Celebration Evening

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The 2009 Big Experiences are over! 😦

But the CUE/Big Experience Celebration Evening is still to come!

The evening will be held on Wednesday 9 December from 7.30pm until 9.00pm at the Brighton Campus in the Kevin Wood Centre (KWC). During the evening students from each trip will present an item to showcase their Big Experience, prizes will be awarded and video footage from the trips will be shown.

The evening provides a wonderful opportunity for students to reflect upon and share their experiences with their friends and family as well as hearing and learning about the experiences of others.

I hope you can make it.

Mr. Tim Barlow

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China travel update – homeward bound

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The China groups have arrived safely back at Melbourne Airport (9:40am). After baggage collection they will be proceeding to customs. This post will be updated with an estimated time of arrival once they have boarded the bus.

UPDATE #1: The China groups are only now (10:30am) collecting their bags from the luggage carousel and are yet to clear customs. They will not be arriving at the College at 11:00am as scheduled and a very early estimated time of arrival is 12:00 midday. This post will be updated again with a more accurate estimated time of arrival once they have boarded the bus.

UPDATE #2: The China groups have just departed the airport (11:15am). Depending on traffic, the estimated arrival time is 11:55am.

China Dragons – Day 16 Beijing

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This morning we woke up feeling sad as we all knew that today was our last real day. Breakfast was eaten and then we all met down in the lobby. The temperature this morning was warmer than other days but that did not stop the wind from being frightfully cold. We were first going to walk to Tiananmen Square, the sight of the massacre of the 70’s, (which our tour guide did not mention, at all). It’s the biggest town square in the world and was filled with people, tourists and guards alike. The guards were a little bit creepy as they all marched in perfect formation and you couldn’t take photos of them or you got in trouble. We had a little bit of free time to take snapshots of the square and took yet another lovely group photo.

After that we headed back down to the underpass to the other side of the road to take a look at the fabled Forbidden City.

A lovely portrait of the Chinese leader Chairman Mao greeted us as we came up to the other side and also plenty of other tourists. The first gate we came through was massive and the golden decoration on top made the already amazing building truly great. The buildings had rankings, the more animals on the top of the building the higher the rank.

The phoenix represented the concubines or the empresses, the dragon represented power and the person riding a rooster was just plain funny. We walked through many areas but didn’t look at everything as the Forbidden City has an estimated 9999 rooms as 9 was considered a lucky number back then.

There weren’t actually that many rooms (around 8790 or so) but who’s counting. As we exited the city, we were attacked by vendors trying to sell us things but being so close to the end of the trip we were all quite sick of the tourist like objects so we all almost bolted to the bus.

We took the bus to a very fancy (and with yet another ridiculously over the top chandelier) hotel for lunch which consisted of more delicious Chinese food which we are all so not sick of. We got back on the bus to head to our tour of the Houtongs which we explored by rickshaw (a cart pulled by a bike) and visited a home there.

The ladies house we went to was filled with all kinds of odd things such as many magnets and stickers from all over the world and a strange dog named Coco. She told us about her family and then we left to walk back to the rickshaw to go back to the bus.

Now was everyone’s favourite part of the day, last minute souvenir and gift shopping at the Pearl Market. We had 2 hours to spend all of our left over money and some people looked like they were on the Amazing Race! Many people were even attacked by crazy shop assistants trying to sell them anything and everything. It was actually kind of scary and tiring. Even though our haggling skills were much better than they were at the start of the trip, everyone ended up spending the rest of their money and were quite happy about what they bought.

We went back to the hotel for dinner and to drop off all of our purchases. Dinner was a buffet and had some western food which was greatly appreciated as it had ice-cream with sprinkles and other things. We then had 10 minutes to grab our coats and then head back down to the lobby for our walk. We walked to a food market street where the vendors were selling all sorts of creepy delicacies such as sheep’s penis, rat testicles, snakes and scorpions. They also had strawberries coated in toffee which some of us chose to enjoy. We also took the last video of the trip and when the sugar kicked in we all went mental and laughed heaps.

It was an awesome way to finish off a trip of a lifetime!

By Nam, Madi, Rob and Estelle

Note: Tomorrow night we’ll be on an overnight flight back to Melbourne, so there wont be a blog in the morning for you to read … just us waiting to be picked up.

🙂

China Warriors Day 16: Shanghai – our last night in China

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We’ve just got back from the famous Shanghai acrobatic performance. We all thought it was amazing, much better than the Legend of Kung Fu show in Beijing. Our favourite parts about it were the motorbikes going around in a sphere and acrobats jumping through rings. They were both incredible, seeing them perform very dangerous stunts.

We started the day early, with a 6:30am wake up call (which some managed to sleep through) and then a trip to the Shanghai Community International School, which was huge and very well equipped.

We were taken on a tour of the school by some of the year 9 students, none of whom were born in China; their backgrounds were mainly Taiwanese or Korean, with some from Hong Kong, America and Ireland. School here is very different to St Leonards, with a 8:00 start and a gruelling 4 x90 minute lesson days, with smaller recess and lunch breaks then we get, after which they are made to do up to four hours a night of homework. None of the children there live in houses, but in apartments or gated compounds with other expats. At the school we met a familiar face, Ms Burke who was the previous Deputy Head of Middle School at St Leonards and who now teaches biology at SCIS. She talked to us about how life was different for her in China and the pros and cons of it.

After that great experience, we took the public train (which was much more advanced than our trains in Australia) to a Shanghai city park. When we got there, we were given sheets of paper showing things we needed to find, such as: a fisherman, people playing Mahjong and a very big rock. We had 40 minutes to do all of this. Everyone enjoyed it immensely, although it was almost freezing. The group I was in took a shortcut by asking a local who spoke very good English where all the things were; he was very useful. We quickly finished up and walked back to the train station. From there we took the train to lunch, which was just another good Chinese meal at the Rainbow Hotel.

We took our bus to the Shanghai Pearl Market. We all spent a lot of money on gifts, clothes and stupid little items that we’ll never use again. It was very easy to get lost in this massive market, especially with desperate vendors grabbing us and pulling us into their shops. It was all lots of fun bartering and getting very cheap things.

Dinner was at the Blue Frog restaurant, and was the best meal to date with everyone ordering burgers and chips, which was a welcome change from a rice dish.

Overall the China experience has been fantastic, with everyone bringing back their own special memories, new friends and cheap stuff.

by Joe and Tom S

Note: Tomorrow night we’ll be on an overnight flight back to Melbourne, so there wont be a blog in the morning for you to read … just us waiting to be picked up.

🙂

Laos & Cambodia travel update – homeward bound

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The Laos and Cambodia groups have arrived safely back at Melbourne Airport. The bus departed the airport at about 11:30am so they are expected to be a bit late back to the College. Depending on traffic, the estimated arrival time is 12:20pm.

China Warriors – Day 15: Hangzhou

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Today we really enjoyed the West Lake and the Lingyin Temple. We have spent too long in the bus and we are getting confused between yesterday and today. All in all we had a tally of four buses in two days that easily would not meet the roadworthy standards in Australia.

We started our day with a great boat cruise around the West Lake, which coincidently was called the West Lake, because it is “in the West,” our tour guide Tony was quick to tell us.

We then ventured to the Lingyin Temple. It was very interesting and had a great beauty to it which gained our respect for Buddhist art. It was a shame that we were not allowed to take pictures in the temple because some of the Buddha statues were quite extraordinary.

We had a brief present buying session in Hangzhou before our dilemma with the buses began again. The first one had four dodgy tyres, the next one had bad suspension and no heating in -1 temperatures. The next one had bald tyres again. The last one finally fitted our safety and comfort standards, so Mr Scott was satisfied. We then left to take an endurance bus ride back to Shanghai. It was expected to be three hours, but edged a bit closer to the five hour mark, because of constant roadworks and traffic jams.

When we finally got back, we didn’t have time to check into the hotel or even have dinner before our cruise down Shanghai harbour, but it was worth the wait for the good view. On board, we were treated like celebrities by Chinese people. Many of them wanted their photos taken with us.

If we sound tired, yes we are. We checked into our hotel at 10:30pm.

by Meg and Matt B

Teachers’ note: the students have been tolerant and good-humoured about all the delays. They have indeed had a very long day, with some great highlights they will remember for years! They sang on the bus and had a good time in each others’ company.

China Dragons – Day 15 Beijing

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Today we awoke to our fantastic Beijing hotel, fully equipped with a western buffet, which we all took full advantage of. We have all been adapting to the new environment of Beijing. There are very few tall buildings but many high rise apartment buildings; so far it has been quite diverse compared to other large cities such as Shanghai.

During the bus ride to the Great Wall of China we were exposed to the agriculture and country side of Beijing, which was not what we expected to see only 10 kilometres from the huge city of Beijing. As we got closer to our destination we stopped at a local village near the Great Wall. We then split into two groups and toured either the village doctor’s house or a local farmer’s house. We went to the doctor’s house where she explained to us that she is the only doctor in the village and has been for 35 years. The origin of her family was very interesting it has over 300 years of history, stretching back as far as the Ming dynasty.

We then embarked on one of the highlights of Beijing, the Great Wall of China! The chairlift from ground level to the wall was breath-taking, because we had a chance to see the amazing scenery that surrounds this ancient structure.

Being on top of the wall was a surreal feeling for all of us; it stretched on beyond eyesight in either direction. Mrs Ware granted us 2 free hours to explore the wall. The design and architecture of the wall itself was immaculate, it was amazing to think that such a long structure was built with just bricks and clay.

Although exploring the wall was fantastic it was a challenge to walk along, as some sections were extremely steep and uneven. Some of us couldn’t believe the amazing sights of snow covered mountain peaks with the wall following the mountain ridges. After we finished with the wall is was time to decide how to get back down to ground level. Most of us chose to take the 1.6km toboggan track as opposed to the chairlift.

After a long reflective bus ride back to central Beijing we were extremely hungry and dined at a very nice restaurant. Although the food in Beijing is considerably spicy compared to other parts of China, it was still very tasty and flavoursome.

Our night activity was the Legend of Kungfu show, at the very impressive Beijing Red Theatre. The show told a story of a young boy in search of enlightenment. The show was brilliantly choreographed and had a lot of fast paced kungfu elements.  It also showed each stage that the boy went through to reach enlightenment including how the boy used ‘chi’ from nature. The show was magnificent.

Today was jam packed and a great learning experience on a number of levels.

By Timmy.H and Bec Christidis

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