Letter to Parents - Victorian Young Leaders to China Program
Thursday December 4th 2014
Ni Hao (Hello),
Our final day in China (last week) was at the Utahloy International School and this involved packing and saying farewell in the afternoon to all of the Utahloy staff who have looked after us so well. However that morning, all students were treated to a demonstration of Chinese Kung Fu and were also taught a simple routine of manoeuvres. This was done with a lot of energy and was also a lot of fun.
Our students were also presented with an Utahloy International School ‘Certificate of Global Achievement’ which was based around four categories of criteria; Participation, Leadership and Contribution / Critical Thinking and Inquiry / Reflection / and their project Presentation. Dignitaries presenting certificates were Dr Michael Wylie, the Principal of Utahloy International School and from the Australian Embassy in Southern China the Australian Consular General, Mr Dominic Trinidad. Dominic gave a wonderful speech and summary of his career leading to his travels and current position before presenting our students with their certificates. It was a terrific afternoon of celebration and recognition and a very positive way to depart from our month spent in China.
All of our students arrived safely back into Australia on the morning of Sunday November 30th. We had no trouble passing through customs after a bit of a lengthy wait to collect our bags and the bus trip back to Dinner Plain was quiet as all of our overseas travellers slept for much of the journey. The journey was long as expected and students and staff arrived around 5.30pm that evening. Sleep and rest were high on the agenda.
This week our students have already been involved in the review process giving feedback with Dr Michael Dyson, the researcher from Federation University (who also visited them at Utahloy International School in China a fortnight ago) and they have had discussions about reintegration and have done group presentations as well. The students will continue this week with doing community service and a rogaine around the Dinner Plain area just to help get them familiar with the beauty and natural surroundings of the Alpine Region. Then they will once again start packing and cleaning up their rooms at the Alpine School before they return home on Saturday December 6th.
This journey has been continuously filled with highlights, challenges and most of all learning. Their development of intercultural understanding, themselves, self-confidence, leadership and language just to mention a few has been very positive. On behalf of all of my staff, we wish them all the best in the future.
Russell Shem, Alpine School Campus Principal
Saturday 29th November 2014
This will be my final email update from China, as we fly back this evening.
Here's what we have been up to for the past week...
Saturday Nov 22nd.
We had a very early start for our trip to Longsheng and Yangshuo departing Utahloy at 6am. It was a very long day on the bus. It wasn't too long before we started to see some amazing scenery. It was freeway for most of the journey, but the last 2 hours we headed into the mountains and it was quite a windy narrow road and we got to see Chinese driving at its finest. It doesn't look safe but it seems to work. We had to change to a smaller bus for the last 45 minutes as the road was too narrow and windy for the big bus. When we arrived at Lonsheng we had to walk about 30 minutes to get up to our hotel. There are no roads, just small paths made of rocks that run between the buildings on the steep slopes. It was quite an amazing place. Lonsheng is famous for its rice terraces. We made it to the hotel and were treated to an amazing dinner that was in the traditional Chinese banquet at a round table. The students were 2 to a room in the hotel and were very excited about the softer mattress.
Sunday Nov 23rd.
The students all enjoyed a sleep in with breakfast at 8am. After making our lunch we embarked on a long days hike through the rice terraces and the area known as the Devil's Backbone. It was quite a surreal experience and the photos will never do justice to what we saw.
We got to see some local minority groups. One of which has a tradition where the women only cut their hair 3 times in their life. We got to see these women combing and putting their hair up. They then sold us some of the goods they had handmade.
It was nice to see the buses at the end of the day. We then had a 4 hour trip back to Yangshuo. Arriving in the dark we were greeted by lights everywhere. The city is nestled amongst some amazing rock formations. We went straight out to Dinner at a restaurant for another banquet meal. We then moved into our accommodation for the next 4 days at the Yangshuo Leisure Inn.
Monday Nov 24th.
Yangshuo sits on the Li River, nestled amongst towers of limestone, known as Karsts. These Karsts range between 200 to 500 meters high and provide a stunning backdrop to the town and river. They were formed by tectonic lifting, and have eroded to their current tower shape. The same erosion process of the calcium carbonate towers mixing with carbon dioxide and water to form carbonic acid is also responsible for creating numerous caves in the Karsts, and has made Yangshuo a very famous climbing and caving destination. Today we were treated to a caving experience which included checking out the stalagmites and stalactites, as well and other features in the cave. We first entered through the bottom by boat and then made our way almost to the top of the karst before descending again, on the inside, back to daylight. A highlight for many was the mud bath within in the cave and the following swim to clean of all the mud. The other challenge students faced today was a Rogaine around the pedestrian area of Youngshuo. This involved navigation, problem solving and language skills communicating with shop owners and locals. It offered another insight in to a rapidly growing China, with this town being one of few that focuses and specialises in foreign tourism. This was a fantastic and memorable first full day in Youngshuo.
Tuesday Nov 25th.
Students were treated to another wonderful day in Yangshuo. Core 1 spent the morning at cooking school and the afternoon abseiling, whilst Core 2 had abseiling in the morning and cooking in the afternoon. We made some delicious food at the cooking school; including egg dumplings, noodles and chicken stir fry. They had to do everything for themselves; proving to all of them that they can cook. Hopefully the students will be able to take some of what they learnt into the kitchen at home! The site where we went abseiling was called Treasure Cave. The view was spectacular to say the least and the students were all willing to give it a go, despite some apprehension before stepping over the edge. They demonstrated that they are capable of pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone, as well as showing how well they support each other through tough situations.
Wednesday Nov 26th.
Today our students spent the day rock climbing and bike riding through some beautiful countryside. Again, many of the students pushed themselves outside of their comfort zones during climbing and it was great to see them support and give encouragement to each other. Climbing is a challenging activity, both physically and mentally and every student rose up to the challenge and did their best. The bike ride through some of the local villages was spectacular. Everyone enjoyed taking in the views of the river, the surrounding karst mountains and the villages along the way.
Thursday Nov 27th
Today was the long return travel back to Utahloy and to our home away from home, the Uthaloy International School. After a final farewell with the staff from Insight Adventures at Yangshuo we boarded the bus at 9.30am and headed south. We arrived back at Utahloy just after 4pm, enjoyed some dinner and set about practising our project presentations in the evening. Over this past week away, the students have been showing excellent resilience, endurance and commitment to their learning. They are looking to their final two days at Utahloy before their departure on Saturday evening.
Friday Nov 28th
This morning our students visited the local Wet Market of Zengcheng, another fascinating traditional Chinese experience. Locals were buying their fruit produce but also their fresh meat and fish. Most students took this experience in their stride and enjoyed their last trip to a Chinese market. Following their return from Zengcheng the students prepared and delivered their research project which focussed on an aspect of China looking at intercultural understanding, language development or globalisation. Some of the projects focussed on the differences between Australian and Chinese schools, Retail in China and the effect of globalisation on China. It was a fantastic display of all that they have learnt over the past 4 weeks. All Alpine School and Utahloy staff were all very proud of the VYLC students and the learning that has taken place, as they were able to put this on display during their presentations today.
Sat Nov 29th
Today is our final day in China. It has been an incredible journey and trip for all students and staff involved filled with positives, memories, friendships, challenges and learning but we must remain focused on the week ahead at The Alpine School, as we reflect upon the learning and encouraged our students to identify where they can apply their learning and experiences to their own lives.
This morning we have been treated to some Kung Fu lessons and this afternoon they will receive their Utahloy International School certificates.
Talk soon, we all have a plane to catch.
Russell Shem, Alpine School Campus Principal
Today we travelled back to Utahloy from Yangshuo. The bus trip took around six and a half hours. We entertained ourselves by playing cards, reading, sleeping, and watching quality Chinese movies. We stopped for lunch at a random service station. Mr Shem bought us all noodles as we overlooked packing lunch for the bus trip. After lunch we got back onto the bus and after another two hours we finally arrived at Utahloy. After some free time, we began unpacking and having showers. We all went to dinner around 5pm and had our second last dinner in China. After dinner we had some time to finalize our projects. We all spent this time wisely to practice and add finishing touches. We all present our projects tomorrow to each other and the following day we receive certificates from the Utahloy staff and the Australian Consulate General. We are all pretty nervous about presenting but at the same time I think we are all excited to go home.
Wow. That’s the only way I can describe today. My breath was taken away quite a few times, by the wonderful abseiling experience and the majestic mountains, my taste buds were enlightened with amazing food.
This morning I was excited to experience zip lining and abseiling. There was a small hike but the pain and shortage of breath was definitely worth it. At first the view was beyond anything I could imagine, but I know I’ll never forget it. The nerves finally appeared a moment before I had to jump, it felt like I was jumping for my life but as soon as I took off adrenaline was rushing through my body. Then once I got to the rock I had another totally different experience of lowering myself about 35 metres to the ground.
That afternoon, I learnt so much in the cooking school, I never knew that eggs could be made into dumplings and how my taste buds could explode from flavour. The cooking school was called “Cloud 9 Cooking School”. They treated all the Alpine students and staff members with such respect I was astonished to be able to cook Chinese cuisine in a room with 12 of my peers.
All in all this day was spectacular and will be a highlight of my trip.
For the first morning in Yangshuo we had breakfast at a local restaurant before leaving for our caving adventure. While Core Group 2 did orienteering around the streets of Yangshuo, Core Group 1 went to blue moon cave and explored the caves beneath the mountain. We were taught many useful things about rock formations like stalagmites and stalactites and the way caves are formed, we hiked up stairs which lead us to a mud pool in which we all hopped in and got covered in mud then moving on we walked through the river that flowed through the cave to the top exit. After reaching the end we had a short hike back to the start and we all cleaned off in the freshwater pool.
After changing into clean clothes Group 2 joined us for lunch at the cave. We took the bus back to the hotel before heading out for orienteering through Yangshuo. We were given a quest that involved finding different places and things around the city. We split up into groups and set off to explore. Some of the groups (including us) shopped whilst doing the actual set task, but we answered most questions. We also ate a delicious traditional Chinese dinner at the local restaurant, before going to the light show performance on the river. The light show was really enjoyable even though we couldn’t understand the singing.
The whole day was really good and we all had lots of fun exploring both caves and the town of Yangshuo.
Cassie & Mikki24/11/2014
Hi our names are Caitlyn Deane and Taylah Streader and we were today’s student leaders. Today we got up at 8 o clock with a delicious breakfast waiting for us downstairs in the hotel. After breakfast we made our lunches and got ready to leave. Lunch was comprised of delish sandwiches and fruit! We then picked up our bags, as heavy as they were, and started our hiking journey. We hiked up many flights of stairs through the mountainous villages of Longsheng. After a few hours, namely three, we stopped and had our packed lunch. During these 3 hours there were many picturesque photo opportunities and funny moments with friends.
After lunch we continued our long hike and climbed onwards through the many beautiful rice terraces of China. The climbing was a challenge for a few people but with a pinch of determination and a splash of encouragement we all made it through. It was a relief to finally make it to the bus! Whilst waiting for the bus we saw a “different” sight. A bus had pulled in to the car park with bags filled with pigs strapped on top. As they were being pulled down a few fellow students noticed and felt uncomfortable or a little disturbed. Others however found the spectacle interesting. If we had learnt anything from today it would be that with determination and support you can climb any mountain you put your mind to!
Caitlyn and Taylah, xox
This morning we woke up very early because we had a massive 9 hour drive to Yangshuo. We departed the Utahloy International School at 6.00am. It was pretty boring but we sang a bit, slept, read, then sang some more. We arrived at about 3.00pm and hiked up through a traditional village to our accommodation. It was like a little cottage building with 3 storeys. The walls weren’t that great as they let noise through, so when one person was up and about we all were. It was a very nice dinner and for night class we went and did a bit of shopping. Once again, we got the chance to practise some Chinese whilst bartering. It was a long but good day and it should be an awesome week. We are all very keen and can’t wait!
Friday 21st November 2014
It is hard to believe that only last Sunday our initial team of Alpine staff changed over and we had the second team arrive in the morning. Since then, we have continued to be busy and that morning the students finished painting their designs onto the doors at the local primary school. The Principal and all local families of students were extremely happy with the end result. The brightly coloured doors helped provide a facelift to the school.
In the afternoon students got to experience a traditional Chinese Lion Dance, which was loud and entertaining. Some students even got to have a turn at playing the drums and getting inside the Lion and having a go at bringing it to life. It was a great way to send off the departing staff members.
That evening a talent show was held and some of the finest talent we have seen amongst Alpine School students was put on show. Guitars, keyboard, duet and solo singing, even a magic card trick was shared. Another positive night.
On Monday, our students spent the day as tourists in Dongguan city. Being only an hour away by transport, it has 8.2million people living there. We visited two museums which highlighted the Opium wars that China faced when the British came to China to try and sell Opium. We also had a walk through a Fort on the foreshore that was underneath the Humen Bridge. This bridge is quite an amazing structure that spans some 5 km.
The day finished with a trip into a shopping mall (Dynacity) to highlight what globalization is doing to China. It was a very Western style Mall with most shops being very familiar brands that you would find anywhere around the western world. The students enjoyed spending some money on food and souvenirs. The supermarket was the biggest hit.
Tuesday saw us visit yet another city. Old and new. Rich, poor and middle class, today provided students a snapshot into the fascinating and multi-faceted aspects of modern China. We started the day with a bus trip to the centre of Guangzhou city to visit the Canton Tower. Travelling through a city of 30 plus million people is an eye opening experience before the dayâ€™s activities begin, with many opportunities to observe the comings and goings of daily life in a big city. Canton Tower is the second tallest building in the world, and from the viewing platform at 480 meters above ground level, it gave students a better understanding of the size and scope of China's third largest city. Following this experience the students then made a discovery walk in small groups through a traditional medicine market in a different area of the city. Dried snake, scorpion, cockroach, deer antler and turtles where just a few of the interesting goods you could buy. We then walked on foot to a pedestrian shopping precinct, where our group was photographed many times by curious locals. This experience gave us an insight to the growing middle class of China and provided a unique opportunity for students to further develop their intercultural awareness.
On Wednesday, our students had some time to work on their projects then prepare and practise for their second English teaching experience. They went to a middle school in Zengcheng and taught up to 50 students in pairs. They were teaching English to Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 level students. Once again, they all did an amazing job. The Zengcheng students they taught were really engaged and then at the end of their lesson treated us all like "celebrities" or "rock stars". Our students were hounded for their autographs at the end of the session and it was hard to get all the students back on the bus to head back to Utahloy.
Thursday saw us return to the local Primary school for the last time to complete the community service project of painting the school's concrete walls. Our students did a fantastic job and enjoyed the opportunity to leave a legacy of doing a service for others. They were very productive and painted a long section of the back wall. It must have been at least 40 metres in length. Again their Principal, staff and parents were appreciative. The afternoon was filled with project work and the evening with a session on globalisation and its impact.
Today we visited the Hitachi factory plant to see the technology behind and witness the assembly of elevators and escalators. The factory was very clean with huge internal cranes responsible for moving large structures for assembling. This was again another eye opening experience as this particular Hitachi factory plant employed over 2000 Chinese people!
Tomorrow morning we are heading off at 6.00am to travel to Yangshou located in the neighbouring province to Guangdong. We return on Thursday evening (Nov 27th) before two final very busy days here at the Utahloy International School. Thus far it has been an amazingly enriching experience for all and our students have continued to rise to all of the challenges faced, experienced and been set to do. They have become a supportive group and I expect them to continue building positively this coming week as we head to Yangshou.
Russell Shem - Campus Principal
Hi, it's Paisley and Kyle here.
Today was quite an interesting day. We returned to the local Primary School for the final time and we painted several of the internal yard walls a light blue. We enjoyed doing this because we were not doing it for ourselves; we were doing it for the children that go to the Primary School. Even though it was for someone else it was still fun for us to do! Something we found challenging was giving out gifts to the children. They were very excited and tended to crowd around any would-be gift givers.
In the afternoon we worked on our projects which are due in shortly after we return from Yangzhou. The project will reflect on our learning and experiences here in China. My group is looking at the differences between Australian and Chinese Schools.
One thing we learnt from being student leaders was that it can be hard to get a large group to pay attention to you. However, it was a good experience and an opportunity to step up and practice our leadership skills. We are really looking forward to the week in Yangzhou. It sounds extremely interesting and full of activities. We can't wait.
Paisley and Kyle
My name is Calum Pearson and today I was student leader with Jorja-Rose. The first half of our day was dedicated to working on our China research project. A lot of groups really adopted a positive work ethic today, coming up with great ideas and working collaboratively and most groups are a well underway, if not nearly close to being done. I know my group worked smoothly and came up with some good quality work.
The other half of the day involved teaching at the Zengcheng No.2 Middle School. To get prepared we had to make a learning plan and practice what needed to be done in the 40 minutes of teaching that we had. Most if not all groups went really well, I know our English lesson plan consisted of doing some Australian songs, small games and a couple of small English language based activities. The upside of teaching at this particular school is that we were able to bring the learning outside and run some games out in the courtyard area, which expanded the amount of teaching methods we could use. This was a lot of fun and very successful.
In conclusion today was very constructive, everyone enjoyed themselves and we have increased our understanding of being good leaders, helpful peers and becoming an overall global leader.
Calum and Jorja-Rose,