2018-4-11 – Quinn Kelloway – Rehearsal

Today we started off with breakfast at our hotel. The hotel we stay at offers an interesting mix of western and Chinese dishes.

After breakfast, we had our first lesson of the day which was a mixture of chorus class and the traditional dance. We have been learning with the attached middle school students. We started with the chorus class and the song they picked for us to collaborate with them with was quite difficult. The way that they read music is much different from the way we read music, so we had to get slightly different copies of the music. Karlie really helped us figure out the new style of teaching with the Chinese teacher. The style of teaching is also extremely different from what we are used to back home. It is slightly more grueling, but not understanding is not an option here. They do a thing until they get the result they want and in some ways,  I enjoy it more than the American way of accepting something that may not be your best.

I especially liked the dance class that we had after chorus, we had already worked on the dance the day before and thanks to my extremely helpful and forgiving dance partner I had got the dance mostly down. I was kind of forced to figure out the dance and not give it half try because I was placed dead center and front stage. If you know me or my dance ability at all this selection was not based on skill but much more random.

We had lunch at the school’s cafeteria after our morning classes which was welcomed happily.

Our afternoon was a little bit lower key, which is funny because we had a performance at a local high school. When we got to the high school we were welcomed and then split up and visited some classes. My group visited an English class and got to talk with the students and teacher about everything about our lives. This was, so far, my favorite activity we have done on this trip, it was short and sweet, but I felt like I got along with the students in the class really well and shared some common interest. Also, the English teacher was extremely friendly laid back and funny, which made me feel like I was back home at Leland and Gray. It was fantastic to see students who clearly had a strong relationship with their teacher like I feel I have at Leland and Gray.

We then found the auditorium and started our performance. At this point in the trip our show runs quite smoothly. The only funky part of this performance was it was done during their school day so many of the students had to leave half way through our show.

We had dinner, which was pretty uneventful and then went to another hour-long chorus class from 7-8. At this point we were all pretty burnt, but we pushed through it. After this we got to go back to our hotel and comfy beds.

2018-4-10 – Trey Crego – Inner Mongolia Arts College

Today, Tuesday April 10, 2018 (besides being my birthday), was our first day at the Inner Mongolian Arts college. For people who don’t know what the Arts College is, it’s a school for people looking to become professional dancers, musicians and performers of all kinds. This morning when the group arrived at the venue we had about an hour and a half to rehearse our show. We did our usual warmup and ran through the show one time. After we were finished it came time to reorganize the bags because after our last show we had to pack up in a hurry so the bags were a complete wreck. After our rehearsal it was time for lunch and then we had a nice long siesta to recover and rest before it was time for our dance class.

When the time finally came to head back to the college for the dance class I decided it would be a good idea to eat an ice cream because it was my birthday. When we got back to the performance hall we all sat in wait for the dancers to come, they finally did and they entered and all did a crazy dance move. I was surprised by how good they were. They invited all the JE kids onto the stage and we got to work almost immediately. For me, personally, I caught on to the dance quickly and found it quite enjoyable to perform. When I had any questions about where to put my feet or if I wanted to do something again, my dance partner was nice and helpful. I was afraid that my constant questioning and lack of elegance frustrated her, but it really seemed like it didn’t. In fact, all the Mongolian dancers seemed calm and patient with us Americans. We ran through the dance several times, paused, learned a new section of choreography, practiced the new stuff and added it into the dance. Then we practiced the whole thing up to the point where we needed new choreography and did that on repeat until we made it through the whole thing. It got a little annoying when we had to do the first piece of choreography repeatedly but in the end, it was really fun and we did learn the dance.

After a short break, we went through the dance again and then we watched the Mongolians do a short dance. After that it was time for dinner. During dinner, all the lights suddenly went out and a cake rolled in and people started singing happy birthday. Whenever people start singing happy birthday to me in public, I always get a little embarrassed. Despite being slightly embarrassed, we had some good cake with cherries in it. After we were done, I convinced Paul Paytas to go outside and throw his frisbee around for a while. Then a magical moment, some of the Chinese people that were standing around suddenly joined us and Ultimate Frisbee became a symbol for peace across the city. After frisbee, we went back to the hotel and winded down from the day.

2018-4-9 – Siena Sperling – Jinan to Hohhot

We woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel before getting on the bus that would take us to the airport. Even though it was early, the group was awake and ready to start a new leg of the trip. Due to a series of unfortunate events, out of our control, our two-hour early arrival turned into one hour and we began to get a little anxious about the time. We had a flight to catch.

When we arrived at the airport we quickly grabbed our bags from the bus and ran inside to wait in line to check our luggage. After some time, it was my turn to go to the counter to check my luggage. As I approached the counter, I realized that the pull up handle on my suitcase and would not go down. I let people go in front of me as I struggled to push the handle down. It would not budge. Mrs. R and I decided that we would have to look at it from inside the suitcase to figure out where the handle was jammed. While the rest of the group waited, I took out my clothes on the airport floor to get to the bottom of the suitcase where the handle was jammed. Finally, we figured it out and were able to close the handle. Next, we rushed to security with not much time left. Once we had all gotten through security, we checked the time and saw that we only had a few minutes to get to our gate. We went quickly to our gate, only to find that our flight had been delayed. All that rush for nothing!

I had a very enjoyable plane ride to Hohhot because a nice lady with the sweetest baby girl sat next to me. During the whole flight, I got to hold and play with the baby as the mom laughed and took pictures of us. As we were walking to baggage claim at the airport in Hohhot, the tallest man that I have ever seen passed us. Right away I recognized him from the big green Guinness World Record book that I have at home! His name is Bao Xishun and he is 7.9 feet. He was the tallest man in the world until 2009. We grabbed our luggage, then headed over to the bus to go to our hotel and drop our things off.

From the hotel, we had a quick yummy lunch at a restaurant, then took the bus to the Inner Mongolia Arts College to observe dance and music classes. The first class that we observed was a high school girls ballet class. These girls were amazing dancers. They danced in sync with each other and it was so impressive how they were able to perfectly memorize so many movements. Next, we went to a different classroom where another group of high school girls were doing traditional cup dancing. I recognized this dance from when Mongolian students have come to Leland and Gray to perform. The girls gracefully spun and leaped while balancing a stack of teacups on their head! Next, we toured around different classrooms and listened in on student’s music lessons. Everyone was so talented! Many of the instruments I had never seen before, so it was very interesting. After a long day, we finally went back to the hotel to get some rest.



2018-4-6 – Ethan Abbott – Confucius Sites

Today we explored three ancient Confucian sites in Qufu. The Confucian temple, the Confucian family mansion, and the Cemetery, and burial place of Confucius. To start the day, some of us had woken up early to get breakfast, but my roommate Luke and I decided to sleep in instead. We got ourselves ready by 8:45, and by 9, the bus arrived to take us to the Confucian temple. I was still tired, and a little dazed, so I didn’t really know where we were going until we got there and I was informed that we were at the Confucian temple. This temple was utterly gigantic; complete with four gates each with their own Confucian symbols before the main temple at the center of the structure. We had a tour guide who spoke English, that was a little difficult to hear in the large crowds. However, it was possible to get some information about the site. Scattered between the gateways were giant rectangular stones engraved with Chinese characters carried on the backs of strange turtle looking creatures, which were Dragons and Phoenixes, according to the tour guide. These stones were Confucian poems.

Once we reached the center of the temple, we were given some time to walk around and explore the heart of the temple. At the heart, there was a large traditional style Chinese temple with statues of Confucius, and other significant figures inside. Many people were praying at the feet of Confucius, or lighting incense in front of the temple. I tried to appreciate the beauty of the temple, however it was difficult with the mass of people that crowded the temple. After some time, we left the temple to visit our next stop, the Confucian family mansion.

              The Confucian family mansion was the home of Confucius’s descendants. This of course, has been renovated continuously over the years, as the building was originally built in 500 BCE. The mansion was large, and complete with more Confucian statues, and paintings. You didn’t get the sense that the space was lived in, as we didn’t really visit any actual living quarters. However, it was implied that there was a living space in the mansion somewhere. I remember we went through the mansion through long narrow corridors. This was difficult because of the mass of people there, and the corridor only being wide enough for one person. You had to really push to get through. I remember at this site, there was a large, indented stone which was used for punishment for slaves in the Confucian home. The slaves were forced to kneel on the stone for long hours without moving. Alex, Quinn, and I all tried this and we all gave up after roughly 5 minutes. After we were done with this site, returned to the bus, which took us to lunch.

              After lunch we visited the Confucian Burial place, and Cemetery that was for all members of the Kong family (Confucius’s descendants). This place seemed like a magical forest which came out of nowhere. With beautiful trees, and a mass of lavender flowers, this graveyard seems an ideal final resting place for anyone. The graves were scattered through this forest as mounds of dirt marked by ominous looking rectangular gravestones, which stuck out like teeth. We rode through the cemetery on a bus, accompanied by a tour guide. Eventually we reached the Confucian burial site, and we got off the bus. We walked through some particularly significant grave sites which were larger than the others with blood red characters. Confucius’s grave was the largest. I tried to respect Confucius while I was there. I didn’t goof off or act ridiculously as I would during our free time on this trip. We were given some basic information about the grave, like how his son had been buried in the site next to him, with his wife buried behind him. There was a large mound right behind the gravestone, and you got the idea that the size of the mound indicated his importance.

We then rode a tour bus back to the entrance of the cemetery, where we then got in horse carriages, which took us back to the bus to return to the hotel. Once we returned to the hotel, we rested for the rest of the day.


2018-4-5 – Alex Urbaska – Qufu

Today I woke up at 7:00 in the Qufu Teacher’s College dorms feeling tired but excited. It was my birthday, and the first time I have ever spent it without my family, and in a different country. The first thing we all did was go to a two-hour lecture about Confucianism by Peter Zhang, one of the most knowledgeable individuals in the Confucian belief system. He showed us all a PowerPoint which included information about Confucius’ early life, his contributions, and even some negative impacts on Chinese culture.

After this we ate lunch at the cafeteria we had been going to often, on campus, which I think we all thoroughly enjoyed, and headed back to the dorms for break time. I think that staying at Qufu is nice because after a long and tiring two weeks of constantly moving around, you can finally have a laid-back schedule with lots of time to relax.

After lunch we all headed back to the same room the first lecture was in and prepared for the second session which was about Chinese folk songs. We learned about the stories and situations for different folk songs, and how they are primarily based on emotion. For example, one of the main categories of Chinese folk songs is labor, as the music eases the repetitive tasks and makes the people work more efficiently. This lecture was more interactive, and the teachers had us sing portions of songs and then taught us a song called Mo Li Hua, which we had already learned at Qinglai, the previous school. Nonetheless, the teacher was very impressed that we picked up on it and sang it so well, and even said that out of all the groups she has taught this song to, we were the best ones.

After dinner at the same cafeteria, we had another rest break and then went to a night session with Mrs. R, where the group went over and discussed our journal entries, and some of the unique experiences we have had on the trip thus far. It was nice to have a group discussion on this because at least for me, I hadn’t had the chance to talk with everyone about the trip so far, and I think we all had a nice time reflecting on it. We also had my birthday celebration at this time and I got a big cake, which reminded me of home and my family, but also made me realize that I will probably never experience my birthday in China again and how special it was to be celebrating it all the way across the world. Overall, it was a laid back but fun day, and so far, I am really enjoying my time in Qufu.

2018-4-4 – Luke Parker-Jennings – Qufu

Today was our first day Qufu, the birth place of Confucius. In the morning, as soon as I woke up, I ran as fast as I could to breakfast because I was obviously very hungry. I filled my plate up with as much food as it can hold, and my god, was that food delicious!  After this, I go back to my room where I get ready for the rest of the day.

The group met in the lobby and then we went to our first event of the day, which was sitting in on a high school English class. In this class, we ended up playing a game with the Chinese students. During the game, we studied pictures about both our cultures and then had to describe them to each other. At first, the situation was a little awkward, but as soon as we got into it we had a lot of fun. My team won, no biggie.

After this we went on to a PE class where some of us played soccer and others, including myself, played basketball. My team consisted of Paul Paytas, Ethan Abbot, Alex Urbaska, some Chinese guy who’s name I didn’t get, and me. The other team then proceeded to destroy us and make us look like fools. But in all honesty, I had a great time and loved it so much.

Next, we moved on to lunch, which was very good. We then went back to the hotel where I took a nap and rested up for the performance at 7:00 PM. At 5:40 PM we walked over to the auditorium and started to prepare for the show. A lot of people were nervous, with good reason. We were preforming in front of 700+ people. I was not nervous just excited. I live for this kind of stuff. As the performance started we came out with such great and amazing energy and we kept that energy through the entire performance and totally killed it. I walked off that stage so proud of my friends for putting on an amazing performance and killing it that night even with the amount of people watching us.

We then went home and I started to write this essay, which you now are reading. So, I just want to end this with telling my family I love them and miss them and that I am having the most amazing time here in China. <3