Dear Parents and Friends,
As we continue our journey, Monday morning was spent at the Shanghai Water Town, an ancient village along meandering canals. We strolled along the canals looking through the various shops with trinkets, crafts and food, and tried to avoid falling in the water. Plenty of photos were taken by the students of this quite picturesque town.
Back in the bus, and it was an hours drive towards Suzhou. A well received stopping place was the silkworm farm. Whilst one of our students was already an expert, the others displayed curiosity and intrigue as they discovered how silk was produced. They also helped create a silk doona.
A large sign in the foyer of the Snowy Sea Hotel in Suzhou confirmed we were in the right place. The students have loved their expansive view of this amazing city from the big bay windows.
Tuesday saw us visit Suzhou Pingjiang Experimental School, our sister school, the second oldest school in Suzhou at 715 years old. The students toured the school grounds, noting the comparisons to Oakleigh Grammar (Mr Robertson, we want the petrol powered go-carts). An interesting highlight was seeing the whole school, 2500 students, participate in their daily exercise routine, in an orderly fashion. The final session of the morning allowed our students to work alongside some Year 5s to create intricate paper designs, which are placed on lanterns for the Chinese Fall Festival. We were presented with a banner, with traditional calligraphy script meaning “always ask questions”, which was made by the students. This will take pride of place back in the Arrowsmith Centre on our return.
The afternoon consisted of a visit to the Suzhou Museum, exploring many various artifacts from the region. Afterwards, keeping our whits about us so as to avoid the scooters, we had an opportunity to stroll along Suzhou’s famous Pingjiang Street, one of the oldest streets. Many small shops line the cobblestone path, offering various wares and local produce.
Our food continues to have a touch of familiarity of some dishes, with a stark contrast of the unfamiliar. Today’s highlight was an ice-cream cake at lunch, in celebration of Jared’s birthday, and dumplings for dinner, which the tour guide kindly organised at our request.
Wednesday already! This morning we went back to the school and participated in an art lesson with another class. The students were designing motifs for China plates. We then joined in on a badminton class which was lots of fun, although hot. As nerves were lessened, the interactions increased and stories were shared. A highlight was having the opportunity to test the skills against a Suzhou champion – at 11 years of age.
We had an afternoon of relaxation, locating a local pool to visit (MSAC equivalent), as our hotel pool is currently closed for renovation. This proved to be quite a different experience for the students, as a requirement is to wear swimming caps and there were only lap pools, nonetheless, the students enjoyed the refreshing break from the heat.
For dinner, we were treated to a traditional Suzhou meal, which included the unusual dish of bread with ice cream on top, and chicken adorned with mayonnaise and sprinkles. Needless to say the bread and ice cream was quite a hit!
Recent highlights and something interesting I have learnt:
Frank – I liked playing against the Suzhou champion badminton player, and the students were very nice. I have discovered that Chinese food in Australia is very different to the food here.
Jared – It was my birthday so we had a special lunch, and Mr Dickinson ordered a cake for everyone to share. Once we had finished the class at the school, the students sang happy birthday to me (but called me Gerald). I noticed the school was a lot bigger than ours, and they had go-carts and miniature sculptures of the school and library.
Lexi – I enjoyed playing badminton with the students because it was a challenge. I learnt how they do their warm ups for badminton. I also enjoyed seeing the fish in the canals at the Water Town.
Charlotte – I liked playing badminton because I’ve never played it before. It was fun to learn the warm ups for badminton, and learn how to properly throw and hit the shuttlecock. The Water Town was a highlight because the water was beautiful, there were a lot of trees covering the sun and that made it a beautiful day. We could see lots of new shops and try new foods.
Khubi – I loved visiting the silk worm factory because it was unique and something new for me to learn. I enjoyed playing badminton at the school and making new friends.
Natasha – I enjoyed Jared’s birthday cake and when we sang Happy Birthday to him in the restaurant. I enjoyed when we were taking photos of us in front of the window with the beautiful city behind, and when we went to the silk factory to see how silk was made. I enjoyed making new friends whilst playing badminton.
Rahnia- I enjoyed playing badminton because my partner was really good, and we kept the
shuttle cock up for over 20 hits. We had a rest and we got each other’s contacts. I have enjoyed taking photos at each location. I learnt how to fold paper and make snowflakes. On the second day of school we made blue and white plates.
We are all now excited about the bullet train ride to Beijing on Thursday morning.
Peter, Ashlee and Spiros