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The Top of Shanghai, by Ernest Charles

I can’t believe we were the first ones to go to the Shanghai Tower out of any of the CSP participants! It was amazing. We were all so excited, even the adults were as excited as the kids. But, before I tell you about the tower itself, I must tell you about leading up to getting there. It was our first day in Shanghai. We just finished settling in at the Astor House Hotel after which we met in the lobby before heading out to lunch. We walked around the corner from the hotel to a bar and grill called the Red Elephant. It was nice. After lunch we went back to the hotel briefly to get ready to go see the Shanghai Tower and the famous Shanghai night scenery along the Bund. The Bund is a place of historical buildings from many countries lining the Huangpu River that once had lots of banks and trading houses. At first, it was a British Settlement and was later combined with the Americans too.

After we walked across a bridge on the opposite side of the street from the hotel to get to the Bund, we stopped to admire one particular tower called the Oriental Pearl which I initially thought was the Shanghai Tower. Its construction started on July 30th, 1991 and was completed in 1994. It was the tallest building at one point. Following the brief pause, we walked across part of the Bund for a quick second to get tickets to hop on a ferry to get to the other side of the Huangpa River. After we got off the ferry, Ms. Durdin asked someone for clear walking directions on how to get to the Shanghai Tower. When we got to the tower, we stood outside to take some pictures of the wording that flashed colorful lights diagonally across the tower vertically starting from bottom and going to the top. The moments to take pictures and wow at the tower didn’t last too long before we went to get our tickets. We were inside before we knew it going through security, and a museum display of the world’s tallest towers. This was a nice section and especially the mini show about the Shanghai Tower; it was quite flashy. The construction of the Shanghai Tower started on November 29, 2008 and ended on September 9, 2014. Finally we found our way to the elevator and patiently waited our turn. We went up in two groups. I thought the elevator would go really fast passing each of the 127 floors, but it actually went really fast to the level of Observatory and museum on the 118 floor. Some of our ears popped on the way up as we watched the monitor show how fast we were going and which floors we passed. We made it to the top in about 55 seconds. This elevator is claimed to be the fastest in the world. It was a spectacular view up at the top. There were also binocular machines to view the scene of the Bund through as well. It rained that day so it was cloudy, but we could still see the amazing view. I also found some really interesting things in the museum. There was this one simulation called the breaking glass simulation where this screen beneath your feet started to crack and then break so you can see all of the Shanghai night below you. It’s wasn’t that scary to me. Our next stop was to the gift shop. It had everything ranging from Shanghai Tower metal models or Shanghai Tower water bottles in the shape of the tower and everything else from A-Z. It even had a postal station to mail written postcards right in the gift shop! I filled out two cards and mailed them in the huge round red post box. After we left the gift shop, I thought we were going to leave, but we stayed and took group photos, and individual photos in an area that captured all the flashy lights you can see outside on the street level. It actually made it feel like it was the holidays with all the lights and calmness. I think we even bothered a woman who was sitting by the window in a complete daze zombie like state. I wonder what she was thinking about.

Finally, we left the Observatory Deck to go back downstairs. As we got off the elevators, I started to get hungry. I waited for the other group to receive instructions from Ms. Durdin about dinner. I was really happy when she gave us a hundred RMB to spend for food. As we finished eating, I thought to myself that we are a very lucky group without us even knowing it that we were the first CSP class to visit the Shanghai Tower. Soon, we were back on our way to the ferry. When we got to the ferry dock, there was a big surprise for us, the ferry already closed. Ms. Durdin asked the guard to point us in the direction of the subway station and we rushed down the street to get to the subway before it closed as well. We all made it in time. I believe we were on the last train though. After we got off, I was so very happy we made it to the other side of the river. The question in my mind was “What were to happen if we didn’t make it”…

Once again, it was a very nice outing. Thank you Ms. Durdin!


Astor House Hotel, by Isabel Pruitt

When we arrived in Shanghai, for our last weekend in China, we went straight to the hotel. Ms. Durdin said that we would stay in her favorite hotel in all of China, and that she had stayed there when she was in college, and that the architecture and history were an important part of China to see. This hotel, the Astor House was the hotel where we spent our final days in China, and it was a great way to end our month long adventure.

            The Astor House is in a perfect location. It is right around the corner from the Bund and you can see Shanghai’s beautiful city lights from the windows. Not only is the hotel in an awesome location, but also it is very beautiful. The lobby has high ceilings and a big chandelier. The architecture was European influenced, so there are a lot of chandeliers, big staircases, a lot of wood, large European paintings, etc. Since it was so beautiful and massive, my roommates and I went exploring in the hotel. We found a cool wooden staircase with mirrors all over the walls. The banister looked like a slide, and I was so tempted to slide down it! I didn’t do it because I wanted to leave China with a full set of teeth, and unharmed. We also found a small, narrow staircase that lead to more rooms. However, the ceiling was lower and we found a locked door that let you access the roof. The hotel is very interesting and it seemed to have an endless amount of hiding places.
            Some people’s rooms were on the fourth floor, including my ours. When my roommates and I walked out of the elevator, we were surprised. Our room was on the balcony of a quad. Down below us was a large open area with old-fashioned streetlights and wooden benches. It was really cool, and we had a great time sitting on the benches and having fun.
            Our room was HUGE. It was by far, the biggest room we’d ever stayed in on the trip. There was also an American movie channel on the T.V., so we enjoyed watching Frankenstein and Harry Potter. Along with the large room, the Astor House had a very good breakfast. They had everything from fruit to pastries to dumplings, yummy! Also, breakfast was in a “ballroom”, so it had big round tables and a stage at the front of the room. Unfortunately, there was no entertainment to be found.
            When it was time to pack up and leave the Astor House, I was sad. Not only were we leaving a really cool hotel and city, but we were also leaving China. The Astor House Hotel was a fun and interesting place to stay for the end of our China Trip, and I definitely will come back in the future.

My First Visit to China, by Debra Bryant (CSP chaperone)


I was more than elated to learn that I was the staff member selected to chaperone the 2017 China Summer Programme (CSP) for Wesley International Academy. There was no question in mind that I would respond to an interoffice email addressed to all faculty and staff welcoming everyone to apply to the program. Aligned with the student application process, potential chaperones were also expected to complete an application, write a statement of interest, and obtain recommendations as well. It reminded me of so many times in the past when I was applying for some program that would take me somewhere other than wherever I was at that time. Without haste, I quickly began the process to apply for a chaperone position with CSP.

I didn’t quite know what to expect although I was privy to some of the wonderful experiences of the past CSP classes after attending their assemblies. On the other hand I was totally open to whatever the journey would bring and not worry about a thing. It was hectic leading up to the great adventure because I had to plan ahead for my job and home life. Talk about CRAZY. It wasn’t necessarily easy or convenient to leave the country the day after school was out either, but that’s life sometimes. I had not slept much in the days leading up to our departure so the very long plane ride was not so long to me because I slept most of it away anyway. Only the student I sat next to during the long ride can tell you about how little time I spent aware of what was going on. I did manage to wake up to eat though.

The minute we landed and deplaned to the tarmac to get on a bus which took up to the terminal quickly reminded me of my days in West Africa. I knew then that China would probably be quite similar and it certainly was.

My experience in China was phenomenal. I savored every moment of the 30 days allotted me. I took advantage of all heightened senses one factor at a time. The students often heard me say “open your eyes and see”. Every site and place visited, every class attended, every meal enjoyed, every step taken during long walks, every stair climbed throughout, every means of transportation from here to there, every shopping moment, everyday life chores of laundry, going to the ATM, getting up and being to class on time, and every push to rise to each occasion accordingly was a moment to SEE. I realize they didn’t understand me at the time, but maybe one day they’ll remember and have an epiphany of the message I tried to share.

I love people so I was no stranger to many who stopped to ask questions. I had the pleasure of meeting a woman from Thailand who happen to live across the hall and three doors down from me while doing laundry one evening. She allowed me to borrow a clock one Skype night since my phone and computer were being used by students as they communicated with family; she also provided me with some cookies that are eaten with tea from her country. I was indeed a nice gesture and I appreciated the cookies. I had the moment to meet a woman from Pakistan in the elevator who stayed on the same floor as our girls. She always seemed to be rushing to get to class on time. I had the opportunity to chat extensively with a gentleman from Sri Lanka who just completed a book translating the basics of Chinese to his own country’s language. He was actually waiting on this number from the Library of Congress. During tea in one of the campus Cafés called Behind the Screen, this gentleman shared his book with Ms. Durdin and me. He mentioned that he wanted to ask the Nanjing University for permission to mention the school name in his book. We strongly encouraged to go and ask and that all they could so is say no. Not only was he allowed to mention the school, he was encouraged to apply for a grant that would help pay for his publishing fees. The university was highly impressed and quite happy about him writing a book in a year. Ms. Durdin and I were the first to learn of his good news. We even met two former students who both graduated from Wesley. One joined us for dinner one evening. It was also nice talking to Fulbright Scholars from the US who worked in middle schools as well. Interesting enough, I even saw two people that I know well from a prominent family in Nigeria being interviewed on CNN World Business Traveler as I was in my Shanghai hotel preparing to go out for the day; that was very exciting for me. So as you can see, there were so many people from all over the world to see and experience and I loved every moment.

The biggest joy was helping to mold the CSP students into internationally traveled individuals, meaning young people with a real life experiences away from home, school and their country; meaning young people who will know how to function away from home who now have the unique opportunity to being more prepared for life than most of their classmates and age mates in general. The lessons were many and quite mundane from some if not all but one thing is for sure they were exposed to life that only those who walked the same shoes can appreciate or ever know. One day each of them will also know just how meaningful and important this opportunity was for them at this point and time in their lives.

The China Summer Programme is a classy, well planned, well executed, and enlightening, opportunity. This is a top notch international program second to none that I have experienced thus far. I am grateful for this experience and more than pleased that I was afforded the time to be a part of such a wonderful program. We had a fantastic group and I am hopeful they learned a lot. Words cannot truly express how awesome Ms. Durdin and Ms. Zhang are with the students and how well this program is run. WELL DONE!


Saying Goodbye to Nanjing, by Conner Crenshaw

On the last night in Nanjing, the first thing we did that evening was go to our dorms to change into our formal clothing for graduation.  Then we met at the 2nd floor of the building where most of us lived the majority of the trip.  On the 2nd floor there was a restaurant where we had our graduation dinner.  Our teachers from our Mandarin classes at Nanjing University were also there with us and had dinner with us.  After our graduation dinner we got our certificates and our final grades at the restaurant.  Ms.Durdin gave them to us.  She said we all did a great job and did great as a group.  Then, we went to Happy Lady, our favorite snack shop, and we all bought ice cream.  After we were done with our ice cream, we had to finish packing up our belongings into our suitcases.  Mrs. Bryant came around for room check to make sure everyone was packed up and ready to leave pretty early in the morning to go to Shanghai for our last weekend in China.  The last night in Nanjing was my favorite night there because it showed us what we had accomplished in our classes and we got to celebrate with each other and our teachers from Nanjing University and our leaders from WIA.  And, of course, we had one final fun visit to Happy Lady, everyone’s favorite place!  I hope to go back to Nanjing sometime because it feels like a second home to me now.


The Great Wall, My Great Adventure, by Natasha Pietak-Walsh

When I was little, and beginning to learn Chinese, we would frequently discuss the Great Wall of China. It always seemed like such a crazy dream to be able to travel all the way to China, and to hike the famous Great Wall. That is why hiking it this Summer was a momentous occasion for me.

When we were about five minutes from the entrance to the wall, we began to see it. We all pulled out our cameras and began taking photos of the beginning of the right side of the wall, still in shock we were about to climb it.
When we got there, we bought bottles of icy water and took before-drenched-in-sweat selfies with Ms. Durdin. We then walked up the entryway where there was what seemed like a mile of small shops selling the same stuff, and trying to attract the tourists. Store after store had miniature great walls, “I climbed the Great Wall of China!” shirts, and binoculars. None of us got anything, but the whole entrance experience was amusing. Next, we approached the entrance and swiped our tickets. We all were quiet during the process still trying to realize “We are about to climb the GREAT WALL OF CHINA”.
All of us split into groups for who we would climb the wall with. I got into a group with Dylan and Inez. We all slowly walked up the steepest stairs in the world, and then saw the view. It was breathtaking [and i mean that literally considering how many steps we had to hike just to reach the 1st/1000 small watch towers]. The mountains were rolling for miles, and the blue and green horizon was beautiful. The hot wind blew in our faces as we posed for picture after picture. The three of us watched in glee thinking about how much hard work it took to get here.
After gazing, we eventually began to stroll down the steps and make our way to the next tower. We stopped a couple times to get our Kinder Egg “son” Einsteinium, in front of the Great Wall, as a joke among us all. Then we walked and walked up the steepest steps ever, some an inch in height, some a foot and a half. We made it to the next tower when we all began to huddle up for best friend and group photos. Then, we asked some locals to take a picture of the three of us (Dylan, Inez, and me) in Chinese and felt really accomplished! While hiking the Great Wall, we were able to communicate in the language that brought us there!
We all met up and hiked back down the wall. While driving to our Peking Duck Dinner, all of us were still amazed we hiked one of the seven wonders of the world. We’d done something most don’t get to do in a lifetime, all while under the age of 15.

The Big Climb; China’s Great Wall, by Ernest Charles

The closest that I have come to scaling a steep hill or little mountain during this program is on The Great Wall of China. I say this because I love climbing. Our trip to The Great Wall was very fun. Before we started the walk (which I called a climb), Ms. Durdin, the director of the China Summer Programme (CSP) laid out a few ground rules; 1) You had to be with two or more people, 2) We couldn’t leave any group members behind, and 3) “DO NOT BUY ANYTHING ON THE WALL!!.” She believes that items on the wall such as souvenirs like medallions and statues cost too much money. Ms. Durdin was really strict about those rules. She even made us read the safety notice from the Great Wall security. When we got to the beginning of the wall, Ms. Durdin said we can only go left, not right. The first group I was in was with some of the 6th grade boys, Evan, Dakota, Adian, and Conner. Later, Evan and I broke off because the others were going too slow. A few minutes later, we joined Anson and Abigail (later Abigail broke off to join the other girls). As Anson, Evan and I were walking up the wall, I started to look over the side to see how far down it was. It only appeared to be about 10 feet down. There was also a walking trail. The Wall was made of really old rock and stone. It had stairs that could be one to two inches thick and even at least a foot in some sections. The stairs could also be very crooked and uneven at any time during the climb. The Wall was made a couple of thousand years ago to keep Northern invaders out. Some parts on the Wall felt like we were climbing stairs straight up, at least a 45 or more degrees angle, while other parts were weathered down stone that was smooth and very steep. You could refer to the Wall as an old fashioned military base because there are arrow holes and lookout points all over the Wall. The three of us went as far as the wall security would allow us, which was to about to the 7th Gate. The Wall was blocked off by signs, guards, and gates. There was a little huddle of guards by the gate to let us know that we definitely could not go any further. Oh, by the way, the GATES are basically like little towers on the wall. So we passed through seven towers. After we found out that we could only go to the 7th Gate, we started to head back down and tell the rest of the group the news. About 15 minutes later the entire group started to head down while taking group photos by Ms. Durdin on the way. It was easier to get down the wall because you weren’t going up at a steep angle.

Soon after The GREAT Wall climb was over, we were on our way to Ms. Durdin’s birthday dinner. Dinner was delicious. After dinner, the restaurant employees, insisted Ms. Durdin eat noodles for her birthday. The reason why they did that is because it’s a Chinese tradition. In the tradition, the Chinese say that if you eat noodles on your birthday, then it will grant you long life. Overall the trip to the Great Wall of China was very fun and beautiful. This was another fun filled touring day with CSP.


My Visit to the Orphanage, by Taino Andino

While in China we did many things, but the orphanage meant the most to me.  Ms. Durdin told us the day before we went to visit the kids that they were not as mobile as us, and that they all had mental or physical disabilities. She also said that they would be close to our age and that they had lived in the orphanage their whole lives. When we first arrived at the orphanage we were greeted by one of the caretakers. She took us to the fifth floor and we met the kids. It was strange at first because both CSP kids and the residents were nervous. I was especially nervous because I have never worked with disabled people before.

After we warmed up to each other we had a blast. Some of the things we did were dancing, playing cards, drawing, and much more. I played with a little girl and we drew pictures together. When we left you could see that they enjoyed playing with us. It made me feel good seeing them happy. When I get get back to America I want to visit more orphanages. I am blessed that I was able to experience for a short period of time what it is like to interact with children that have disabilities.

-Taino Andino


Suzhou’s Tiger Hill, by Marlie McConnell

After we were given the opportunity to tour SSIS (Suzhou Singapore International School) in Suzhou, we took a bumpy public bus to Tiger Hill which turns out is a protected historical site with a large tower at the top. During the bus ride to Tiger Hill, I fell over multiple times and caught myself on my roommate Mikailah’s seat.  Even just as we walked from the bus stop to the center of Tiger Hill, I already found myself lost in the breathtaking views as we passed a beautiful bridge and stream.  Along the sides there were white buildings with red terracotta tile roofs. Clothes hung from lines on each porch drying in the summer heat.  A giant ding ( a traditional Chinese pot seen all over China’s ancient neighborhoods) with deep crevices stood in the middle of pathway along the way to Tiger Hill.  There were less buildings, bikes & cars unlike our normal Nanjing neighborhood.  As we passed through the gates, we met two wax statues whose jobs are to protect the most beloved Tiger Hill. Throughout the hilly walk I took lots of pictures and had a lot of pictures taken of me.  The stone pathways had beautiful stone artwork with moss creeping through the gaps acting as a  seam holding the stone masterpiece together.  One of my favorite things was the circle arches in each doorway which made for a great picture. I enjoyed imagining what this place would look like with markets and people swarming around centuries ago.

Once we got to the tower at the upper most part of the hill, I took lots of pictures and we hung out around the tower. I noticed after a while the tower was slightly tilted.  There were many more tourist gathered at the beautiful tower than on the walk up.  No wonder, as it is in my opinion the coolest part. After a while we decided to head back down. We went a different way than the way we came up where we saw a temple with large golden statue and a shrine with a Buddha.  We also passed a green stream with lily pads and a large rock, laying sun burnt in the middle.

We crossed a stone bridge, with no railing across the stream and observed statues and Chinese characters carved into thick stone blocks of marble.  The rest was much newer and busy.  We walked back past the wax guardians, across the beautiful river and back on a bumpy street to a bus that took us to the subway station.  What a beautiful day that was. I am so lucky to have gone to Tiger Hill.


Suzhou Singapore International School, by Ernest Charles

The Suzhou Singapore International School is probably the largest school I have ever seen.  It was an IB school just like Wesley, but better.  To be honest, I was really jealous about their gyms compared to ours at Wesley.  SSIS had two gyms, one for the primary school and one for the secondary school.  The primary gym looked bigger than the secondary gym.

I think the school’s extra-curricular activities run well because the students are not tied up after school for hours at the end of the day.  They are done with their activities within an hour. SSIS also had a huge track and field.  I love the way they are going to redo the field by re-paving it blue.  The swim room is pretty cool too because it very big, has several entrances, hosts competitions and they have lots of banners all around the pool.  The school even has a kiddy pool.

My favorite part of the school was the chalk wall and the green room.  I especially enjoyed the green room because it had a special wall that can project different images or holograms.  An example of a green room is on Channel 2 Actions News Storm Tracker, they are able to show the storm tracker screen for the US in a similar room.  My other favorite part of the school, the chalk wall had a special paint that could be written on with chalk and erased with a chalk board eraser.  It was so nice.

Overall I admire SSIS and I wish that I could go there because it has more variety.  I like the theatre, the green room and all the choices in cafeteria. SSIS is a very nice IB School.  It shows more cultural aspects of students, has a wide selection of international activities and has very nice classrooms. I wish I could go to school there because I like everything at the school.  It would help me understand more about other cultures, their religion and what life is like for them from day to day.

I hope other Wesley International Academy China Summer Programme applicants can see the similarities and differences between Wesley and Suzhou Singapore International School.  Visiting this school has opened my eyes and helped me realize the possibilities that are out there in world.



Yu Hua Tai and the Birds, by An Chi Nguyen

One of the very first days we arrived in Nan Jing, we went to Yu Hua Tai!  When we arrived we got our cameras out immediately.  The temple was gorgeous.  There was a tall statue, a pool of water, and the national anthem carved into stone.  We took pictures of them all.  I also liked the atmosphere because it was very peaceful.  Although we went because we were visiting the temple, I remember the birds the most.  Yes, I just said birds, I know if sounds a bit silly, but they were absolutely my favorite part.  There were wild doves and pigeons.  The doves were beautiful.  There was one area with a huge amount of them where they had all gathered.  This was because a local Chinese lady was selling bird seeds to people who wanted to feed the birds.  Inez and I decided to buy a bag.  The second we walked into the area we had birds fly all over us.  They flew on our arms, shoulders, and heads.  Thank goodness I had a hat on!

After a while multiple birds had come and gone but one bird stayed until the end.  I told everyone it was my new friend.  Following leaving the birds, we climbed the temple where we were able to shop around, but even better, we were able to see the city from the top.  The sight was breathtaking.  We were able to walk all the way around on all sides of the temple and could have a 360 degree view of the city.  Although there was city noise, it felt very quiet up at the top.  While being up there I also bought two necklaces and earrings.  Overall the temple was such a joy and I wish I could go back; from the birds in the air to the views from the temple, it was all such a wonderful experience.