Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
HI GLA China Family!
You all left for home a few days ago, and we here in China already miss you! It is much quieter, and it is strange to eat a meal without a huge table with a Lazy Susan and a million different dishes. By the time you read this, you will have been home and back in school for a few months now.
I would imagine some of you are missing the fantastic food we ate: always a potato dish or two, chicken curry, cauliflower and endless amounts of rice. I know I will miss all of our support staff, Uncle Lu, Aliu, Xiao Gong, and everyone else who made our stay in Shaxi feel like home. I hope someday you all get the opportunity to return to Shaxi to see the work you did, and the temple and community center built and in use.
Here are some of my favorite memories of our trip:
- Our trip to the stone forest – our first real outing as a group. And then it decided to downpour.
- Eating bugs. I knew we had a great group full who would be willing to try new things and were open to adventure, when everyone was down to eat some bugs.
- Visiting the mountain temple and seeing all of the monkeys. That was a good day.
- Our conversation about the difference between education systems in the U.S. and in China (and around the world).
- Our first day visiting the kindergarten – watching you all do the morning exercise…for all 30 minutes.
- Walking to the kindergarten – though far away, it was a beautiful walk.
- Our goodbye party in Shaxi – watching you all throw adults in the air was both amazing and hilarious. Thanks for not dropping me ☺ .
- Our last meal together, eating duck and different dishes, having you teach Jenica and me the latest phrases and slang.
I would love to hear what you are all up to, and what the future holds for everyone.
Summer Blog Posts
Our group has made it safe and sound to China! Students arrived throughout the day, after long days of travel. We headed back to our hotel where everyone had a chance to relax and prepare for our first amazing meal of many.
We walked through a local university to kick off our new adventure with a feast of dumplings.
After a few travel delays, Adelaide and Lily made it safely to Kunming.
Tomorrow we are off to see the stone forest. We can’t wait to see all that China has to offer!
Stay tuned for more,
Hello GLA friends and family! Although we have only been here for a few days, there’s already been many unique sights and experiences. On day one, we arrived tired and ready for decent food. Everyone began to chat about where we’re all from, what kind of snacks we brought and I got many compliments on my penguin pillow pet.
On day one my expectations of China were already being challenged. My whole life my parents have told me “You can’t get real Chinese food in the states.” When they said that I really didn’t know what to expect. As a vegetarian, eating in new places can be challenging. However I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of whole and plant-based ingredients, and the absence of corn syrup drenched “chicken”. So far, none of us have gone hungry at any meal.
On day two we went on our first sight seeing adventure. We took the bus to the Stone Forest, a natural marvel left over from 270 million years ago when Yunnan Province was under the sea. I was in love with the landscape, and in awe of how anything that beautiful can last for hundreds of millions of years. Once we reached one of the highest peaks, the sky opened and quickly we were all soaked. Carefully we made our way down, taking small steps to avoid starting a domino effect of kids falling down the hillside. As we walked along the path, I had the chance to absorb the nature around me. Rarely do I even think to focus on the rain, creating ripples in the pond, running down crevices in rock and dripping from the leaves. The experience was one of a kind, and I can’t see what the rest of China has to offer.
July 14, 2016
After waking up at 8h we had a delicious breakfast made of steam bread, fried dough, warm soymilk and coffee made by the local staff. We then had to drive to the kindergarten where we are going to do a part of our community service during the next two weeks. As soon as we arrived, we headed to the kindergarten. It is a small school with a traditional Chinese building, where children of the surrounding towns and villages go.
They were all shy. In fact, it was like we were aliens to them! As we tried to say hi or wave at them, they would run away screaming which was quite cute. So, we decided to play games with them and just see how it goes! We actually had a lot of fun and as time went by, the kids started laughing and got closer to us. At 10h30, we all gathered on the playground with them to do their daily exercises. They started reciting things in Chinese and then… they just did some dance moves on pop music that the teacher taught them! They went on for 30 minutes long! We were all surprised to see how many moves they could memorize. We all enjoyed this moment. After that, some of us continued playing games with them, and the rest stayed in the classrooms teaching them English and Mandarin words because they only speak the local Bai language. It was amazing to see how curious those kids were. But unfortunately, it was time for us to go back to our home base. We said goodbye to them and walked back to ShaXi.
We walked about 30 minutes by the river to finally reach our home base. We had lunch and after a short rest we took Chinese lessons with Yi for the beginners, and with Henry for the others. We learned new words and practiced our Chinese skills. After this, we had a tour though ShaXi. We walked through the lovely streets and went to the rice fields that surround the town. The landscape was wonderful!
After an hour and a half of walking, we headed back to the home base. We took our GLA notebooks and wrote down thoughts about our trip. We also had to introduce ourselves by talking about our lives for one minute. Then we had diner and we all went upstairs to make our “manifesto”: It is just rules to make our trip more enjoyable for everyone. We laughed a lot! After that we had chill time and at 9h30 we all went to sleep.
July 7, 2016
To start off we would like to give you a short haiku about food on the trip so far.
Red White Yellow Green
Colors of the food we eat
Fills up our tummy
Locals have cooked all the food that we’ve eaten so far. Food can teach you a lot about the people and culture. We have discovered that the food here contains a lot of rice, pepper, oil, and garlic. Those items are a delicious combination! Breakfast consist of boiled eggs, soymilk, and bread. Lunch and Dinner includes rice, vegetables like bak-choi, and meat such as pork and chicken. Something very different from American meals is the abundance of tofu served. All the meals have been delicious and refreshing for the taste buds.
On this trip we enter into their world through food. One other thing that emerged us into Chinese culture was a Chinese movie shown to us called, “A Chinese Ghost Story” (倩女幽魂). This brought us into the culture by showing us standards of gender. The story wasn’t based on morals but upon beliefs that the Chinese people have. The female in the movie was a ghost who seduced “evil” men and lead them to their death. This portrays the Chinese stereotype of women using her looks to gain power upon men. By the end of the movie it shows that there is always a good and evil in the world. The female ghost was able to reincarnate into a better person due to the help of a passerby whom helped her see the better in the world.
Overall our trip to China has led us to be emerged in a new world of culture. We have learned a lot and are excited to learn more.
Emily and Adelaide
Hello GLA families! This weekend was filled with fun as we ventured to the beautiful town of Shi Long Cun, roughly translating to Stone Dragon village.
As soon as we walked off the bus, the weather decided to change from sunny skies to an absolute downpour; something we have seemed to encounter a lot so far on this trip. We took cover for a few minutes in a local BBQ restaurant that we would be eating lunch at the following day. The rain cleared quickly, and we made our way along the roads that were being constructed as we walked across them. As Shi Long Cun is a more traditional/conservative village, the boys and girls had to stay in separate guesthouses. We had a quick turn around at the houses, and soon began our hour trek to Bao Xiang Temple, which was on top Shi Bao Shan, Stone treasure Mountain. The views as we made our way up the mountain were stunning, but could not compare to the sights of the temple.
The temple greeted us with a giant gold Buddha and colorful Bodhisattva that stood many levels away from us. As we walked in the temple, we had 15 minutes of silence to take in the beauty and listen to our own thoughts. We observed the artwork and idols; taking the time to think about how lucky we are to experience the authentic Chinese culture on this trip. Along with encountering the gorgeous culture of Buddhism and Daoism, we also encountered some silly monkeys. They were not only silly, but truly brave as they often got closer to us, as we tried to keep our distance.
After a physically exhausting day we were overjoyed to sit down for a yummy dinner at Aliu’s house, a women who worked as a chef back at home base. However, the night was just beginning. We made our way down to the village center where we met many locals. A bon fire was started and we began TRYING to follow the steps of many traditional dances. We soon had our turn as we helped “instruct” many locals on how to whip and nae nae, do the Macarena, and conga line. Quite a sight! We had lots of fun but were very, very tired and eventually made our ways back to our separate houses for a night of peaceful sleep.
The next day, we walked back to Aliu’s house and had a delicious breakfast of a noodle soup with egg, potatoes, and meat. Sadly our time in Shi Long Cun had come to an end and it was time go. On the way back to home base, we stopped at another amazing temple only to find more monkeys and women equipped with slingshots to scare them away.
The weekend excursion was enjoyed by all, and we are looking forward to the rest of the week in Kunming.
– Lily and Maddie
July 21, 2016
Today (7/21) was a special day because it was our last day at the first of two kindergartens. We’ve all had so much fun spending time with these little munchkins, that having to say goodbye to them was heart wrenching. The truly sad part was having to watch as the girls say goodbye to the little kids they favored so much. We left knowing that our minor contribution in their lives may cause a ripple encouraging them to want to learn more about the world in which their larger friends came from. Having spent as much time as we had with them, I think brought back a part of us that we had all forced to subside, I mean to say our inner child. The one that wants to run around and play, and be wild. Our time with these kids has been enjoyable, however it is time to meet a new group of kindergartners, in a new place, and try to influence them.
This week was a mix of different activities and was a lot of fun. The week consisted of making mud bricks and working at the kindergartens. While making the mud bricks everyone was able to feel like they are one of the labor workers that helps the community and rebuild what has been demolished. It was a dirty job to do, but all of us had fun doing it and that is what makes it a great experience. Everyone was working along each other and when we were making the mud bricks we realize it was to test our organization as a team and also how we would work as a team. We all contributed into doing each process like mixing the mud together, filling the buckets with my mud, and making the mud bricks with the mold. All in all it was a fun and messy job and it seemed that everyone enjoyed it a lot.
We also worked at the kindergarten, which was a great and fun experience in working with the children there, but at the end we were all depressed because that was our last time going to that kindergarten. However, to cheer everyone up, we were asked to work at another different kindergartens and all the children there were all so excited to see foreigners visit them. When we walked into the new kindergarten, the children looked all happy and excited because it made them feel special that a bunch of foreigners came to their school and play with them.
After all the services we had time to do a bunch of fun arts and crafts. We were all able to learn about paper cutting and make some of our own. Some of us realized that we had a talent in paper cutting, but others just had to work a little harder. It wasn’t all about whether you are good at it or not, it was just for fun. At night we also played games that consisted of working our group, and Chinese fear factor. For one activity, called bucket of dreams, we all wrote our goals that we will try to accomplish as a group and as an individual. Our leader put the goals inside a bucket and we had to retrieve them with a person that couldn’t speak, a person who was blindfolded, and a person that can give the directions, but the only people who could touch any of the materials were the ones who were blindfolded. We were all able to retrieve the bucket in less than an hour. We all enjoyed it and learned our strengths when working as a team.
Chinese fear factor was nothing but a tasty after meal and don’t let the word fear get into your mind. Everyone was afraid of what they were about to eat, but it ended up being a delicious snack for everyone. There were also some movies that we saw which were the “Return of the Monkey King” and a documentary that talked about students from India, United States, and Shanghai. The “Return of the Monkey King” was just a cartoon movie that we enjoyed because it was somewhat depressing and happy as well. While the documentary was a little boring to some people, it was able to spark a conversation at the dinner table. To sum it all up this has been a fun and tiring week for everyone.
July 27, 2016
After several travel days full of long bus rides and an early flight, we have arrived at our last leg of our trip: Beijing! We are all happy to be exploring a new and different (and significantly warmer) part of China over the next few days. After our 6am departure to the airport, a 4 hour flight, and a stint in Beijing’s traffic, our group dropped our things at our hotel, and headed off to the Capitol Museum. We spent a few hours walking through floors of chinese history and art. After our trip to the museum, we walked to dinner about 20 minutes away. It was a time warp with the decor a throw backs to the Cultural Revolution and Chinese communism. Our cups all had images of Mao Zedong on them. We got to meet up with a former GLA alum who had both been a student with GLA and a mentor in the past. It was great to laugh and share our experiences of the past few weeks.
We are excited to see all that Beijing has to offer! A few more fun filled, full days 🙂
All students, with the exception of one (sorry Victoria!) are headed home today. We have had an fantastic 3 weeks together and it is sad to have to say goodbye!
Over the past few days in Beijing, we saw a few museums, visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, climbed the Great Wall of China, and ate our fill of Peking Duck. It was a busy few days, but worth the history lessons and views. I wanted to share a few photos of everyone on the great wall (and at the airport), before everyone makes it back home. Hopefully these photos tide you over until you get to see your children again!
Thank you for letting me spend the summer with this smart, funny, and AMAZING group of students.
All the Best,