Day 3 in China!

Today we were set free again for breakfast, but many of us went to the same bakery that is about a block away from our hostel. Then we headed down to the subway and rode one stop over to the Shanghai No. 3 Girls School.

When we first walked into the gate, we were all really surprised and excited to see a big banner that welcomed Castilleja to their school. We received a warm welcome from the school’s principal that was meaningful because she tried really hard to communicate in English with us and she was really enthusiastic about us finally being there to meet her students. They prepared a special presentation for us so we could learn about the Chinese culture around tea and how to make it (the tea tasted delicious!). There were so many different tools needed to brew and make the tea and none of us realized how difficult making tea actually was. We headed down to the common area and learned the basic five stances and the three basic hand gestures in martial arts as well as a routine that combined all of them together.

Finally, we were able to meet the students. The Shanghai and Casti students were paired for lunch and it was so interesting to finally meet them after hearing so much about them. While eating lunch with the students we got to learn about their life in Shanghai and realized how similar our lives were. It was right before the Shanghai students’ finals so we bonded over school, stress, and standardized testing. Many of us also shared similar hobbies such as sports (many of them played volleyball, basketball, dancing, and softball) as well as robotics, reading, and sleeping. We gave the Shanghai No. 3 Girls School a puzzle that was printed in the Bourne Lab and had each Shanghai student and Castilleja student sign the puzzle, signifying our friendship. We formed a strong connection and even exchanged email and social media information to keep in touch across the world.

In the afternoon, we headed over to Yongmei Primary School, a partner of the NGO organization Stepping Stones. Yongmei is an elementary school for children of migrant workers (workers who have moved to Shanghai from the countryside looking to increase their quality of life). Upon arriving at the school, the children swarmed around yelling “hello” and jumped up and down in excitement. Some even asked for our autographs! (It felt like we were on the red carpet surrounded by paparazzi). We spent time with Grade 5 (10-12 year old) students so they could practice their English with us. For the Chinese-speaking students, it was a great time to practice the language. Although they were shy at first, their enthusiasm in spending time with us shone through. Seeing the children’s excitement to interact with and learn from us was truly touching. It was hard to imagine the hardships their families must have gone through in order to move to Shanghai and it was hard to hear that some of the families did not in fact find a better quality of life.

We returned to the hotel for some free time and then headed out for a really fun dinner to thank Lee Perkins – the man who had come to talk with us about the Chinese economy – and Mr. and Mrs. Li, the couple who arranged for us to take the factory tour yesterday. They brought along their 5 year-old boy Joshua who was adorable!

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