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Inaugural China Tour

A complete account of our first delegation's trip to our chinese sister-school.

After months of preparation and anticipation, the China Tour students and staff have returned from their tour of China to form a sister school relationship with Jinan No. 9 High School and to join 15 other countries for the Jinan International Children’s Festival.

All the countries’ delegates enjoyed VIP treatment, with huge banquets offered for every meal, police escorts for the bus convoy, traffic being re-directed and members of the Jinan government and volunteers escorting the groups to all the events and offering support and good company. All was on a very large scale and very impressively organised.

The tour was a huge success with many highlights that no doubt tour members will remember for ever. The highlights came in many forms, but one of the most meaningful had to do with the close connections the students quickly came to feel with the children of China and of other countries.

Australians often enjoy popularity overseas and this occasion was no exception. At the Children’s Festival events and the two high school visits made our students were not only forming friendships but constantly being swamped for autographs, photos, video/TV footage and interviews as well as being showered with gifts.

Before too long the students had everyone waving Australian flags, singing and clapping along to “I am Australian” and even learning how to do the Macarana dance. One of the boys from the United States was heard to say after one of our informal sing-alongs to “I am Australian” that he even felt like he was becoming Australian! It also became difficult to see which of the many buses the Australian bus was because a lot of the other buses carrying delegates from all over the world were flying Australian flags.

The sister school visit was unfortunately crammed into half a day because of a six hour flight delay on the Beijing-Jinan flight, but nonetheless it was a very successful and interesting visit. As well as attending the ceremony for the establishment of the sister school relationship and forming new friendships, students were kept busy doing fun things like making dumplings, learning some more Mandarin and various traditional Chinese art forms as paper cutting, Chinese painting and calligraphy, and listening to and trying to play some traditional Chinese musical instruments. The visit indicated how much each school can learn from each other and the enthusiasm of each school in the prospect of developing the partnership.

Other highlights, particularly for their symbolic significances, were the planting of a tree by each country in The Friendship Forest, the starting of the water globe fountain for which each country had brought a litre of water from home to contribute and the imprinting of students hands into plaster as a way of showing the friendship between countries.

There were also performances we attended and in some cases at which the delegates from all countries performed. Although our delegates and other countries’ children performed well, the show-stealing performance the delegates attended would have to be from the Jinan Acrobatics Troupe of China, a professional group established in 1958. Luckily everyone will be able to share the experience of this because the City of Joondalup is planning to have them out for the City of Joondalup Festival in March next year…not to be missed.

A sad farewell was said to the people of Jinan, and the group, along with some other delegations, made the four hour train trip to Beijing, again escorted by members of the Jinan Government. The students and staff were ecstatic not to have organised to fly the leg, given the ordeal of the delays in the flight to Jinan upon their arrival.

Beijing offered many new adventures to all. It probably depends a lot on who you speak to as to what the highlights were. Some would say it was The Great Wall of China, considered the ‘Seventh Wonder of the World’, others would say it was the shopping and finally getting to hit some McDonald stores.

The Wall was on one of the tours the students and staff were on in Beijing and was spectacular to see and experience. Most students and all the adults on tour took the easy route up on a chair lift and then walked along the wall. Some of the more ‘adventurous’ trekked all the way up to the wall, around it for a while and then down. Lots of photos and some video footage were taken to help share the experience with people at home.

As for the shopping…students became excellent hagglers, haggling their way to unbelievable deals on all sorts of electronic, souvenir, clothing and accessory items. The most impressive items purchased…an electronic army tank and a beautiful Chinese tea set. The least impressive…dud Pirate of the Caribbean dvds. The best haggle…you’ll need to debate this with the students.

Students and staff returned home on July 15, after 10 days in China. They have no doubt spend the last week of the holidays bleary eyed but full of stories and with plenty of memories, photos and gifts to show for their time away.

The delegates will soon be involved in sharing their experiences with the school community.