Time Capsule Letter
GLA China Program: We have some great memories!
When (almost) everyone arrived at the Hong Kong airport, Bridget and Rebecca greeted the group in matching shirts with a vibrant “hello!” and together you made your way to Kunming.
You unloaded your bags at the hotel, and it took 3 people to rouse Sam out of his slumber and get him to dinner.
The next day, went to the Stone Forest, where Emre took a most epic group selfie, something he’d do throughout the trip.
On the bus ride to Shaxi, we discovered some crazy local snacks and delicious roast duck, and everyone screamed as we went around the sharp turns that descended into the valley.
What a crazy time, right?
Remember when Andrew tagged the middle schoolers, and they suddenly grouped up and turned against him, chasing him around the playground?
Or when Nina found her hidden talent of Chinese jump rope?
And those kindergartners, they could dance! And make a mean paper airplane.
It was amazing when Gracie immediately identified herbal jelly during the food challenge, then just as quickly gulped it up.
And it was impressive to see Bridget, Rebecca, Sadie and Sinead dancing in the square, and picking up the moves so quickly.
Around every corner was a lurking evil, (a ghost, maybe?) and Isabella made sure to scream heartily at each and every one.
What about when we went to the market, or did the scavenger hunt, or did pretty much anything in China, and Ming and Rachel translated everything for us?
Jade bought a snazzy cap at that market, and got chased down by a different hat vendor that accused her of stealing!
Plant sure could tell a mean story. And how great was that story that Brandon made up about Uncle Liu killing us for too much food waste?
Sam definitely won the contest for best and most varied hairdos on the trip. And Dora wins for learning Mahjong so quickly, and getting really into it.
And despite the mentors best efforts, Lauren successfully pet every street dog in China and hopefully didn’t bring home fleas.
And what about Emre? Was it his freestyle rapping? Or when he and Turner were dancing with the local musician in Dali?
And Turner, thank goodness he got his bag in Beijing, right? Finally!
It’s a journey we’ll never forget.
Jenny & Patrick
Friday July 5, 2019
Ni Hao and Good Evening from Kunming, China!
This afternoon we saw most of our group arrive into the Kunming International Airport. Some were sleepy, some were rested, but all were excited and eager to get this program started!
After a short break to relax, we headed out for our first Chinese meal. We shared A LOT of new (to us) and delicious dishes before heading back to our hotel. Although it was a bit rainy, it seemed that everyone wasn’t quite ready to retire for the evening. We decided on a fun and quick communication activity outside before heading in.
We’re all looking forward to having our later arrival(s) here in China and uniting as the full group. Tomorrow we have a packed day of immersing in our new culture, exploring our new surroundings and enjoying more of the delicious cuisine!
Saturday July 6, 2019
This morning, we had our first breakfast in China, which got us accustomed to the other side of the world. Following that, we had our group orientation and went through all the rules. After, we hopped on a bus and headed to the NaiGu Stone Forest. Our bus stopped on the way to grab lunch at a beautiful traditional restaurant where the duck made us feel like V.I.P. visitors.
Then we continued onto the stone forest. While the ground was slippery, we stuck together and immersed ourselves in the ethereal forest of enticing stone structures. There was even one shaped like an elephant! At the end, we reached the top, earning ourselves a magnificent view of the entire forest. The essence of nature was so appreciated by the group. On the bus ride back, we played games and cracked jokes while enjoying the mountainous scenery.
We had our first true welcome dinner with everyone in the program, where we met Yuan, the local program organizer. After stuffing ourselves, we returned to the hotel in Kunming and recapped the awesome day, sharing our highlights with the whole group!
-by Emre and Bridget
Sunday July 7, 2019
Today was a big travel day! After a delicious meal at the hotel in Kunming, we all got onto the bus and began our long journey to the Shaxi village. After two hours, we made our first stop at a gas station. Out in China’s countryside where some unique snacks, like Italian red meat chips, were purchased. We had lunch in a traditional restaurant, where we were served all kinds of traditional dishes, including Chinese pancakes. Our final stretch took us all the way to the village and after a winding mountainside journey, we were able to settle into our rooms. We then took a quick tour of the charming town and finished with a delicious dinner.
Rebecca and Brandon
Monday July 8, 2019
Day four, our first day of service. After breakfast we walked to a temple that is being restored to a children’s center. At the temple we cleared overgrowth and helped tidy up to take some of the work off the locals when they go to furnish it. Around noon we came back for lunch and had our first Mandarin courses, we learned how to introduce ourselves and how to order ice cream in Chinese!
After dinner we relaxed with our first mentor meeting where we got to know each other better by doing an activity that had us recognize 13 things we each did great today. Afterward we took a walk and saw some amazing Chinese dancers, and we had to resist the urge to pet dogs!
Overall a great day, we can’t wait for tomorrow!
-by Andrew and Nina
Tuesday July 9, 2019
On day 5 of our spectacular China GLA trip, we all woke up ecstatic for the upcoming day. First, we had a nutritious and abundant breakfast composed of Chinese fried donuts and steamed buns.
Unfortunately, we had to walk in the rain to the local temple where we moved wood and sifted sand. Although the weather was gloomy, our spirits were bright. We finished service on a high note and returned to home base to learn traditional Chinese paper cutting.
Finally, we ended the day preparing for the kindergarten activities we will do with the on day 6.
Isabella and Turner
Wednesday July 10, 2019
Today we woke up and ate buns with different fillings.
After, we got on the bus and went to the kindergarten. We entertained the children, but not before they performed songs and dances for us.
While they were doing their morning dances, we joined in and took plenty of pictures. Walking back, we saw all the great views of the valley. When we arrived at Home Base, we ate an amazing lunch and continued with our Mandarin Classes.
Learning a new language has been extremely rewarding and challenging. We tried using it with the best of our ability while buying snacks. We came back and ate dinner then finished our evening watching a Chinese movie that our local director Xiao, picked out. It was a great movie and a great day!
-by Rachel and Sam
Thursday July 11, 2019
Lights out tonight marked the end of week one in China. For most of us, it was the longest we’d ever been out of the country, especially without a parent. Despite our short time here, we feel as though we’ve lived a full life.
From the grueling but rewarding work at the temple, to the joy of entertaining and educating the next generation, it has all been an experience that has changed us all for the better. We’re more cultured, and more aware of the similarities and differences we all share.
-by Dora and Lauren
Friday July 12, 2019
Right after breakfast we started our day with a market challenge. This was an interesting learning experience where we practiced our Chinese skills in real life. We had 20 Yuan (about $3 USD)to spend, and the challenge was to get the best deal, and impress Uncle Liu who is the owner of our home-base.
Uncle Liu would be the judge as to who got the best deal at the market. We saw many different things to buy, running from a wild range of Albino Rabbits, to fake 1000 dollar shoes. We mostly bought fruits. We then had the opportunity to go into a Buddhist Temple and explore.
After a short break we wandered around the plaza near the temple. Some of us went to the cafe, and some of us went to the jewelry store. The people there were very nice.
Later, we went back to the Buddha temple and listened to traditional music. The employee would have a short lecture in between the songs, but only a few of us actually understood.
We walked to a nearby middle school that was bigger than most schools in the US. They even had a lake in the school! In one of the classrooms we had a language exchange with the students. It was great to connect with them.
After our visit to the middle school we had dinner and played A few games which we led as the leaders of the day.
We finished this great day off with a mentor group meeting where we did an activity called challenging assumptions. Looking forward to tomorrow!
-by Jade and Ming
Saturday July 13, 2019
Today was day 9 of our GLA adventure in China. The day started off with a van ride up steep, windy mountain. We arrived at a trail head, awaiting the walk to a beautiful temple. We explored the area and saw giant Buddhist statues that were embedded in the side of a mountain and also saw many monkeys.
Later in the day, we arrived at a lunch overlooking an amazing view of a reservoir filled with donkeys. Lunch consisted of fish we barbecued ourselves. We even saw a woman butcher a chicken and had our own music performance. We learned some of the lyrics, despite not knowing what they meant or the proper way to pronounce them.
We later arrived back at home base for dinner, a game, and a leadership activity/debate.
-by Aleha and Sadie
Sunday July 14, 2019
Today, on Sunday, July 14th, our mentors were gracious enough to let us sleep in for an extra precious hour with an optional breakfast. Today signified the halfway mark of our trip. At 10am, we strolled the streets of Shaxi, talking to locals, buying food, and shopping for miscellaneous items. We were able to pick up the gifts our family desperately yearned for.
After our shopping excursion, we were spread out individually and discovered our inner spiritualities through intense reflection and meditation through journaling. Our self reflections will be kept with us forever as we frolick on our journeys of self-discovery. During Chinese class, we ferociously clapped to the rhythm of “If you’re happy and you know it” and learned about different ailments.
We thoroughly enjoyed learning about how to navigate our way through a trip to the hospita. For our leadership activity, we played reverse hide and seek at the park, and prevailed to have fun despite the pouring rain.
Our last activity for the night was met with passion and intensity as 18 intellectuals congregated to explore the game of Jeopardy. It was a euphoric experience that may be the peak of the week.
-by Gracie and Sinead
Monday July 15, 2019
On this breathtaking day, we embarked upon a journey to an organic farm, where we were met by farmers who kindly greeted us, and were excited for us to exhibit our youthful energy. They tasked us with instructions to gather compost in the area, which came in the form of plums and crabapples. We took a stroll around the farm, enjoying ourselves an elegant view of the mountains.
The group then congregated to make fertilizer with the compost we collected. The farmers displayed a form of the final product to us, which was an enzyme. We poured sugarcane waste into our collection of compost, which we expect to form into the final product over the coming days we return to the farm. While transporting the buckets of compost to a designated area, one of the buckets broke. With a great team effort, the compost was picked up and placed in a new bucket. Following this, we collected cabbages freshly grown on the organic farm, and took them with us on our journey back to home base. The cooking staff were very satisfied with our souvenirs from the farm and used the cabbages to include in our dinner.
After lunch, the staff members escorted us to a special surprise activity. We were greeted by two female dancers, who enthusiastically taught our group a traditional Bai dance. After mastering the dance, the group engaged in a mentor meeting, in which we discussed and interpreted famous quotes, and how they apply to the qualities of a leader.
Following the delicious dinner in which our self-picked cabbage was incorporated in, we split up into two groups for a food challenge. This competition was difficult for most, but was also entertaining for all, as we guessed which strange food was presented to us. Each student who completely ate what was displayed even got an extra point for doing so! The winning team won free ice cream! To end our day, we all went on a peaceful walk, where we were entranced by the beautiful sunset in the background of the illustrious mountains surrounding Shaxi. This day was not only successful, but was one for everyone to joyously remember and reflect upon!
By: Emre and Sam
Tuesday July 16, 2019
Today was a interesting day for the GLA China group. We first went back to the organic farm to cut grass and make compost. After finishing up the compost, the owner of the farm. Mr. Sunny helped us cut flowers he uses for his essential oils. We said our goodbyes and thanked Mr Sunny for giving us this opportunity (he thanked us back.).
We went on to have a full lunch, one that everyone was hungry for. After that, we prepared questions to ask locals of a nearby village tomorrow. Questions about life and how they are being environmentally conscious. Then, we all walked across the street to the girls’ courtyard to start game night. Most played cards while some learned Mahjong.
When game night started to wind down, most of us headed to the park to stretch our legs. After about 30 minutes in the park, I saw a man waving to me out a window. Low and behold, it was Mr. Sunny himself, owner of the farm and many other places in Shaxi. He beckoned us to come in his “guesthouse” (though I think it doubles as a cafe too) where he showed us his beautiful garden, his essential oils laboratory, and some bird nests that hang off the ceiling.
I asked if I could buy some honey (since I saw some beehives on the farm) and he denied my offer and gifted me a bottle. The honey isn’t fully ready yet and tastes bitter. But, it is locally grown (and free)! We said our goodbyes a second time and Mr. Sunny said he has a gift in store for us. We walked back to home-base, said our goodnights, and went to bed ready for whatever tomorrow gives us.
-by Turner Land
Wednesday July 17, 2019
Today began with a walk to Sha Ping village, where we met up with some kids and volunteer college students. We were split into 3 groups and we interviewed families about their everyday life and knowledge of environmental issues in China. It was very interesting to see the varying opinions. On the walk back to home base we picked up trash and litter that was everywhere around the roads.
After lunch we had our final Mandarin class, where we learned some of the most important sentence structures in the language and we learned about Chinese customs. After dinner we shared our interview experiences and went to the park to do a group activity.
Overall a very fun and productive day!
-by Sadie and Nina
Thursday July 18, 2019
In the morning after breakfast we made our way to a tea and souvenir shop by the river. We were to collect cookies and sesame powder that we’d later sell with the local elementary students to fundraise for their school. Although we tried our best, the students proved to be much more skilled salesmen.
We raised around 696 yuan for the school (about $100), which will definitely go a long way here!
We came back to home base to begin packing for our eventual departure. After lunch we headed to one of the kitchens staff’s farms and helped pick weeds at their green pepper plot. We worked for around an hour and a half before heading back out.
Later that night we practiced our dance for Friday’s farewell dinner, which basically just turned into a dance party. We played whichever music we wanted and danced away. After that we were able to explore Shaxi and pop into a cafe that had its own dog and local live music playing.
-by Lauren and Andrew
Friday July 19, 2019
Today was a sad day all around as we explored Shaxi for the last time and said our farewells. We started the day with our last visit to Shaxi’s bustling Friday Market. While there, all kinds of swag was bought and an addition to the GLA family was even made. We welcomed Miranda the turtle into our family and Bridget became a proud parent.
Miranda (the turtle) then moved into her new home in the pond outside the girls’ hotel and officially became the greatest farewell gift ever.
We then split into three groups and proceeded to compete to the death in a Shaxi scavenger hunt. Each group was given a list of objects or places written in Chinese that they needed to take a picture of. The competition was intense, but one group came out as the winner, rewarded with ice cream.
After our final lunch in Shaxi, we were given some final time to shop around the town. For our final meal there, everyone chipped help-wise and over 200 dumplings were made. The dumplings were almost as great a send off as the traditional Bai dance we were all fortunate enough to then witness that evening. After the dancers gave us a wonderful performance, we made all of America proud with our own rendition of traditional American dances like the Cotton Eyed Joe and the Cha Cha Slide.
All in all, it was a very memorable day and Shaxi will be missed.
Rebecca and Brandon
Saturday July 20, 2019
Today marked our last morning in Shaxi, Yunnan, China. We savored the home cooked breakfast from the amazing kitchen staff and headed to Dali City. On the way, we learned how to tie dye and create our own designs.
Additionally, we had a delicious lunch at a local restaurant that consisted of rice, meat, and vegetable dishes. After dinner, we had to opportunity to explore Dali City and compare the busy night life to the serene life in Shaxi. Leaving Shaxi has been bittersweet but we are excited for our travels to Beijing!
-by Isabella and Jade
“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”
Today was a travel day for the GLA staff and students.
After a quick breakfast in the atrium we set out for the airport in Kunming. We had a nice flight over to a small airport that was nestled on top of a mountain.
We were soon to find that our connection had been delayed due to air traffic congestion in Beijing. After a few more updates we had found out that our plane would eventually be delayed two hours. The students took it in stride and started to buy snacks, play games, read and entertained themselves. The fact that they didn’t even realize that we were delayed showed how close this group has become over the last few weeks.
We finally arrived at our hotel in Beijing at about 10:30 PM where a dinner of various types of dumplings awaited us. We knew we had a couple big days ahead so we ate quickly and settled into our new rooms, ready to take on the remaining few days.
Tuesday July 23, 2019
Today, on July 23rd we woke up at 8:30, ate breakfast, and travelled to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
Despite the intense heat and humidity, we enjoyed looking at the architecture and learning about the history of the square. After walking for a few hours, we went back to our hotel where we ordered noodles and rested.
After the break, we went to the Beijing Capital Museum of Folk Classics. We split up into many different independent groups and roamed the museum for an hour. There were many interesting galleries of different types of crafts and arts, as well as a spiral staircase that made you very dizzy. After an hour, we proceeded to go to a local restaurant for dinner. We had the choice of different types of noodles and rice. We then roamed into the hotel and did an appreciation activity.
The mentors chose certain students to stand up, and asked all the others to close their eyes and faced the wall. They then said different traits and qualities and the students called up would tap people to recognize them for that certain quality.
It was a nice way to recognize each other after so much time together. After the appreciation we went to our rooms to rest for a big day at the Great Wall the next day.
-By Ming and Gracie
Wednesday July 24, 2019
We awoke early for an exciting last day to the Great Wall. After buffet breakfast, we hopped on our bus to head a couple hours outside the center of Beijing. The wall suddenly came into view and everyone was giddy with excitement. Our group had the fortune to take the chair lift up to the wall, instead of walking in the 100 degree humid weather!
The wall is more amazing and grand than in any photos. We slowly made our way up very steep stairs to a tower on top of the mountain, where we took a rest, cooled off and ate the Subway sandwiches we ordered near the bottom of the lift. The group enjoyed the wall for a couple hours and took in the sites, then made our way down the mountain in the best possible fashion: A toboggan down a mountain slide.
We cleaned up back at the hotel, and headed out for our farewell dinner to a nice restaurant, where we had duck as a main course along with
many other dishes. Around the tables, we reminisced about the highlights of the trip and laughed about our first impressions of one another.
Back at the hotel, local director Xiao played a photo slideshow he had put together of our whole trip, and we started to get sad that the trip was nearly over. After completing a survey of the program, we went back to our rooms to pack, clean, and prepare for an early departure home.
See you all next time!
Jenny (program mentor)