Letter from your GLA Mentor, Rudy (Session 1)
I am writing this letter from one of the coolest coffee shops in Phoenix and the people next to me are getting ready for a trip to Beijing this December. I couldn’t help but smile and think, “Hey, I was just there this past summer!” It has been about 5 months since our group was wandering through the narrow streets of Shaxi, playing with Sasha, having chill conversations with Melissa, helping restore a temple sacred to Shaxi, practicing our Mandarin skills, receiving endless information from Charles and eating some of the best food in the world! Those three weeks were truly an adventure and it was all due to you guys.
Whenever I share my experience with friends, I always mention how Isabel was the bravest student in the world because she literally ate everything including pig’s blood and liver (gross). I mention how Sam and Alex started a war on who could recite more Spongebob Squarepants quotes and how Stefano would give us Tweet updates every 5 minutes. Do you guys remember how Stefano did not mind if the news were sad or happy but he still shared them with everyone? The cool thing was that was how many great conversations started, haha. Then we had Molly and Ayana who were the sweetest girls in the world and made our group feel extra special. As I recall, Molly actually went back to Beijing after the GLA trip so it would be nice to hear how that went.
Finally, I can never stop mentioning Aaron because he saved us so many times! Aaron literally made everyone laugh out loud with his jokes and comments. Without his help we would have been super lost in Beijing and maybe he got tired of translating for everyone but he always smiled so I’m sure it was ok. What I am trying to say is that I miss you guys and the great times we shared together in China. I have already met up with Alex so I will be working my way down the list to catch up. I hope you guys also share your GLA China experiences with your friends and how you guys had a crazy Mexican as your mentor. I hope you are all doing well in school and I wish you all happy holidays. Don’t be afraid to reach out for anything! See you guys soon!
Letter from your GLA Director, Sara (Session 2)
I hope this letter finds you well and ready for the holidays. This time of the year is always really special, because it gives people the chance to reflect on the things they are grateful for in their lives. For me, that list would definitely not be complete without every one of you! I think about our 3-week adventure in China every day, and I miss you all so much. Sometimes it seems like the entire experience was a dream— did we really do that!?!?
Like Beijing. Can we relive those few days for a moment? It’s weird to think back on a time where everyone didn’t know everyone and we were still trying to get comfortable as a group. From wandering through Beijing on the hunt for delicious noodles or Peking Duck to trying what felt like every ATM in the city to get spending money for everyone, we got to do some amazing things. Sliding down the Great Wall? Eating ice cream at the Temple of Heaven? We also learned things about one another, like the fact that Duncan is a Chinese celebrity and that Max is Mao’s biggest “fan”. As the director of the program, I learned about you as a group, too! I figured out that you were AMAZING- the smartest, most flexible students ever. When plans constantly changed, you rolled with it. When our plane landed in a city that wasn’t Kunming, you rolled with it. When it poured for 11 straight days, you rolled with it. When we discovered a lake we could swim in but didn’t have suits…yep, you rolled with it. Charles, Rudy, Mags and I couldn’t have been more thankful for the way you handled yourself when presented with both cultural and logistical challenges.
Another thing- maybe because it’s been 4 MONTHS, but I’m starting to get really nostalgic for Shaxi. It was like our own little Shire. I even miss the rain. Cozy afternoons in the coffee shops, the daily walk to service past all of the butchers and funny murals of cartoon characters, cobblestone streets with the friendliest, sweetest people…I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I want to go back. I can’t be the only one who misses amazingly ridiculous Chinese movies (CHINESE GHOST STORY), games that pitted mentor group vs. mentor group (Fear Factor, Team Charades…), and spending hours upon hours making dumplings (only to devour them in what can only be described as an animalistic nature). I also don’t know if I’ve ever had so much fun volunteering— from mud bricks to demolition jobs, you guys had so much fun doing such a dirty job. And what a difference we made! I saw Charles last week, and he told me that Mr. Huang already used our bricks and tiles to build 2 new walls at the Temple! They’re also repurposing the wood and nails from our demolition job (special shoutout to Jade and Josh for being MVPs of nail removal)!
Anyways, I could go on and on about how amazing each and every one of you are, but it might be easier to grab another slice of pie and replay our Giving Light night in your head. Or, reach out to one another! There’s no shortage of love to be found… I hope you’re all keeping in touch and challenging each other to pepper-eating contests over Skype. I’ve seen some reunion pics pop up on our Facebook group— but I’d still love to see more of you! Let me know if you’re going to be in Southern California! Would love to see you all and catch up 🙂
Also, if any of you sign up for another GLA program, let me know! I still haven’t decided where I’ll be heading for Summer 2016, and you guys might be the swing votes!
Love you and miss you all.
Also, be sure to check out the incredible adventure photos below from your GLA program!