Like a family, the seven “First-Timers” shared a similar experience; we were all in China for the same two weeks. And just like a family, we all took away our own memories and impressions.
We ate together- most meals were a minimum of 15 dishes- with varying degrees of shock and awe, we gratefully received dishes that pushed our boundaries and expanded our taste buds. I know I’m not that adventurous at home! But since returning, I have reminded myself that I, “Just said yes!” then, so I may as well keep on. I hear so many voices telling me that mushrooms are good for you, they keep away cancer, so I’ve been experimenting with them at home!
We played together- we hopped on those tour buses like the Brady Bunch! Museums, temples, The Great Wall, trinket shopping, we learned that haggling is an art (and not all of us are Monet…) and dividing by six is a skill best left to young minds or a calculator.
We wandered together- being set free to explore was a gift! We met the kindest people, discovered how nachos taste even better in an Irish pub overlooking the South China Sea and found that even a short trip on the Bullet Train is time well spent!
We wondered together- as we went through the temples, the library, the museums, and restaurants, we marveled at the rich history and culture our Chinese students bring with them. We noticed how many similarities we could find – a smile goes a long way, we all seek to understand and be understood, and how it is totally possible to simultaneously embrace the exotic and crave the familiar.
Seven strangers started the trip- one wonderful family returned, full of memories, ideas, opened eyes and grateful hearts.
Thank you to Sean Chen for creating a company and staffing it with phenomenal people! New Oasis provides opportunities for Chinese students and the fortunate schools who welcome them to grow and learn. The Oakwood School is so much better for our partnership!
On one of the final evenings we all gathered to talk about the experience and how we all are going to bring back pearls of wisdom to our teams, teachers, host families, and students on lessons learned. We all agreed that we now understand more acutely the pains of homesickness, the pure desire to succeed and achieve academic success our students feel, as well as their desire to have more time to “feed their soul,” as one student told us during an interview. From drawing, painting, and playing an instrument, to joining sport teams – the students’ desire to study abroad was clear, front and center.
There was just too much to observe, taste and reflect immediately. Just like we were told during our West Lake tour, it will all come to us, the right words, in time, because “no hurry, no worry.”
Farewell Beijing, “the First-Timers” are coming home!
Today, our team of partner schools did just that. We had the honor and opportunity to visit Huizhen Academy in Ningbo, China.
Interestingly enough, I had hosted a student from Ningbo for two years (2011-2013). As our colleagues walked the streets, I often thought of her walking these same streets.
We had two student translators, Emme and Secret. They were kind and very polite.
The school promotes kindness and its mission statement is “Caring for others. Enrich ourselves.” They have ten months in their academic year and two months for break. However, the students are not to take a break, and are expected to volunteer or work for a cause.
The students I ate lunch with worked at a nursing home, child care facility, and food kitchen.
During the tour we saw many impressive, hi- tech, classrooms and a very awesome track!
But it was the kindness that made us all appreciate the uniqueness of this school. It is innovative and very focused on creating a whole persons.
After we exchanged questions for one another, the head of school was very busy and we needed to say our goodbyes.
Lastly, students taught us calligraphy, and it moved us. It is always powerful when the student becomes the teacher.
As we left, I felt like we needed more time to process the experience, and we have more excitement and expos to go!