Ta­coma stu­dents revel in China trip

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By LINDA DENG in Seat­tle lin­dadeng@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

High school stu­dents from Ta­coma, Wash­ing­ton re­cently re­turned from the trip of a life­time to China, which was ini­ti­ated by a per­sonal in­vi­ta­tion from Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping last year.

The 100 stu­dents — 56 girls and 44 boys — from Lincoln High School re­turned home on Tues­day after the 11-day trip. Xi had in­vited them to tour China in Septem­ber 2015, when he vis­ited the Puget Sound area at the start of his state visit to the US.

The stu­dents vis­ited Hong Kong, Fuzhou (the cap­i­tal of Fu­jian prov­ince and sis­ter city of Ta­coma), Chengdu in Sichuan prov­ince, and fi­nally Bei­jing.

They vis­ited his­tor­i­cal land­marks such as the Great Wall and For­bid­den City and learned about China’s cul­ture, so­ci­ety and history.

They also en­gaged with their Chi­nese peers and vis­ited lo­cal schools.

Araya Zack­ery, a sopho­more, sported both the Chi­nese and Amer­i­can flags in her hair upon her ar­rival at Seat­tle-Ta­coma In­ter­na­tional Air­port. She said she was very ex­cited about the trip and hoped to re­turn with her fam­ily soon.

“Dur­ing that visit (in 2015), Pres­i­dent Xi asked if my kids (Lincoln stu­dents) had stud­ied abroad,” re­called Lincoln High School Prin­ci­pal Pat Er­win. “No, my kids are very poor,” he said.

Lincoln, one of the city’s most di­verse high schools, has a high stu­dent-poverty rate. More than 75 per­cent of Lincoln stu­dents qual­ify for free or re­duced-price lunches.

When Xi heard about the stu­dents’ eco­nomic chal­lenges, he in­vited 100 of them to visit China. He said he hoped they would “know China bet­ter” after the trip and that “hope­fully you will fall in love with China”.

The Chi­nese govern­ment cov­ered the group’s ex­penses in China, in­clud­ing air­fare.

In Hong Kong, where the trip started, the stu­dents mar­veled at the city’s fa­mous sky­line.

Austin Moe­ung, a ju­nior, told China Daily, “Hong Kong is very im­pres­sive and ac­tive. And it is very sim­i­lar to many of the cities here.”

The group then flew to Fuzhou, where Xi once was a govern­ment of­fi­cial. The pres­i­dent also had vis­ited Ta­coma more than 20 years ago to help set up the sis­ter-city ar­range­ment.

Austin said Fuzhou is his fa­vorite city be­cause he be­friended Chi­nese stu­dents there. “My friends are friendly and smart,” he said.

In each city, the stu­dents were paired with teens at host schools. Many stu­dents men­tioned that in­ter­ac­tion as the fa­vorite part of the trip.

In Fuzhou, they vis­ited Fuzhou Ed­u­ca­tion Col­lege Af­fil­i­ated High School, at­tend­ing classes and min­gling with the lo­cal stu­dents.

“I met my part­ner Chong in Fuzhou, and he is amaz­ing,” said Alex Gil­lies, a ju­nior stu­dent. “He told me a lot about the city and his school and was al­ways ready to help.”

Gil­lies even down­loaded the WeChat app to keep in touch with his new friend in China.

The stu­dents also vis­ited the Chengdu Re­search Base of Gi­ant Panda Breed­ing on Oct 14. They got to see three adult gi­ant pan­das, eight panda cubs and a num­ber of red pan­das.

Ron Chow, one of the Amer­i­cans who helped or­ga­nize the tour, is co-chair­man of the Wash­ing­ton State Panda Foun­da­tion, which is try­ing to con­vince China to grant two pan­das to a west­ern Wash­ing­ton zoo.

Two zoos in the state, Wood­land Park in Seat­tle and Point De­fi­ance in Ta­coma, have ex­pressed con­cerns about the costs and care re­quired to sup­port pan­das.

Chow, who was on the tour with the Lincoln group, said he does not see find­ing spon­sors or the fund­ing to be a hur­dle.

“With all the multi­na­tional com­pa­nies and the wealth we have gen­er­ated in the Seat­tle re­gion, I re­ally think fi­nan­cially it should not be an is­sue,” he said.

Bei­jing was the last stop on the tour, and in ad­di­tion to the Great Wall and For­bid­den City, the stu­dents also vis­ited Tianan­men Square and Bayi High School.

Ju­nior Klarissa Lumsden told Xin­hua that “be­fore the trip, I thought this was a city with a lot of his­tor­i­cal sites (but) cold. But I was sur­prised by find­ing China a fas­ci­nat­ing place, a mix of an­cient and mod­ern cul­tures. I want to keep in touch with my new friends in China and come back to re­visit the city.”

To cap off the ex­cite­ment, the stu­dents re­turned home on a new Hainan Air­lines air­plane – a Boe­ing 787-9 Dream­liner – with a spe­cially de­signed livery fea­tur­ing char­ac­ters from the Kung Fu Panda film fran­chise.


One hun­dred stu­dents from Lincoln High School in Ta­coma, Wash­ing­ton re­turned on Tues­day from an 11-day trip to China that was ini­ti­ated by a per­sonal in­vi­ta­tion from Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping last year.

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