Group 1: Grades 4-5
Since our students begin studying Mandarin in Third Grade, our Fourth and Fifth Graders were thrilled to take a two-week trip to China this year, including Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing. In Hangzhou, students were hosted by Chinese families for four days and nights, getting a taste of daily life and family customs; they also attended school with their Chinese “brothers” or “sisters” for an insider’s experience of Chinese education. Although shy at first, the hugs and fond tears we saw among them as we said goodbye made it clear the kids has really made friends. In Beijing – and on the once-in-a-lifetime walk along the Great Wall – students were truly moved. Whether discovering the secrets of the Forbidden City or gazing at the mysterious smiles of Buddhas in the ancient temples, our students made authentic contact with the wondrous and many-faceted country that is China.
Group 2: Grades 6-7, Middle School Students
This year, for the first time, EINY organized two simultaneous trips to China. The middle school trip, which included several China “veterans” who had gone on the China trip two years ago, followed a different itinerary from the elementary school trip.
Our trip began with a long travel day, as we traveled from Newark to Beijing and then on to Chengdu, a city in central China of about 14 million people in the Sichuan Province. We were greeted by Kyla, our wonderful guide. Despite a few snafus, we arrived at our hotel in a suburb of Chengdu and managed a good night’s sleep.
The next day was a big day for everyone! We visited the Chengdu Panda Reserve, where we saw adult and baby pandas. At the gift shop, several EINY students practiced their Mandarin as they bought some souvenirs to bring home.
We then went to a restaurant specializing in Sichuan cuisine, where we were served so many dishes we lost count, and ran out of room on the table! Students sampled vegetables, noodles, Kung Pao chicken, quail eggs, deep-fried banana fritters, three kinds of dumplings, vegetable and chicken soup, and fresh fruit. Despite the fact that the region is famous for spicy food, very few of the dishes were.
After lunch and a much-needed nap on the bus, we arrived at the Wuhou Foreign Languages School of Chengdu, where we were greeted with bouquets of flowers presented by the students’ hosts. We attended a brief meeting to learn about our schedule for the week, and then went to the dorms to drop off belonging. Each student was assigned a bunk, and given plastic basin for washing. The boys were in two different rooms, connected by a hallway and a shared bathroom. The girls were in one room in a separate building. There is a very strict rule prohibiting boys and girls visiting one another’s dorms.
We also ate dinner at the school cafeteria. Meals are served on metal trays, and there were six dishes to choose from, in addition to soup. We were not too hungry, as we had eaten a late lunch, and dinner here is quite early: 5:30pm! The food was quite tasty, and not too spicy.
“Quin Li was the most incredible street I have ever been to, it is both beautiful in the night and day. At night, it is amazing to be there because there are so many decorations that light up around sunset, I saw colorful glowing illumination; it looks magnificent. In the day, Quin Li Street isn’t lit, but you notice a lot more detail because there is the light of the day. The stores are very amusing to observe, for example there are the minute souvenirs.” – Margaux
“My favorite part of the trip was the Terracotta soldiers. This place was discovered by a very lucky farmer when he was digging a well. This was a part of the tomb of the first emperor of China that was called Qin. A fact about that tomb is that 50% of riches of China is in that tomb.” – Paul
Most Chinese students went to class after dinner. We were surprised to learn that students are in class for two hours Sunday night, which is often when tests are scheduled. WuHou is a boarding school, and students usually go home fore the weekends, but return to school on Sunday.
Students spent five nights and four full days at the school. Though it was hard for our jetlagged students to go to sleep at 9pm for the first few nights, they settled into a routine along with the Chinese students. Mornings started early with breakfast at the school cafeteria, where students especially appreciated when dumplings were served. They attended classes with their host student throughout the morning, participating in Chinese, English, math, science and physical education.
After lunch, the school organized special classes and activities for our students, including calligraphy, traditional Chinese painting, sand painting (making pictures with fine sand on a light box), and paper cutting. One day, students worked with their Chinese buddy to make a kite and then flew it on the athletic field. Most students combined symbols representing China and another country on their kites.
The school was kind enough to provide a conference room, complete with Wifi, for us to use to write emails home, work on journals, and talk about the day, and call, Skype, and Facetime with friends and family at home.
Other highlights of our week included a visit to nearby Dujiangyan, a city in the mountains and the site of an irrigation project and dam dating back to 200 A.D., and Qingcheng Mountain, where we visited a Taoist temple.
When Mr. Rivaud, our head of school, joined us, the school organized a welcoming ceremony, and treated us to musical performances and artistic demonstration by students and teachers.
Another day, we visited a public elementary school in Chengdu, where our students sang and danced with students at the school, and even played them in a soccer match.
At the end of the week, students went home with new friends to spend a few nights in their homes. For most students, this was one of the best parts of the trip, giving them a glimpse inside a Chinese home. Chinese host families even organized trips to Pizza Hit and Burger King to make EINY students feel more at home!
“The China trip was great. We had an excellent time with the families and especially the schools. The trip consisted of constant excitement and fun.” – Killian