Monday, March 2, 2009


This morning we came together again after a weekend with host families. Many students were treated to special events like barbecue restaurants and Chinese opera, and others were fortunate to be folded right into family life as a part of the family – foot massages, shopping, ice skating, hiking in the mountains, even a memorial service for a family member. We have been the recipients of such a tremendous outpouring of kindness from everyone. Grandmothers have doted on us, clothes have been washed, special meals prepared, lunches packed every day, it is difficult to imagine that just one week ago these people were all strangers to us!

First thing this morning we headed north to the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, about an hour’s drive from school. A twenty seven hundred year old engineering marvel, the system was created to send water to Chengdu by diverting a river. In order to do this, a mountain was moved. The mountain was removed by setting the trees of it ablaze, and then pouring cold water on the heated, scorched earth. The cold water shattered the stones so they could be moved. This process took place many years before the invention of gunpowder. The shattered rocks were then removed to create a channel, and the rocks were moved to create an island. The water can be diverted seasonally through a system of weirs made of bamboo strips which incase stones. The system works perfectly to this day and the water is diverted for agriculture annually on April 5th of every year. To say that the mind boggles at this ancient achievement is an understatement. The system is so magnificent that the river’s bed, which was modified by human labor, cleans itself of debris, silt and sediment as it moves toward Chengdu. The system also withstood last year’s earthquake, although several ancient buildings at the site did not. They are under repair. It was sobering to see many broken buildings and many cracks in structures in that area from the earthquake. Many buildings are slated for demolition, and the inhabitants are living in temporary shelters that were described to us as “cold in winter, hot in summer.”

We ate lunch nearby at a restaurant along the river. The students quickly made the connection between the vegetables and livestock on display outside the restaurant and lunch itself.

After lunch we returned to Chengdu to visit the Jinsha Site Museum. In 2001 a construction company was excavating a site for a new building when it unearthed an astonishing number of gold, bronze, jade and elephant tusks in a previously unknown encampment, dating back at least three thousand years. The museum sits on this site, and you can walk among the excavations, and walk above many components be walking on glass floors. The museum opened last year, and it is elegant and informative. Our English speaking guide was very helpful.

We returned to school and participated in English Corner, a weekly meeting where students test their English speaking skills by speaking with one another for about an hour. We were the distinguished guests- you might say the experts from out of town. We were very popular! We were mobbed with friendly students who asked us questions like “Have you forgiven Michael Phelps for his indiscretion with drugs?” and “Have you seen High School Musical?” and “What is your opinion of Chinese education?” and “Has the economic downturn effected you personally?” and “What is your favorite movie?” Having your photo taken with us was very, very popular!

We ended the day with a delicious farewell dinner with our host students, and then back to host homes to pack. We are meeting at the airport tomorrow to head to Beijing, and then back to the US. It has been a wonderful journey, and we have learned so much about this place and one another, and Mr. Baker and I would go anywhere at any time with Tutu, Stephanie, Zach, Nick, Ben, Alex, Izzie, JaMin, Jonathan, Will, Marguerite, Nicole and Mitchell!

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