Westside School China 2016
April 20, 2016
We all woke up (eventually) to tasty BLT’s and lovely weather. After eating, we
walked in the HuTongs (the area where we are staying) to the Beijing Bamboo Bicycle shop and split up into three groups: The Terrible, 兔子, 熊猫, and Westside. Each group was given a sheet with the same tasks, such as find this shop or ask for a price of this item. We were told to complete as many tasks as we could in an hour and a half and to stay within the boundaries. Once the time was up, we all met back at the bicycle shop and counted out how many tasks each group completed. It was clear that the 熊猫 (Sarah, Helen, Grace) had won. We then walked to Mr. Shi’s, which later became a favorite and often requested restaurant for Justin, for a delectable dumpling lunch. After lunch, we went on the subway and rode to a library to meet an English learning class. After listening to multiple people introducing themselves in English, we got to stand up and introduce ourselves in Chinese. I was asked to dance for the group on the spot, which was a bit awkward. We then got twenty minutes of free talk where we had conversations in English with the varieties of ages. My group was very fun and engaging. We talked about Chinese culture and movies. After, we went back to the HuTongs and looked around a shopping area, followed by a tasty Yunan meal. After dinner came night time and time for us to go to bed after a long first day.
April 11, 2016
On our second day we had to get up and head out pretty quickly. We ate our breakfast of Chinese style crepes and then made our way on the subways to the Forbidden City. We waited a long line for security. Once we got inside the outer ring of the Forbidden City, around 30 people came up to us and asked for pictures with us because of the blond hair, curly hair, and different appearances. We walked into Tiananmen Square, just across the street. After that we had our Peking duck lunch, it was very very good. After that, we went to the Temple of Earth and had a hour long TiChi lesson in the park. After that we walked across the street to have dinner at a huge 5 story building. It was amazing as well. Then we went home and feel asleep almost immediately.
April 12, 2016
Today we visited Bethe. It is an orphanage for blind kids, where they can go to school and also have a home. While there, we did several things to help out around the facility while also looking and touring around the facility itself. When we first got there, we were given the task to wipe down and clean a small play structure and some toys then another, larger play-set. After lunch, we then helped to clear a large field full of small plants for new trees to be planted. Bethel was a nice reminder of how lucky we are to be able to have the ability to see along with many other gifts of life. It was a good feeling to be able to help out and make a small difference, and it has made me think about helping out again in the future.
After helping out at Bethel, we then took our bus into the city to watch an acrobatic show. When we first got there we saw a man selling fake watches like Gucci and Rolex. We didn’t want to miss the offer and we came out with two watches for 50 yuan. The show was very exiting and there were several amazing stunts making me think we were sure to witness a fall, luckily we didn’t. After the show was over, we walked out to see the same man selling watches earlier, selling scarfs, we didn’t buy his scarfs however. We got back on our bus and traveled to a hot pot restaurant for dinner were we had things like beef, lamb, broccoli and tofu skin. After dinner, we took a public bus back to our hotel, where we settled down for the next day.
April 13, 2016
Today we woke up in the brisk morning air. We had our first breakfast that everyone ate. It was very authentic: scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, a weird looking sausage, and one hash brown. Everyone loved it! After we stuffed ourselves, we headed out to the small shop of Bamboo Bicycles Beijing, twelve of us were a tight fit. Claudio asked us our thoughts about the Hutong with which we answered very thoughtfully. After that, we were taught how to make lamps out of bamboo. We used saws, drills, and other power tools. After about two hours of hands-on work, everyone had made their own lamp. We then went to Mr. Shi’s again, thanks to Justin. The food was great. We walked a long way to get to a five star bathroom, which was actually not that bad. About half way through the day, we went to the drum and bell towers that were looming high above us. The staircase was very steep! The drums were loud and booming as we reached the top of the stairs. After the performance, we met a guy that sounded like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He told us the history of Beijing and took us on a short tour of the Hutong. We had amazing Guijo food for dinner where the peppers almost burned through our cheeks. It was a great day.
April 14, 2016
As the hibernating middle schoolers awakened from their deep slumber, Beijing smog edging the rims of their mouths and sleep still residing in the creveses of their eyes, they retarded their way to breakfast following the morning breeze toward pre-made PB&Js. They had mere seconds to swallow the chunky peanut butter and sugary strawberry jam, for the bus was leaving soon. Because of the “early” start, many were tired and led the group in the wrong direction. The guides Willy and Liuli were quick to take control and lead the group in the proper direction. Walking past students on the back of rusty motorcycles on their way to Beijing number 2 primary school, miniature poodles, elderly savouring their last few years in the hutong where their great great great grandparents lived during the last dynasties, afraid of their homes becoming churro stands and being forced to move outside the sixth ring due to rising rent. The beige bus loomed in the distance waiting for children to occupy its seats. Driving over butterfly bridges, watching pollen drift through gusts of wind and dance over air pockets, the students waited eagerly to meet the children of the Keystone school, a private K-12 school outside of the rings. The children’s minds were blown like fireworks on the fourth of July. Keystone was HUGE! Bigger than any school they had seen before, other than UW. Meandering their way to security in awe, Westside met Keystone. Gates guarded Keystone like they do in Versailles (less gold). They met Julie James, dean of residential life, who greeted them, introducing them to Vera, their tour guide. First, Vera took the group to a Wushu studio where they learned moves with a sword. The teacher led a name game that involved throwing a ball at people. After that they went to design class where they met David, a tenth grader that loved basketball. He led them to the computer lab where they met another design teacher. Along the way David told them about a chair building project they completed recently. The group was split in two, one spoke with students in the computer lab, whilst the others explored a performing arts centre. Talking with the students, they learned how similar Keystone students are to Westside eight graders. For example, they watched the Lakers game during class and switched screens when the teacher walked by. Westside introduced themselves to the high school class and they asked questions. Meanwhile, the other group toured the performing arts centre, where they saw people making the set. The group got to even try out the stage. They joined together in the grassy courtyard, playing baseball, tap dancing, and just relaxing. Then Vera led them to lunch. The cafeteria was HUGE! David and some others were kind enough to invite the students to sit. The lunch was rice, meat, apples, greens, water melon and mini tarts. The drink: yoghurt. Time for PE. Stacey, the PE teacher, showed them drills for ultimate Frisbee. Later they played a game. Westside said goodbye to the students and met up with Julie again. She led them to the dorms. They saw the cleanest dorm and the commons. Overall, Keystone was big and beautiful. Looking out the dirty windows, they saw many smokers and cigarettes. The options of shopping in Nanluoguxiang or resting at city court hotel were put on the table. Majority rules! Everyone chose to go shopping. It is strange to think that Nanluoguxiang was once a quiet hutong with elderly sharing stories, miniature poodles, and children in yellow hats riding on the backs of motorcycles to school. Helen and Sarah explored little shops, while the boys went to every shoe store on the trek for real easies. Everyone met up for a dinner of noodles. Liuli had to return home. To say goodbye Henry gave him a Starbucks tumbler and everyone else sang him a song. Liuli Liuli, xiexie ni! Liuli Liuli, duibuqi. Liuli Liuli, bukeqi. Liuli Liuli, don’t leave me! Finally the group made their way to back lake where they rented boats and peddled around. The sun in total slumber left the moon and the shoplights to illuminate the night. Reflections projected vibrant rainbow colours onto the glistening ripples in the black water. Ducks approached the boat as they neared their area begging for snacks. When the boats were successfully docked they returned home to city court hotel where Mowgli from Beijing Bamboo Bicycles so kindly brought them their bamboo lamps from the previous day. After settling in and collecting the lamps they reflected upon the importance of the hutong lifestyle, their day and China overall. Soon after, they
fell fast asleep…