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PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China


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Our last full day in China, June 30, was bittersweet for all fifteen of us students and teachers. We began the day by gathering downstairs in Kunming Cloudland International Youth Hostel and conducting morning meeting. After that, Juliet and George handed out the letters about hopes and expectations that we had each written to ourselves on the first day of the China trip. We spread out on the first floor of the hostel to open them. Reading the letters at the end of our trip allowed us to reflect on what we had learned and how we had grown.

            Immediately once we had read our letters, we ate breakfast in the hostel while writing post cards that Dragons will hold for us for eight months. Once eight months have passed (during March of 2017), the post cards we had written will be sent to each of our homes and will provide both comfort and reminiscence for us.

             After we handed our written post cards to Juliet and George, we split into three groups and left the hostel to explore the city of Kunming for the scavenger hunt. Abby A., Matt, and I worked together as the “S-squared Scavenger Squad.” All of the groups walked towards the Green Lake first to fulfill some of the scavenger hunt objectives. My group began by visiting a tea store on the south side of the lake and trying both Sheng and Shou Pu Er tea. When Sheng, Pu Er tea is similar to green tea in color and taste, but when Shou (steeped a few times), the tea is stronger, more bitter, and reddish in color.

            We then walked into the Green Lake Park once we tried and bought some tea. There, we learned what flower is blooming in the lake (lotus), watched people dancing in the park, met cute dogs, and tried to play gourd flutes, among other tasks. Soon, lunchtime arrived, and each group had to use their own skills to ask locals and find the lunch restaurant. We all ultimately arrived at the restaurant and enjoyed the meal before heading out to walk around the city again. The three groups all visited the nearby Buddhist temple and then took a taxi to the Bird and Flower Market, where we spent the remaining amount of time strolling and shopping before dinnertime.

            In the fancy restaurant where we ate our delicious last dinner, we all sat around one large table, many of us trying new and unique dishes like fried grubs and stinky tofu. Once stomachs were full, students and teachers alike participated in an activity during which we described something we admired or appreciated about the person sitting on our right side. As we sat together around the table, with each person sharing kind and heartfelt words, the moment became very personal and touching.

            Afterwards, we went to the Kunming program house for Where There Be Dragons. There, Juliet and George led us through our farewell activities to prepare us for our departure to the U.S. the following day. We began with a ritual in the dark: we all sat and formed a circle around candlelight while holding a long black string with beads. We then each spoke about an aspect of the entire group that we appreciated. Despite some difficulties with the beads in the string, in the end all fifteen of us had a bracelet around our wrists. Each bracelet was formed by the black string and three beads, and its purpose was to serve as a token of remembrance about our trip together.

            The most exciting and yet peaceful moment of our last night together was when we all ultimately succeeded in lighting a red lantern and having it take off. Prior to our success, we had used up two other lanterns that failed to fly. As we watched the successful lantern drift into the dark night until its light faded away, I could feel a wave of peace and hope wash over everyone’s uplifted faces.

            To truly mark the end of our journey in China, Juliet and George gave gifts to all of us. We students each received a bag containing a jasmine flower in a small clay pot, a small container of Pu Er tea, and a brush and canvas.

When we all returned from the program house to the hostel at night, we prepared for our leave the next afternoon. Despite my eager anticipation to return to my family and home, I, as well as many others, was weighed down by the feeling that the end had arrived too soon. We will miss all of our experiences here in China as well as the steady and encouraging presences of Juliet and George.

Even though the end of this trip has arrived, I hope that we all will never forget the bonds made, the knowledge obtained, and the dreams created during our amazing journey.

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Bittersweet moments of the last full day

Michelle Leung,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

Our last full day in China, June 30, was bittersweet for all fifteen of us students and teachers. We began the day by gathering downstairs in Kunming Cloudland International Youth Hostel and conducting morning meeting. After that, Juliet and George handed out the letters about hopes and expectations that we had each written to ourselves […]

Posted On

07/3/16

Author

Michelle Leung

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    [post_content] => Welp, George and I are sitting in the empty program house in Kunming, rain pouring in mourning of your departure. We just got confirmation from Dave that all are through customs and have boarded their plane to Hong Kong so families can expect to see their little travelers soon!

Safe travels and thanks for a wonderful journey, my dudes. Hope to see you soon!

Yours Truly,

Furious George and the Tiger Princess
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AND They’re off!

George & Juliet,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

Welp, George and I are sitting in the empty program house in Kunming, rain pouring in mourning of your departure. We just got confirmation from Dave that all are through customs and have boarded their plane to Hong Kong so families can expect to see their little travelers soon! Safe travels and thanks for a wonderful […]

Posted On

07/1/16

Author

George & Juliet

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    [post_content] => Agrarian life rules!

We had an amazing time taking in the stars and rustic lifestyle with our families.

We're now in Kunming for our (sadly) last few days of the journey.  Photos from today's scavenger hunt to come!
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Lashihai Homestay Photos

The Instructor Team,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

Agrarian life rules! We had an amazing time taking in the stars and rustic lifestyle with our families. We’re now in Kunming for our (sadly) last few days of the journey.  Photos from today’s scavenger hunt to come!

Posted On

06/29/16

Author

The Instructor Team

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    [post_content] => We arrived yesterday on the overnight train and took Tuk tuks (small open door cars) to our hostel. The day was jam packed with settling into the hostel, writing letters to future Dragon students, naps, lunch, karaoke, dice games, and much more. My personal highlight of the day was watching our instructors Juliet and George haggling with the cab drivers in Chinese for fifteen minutes and assuring us that the chaos was completely normal. We're having a great time in Kunming, with plenty of items still on the itinerary, including an epic scavenger hunt and a closing ceremony.
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First Day in Kunming

Abby Atkeson,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

We arrived yesterday on the overnight train and took Tuk tuks (small open door cars) to our hostel. The day was jam packed with settling into the hostel, writing letters to future Dragon students, naps, lunch, karaoke, dice games, and much more. My personal highlight of the day was watching our instructors Juliet and George haggling with […]

Posted On

06/29/16

Author

Abby Atkeson

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    [post_content] => I hope you enjoy my photos!!

Making dumplings, hiking to the Great Wall and exercising in the countryside!

-Taylor
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A Few Photos from Along the Way

Taylor Smith,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

I hope you enjoy my photos!! Making dumplings, hiking to the Great Wall and exercising in the countryside! -Taylor

Posted On

06/29/16

Author

Taylor Smith

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    [post_content] => Hi All:

Just a quick update. We arrived safely in Kunming after a good sleep on the night train from Lijiang. We had were busy the previous day - visiting a Buddhist temple, saying farewell to our home stay families, and doing shopping in Lijiang.

Yesterday was a a quiet day of reflection and a philosophy lesson in the Dragons house in Kunming. We ended the night singing karaoke and concluding with a rousing group rendition of "Happy"! Everyone is doing well and eager for their last adventure in Kunming before heading home!

Dave, Maria, George, and Juliet
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PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

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Happy in Kunming

Dave Freedholm,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

Hi All: Just a quick update. We arrived safely in Kunming after a good sleep on the night train from Lijiang. We had were busy the previous day – visiting a Buddhist temple, saying farewell to our home stay families, and doing shopping in Lijiang. Yesterday was a a quiet day of reflection and a […]

Posted On

06/29/16

Author

Dave Freedholm

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PDS has arrived in Lashi Lake for the aspect of experiential learning through travel that Dragons does best: homestays! We have now traveled from China's political capital in Beijing where High School #4 families hosted the group to Yunnan Province, an area that once represented the furthest corner of the empire.

Starting rural homestays is often a challenge. Students face a plethora of unknowns: how is food cooked, how do I find the bathroom, how is each new face in my homestay related … We instructors watch a look of mixed panic and slightly confused smiles cross students faces as old Naxi (the local minority) grandmothers drag their rolling bags and duffels down dirt roads towards home. The next morning, students filter back into the school house complaining of flies, unidentified dinner meats and communication barriers.

But today was our second full day in homestays and something good has settled in. Sabrina’s homestay grandmother is the dancing queen of the town and taught her some moves, Saahil and Michelle Mendez-Castro’s families watch the same soap operas with the students each evening, and Matt’s family runs the town store where MahJiang tournaments rage each evening. Host siblings filtered back home for the weekend and students have begun feeding livestock, playing soccer on the local pitch, and helping with cooking and dishes. The terrified eyed look has melted away and students leave the school house on light feet.

Tomorrow we will hike as a group to a Tibetan Buddhist temple across the lake. Mr. Freedholm prepped us with the life story of the Buddha and we will leave soon after breakfast weave through orchards and corn fields, across lake marshes and along dirt banks. With that last day to contemplate our  homestays around the lake, we will wake up the next day and train to our last stop – Kunming! The spring city … more to come!

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PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

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Lashi Lake Homestays – To the Periphery

I-Team,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

PDS has arrived in Lashi Lake for the aspect of experiential learning through travel that Dragons does best: homestays! We have now traveled from China’s political capital in Beijing where High School #4 families hosted the group to Yunnan Province, an area that once represented the furthest corner of the empire. Starting rural homestays is […]

Posted On

06/26/16

Author

I-Team

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    [post_content] => June 22nd, 2016

Today was an early morning. Matt, the “Alarm” of the day, woke the group up at 6:15 so that we could finish packing our bags and prepare for the day. Everyone was downstairs, ready to go, by 6:45. We had a brief meeting before walking out of of our secluded, “touristy” road and onto the busy, trafficked highway to meet our bus. We were greeted by small packages of baozi that Juliet had kindly left on our seats as breakfast. By 7:15, we had pulled out of Lijiang. The bus ride was long and students were tired, so most kids just slept. Juliet and George also provided tea eggs and jianbing while the “Provisions Masters” of the day passed out snacks to eat on the trail. We stopped briefly at a rest stop to stock up on bananas and mangoes before finally arriving at the entrance of the Gorge.
We unloaded onto the dusty road and sat down to have our daily morning meeting. Finally, we began to walk down the road. We passed by a pile of miscellaneous objects messily shoved into a plastic bag. Juliet explained that the trash would be burned by rural families who didn’t have dumps. We continued for about an hour and a half until we finally sat down to take a break. While we glugged our water, our dragon instructors looked up at the rocky mountains above. “The real journey begins here,” George said softly.
The dusty road turned into jagged rocks as we began our trek up the mountain. The path was extremely steep and rocky. Students conversed about movies, songs and books and Juliet entertained everyone with ancient stories and fables about the land. The trail was breathtakingly beautiful. We watched as the brown river we termed “The Chocolate Milk River” grew farther and farther away and the big blue mountains grew closer and clearer.
We hiked higher, journeying through the woods and passing shacks and fruit stands along the way. Students laughed at the messy Chinglish on the signs we passed. Juliet pointed out one of the only flowers with the capability to grow at high altitudes – the rhododendron. When we took breaks, we ate Oreos, rice crackers, banana chips, crushed pringles, pistachios, sesame crackers and bread sticks. Along the final and steepest part of the trail, we cheered for one another when we finally reached the top. Our hard work was rewarded with a break – and Snickers.
We finally arrived at our hostel, referred to as “Tea Horse” around 7:00. Everyone was exhausted as the whole trip had taken nearly nine hours. We checked in, but had some trouble finding our rooms. Once everyone checked in, it was time for dinner. We ate eggs and tomatoes, a chicken dish, a pork dish, qiezi (the Chinese word for eggplant), fried rice and white rice. Everyone was hungry, but conversation was abundant. Students and teachers alike traded stories about their hiking experiences and shared a lot of laughs. After dinner, students showered and prepared for a good night sleep. Tomorrow, we would finish our journey out of the gorge.
    [post_title] => Tiger Leaping Gorge: Day 1
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Tiger Leaping Gorge: Day 1

Emily Simons,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

June 22nd, 2016 Today was an early morning. Matt, the “Alarm” of the day, woke the group up at 6:15 so that we could finish packing our bags and prepare for the day. Everyone was downstairs, ready to go, by 6:45. We had a brief meeting before walking out of of our secluded, “touristy” road […]

Posted On

06/25/16

Author

Emily Simons

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    [post_date] => 2016-06-23 19:24:17
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    [post_content] => When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.

-From the 道德经 (DaoDeJing), Laozi
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PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

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Group Mantra

Matt Kuenne,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. -From the 道德经 (DaoDeJing), Laozi

Posted On

06/23/16

Author

Matt Kuenne

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We've finished our trek and will move into our Rural Homestays tonight.

LaShiHai is situated an hour or so outside of historic Lijiang.  Students are excited (and a wee bit tentative) about jumping into a totally different lifestyle.

We're confident they'll hold their own.  Stories to come!

-Juliet, George, Dave and Maria
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More Gorge Pictures

The Instructor Team,PARTNERSHIP: Princeton Day School China

Description

Please Enjoy! We’ve finished our trek and will move into our Rural Homestays tonight. LaShiHai is situated an hour or so outside of historic Lijiang.  Students are excited (and a wee bit tentative) about jumping into a totally different lifestyle. We’re confident they’ll hold their own.  Stories to come! -Juliet, George, Dave and Maria

Posted On

06/23/16

Author

The Instructor Team

1 2