By Donna Boucher, grade 10
This past July, students Mahi Gurram, Connie Xu, Donna Boucher, Lilly Anderson, all grade 10, and Sam Boucher, grade 7, traveled to Tibet, China for a cultural exchange program with the Maizhokunggar County School.
After landing in Lhasa, the group stayed in Tibet for a total of 11 days, in which they exchanged cultures with Tibetan children, grades 3 through 6. The Tibetan children, who had had very little, if any, contact with foreigners, listened to short stories in English and practiced their conversation skills through fun games that the Harker students had brought with them. The Harker students shared photos of California and other major cities and states in the U.S. with the curious Tibetan children. The children teamed up to played soccer and catch on the school’s field, and Harker girls braided some of the Tibetan girls’ hair with colorful ribbons.
In exchange, Tibetan children performed a few Chinese jump rope routines and taught the Harker students several Tibetan phrases and authentic games. Harker students were invited to eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge and talked to several teachers who had also never seen foreigners. The teachers were mesmerized by Donna Boucher’s green eyes, Anderson’s curly hair, Xu’s ability to speak both Mandarin and English fluently, Gurram’s darker complexion and photos of Sam Boucher playing hockey. Both parties seemed to have gained an immense understanding of the other. Overall, the five Harker students participated in one of the most eye-opening and thrilling experiences of their lives.