and even presently in Mariah’s case. The style here for the girls is more sudden and sharp; and includes a lot of stomping, which is a pretty drastic change from what we’re used to back home. Continue reading
Casey and Sam
Our day began with another early wakeup call and an hour bus ride. We arrived to our destination which was the Yili factory (“dairy farm”) where we were met by our guide. She began the tour with showing us a scale model of the three parts of the Yili dairy “farm” in Hohhot. Our guide then gave us a brief description and background of each section. The area we were located in is also known as the eastern section. This handled most of the testing, product processing, shipping, and packaging. Next we were introduced to the central processing area, which is soon to be home to the first dairy farm museum. It also provides housing to seven-thousand low and high wage earners. The last section, but certainly not the least, holds sixty-thousand cows and provides the factory with two-thousand tons of milk each day. Continue reading
This morning felt like any other morning I’ve had in China. I woke up, went to breakfast, and hopped on a bus headed to the Hohhot International Experimental School. Our group was lead to a conference room that looked like any other Chinese conference room I’d seen before, a long wooden table filled the room and big leather chairs lined the table. A head teacher of the school came in and gave us a brief history of the school and that’s where the familiar sights and actions changed into new and interesting information. The man told us that the school was founded in the 1800’s and how it started off with less than a hundred students enrolled. Currently, there are over 2,000 students in this school and I learned how important each and every one of those students is to the saving of the Mongolian culture and language.
Although Mongolian language is a big part of this school, the students are also required to learn English and Chinese fluently before graduation. I thought this was extremely prestigious, though the staff talked about it like it was nothing. Continue reading
April 14, 2014
Today was our first visit to Inner Mongolia University Arts College and it was amazing. We had a meeting with President Li Yulin and some of the teachers we would be working with for the next nine days. After the meeting we had some free time and most of us played soccer with some of the students at the College, it was a lot of fun to play with them, even though I find soccer challenging.
After playing soccer, we went to a choir class and it was the most amazing thing. We talked for some time and then they sang for us. It was unbelievable. I honestly don’t have any words to describe the experience. It gave me goose bumps. We also went to a rehearsal tonight at 8:30 and we exchanged performances and when they sing the girls sound like one voice. It’s amazing how they can do that. Continue reading
After a 6:30 wake up call, which was much better than the 4:30 wakeup call the morning before, we headed off to a separate building next door for breakfast. The breakfast was buffet style, a change from the usual lazy-Susan where you had to wait for the food to come around. Breakfast was quick. Yogurt and cereal was THE way to go.
An hour later we left for the start of our three hour bus ride to the Gobi desert. The scenery was completely different than what we had so far seen. Instead of towering buildings and hundreds of cars, we saw flat land alongside the beautiful mountains. Continue reading
I woke up to my alarm on my phone at 4:20 and started to slowly wake from my rock of a bed with plenty of knots in my back. I took a quick shower then woke Evan. This morning wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t my favorite because I knew we would be traveling, traveling and even more traveling. When everyone was all set in the lobby, we did a quick group check and headed out. We had an hour drive but there were delays and it end up as a two hour bus ride…not fun.
The bus ride almost made us late for our flight, which took off at 7:30 from Jinan to Beijing. The flight was 45 minutes but I didn’t notice because I was asleep for all of it (it was bliss). The next part wasn’t so much, we had to wait roughly 5 hours for the next flight in Beijing airport. Most people walked around but I tried to go to sleep and when that didn’t work, I listened to music. Continue reading
Kayla Williams April 11, 2014
Like any other day in Qufu, I woke up tired, even though I had been sleeping in for the past week. I skipped breakfast just to sleep in a little longer, and it was a good choice. I had to pack the last of my things so we could head to Mt. Tai, and somehow in the mix of things, I packed one of my shoes that I have been wearing for the past two weeks. Only I could do that and not realize, so it was a surprise when I couldn’t find my right shoe anywhere in my room. After I had figured out that I did in fact pack my shoe, I had to dig out my show bag so I could wear my show shoes. It was a stressful morning for me. After I had shoved everything back in my bag, we got on the bus to head to Mt. Tai which was an hour away from Qufu Normal University. Continue reading
Downtime and Calligraphy
Today was a mixture of stimulation and exploration. In the morning, we woke to breakfast (as usual) and had more than an hour and a half to roam the open streets of the Qufu Normal University campus. A few of us (including myself) even went outside the gates with adult chaperones to the markets surrounding us as we walked along the sidewalk. There was a variety of different shops whose products included clothes, pastries, suitcases, and hats. The highlight of this short outing, however, was going to a nearby supermarket. We had not eaten much fruit beforehand – our diet mostly consists of meat, breads, and vegetables – so biting into a juicy peeled pineapple was a sweet shock to our taste buds! Fresh produce in China is much cheaper than one might expect: half of a peeled pineapple costs 2.5 Yuan, which equates to $0.15. As we reentered the gates of the campus, we saw other students in our group going to the on-campus shops; our freedom to explore the campus allows us to buy little luxuries that we had missed, including potato chips and chocolate. Continue reading
Sam’s Journal Entry
Waking up this morning was so much easier than I had expected it to be. Jessica and I woke up early and set out to breakfast. This meal consisted of eggs, “fried dough”, and a variety of vegetables. After breakfast, we had an hour to ourselves to explore the campus. Here at Qufu Normal University, they allow us the freedom to walk around the large campus, and discover what it has to offer. Everyone was extremely excited that we had this time. During my hour, I got the chance to call my mom and one of my sisters. Since it was my sister’s birthday (Muriel), there was a celebration that was going on. Hearing my mom’s voice answer the telephone took me into immediate tears.
After my mom calmed me down, I had the pleasure of talking to the birthday girl. Throughout the conversation the importance of this trip became clearer. It made me realize how much the little things count. The little things like having your own bed to sleep in, being able to drink from faucet water, western styled toilets, and even your family’s voices. In the beginning of this trip, I thought that many people were annoying, and that the experience wasn’t as life changing as everyone said it would be. Now looking back at myself from just two short weeks ago, I know that I was wrong and that everyday I’m falling in love with China more and more. Journey East is much more than performing in a foreign country. It is a program that helps people find themselves and helps them discover what is possible in life. Continue reading
Day 14 – Soccer Day Essay
This morning I woke up at 6:50, stripped down, closed the door and curtain, turned the water to the perfect temperature, and became engulfed in the warmth of the water for 15 minutes and began my day. I got out of the shower, got dressed, and then woke Max up at 8:00. Once Max was done with the shower, we packed up and headed down for breakfast at 8:30 The breakfast here isn’t as good as it was in Chongqing, it is made up of fried dough, eggs, big dough rolls, and more, we are getting plenty of carbs here. But nonetheless it is pretty good.
After breakfast we headed back to the hotel and then went back to the lobby to head over to the affiliated middle school right behind the hotel. We met up in a meeting room of the school and were welcomed by their principal. After, we went down to their soccer field and found ourselves (the Americans) facing about 35 Chinese students in a hardcore soccer match. I just remember being overwhelmed by a fleet of about 15 Chinese kids coming at me when I had the ball. Next, we rounded up the troops and headed off following a Chinese woman to one of the School’s English classes. Continue reading
Day 13 – Qufu - Confucius Graveyard
This morning was the latest morning call we’ve had so far on this trip. I have to admit, it felt pretty amazing to be able to sleep in and give my body a rest from the constant go and the blur of days and nights. After eating a satisfying breakfast, we all climbed into the bus and headed to the Confucius Temple, about 10 minutes away. Because it’s a holiday today, the place was absolutely packed with people. Right when we stepped off the bus, I could feel the eyes of many people, curious about us “foreigners.” I’ve noticed that the farther we’ve gotten away from Beijing, the more interesting we’ve become to the Chinese. Today visiting the temple was especially noticeable. Particularly the blondes couldn’t take ten steps before being stopped for a picture or two.
After our tour of the temple, we stopped for a yummy lunch in a nearby hotel. While eating, a performance was taking place. There was singing, dancing, and some instrumental music. We were told by the guide that this performance was put together just for us Americans. This surprised me greatly and even though the performance was extremely loud and sometimes a little aggravating, I tried my best to show gratitude for their efforts in entertaining us. Continue reading
Dazu and an Evening River Boat Cruise
Wake up call was at 6:15 for a three hour bus ride to Dazu County. The wake-up calls are getting harder and harder; I have become comfortable sleeping in a new environment. The sounds of honking cars have become comforting and have also made me never want to hear another one in my life. I have always wanted to live in a city but… not so much anymore; I like my peace and quiet. The breakfasts are delicious! They have American food, which quite honestly I am starting to crave.
The schedule for the day was pretty relaxing. The bus ride wasn’t bad (I slept the whole time). Although, when I did wake up on and off I would hear Tom talking about the tunnels we were driving though and the highway we were driving on. He said that the tunnels were a mile to a mile and a half long through the mountains and the highways and the tunnels both were built within a year and a half. That is very impressive to me considering it took about three years for us to fix the bridge on your way to Jamaica. Continue reading
Ciqikou Ancient Street Day
Today started off as a normal day, waking up at 6:40, taking a shower, then making it down to the 1st floor for the amazing breakfast waiting to be devoured. I have to say, the breakfast at this Holiday Inn in Chongqing has been the best breakfast that I have ever had at a hotel. Breakfast today consisted of a donut, bacon, croissant, dumplings, some kind of stir-fry, and potatoes. The dumplings are delicious, also I am seeing improvement in my chop-stick skills every day; just another perk when you come to China. Then I went up to my room to get my bags and finish getting ready, some time went by and suddenly Evan and I realized that we needed to get down to the lobby. We made it down there on time, but then my stomach turned upside down because I had forgotten my show bag in our room. So I got on the elevator as quickly as I could and I got on, hit floor 14, got out in a dead sprint and headed straight for my room, got the key, put it in and opened the door, grabbed the bag, and sprinted right back to the elevator, and went downstairs. Continue reading