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.

Final Rwandan Post!

Warning: This is a very long post! Feel free to read in small chunks. I haven’t had internet access for days!

Today I spent the day in Primary 2 and 3. During Primary 2 math the children were practicing writing numbers up to 1000 in their exercise books. Then they had to change the numerals into words. During English class I shared the Second Grade books about likes. The students from Apapec enjoyed seeing your drawings and learning about the different activities, foods, animals and colors that you like. Tessa, everyone laughed when you said that you like rats! Henry, I had to explain to some of the kids what a skateboard is. The children made many connections and expressed that they also like playing soccer (futbol), riding bikes and playing basketball. After we defined the word ‘like,’ the students from Apapec wrote their names and wrote and drew something that as a child living in Rwanda they like. From eating chips to drawing princesses, all topics were covered!img_4650


I then used my ipad to record the children saying their names and talking about what they chose to represent on their paper. That way instead of just returning to Brookwood with their artwork, you can hear their voices, see their faces and hear the accurate pronunciation of their names. Some of them are quite long and have Kinyarwanda roots so they will be unfamiliar to you. Some children at Apapec have names that we hear in the US, but not too many. For example the little boys in my host family are named Evan and Ethan. I was interested to learn that many children in Rwanda do not have the same last name as their mother or their father or even their siblings. They have their own unique names. Many children are given a Kinyarwanda name and then after 8 days the parents announce the name that the child will be referred to as. There are also names like Happy, Winner and Blessed. Speaking of names there are 3 Teacher Sarahs at Apapec!


Sarah, Sarah and Sarah! Even spelled the same.

There are no colored printers, overheads or computers in the classroom so the children learn mostly by listening to the teacher not looking at visuals and models. We can easily get on the internet and pull up photos and websites to help us learn and understand new concepts, but everyone does not have those resources in their schools. It can be challenging for the kids to learn about confusing topics without pictures and hands on materials. For example, today the lesson was focused on family relationships and the teacher was trying to explain cousins, aunts, grandmothers and other relatives just using spoken words.

I continue to be so impressed and inspired by the daily Assembly program that the students put on. Just like at Brookwood students get up to sing, dance, read and perform. Many of the mornings focus on values, such as respect for others and kindness. One day this week the students presented in a debate forum. The topic was to propose or oppose (vote for or against) the statement, “Diversity makes the beauty in the world.” The children did a great job giving reasons for the side that they were supporting. I was then called up to give my thoughts on the subject. As you can guess, I talked on the side about how I believe that diversity makes the beauty in the world! If people had the same appearance, the same families, the same beliefs, the same interests and the same experiences, we would never grow and learn from one another. New ideas would not be presented and change would not be possible. Another day the children sang a song about loving their school, which I will play for you. I have recorded a lot of videos in Rwanda so you can see and hear some of the things that I experienced. Around the school you see signs reinforcing appropriate behavior and expectations. One of my favorite messages is right when you walk through the gate and it says, “Tardiness is the enemy to learning,” which means come to school on time so that you can learn.

I finally went to the market and did some shopping with my Rwanda Francs, which is the currency or money that is used here. Katherine, I bought a bunch of colorful woven baskets that you thought were here. I also got a small drum for the classroom and a welcome sign made out of banana leaves! Enzo, I haven’t seen any galimoto wire toy vehicles yet, which kind of surprised me. Also, no rock babies J. I have seen kids playing a game and running around with rubber tires and sticks. Tomorrow I am going to go looking for fabric so the Lower School can make some dolls out of recycled water bottles.


My host mother, Sophie, teaching me how to make a doll.14671373_10207520076535132_7317056588922671598_nSome fabrics I’m bringing back to Brookwood for African crafts such as water bottle dolls

At Apapec students call their teachers by their first names not their last. I have loved being called Teacher Sarah instead of Miss Dawe while I am here! Greetings are very important in Rwandan and school culture. As soon as I step into the room everyone jumps up to welcome me to their class. The students get very excited to answer questions in class and they all shout, “Me, teacher, me teacher!” while snapping their fingers and flicking their wrist.

Today I went into Primary 1 and taught the math game Roll and Record. It is a First Grade favorite at Brookwood every year so I thought that the students at Apapec might also enjoy it. What I hadn’t considered was that they children had never used or even seen dice before. So, I taught them how to roll two dice together and then count up the total number of pips. Since dice are an unfamiliar material to the students I reminded them to add up only the pips that landed on top and not all of the sides. I loved seeing their faces as they explored this fun new manipulative. I left a collection of dice with their teachers so they can continue to use them for math games. They had fun filling in the result boards with their partners.


img_4855 img_4859

The math curriculum for First Grade in Rwanda is very challenging and includes concepts that are not introduced to our older students, such as multiplication and division. In their exercise books the First Graders solved computation problems like 69-___=24, 15+___=87 and 2x___=18 . The children computed the problems in their heads and with their fingers without showing their work in their books. They moved quickly through these warm up exercises.


First Grade math problems!


Children at Apapec also take Kinyarwanda lessons in addition to English and French. There are 24 letters in their alphabet, all of our letters with the exceptions of q and x.

Middle School, most of my posts have been geared towards the younger students’ schoolwork, but this blog section is for you all. Today I went to Grade 5 math and they were learning how to find the volume and the area of a Rubik’s cube. Then students came up to count the vertices and corners. Mr. Holch gave me a bunch more cubes to bring with me and the kids had so much fun working on the puzzle during break time. I also showed them the video that Mr Cabral made with James McKenna explaining in English and French the steps for successfully solving the cube. Both girls and boys were so interested and all wanted a turn.

img_4751img_4769 img_4762 img_4772Even grown ups like Rubik’s!


I found out why the kitchens in Rwanda homes are separate from the main house and living quarters. It is because they use charcoal and the fumes are not safe to be around. So, the cooking area is in a separate small building. Wash is also scrubbed by hand outside of the home in plastic bins and then clothing is hung up to dry on a line. There are not appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines and dryers so most chores need to be done by hand. I have not eaten one processed food since arriving to Rwanda. The diet is very healthy and packed with fresh fruits and vegetables. Even the honey is straight from the farm with no additives. I have noticed that there is not a lot of variety in the foods that people eat here. Almost every lunch and every dinner has been beans, rice, a root vegetable called cassava, bananas (more like a potato, not the sweet kind we have) maize and some greens. No one in Rwanda has heard of food allergies and they were surprised that we have some children who can’t eat peanuts and other nut varieties. Since there are no electrical appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and dryers,  most household chores are done by hand.  For example, laundry is scrubbed in a bucket and then hangs outside to dry.  img_4808Cooking area with charcoal stoveimg_4811

Week 2 shower set up. There was no faucet or showerhead in this home so we used a bucket of hot water and cold water to bathe

My second host family has two young boys, Evan age 3 and Ethan (nicknamed Bobo) who is 15 months. Evan speaks primarily French with the exception of some limited vocabulary he has learned at school. However, I have discovered that even if you don’t speak the same language you can build a friendship, form a connection and understand each other. Every day when I get home from school Evan is waiting outside the front door shouting, “Teacher Sarah!!” His daily hugs are one of my favorite parts of the day. As a host gift I brought him a set of Legos, which he had never seen before. Every night he would say to me “Game!” and we would build little cars and trucks together. I loved watching his sense of pride and accomplishment as he figured out how the plastic bricks snap together. After successfully putting on a new piece he would cheer for himself, “Bravo!” Evan is in Nursery 1 and had homework to do most nights. I was very surprised to see that at age 3 some of his assignments were to write the vowels in cursive, draw a radio and number objects using one to one correspondence. It is expected that nursery students color within the lines and he was reprimanded for some scribble marks on his worksheets. It was an interesting contras to watch this little boy attempt to write cursive letters and yet still need reminders to not put the Legos in his mouth.


Question marks on 3 year old scribbles


Cursive vowels in Nursery 1

I did not see any car seats installed in families’ vehicles and young children freely roam about the car.  I also found out that the majority of people in Rwanda do not yet have email addresses and most do not have mailing addresses. There are no mailboxes outside of people’s homes and when I sent Christmas gifts to my host families this December I will need to send to Apapec to make sure they arrive.


Evan and Bobo in their Brookwood heron tees!

2016-10-15-09-20-12My final goodbye to Evan


Going to miss these 2 girls  beyond words

I am sitting down to write my final blog post from Rwanda (well, technically at the airport in Amsterdam!) I addressed the Apapec community at morning assembly for the last time. I told them that while I was in Rwanda some one asked me one night if the sky looked the same here as it does in America. While we may speak different languages and have different skin colors we all live under the same sky. We all have strong minds, loving hearts and hopes and dreams. One of the projects I worked on these 2 weeks is asking children at Apapec about their hopes and dreams. I heard about how, just like many of you, they aspire to become doctors, engineers, teachers, farmers and futbol players. I have discovered during this journey that we are much more similar than we are different and we can learn and grow so much by collaborating together. I am so grateful to my host families, the administration, teachers and students of Apapec and Brookwood. I am excited to see what the future brings as our students brainstorm, work together on curricular projects and solve problems together. As I put on my Facebook status the other day, “Out of all the places that I’ve traveled in my life I’ve never met such welcoming, kind, generous, respectful, happy people as I have in Rwanda. The country is such an example of strength, unity and forgiveness after a difficult history.” Thanks for following along with me these past 2 weeks! Please come find me if you want to hear more stories or have any questions about Rwandan culture.

14670793_10207520864394828_6194580591768545282_nSaying goodbye to some of my new teacher friends