The Gr. 8 trek to China was once again a gratifying and memorable experience for all involved.
After arriving in Shanghai, students had the opportunity to explore the city, see the sights, sample local eateries and of course, shop. On Monday morning, the students went to Shanghai World Foreign Language Middle School (SWFLMS), whose own students treated them to a singing of their national anthem and school song. Harker students then got to learn about Chinese opera and play various instruments in the school’s Chinese music class.
The next day, students observed lessons and picked up a few more phrases to add to their Mandarin repertoire. They also got to view some fabulous artifacts and works of art at the Shanghai Museum, and some even made attempts to barter with the locals!
Tuesday’s real treat, however, was an acrobatic show that wowed those in attendance. “From hoops and trapeze to trampolines and motorcycles it was definitely a feast for the eyes!” said Jennifer Abraham, global education director.
The following day, the Harker group got to watch the SWFLMS students do their morning exercises. “It was quite a sight to see with hundreds of kids quickly, yet quietly, exiting the school and lining up on the sports field,” Abraham said.
More class observations followed, with some Harker students sitting in on an English class session. “The kids have commented on several differences between our two schools,” Abraham noted. “The two things that apparently stand out the most are that the teachers change classrooms, and not the students, and that they have a full 10 minutes between classes.”
Later that day, some students learned how to sing in Chinese during one of the language classes. “Surprisingly,” Abraham said, “the boys really got into singing!”
On Thursday, the group visited Zhujiajiao, an ancient water town famous for its boat-filled canals and centuries-old bridges built during the Ming and Qing dynasties. During their stay, the students bought fish to let free in the river along with a wish, and took a boat ride through the town’s canals.
Friday kicked off with a visit to the Wahaha bottled drinks factory. From there, it was off to the Six Harmonies Pagoda, originally constructed more than 1,000 years ago. “The kids raced to the top of the pagoda where they were able to take pictures of the West Lake below,” Abraham said. The group continued to a tea plantation to sample and buy various types of tea, in addition to learning about the process of making tea leaves. After a quick visit to the Chinese Medicine Museum, the tired group headed home.
To celebrate their final day with the Shanghai students, the SWFLMS threw a farewell party that included singing, dancing, heartfelt speeches and poetry.
The group began the following week in Beijing, with a visit to the famous Temple of Heaven. “Walking to the Temple was very entertaining!” Abraham reported. “We stopped to watch people dancing, with a few of our students giving it a try. We followed a long corridor passing older people playing cards, talking and generally just enjoying themselves.”
Afterward, the group visited a family living in Beijing’s “hutongs,” narrow streets and alleys lined with courtyard homes. “We all packed into their living room and, through a translator, spent the next half hour asking all sorts of questions,” Abraham recalled. “The kids had great questions ranging from the one-child policy to experiencing the Cultural Revolution to Chinese perception of Americans. The man was very honest and interesting to talk to.”
As they left the hutongs on rickshaws, the drivers decided to have a little fun and race one another. “It was a sight to see, with 12 rickshaws racing through the very narrow alleys,” said Abraham. “We all had a good laugh and lots of fun.”
The next two days yielded more amazing sights. Students visited the Great Wall of China and took in the fabulous views offered by the ancient fortification. They then took toboggans to the foot of the mountain, where they picked up some souvenirs before heading back to the city. The following day included a visit to Tiananmen Square and the Chinese imperial palace, also known as the Forbidden City.
The group wound up their trip to Beijing with a brief visit to the Summer Palace before returning to prepare for the trip home.