Ninth Grade Four Point: China!

March 14, 2018

Chengdu: Mountains, Rivers, Friends, and the Beginnings of Goodbye

March 14, 2018 (Pi day!)

(From Kelly Hood and Colin Penley)

We reunited early this morning and set off for a hike up Qing Cheng Mountain, one of the most important centers of Chinese Daoism (Taoism). When we arrived, some of our students opted for an early morning ice cream cone, which helped add to our group total. After enjoying vanilla soft serve with chocolate sauce, we took a shuttle bus to the base of the mountain. From there, we climbed several steps and walked around a lake before taking a gondola ride to the top. With a cool breeze and sunny skies, we could not have asked for a better day to visit this site.

The group walking up stairs to get to a temple. I wonder what our stair count for the trip is… it must be massive!

Everyone fit in on cabin; this was much nicer than climbing more stairs!

One problem with walking up a lot of stairs… the return trip. But Yusuke still managed to have fun and keep us all laughing as we climbed. 

Kalena and Bella by a famous wall with the Chinese character 道, dao, the universal way of the world. 


“The Great Way achieves all through non-interference.” Sounds like a good way to live our lives!

Once we made it back to the parking lot, we walked across the street to a local restaurant. We had another delicious lunch, which included mushroom soup served with a unique bowl and glass that we had not seen before. With satisfied stomachs, we traveled another 40 minutes to our second destination: Dujiangyan. Here, we learned about Chengdu’s irrigation system. Before entering the park, we finally found a food stand that had the ice cream cone we have been looking for since the Night Market! The cone is made of a large Belgium-type waffle, similar to what we would eat for brunch at Gould. It is served with vanilla ice cream and a variety of toppings including strawberry sauce and fresh fruit. They’re so good that Alex ate two today.

Yummy in my tummy!

We then had the opportunity to take a shuttle ride to see a big and beautiful riverscape. A big thank you to Mr. Penley for explaining the history of the irrigation system, which is over 2,000 years old.

The point were engineers in about 256BC split the Min River to control flooding and divert water for agriculture irrigation in the area around Chengdu city. 

The crew looking out at the big and beautiful riverscape. 

After viewing the engineering marvel, we had a chance to spend some time relaxing in a beautiful park. Before leaving, many students bought souvenirs, including custom made Chinese fans.

Kalena and Karl are hoping to take after Gao Jian.

When you have fans, it’s time for… a photoshoot! 

After a busy morning and afternoon, we returned to the Chengdu Experimental Foreign Languages School (CEFLS) campus and were met with an incredible reception and dinner. Before sitting down to eat with one another, we played a popular Chinese game. It consisted of passing an item while music played. When the music stopped, the person holding the item had to show the rest of the group one of their talents. Ava impressed everyone with her beautiful singing voice, Bella and her host sang two lovely duets, and Yusuke read an original Japanese haiku that he wrote earlier this week.

“…I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed…”

Yusuke reading a haiku that he wrote about his experience seeing the Leshan Giant Buddha. 

Two Deputy Principals from CEFLS joined us for dinner. We sat down for our last traditional style meal before our departure tomorrow. We enjoyed numerous dishes. More, importantly though, we enjoyed the company of our new friends. After dinner, students returned to their host families for one final evening together before we all meet at the airport for a very early flight. We have had an incredible 12 days and cannot wait to bring all of our stories back to the Gould community!

Students and their hosts shared one final meal as a group. The teachers all sat outside, hearing the laughter of our students from two schools having fun together!

One final picture of some of our group and some of the hosts. New friends after a delicious meal together. 

Kunming: Wednesday, Zaijian (Goodbye) Kunming

March 14, 2018

From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington

Our final day in Kunming!  We met at 8am this morning and took off to KFLS’s brother school: The Kunming Economic Development #3 Middle School. Try fitting that one of a jacket. This school had about 680 students in grades 6-9, so although still significantly bigger than Gould, it is a lot smaller than we have been used to here in Kunming.  When we arrived, we toured the spacious track and field area as well as the school’s “Happy Farm.” For an hour of free time, we played some soccer, journaled, and enjoyed the company and sunshine.  When the bell sounded, the students all filed onto the field and conducted their daily exercises.  It’s quite a sight to watch about 700 middle schooler’s doing synchronized choreography together.  Once complete, a representative of the school introduced us and we watched two dragon dances and a modern dance performed by the students.  After the assembly, we had a go at doing the dragon dance.  The dragon is held up by nine poles, with a leader in front guiding the movements.  It is definitely a lot harder than it looks, but I think we made a few decent arrangements!

Mia Journaling

The Rest of the World Calls It Football

The Dragon Squad 

Leadership Lessons

The Dragon Chases Its Tail

 After the dragon dancing lesson, we attended a robotics class.  This school placed first in all of Southwestern China in a highly competitive robotics competition.  We watched—and tried our best to lend a helping hand to – the students as they programmed their robots and test drove them on a course.

Programming 101

Robotics Test

We ate lunch in the teacher’s lunch room and drove back to KFLS for one last class exchange.  This time, we were in the International Department, which is a program composed of student who’s higher English skills allow them to focus more intensely on the language, and they spend their entire school day learning in English.  We traded on and off, sharing interests, videos, musical performances.  Aidan started us off with some snowboarding videos and he explained his background and love of the sport.  James played a beautiful Mozart piece on his clarinet while a helpful KFLS student acted as page turner and then talked about Chamber Ensemble and Gould’s Manhattan School of Music partnership.  Thomas shared a Florida Georgia Line song and also a funny video of his host, Bert, singing when they went out with friends.  The Chinese students also played guitar, sang, and showed a slideshow.  To conclude the class, we played a version of speed dating with a paper full of questions to get the conversations going.  The room was lively and everyone enjoyed their time.

James Plays Mozart

Justin and Hannah Sing for Us

Getting to Know You…

Getting to Know All About You

English – 5 Minutes at a Time

To sum up the exchange, we all sat with our hosts and a few of the school’s leaders in a conference room for a debrief session.  Kevin and Cassie spoke eloquently about their experiences over the past week, noting their appreciation of the hosts’ hospitality and the adventures they took part in both inside and outside of school.  Cassie and Thomas’ hosts spoke as well, and it was clear that the exchange was a wonderful and enriching experience.  We all lined up for one last picture and to receive certificates of participation and gifts from the school.

After the meeting, it was off with the hosts for a last dinner before we all meet again at a hotel tonight.  It’s an early morning tomorrow and we’ll be doing a bit of time travel, but we’re ready to bring back some great memories.  See you all on the other side!

Chengdu: Tuesday, Lots of New Friends

March 13, 2018

(From Kelly Hood and Colin Penley)

We began the morning with a visit to the Chengdu Museum where we learned about the history of the city. The exhibits included many old artifacts as well as replica models that gave us insight into what living in this area was like many years ago. One of the most popular displays included a 3-D video image of a tea house. The digital figures participated in traditional activities that still occur regularly in Chengdu: drinking tea, playing games like Mahjong, and even ear cleaning.

Yusuke and Auburn look at a statue of a dancing man that is over 1000 years old!

Ava “tries on” an ancient crown. 

After exploring the museum, we sat down together for a traditional Sichuan meal at a local restaurant. The food we ate included spicy green beans, an egg and tomato dish, tofu soup, and a whole fish. We enjoyed everything so much that there were no leftovers. Full and sleepy, we traveled back to school on the bus. Many of us took a quick nap on the way to campus.

We spent the afternoon at the primary school that is affiliated with the Chengdu Experimental Foreign Languages School. We had our best afternoon yet. The experience is almost impossible to put into words. Picture hundreds of energetic 8-12 year olds eagerly participating in class and then running rambunctiously through the school playground. We had the opportunity to attend four different classes. During the first period, we learned about the traditional blue and white pottery that China is well known for. We even got to make our own with a blue marker and white paper plate.

Yusuke working on his drawing. 

Alexander designs his plate with his new classmates.

Ava and her new friend worked together to design this plate.

Our whole class with several of the plates on the wall behind us. 

We attended gym class where we learned Tai Chi and participated in a game we had never played before: The Under Fire Gauntlet. This game consisted of people running through a gauntlet while everyone else threw paper snowballs at them. Needless to say, this was a major hit (pun intended) with both Gould and the primary school students. The fun didn’t stop there, though. We then split into groups to work on our ping pong skills. Games became competitive and laughter rang throughout the campus.

Alexander practices Tai Chi with the 3rd graders. 

Kool Kat Karl ready to Tai Chi it up!

Ava follows the gym teacher’s lead. 

Our students running the “Under Fire Gauntlet.”

The third graders saying goodbye before they headed off to class. 

Ava and her teacher/opponent in the middle of a game.

Yusuke has the form down, but is that enough? (Well… for this shot it wasn’t, since the ball is somewhere behind him.)

To conclude our long but rewarding day, we made our own dumplings at the primary school. A big thank you to their dining hall staff for providing us with the ingredients and for modeling how to fold the wrappers in unique ways. After eating the delicious meal we made, everyone congregated outside to take pictures and say goodbye.

Bella helped out and did some of the teaching of proper dumpling wrapping technique. 

Karl and Ava work hard to make dinner.

After dinner, Ava got to talk to more of the students. She even got to sign a few autographs!


The ping pong teachers and dumpling making/eating crew poses for a picture with us!

Exhausted, Gould students went home to spend another evening with their host families. We look forward to our last day in Chengdu tomorrow. Be sure to check out our blog for more highlights!

Kunming: Tuesday, The Shilin Stone Forest

March 13, 2018

From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington

The Stone Forest

This morning we gathered at 8:30am and boarded a van to travel to the Stone Forest.  It was a quiet ride,as most of us were tired and looking forward to the opportunity for a sleepy van ride.  Once we arrived, we were refreshed and ready to explore.

Stone Forest – Lotus Pond

The Stone Forest is a collection of amazingly jagged and tall rocks that look as if they were carved by man.  The park was absolutely beautiful, and the warm sunny day made it even more enjoyable.  We walked around together, taking time to wander off into crevices and take pictures atop rocks and by lakes.  Celeste, Olivia, and Hunter were top models for the day, taking every opportunity to pose and get the best angle, while Aidan wanted his artsy pictures to be solely landscape, devoid of people—a very difficult task since the park was crowded with other tourists.

Girls in a Chasm

At Sword Peak Pond

Along a path, we even came across a television series set, complete with costumes and cameras.  Our guide translated some our questions to the members, but the name of the series is confidential.  We’re hoping to be in the background of some shots or maybe pea-sized props from the overhead drone scenes!

On the Set in the Stone Forest

After a couple hours of exploring, and lunch, we loaded the van and headed back to the city.  On our way, we stopped at Tanhua Temple Park, which housed a beautiful sky-scraping pagoda at the end of a flowering park.  We saw people playing cards, people singing, kids throwing coins into fountains, and groups sitting down for a picnic.  On top of the pagoda, we could see all (or at least a significant part) of the city of Kunming.  We even spotted KFLS!

Musician in the Park

Pagoda in Tanhua Temple Park

Class of 2021

Temple Park Arch

Cassie at the Temple

By the time we made it back to campus on foot, it was just about time for our hosts to get out of class and pick us up.  Tonight is the last night in our homestays, and tomorrow we will all be staying at a nearby hotel so we can wake up early and head to the airport on Thursday morning.  Before we say our goodbyes, we have one last exciting day; we will travel to KFLS’s brother school for an exchange, and have a chance to visit another class.  We’re making the most of our last few moments across the world!

Bonus Picture of the Day: After Dinner Mahjong

Kunming: Monday, Just Keep Smiling!

March 12, 2018

From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington

In true Monday fashion, we headed off to class bright and early.  We were spending time with a grade 11 class that was very excited to include us in their activities.  There were nine groups that presented a history of different Chinese festivals including the recent Spring Festival, The Ghost Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival.  After the students talked about the traditions, we milled about the room and were able to make and taste many customary foods eaten during these times.  We made rice balls filled with fruit, pork dumplings, flower pastries, a sort of fruit kebab, and also ate bamboo filled with sticky rice and dates, and many candies.  Aidan and Thomas put on a skit with some of the Chinese students, as did Mia and Tom.   But the showstopper was the Tomb Sweeping Day skit, acted by Kevin and narrated by James.  The class was big and loud and there were many photos taken and signatures signed.  It was a treat for sure.

Intro the Moon Festival by a Host School Student

Mia and Her New Friends

The Tomb Sweeping Play

Just Keep Smiling

Hunter and Her Language Teacher (Prize Winners!)

Selfie With Olivia

Next up was the morning assembly, and we gathered together with KFLS’s 1000+ students in the center courtyard.  After some announcements from students, we had the chance to introduce ourselves.  James was our handy translator as we said our hellos.

Our class exchange before lunch was another great experience.  This class also wanted to share some traditional foods with us: spicy rice noodles, moon cakes, and more.  We were stuffed and it was time for lunch!

After lunch at the school, we took off toward the West Hill Park on another rented city bus.  Once we arrived, we changed buses to climb up the mountain a bit, and then switched to a chair lift (sound familiar Sunday River?!).  Kunming is already at high altitude, so being on top of a mountain was truly high elevation!  We walked around the park, which overlooked the biggest lake in the Yunnan province.  Olivia and Hunter were the models today, taking hundreds of pictures and trying to find the best lighting and scenic outlook for their shots.  We also passed many temples and the famous Dragon Gate, which took 14 years to carve by hand.  It was said that the Dragon Gate could improve your social standing.

Kevin Eats Again

Reaching the Sky

We made it back to the campus just in time to run off with hosts.  It was a long, but exciting day.  Tomorrow we are trekking to the beautiful Stone Forest.

Chengdu: Monday = Panda-monium

March 12, 2018

From Kelly Hood and Colin Penley

Our group reunited today after a fun weekend spent with host families. This morning, we had the opportunity to interact with students at the Chengdu Experimental Foreign Languages School (CEFLS) inside the classroom. Some of the students from Chengdu gave presentations to our students, sharing knowledge about their own culture, which included discussions about the best method for making tea and facts about panda bears. In return, our students gave them some insight into Gould life, describing the food we have in our dining hall and teaching them about our on-snow programs.

The morning also included a traditional flag ceremony where we were welcomed by host students and administrators. During this ceremony, I gave a speech that discussed the importance of connecting and maintaining friendships with others from different cultures. Karl Dong did an excellent job helping me, serving as a translator. Our students then bravely introduced themselves to the entire school of several thousand assembled students.

After classes and the ceremony, Gould and CEFLS students had time to bond with one another. Many CEFLS students conveyed their excitement by asking questions and exchanging contact information with us. They even tried to teach us a fun game, which is best known as “hacky sack” in the United States. Even though we did not have the greatest skills, we laughed a lot together.

We then received a wonderful invitation to have lunch in the school’s dining hall, which serves around 6,000 students. Once we filled our stomachs, we got on a bus and travelled for about an hour. We eagerly anticipated our destination because it involved seeing panda bears. In the park, we saw Red and Giant Pandas of varying sizes and ages. We took numerous photos, including a group selfie with one of the bears. Many of us admired the pandas’ lifestyle and joked that we too would love to eat and sleep all day. They appeared so satisfied and content with life. It was a great reminder that we should slow down and be present in everything that we do.

Our trip to the park could not be complete without ice cream. After taking numerous photos, we found a food stand and chose from a large selection of different flavors. Mr. Penley and I are keeping track of how many ice cream cones our group has eaten since arriving in China. I am feeling very confident that our current total is ahead of the Kunming group!

Once we returned to campus, the Gould students met up with their host families and headed home for the evening. We look forward to more Chengdu adventures tomorrow!

Kunming: Sunday, Celebrating Yunnan’s Ethnic Diversity

March 11, 2018

From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington

Today we had a nice late Sunday wake up call and met as a group at 9:30am.  As the group arrived, there was bustling talk about yesterday’s activities with hosts.  We heard of museum trips, amusement park adventures, and a lot of trying out public transportation!  All in all, it seems as if everyone had a great time with their new friends.

Our hosts joined us on a trip to the Yunnan Nationalities Village, about a half hour bus ride from the school.  We even rented our own city bus!  Once we arrived, we set off to explore the 25 Yunnan minority groups, all with their own little theme village throughout the park.

The first stop for many was the elephant by the gates.  Cassie was first up, sitting on the elephant’s back while we all took pictures.  Hunter stepped up the plate as well, opting for a ride on the elephant’s trunk; turns out they are very strong!  The elephant was clearly a trained professional, posing for photographers and bowing after customers.

Cassie Riding High

Hunter Rides the Trunk

We spent some time wandering the beautiful park with our hosts, some staying together and some splitting off, but we all met for a buffet lunch.  Thomas, the king of eating rice with chopsticks, showed us all how it was done.  Talk over the meal was lively, discussing plans for the afternoon and evening once we returned.

Tibetan Prayer Flags

After lunch, a large group headed over to the zipline, which, according to the ethnic minority village description, was a means of transportation in ancient cultures.  Celeste, Kevin, Thomas, Cassie, Hunter, Tom and Olivia all harnessed up and swung across the lake, seeing colorful Tibetan, Mongolian, Yao, and many more cultures in the distance.

Olivia’s Traverse

Aidan Demonstrates the Reverse Technique

A bit more time was spent strolling the park and shopping, and then we headed back on our private bus to the school.  Our group and their hosts all went off, some in the direction of more shopping, and some with no direction at all.  We meet again tomorrow morning for another exciting exchange with a grade 11 class.  Rumor has it the students have prepared fun activities for us!

The Group

Bonus Image of the Day

Chengdu: Day 2, Big Buddha…we mean REALLY Big Buddha.

March 9, 2018

From Kelly Hood and Colin Penley

Mr. Penley and I reunited with the students early this morning. They had many positive stories to share about their first night with their host families!

A majority of our day was spent traveling to and from Leshan to see the Giant Buddha, a world heritage sight. Mona and Wallis, two teachers from the Chengdu Experimental Foreign Languages School, served as our guides for the day. They were incredibly kind and personable, taking us out for food and ensuring we had a good time. On our way, we stopped at a local restaurant and ate a number of Leshan specialties like the radish soup and the spicy chicken. Once we completed our meal, we took a boat tour, which gave us the opportunity to see the Giant Buddha from below. We were all impressed by the vast structure and eagerly took a group photo in front of it.

We were psyched on the fashionable life jackets we got to wear!

The group on the river in front of the Giant Buddha.

After the boat returned to the dock, we had the opportunity to see the Giant Buddha more closely. As we climbed the stairs, we saw and took pictures of the smaller carvings along the walls. When we finally reached the top, we descended a steep stair case in order to be as near as possible to the structure. It was incredible to see it from this perspective. Many people lit candles and said prayers while we stood in awe of the effect the Buddha had on everyone.

Alexander and Zach stop for some pictures with a monk from Gansu province.

The stairs down to the viewing platform in front of the Giant Buddha.

A view down from the stairs. Check out the scale of toes to people. Can anyone find our students in the picture?

Below the Buddha, looking up.

Once we arrived back at school, the students were picked up by their hosts. They will be spending the entire weekend exploring Chengdu with their new families. After saying goodbye to the group, Mona and Wallis took Mr. Penley and I out to Chuan Chuan, a hot pot where all of the ingredients are on their own stick. Thankfully, my chopstick skills have improved significantly in a short period of time. We share a picture of our dinner because we know many of the students got to try this treat for dinner last night.

We will send another update on Monday. We are very excited to hear about our students’ homestay experiences

Kunming: Day 2, A Very Full Day of Chinese Activities

March 9, 2018

From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington

The Sign Says it All

Our first full day in Kunming was jam-packed with fun activities.  We all reunited in the morning after exciting first nights with our hosts.  There was talk about gifts being exchanged, meals being eaten, weekend plans being shared.  Soon we were ushered to our first class of the day—an exchange with a grade 7 English and German class.  The students in the class all wore their formal uniforms and some presented in front of the group: dancers, musicians, and tea brewers all welcomed us with smiling faces.  We spent much of the class time in groups with the students making flower arrangements and discussing anything and everything.  These students have only being studying English for half of a year, yet they were so eager to share and get to know us.  While we shared stories and pastimes, one of the students taught Cassie how to use a traditional string instrument.  Not surprisingly (given her Cello skills!), she excelled.  There may be a new item on her birthday list!

Olivia’s Floral Skills on Display

Cassie Strumming the Strings

Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time for our next class: Chinese handwork.  A teacher taught our group how to created a lovely paper-version of the formal Chinese attire she was wearing.  The process was difficult for many; Hunter has rips and tape covering her creation, yet persisted.  In the end, she ended up with a beautiful product with a little help from the teacher!

Fashion Design Coaching

To work up an appetite for our welcome lunch, we took our first PE class of the day, focusing on ping pong and rope skipping.  Our teacher was very skilled.  He showed off jump rope tricks that made our heads go dizzy, triple jumping, cross-roping, and even starting from a plank position!  It’s safe to safe we don’t foresee any world champion ping pong players, but there is hope for a jump rope team;  Kevin, Thomas, James, and Tom all were coordinating jumps in the same rope!

Double Jumping

Four on a Rope

Lunch took place at a restaurant a short walk from the school.  We were hosted by KFLS’s principal, assistant principal, and a couple of teachers.  We all sat around a big table with the largest spinning lazy susan ever created.  And the food was not to disappoint.  We lost track of how many dishes were served, but it’s safe to say no one went hungry.

After lunch, and a short siesta to digest, we climbed to the fourth floor for a Chinese painting class.  We used special brushes and ink, and worked on practicing different strokes to create realistic bamboo shoots.  The group was split into two and were challenged to a friendly competition.  Although the score wasn’t officially tallied, it was concluded that Aidan, Kevin, Mia, and Hunter took home the prize.  However, Celeste showed some true artistic abilities in her drawings!

Work in Progress

Artistic Focus

Collaborative Art

Artist at Work

Our last class of the day was Taiji.  We took center stage in the courtyard while we were taught by a true master.  Our group was persistent, but there were many laughs shared as model poses became habit and Thomas showed an affinity for the ground.  Soon, groups of KFLS students were gathering in the courtyard, watching us.  We were true celebrities.  Students lined the railings, the steps, and the playground staring, and some even ran back and forth to the school store to bring us lollipops.

Tai Chi or the Return of Disco?

At this point, we were happily exhausted from a fun-filled day.  Our hosts came to pick up their new friends and head home, eager to spend a day together tomorrow.  We hear the Bird and Flower market as well as meeting extended family members is in store.  We can’t wait to hear everyone’s stories on Sunday morning when we gather again!

Chengdu: Day 1, Warm Weather, Warm Reception

March 8, 2018

From Kelly Hood (with a bit of photo help from Colin Penley)

Chengdu bound!

Today, we had a busy day of traveling. After being greeted by another delicious breakfast prepared by the owners of the Red Lantern Hostel, we took a bus to the airport and split into two groups based on our next destinations: Chengdu and Kunming. Once we said our goodbyes to one another, the Chengdu group had two hours of down time before boarding, which was spent exploring various shops and restaurants. Many students also took this opportunity to reflect on the past few days in Beijing, writing in their daily journals—a collection of thoughts that will eventually be used to help them create their Ted Talks and Human Geography projects this spring.

We landed in Chengdu after a brief two and a half hour flight. Kathy and Ray, the leaders of the exchange program at the Chengdu Experimental Foreign Languages School (CEFLS), introduced themselves to the students. During the van ride to campus, we did a rose/thorn/bud/weeds exercise as a group. Each person had to share their favorite moment from Beijing (rose), least favorite moment (thorn), something they are excited for during the next week (bud), and something they are nervous about (weeds). Many students commented on how they loved trying new foods in Beijing and all seemed eager to meet their host families.

When we arrived on campus, the students were in awe of the new facilities. CEFLS actually moved to this campus just this week! Kathy and Ray gave us a brief tour before the host families arrived. We had the opportunity to see the new athletic facility and observe part of an exercise class. At 6:00 pm, each Gould student met the person who would be hosting them for the next several days. Our students were given a handmade sign and flowers as a welcome—kind gestures that helped calm their anxious thoughts. They left with their host families for the evening and will reunite with the whole group early tomorrow morning for another day full of adventure.

After the students departed with their hosts, Kathy and Ray took Mr. Penley and I to dinner where we were given our first taste of the spicy food Chengdu is known for. Although I have yet to perfect my chopstick skills, Kathy and Ray proved kind, patient, and helpful. (There may have been a spoon given to me at some point during the meal!). Mr. Penley and I eagerly await our reunion with the Gould students in the morning. We look forward to hearing about their first experiences in Chengdu.

Everyone and their hosts before heading home for the evening!

Ava and her host, Arial

Alexander and his host, Louis

Auburn and her host, Rachael

Bella and her host, Victoria

Zach and his host, Alice

Taewoo and his host, Cassie

Yusuke and his host, Linus

Shaya and his host, Joseph

Kalena and her host, Janice

Karl and his host, Eric

Kunming: Day 1, Spring Has Arrived and So Have We

Thursday, March 8, 2018

From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington

At our last breakfast in the hostel, the owners gave us each a knotted red tassel as a gift of appreciation.  With hopes of warmer weather, we took off towards the airport and said our farewells to the Chengdu group.  We arrived in Kunming, greeted by sunshine and—yes—palm trees!  A short bus ride away was the school, where we met very excited hosts.  A few pictures later and we parted ways, ready to share host gifts and get to know each other.  It looks like it will be a great week in the Spring City!

Thomas and Bert

Mia and Olina

James, Aidan, and Hongjun

Cassie and Wu Yinjun

Hunter and Audrey

Celeste and Michaelia

Kevin and Luo

Olivia and Emily

Tom, Tukang, and Tusheng

Beijing: Day 3, Heaven Sent

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

From Gabby Schreffler, Kelly Hood, Colin Penley, and Tom Whittington

Post Breakfast Snack

Our last full day in Beijing did not disappoint.  After breakfast at the hostel, we trekked to the Dirt Market—an outside market lined with stalls and little shops where local craftsmen and women sold their paintings, beads, figurines, and other tchotchkes.  We all got a lesson in how to barter in another language.  Each salesperson is equipped with a calculator into which a customer types in their intended price for the item; math really is the world’s common language (Ms. Schreffler is very happy about this).  The salesperson then shakes their head curiously and enters a usually outrageous number in return.  Repeat steps one and two until a compromise is made.

Dirt Market Find

Closing the Deal

Auburn’s Treasure

The systems worked well and many made it out successfully.

Bartering is a tough job, so we went straight to lunch and tried some more traditional dishes, placed on a giant lazy susan in the middle of the table for easy sharing.  Update: chopstick use is improving at an exponential rate.  We foreseen professionals by the end of the trip!  And if anyone has trouble using them, Auburn has a sure-fire trick to create a “training pair” with rolled up paper and a hair tie.

Creative Solution

Waiting for the Bus

After lunch we headed to the beautiful Temple of Heaven.  The place of Taoist worship was built in Ancient China and drew people searching for plentiful harvests.  Inside, the ceilings were covered with intricately designed patterns.  Did you know the Temple of Heaven was built entirely out of wood, with not one nail?  The park which houses the Temple of Heaven was nothing short of amazing.  Wandering through the winding paths, we saw many card games being played, people strolling with their families, and large tour groups with matching hats.

Thomas Gets A Little Closer to Heaven

Karl Too

Heavenly Trio

Temple of Heaven

While there was money still to be spent, we were to the Pearl Market: bartering take two.  Aisles and aisles, floors and floors, boasted the biggest names in electronics and fashion.  It was a big hit.  Be prepared to see the group sporting the best fake designer brands.  Word on the street is that Kalena and Hunter are among the strongest barterers in the business!  Another trend emerging from this shopping trip is soft stuffed animal pillows; Kevin, Taewoo, and Tom all toted them around proudly, urging everyone to feel their softness.  It’s true…they are amazingly fuzzy!

As in the morning, we worked up another appetite from all the shopping.  On the menu for our last night together in Beijing was duck—a must try for any trip to China.  Some—Alex, Hunter, and Celeste all had a taste of the duck feet, and the rest of us watched in awe.

And there we have it; another busy but great day in Beijing.  Tomorrow we will wake up and head the the airport where the groups will split up, heading to warmer weather in Chengdu and Kunming.  Everyone is anxious to meet their host families and continue the adventure.  Bring on the sunshine!

Beijing: Day 2, Time in the City (Forbidden City, that is)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

From Gabby Schreffler, Kelly Hood, Colin Penley, and Tom Whittington

We woke up this morning refreshed from a much needed good night sleep! At breakfast, we had an egg sandwich prepared for us by the wonderful owners of the Red Lantern Hostel and ate while thinking about the exciting day ahead. Our stomachs only halfway full, we ventured out to find delicious dumplings in order to supplement our meal.  Thank you to Yusuke for this great suggestion.

Kevin and Friend Journaling

Contented, we headed out to explore the Forbidden City. On our way, we walked around the outside of Tian’anmen Square, which is the world’s largest public square.  Unfortunately, the National People’s Congress is meeting this week so entrance into the square is not allowed.  From there we could see the gates to the Forbidden City, where we were greeted by a large portrait of Chairman Mao.  Once inside the walls, it was as if we had transported into a different era.  This maze of temples was built for the emperor in Ancient China and has almost 10,000 rooms!  We wandered around, making our way through some rooms, down the aisles, and through the temples.

Outside Tiananmen Gate

The Forbidden City

Wandering the Forbidden City

Cassie, Bella, and Yusuke

A short walk from the Forbidden City, we sat down for a big bowl of noodles.  Noodles are popular in the north of China, whereas rice is more common in the south.  The use of chopsticks is a work in progress, but we are acquiring some skills.

Noodles for Lunch

Once we warmed up, we climbed more stairs (you’d think the Great Wall was enough!) to get to a hill of temples, from which we could look out onto the rooftops of the entire Forbidden City—a treat after having walked through it.  Down the stairs and across the street led us to Beihai Park, where we braved the cold to see the White Pagoda (more stairs) and the beautifully crafted Nine Dragons Screen.

Nine Dragon Panoramic (look closely at the ends)

We took a short rest back in the hostel and headed out to a well-loved dinner of dumplings accompanied by a variety of other traditional dishes.  A quick walk back and we were ready for some journaling and a good night’s sleep.

Dumplings for Dinner

On deck for tomorrow: Temple of Heaven and Bartering 101. Stay tuned!


Beijing: Day 1! The Great Wall

March 5, 2018

From Kelly Hood and Gabby Schreffler

Ah jet lag!  Many in the group had quite an early start to day one of the trip, but took advantage of the morning by going for a stroll around the hutong and surrounding streets by the hostel.  It might take a couple days to get used to all of the scooter and bike traffic! We all reunited for a nice breakfast and headed out on a bold first note: to the Great Wall.  But first, an exciting first experience with “squatters” at a rest stop along the way.

Blue skies with a nice breeze allowed for great views and a sunny hike during the day as we headed from tower to tower of the ancient landmark.  It was nice to get out and moving after sitting on the long plane ride, but we’re definitely expecting some sore legs tomorrow.  After hiking for a while, we stopped and had a nice picnic lunch on one of the platforms when we got to try some Chinese snack variations—cucumber potato chips, cheesecake pocky, and the infamous meat candies!  Aidan, Thomas, and Celeste were among the bold, though the verdict is that they won’t be writing rave reviews anytime soon.  We hiked into the afternoon an headed down to meet our bus—and a well-deserved nap—at the entrance.

For dinner, we gathered together at a restaurant called Dong Laishun for hot pot and ate an abundance of meat, fish, vegetables, and noodles. Mr. Penley gave us a quick how-to-lesson, teaching Ava and many others the best technique for using chopsticks. We enjoyed shrimp, beef, tofu skin, and mushrooms that we cooked right at the table. Some students even took advantage of the opportunity to try goat’s stomach.

After dinner, we ventured to the Night Market to eat different treats and desserts. Mr. Whittington lead a group straight to the first stand where he modeled his adventurous spirit by trying scorpion. Kalena followed in his path, raving about the spider she ate. Cassie, Hunter, Olivia, and Auburn concluded the evening with delicious dessert: a waffle cone and rolled ice cream.

Exhausted from a long but rewarding day filled with new experiences, we took the subway back to the Red Lantern Hostel and settled in for the evening. Tomorrow’s schedule includes exploring the Forbidden City and visiting parks with another whole-group meal to end the day.

Who can guess what we will get to try tomorrow?

-Ms. Hood and Ms. Schreffler


Pre-Trip: Are You Ready?!

In a few days, we’ll have ninth graders all over the world in China, Ecuador, and Tanzania as they take part in their first Gould Four Point experience. 20 students will be in China learning about the country, staying with local families, visiting schools, and immersing themselves in the culture there. Students have been working on various topics related to their destinations in their History and English classes. They have also been preparing their journals, packing their bags, and thinking about all of the things they might learn on through this experience. Our older students who have already completed a Ninth Grade Four Point trip look back on their experience and say, “I learned more than I ever thought I would!”

We can’t wait to hear what this year’s students have to say about their experience.

Keep up to date with their trip by following this blog. Trip leaders will do their best to post updates regularly.




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