Leaving Xi’an

As you can imagine, this week has been one long series of good-byes (lots of ‘au revoirs’ instead of ‘adieus’ if you know French!) So many events have been put on for us and there’s been so much emotion that it will be hard to fit in all into one blog post, but I’ll do my best.

On Sunday Kevin invited us to participate in the 8th grade Model UN Conference. The 6 BHS students who attended represented in tandem Pakistan, Iran and… China! The students collaborated on drafts designed to combat “family poverty and social exclusion”. It was interesting for us to witness how seriously these students take the conference and to what degree they get into it. The different solutions proposed were a sort of UN Bank with funds earmarked for global aid. One resolution exempted developing nations while the other required payments from all member states. Unfortunately, after 8 hours of lively debate, the day ended in a 10-10 deadlock.

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Kevin had been quite busy as the next day he pulled together a sort of Knowledge Bowl or Trivia Contest in which two BHS students paired with two eighth graders (a lot of overlap with the Model UN crew). In the first round, the students picked from a Jeopardy-style game board on a teleprompter from categories including about Western Culture, Chinese Culture, Common Sense and Physical Challenge. Lilly nailed her physical challenge of picking ten ping pong balls out a jar (using chopsticks!) and Max was equally adept at blowing a ping pong ball the length of 5 full-to-the-rim drinking glasses. Otherwise, most students answered their question correctly. The second round required team collaboration but moreover, skill to beat the buzzer as many teams were penalized for pre-mature buzzes. The third round was the most fun. Two teams had to guess a Chinese word based on a “$20,000 Pyramid”-style circumloctution game, and two other teams had to hum a popular tune that was fed to them through headphones. In the end, Ada and Ayden won (I don’t know if it was close or not because the scores were announced in Chinese and while I’ve learned to understand a little, it was announced too fast). All teams collected a small participation prize and the winners and I were interviewed by TV and print journalists. #werefamousinchina

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Tuesday was our saddest, most bittersweet day. I must say, as I teacher it’s rare to see the students express their gratitude to adults in carefully crafted speeches, and I was so moved I had a big ol’ lump in my throat which kept me from getting through my own speech when my turn came. Though the students delievered their speeches in Chinese, I understood enough through context clues (#tricksofthetrade #languageteacher) to report that each and every students sincerely recognized Kevin and Xialoan, their Chinese teachers, other Gao Xin staff members and, above all, their host families, who were all presented with beautiful and fragrant bouquets (along with any other gifts the students gave privately at home). My speech was quite similar (except in English), and if I were to count each person I included, it might number around 80 people—and that’s only including those involved in the Pacific arena of the exchange. In any case, once finished with the formalities, the Gao Xin students asked for our autographs in their beautiful! memory books that GX made (be sure to ask to see a copy), plenty of family and group photos, and a delicious spread from the dining hall that included really cute 4-in-1 dumplings.

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The GX 10th grade girls (Amy, Stella, Anna, Annie, Shirley) and Jason were able to get out of class to attend lunch
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Ada checks out her memory book with her host sister
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With the students we hosted and who hosted us
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Kevin and Andrew
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Anna and Eema
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Shirley and Becca
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Andrew and Max with Max’s host family
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Max, Karun and Ayden with their Chinese teacher, Wong Lao shi. She’s coming to pursue a Master’s at SUNY-Albany in September
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Becca with her host family
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Andrew with Stella and Jane. Stella taught at BHS in the fall of 2007 (my first semester as a teacher). Both women work in the Middle School’s International Office alongside Kevin. The three of them select and prepare the students who come to BHS each fall.
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DaWong and Andrew
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Lilly delivering her farewell speech
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The group with their *fantastic* Chinese teachers and their supervisor (Kevin)
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Ayden delivering her farewell speech

Tuesday was relatively calm as students finished packing all the gifts they received into their suitcase. Our rendez-vous at the school gate was at 3:30. Most parents had to work but at least one representative from each host family helped our students get their bags to the school. Under a hot sun, we said one last goodbye, loaded the school’s van, and in short order we were on our way; sadly most of our peers were stuck taking an exam but Jonathan was able to accompany us to the airport (and serve as translator at the excess baggage desk!! I think he even convinced the agent to give us the rate allowed for international flights, so thank you Jonathan!) In addition to extended hugs and handshakes and “see

you in two years when you (undoubtedly) come to college in America” Max’s host family also saw us off. But then, in just a few minutes, we were through the security checkpoint and onto our next adventure: Beijing.

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