By: Rui Aguiar, `15
Today was the first day of the high school visit. The day started at 6:30, when everybody ate breakfast. I had yogurt, “delicious bread”, and a pork bun. Their cafeteria seemed nice and the food was good. The routine at the school seems a little demanding, though. After breakfast, they have to go to four lessons of 40 minutes each. They have five additional lessons after lunch, and a mandatory study session at night. Then they are back in their dorms at 9:00 at night. After breakfast, there was supposed to be a flag raising ceremony but it was canceled due to stormy conditions. Anyhow, it’s like a ritual that may convey a sense of unity in the school and loyalty to their country. In place of it, our group went to see the school’s museum, which had many things that I found interesting. They had a reconstruction of a farmer’s house and a giant map of Suzhou. They also had their own collection of ancient artifacts, some of which were made over 5000 years ago! When we finished with the tour, our group had a Tai Chi lesson in the gym. The master explained that Tai Chi was about focusing energy and using your and your opponents’ energy correctly. I did not feel particularly balanced with my energy when practicing it (my own fault, of course). After this, there was a short break, lunch, and a calligraphy lesson where we learned to write basic strokes and characters. The teacher taught us the correct order of the strokes using some examples like the Chinese words for “America”, “China”, “people”, “friend”, and “are”. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at copying his examples. In our final lesson of the day we learned to read notes in Chine and attempted to play the “Gu-Qin”, which literally means “ancient instrument”. The teacher said this kind of instrument is centuries old and some of the songs he played were even older. The music he played was relaxing and soothing. Music writing is very different here – you read from top to bottom and the scores give you directions about how to play the instrument instead of telling you specific notes. Finally, the group went into the city for dinner. It was a very modern part ofSuzhoucalled “Times Square” with new malls, restaurants, and stores. After that we went back to the dorms to conclude the day.