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-School Summer Travel 09

Teenage China Immersion Summer Program 06
Language, Culture Learning, Hiking and Community Services

Participants: Broadreach, America.
Trip Number: 12
Trip Date: 6th June - 28th June 2009
Written by: Broadreach Group

Day 1 - 6th June 09

We are here in China after much airport ado! Some of you may already know of the difficulties we had with checking in, but with a little patience, cooperation, and quick footwork we assembled as a group for our first time in Newark International Airport with lots to talk about!

Everyone quickly got to know each other over a few light refreshments like hotdogs, fries, and deli sandwiches. As we waited to board the flight there was an intense game of slapjack with a deck of playing cards, talk over schools, relating previous trips, and expressing anticipation for our trip to China!

The 12 hour plane ride was a drag, but who gets to fly over the North Pole on their way to China everyday?! The arrival in the Beijing International Airport was smooth and we were quickly on our way to the hotel for orientation and dinner.

Dinner was quite a spread, complete with Eight Treasure Tea, Sweet and Sour Pork, Rice Noodles, Hot Plate Beef, Steamed Broccoli, Steamed Fish, Tofu, Sweet Mushrooms, and of course, Sticky Rice.

As we completed our evening sharing some of the low points and high points (AKA glums and glows) of our journey thus far our eyes were drooping and our minds drifting toward the beds eagerly awaiting us. I think that most of us descended on those beds with a crash of surrender to the longest day we might have on our trip!

Day 2 - 7th June 09

The day started with breakfast which turned out to be a mix of Chinese and American breakfast foods. Then we went to the Beihai Park where we signed our full-value contract. Someone suggested that we receive donations from the crowd of Chinese people watching us—this brought some laughs.

After our walk through the park, we went on a rickshaw tour of the hutongs, Beijing traditional housing. It was a lot of fun. We had the opportunity to visit a local home. There was a talking bird and some of us spent a lot of time attempting to communicate with the bird. We went to a different house to eat a really delicious home cooked meal. Then one of us decided that he was going to drive the rickshaw and gave it a try.

We left the hutongs for Tiananmen Square. There we got a history lesson and proceeded into the Forbidden City. We walked through the absolutely decadent and very beautiful architecture admiring the sights. We learned some of the history that goes with the palace and had some popsicles. Some of us were daring enough to try green-pea flavored popsicles. We had very good time.

We had dinner at the Peking Duck restaurant where most people were brave enough to eat duck heart and duck wings frozen in coagulated duck blood. We also had traditional Beijing roast duck. It was very good.

All in all, today was a great first official visit day!


Day 3 - 8th June 09

Our day began with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast consisted of both Chinese and American Cuisine. Although most people arrived at the restaurant on time, the leader of the day forgot to wake up one of the counselors, Chris. Although he ended up getting an extra half hour of sleep, our day got off to a late start.

All was not lost however, for following breakfast we gathered in the hotel’s courtyard for our first lesson. As a group we took notes on and discussed Chinese Imperial History, and then went over some “survival Mandarin” that the group could use throughout the day.

Following our discussion we were transported to the Hong Qiao Pearl Market where our newly acquired bargaining skills were put to the test! Phrases such as "Tai gui le" (too expensive!) and "pian yi" (cheaper) became group favorites. While Ethan, Sam, Jack, Zach, and George bargained for some fake Rolexes, Laura, Jenna and Lauren found some awesome jewelry. Meanwhile Cass helped Audrey bargain for some beautiful Chinese dresses. Emily succeeded in bargaining for a happy Buddha necklace and Carr found some cool shirts and purses.

After two hours of shopping we were transported to Lunch at the Yunnan Minority Restaurant. In the Afternoon we went to the Lao Tea House where we enjoyed some Jasmine tea and watched the Chinese shadow puppet performance. After everyone had their fill, we changed, showered and went to dinner at the Peking Opera Restaurant. Dinner consisted of various Chinese dishes and was really yummy. Once finished we attended the Peking Opera and even got to watch as the actors put on their own make up.

By the end of the night, everyone was extremely tired and ready for a good nights sleep. All in all, it was another fantastic day in Beijing!

Day 4 - 9th June 09

Today we hiked on a secluded part of The Great Wall. The bus ride out to the wall was filled with telling stories and experiences and time flew by really quickly. We started the hike and after a short time started lunch. Twenty minutes after lunch, we heard thunderstorms and it started to rain. The views were breath-taking and they motivated us to push on. Our hike lasted a good hour after lunch until the trail turned away from the wall and onto a path through the wilderness. We re-emerged at the wall, one hour later and soaking wet. The hike continued on the wall until we reached our endpoint (a small town). We were greeted with a dinner and a chance to rest our feet.

It was a relief to be finally out of the rain. Because of the continuing lightning, we agreed to change our plans to sleep on a tower on the wall and just sleep at a guesthouse instead. We spent the rest of the night playing games and catching up on much needed sleep


Day 5 - 10th June 09

After hiking through the rain we decided it would be best to sleep at a local hotel rather than on The Great Wall. After spending the night at the hotel we retuned to the family with which we had dinner, for breakfast. There we were able to spend time with some locals. After breakfast we hiked around four hours, both on and off the great wall. After the hike we dined at a local restaurant and then took a three hour bus ride back to the hotel in Beijing. There we quickly checked into the rooms, took showers, and changed for the acrobat show later that evening.

Before the acrobat show we ate at a local seafood restaurant. Following, we attended the acrobat show to see people of all ages doing flips, tricks, balancing many people on one bike and much more. After this long day we went back to the hotel for a nice rest.
- Zach

Day 6 - 11th June 09

This morning we prepared to leave Beijing and go to Kun Ming. We had a home stay orientation and found out who our home stay partners would be, which made us very excited. We were all very excited when we arrived at a Hot Pot restaurant for lunch where you cook your own food in a pot of boiling water. Everyone had fun boiling meat, noodles and vegetables and adding various spices to make it perfect. After an exhausting three days of sight-seeing, shopping and hiking, we took a three hour plane ride to Kun Ming. We ran into a few problems at the airport, when a few bags were questioned by the Chinese airport security. Lauren's water filter, Ethan's peanut butter, Audrey's book and Sam's Epi Pen were all carefully examined and eventually returned to their rightful owners with translating help from Chris and Chen Lei. On the plane, Laura got out her Chinese phrase books and we all had fun looking up random phrases. George asked the flight attendants questions and chatted with a boy sitting behind him. Meanwhile, Jack and Cassie struck up a conversation with a boy sitting between them and they showed him some magic tricks. Once we landed, we were greeted by one of our new teachers from the university. We took a bus to the dorms, and on the way Emily could not stop waving at everyone she saw through the window.

We arrived at the dorm and were able to put our hiking skills to work once more since we were assigned rooms on the 7th floor! We went straight to dinner at a local restaurant and were really able to tell the different cooking styles from Kun Ming to Beijing. Jenna, Car, and Zack especially enjoyed it. After a safe arrival in Kun Ming, we can only hope that our stay in Kun Ming is as memorable as Beijing.

- Lauren

Day 7 - 12th June 09

Today we woke up early to get packed for our home stay. For breakfast, we took a short walk down the street and went to a bakery. Some of the things we were familiar with, like plain bread, while others were new to us, like red bean paste swirls. We ate in the courtyard of the university. Since we had a few minutes to spare, we went over some basic mandarin in a gazebo shaped like a pagoda. We also played a fun game of “psychiatrist”. Joyce, a teacher at the university, later showed us around campus while our home stay arrangements were being finalized. Next we headed to the bird and flower market, an open-air market. Even though it was raining we still managed quite easily to buy all sorts of things from DVD's to shoes. All the bargaining made us hungry and so we went back to the university to finally meet our host families and have lunch with them.

Even with a difficult language barrier, we were able to communicate how excited we were. After lunch, we dropped our bags off at the place we would call home for the next few days. There was not too much time to rest because we had to get back to the university for a lesson on China and the Global Economy. Although thunder interrupted our class several times, I think it is safe to say that many of us can now put China's economy in perspective. We said our farewells after the lesson, and headed our separate ways to our new homes.

It will be interesting to see the way the families live and how we learn to communicate with them over the next few days. Zaijian, dao mingtian.

Day 8 - 13th June 09

Today was our first day at the university and our first full day in Kun Ming. Breakfast with our host families was, to say the least, an interesting experience. We are all trying to get used to eating foods like noodles and dumplings in the morning. Ethan and George reported that they had milk for breakfast that “wasn't milk”. It turns out it was actually homemade soy milk. After chowing down, we all headed down to the university for a two-hour Chinese class. Though we have varied skills, everyone took something from the class and tried to use their newfound talents throughout the day.

In the beginner class, Emily, Sam, Jenna, Car, Zack, Ethan, George, and Audrey learned the different Chinese vowel and consonant sounds. We then practiced combining the vowels and consonants using the 4 Chinese tones (high and level, rising, falling then rising, and falling). It's quite a challenge adjusting to a tonal language, but the more we practice the finer tuned our ears will become. In the higher level class, Cassie, Jack, and Lauren learned more difficult grammar and discussed Chinese history.

As a break between classes, we took a Taiji class. It was a good energizer and the crowd that joined us made it all the better. We then headed out to lunch as a group, where George and Lauren embraced the adventurous spirit and sampled duck brains. After lunch, we went to a local woman's house for a cooking lesson. Although the cooking lesson did not go as planned - we were not able to make a complete dish because the kitchen was cramped and the menu too varied - we did get to help out and watch some different dishes being prepared. It was nice to relax for an hour or two.

After cooking class, we went back to our families for a home cooked Chinese dinner. When we regrouped at the university to head out for our evening activity, we learned that Cassie would be going home due to a medical concern. It was sad to say goodbye, but we celebrated out last night with Cassie by twisting and shouting in our own private room at the KTV Karaoke. With sore vocal cords and pop songs still ringing in our ears, Chris and Laura walked us home. Kun Ming is aptly named “The City of Eternal Spring” (it rained all morning and most of the afternoon), but despite the weather, the day was overall very successful.


Day 9 - 14th June 09

Today we had our second language class, which consisted of going over the four tones—flat, rising, dip then rise, and sharp falling. The tones have a big impact on what words mean. If you mispronounce a tone, you could be saying something completely different.

After the language class the group tried out some Tai Chi, where we learned the Dragon Ball stance. The teacher is very flexible, so flexible that we call him “Noodle Man.” After Tai Chi we learned more in the language class. Everyone was relieved to hear that we were going for pizza for lunch. After a short walk, we arrived at “Rocco’s” and ordered. Ethan and Emily got pepper, sausage, and mushroom, while Jack and Zach got a penne tomato cheese combination. George, Sam, Jenna, Lauren and Car all enjoyed the plain cheese pizza, and Audrey had a vegetarian pizza with mushroom and tomato. After a hearty lunch we all went back to the University for a Chinese Paper Cutting Class, where we made butterflies, lotus flowers, the Chinese character for double happiness, and a cool looking, and hanging bouncy thing. Then we had a little time to visit the internet café where we all caught up on emails and facebook with friends. We then headed back to our host families for a fun and relaxing evening.


Day 10 - 15th June 09

We started out our day with our regular two-hour language class, where the level one students learned names of fruits vegetables and received their Chinese names. The level two students learned about directions and locating things. After our half hour Tai Chi class, the level one students went to the market, while the level two students went to Green Lake.

We ate lunch at a local restaurant and then went to a convenient store, where Car ate corn-flavored Popsicle and Jack found MSG sold by the pound. The group then proceeded to go to the Green Lake Park where we interacted with locals. Audrey and Zach danced with an elderly lady, and Emily played a Chinese instrument. George and Sam settled in into a card game with some locals, while Lauren enjoyed talking to anyone with a little baby.

After all of this, we started singing a song from the Sound of Music and accidentally attracted a big crowd of locals. We found the attention amusing, so we continued to sing “Build me up Buttercup” and “Jingle Bells” which Jenna especially enjoyed. We also had a little fun with Chinese driving, as we took a spin on the nearby bumper cars, where Ethan eagerly rammed into everyone with gusto. It was very fun.


Day 11 - 16th June 09

Today we got up, as usual, and went to our morning language class, where we learned the names of different kinds of food and how to use them in a sentence. We also learned about directions. Du Laoshi (our teacher) gave us a fake map and we labeled the different locations in Chinese. We learned how to say stuff like “go straight,” “turn left!” and “turn right!” After a really fun class, we went outside around the university to ask random people how to get to places on the map. It was not as easy as it sounds. We were getting strange looks from people and many of them had no clue what we were asking. The second group got directions to the basketball court and decided to mingle with a few of the local students and played basket ball with them.

That afternoon we ate lunch at a pretty fancy place and then walked across the street to the university to sit in the grass while having a lecture on Buddhism. After an interesting lecture, we went to the Buddhist temple, Yuan Tong Temple. There was a lot of incense and monks and nuns chanting. There was a smaller alter (by smaller I mean slightly larger than life-size) with Buddhist gods. A man was placing an offering of fruit onto one of the alters. The gods’ temple was surrounded by a man-made lake/pond and there were a lot of fish and just as many turtles! When you walked through the first small temple, you came a across a much larger and more decorated 3-story Buddha. It was very intricate with guards about two-stories tall. The colors were incredible: blue, red, green, turquoise, yellow, white, and black. When we finished visiting the temple, we took a public bus back to the university where we had an interesting class on Chinese painting. Everyone got a chance to paint a bamboo scene, complete with stalks, stems, and leaves. What fun!


Day 12 - 17th June 09

Today we had our last language class and last Tai Chi lesson. It was fun, and we took pictures in Kung Fu poses. After that we went with our teachers to a café where we talked and taught them how to play a game of checkers. We went to lunch after to have the local Yunnan “cross the bridge noodles” where there was a performance of singing and dancing that was ridiculously loud.

After a delicious lunch we went for a hike on the Western Mountains. But we were surprised to see that there was a chair lift that we got to ride up on. Then we hiked down past the “Dragon Gate” and got to rub the lucky rock there. We passed many vendors with fake swords and jewelry. We even saw an old lady with bound feet and a lot of Chinese people were asking to take pictures with her. Then we packed up, had dinner, and said a final goodbye to the families that had given us a home for the past week. After a meeting that evening we retired to our rooms up seven flights of stairs in the International Student Hostel on campus.


Day 13 - 18th June 09

Today we all woke up at 5:30 to catch an 8:00 flight to LI Jiang. What started out as a relaxing travel day soon became stressful when we were told that some of the names on our Visa had been spelled incorrectly. All the names that were misspelled had to be fixed before we were allowed to board our plane.

Once we arrived in Li Jiang we went out for lunch in the village. Some people took advantage of the western menu, while others ordered more exotic dishes like Yak. After lunch we visited the Mu Mansion. At the Mu Mansion we picked a scenic spot by the river and reflected upon our stay in China. After our reflection the group decided it was time to go back to the hotel for a nap, since our schedule was so exhausting.

After a two hour break we all set out to explore the Ancient city. A group of people stopped to play some soccer at a local field while others decided to go for a walk. The streets of Li Jiang are extremely confusing, and rarely have signs so it was not surprising that both groups got lost. Although this experience was frustrating, we all took advantage of this opportunity to practice our Chinese!

When the group finally met up, we stopped at a local restaurant for dinner. The restaurant had Korean, Japanese and Western food, and many selected variations of Macaroni and Cheese. On the way home form dinner the group stopped to dance with some Chinese people. The dance was difficult to learn, but everyone did their best to follow along. By the end of the night everyone was ready for a good night’s sleep, and a late wake up call!


Day 14 19th June 09

After a busy home stay and a hectic travel day, today was very relaxing. We had a late wake up and then a relaxing morning of planning for the orphanage. We made posters of key English phrases and words such as numbers, animals and body parts to teach the orphans. We finished planning our lessons and then wandered into the center of town for lunch.

We then took a tour of a traditional village and saw people tending to fields and herding cattle. We stumbled upon a fishing pond and while some were attempting to catch fish, others picked plums and learned to play Ma Zhong. In the evening we had dinner in town and then afterwards browsed the shops full of local handy crafts. All in all it was a very fun and relaxing day.


Day 15 20th June 09

Today was a travel day. We took the bus to Shangri-La. On the three hour bus ride, we played a few games, including water drinking games and mafia. On the way, we stopped at a little roadside handicraft place. For lunch, we stopped in a village near Tiger Leaping Gorge. Upon arriving in Shangri-La, we checked into the hotel and everyone enjoyed some rest time and then dinner. That evening, we went to the orphanage. The kids there were very friendly and put on a show for us. They sang and danced, it was very fun. We joined in the celebration too with the hokey-pokey and some other songs/dances. Soon after, we got to mingle with the children. We taught the orphans some games and they taught us some too! We played hot hands, thumb wrestling, arm wrestling and “Down by the River” (a hand game). Even though there was a language barrier we had a great time. We returned to the hotel ready for a good night sleep.


Day 16 21st June 09

After waking up and eating breakfast at the hotel, we headed to the orphanage. At the orphanage, we picked up some of the children and followed the other orphans to the countryside, where we celebrated the orphanage's 10th anniversary! It was a fun, very bumpy, forty minute bus ride. We made it to the gorgeous countryside where we climbed a “mountain” and played games. In then village, we enjoyed a traditional Tibetan snack of yak butter tea, yak cheese with sugar, bread, and fruit. For lunch we shared a Tibetan hot pot containing tofu, noodles, yak meatballs, potatoes, and some kind of fatty meat.

Some of us enjoyed the food and some of us did not, but it was definitely a cultural experience that we will all remember. Following lunch there was a giant orphanage and Broadreach wide “puffball” (spiky velcro-like things that fall off of trees) fight. After the fight we returned to our hotel, and had some rest time before heading to the old city for dinner.


Day 17 22nd June 09

Although the original plan for today was to teach English at the orphanage, we had to change our plans a bit because they were all going on an outing four hours away. Thus, we decided that today would be good for a “Wellness Day”. We had picked a spa to go to last night; however we were informed in the morning that it was closed. Luckily, we were able to find another close by. For the better part of the day we enjoyed massages, trying to understand Chinese television, watching “Night at the Museum,” and eating rice and noodles. When we got back to the hotel, we took a short break in our rooms and then headed down to dinner at the hotel's delicious restaurant. After dinner we had a discussion on Daoism. Just as we got situated for the discussion in the lobby, a large group came in, so we had to move to a more secluded spot on the second floor. We learned that one belief is to go with the flow; today tested our ability to do so. Even though it might sound like we were being handed lemons, we were still able to make some delicious lemonade!


Day 18 23rd June 09

Today, instead of going to Tiger Leaping Gorge, we went to the orphanage to work with the orphans. Well, I’m sure that everybody was not surprised that we had to modify our plan a few times, only to discover it would be completely different once we got there. We only got to teach one lesson, but we all had fun teaching them various words and phrases. Most of us were surprised by the amount of English these kids knew. The older kids knew not much more than the younger kids, but everything still went by extremely fast, ending us up in situations where we had to completely “wing-it” because we finished all four lessons too quickly.

It ended up being a lot of fun teaching them different games and sentences. Most of them were so enthusiastic about being able to speak English. We spent a lot of the day outside playing with them. We played all sorts of games such as soccer, basketball, ultimate Frisbee, and volleyball. There was even an exciting game of Duck Duck Goose! They taught many of us how to play this hand game that sounded like it had the word “macaroni” in it. We soon discovered when they tried to teach us, that they didn’t all know the words either! But it was still a lot of fun. Then a few of us decided to play an exciting game of Wall Ball, with the occasional help of an orphan. A few times the ball ended up in the pens of the nasty-looking guard dogs. They wouldn’t eat the orphans, so they would go rescue the ball. At the end of the day, we were all tired and went back to the hotel and went to bed early after an exhausting last day at the Tibetan orphanage.


Day 19 24th June 09

Today we took a hike… for many hours. The morning was hot and the afternoon rainy, but we luckily had bought ponchos the night before. A horse carried the heavy baggage to make our only long hike day a little easier. And we had the snacks purchased earlier. Afterwards, dinner was cool by the candlelight and the electricity came on later to shine on an intense game of cards involving the students and counselors. The electricity continued to work and even the rain couldn’t block out the magnificent mountain view we passed through today in Tiger Leaping Gorge.


Day 20 25th June 09

Today we spent four hours hiking along the Tiger Leaping Gorge. It started off waking up to a rainy morning at the Tea Horse Guest House, where we were served banana pancakes. After that we started the hike on a trail that traversed cliffs and mountainsides. The view of the gorge and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain made the hike well worth the effort, and everyone was enjoying themselves. Most notably, the group crossed over a fairly large waterfall on the ledge of a cliff. The rain was light until the last five minutes of the trip when it started to pour. We settled in at Tina’s Guest House where we spent the rest of the day eating dinner and playing card games, and eventually we all drifted off to bed.


Day 21 26th June 09

Today was our final day at the Tiger Leaping Gorge. After a nice banana pancake breakfast we took a car to our final destination. We had to take two cars due a landslide that had occurred a few days earlier. The second car ride was exciting yet, a bit nerve racking with many people happy that we arrived safely. After this we hiked to the river where we were greeted by a ferry to cross the river. After crossing the river we took a two-hour bus ride to Lijiang and had a nice relaxing night after a long three days of hiking.


Day 22 27th June 09

Today was our last day in Lijiang and last non-travel day in China. After breakfast, we all hopped on the bus and drove an hour to the base of Yulong Snow Mountain. We expected to take a gondola to the top soon after lunch, but because the lines were backed up a few hours, we had to make other plans. We decided to visit the blue river inside the same reserve, dyed by copper. Making the most of our changed plans, we rode yaks across small waterfalls and played around in the water for a while. Finally, the lines died down a bit, so we took a bus back up to the gondola. At 4500 meters everyone enjoyed the views of the glacier. A few of the guys decided to hike even further up the mountain, and, at 4680 meters, got some spectacular views of the glacier and surrounding area. As the hail and rain became harder, the group voted to head back to the hotel for showers. After cleaning up, we went out for dinner and shopping, returning to the hotel at around 11:00.


Day 23 28th June 09

Today was yet another travel day and everyone woke up at 6:30 in order to catch a 9:30 flight from Lijiang to Bejiing. Before departing the Wang Fu hotel we all enjoyed a buffet breakfast; a combination of both Chinese and some Western cuisine. Once arriving in Bejiing we headed to the silk market. The silk market, a five floor indoor market, was an opportunity for people to purchase last minute gifts and souvenirs to remember our trip. Having perfected our bartering skills over the past three weeks, everyone was able to make some awesome purchases!

After spending two hours at the silk market we were transported to the Grape Restaurant for dinner. The Grape Restaurant offered Western Chinese food, which was delicious! While we enjoyed our end of the program banquet, both a band and group of dancers performed on stage. After finishing dinner we checked into our hotel. As an end of the program treat, Chen Li (our martial arts extraordinaire) chopped a watermelon in half with his bare hands! We then as a group watched a slide show documenting our trip, and enjoyed one more round of loaded questions. Although the day was exhausting it was the groups decision to spend the rest of the night together hanging out and playing cards. Our last day in China was a blast!



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