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.

2018-4-15 – Avery White – Gobi Desert

Wow! Today is going to be a day that will stick with me forever. I got lucky and get to write about my amazing experience at the Gobi Desert.

Today started out with the very obnoxious wakeup call at 6:30 in the morning and was followed by breakfast at the hotel buffet. After eating two fried dough sticks and noodles, a very healthy breakfast, we headed out on a bus for a two-hour ride to the desert. It was amazing to start in the heart of the crazy city, Hohhot, and venture out into the vast and mountains landscape that surrounds it. I fell asleep and was woken up to one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. I got this overwhelming surreal and unbelieving feeling when I saw the open and beautiful desert.

Wide awake now, I was extremely excited to go out and explore. We took a lift that was very much like a ski lift, up to the top of a sand dune. On this ride I got Birdseye view of the many sand dunes, camels laying in the sun, and the modernized features such as ice- cream shops and zip- lines. I was not expecting there to be as many buildings and activities.

After getting off the lift we walked for a little until we came upon the camel rides. We had options for what we wanted to do to fulfill our two and a half hours. I quickly decided I wanted to ride a camel. It was one of the best decisions of my life. These animals were so big, strong and adorable. I created a special bond with my camel Pete. I miss Pete a lot right now. It felt very much like riding a horse, camels have similar shape except for the two humps. After saying a sad goodbye to my new friend Pete, Madison and I decided we wanted to climb up a sand dune. I noticed while climbing that when my bare feet hit the top sand, it was very hot but was quickly relieved when my foot sank into the cold sand underneath. It was an amazing feeling.

After reaching the top, Maddie and I decided to take some photos. Me, being a gymnast, did handstands, cartwheels and backflips. It’s so cool because now I can say that I’ve done a standing backflip in the Gobi Desert. After getting some amazing photo’s, we decided that the only other thing we could do is jump off some sand dunes. We would run and leap off the top and land about half way down getting sand everywhere. After two jumps, my hair and face were covered with sand, but it was definitely worth it. Sadly, we then had to leave that wonderful place. Of course, though, before leaving for lunch we had to stop for ice cream.

About an hour later, we had a very tasty lunch that included a lot of meat like pork, duck, and even lamb. After our bellies were full, we drove yet another hour and a half until we stopped for dinner. We had dinner at this very interesting place called Bamnudi. I, along with my friends, had no clue why we stopped here for dinner. There were animals there, including deer, ducks and two peacocks. This place just had a very unusual feeling to it. We had dinner, which included even more meat, and finally arrived back at the hotel.

As soon as we got back, everyone took a very needed shower to try to wash away all the sand. Today was one of my favorite days we have had here in China. I can now say I’ve done a backflip and rode a camel in the Gobi Desert. Two things I can now check off my bucket list!

2018-4-7 – Isabela Schmidt – Qufu

Today we had a calligraphy class, which was a really nice break from all the hustle and bustle of the museums that we just visited. We first learned the history of calligraphy. We also learned what the different tools they use, which is a piece of paper with a cloth under it they also use ink a bowl and a brush. After that, we learned that there are 5 different types of calligraphy. Then we learned how to write some of the pictograms it was kind of like drawing the object except way harder. We learned how to write sun, moon, water, rain, dragon and tiger. It was hard because of all the detail in the characters. I could do only about half of the characters, and the rest were just too difficult for me. Then we learned the same words in cursive, which was even harder. After that we painted traditional artwork that was fun but also challenging. He taught it by drawing it and then we followed his example. I thought his artwork was good and he made it look easier than it was. We then ate a very delicious lunch and had a small break. 

Then we went and saw Confucius’s birthplace. We saw the cave that he was born in. Confucius was born in a cave because his father thought the mountain spirits would help keep him safe. The cave was at the bottom of a hilly spot that was surrounded by trees. We could not go into it because it was blocked off, but it was still interesting to see.

After we left Confucius’s birthplace, we drove through some of the towns. We stopped to get off the bus and walked around one of the small towns. As we walked, all the people in the stores came out, it seemed like they had not seen many Americans.  There were clothing shops, but after clothing shops it was very vacant. It was very uncomfortable because people were always looking at us.

We then got back on the bus and we drove back to the hotel. We had to get dressed up for a final banquet dinner and we only got back to the hotel with 5 minutes to get ready. It was a lot of panic and stress, but we were able to all get in our fancy clothes in a 5-minute span. The banquet dinner was nice because it was a change from the normal meals we had been eating. There was good food; There was everything from fish to fruit and I particularly liked the pickles.  ​