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Four Stonyhurst sixth formers visited China for three weeks this summer. Natalya Filvarova (now at Oxford University studying Psychology), Owen Davies, Anastasia Laking and Daniel Fitzgerald, all now in Rhetoric, each stayed with two different families and were immersed in Chinese culture.
The main purpose of their visit was to teach English: their timetable required them to teach several 2 hour lessons a day, to an age range of 4-17, in classes of 70! They also managed to master the gentle art of tai chi, learn calligraphy and Chinese dancing, attend a Chinese wedding and go grape-picking. Anastasia and Danny give their accounts of an amazing trip. Thanks to Miss Greenwood for accompanying them.
On the 12th July our plane from Manchester landed in Beijing. I felt pretty tired as I didn’t manage to get any sleep on the flight, primarily because of the vast array of movies available on the flight but also because of the time difference of nine hours. We adjusted quite quickly to the local time and buckled straight down to some heavy duty sightseeing. First on our list of things to do was to visit the Lama Temple (Yonghegong) which is also known as the Palace of Peace and Harmony Lama Temple. The building dates back to the late 17th Century and I was amazed at how huge and intricate the various buildings were and particularly impressed by the fifty-four-foot (25m) high Buddha carved from one piece of Tibetan sandalwood. Many Buddhists come to offer worship at this temple.
The following day we waved goodbye to Beijing for the time being and flew to Ningbo where we were collected by staff from You’s English school. We would be teaching English to children from the ages of seven through to sixteen at the school in the Zhejiang province. Somewhat apprehensively that evening we formerly introduced ourselves to the pupils, their families and staff.
Whilst in Tai Zhou I stayed with two different families. Both of the families had a daughter whom I was teaching in our classes. For the first week I stayed with a girl called Sweet and her mother and father; I also became very close to her little cousin Lee and his mother, Jenny. They were all very kind and generous and the most hospitable people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. This was made all the more poignant when you considered they were letting a complete stranger stay in their home. Sweet was sweet by name and sweet by nature and an excellent musician. She played the violin to a very high standard as well as the electric guitar and she had recently won a music competition at school where she sang ‘My heart will go on’ from the Titanic. During my week with her I attended her violin class, tried my hand at Chinese calligraphy, had a manicure from Jenny and went to the cinema to see After Earth.
For the second week I stayed with Pink, her cousin Blue and their family. Although they were also very kind I really missed Sweet and her family! I didn’t get to spend as much time with Pink’s family as I had done with Sweet’s as the school had organised plenty of activities for Danny, Owen, Natalya, Miss Greenwood and me to get involved in, particularly during the second week.
Throughout our time in Tai Zhou we learnt some Tai chi and had lessons in the park nearly every morning and sometimes even at night. We built up a tai chi routine over the lessons and I’d be lying if I said I could remember all the moves – it was quite complex! We usually took part in tai chi during our morning activity slot and taught our lessons in the afternoon. If we weren’t learning tai chi we were having calligraphy lessons or shopping and spending time with our host families.
Going on the China trip has opened my eyes to the wider world, and I am so glad I didn’t miss out on such a great opportunity to experience a totally new culture. The people I have come into contact with have touched me profoundly. I am thinking especially of my first family and in particular Sweet’s Auntie Jenny who was so enormously generous, kind and thoughtful it was almost overwhelming. Despite being thousands of miles from my own home, they made me feel so totally at home with them! I feel that my character has also developed and I have become more confident within myself and in communicating with others.
Anastasia Laking (Rhetoric/Year 13)
We left Manchester and faced a very long journey to the school in China where we were to teach. It took 3 flights to get there. We had a rather steady journey and stayed in Beijing for a day between our 2nd and 3rd flight, when we visited a Buddhist temple. When we finally arrived we were met by the very welcoming staff. After dinner they took us to meet the students, at which point we each had to take part in a talent: Annie juggled and I sang a song. We then went to the school where we were to learn tai chi later in the trip and watched a demonstration by the students of chinese martial arts which was very impressive. Owen and I were taken to one of the hosts’ houses and played table tennis and got to know the family better. The lessons were fun to do because we tried to be very interactive; for example we set up a ‘market’ where the pupils went to buy clothes, an airport, a restaurant and a town, in which they had to direct each other around. In our own time we were able to do a lot of interesting things such as go to one of the teacher’s wedding and a birthday party.
We were very fortunate with the families that we stayed with. We stayed at the houses of two families each for one week. They were very welcoming and allowed us to experience a lot of their culture and mostly ate the traditional food (they did take us to Pizza Hut a few times). We learnt about a lot of the local traditions and activities. Their hunger to learn English impressed me and I often found my self wandering around the house testing the families on names of items I found in order to improve their English.
Finally we travelled to Beijing for three days and met up with a group of French students who were also teaching English. We stayed in a 5-star hotel in Beijing where we visited the pool very often. We saw the Forbidden City, the Olympic Stadium, the Great Wall and even visited a zoo.
Danny Fitzgerald (Rhetoric/Year 13)