The 2014 Foote School China Experience

Ninth grade students will travel throughout China Sun., March 2, to Sat., March 15, 2014.

This blog will detail the Foote 2014 China experience, which includes ninth grade students and four members of Foote's faculty/staff:

Mike Golschneider, Art Associate, is making his first trip to China.
Sheila Lavey, Humanities Department co-chair, Humanities teacher and eighth grade advisor, is making her fourth trip to China, the third as group leader.
Colleen Murphy, Physical Education teacher and eighth grade advisor, is making her second trip to China.
Megan Williams, Middle School Math Chair and ninth grade advisor, is making her second trip to China and has traveled extensively with students throughout Europe.
Eric Einbinder, Physical Education teacher and coach, is making his first trip to China.

Friday, March 14
Touring Hong Kong, and a Journey-Ending Ceremony

This morning we took public transportation (the MTR) to Wong Tai Sin Daoist temple. Next to a beautiful fountain in the temple garden, Daniel explained that water is an important symbol in Daoism, because it nurtures everything without trying to. Students toured the temple and did some detailed sketches. Some also had their fortunes told.

After a dim sum lunch on Victoria Harbor, the group heard an animated presentation from Sasha. He mentioned that the ferry company has changed a lot over the years. Early passengers had to wear a coat and tie to cross the harbor. We crossed in our jeans and Yali sweatshirts and then took the tram up to Victoria Peak, where Robin gave an overview of the city. He talked about how Hong Kong became a British colony and its current status as a semi-autonomous entity of mainland China.

We went by bus around to the southern side of Hong Kong Island, where Sophia told us that one of the famous residents of Stanley Village was a fisherman-turned-pirate who terrorized the merchants and naval forces of many countries during the Qing Dynasty.

Then we had one last opportunity to shop at Stanley Market. Most of us were buying gifts to present during the closing ceremony. Each member of the group drew a name on the bus ride to Newark and paid careful attention to that person during the trip. For the closing ceremony, each of us had to describe a story about a positive moment during the trip and present a gift that was somehow symbolic of this moment.

We ended the day with the ceremony. There were a lot of smiles, hugs and laughter, followed by ice cream.  

We're all excited to see our families and share our stories.

Thursday, March 13
Leaving Yali, Exploring Hong Kong

This morning was filled with a lot of emotions. We convened at Yali for the final time to say goodbye to our buddies. Leaving the beautiful school was hard for a lot of students. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, but lifelong friends were certainly made.The emotional times continued into the airport, where we said goodbye to our wonderful host and Chinese guest teacher Hannah. Our students formed such a great bond with her, and saying goodbye was very challenging. Once the farewells were over, we had little time to dwell because we had to catch a flight to our fourth and final destination, Hong Kong.

After landing, we ran through the airport to get to our next stop, the Po Lin monastery, located on top of a mountain. We ascended the mountain in a gondola that afforded spectacular, 360-degree views (including under our feet!). The monastery features a 90-foot bronze Buddha, which can be seen from miles away. Abby gave a great presentation that explained the incredible features of the statue. The final thing we did at the monastery is a Foote school tradition: a silent walk through the infinity trail. The trail runs through a quiet and beautiful spot overlooking the mountains. Our students really appreciated this reflective time. Most of us were extremely tired by evening, but we continued our journey to visit the night market, which is filled with lights and neon signs.


Wednesday, March 12
A Fond Farewell to Changsha

We started our day at the Hunan Bureau of Meteorology, where the kids got to try out doing the weather report for the Hunan television stations. From there the group went to another Yali-affiliated school named Yiya Middle School, where they ate lunch and participated in a variety of ice-breaker activities. The kids enjoyed playing games with the students and exchanged information with one another to stay in touch. From Yiya, we went to Yuelu Confucian Academy, an ancient school at the foot of Changsha's Yuelu Mountain. The buildings and locations were beautiful, and the students took in the scenery. For some students and teachers, this was their favorite stop of the trip thus far. While there, the students took in a show of traditional music. We ended the day with a festive banquet filled with great food and great fun. The students bowed to Hannah and all agreed to wear their uniforms on the plane to Hong Kong tomorrow. We are all shocked to be leaving Changsha tomorrow morning.






Tuesday, March 11
Kung Fu, Cooking and the Hunan Embroidery Institute

The day started with breakfast with our host families and our return to Yali, where Ben presented his docent project on Changsha. We visited a farmer's market and spent the rest of the morning at Nanya Middle School, which is south of Yali. There, we participated in a dance class and a Kung Fu class. Next up was a cooking class, followed by a great lunch in the cafeteria. With full bellies, we visited the renowned Hunan Embroidery Institute, where we were interviewed by reporters from several different television channels and newspapers. We returned to Yali and students headed home with their host families for evening activities. It was a wonderful day full of new experiences. Tomorrow is our last full day in Changsha, and then it's off to Hong Kong.


Monday, March 10
A Wonderful Day of Learning and Teaching at Yali

Students started their day by meeting at Yali; there was lots of excitement as everyone had a story to share. Students were sharing gifts that they were given from families and talking about the beautiful homes that they were staying in. Students had little time to talk because our host, Hannah, had so much planned for the day and we had little time to waste. First was the Yali museum; it was built to mark the 100th year anniversary of the school and featured pictures that documented its rich history. Students were very interested in a letter that was written by George Bush expressing his approval for the great work Yali does.

Next on the schedule was the welcome assembly by the faculty and students of Yali. Our students put on a great show while demonstrating their talents; they recited poems, played instruments, and sang songs to show our appreciation for Yali. Yali returned the appreciation by performing traditional Chinese dances, Latin dancing, and a school rock band. Once the assembly ended, students exchanged hugs and posed for pictures. It's safe to say that we've made new friends in the east. The final activity before lunch was our community service project. Our students joined with Yali students to bring gifts and sing songs to elders in the area. The elders that we visited ranged in age from 63 to 99! Our students were thoughtful and compassionate during this rewarding experience and had a fantastic time being able to give back to a country that has given us so much.

Today’s lunch menu featured Brazilian barbeque, but food was second on our students' minds as they continued to build relationships with their e-pals. Once we arrived back at Yali, students were split into groups to observe either and art class or music class. Students in the music class learned how to conduct and we watched videos on the different styles of conductors. Students in art class learned how weave Chinese knots to make beautiful wall hangings. We then traveled to our second period, where every student attended an English class and observed the different styles of teaching English. One teacher played Eric Clapton to his students so they can hear lyrics being sung and listen for specific words.

The final class we visited was an elementary school down the street from the Yali middle school. Students lined up at the gates to greet and speak English with us. In the classroom we were treated with poems and songs by 8-year-old students learning English. Once again we made great new friends and exchanged gifts with the young students. The final activity of the day was the moment most students have been waiting for: the basketball game. Unfortunately Yali edged out Foote. But the important thing was that we formed a bond through athletics. At the end of another long day, students went back to their hosts house for a night filled with activities from ice skating to seeing a movie.


Sunday, March 9
Chairman Mao's Birthplace and a Yali Reunion

Today was our earliest start yet. We enjoyed our final meal in Xi’an and traveled to the airport to depart for Changsha. After a short ride, we arrived and were greeted by a cheering crowd comprised of our e-buddies, students from Yiya, and Ms. Riding. The Yali and Yiya students presented each of us with a flower as we boarded the bus and continued to get to know our new friends. First on the agenda was lunch at a traditional Hunan restaurant, the biggest restaurant in China. It looked like an opulent palace and had a massive wall surrounding it. Inside we were surprised to find a traditional Chinese wedding taking place. After a delicious lunch we embarked on the bus to chairman Mao’s childhood home. Although the ride was long, we were accompanied by the songs of Foote and Yiya students as well as spectacular views of rice patties. Chairman Mao's home was untouched and gave us a glimpse into where he began his life’s journey. After making our way through the house we went to view the 30-foot tall statue of chairman Mao. We walked around the statue clockwise three times, which according to tradition, brings good luck. Rody then presented his docent project on Mao and the surrounding area. He told us of how Mao Zedong came to power and why he was such an effective leader. We then parted with our new friends from Yiya and drove back into the city of Changsha to meet our host families for the home stay. The Yali and Foote students were thrilled to be reunited with each other. After hugs and a quick picture, the students ventured off with their buddies and began their home stay adventures.


Saturday, March 8
A Mosque, A Temple, A Pagoda and Cycling Through Xi'an

Our adventures in Xi’an continued with a journey to the Great Mosque, where Simon performed his docent project and told us about the history of Islam in China.  The students were enthralled by the mosque’s intricate architecture and the appearance of a wily street cat. After touring the mosque, the students explored the Muslim market and continued to sharpen their already impressive bargaining skills. We next enjoyed a traditional Chinese lunch and then travelled to the Da’ Cien Buddhist temple complex, where Sarah gave her docent project. The group then climbed to the top of the majestic Great Goose Pagoda. From the pagoda’s highest point we were treated with the stunning vista of the whole city of Xi’an. The group travelled to the ancient wall of Xi’an’s inner city and enjoyed Courtney’s docent presentation and a refreshing 9.5 mile bike ride. Some students were even brave enough to ride tandem with a faculty member! After working up an appetite from our biking excursion we had the privilege of dining on one of Xi’an's signature dishes, Yangrou Paomo, or crumbled pancake in lamb soup. A master chef who had recently cooked for a meeting between the presidents of China and Taiwan prepared the meal. With full bellies and high spirits, we returned to the hotel to prepare for our journey to Changsha to reconnect with our friends at Yali. 

Friday, March 7
An Ancient City, and Clay Warriors

Today was another exciting day. We started out by getting off the overnight train and entering the city of Xi’an. We hustled through the busy station and found our tour guide, Sally! She is full of energy and has a lot of passion for the city, and knows so much about its history. Our first stop in Xi’an was the Bell Tower Hotel, where we ate a western-style breakfast buffet. The kids enjoyed food from home like bacon and cereal, which they have missed, to got fueled for our long day.

We hopped on the bus and Kyle and Declan introduced us to the city of Xi’an for their docent project, explaining the city's past and present. The first stop was the Shaanxi History Museum, which gave an overview of Xi'an's 5,000-year history. The museum was home to some Terracotta Warriors, old weapons, old currency, etc. Students were able to explore the museum on their own and were asked to find an item they really appreciated and sketch it in their journals.

After lunch we paid a highly anticipated visit to the Terracotta Warrior Museum, which features thousands of clay warriors that were built, destroyed and rebuilt again. The tomb had rebuilt warriors and horses as well as spots where archeologists are still digging up the statues. Chase and Patrick gave an exhilarating presentation about the museum for their docent project. Students were free to explore the museum with a partner and many came back with great sketches. The final thing on the agenda was a traditional dumpling banquet, followed by a Tang dynasty culture show. The show featured 10 different acts consisting of dances and songs using native instruments. The show gave us a great look at the culture of China during the Tang dynasty.

Thursday, March 6
Beijing Landmarks, and a Train Ride to Xi'an

We started the day in Beijing, with breakfast and a second Tai Chi lesson. It was cold this morning, but the skies were blue and clear. Will and Amelia presented the group's Beijing host, Zhu Weifang, with a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the ninth grade as a thank-you. We went to the Summer Palace, where Noah gave his docent project. Students braved a bone-chilling cold to spend some time sketching the palace and its surroundings. We had lunch at a dumpling restaurant that served Bao Zi's, which are like dumplings inside dough. We hopped a bus to Tiananmen Square, where Matt gave his docent project. We walked to the Forbidden City and Nico gave his docent project there. Kids had an hour to walk about the Forbidden City and were amazed by what they saw. From there, we traveled in bicycle rickshaws to see Beijing's traditional Hutongs and Courtyard Houses. We had a traditional dinner of beef, pork and vegetable dumplings. Students are speaking some Chinese and bartering well for souvenirs. We boarded the overnight train for Xi'an at 8:45 in the evening, and everything went smoothly. We arrive in Xi'an at 7:30 in the morning.

Wednesday, March 5
Tai Chi, Silk and the Temple of Heaven

Today started out with Tai Chi and breakfast under clear skies. Following that, we went to the Temple of Heaven, where Nate gave his docent project. We then went to the tea house for a tea ceremony. We had lunch and went to the silk factory, where Juliet gave her docent project. This was followed by three hours of shopping and bargaining at the Hong Qiao Market. After looking at the many photos of international dignitaries - from Richard Nixon to Henry Kissinger - enjoying a traditional meal, we sat down to a traditional Quanjude roast duck dinner. Many of the students and faculty noted that they really, really liked the brain! From there, we went to the acrobat show, which culminated in five motorcyclists racing around a giant metal ball - very exciting! Tomorrow, after another busy day in Beijing, we will board the overnight train to X'ian.

Tuesday, March 4
From the Great Wall to the Water Cube

We had a lovely breakfast. After we finished, Amelia gave her presentation - an overview of the city of Beijing. We hopped on the coach and went to the jade factory. We had lunch and then went to the base of the wall. Our climb was at the Jinshanling Great Wall, which is recognized as one of the most breathtaking parts of the 5,500-mile structure. It was built in 1368.
At the base, Gemma and Natalie gave their docent presentations about the wall's long history. The walk was rugged and beautiful. The skies were clear and blue today; it was sunny and cool.
When we returned, we went to the Water Cube, which one student described as "sick." Students had to successfully complete a swimming test of 200 meters before they could swim in the deep part of the pool. They all passed and the kids were able to swim and, of course, admire the place where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals. After that it was dinner and back to the hotel.

Monday, March 3
Touchdown in Beijing

The Foote group landed safely in Beijing at 2:40 p.m. local time (1:40 a.m. our time) after an uneventful flight of 13 hours and 16 minutes! They were met at the airport by their Beijing host, Zhu Weifang, and Foote ninth grader Ben Barton, who's been in China since January studying at Yali Middle School. After settling into their hotel, the ninth graders went to dinner with Xhu Weifang's students from Remnin University, where she teaches. Tomorrow they are looking forward to visiting the Great Wall and the Water Cube.



Sunday, March 2
And They're Off!

Ninth graders, their parents and faculty chaperones met at Foote at 6 a.m. on Sunday to catch a charter bus to Newark International Airport for their nonstop flight to Beijing. Before departing, everyone posed for a group photo.