Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Classrooms to tea rooms
We reunited with each other after our first night of home stays. With tales of power outages, dining by headlamps, cold showers, and unique breakfast foods, our group started the day bubbling with energy and excitement for what else the day would hold.
First we attended classes in which Chinese students interacted with us in small group discussion about what school is like in our respective countries. The subject matter varied from being able to choose classes to dating to how get into good American universities. Each group also enjoyed demonstrations of the students' talents in dancing, singing, pantomime, and recitation. Our students responded in kind by June sharing his "beat box" skills and our singing two songs we all knew: the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme song and a song from High School Musical. Our students were treated like superstars. Can I have your autograph? What is your email address? The students were eager to connect with each other.
The warm reception in the classroom led the way to a heartfelt official opening ceremony. Jackie and Luke spoke on behalf of the students and contributed to the relationship that is developing by sharing what they appreciate about China so far and the importance of our visit. The ceremony was attended by host families, teachers, and school officials. We received a gift on behalf of Gould Academy and presented them with a gift from our school to theirs. Each student was presented a unique gift from their host families in addition to a gift from the school.
After this ceremony and group photos, students returned to their host families for lunch and a rest. Chinese school children of all ages have a two hour break in the middle of the day before returning to school commitments that will go until 10 pm. Following lunch we headed into downtown Chengdu where we visited a Buddhist temple where we saw people practicing their religion by lighting incense and bowing out of respect for the figures. Some of the buildings were built in the late 1600s. The figures were said to be some of the most revered in the country.
The trip to the temple concluded with a relaxing visit to a tea room in a lovely courtyard. Budding magnolia trees, goldfish in a stone vessel, and carved wooden gates are just a few of the details that stand out vividly as well as the delicious, flavorful tea.
We appreciate all that the host school has done to make our first full day here so memorable. Tomorrow we will experience lessons in the Chinese classroom - Chinese language, hand crafts, and calligraphy await us.