2018-4-18 – Ben Kelley – Beijing

Today was a busy but interesting day for the Journey East group. We woke up at 5 AM to go from Hohhot to Beijing. Although we only spent about 8 days in Hohhot, it was a bit sad to leave the people there who had formed relationships with us like our tour guides and dance partners. Our final performance went well in my opinion, even though we only had a week to practice the songs and dances. It was very relaxing to know that the performances were over and that we were going to be tourists for the rest of the trip.

We made it to the airport and enjoyed standing in line while half asleep. I fell asleep in the plane and gained a little bit of my energy back for Beijing. We arrived in Beijing smoothly and were happy to get “lunch” at a dumpling restaurant. There was lots of good food and the spices seemed really tasty to me.

We went to Tiananmen Square after eating, and we were greeted by a warm weather. To some people it might be mild, but to a Vermonter who left home in the middle of the snow, it was awfully hot.  I enjoyed the beautiful sites despite being thirsty and tired. I noticed lots of foreigners in the Forbidden City complex, meaning it must be very popular. I walked along a pathway that emperors supposedly walked on and saw many beautiful buildings. The Forbidden City is said to have over 9,000 rooms, an amazing feat for its time.

It was somewhat strange settling back into the same hotel in Beijing in which we started the trip. It is a little sad that our trip is coming to an end, but on our journey, we have seen more of China than most people, including the Chinese, will see in their lifetimes. We have been from Beijing to Kaili to Mile to Chongqing to Chengdu to Qufu to Hohhot and back to Beijing. I have probably seen more of China at this point than I have seen in the US. As we prepare to head back to Vermont, I hope that everyone will bring back good memories from this trip.

2018-4-17 – Avery White – Hohhot

Today was our last day here in Hohhot and I’m going to miss this place like crazy. My friends and I, including my new friends I made here, have created so many amazing memories. Everything about this city makes me happy, the people, the calmness of it, and the bright atmosphere. This last day, though, was very nice. It started with yet another very healthy breakfast that consisted of noodles, two pieces of cake and fried dough. It was our last breakfast there, so I didn’t care and made the most of it.

We then went to a traditional Mongolian market. It was the best place to find small but beautiful gifts. There were many necklaces, bracelets, and rings that were full of color and interesting designs. Also, there were polished rocks, bags, and gorgeous paintings. I got to watch these people create a painting and I was overly impressed with the amount of talent it took to create one. I bought a few items there, and I am so excited to bring them home. One of these things, Maddie and I tried to bargain down. This was our first bargaining experience, so we had no clue what we were doing. It did not go that way we planned. We got ripped off. Our bargaining skills, though, did get better.

 

The second part of our day started off with lunch at a mall. It was a buffet that included many foods that we eat in America like French fries, pizza, pasta, and ice-cream. It was one of the best meals I have had on this trip. For desert, I had this very tasty mango and chocolate ice-cream with chocolate cake. You do not know how full I was after consuming that. Lunch ended, and we ventured off to yet another shopping spot. We went to this place that was set up like a mall. It had three or four floors of little things, clothes and candy. I made a great purchased there. I finally found my favorite Chinese candy, White Rabbits. It made me so happy when I saw them and will try my hardest not to eat all of them before arriving back in America. The rest of the day was very laid-back. We had four hours to rest, watch movies, do laundry, or pack.

Lastly, we had a farewell banquet in the hotel. It was very nice and was sad to say goodbye to our new friends. The connection that we all created with everyone at the performing art collage is so strong and something I will always hold onto. They were all so humble, welcoming and most of all great hosts. Tomorrow, we have to wake up early to catch a flight back to Beijing where we finish out our wonderful journey. I am very sad to leave this place but hopefully in the future, I will have the chance to come back.

2018-4-17 – Ellie Longo – Friendly Soccer

So today was a pretty fantastic day all together.  We woke up to eat breakfast and then had an hour chorus practice in the morning that was added to the itinerary late last night which wasn’t a bad idea (we need more chorus practice.)  After that it was the time we had all been waiting for: Game time.  Soccer: Leland and Gray vs Inner Mongolian Arts College.  All the chorus was excited because their teacher said if they had a good rehearsal that day with us then they could watch our soccer game so they did.  We got our own jerseys that we got to keep and a new pair of goalie gloves which Ms. R got, as she was our goalie. Friendly soccerThe game was intense and their team was good.  All but one of our players played at least for a few minutes by swapping out players every few minutes.  We ended the game with a win of 5-4, which was a victory for everyone because the other team got to take smiling pictures with us that showed we still like them.

We then had lunch and rest and then it was time to spend the rest of the day with host families.  Most of the host families had something to do with the arts college.  We were sent off in pairs with different host families.  Ethan and I went with a 17-year-old percussionist who is my new best friend for life.  We had seen him before and I even played a song with him in the concert with two other people; Siena and Rita.  We went back to his house and he played us a huge marimba and he was incredible.  He had won first place in Japan’s musical contest and so many other awards.  His goal is to become a drummer.  Then we learned how to make dumplings with his mom which was fun and easier than it looks (at least the part we did.)  After this he showed us that he was good at Fortnite and then we all played more instruments together and took a walk around the neighborhood which was gorgeous.  I know that everyone had a different experience so I can’t speak for them but I had an amazing time with him.  Out of everyone I have met on this trip I will miss him the most by far.  All-together the day was a win-win for me.

2018-4-13 – Madison Chase – Mongolian Kindergarten

Today was the Mongolian Kindergarten day and my 16th birthday! Two very exciting things packed into one day. In the morning, we headed to the Mongolian kindergarten. The drive was short and was just through the city of Hohhot. When we arrived at the kindergarten, we were draped in the traditional blue Mongolian scarves, called Hada. We were then ushered into the beautiful building. Once inside the building, we were greeted by some of the teachers of the school and one teacher took us on a tour.

What I found very interesting on the tour was that the walls of the kindergarten were covered in traditional pieces of Mongolian culture. Many had pieces of traditional Mongolian art on them, including one painting on an animal hide and one wall had pieces of a Yurt. There was also a section on the third floor just dedicated to traditional clothing and jewelry. The kindergarten is trying to preserve the traditions of Inner Mongolia for the future generations.

Inner Mongolia is part of China and Mongolian language and culture is starting to fade in the area. More people are speaking Mandarin instead of Mongolian, and adapting more into the Chinese culture. I think its amazing that the kindergarten is preserving Mongolian culture and educating the young generation on it.

On the tour we were also brought into two classrooms and were able to interact with the students. The first classroom we visited was full of three-year-olds. Some of them were very into interacting with us, and some were not. They were all adorable and it was fun to watch them play. The second classroom was older children, I believe they were mostly five-years-olds. I was able to color with two very cute girls. They were shy at first, but began to warm up to us. Than I got the most amazing surprise I’ve ever received. The entire room of kindergartners and teachers started singing me Happy Birthday in Mongolian ( which is a beautiful language) and then in English. It was beautiful and filled my heart with happiness.  The rest of our time spent with the kindergarten was our performances. The kindergartners performed traditional Mongolian dances for us and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Inner Mongolia Museum

The rest of the day was filled with a trip to the Inner Mongolia Museum which I enjoyed. There were some very cool exhibits including a space exhibit and nature exhibits.

Madison having her birthday cake

At dinner, the University members surprised me with a cake and a beautiful bracelet made from a natural, orange stone.

Earlier in the day we had been surprised to find out that we were able to get into a Mongolian rock concert. The group performing was called the Anda Union and Ms. R and Kevin had seen them before and assured us they were great. And let me tell you, they were amazing! The performance included traditional Mongolian songs, throat singing and traditional instruments. It was a completely captivating show and I personally loved it. All the songs were beautiful and were composed of so many different elements. It was a wonderful way to end the most amazing birthday I’ve ever had.

             

2018-4-12 – Caroline Mehner – Hohhot No. 35 Middle School

Today was another super long, exhausting day. We got up at 7am and we had to be downstairs, and ready for the day by 8:40. We went downstairs to our meeting place, packed up the bus, and drove to the performance center.

We had a chorus rehearsal with the Mongolian students for the third time this trip. It was very interesting to notice the different ways that chorus classes can be taught. In the classes we’ve had so far, were handed our music and expected to follow the program. I noticed struggles from some of the group because not many are knowledgeable when it comes to reading music. I was however very impressed by the amount of effort everyone put in. They were respectful and tried very hard to figure out the music.

After we got done singing, we got to go up onstage and dance with the students studying dance at the arts college.  We started off by dancing the An Dai dance that we learned earlier in the week. Again, seeing the focus of the students and seeing them be engaged in whatever they were being told by their dance partners. I have gained a good relationship with a lot of the girls who were helping me out. They are all very kind and trying very hard to make sure everyone is getting the same amount of help, or the help that they need to succeed in the moment. We also learned a modern dance which we ended up learning the entire thing and having a fun time in doing so. Then we went to lunch, and had break time afterwards to rest, or just relax. I read my book in the windowsill until the break was over.

After break time, we left the hotel again and went to a middle school to have a campus tour and to do some activities with the students. The campus was beautiful with a lot of windows and cool architecture. The activities consisted of either hand crafts or painting. I chose to  do the painting class because I really enjoy painting, it calms me down, and gives me something to think about for a while. Since it is spring time, we got to paint flowers and spring like objects. When the class was over, a little girl approached me and gave me the painting she made and started jumping up and down. She asked for a hug and we talked for a little while.

Then we had to leave the school to head back to the arts college to have dinner. We got back relatively early, so we hung out in the common area outside by the track and field place. We then ate dinner, which was yummy as usual.

From dinner, we went to our rehearsal for the drums from 6:30-7:00. Then we had a chorus rehearsal from 7:00-8:00. It was very interesting because the teacher told Karlie that we were going to learn two Mongolian songs and that she wouldn’t be able to teach an English song. We were surprised when the teacher said that but the songs we ended up learning were both very beautiful. I just wish we were able to know the lyrics to the songs better because we can only sing the songs on a certain syllable.

After our rehearsal, the group went out and consumed our body weights in pizza!!!! It was strange to be having pizza in China but it was completely worth it and very yummy.