Sorry for the delay in updates! The trip so far has been a whirlwind with very little down time and one heck of a lot of action.
The flights over were virtually without incident, though a few of the lads did get a bit airsick with one boy managing a brilliant technicolour yawn that left him in need of a change of shorts.
Once we arrived – eventually – in Wuhan, we took a bus to the hotel where we were greeted by a downpour that was so heavy that boys got thoroughly soaked during the 10 metre run from the bus to the doors. It was here that the boys showed true STCC character and launched themselves into unloading both of the tour buses, including all the bags of the other schools accompanying us on the trip.
Once finished and given the chance to dry off, the boys discovered their rooms and were then quickly ushered off to their first Chinese meal, complete with gammy Kiwi chopstick assassination and flying bits of meat. Those less gifted begged for forks, and soon all the boys were ready for a sleep on what were later acknowledged to be the hardest beds in existence.
The first day of lessons began with an introduction to one of the student restaurants. These massive eating halls have dozens of different shops that sell an enormous range of Chinese foods, ranging from noodles to chicken stomach, and jellyfish salad to spring rolls. The boys pay for their meals with a pre-loaded smart card that they flash across the till. Most of the meals cost less than $2 New Zealand (in total), so the boys are always well fed.
After breakfast it was straight into class in a massive building that looks more like a giant office block rather than a university. The lessons that the boys have been covering range from basic Chinese language skills to singing lessons and word games.
One of the songs that the boys had to learn for a performance is translated below:
What a beautiful Jasmine flower
This beauty in full bloom
Scents the air
And deserves lots of praise for its
Sweet and white
Let me pick some flowers
And send to others
Oh jasmine flowers
Unfortunately I cannot link to my YouTube account, so until I get back to New Zealand you’ll just have to imagine the boys’ wonderful singing!
Classes here are really well run, with excellent teachers who turn a lot of the monotonous language acquisition into enjoyable games that the students really enjoy. Many boys are even beginning to test their language skills on the locals, but need a lot more practice as the locals speak very quickly.
On the second night here the boys ventured into Wuhan’s New World City. The shopping area is massive and would take all of Christchurch’s malls stacked one on top of each other to begin to get anywhere near its size. Lights, a million and one Adidas stores, and shirt sizings that made the boys feel like heavy weight wrestlers were in abundance, and the boys even joined in a dancing group practicing on the street. The night district has a number of streets that are built to resemble various different countries. The Spanish street has a huge statue of Don Quixote, while the French street has a full size replica of a cathedral with a Burger King in it.
It has been fantastic to see the boys pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, and many of the boys are quick to volunteer and stretch their own boundaries. Some are even game enough to sit by themselves with Chinese students for lunch.
One of the first big highlights of the trip has been the visit to the Wuhan Museum. Here in this monumental, traditionally-styled Chinese complex, the boys got to look at the skull of Yunxian Man– one of the oldest hominoid artifacts – and a variety of Chinese and Classical relics which gave them a greater appreciation of the ancient societies.
The museum was topped off with a performance of an ancient bell set. The bells, approximately 1000 years old, were excavated from a king’s tomb and are still playable today. The musical traditions of China are particularly incredible and were hundreds of years ahead of Western music at comparative times.
In between classes and excursions, trips to the local courts to play basketball and futsal have proved popular. Jack Hurley has become the unofficial choir leader in the bus rides around the city, while the boys have been entertaining the locals with their exuberance and joie de vivre; many a stranger has stopped to take a photo of them in the street! Christian is perhaps the most mobbed and encountered something akin to local Beiber fever when we visited the Yellow Tower, but that’s a story for the next entry!