Today was our last day in Inner Mongolia, and there are three more days left in the trip. It’s amazing how fast it has flown by. Although I am excited to return home, I am also sad to say good bye to China and all of the wonderful people that I have met.
After breakfast, we met in the lobby and looked up to see Mr. Goodemote still eating. We almost left without him, but he was, fortunately, able to catch the bus. We arrived at a street where there were many shops. They were selling lots of Mongolian clothing, tapestries, shoes, jewelry, and knick-knacks, among other things. We only had an hour to shop, which seems like plenty of time but turned out to be a bit rushed. There were so many stores selling very similar things that it was a bit overwhelming. I bought a leather tapestry with a picture of Genghis Khan, and a poster. I attempted to bargain, but every time I tried to do it I was told my price was too low and they refused. I’m pretty bad at bargaining…I’m still not used to it, but I wish that it existed more in the United States.
We soon left to go to a mall. When we arrived, we had about an hour to look around and get lunch. I went with Zoie and Sam H. The three of us walked around, looking in stores. However, everything was extremely expensive, and cost a lot more than it does in America. Maris bought a shirt, but I don’t think that anyone else bought anything.
After looking at stuff, we had about 20 minutes to find lunch. Sam and I went to Dairy Queen and got Blizzards. Then we walked around for a little bit, looking for a place where there was vegetarian food that I could eat. I felt bad because I knew that if I wasn’t there, they would be able to eat anywhere. We were unable to find any place to eat other than a sit down restaurant, so we ended up going to McDonald’s. I got 2 containers of French fries and Sam gave me an emergency Clif bar.
After shopping, we had several hours at the hotel before the banquet. I emailed, and then packed what I could. Our room was a disaster; the bathroom was a mess, there were clothes everywhere, and our suitcases had exploded. We cleaned up and then watched My Sister’s Keeper and Shrek the Third on HBO. Mr. Goodemote called during Shrek to see if I wanted to do a thing with our flutes. He came down a few minutes later with the Chinese flute that he had bought in Chongqing. He wanted to play a duet at the banquet. I would be playing part of “The Epic of Janghar,” a traditional Mongolian song, and he would playing “Idle Wild,” which is a jig from Ireland that is often played in New England. He gave me sheet music for it, and sadly Shrek had to be turned off so I could practice. Mr. Goodemote and I ran through it a few times, and then it was time for the banquet.
Once everyone was in the lobby, we realized that nearly half of the group was wearing red and black and the other half was wearing blue, which was pretty weird… We arrived at a hotel near the campus. Vincent (Gao Wu Xiang) came with us, which everyone really appreciated. Once everyone was seated, the Party Secretary of the college gave an opening speech. It was very nice, and he talked about how beneficial this program was. Over 500 students and teachers have been involved in the arts exchange, and he hopes that the program will continue forever. Then Tom and the principal of the middle school spoke. Tom talked about how glad he was to have the opportunity to come here, and that he is so lucky to have made so many strong relationships. He said that everyone who has been involved in this program has benefitted tremendously from it. He has watched people grow over the course of the trip. Students who go on the trip gain a new appreciation for other cultures, and they want to learn more about the world. As he spoke, I knew that I was tremendously lucky to be having this opportunity. So many people never get the chance to travel, but now that I have been 6,000 miles away from home I know that I have to see more of the world. There are so many beautiful and amazing people and places out there. I want to see and meet as many as I can. I know that I will remember this trip for the rest of my life, and that I will constantly be learning new things from my experience.
During dinner, Tom spoke directly to us. He told us that he was tremendously lucky to have such an amazing group of students. The 16 of us got along so well, and we have all become like a family over the past month. We have faced many obstacles; we dealt with the loss of a teacher whom we all loved, and a few people had family members pass away as well. Through the hardship and the sadness we were able to find strength from each other. We grew closer because we all felt the same pain. I have become so comfortable with this odd little family of ours, and I am so glad I was able to share this experience with 15 amazing people.
Towards the end of dinner, Tino toasted the adults, thanking all of them for working so hard to make this experience possible. It was short and sweet, and well-deserved. Then gifts were exchanged. Honorary Professor Tom and the teachers were given things, and then the students were given long blue Hadas. To be given these is a sign of respect. Sam T. and Skyler had birthday cake, and then Mr. Goodemote and I performed “Janghar in Vermont”. I forgot to repeat a section, but other than that, it went very well. It’s cool to me how similar music can be created continents apart. When it comes down to the basics, we are not all that different.
After that, Sarah and Brianna gave a speech about Tom. They thanked him for all that he did for us. Something that Brianna said, I liked a lot. She thanked Tom for sharing the amazing experiences that he had here with everyone else. He saw the opportunity to create an amazing program, and by doing this he changed the lives of so many people. Without him, we wouldn’t be able to have this incredible experience. I am so grateful that I am having this opportunity.