Apr 25

Day 4 & 5 – Report from 2014 Trip Team Leaders Jackie and Peter

Hi all,
We will be leaving tomorrow morning.  Please see updates for Day 4 and this morning.  We will finish the rest when we are back home.  Thank you for letting us have your wonderful children this week.  Peter and I are so fortunate to have your trust to lead them at this meaningful program.  We thoroughly enjoyed this experience because of your children.
Thank you and see you soon.
Jackie & Peter
Day 5 – Friday, 4/25 – AM
A huge thunder woke us up today.  We are disappointed that it was still raining but excited about today’s agenda.  The kids will be sitting in on some classes with the Yizhong students.
One group went to sit in on a math class, another to a Chinese class.  The math class was pretty hard but the kids understood most parts.  The Chinese class was about “Lei Yu”.  It was very hard to understand but some of the kids actually got the essence of it.  They also sat in on a geography class and a biology class.   We are all very proud of our kids for their eagerness in learning.
Between the classes, we participated in a formal donation ceremony when our donation was officially announced.  Our kids were so happy to see all the scholarship recipients again.
More to come….
Day 4 – Thursday, 4/24
We got a short break from the rain in the early morning hours.  Most of us got up early again and went out to the Athletic fields for some excercise.   Peter and the boys plus Savannah played basket ball.  Brian had a ping pong match with an Yizhong student, and Sam played tennis with Jackie on a wet court.  Yizhong was very nice in providing us with all the sports equipment.
We were slightly late for breakfast and just made it for the first class at 8:05am.  By now, all our kids can navigate the buildings and find the classrooms they are teaching by themselves.  Many Yizhong teachers approached me and told me how mature and independent our kids are because they know what they are doing and there is no need for the teachers to give them instructions or directions, and they wish that the Yizhong students could be as capable.  I told them that Yizhong students can be the same if they are given the freedom and opportunity.  Most Chinese students are more reserved because they are taught so.  They appeared to be more reliant on teachers because they are used to yielding to authorities.  Our kids are stars here for a variety of reasons, their openness, outgoing personalities, engaging and respectful attitude, and their Chinese with cute accents.  To Yizhong students, our kids bring a breath of fresh air to the campus and they are taking in wholeheartedly.  To our kids, Yizhong students’ showed their sincerity and friendliness and we are soaking in their hospitality.
A morning of 4-hour classroom teaching was rewarded with another delicious lunch.  We had pork with mei cai “mei cai kou rou”, another local specialty, seaweed soup, tofu, scallion beef, and baby bok choy.  We encouraged everyone to eat more as we need the fuel for our afternoon activity of visiting the scholarship recipients’ homes.
It proved true that we needed all the fuel we’ve got.  Accompanied by the Gao Yi director Chen, we walked about 5 miles on foot in the rain and visited 4 families living in Chongren.  Even though we all got wet and the walk was tiring and at times “adventurous”, it was a memorable experience as we saw how those students and their families lived.  Most of them rent rooms and have very small living spaces and simple furnishings.  “Bare minimium” is what depicts most of their homes and life style.  One of the students took time off from school and returned home to greet us and introduced his mom to us.  His mom was surprised to hear Justin describing his son’s career aspiration of becoming a writer, favorite food of fried rice noodle and friend sticky rice cake, favorite music, favorite movies and idols, nodding her head with a shy smile to show that Justin got it right.  She knew we had a meet & greet last night but didn’t expect that they would know each other this much.  The home visit is an important part of our program because we would like for our kids to learn first hand that you can still thrive in school and society and be your best even if you have very little materially.  Many of the kids we are supporting are so positive in their outlook even with the most difficult and sometimes unfair life situation.  We all can learn so much from them and their families.  And yes we learned as no one complained about soaking wet pants, sneakers and socks when we go back!
We were delighted to see visitors upon our return from the home visit.  Ryan’s grandparents and aunt came all the way from Fujian to see Ryan and us.  Ryan beamed with joy.  We were thankful for all the goodies they brought us.  The kids couldn’t wait until dinner time as they were all invited by the students to a party at the Gao Yi Classroom 2 for some fun at 7:00pm.  All had a fun time at the party.  The Yizhong students were sad that our kids will be leaving soon but happy to have all of them in their classroom for chatting and photo opportunities.  Cards were exchanged and signatures given out.  It is then time to go back to the dorm for some rest as the kids had a long day.  Peter led the kids for all the evening activities while Jackie was doing a Q&A for an assembly of students on American schools and education.
The rain did not seem to want to relent.  It probably sensed the saddness that tomorrow is our last day at Yizhong.  Everything was wet but we all felt warm at heart.  After the girls finished writing up a card for the Yizhong students, we went to bed.
Jackie & Peter
Apr 23

Day 3 – Report from 2014 Trip Team Leaders Jackie and Peter

Day 3 – Wednesday, 4/23
We all woke up early again today.  All the boys went for a run and basket ball game.  We worked out a schedule for showering so that we won’t be late for breakfast at 7:00am to arrive at the first class at 8:05am.  Today’s breakfast was porridge with “xue li hong” (雪里红)and stir fried rice noodle (炒米粉) for a change.  By now all of the kids are pros in delivering their presentations and handling the classes.  One of the teachers requested assistance on their current English unit on Toronto, Canada.  The “Sam and Brian” team was assigned the task.  They took the assignment seriously and prepared the lesson last night.  It went really well and the teacher was very happy with the help they provided to the students.  Since there are more than 20 classrooms for each grade (Gao Yi and Gao Er), it is still the first time for most of the classes to see our pairings, so more new friends are made.
There was a reason an umbrella was a required item on the checklist for each student to pack and bring.  The early morning was gray and cool but it started pouring in mid morning and the rain continued on.  At lunch, we enjoyed the rice flower coated pork (mi fen rou), whole fish and black chicken, and custurd eggs.  Mi fen rou was the favorite for all and the dish was emptied quickly.  Although we can’t go outside to play after lunch, it was great fun to chat with a lot more Yizhong students who are eating lunch at the dining hall today because of the rain who normally would have walked home to have lunch.  It was so nice to see the kids laughing and talking to each other in both Chinese and English.  They seem to have many common topics and interests.  They are all teenagers after all.
The originally scheduled afternoon sports events were cancelled due to the rain.  But we were led to the science and technology building computer lab.  The kids were able to get on the internet and their e-mail and hopefully all parents have received a greeting from the kids themselves.   After the computer lab time, we were invited to watch a Tai Chi performance by the Yizhong teachers.  We were impressed with the agility of the performers and fluidity of the routine.  All of us got a Tai Chi lesson from the teachers.  We know Tai Chi is an art form that can’ be learned in one session, but we still put out our best effort in keeping up with the teacher.  Many pictures are taken although the kids would rather that they get deleted.
The team got treated again for dinner, courtesy of Jackie’s friends.  After dinner, the kids prepared for the evening activity of meet & greet with the 22 scholarship recipients at Yizhong.  They worked really hard in learning how to prenouce the recipients names in Chinese.  We got some help from 2 local students.
The meet & greet went very well.  Each one of our kids took under their wings 1 – 2 Yizhong students and formed partnership.  They talked to each other about their families, who they are and what they like.   One of the scholarship recipients has severe disability but we were fortunate to have him attend the meet & greet tonight.  His mother is a dedicated and most loving mom I have ever met.  In China, it is very rare to see accomodations and access ramps that are required in the US for people with disability.  So the mom had to carried the student for all activities.  The student gave a short intro that was very moving.  We all wished him the best in life and admired his courage.
Both our kids and Yizhong students were able to tell the entire audience in both Chinese and English ther partners’ stories.  Emily encouraged her partner to write down notes so he can looked at them when answering questions about her, and Sam wrote cues on his palm.  Obviously talents are uncovered through the conversations and a few went on the stage to perform and showcase their talent.  Justin, Sam and Sophia entertained us with their panio performance.  Yizhong and our kids sang a pop song together.  Michael showed us his dance tricks again!
It rained throughout the night..
Jackie & Peter
Apr 22

Day 2 – Report from 2014 Trip Team Leaders Jackie and Peter

Hi all,
Here are updates from yesterday.  Thanks to everyone for your encouraging works.  Peter and I feel fortunate to spend this week with your children who are all responsible and mature.  Thank you!
We will send/upload some pictures when we have time.  The agenda is jam packed so we haven’t had a chance.
Jackie & Peter
Day 2 – 4/22
“Amazing” was the word used by the girls to describe how good it felt to be able to take a shower, finally.  The school installed 2 small hot water heater and shower heads last night in 2 of the dorm bathrooms downstairs just for us so that we can conveniently take private showers.   Anticipating the showers, the kids beat the roosters today and got up as early as before 5:00am.  Some went for a run at the Athletic field first and some rushed to line up for the showers.  It was a nice day today with mild temperature and a cool breeze.  So we were all refreshed and looked forward to the day ahead.
After a rice noodle breakfast, all arrived at the classroom building and started a long morning of 4 classes.  With yesterday’s experience under their belt, each group did a fantastic job in giving their presentations and conducting Q&As at their classes.  You can hear loud cheering from various classrooms which makes those classrooms that have not gotten their turn very envious.  The teachers got asked by a lot of their students when the “foreign kids” (wai guo hai zi) are coming to their classroom to teach.  Fans are accumulating speedily and nick names related to “super” started surfacing.  I won’t go into detail but will let the kids tell the stories when they are back home.  All are innocent and cute.

Our kids got a taste of what hard work is.  Four hours of teaching with only short breaks in between is a normal schedule for teachers here.  We learned to appreciate our teachers (at least in China).  After the morning classes, we had a tasty lunch to recharge. Most kids don’t know how to handle the small whole fish with lots of bones so Peter and I were the lucky ones to devour most of it.  The kids made friends with their neighboring dorm room kids and other students eating at the dining hall.  They had a nice conversation with them learning about each other after lunch.  It was followed up with a badminton play off.  Everyone gave it a try and Brian made us proud with his fast smashes and overhead!
In the afternoon, we went on a sightseeing trip to a local temple in the mountains.  The school contact Liu Shu Ji, a security guard, and 2 other teachers accompanied us.  We got on a small bus which took us up the mountain on a winding village road.  The road was very narrow but our driver was an experienced one so it wasn’t an issue.   The kids were snapping pictures of the beautiful southern China countryside scenes with green rice patties, blue mountains and rythemic springs flowing down from the mountains.  We were only 3 kilometers from the temple but got stuck behind a disabled truck full of bamboos.  Instead of waiting for the truck to get going, the group decided to walk on foot.  It was the best decision ever as we were able to get up and close with the bamboos, chickens with baby chicks at the village, and insects with rainbow color backs that looked “foreign”.  When we came upon some farm dogs, we gave the kids a stern warning that everyone was to be quiet, slow and non-agitating unless they want to get rabbies.  And that did it.  We swiftly walked past the dogs and soon reached the temple at the mountain top. The temple is called Dragon Charity temple “long ji si” which was built more than a thousand years ago in 904 by buddiest monks.  Given its age, it is understandable that it went through many wars and natural disasters so the original buildings were damaged throughout the centuries.  There were some re-builds and repairs but overall it looked fairly orginally.  Lots of buddas and buddiest gods in the temple.   Some of us asked for our fortunes “qiu qian”.

We walked down the mountain on another side and met up with the bus at the foot of the mountain near a village.  It was tiring but the serene scenary along the way made it all worth it.  One of the teachers found a huge fresh bamboo shoot tall as a person and carried it down the mountain for us to bring to the dining hall chefs to cook for us at dinner.   We were not disapppointed, the bamboo dish served at dinner was organically delicious!  We have the before and after picture of the bamboo shoot that we will share when we have a chance to upload them.
Tonight’s activity was to perform with the YiZhong students.  It was more of a fun party than just performance.  All kids sang, danced, had fun games and took pictures to keep and cherish.  One of the Yizhong kids performed “Hu Lu Si”, a traditional Chinese musical instructment that looks like a squash “Hu Lu”.  It was really impressive.  In addition to all the group performance that our kids had prepared,  Michael performed an improvised break dance which drew cheers from the entire audience.  Emily, Sophia and Savanah performed the theme song of the Titanic.  All did a beautiful job.  Isabella won one of the White Raddish Squat “bai luo bo dun” game beating out the YiZhong students.  The party was ended with more hugs and pictures.
We walked back to the dorm still singing…
Jackie & Peter
Apr 21

Day 1 – Report from 2014 Trip Team Leaders Jackie and Peter

On Sun, Apr 20, 2014 at 11:28 PM (Beijing Time), Jackie Zhou wrote:

Hi all,

I am unable to get on WeChat as there is no WiFi.  So we’ll do e-mail update for now.  I’ll type up the Travel Update later.  Here is Day 1 morning update:

Day 1 – 4/21 Morning

We arrived in YiZhong at around midnight and got a few hours of good sleep after quickly unpacking.  The Dorms provided to us were very simple but nice and clean with bunk beds, a living area and our own bathroom.  Although the girls are in a separate section from the boys, we are all in a connected building which makes it convenient for us.  The school prepared everything we need including hot water thermo, slippers, towels, soap and even hangers.  The kids had to get used to the bathroom but everyone was very quick in getting a handle on how it works.

There was no need for alarm clock as the roosters awakened us all at around 5:30am. It is the first time in their lives to hear roosters and some plan to tell their children about this experience in the future.  The kids were all excited about the first day.  After a hearty breakfast of rice noodle with eggs and tofu, we headed out to the classroom building where all are scheduled to make their presentations and teach.  Buddies paired up in the classroom as well.  Except for a few technical gliches, all went well and you can feel the excitement in the air.  Both our kids and the students in YiZhong are curious about each other and eager to get to know one another.  The teachers at YiZhong are so supportive in giving our kids the platform to present, exchange, and communicate.  We are so proud how our kids handled themselves in the classrooms.  They were mature, enthusiastic and engaging.

More to come…

Jackie & Peter


(on Apr 21, 2014,10:50 PM, Beijing Time)

Hi all,

Here are more updates.  I only have access to internet at the teacher’s office in the moring so I’m typing up and sending what I have.  Enjoy!

Jackie & Peter

Day 1 – 4/21 Afternoon & Evening

After finishing 3 hours of classroom activities, we were treated for a nice lunch by the Principal of YiZhong. We had some free time between lunch and afternoon agendas but the kids were too excited to take a nap. Instead, everyone did a little bit more unpacking & organizing and played cards.  We huddled to talk about our morning experience and lessons learned or what went well and what can be improved so that future classes can be better. Everyone was happy with their classes although each one is unique. All of our kids instantly gained hundreds of admirers in one morning.

One of the afternoon activities was paper cutting with YiZhong students who are part of the paper cutting club.  We were each paired up with a YiZhong student under the guidance of the art teacher.  The outcome was a deck of masterpieces representing Chinese culture: dancers, snowflakes, flowers, cartoon characters, families.  Our talented Isabelle got everyone’s ahhhs.  It’s going to be a challenge with packing but we’ll make sure that we bring these art pieces back intact for all to admire.

We then had a session introducing Chinese calligraphy: its history, different styles and meanings. Following the introduction is a real practice using a special calligraphy pen that simulates the brushes. The kids had a field day with that.  Even though they got black ink all over their hands, they seemed to be enjoying their very own pieces as it “represents their own character”.  One of the characters written by Michael earned great praise from the teacher.  It didn’t matter that he didn’t know the charater he was writting.  They cheered when told that they get to keep the pen.  So be ware you might be seeing black ink at some unusual places in their luggage.

The kids were invited to watch the school championship basket ball games which happened to be going on this week.  They went out despite the drizzling rain.  With some encouragement, a 3-on-3 basket game was put in place.  Justin, Sam, Ryan, Brian, Savannah and Michael took turns playing.  As hard as our team tried, the YiZhong team won over us 22 – 8.  Well, they have the home court advantage.  It was a lot of fun.

We had dinner at the dining hall.  There were special tables set for our group but the kids prefer to be sitting at regular tables as the other students.  All dishes were specialties representing local favorites. The roasted port dish “hong shao rou” disappeared in just a few minutes.  Everyone including Peter and I also enjoyed the fresh bamboo shoot with shredded pork.  I alone consumed pretty much all of the sweet patato flower chunk “hong shu fen kuai” dish, my childhood favorite.

In the evening, we watched a vedio showing the history of YiZhong to get to learn more about the school. It was a bit challenging for our kids to understand, but we got the essence of it.

After a tiring and exciting day, the kids went to bed early and all fell asleep before 9:00pm.  They were shocked to hear the school bells/music of the night study classes (zi xi ke) and felt lucky that they don’t have to go to school to study at night.



Apr 20

Day 0 – 顺利抵达崇仁一中



Day 0 – 4/19 – 4/20 Travel (by Jackie Zhou)

4/19:  All families arrived on time and no one forgot their passport!  A little chaotic at the self-checkin place as Delta seems to want everyone to do self check-in.  After taking group pictures and saying farewells, we headed toward the security check and gate.

Flight from Boston to Detroit was delayed a bit but the spirit was high among the kids.  The kids had such a fun time while awaiting to board, playing card games, sharing food, reading books and even studying for AP! The boys took the opportunity to pose creatively for the camera just to show the parents that are having a lot of fun.   Michael showed up in each of the group pictures for the girls (photo bomb?)  Finally we boarded the plane at 9:50am.  We were lucky to be able to switch seats so everyone is sitting together.  Time to share the food again as everyone seemed hungry.  Isabella’s grages, Ryan’s beef jerky and Yukun’s M&Ms were a big hit.  Now we just had to sit tight until we get to Detroit.  The flight was a little bumpy but the sky was really blue with pure white clouds floating beneath the plane.

It worked out fine in the end as we had more than 30 minutes to run to the connecting flight in Detroit.  We used a divide and conquer strategy to get the kids boarded while getting them some food with Peter taking care of buying food and Jackie taking the kids going through boarding.  We were all sitting together on this flight also.  The flight was long but made short by the big selection of movies, non-stop food and beverage supplies and nice conversations with each other.  Most of us got some sleep during the flight.  Yukun however stayed awake the entire flight.  We all envied his energy.

Everyone was smooth going through customs and connecting to the domestic flight to Nanchang.  We took group pictures at the immigration & customs without knowing cameras were not allowed.  Glad we didn’t get into trouble but just got a verbal warning by the security guard.  Hewww!  We enjoyed some rest time with ice scream at the terminal in Beijing.  The flight to Nanchang was uneventful.  When we landed in Nanchang, we saw the six representatives sent by YiZhong waiting for us at the exit.  The bus ride to YiZhong was about 2 and half hours.

We arrived at YiZhong at last!  It was just before midnight.  More school officials waited for us at the school to welcome our arrival.  We were led to the dorm rooms where everything we need were prepared for us.


Below is the picture of the team at Logan Airport Saturday morning 4/19/2014.