- Photos by TIS Parent Wu-Chang Feng
On Friday afternoon we picked up our children from the Suzhou Experimental Elementary School, an impressive campus with about 3,000 students in grades K - 6. The kids clearly had a wonderful week and were treated as very special guests by both the school community and their host families. There were even a few tears shed by some of the Chinese students as their new friends departed. For parents, it was fun to see through photos posted all the activities kids got to do after school with their families, including Chinese painting, special dinners, visiting sites around the city, and swimming (indoors, not in one of the many canals that criss-cross the city of Suzhou). During the homestay we enjoyed exploring the city and its different neighborhoods, including the beautiful garden (one of the most famous in the country) just across the street from our hotel. Suzhou even has its own "Times Square" with an enormous LED screen (world's largest? - it went on forever) suspended horizontally overhead.
Loaded down with all the gifts they received from host families and classmates (I've already filled the extra bag I brought), we packed up and left Suzhou yesterday for Xi'an, a historic city about a 2.5 hour flight west. Today we begin exploring and learning about this region. The weather also seems to be milder, which I think we all will appreciate as it was a pretty chilly week in Suzhou.
- Lisa Goldberg, TIS Parent
TIS students spent the day touring Suzhou. Here is the class outside the ancient Suzhou City Wall.
On Thursday the students visited the Pearl School, the sister school to SEES. The were welcomed by many new friends and had a great time during the visit. The Pearl School students even prepared many small gifts for the TIS 5th graders. They were overwhelmed by the generosity and friendliness of the students. Back at SEES at the end of the day there was a farewell celebration. SEES 5th grade student groups showcased their dancing and musical talents and games were played.
At the end, the TIS students performed "Xiao Ping Guo," their International Festival routine, for the school.
"I think going to their school is a great opportunity to be able to learn a different culture, how their school is different than ours and to feel their way of learning. I've had a great time staying with my host family, I have had lots of fun and learned many things, but the most important thing I've learned is that having a friendship with someone in a different country that speaks a different language is a chance to make new friendships and learn new things." - Atticus
"I have been in China for five days, the last three I have luxuriously spent in Suzhou. China has opened doors for me and let me experience what not many people get to experience, culture. My host family is very generous and gives me everything I need. Suzhou Experimental Elementary School is like that too, which means I am very lucky. Very lucky for such a wonderful trip." - Emma
"The only thing that makes me feel like a tourist are my accent and my camera. My host family treats me like family, and in a way, I am family. They help me look forward to each day and the excitement that will come with them." -Isabel
"My host family has brought me to do a lot of very fun things. The things they do with me are things that I would never be able to do in Portland. They also bring me to eat lots of food only available in Suzhou. I think they are very wonderful." - Ethan
"Living with the host family is fun. The family is very generous and takes good care of you as if you were their own child. Also, since you're in a different country they do different and sometimes very interesting things in their household." -Alex
On Tuesdays, SEES students have "social clubs" in the afternoon. What we would consider electives. Our students attended classes on calligraphy and traditional painting. They also had the opportunity to visit some of the various social clubs the school offers, including dance, TV broadcasting, Pipa (traditional instrument), traditional percussion instruments, baking, badminton, tai chi, and so many more. The TIS students were impressed by all of the options to choose from.
Not Lost in Translation
No supper. That was my vow last night. Like so many parents, I had gorged on much more food than normal since arriving in China. But who besides our doctors could blame us?
This isn't the bland fare of 82nd Street back home. One simply can't say no to the nonstop courses of exotically spiced meals that TIS had arranged. And how can we not search out in small groups culinary wonders awaiting at hole-in-the-wall joints that Zagat would never find?
Even an impromptu trip some of us made to a Suzhou mall for a food court lunch left me feeling as if Anthony Bourdain must have been sitting nearby, grinning. He would tell us, I rationalized, that gluttony is a just reward for our years of tuition checks and carpool treks.
At 8 p.m. my stomach growled. But I wasn't hungry for food alone. I wanted The Authentic Encounter, a repeat of dinners like those with Linda and Conor, Meredith, and Atticus. The places with a smattering of tables, no English, and sometimes no napkins.
On consecutive nights in Shanghai and Suzhou we had heaping bowls of noodles complemented with rich broths and other ingredients. At one tiny place we watched the noodles being made from scratch and then deposited in a sidewalk cauldron of broth. (Atticus translated the restaurant name as Blue Water Kneading Dough.)
Alone last night in Suzhou outside another tiny place, I squinted through the window at pictures of food on the walls, hoping to find a new memorable meal. An Asian woman gestured me inside.
Turned out that she too was a tourist, from Singapore, and spoke English. She recommended a luscious Chinese beef stew seasoned heavily with five-spice powder. The server, a young woman whose toddler sat nearby slurping noodles, offered me beer. How could I refuse a Tsingtao? It's among the few Chinese words I know and only one I pronounce with confidence.
As I paid the bill of 40 yuan, about $6, an old woman emerged from a tiny kitchen, beamed at me, and spoke rapidly in Mandarin. No translation needed.
- By Michael Bales, TIS Parent
Students from the Suzhou Experimental Elementary School line up to sing the national anthem and begin their morning exercises.
The TIS 5th graders started the school week with "Sheng Qi Yi Shi" - the traditional Monday morning routine with the national anthem, school anthem, flag raising, and morning exercises. Our students were honored by standing next to the flag pole and facing the student body during the ceremony. Suzhou Experimental Elementary School (SEES) has 3,000 students in K-6th grade, so our students had quite the audience!
On Monday the students had Mandarin, Science, Math, PE, Art class, and a campus tour. SEES is a beautiful purpose-built campus. They even have their own mini-OMSI and history museum. It was a great start to the school week!
Here are a few photos, more to come!
Photos by TIS 5th grade teacher, Christy Appleberry, and TIS Capstone Coordinator, Meredith Fleming.
A big NI HAO from China! After a few days of sightseeing (and getting over jet lag), the TIS fifth grade Chinese track's homestay week is officially underway! The weather couldn't be any better, the food couldn't be any tastier, and our handoff to the host families couldn't have been any smoother. It was smiles all around (and a few stray tears of pride) as our kids were reunited with the new friends that they made only a few weeks ago when the Chinese students from Suzhou Experimental School came to Portland. Teacher Christy, Meredith Fleming, and our local tour guide Frank have done a great job of coordinating (e.g., "herding cats"), and it's exciting to know that our students are in good hands with their new friends in China. Until next time, ZAI JIAN (see you later)!
Written by TIS Parent Mike Jung. Photo by TIS 5th Grade teacher Christy Appleberry
On Sunday, the students and families went to a local park to exercise and engage with the local people of Suzhou. Some joined in a dance exercise, some played badminton, others learned a new toy, and all had a great time. At the work-out area, the kids (and a few parents) went back and forth with the park-goers doing push-ups, pull-ups, and the parallel bars. They then performed their Winter Festival piece for them. One of the folks in the crowd joined in. It was quite the cross-generational, cross-cultural exchange.
Photos by Wu-chang Feng, TIS parent
As part of the Capstone Study abroad, students spend approximately one week attending a school in the visited country, living with host families or in dormitories with local students. Their TIS teacher attends school with them, and parent chaperones remain close by but not visible. Here are some photos of our students greeting their host students!
Photos by TIS Parents James McALear and Esther Harris
The students interviewing locals as part of their Exhibition data collection. Exhibition is a special Unit of Inquiry designed and executed by the students themselves. Children write lines of inquiry, gather data, conduct investigations, take action, and present this experience in a public forum.
Exhibition is even more unique at The International School because we connect it to the 5th grade Capstone academic trips abroad. Before students left, they designed questionnaires on their topic of interest to gather data in their host countries. Topics include transportation, food additives, and more. Not only do students conduct first-hand research, but they also take action by sharing about themselves with their host families and schools.
Lunch in Shanghai; Outside the Humble Administrators Garden in Suzhou
Photos by TIS Parent Esther Harris, 4 March 2016
Photos by TIS Parent Wu- Chang Feng
Just wanted to send a quick note to say that everyone has arrived safely in Shanghai. People were pretty exhausted but many still had energy to go for some noodles and dumplings. Tomorrow we do the maglev train and then the Bund.
- Meredith Fleming, TIS Capstone Coordinator 3 March 2016
- Photo by Sharyn Marcuson, TIS parent
- Photos by Sharyn Marcuson, TIS parent
The Homestay and school exchange ended wonderfully. The 5th grade held a goodbye assembly with multiple performances. They sang, played music, did a rhythmic gymnastics performance and...yes....our 5th graders have a command performance of their Winter Festival play, Snow White. With an audience of about 500 kids, our students were in heaven. They were such hams! It was great.
Their school experience ended after lunch on Friday. The children, who were strangers a month ago, have now formed meaningful friendships. Most regretted saying goodbye. Hopefully, with email, etc., they will keep in touch.
The following day we flew to Xian. Leaving Suzhou's beautiful gardens and almost clean air was hard! We are now in the thick smog of a busy China city. But Xian is the "cradle" of China and full of history. An awaited highlight, biking the city wall surrounding Xian, was the first day's event. We rented bikes and rode the 9 miles around the wall. What a delight!
- Sharyn Marcuson, TIS Parent
Photos from TIS parent Sharyn Marcuson