Ms Dawe’s Belize Blog: Blindness Knows No Boundaries

Happy summer, Brookwood! I love the exhilaration of getting on a plane and embarking on a new adventure.  You would think that after my history of international travel I would be a little more confident with my packing efforts, but I let out an audible sigh of relief when the luggage scale teetered and settled on exactly 50 pounds, not an ounce under or over. Phew!  My luggage, though regulation weight, drew some attention as a cacophony of bell rings, rain stick tinkles, and swooshing shakers peeped out the cracks of the zipper.  I am going to volunteer at the Belize Council of Visual Impairment for the week at their summer camp for children who are blind and low vision and am loaded down with sensory materials!

Belize is the little yellow country on this map of Central America, just below Mexico. I was curious about potential communication hurdles, but so far everyone speaks English and I actually haven’t heard any Spanish yet. The people have been very friendly and welcoming.

As I sat on the plane questions filtered through my head- Do the campers know braille?  What adaptive equipment do they use to aid with mobility? Can some of the campers see shadows or light or are they completely blind?  How do they use other senses to compensate?  What are the children’s individual strengths and talents? I’ll let you know the answers to these questions and more as my adventure unfolds. If you have any wonderings about blind culture, pop a question in the comment section.

During the rest of the plane ride I practiced the braille alphabet.  For those of you who don’t know, braille is a tactile communication system of raised dots that people who are blind or have low vision use to read and write.  It is a code, not a language, that is structured around braille cells. A full braille cell consists of 6 dots arranged in 2 parallel rows each having 3 dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers 1-6.  Letters are created by making different dot combinations within the cell.

Empty Braille Cell:                  Full Braille Cell         Braille Dot Positions

Braille Alphabet:

These are the basics! I’ll let you know when I learn about numbers, punctuation and other more advanced features.  I’ll also share some helpful patterns that are contained within the alphabet that makes learning the braille letters a bit easier. Do you notice any patterns? Hint: Look at A-J as a group of letters and compare with other rows.  Fun fact- The letter ‘W’ was not included in the traditional braille alphabet since it originated in France and there was no W so it does not follow the pattern!

Sunday

This morning we attended a morning sermon that focused on staying positive and having hope despite challenging life circumstances.  One of the messages was for everyone, despite their own limitations, to be an encourager and build someone else up. He then talked about the difference between visual sight using your eyes and spiritual sight which is felt through your heart and mind.

Uno is a game of colors and numbers that transcends culture and abilities and is one my favorites to bring along when I travel. This afternoon I taught a group of children how to play using braille printed cards. The first letter of the color and the number are printed as raised braille dots in the corners of the cards.  The kids had so much fun and met with great success as they expertly relied on their sense of touch. This became a nightly tradition throughout the week as our group expanded and I had more excited requests, “Miss Sarah, we play Uno?!” They erupted into laughter every time a skip, reverse or draw card was picked from the deck and they got to use it on a friend. I also brought plastic braille playing cards so we could play Go Fish and other classic games. Play- a universal part of childhood!

Sunday is a less structured day and many of the kids are playing on their devices- some children have low vision and are not totally blind. They have special settings and fonts on their phones and tablets which make it easier to see. They also have audio features that speak text to them. The children love music (like most of you!) and have pop songs blaring from their iPods. I’ve heard a lot of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and even Baby Shark!

Monday

This morning the campers had mobility and orientation class.  Most of the children have been blind since birth and use collapsible canes to navigate around. Today’s teaching tip was to remind the children to swipe their cane in broad strokes from left to right and not to tap their canes.  They are working on learning this new habit with allows them to identify obstacles from further away and make adjustments.

For the first half of the drill the campers held a guardian or volunteer’s arm in what they call a ‘C’ cuff and then the campers explored on their own.  To practice mobility skills all 25 children roamed around a big room and tried to go around furniture, people and other obstacles. The setting was deliberately congested since life is busy and they will experience chaos and crowds out in the real world.  Camp is situated on an old army barrack and has very uneven terrain with narrow sidewalks, posts and grates Independence is very important to the campers and they do an impressive job getting around.

Then we had our academic part of the day where children study reading, writing, math and technology. I am working with 4 year old twins who just finished preschool.  Victoria is completely blind in one eye and has lower vision in the other eye.  Since she is able to partially see she is not learning braille and I practiced letter recognition and letter writing with her. We also worked on counting and number recognition. Victoria loved to draw so she created pictures and labeled some of the objects with letters. They had fun building letters and numbers out of play dough like some of the younger kids at Brookwood do.

There are very few teaching materials here- I was given 2 pencils and lined paper for full days with young children, but we got creative and had a lot of fun. Her twin brother, Austin, was very busy and liked to move. He was a big Superman fan and his favorite activity was to stand on the chair and shoot a certain number of webs from his hands as he counted! We also did shuttle runs for him to go find certain letter cards that we made.

The only braille teaching materials for the really young children were these alphabet cards that were made with card stock and a glue gun.  Although they had raised dots the quality was not good and by the end of the week the dots were rubbing off. So, I thought it would be a fun design challenge for us at Brookwood to create some new tactile alphabet/number learning materials for them. We can even 3D print some of our solutions. I can’t wait to hear your creative ideas!

Here is another challenge for you-the campers love playing Bingo and Chalupa, which is a bingo type game with pictures from Mexican culture. Although the kids enjoy playing the games they require full volunteer help since they can not see the boards or the pictures. I think we can design and engineer some versions of games that are more tactile and would give the campers more independence. Are you interested in helping?

        

A woman referred to as “Auntie Katie” comes to camp to teach tactile art classes.  Using different textured materials, such as pipe cleaners, cotton balls, foam, sequins and wood sticks the kids made little sculptures. At first they had free exploration and then they were challenged to construct a sculpture that could stand on its own.  They made birds, snowmen, skiers, snakes and lots of other clever things.  All children, whether they can see or not, can participate in art and share their creativity with the world!

Argh, Mateys! All of the classes are held in a building called The Angry Pirate, which I thought was a pretty funny name!

Tuesday

Today was a special field trip! The campers took a bus and a ferry boat over to Goff’s Caye, a small island in Belize.  They loved the vibration and sensation of being on the boat. There were many times where I caught myself wanting to say look how beautiful the clouds are or how blue the water is.  We rely so much on our sense of vision.  However, the campers rely on their other senses and they loved the cool sea breezes and occasional wave splashes.  These children loved to swim and spent all day playing at the sand bar, floating on rafts, burying me in sand up to my neck and playing many games of Marco Polo, which was their favorite.  I smiled as I watched blind children play a game that requires no sight and depends on hearing and touch.

They also loved spraying each other with super soakers! They relied on their sense of hearing to figure out where to aim.

Austin and I played lots of rounds of shark attack- he got me 🙂

Victoria and I practiced letter writing in the wet sand and waited for the waves to crash down and erase our words.  We had a BBQ on the beach, took an island walk and lounged in the water until it was time to head back.

After dinner we popped popcorn and watched the movie Maleficent.  Since movies are so visual I wondered how enjoyable this experience was going to be for the campers. They loved it and completely understood the storyline.  Sometimes when one sense is reduced others are super strong to compensate and these children didn’t miss a line of dialogue or a laugh.

Wednesday

Maeve and Tessa Gaddipati and their mom, Sarah, arrived to camp today!  For families who don’t know, Tessa is going into 5th grade at Brookwood and Maeve just graduated from 8th Grade at Brookwood and is heading to Pingree. They are going to be volunteering for the rest of the week.  They brought markers, crayons, modeling foam and other supplies for our work sessions, which is going to make work sessions a lot easier!  Sarah spent a lot of time talking and connecting with the camp directors, staff and families of the campers so we could learn as much as we could about the organization and the best ways to contribute in the years to come. Maeve and Tessa were a huge help with Austin and Victoria and practiced some reading and writing activities with them.  Here are some of their reflections:

Tessa’s Thoughts: In Belize, the experience I had helping at the BCVI camp for blind children was very rewarding and wonderful. I spent a lot of my time with courageous, independent, hilarious, and loving children. Four year old Joannie touched my heart. We really bonded! Joannie was always thrilled to feel her way through the letters in the ABC blocks and stack her way up to make a big tower cake.  She put her hands on the tower to see how high it is and the taller it got the more excited she became. Another person I spent time with was a girl named Courtney, who is 18 years and old going into college. Courtney loves music and has been playing the piano by ear for 12 years. Whenever I would swing open the doors and walk into camp I’d see Courtney with her headphones on listening music. During camp we had a karaoke night for the kids to let them get up there and sing or dance their hearts out. I was impressed to see brave and strong kids sing for the first time ever on a stage in front of the whole camp. Their voices were so beautiful, following the music. Since the start of camp I’ve noticed that once a senses is missing there other senses take over. They know when something is wrong by using their other senses like touch, smell, and hearing. The time I spent with these impressive kids has been a wonderful experience for me. We hope to keep in touch over the school year and can’t wait until next time.

Joannie always wanted to know where her buddy Tessa was!

Maeve’s Thoughts: In my time at BCVI’s camp for blind children, I loved how determined independent, kind and brave the kids are.  I learned about the importance of family in their lives by this unique program that included them to help them learn Braille and become more independent. During the few days in Belize, we did many activities like sculpting, playing Braille “UNO,” karaoke and teaching them ukulele. Through these activities, I learned more about them and soon became close to them.

One of the blind kids I met and immediately became friends with was named Courtney. Courtney was born prematurely and became blind because her eyes weren’t fully developed. Courtney is 18 years old and is very kind and outgoing but her favorite thing to do is music. She can identify chords by ear and is never afraid to stand up and sing. Whenever we come into the building we usually see Courtney and her headphones hooked up to her computer and listening to music. Meeting Courtney really made me instantly feel comfortable being around blind children. She made me feel like I was around a person who can see. Meeting Courtney also gave me a chance to realize that anyone can do anything even if you are blind. Courtney graduated from high school with a 3.29 GPA doing the same exact work that people who aren’t impaired do.

Another child that I met was Gabriel who is 12 years old. Gabriel likes to dance and sculpt things with anything as long as if he can give it to someone. Like Courtney he was born prematurely. Gabriel likes to identify who people are by their voices and by their hands. During the week we found the Gabriel is really good at typing on the braille typewriter, a little contraption that consists of 6 buttons in a line to make individual letters. These people are 2 of many interesting people at BCVI’s camp.

One of my favorite events that was at BCVI’s camp was Karaoke night. This gave the blind kids, counselors and volunteers a chance to sing. It was so wonderful to see them dance, sing and cheer each other on as if they could watch the show. Since the beginning of BCVI’s camp, I have noticed that the saying “When you lose one of your senses, the others take over,” is true. I have watched the kids identify who people are by touch, by ear and by just feeling one’s presence. In my time at BCVI’s camp I got to spend time with these amazing, determined, brave kids who have impacted my life immensely. I truly look forward to next year!

Mrs Gantt, you would have been so proud of Maeve and Tessa teaching the campers how to strum chords on the ukuleles. They are natural teachers and talents!

We also had a field trip to the Princess Hotel for a pool party!  It was a busy day!!

Thursday

Most of the children use a brailler machine to practice their writing.  The 6 keys on the device correspond with the six cells in a braille frame.  The longer key in the middle is the space bar. It takes a lot of practice and coordination because you have to simultaneously press certain combinations of keys at the same time.  The children feed a special weight paper into the machine and then begin typing.

If you make a mistake on the brailler you just scratch the extra dot off and it disappears! Just like with your writing, it’s okay to make mistakes. Gabriel typed a special note to Sarah Gaddipati and me-“the Sarahs,” as he called us, and the children at Brookwood.   I’ll have the braille note up in my classroom if anyone wants to come feel it and check it out up close.

Here is a video of Gabriel typing up a special note to Sarah Gaddipati and me-“the Sarahs,” as he called us, and the children at Brookwood!

Just like students at Brookwood the kids have to practice their sight words!

Auntie Katie did clay exploration this afternoon!

Like Maeve and Tessa mentioned, karaoke night was very inspiring. So many brave campers got up to sing in front of an audience tonight. Just like you when you perform at School Meeting! Even Maeve and Tessa got up and did a duet to the song Lava on their ukuleles!  Tessa also got on stage and helped 4 year old Joannie with the alphabet song.  Gabriel did a dance to an ice cream song and the crowd went wild. Everyone was so supportive even though most people in the room couldn’t see the dance moves that he was doing.  The kids all cheer each other on so much and have built a tight community.

Here is a little video montage from karaoke night:

The Ed Sheeran song, Perfect, will never be the same for me after hearing Courtney, a teenager who has been blind since birth, sing lyrics about “dancing in the dark.” Although Courtney dances, sings, writes plays and goes to college for business school in the dark every day she has one of the brightest inner lights I’ve ever seen.  This girl radiates energy, kindness and wisdom beyond her years. She dedicated her performance to her Granny, who has been accompanying her to BCVI camp for the past 14 summers.  She is always smiling and her favorite phrase is “Absolutely!” She is very excited to Skype with students at Brookwood next year, share her life experiences and answer your questions.

One sad part of camp was hearing stories about children who are blind getting teased at school because of how they look and because they can’t see. Some of the children have their eyes closed or flutter their eyes, some wear dark glasses and some of them you can only see the whites of their eyes and not the colored pupil.  It may look a little scary at first just because it’s new and different, but as soon as you start talking to the campers you realize how friendly, funny, smart and loving they all are. Hearing their stories was such an important reminder to be kind, curious, compassionate and include everyone.

Our new friends Joannie, Jose, Robert and Gabriel!      And Courtney,  who we were usually with!

                      

While we were volunteering at camp Krishna Gaddipati, Maeve and Tessa’s dad, was meeting with patients in the eye clinic. Here are some words from him: Belize eye clinic in Belize City provides eye care for the entire country. Unfortunately they are very short staffed with only one national ophthalmologist. I was able to tend to patients from all corners of the country and perform surgery on them as there is a dire need. The patients, the staff and clinic, the entire community was so thankful to have us there and we were thankful to be hands on in making their lives a little bit better.

 

Friday

Camp ended at noon on Friday so the kids could pack up their belongings and reunite with their families. The Gaddipatis and I went on an island adventure and took the ferry over to Caye Caulker.  We went on an amazing snorkeling tour at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve that included stops at Shark and Stingray Alley, Coral Garden, the Tarpon hole and more.  We even swam with sea turtles, my favorite!  The water was so warm and clear and there were lots of dolphins splashing around the boats.

Krishna getting the attention of the tarpons. Don’t worry- they don’t have teeth!

Belize is working very hard to protect its waters and coral reefs. There were lots of reminders to be environmentally conscious.

Look how colorful our lodging was!

We had grilled spiny lobsters on the beach and found a fun restaurant in the ocean that had fish swimming around the tables. The island was filled with pastel colors buildings and shops.There were no cars, just golf carts and bicycles pedaling around. It was a very beautiful, peaceful way to end our trip and reflect on our incredible adventure together.  Tessa, Maeve, Sarah, Krishna and I look forward to sharing more about our trip during the school year.

Oops, I almost forgot- we’ll be telling you a lot more about this courageous kid- Rowan Garel. He was a camper at BCVI for many years and raised money for the organization by accomplishing 3 huge athletic feats, all before he was 15 years old. He climbed Mt Victoria with a 3,000 peak, walked 92 miles across Belize and was the first blind person to scuba dive in the Blue Hole. That’s the perfect message to leave you with- anything is possible!  Dream big, believe in yourself, be resilient and find ways around obstacles.

See you in September! Love, Ms Dawe

 

 

 

Final Day in China

Everyone woke up bright and early at 4 am to be at the airport on time. Everyone tried to stay awake on the bus, and through security. We said our goodbyes to Andy the night before, and waited for the plane, filling up on snacks. Most of us checked our bags, so that we would have less to carry. We took a two-hour plane from Chengdu to Hong Kong, eating breakfast on the plane. When we got off the plane, we had a seven-hour layover. We went through customs, and said goodbye to Jack. We were allowed to explore in groups. We ate lunch at the airport, and regrouped halfway through the layover. We met up with the chaperone that was responsible for us, and talked in that group about a highlight, something we learned, and someone we got to know better on the trip. Then we talked to the other groups, sharing the big ideas that we had. Then we were allowed to wander around again, taking more time for last minute shopping. When we regrouped again, we walked to our gate, where we had a tiny bit of time to get something to drink. Then we boarded the 15-hour plane. We ate dinner and breakfast on the plane, and tried to sleep. When we got off, we went to baggage claim, and waited to see our parents. We all walked out as a group, and greeted parents.

Although everyone was happy to get back to their famalies, we are all going to miss being in China.

 

Final Day in Chengdu

The next morning, everyone ate breakfast quickly, and got ready for the pandas. On the bus ride there, Andy talked about taking care of pandas, and the different panda sanctuaries. When we got there, we went to different panda enclosures, oohing and awwing at the pandas. After we went and saw a bunch of pandas as a group, we were allowed to walk around a loop, looking at pandas that were inside buildings. After We had spent time walking around, we went and saw more pandas. Most of them were mothers with their babies.

Panda ready

Next, we got to see red pandas, while we walked through their enclosure. We were told that if they came near us, we weren’t allowed to touch them, because they are very aggressive.

After we saw the pandas, we went to our final market. We were given a lot of time to walk around the market, and had to walk around in groups. There was a bunch of shops, and lots of places to get food as well.

 

 

After we spent a lot of time in the market, we had dinner, which was hotpot. Everyone laughed as we tried to see how cooked our food was, and paying each other to drink the spicy broth. After dinner, we went to see the Sichuan Opera. We sat down in the theatre, where cups of tea and bowls of sunflower seeds were waiting for us. You could use a kimono for free, and watch the actor’s makeup being done. For 100 yuan, the makeup artists would do your makeup like one of the actors. The show was made up of smaller acts, each one very different. The last one was the face-changing masks. Everyone was in awe while they watched. When it was over, everyone piled into the bus again, singing songs together on the way to the hotel. That night, we kept our phones, because we had to pack for the morning.

Leshan Giant Buddha

The next morning we woke up bright and early and got ready for a three-hour bus ride. After a long time driving, we stopped to eat lunch. When we finished eating, we got back on the bus, heading to the Leshan Buddha. When we got there, we were handed our tickets and got on boats to go see the Buddha. The boats drove by the Buddha, and stopped so that we could take photos. It was amazing to look at something so old, and know that other people will be able to see it in the future. After a little while, the boat started again. There was a little shop in the boat, where you could buy different souvenirs. Unfortunately, because the Buddha is so old, work had to be done on the chest so that it can stay intact. The Buddha is 1300 years old, and took 90 years to carve the sandstone.

After the boats took us back, we were given some time to shop at the market nearby. There were lots of panda toys, and Buddha necklaces that we could buy. When we got back on the bus, we had the three-hour drive back, then dinner. When we got back to the hotel, we packed up our bags again, and drove to another hotel. The one we were staying at was too far away from the airport, so we went to another. When we got to the hotel, we settled down for the night.

Day 2 In Yangshuo

The next morning we got up bright and early for a very busy day. Kids enjoyed breakfast in the hotel, and then got ready. We biked along a river, enjoying the beautiful mountains, Bok Choy fields, and bamboo. We took frequent stops to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take pictures.

Waiting to go

Bok Choy fields and Mountains

more bok choy

View from one of the places we stopped to take pictures

Bok Choy grows almost everywhere here

After everyone finished and regrouped, we walked to our next activity, bamboo rafting down the river. Kids found partners, and carefully stepped onto the rafts. Men with long sticks pushed us along the river, floating gently down. Mountains stood in the distance on either side, and bamboo grew thickly on the banks. Small waterfalls gave us a thrill as the rafts plunged down the small dip, splashing our feet.

When we stopped rafting, the bamboo rafts dropped us off at steps leading up to a market square. Women sold us goods, and we chatted and enjoyed the stunning views as everyone else finished their raft rides. When we finished, we walked a little while to our next destination, lunch. We were served noodles, rice, steamed vegetables, duck, chicken, and oranges. We wolfed down our food, and enjoyed the gardens nearby when we finished.

After we all finished eating, we walked a little farther to the base of the mountain we were going to hike. We started out good, walking up all the steps with energy. After the 10th set of stairs however, kids started to get tired. As we trudged up, we admired the bamboo around us, and wanted to see the top. When we made it to the first stopping place, the climb was all worth it. The mountains stretched out before us, and we stood directly under the arch we could see during lunch. After a few minutes of rest, we continued hiking up the trail. After about 100 more steps, we were at an amazing lookout. We could see the arch from there, and mountains all over.

After a good rest and lots of pictures, we made our way back down the mountain, careful to not slip and fall. When we had made it down the mountain, we walked to a mountain cave. We stopped and Mulan explained what we were going to do. When we went in, it was humid and wet. As we walked along, we admired the lights inside the cave, making it seem magical.

 

After a little more walking, we reached the mudbath. Kids quickly changed, and dove into the cooling mud. Kids played in the mud, rubbing it all over each other, and going down the slide. After we got out, we had to shower the mud off, which was harder than it sounds. After we showered, we walked a little farther, we came to the hot springs. We all sank into the hot water, chatting to each other and laughing.

 

After we finished in the hot springs, we changed out of our bathing suits and waited for everyone else. After we had all gotten back on the bus, we went back to the hotel to relax. After a little while in the hotel, we went back out for dinner, where we ate lots of spicy food filled with peppers. After dinner, we went to a market, and then we went to a karaoke bar, where we sang songs and ate food. After we finished, we back to the hotel to settle down for the night.

 

Sorry that there are some missing photos, I didn’t use my phone very much in the caves, so I don’t have any photos. However, I asked everyone else on the trip to share their photos, and I am waiting for them.

Travel Day-Yangshuo to Chengdu

This morning we packed all of our bags and loaded them all onto the bus. We drove to the train station, and said our goodbyes to Mulan. Before we boarded our train, we had some time to buy food. We had to buy our own lunch, and got lots of snacks as well. When we got on the train, kids switched seats to sit with friends, and got ready for the long train ride ahead. Kids listened to music, looked out the window, and played games. After a while, kids slept, trying to make the ride shorter. After what seemed like forever, the train finally pulled up to our station, and we got off. When we left the train station, and met our new tour guide, Alex. We got on a bus and went to our hotel, where we learned found out who are roommates were. Then we went out to dinner, where we got to see a performance. There was a tea ceremony, dancing, and face changing. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and settled down for the night.

This post is super short because we pretty much spent the entire day on the train, and didn’t have time for anything else.

Travel Day-Hong Kong to Yangshuo by Train

The next morning we got up bright and early to eat breakfast and check out of our hotels. We loaded all of our luggage onto the bus and were driven to the train station. When we got there, we said goodbye to our Hong Kong tour guide, Alfred. After having our bagged checked, we waited for our train to arrive. We were taking a bullet train from Hong Kong to Yangshuo. After we boarded, Kids listened to music, took pictures, and enjoyed the luxuries of the snack cart.

view from the train

About an hour and a half later, we got off, and were greeted by our new tour guide for Yangshuo, Mulan. She grew up in the nearby, and talked about what it was like living there on the bus.

Outside the train station

Our first activity in Yangshuo was a cooking class and dinner. We were separated into two different rooms, with one cooking teacher in each. We were taught how to make egg dumplings, fried noodles with vegetables, and fried vegetables with chicken. We ate each dish with an optional side of rice, and had a specific order for cooking each dish. We started by chopping and mixing everything. Then we made the egg dumplings. After we ate those we made the other dishes, and ate those together.  We had to eat everything we cooked, and everyone enjoyed making food together, and showing each other their creations. After we said thank you and goodbye, we went back to our hotel, and got settled. That night, we went to another market, and spent more time bartering.

Egg dumplings

Fried noodles and chicken

The sunset here was beautiful!

Sorry for the short post, but it was a travel day, so we didn’t do very many interesting things.

So sorry that I am posting after we got back from the trip, but I didn’t have internet for much of the trip, so I’m posting everything now.

Second Day in Hong Kong

Our second day in Hong Kong was just as exciting as the first. Kids woke up at 7:15 and walked down to breakfast at eight. Then we all piled into the bus and drove to a fishing area in Hong Kong. We took boats to an island, and We got to see the beautiful sights and walk around. It was fun to look at all the stunning views of the city.

We took boats to the village and they let us wear hats!

Amazing buildings!

Stunning views!

There was a really cool hole where we could look down below at other people!

After walking around, we took the bus up to Victoria Peak. The views on the way up were stunning, and even better at the lookout. We got to stand outside, and look down at the sights before us. It was warm outside, and when we were done we took the tram back down the mountain. From there we went to another dim sum restaurant, where we enjoyed similar foods to the ones that we had at dinner.

Views from outside the lookout

It was super warm at the top

Posing for the photo

Views from the tram we took down the mountain

After lunch, we took the bus to a market, where we were allowed to buy anything we wanted. On the way, kids got up and sang songs, the whole bus clapping and laughing along. When we got to the market, the chaperones let us lose. Enjoying the freedom, kids wandered around, looking at everything that the sellers had to offer. A bunch of kids bought Kanken bags, and souvenirs for their families back home.

When we were all done shopping, we had dinner at another dim sum place. There we enjoyed more fun and laughter. Unlike the night before, we were all wide awake, laughing and bouncing off the walls.

Afterward, we went back to the Avenue of stars, to watch a light show. The buildings would light up, and wave colored lasers around, in tune to the music. A fairly large crowd had gathered to watch, and we all were amazed by the stunning lights.

The buildings were all lighting up

Everyone clapped at the end!

Before we went back to the hotel, we went to one more market, where kids began to learn the art of bartering. Kids lowered the price of fake Supreme, Satisfied when the price was super low. At 9:15, everyone piled back on the bus and shared their new swag with everyone. After we got back to the hotel, kids retreated back to their hotel rooms to charge their phones and talk to their families before going to bed. Everyone has loved their time so far in China, and can’t wait for the rest of the trip!

So sorry that this post is so late, but due to tech issues, I could not post earlier

Flight Day and Hong Kong Day 1

As kids rolled into the airport at 10:00 last night, excitement was buzzing as the crowd grew. Kids shuffled around to try and find seats next to each other, and plan on how they were going to spend 15 hours on a plane. When we got to the gate, we were allowed to roam around, buying things for the plane and testing out our new freedom.

 

As the plane took off, kids swapped seat, and let the realization of this trip sink in. As time went on, kids settled into the plane, trying to get some sleep. Dinner was served, and kids spent the next 15 hours sleeping, playing games, and listening to music. When we landed, kids crammed the windows, trying to get a glimpse of Hong Kong. When we got through customs, a giant window revealed foggy Hong Kong. Mountains could be seen in the distance, and kids snapped pictures. There we met out tour guides. We climbed onto a bus, and drove along the coast, admiring the summer scenery as we learned about Hong Kong.

We soon pulled into the Avenue of Stars, a long walkway on the water with handprints of famous actors. Kids posed for pictures, and took in the scenery and warmth of Hong Kong.

After we regrouped, the tour guides took us farther along the boardwalk, to show us tai-chi. We watched one of the tour guide’s demonstration in awe. After he finished, we tried to re-create his moves, in a much clumsier fashion. Then we piled back into the van and went to the city. The city was bustling, and full of people. We walked to a mall, and got to find some food to eat. While we were waiting around, Jack pulled a hacky sack out of his bag and gave it to us. We got a big game going, laughing when someone tried to hit the hacky sack and missed. Soon, we were off again, where we walked to an old prison, and admired the sunny weather and buildings.

After a bit of time at the prison, we walked off again, oohing and awwing at the scenery of Hong Kong. The tour guides took us to an art square, with some shops. The art was amazing, and each piece was very different. One piece was a tv, but when a button was pressed flaps would spin and show a small animation. Another piece was a series of drawing in black marker.

 

after we had explored the artwork, the chaperones told us that we could go to a temple if we wanted to. The walk was beautiful, with trees hanging over our heads. When we got to the temple, we were greeted by a beautiful tree in flower, with pink ribbons tied to it.

As we stepped into the temple, Ms. Wang instructed us on what to do. As we stepped in, incense drifted over me, and I felt something spiritual inside there. Miles bought us incense, and we lit it in front of a Buddha. the inside was very beautiful, but I did not take pictures inside, because I felt as though it would disturb the peace inside.

When we met up with the other group, we walked to a dim sum restaurant, where we had trays of food served to us as we sat around and laughed. We were all adventurous, and tried all of the foods that were served. Many of the food contained shrimp, and we had mango pudding for dessert.

After that, we walked to our hotel, and were blown away. It looked like a 5-star hotel, and we all sat around, talking about who was rooming with who. There was a small turf, and kids hung out in the sun. Dinner was at the same restaurant as lunch, but a very different meal. Everyone is super excited for what is coming tomorrow, and what another day in Hong Kong will bring.

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing to Leave for China!

Many things have been happening around the school, but many students are very excited about the upcoming China trip! Students have been packing and are excited to share their feelings about the trip. Many of us are excited, and have been given the moto for our trip-use “interesting” over “weird”. This is a really nice moto for us to carry as we enter a new country. Here are what some of the students and chaperones said when they were asked to describe their feelings

“Pretty stressed about packing”

“I am very annoyed about packing and all of the hassles come with leaving the country.”

“My suitcase is too heavy… but I am feeling GREAT!”

“If I haven’t started a trip like this I won’t have the chance to interact with more people in our community and get to know the others much better. I remember when I asked my mom’s suggestion about should I do something or not (usually the situation is: I’m afraid of doing something that I want to do because I’m so worried about making mistakes or failure), she told me always remember: Firstly, your real growth is come from doing something that you don’t feel you are totally ready or prepared for. Secondly, there is only one way to ensure doing nothing wrong by not trying anything new. Her words encourage me to be brave when I’m facing any “should or should not” situation. ”

“I have done a lot of traveling, both domestic and international, and each time I get excited about what new thing I might discover. I have been to Hong Kong and southern China, but it was over 25 years ago, so I am very interested to see what is different and what is the same.”

“I’m nervous about being so far away from home, but I’m really excited to have this opportunity and to try new and different things. I’m not struggling as much anymore for packing. I used to think it could be only 15lbs, but really its 15kg so more like 30 pounds. ”

As for me, I am really excited about getting to travel to a new country with friends, and trying authentic Chinese food. (just thinking about it makes my mouth water!) I am also super excited about getting to see the fashion in China, and how different it is from our “trending” fashion. I’m a little stressed about forgetting something that I won’t be able to get in China, but I am more excited.

More photos will be in future posts, sorry that there aren’t any in this one as it is a pre-departure post.