News Stories About Our Trip

Mr. Smith e-mailed the following stories to the Hannibal Courier-Post.

June 24, 2004 -- We gathered in the Eugene Field parking lot at 3:30 a.m., most of us ready to begin the 7,200-mile journey to Taiwan.

     I set the early tone of "anything can go wrong in real life" by forgetting one of my suitcases. It was packed full of gifts for Taiwan host families. My wife, Mary Eby, graciously volunteered to drive back to Quincy, Ill., at 3:45 a.m. to get the presents, but since she had been dropped off by her daughter, Mary had to borrow Principal Susan Johnson's car!

Eli paced the parking lot. Dianna and Dillan stood tense, but ready. Jeremy had been questioning whether he wanted to go or not, but made the last minute decision to go to Asia. JuWan stayed in his car resting a little longer, and finally emerged, sleepy but ready. Lashelle had need of some last minute fast food from Hardee's. Daija stayed near her mom's side, smiling and comfortable. Karley piled out of her parent's van, energized on only an hour's sleep. Jessica played around with her brother who wished he could go in her place. Dakota showed up fashionably late at 4:15 a.m. grinning, but a little jittery.

After a bumpy bus ride to the St. Louis airport, dressed in our matching red polo shirts emblazoned with "Eugene Field, Hannibal Missouri," we dragged our huge pile of luggage up to the Northwest Airlines counter. As a group we were large and imposing, but irresistibly cute at the same time. No one wanted to be in line behind us!

Going through 12 passports, luggage checking, and ticket stamping took quite a while, but the kids' patience and behavior were outstanding. After touring the airport, eating lots of snacks from our book bags, we boarded the 105-passenger DC9 for Detroit. It was a magic moment, the kids looking at everything, saying 'wow' or 'what's this do?'

Shortly, we were all chewing watermelon gum, the jet engines were whining, cabin pressure was increasing, and we were rolling forward. 'Oh my God!' came from one unidentified Hannibal youngster as we pitched upward sharply and roared off in the sky above St. Louis. 'Wow this is cool' from another and lots of giggling.

After a one-hour flight and a bumpy landing in Detroit, the kids emerged from the airplane as seasoned fliers, now having experienced takeoff and landing. Before getting on the 747 we passed out the travel journal to each student and they sat amidst the bustling crowds of the Detroit airport and recalled the first leg of their journey in words.

Now they were ready for the next step - the really big airplane that would take us from Detroit to Osaka, Japan, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, which carries over 400 passengers. This airplane astounded the kids with its size because there were 10 seats to a row! On board was like being on an ocean liner. When we were up and on our way, Daija asked if we were moving yet. Tells you how smooth that giant airplane was flying. Kids played, talked, slept, ate, and watched movies. About 12 hours later, we landed in Osaka, Japan. It was fun for the kids to see the islands below, but vision was a little obscured as we approached through a hard rain.

Then we got off the plane, we were rushed by security people through the process because our connecting flight had already been boarded and it was waiting for us. I had to remove my shoes as part of the security check, and a pair of scissors, which somehow overlooked by Detroit security, were discovered in Karley's book bag and the guards took them . At last after two more hours, and another interesting meal on an airplane, we landed in Taipei.

Immigration guys went through our passports one by one and made us do some paperwork about coming and going. Finally we were greeted by a great group of parents and kids holding signs with our names. The Hannibal entourage walked along a line as American celebrities with lots of other airport people watching and wondering who we were. One person thought we were a sports team.

We found our individual families and passed out gift bags to each; also passed out the kids' weekly spending money, which we had already converted into Taiwan dollars, then talked for a while getting to know each other.  Being exhausted, we were all ready to go, so we split up and went to our respective homes for a good night's sleep. My wife and I met Deffeny and her Mother Joy Chen. We stepped out in to the warm, thick night air of Taipei, got into Joy's car, and were driven up into the mountains south of Taipei. We found ourselves in a beautiful house with private room, a small office and computer, and our own private bathroom. Joy told us we weren't far from the school where we'd begin our educational adventures tomorrow morning. It was 1:30 a.m. Taiwan time (but 12:30 p.m. Hannibal time).

June 26 - Saturday morning.  My wife and I awoke to an incredible mountain view from our bedroom window. Our home stay hosts served us a Chinese breakfast of sliced pears, sprout sandwich, a corn dough pastry, and milk. Then we were off to Cambridge which was only about 10 minutes away. Joy and her daughter Deffeny took us to school to begin the first day. Other Hannibal students were pulling up in front of the impressive mountainside school when we arrived. Jessica was just getting out of a Mercedes Benz, and Daija was unloading her things from a Cadillac SUV. We were escorted to the theater room by smiling teachers speaking to us in Chinese. There we saw the other 30 Cambridge students and the other Hannibal students. First were the introductions. Using a microphone, one of the teachers brought Dillan Trujillo to the stage. He explained he was from Hannibal and his favorite thing to do was to play on his Xbox. Then students in the crowd had the opportunity to ask questions of Dillan. Most questions were about speaking Chinese or "Do you have a girl friend?" Lots of giggling and laughter.

We did another icebreaker exercise of forming four teams (which we would be in for the remainder of the two weeks), and creating a name for our teams as well as performing cheers. Groups were set up such that Hannibal kids were dispersed among Chinese kids in four groups of 10. Some of the kids were a bit shy at first, other acted like this was just another day and bonded immediately with their pals. Eli Smith said, "It's just the way I am. I'm friendly. I love to talk." His pals Reggie and Gene (the Chinese kids have all adopted western first names) sat on either side of Eli for much of the morning.

Then came lunch and the big test: Could the Hannibal kids really use chopsticks? The answer: Of course they could. They'd been practicing for some time in Hannibal. Only one or two needed a slight reminder of how to hold the chopsticks. We ate curry vegetables, spicy rice, cabbage, pork and a chicken leg.

After lunch it was basketball time on a rather unusual basketball court. The court was a fenced-in portion of the rooftop which gave all players an amazing view of the mountains while they were driving for the basket. Also, the kids had their first real sense of the intense humidity this time of year in Taiwan. Shirts were sweat soaked in minutes but the play continued. We all came in for a cool down and lots of water, then the big kung fu dance rehearsal began. Angel Teng, the coordinator of our stay, led the group through the kung fu motions. She told us that we would perform this dance for all of the parents and teachers of Cambridge when we had our farewell party.

The day continued with swimming in the huge indoor pool. At one end I supervised relay swimming races, while at the other end, a water polo game was under way. After a while, we switched groups, then it was free time in the pool. Something different about swimming with the Chinese kids was that everyone, including the Hannibal kids, wore swimming caps and goggles - pool rules.

Kids did some team building exercises, then we went out for an evening nature walk, while two huge barbecue grills prepared our dinner. On the walk we saw beetle habitats, water lilies, fish in small rock ponds, lots of Chinese flowers bushes, bamboo and many more plants. Frogs hidden under water plants croaked at us during the entire walk. We came down the mountain back to school the kids had some time on the sporting field to play before the dinner was ready. They played soccer, badminton, frisbee, and dodge ball. Before dinner a small snack was served - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Students lined up in front of a small table where a teacher stood ceremoniously making small peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then the cooked food was served: Grilled tofu, fish rounds, pork, various sausages, green peppers, and chicken. Kids drank apple juice, oolong tea, and 7-Up. After the barbecue, we concluded the evening by performing American folk songs, then had a late snack of cookies and cold, sweet green bean soup. A few Hannibal kids tried the soup, but it wasn't quite what they had in mind to go with their cookies.

Finally bedtime and all the kids were ready for it. This was a school sleepover night - boys in one room, girls in another, all sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags. I got chaperone duty for the boys, and Mary covered the girls room. Sometime very late in the night, the last student fell asleep. Now it was my turn to try falling asleep on the hard wooden floor. No problem.

June 27 Sunday  – Kids didn’t begin began stirring about in their sleeping bags until about 7:30 AM. Adults who also slept on the floor awoke much earlier! Kids put all the bags away and  then took the elevator up to the 5th floor to exit onto the sports field for morning exercises. Angel, Mary, and Eli led the group in bends and stretches and slow sweeping arm movements. Next all were asked to do two laps around the 400 meter track. In the humidity, we were all quite hot after the laps and ready to come back inside for breakfast. 

After having some water, kids gathered in the cafeteria for an American-Chinese breakfast. First kids were served cereals like Fruit Loops and Sugar Pops. We were all waiting for a special Chinese restaurant to deliver our breakfast, so to use the time kids were involved in various games. Kids were playing cards, thumb wrestling, arm wrestling, playing find the spoon under the bowl, and a telephone word game. Then the food arrived. Kids were given two round dumplings, one with meat inside, the other with vegetables. All the Hannibal kids tasted their food, but Daija, Dillan, Lashelle, and Dakota really liked them. To drink, the kids had a cups of warm, sweet soy milk.

Although the room was full of 30 Chinese kids and 10 American kids, it was impossible to tell any nationalities as they chattered at their tables through breakfast – kids are kids. It was almost time for the big scavenger hunt to begin, but first we needed to take a group picture in our new Cambridge t-shirts which everyone was wearing.  We got into our four groups, nicely in line, then all promptly disintegrated into one large crowd scrambling out the front door to find a good picture location. All locations are good picture places at this school.

To help the Hannibal kids become familiar with the layout of the school, there was a scavenger hunt. Kids in groups of 10 had to locate 25 items or objects, take digital pictures of some, and bring some of them back to the final scoring area. Among the items on the list were: get a signature in Chinese from an adult, hand-measure an elephant ear plant leaf in the nature area, find a bush that rhymes with Lizzy, and locate certain aquatic plants and bring back photographs.  The temperature had climbed to the high 90’s so kids drank a lot of water before boarding the air-conditioned busses to go to downtown Taipei for a real American lunch: McDonald’s! The bus ride  from the mountainside school was all downhill affording the kids spectacular views of the mountain valleys. As we curved around the mountain Dakota Fogle called out, “Look there’s Taipei 101!” Rising above the distant cityscape was the lone structure, the tallest building in the world. We found that we could see it from any location in Taipei.

The busses finally reached the bottom of the mountain and we were at once immersed in a hustle-bustle world unlike any we might encounter in Hannibal. Bicycles, motor scooters, electric cars, taxis, big trucks, tiny trucks, carts, going in every direction it seemed and with little regard for traffic rules. The motor scooters were particularly interesting to several Hannibal kids. At a traffic light, 10 to 20 scooters would line up, many with 3 people on them, and many of the people wearing scarves or dust masks over their mouths and noses. We noticed that everyone was wearing a helmet, except children – local law does not require children to wear helmets. When one of the Cambridge teachers told Eli Smith about this, Eli replied, “That’s kind of a stupid law, isn’t it?”

But most kids’ thoughts were not on the traffic of Taipei, their thoughts were on the comforting destination we were approaching. At last, some saw the McDonald’s and a small cheer went through our bus.  We parked on a busy city street and stepped off the air-conditioned bus into a wall of heat and humidity, almost enough to take your breath away. The two story building was the biggest McDonald’s we’d ever seen. We went in and climbed the spiral stairs to the upper level on where we had a huge space reserved for  the Cambridge and Hannibal kids. The only thing between us and the city of Taipei from the second floor of this giant McDonald’s was a glass wall. Kids ate hamburgers and fries while the life of the city passed below.

After lunch it was time for a yearly event in Taipei called the  Dragon boat races. A Dragon boat is about 25 feet long, something like a canoe, with room for two men on each seat. At the front is the carved head of a dragon and at the rear is the dragon’s tail. A rudderman sits at the rear, a flagman at the front by the head. Between the head and tail are 16 oarsmen. The boats ran in heats, two at a time along the river, while crowds of local people and Hannibal kids cheered for their favorites.  Faces on kids were beet red this day – with temperatures nearing 100. Finally the heat and fun were too much and it was time to leave. We walked a few blocks to a park area where we were met by the parents of the Cambridge kids. Wasting no time, the kids climbed into air-conditioned cars, tired and ready to go home and rest.

June 28 Monday -- Lessons

     Monday began with me teaching Missouri history to ten Hannibal kids and 33 Chinese kids. We had a very well equipped lab room with large screen and projector for the PowerPoint lesson I’d prepared. Chinese kids were quite interested in Osage Indians, Joliet and Marquette, the Louisiana Purchase, and Lewis and Clark.  The fact that America bought the entire central part of our country from Napoleon was amazing to them. “It was a bad deal for Napoleon,” called out Lawrence Wu, a 10 year-old Cambridge student.

Kids moved from history to art the Cambridge art room.  It was a bright, long narrow area with windows on two sides lighting a row of art tables.   After putting on green smocks to protect their clothes, a Chinese teacher led the kids in creating a gray water color wash design. Kids were to look for patterns within the painting and add other colors or lines to bring out whatever they saw. Then they pasted the whole thing onto a colored background paper.

How do Chinese kids know how to eat western style? Once each semester, all classes have a formal lunch with teachers and Mr. Chang, the principal. Here they use forks, knives, and spoons. They place napkins on their laps, use a butter knife, and have a toast at each table. This is all in keeping with the school’s goal of being bilingual and helping its students integrate with western society as they all mature and move out into the world.

Hannibal students were a part of the formal lunch and they all did quite well with their meal of pork cutlet, sweet potato salad, broccoli, roll, and butter – no chopsticks. During the formal lunch, I presented Mr. Chang with a gifts sent by Hannibal School Superintendent, Jill Janes. She sent a beautiful volume of the life of Mark Twain and a Hannibal School District information brochure. In addition, she sent a letter of thanks to Mr. Chang for helping to bring the Eugene Field students to Taiwan.

After lunch, I drew names from a hat and three Hannibal kids were selected to compete in a dictionary competition on stage in the big Cambridge auditorium. Karly White, Daija Dean, and Jeremy Ledford were brave enough to accept the challenge. Five teams were on stage. In each team, two kids worked the dictionary and the third was assigned the task of running to a drum and banging it when the word was found. As the competition progressed, Hannibal held onto second place for the first few rounds, then moved into a tie for first with only eight words remaining. It was a fast and tense competition, and it ended with Hannibal placing an admirable third.

After a short break, it was my turn to teach again. In one of the science labs, I taught a lesson on adhesion and cohesion of water molecules. We all did an experiment using water droppers and estimated how many drops would fit on a Taiwan coin. The lesson was scientifically interesting to the Chinese, but slightly challenging as many science words had not been used in their English lessons. Hannibal kids served as co-teachers and helpers for this lesson.

Speaking Chinese - Finally, we came to the last class of the day – Chinese. The Chinese teacher was most impressed as she first asked the Hannibal students to speak some of the Chinese phrases they already knew. Here are a few examples of Hannibal-Chinese.  JuWan Holland said, “Wo yao chow fan.” (I want fried rice.)  Karley White said: “Qing wen nin gui xing? (What is your name, please?) Dianna Davis said: “Ni hao ma? (How are you?) and Daija Dean said, “Wo she wan ni?” (I like you.) and Jeremy Ledford said: “Qing wen ce suo zai na li?” (Where is the restroom, please?”) On that note, so ended a very busy Monday in Taiwan.

June 29 -- Taipei City Hall is an enormous building of marble and granite, with a multi-story atrium from which tropical vines are draped over five floors of balconies. Besides housing the mayor and the city government, it also contains the museum of Taipei and Discovery Center, a multimedia display of Taiwan’s history.  Up on the 5th floor was the office of Mayor Ma.  We waited in a room with Chinese sculptures and paintings for about 10 minutes. The, there Mayor came into greet us. An English speaker, he greeted and shook my hand, and I told him how much the children were enjoying being in Taiwan. Next I presented Mayor Ma with the Key to the city of Hannibal which Mayor Hark had sent along with us. Mayor Ma was very curious about the key; he took it our and turned in it his hand examining it. I explained it was a symbol that all doors in Hannibal were open to him. He joked and said, “Do I get 10% discount on Hannibal shopping?” I told him no, he gets 20%!  Mayor Ma then greeted all of the children. He stooped down and spoke with Lashelle Buchanan and she began her famous giggle, and told him that she was from Missouri. Although very busy, the Mayor of 2.5 million people took the time to pose for pictures with all of the children in individual groups.

Then it was time for the history lesson. Kids were greeted by a guide who immediately began speaking in high-speed Chinese. Hannibal kids were outfitted with portable information devices with headphones to explain in English. But unfortunately, some of the devices only played Chinese, so our main teacher managed to find an English speaking guide for us. The Discovery Center was a circular room which rotated slowly while lights and films displayed in many directions all around us. The most impressive part was when the images were tectonic plates crashing together millions of years ago, volcanoes erupting, and masses of rock and mountain rising from the sea. Volcanoes exploded in our ears and oceans tides roared as though we were at the scene of the creation of Taiwan.

 Taipei 101 was our next stop. This structure is nearly 1700 feet tall, currently the tallest building in the world. Although the exterior is finished, the interior is still under construction. “Wow!” said JuWan Holland craning his neck backward to see the top of the building. A few kids wanted their pictures taken, but this meant I had to lie on my back on the hot stone and have the kids lean over me to try and get this incredible building and a kid’s face in the same frame.

 Our next destination was lunch. A short bus ride later and we  were having  boxed Chinese lunches at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial. Sun Tat-Yen is regarded as the Father of Taiwan. In the shade of upward curving roof overhangs, kids ate sushi (or at least tried it), a chicken leg, a roll, and a lemon cake. In the background, as always, was Taipei101, the world’s tallest building.

Hot and tired, kids boarded the busses for the trip to the Taipei Water Park. After calling roll on the bus, they were released into the playland of fountains, spraying water, swings, tube slides, and many more ways to cool off on a hot Taipei afternoon. I sat in the shade of an umbrella with my video camera taking it all in.

June 30 Wednesday -- Shaun Corrigan, a teacher from South Africa with a strong British speaking style, conducted a lesson on Chinese explorations of the world back in the time before Christopher Columbus. After describing some of the Chinese sailing crafts within the context of the lesson, Mr. Corrigan assigned the class to build their own boats. All sorts of materials were brought into the room: styrofoam blocks, cardboard cartons, large sheets of art paper, small pieces of origami paper, chopsticks, packaging tape, yarn, fishing line, plastic sheeting, and color markers. Giving no instructions or details, the groups set out to sort out the materials and build a boat – a real boat that would sail on water and be ready for an afternoon competition.

Most boats were completed when we were all asked to go to the gymnasium where Cambridge was having its end of the year awards ceremonies. We watched children from kindergarten through sixth grade receive awards for art, for high math scores, and for top English speakers and writers. At the conclusion the Hannibal group was asked to come up on stage in front of the whole school. I spoke a few words of greeting in Chinese and then introduced my wife Mary, and each Hannibal student: Eli Smith, Dianna Davis, Daija Dean, Dillan Trujillo, JuWan Holland, Karley White, Lashelle Buchanan, Jeremy Ledford, Dakota Fogle, and Jessica Gollaher. They smiled and waved as the crowd applauded at the sound of each name.

When we left the stage, we stepped outside for a quick Hannibal group meeting. Everyone had heard about the typhoons coming toward Taiwan, so I wanted to have a meeting to make sure all of the kids felt safe and understood the weather situation. We basically discussed the typhoon as similar to the intense thunderstorms that roll through Missouri all summer long with their hail, lightning, high winds, sheets of rain, and sometimes tornadoes. We knew from weather reports that this typhoon was likely only going to be a lot of wind and rain. I think the kids handled the information very well, so we went into a computer lab and everyone sent email home to parents to assure that all was well in Taiwan. Then we went on with our day, which had a beautiful blue sky overhead and warm winds gusting in from the typhoon a few hundred miles to our south.

Back to the boats – it was time to test our creations. We climbed the steps behind the school up to the nature area. One of the science ponds would serve as our nautical race course. Boats were tide to thin fishing lines and  taken upwind in the pond. A teacher on the other side did a dramatic countdown and then boats were off. Like a cheering crowd at a horse race the kids were urging on their teams, when Mr. Corrigan suddenly toppled into the pond! It turns out that it had all planned for dramatic effect by Mr. Corrigan, and the kids all really enjoyed seeing the teacher splashing around among the boats. Many were asking permission, without success, to jump into the pond with him.

Kids had a water break and a quick snack, then it was back into the classroom for a lesson I taught on American festivals and Holidays. Using the big computer projections screen, we went through the major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day, then spent a little more time on the quirky American traditions like Ground Hog Day and April Fool’s Day. Ground Hog Day was by far the most entertaining part of the lesson for the Chinese kids. The loved seeing pictures of Punxsutawney Phil, but has a little difficulty in understanding the weather prediction abilities of a ground hog.

We ended the day with some physical activity by practicing our Kung Fu dance again in the theater room. Tired, the kids collected their backpacks and headed outside to catch a bus, meet a parent, or walk home.

July 1 -- We had planned on going to the Jin Shan beach, but the typhoon changed things slightly. Though it was not very strong, it still had lots and lots of rain to spoil any good trip to the beach. So we rearranged our schedule and went to the Taipei Zoo instead. Everyone came prepared for rapidly changing weather: sun, quick shower, gusting winds, stillness and intense heat, showers, and so on. We had umbrellas up, down, up, down, and raincoats on, off, on, off all day long as we toured this wonderful big city zoo. Hannibal kids had seen many pictures already of this zoo so it was extra fun for them to identify actual locations within the zoo. Highlights of the zoo were the Penguin House, Amphibian House, African Animals area, and the zoo gift shop where the Hannibal kids used their Taiwanese money. You can buy a can of soda for $50, a T-shirt for $200, sunglasses for $280, and a candy bar for $25. One US dollar is equal to about 33 Taiwan dollars.

For lunch we walked from the zoo to a Ponderosa steak house – but like the McDonald’s we had been to earlier, it was the Chinese version of Ponderosa. Buffet style, there were noodles, exotic fruit (papaya, guava, mango), fried rice, gelatins and custards, chicken and pork dishes. There was also a very popular section (to both the Chinese and Hannibal kids) with French fries, spaghetti, and fixings for tacos.

The rain was pouring down again when we returned to our busses to go to a Chinese bowling alley. The school had reserved 12 lanes for us at the Bowling Palace. And it did look like a palace on the outside. The entryway was through four large columns, and the top of the building had giant stone bowling pins on either side of a stone elephant. Our lanes were on the second floor. Once we’d changed into shoes, the bowling began and that’s when we observed that our Chinese friends didn’t go bowling much. Mist did not know that a bowler gets two balls. Chinese students would roll their first ball, then step aside for the next person the roll a ball. Hannibal student were quick to offer their expertise on this matter, although some of the Chinese kids only smiled politely and continued bowling only one ball.

At the conclusion of  bowling, we all received the news that Friday classes would be cancelled. It was called a “typhoon day,” very similar to our snow days in Hannibal. The typhoon was expected to rain and rain and rain on Taipei and blow with some heavy winds, but not much more in the north. Typhoon Mindulle  crossed the southern part of the island, then changed course and traveled slowly up the east side of the island, but by the time it reaches the Taipei vicinity, it had been down graded to a tropical storm, and it had  drifted out into the Pacific away from the Taiwan coast. The south end of the island was not as lucky. There was loss of human life in a farming area and substantial property damage. Hannibal kids said they’d seen much worse storms in Missouri!

July 4th Sunday -- Today the Hannibal kids are finished with their first week of home stays; it’s time to move to the next Chinese family. We decided to make the change on the 4th of July so that we could have a celebration as children moved from the first family to the second family.  Parents and students came in out of the 97 degree temperatures into the cool air conditioning of the Cambridge Concert Hall.  We brought a large American flag as a gift to the school and this was attached to portable white board for all to see. Chinese and American students wore sparkling star garlands on their head. Each child had a small American flag.  I explained to parents why we celebrate the 4th of July in the United States, and also what the stars and stripes stand for.  I said that Thomas Jefferson’s words – “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – were the foundation  words of our government. Then the Hannibal kids led the crowd in saying the pledge of allegiance to the flag. This was very important to the Chinese people of Taiwan because many believe that Taiwan should be a country independent of mainland China.  

After the pledge, it was time for an American 4th of July parade. With the booming sound system of the concert hall playing marches by John Philip Sousa, Chinese and American kids marched around the outside of the hall, in line two by two waving their American flags. And what parade is complete without candy? We brought lots of different kinds of American candy that is not readily available in Taiwan such as Tootsie Rolls, Nerd Ropes, Baseball bubble gum, Sixlets, and Smarties. In addition we passed out American pennies, nickels and dimes.

Now it was time for the second big part of the day – the exchange from one family to the next. Ms. Angel Teng provided each Hannibal student with two roses. One rose was for the mother of the family the student was leaving, and the second was for the new mother. Hannibal kids present their new host families with gift bags from Hannibal. Each student was given a warm round of applause by all.

The ceremonies were concluded treats provided by Cambridge School. We had several kinds of Chinese pastry with sweet bean fillings, as well as small white cakes with icing. Tea and juices were served as parents and students mingled. Gradually, the room began to empty and soon all of the children had moved on.  The remainder of Sunday was devoted to fun with the host families: exploring the new home, riding the train, visiting the markets, experiencing Taiwan.  Chinese and American teachers cleaned up the remaining candy on the floor and put away the food.  There was a general sense among the teachers that we had just achieved a huge accomplishment.

July 5th Monday -- In two busses, we traveled down the mountain to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial in Taipei. This monument is in an area also shared by two national concert halls, enormous buildings with pagoda style architecture.  Students stood in silence as we observed the hourly changing of the guard at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. Two military guards stood at either side of a 40-foot tall statue of the former Taiwan leader. In stiff military marching style, an officer escorted two new guards to relieve the ones on duty. The guards moved slowly with exaggerated stepping motions, gloved arms alternately extended and then snapped to their sides. Rifles twirled and orders were barked until the exchange was made. Carved in Chinese above the leader’s stature were the words: science, ethics, and democracy. Once they were in position, the guards were motionless and must be so for one hour until they are relieved.

Students saw many historical items, artwork, and photographs inside the memorial, but were most impressed by the shining, black 1954 Cadillac used often by Chiang Kai-Shek.  After a stop at the gift shop, we moved on to the Presidential Palace to take pictures. Visitors are not currently allowed in the palace because the President had been shot and wounded before the last election.

The  Guo-Yuan-Yi Museum was next – this was a Chinese wedding and cookie museum, as well as a commercial cookie company. The Americans in the group were surprised that there would be a museum for cookies and weddings and even more surprised when we were met on the street in front of the building by two wedding cookie men with a huge drum to welcome us.  Inside we climbed five flights of stairs, and came into a long room with rows of metal kitchen work tables. It was time to learn how to make wedding cookies. Kids used two kinds of dough: a white dough and a reddish brown dough (sweet red bean paste).  Dianna Davis showed me how to rub white flour on my hands, then roll both pieces of dough into separate balls, then she then she folded the smaller reddish brown dough carefully inside the white dough. Next Dianna pressed the dough into a plastic mold, then rapped the mold sharply on the metal table top and the newly formed wedding cookie plopped onto the table.  When the group had made about 200 cookies, the cookie teachers collected them all for the oven while our group of 40 went on a tour of the wedding museum. Students saw traditional red Chinese clothing for the bride and groom and many symbol of good fortune and long healthy life.

One interesting thing we learned about the wedding ceremony is that when the groom slips the ring onto the bride’s finger, the bride bends her finger so that the ring will only go onto her finger part of the way. The reason for this is to show the groom that the bride will not be totally controlled by her new husband. We also learned that wedding invitations are always sent in red envelopes.

After the tour, the cookies were done! The results were wonderful, Most Hannibal kids ate a few of their cookies and the rest were put in bags for the bus ride back to the school.  Our trip to the wedding cookie museum ended as it had begun, with the pounding of a large drum outside in the 98 degree heat.

July 6 Tuesday   -- After yesterday’s Taipei outings, it was back in the classroom today and time for the Americans to teach again. Food USA was the first class of the day taught by Mary Eby. Mary explained the origins of peanut butter, iced tea, ice cream cone, popsicles, potato chips, Coca Cola, tollhouse cookies, chewing gum, and TV dinners. Chinese students have a fondness for American food and listened  closely. “Bill, a particularly active and vocal Chinese boy, exclaimed, ”Peanut butter, yeah!” and extended two thumbs up in approval. 

Many students were shocked to learn that Cocoa Cola once contained cocaine, but Eli Smith was quick to point out that “It just happened like that. A long time ago a guy was trying to make medicine and he invented Coke by accident.” Mary also discussed foods that were native to America such as the “Three Sisters” foods: maize, beans, and squash. The Chinese students had many questions in the lesson about cake walks, lemonade stands, and chili cookoffs. Working in groups with the Chinese kids, the Hannibal kids wrote down their favorite foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, at  sporting event, and at a holiday. Then the Chinese kids took turns reading the responses. To follow up the classroom lesson, Mary conducted a cooking lesson. With buttery hands, students formed popcorn balls using brown sugar syrup made right before their eyes. The popcorn balls were rolled in clear plastic and set aside. Then it was time for chicken burritos. Students had to cut the tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and cheese and make the salsa for the burritos. We had so much extra chicken that we offered it to other Cambridge teachers and staff at their lunch time. As one Canadian English teacher assembled a giant burrito, he remarked, "Now this is something you don’t see everyday in China. You Americans are showing these kids some foods that they’ll be asking for when you’re gone. That’s good – means more burritos for the rest of us!”

Another lesson for Tuesday was American weddings. Some of the Hannibal parents had loaned me wedding albums and photos which I scanned and used for the lesson.   Using a PowerPoint presentation, I started with my own wedding in New Orleans, then a picture of Eli’s brother’s wedding in Hannibal, followed by Karley White’s parents wedding, and concluding with Dillan Trujillo’s parents wedding. Each set of photos had a picture of the bride and groom putting wedding cake into the other’s mouth.  Ten year-old Lawrence Wu  thought this was quite an odd custom, and he said “It is like feeding the baby!”  We showed the kids the tradition of tossing the bridal bouquet, then Mary passed out gifts to the children that had been donated by Lasting Impressions, a wedding shop in Quincy. Students were given small silver bells and tiny bottle of blowing bubbles.  

 I taught a science lesson on forces and flight for the last part of the day. After using Hannibal kids and Chinese kids to demonstrate balanced forces by pushing on each other’s hand, we talked about how pressure under an airplane wing causes lift. Then the kids constructed airplanes from straws and circular bands, and we were all off to the balcony overlooking the gym to compete as teams in a flight distance contest.

No day is complete without Kung Fu dancing, so the kids went through their routines again guided by Cambridge’s swimming coach. Kids chopped, punched, and kicked away the last minutes of the day until time to go home. Dakota Fogle, having had martial arts lessons in Hannibal, showed her karate moves and impressed the Cambridge students.

July 7-8  -- This was a day all the kids had been waiting for: going to the beach at JinShan. Everyone met at school 8:00 AM with bookbags packed with swimsuits, towels, toothbrushes, sunscreen, caps, a change of clothes, and cameras.   But before we could board the two busses – Kung Fu dancing practice! But it was different this morning, because we had a local children’s celebrity helping out with the activities. A large young man with jet back hair and a great smile named Fay Fay (the fat one) led the group in Kung Fu dancing. Fay Fay had three other helpers with him and their jobs were to be our guides and activity directors for the beach trip. Fay Fay spoke only Chinese, but he had an assistant who spoke okay English. 

On the way north to the beach, we stopped at the Taiwan Aboriginal Museum where children learned about the first inhabitants, 7000 years ago, in Taiwan. The Aborigines of Taiwan are comparable to our Native American Indians, but with a much longer history. JuWan was astounded to learn that aboriginal boys were required to build a special canoe before they could become a man. This meant cutting the trees, doing special carvings, building the  canoe, and painting the special colors on the canoe using colors from ground up sea shells and earth. Since these people were headhunters there was one other unpleasant tak that boys had to do before becoming a man. The kids replied: “Eewwwwwww! Headhunters!”

After an hour’s drive Hannibal kids witnessed the Pacific Ocean for the first time in their lives. Freighter ships were moving off shore as we approached the JinShan area. Mountains were all around us sloping down to small gardens and sandy beaches. Our busses stopped in front of an enormous castle-like building, the headquarters of the JinShan Youth Activity Center. Since our rooms weren’t ready yet, we all went inside and and stood in line at the restrooms to change into swimsuits for that first dip in the ocean. Fay  Fay and his helpers served as our lifeguards. “You do not go past Fay Fay,” said Fay Fay’s interpreter. The guides waded out into the ocean and formed a marker line beyond which no children were allowed. In addition, a lifeguard carried his metal stand out to where we were swimming, so in all we had 5 lifeguards watching us.

After the ocean, we checked into our rooms. Kids stayed 7 to a group in air-conditioned dorm rooms, very large rooms with bunk beds and a TV.  Dinner was at 6:30 in the dining hall: rice, vegetables, fried minnows, bean curd, fish and pork. On a fast moving schedule, we were soon done with dinner and headed back for more water action, but this time in the hot springs spa.  The spa had about 7 different pool areas connected by little arch bridges.  This was not the Hannibal public swimming pool – it was a natural spring fed area of hot mineral water, temperatures around 95 degrees, and reputedly very good for the skin. Kids didn’t seem to be bothered by the warm water and splashed away the remaining energy left in their bodies.

After the spa was a very special event – Sky Lanterns. This is a Chinese custom for making wishes. On large paper lanterns, probably about 4 feet tall, kids wrote wishes for themselves and for their families. Some examples: “I want to be rich!” “Please take care of my grandmother.” “I wish for happiness and friendship.” A wick inside the lantern was lighted, then children held it until warm air filled the inside, then it was released into the night sky over the Pacific Ocean. The lanterns were incredibly beautiful as they rose flickering in the sky. A lantern that goes high and flies far means that the sender’s wish will come true. Many wishes came true that night.

Time to sleep. Although 10:30 was supposed to be lights out, rumors at the breakfast the next morning indicated that some 10 year-old party kids had been up until 2 AM.

Tuesday morning we had a traditional Chinese breakfast of soupy rice, green beans, rolls, and an egg and pork mixture that looked like scrambled eggs. Hannibal kids did try most of the food, but they were noticeably pleased when the Chinese teachers pulled out a big box of Frosted Flakes and several containers of cold milk. Other activities during the day included making snake cakes over an open fire, as well as getting a lesson on Taiwan snakes and even touching some very large snakes. A few Hannibal kids were quite afraid of the snakes, but all came forward when the were offered the chance to touch the biggest snake of all.

Fay Fay led the group in practicing their Chinese Friendship song and the Hannibal kids sang their Missouri Mining song.  Another wonderful day in Asia came to an end as we climbed back onto our big busses to return to Cambridge.


July 10 -- Yesterday we toured the Taipei Children's Activity Center. This was part amusement park, part Chinese history with lots of old Chinese building to go in. Also saw string puppet show and kids got to try out shadow puppets. Box lunches with Green gourd juice to drink. Kids rode a few rides then we were off to the Taipei Planetarium, an incredible place. Kids saw gigantic planets, rode a space capsule ride, saw an giant screen IMAX movie about
capturing a comet - while wearing translating boxes. Had about 45 minutes free exploring time in the planetarium.

Back at school it was time for the farewell dinner and party. Barely had time to change clothes because we arrived back at school at 6:60 and the dinner started at 6:30. We had dumplings, fried rice, shrimp, a potato dish, spinach, pork, chicken, egg rolls, ice cream, Chinese cakes, and several juices to drink. Kids did a secret pal gift exchange after dinner (called Master and Little Angel).

Next we went to the main auditorium and each Hannibal student spoke to the whole crowd on a microphone saying his or her favorite place, activity, and food, as well as thanking the host families and the school for being so nice to us.  Then speeches: the Mr. Justik and Miss Clark spoke about what the kids had shared and learned. Mary talked about the all the memories the kids would have from this trip and thanked everyone. I talked about the origin of the project 2 years ago when we did the World Problems Internet project with Cambridge. I thanked the Cambridge on behalf of the Hannibal School District for helping our students to have this once in a life time opportunity. The principal present Mary and I with farewell gifts, also a gift for Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Janes.

The Chinese kids all came up on stage and thanked their parents for allowing them to attend this international summer camp and many said how much they would miss their new American friends.

Hannibal kids sang our Mining Song, then all of the kids sang "Stand By Me" then all did their Kung fu dance. Finally, they sang a very soft Chinese song of friendship. Parents in the crowd waved colorful glowing sticks in the dimmed auditorium lights. Gift bags were presented to all of the students and the hugging began. You could say there wasn't a dry eye in the house. The Chinese mothers were very protective of our children and most were crying when they hugged the kids goodbye. Our kids were crying also.

The time here was indeed short. The returning Hannibal kids see the world with different eyes now. We'll be home soon.

'World travelers' return

photo: happenings


JuWan Holland hugs his mother, Annora Holland, after he returned from a trip to Taiwan Sunday with other classmates. After exchanging letters throughout the school year, the Hannibal students had an opportunity to visit their pen pals.

(C-P photo/Bob Greenlee)

Eugene Field students complete trip to visit pen pals in Taiwan

Of the Courier-Post

After a 15,000-mile, two-week journey to Taiwan, 10 Hannibal students who just completed fourth grade flew home Sunday for an excited reunion with their parents.

Their bus arrived (from Lambert Field in St. Louis) at 8 p.m. at Eugene Field School Elementary, where the students were in Terry Smith's fourth grade class. The school principal, Susan Johnson, reported their one-hour delay resulted from a flight delay.

The students' trip was planned after they became pen pals with students at the Cambridge Bilingual School in Taipei, Taiwan.

After declaring the trip was "incredible," Smith said, "these kids left here as small-town children and came back as world travelers."

Among the returning "world travelers," Dillan Trujillo explained he had expected to use chopsticks throughout the visit and was surprised to find the people there also had forks. And they had spoons, he added, "for juice in their soup." His favorite food was fish.

Each student was given $100 in spending money, with each American dollar worth $33 in Taiwanese currency. Dillan bought a robot for his brother, Gabe, and two turtles for his mom. He also bought a live fish, which he had to leave behind with his pen pal.

Dillan said if he knew someone going to Taiwan he would advise, "it's really hot. You need a lot of sun tan lotion."

Lashelle Buchanan was surprised to find the students in Taiwan go to school at 10 a.m. and stay until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Among new foods she tried were squid and clams, but she did not plan to eat them again.

Eli Smith enjoyed the water-related activities, such as swimming in the school's indoor pool, where he discovered the Taiwanese were good swimmers. His favorite event was going to the ocean beach, and after that they went to a natural hot springs, he said. Rice was his favorite native food.

JuWan Holland, the son of Annora and Daniel Holland, was relieved to be home before his baby sister was born. Annora explained the baby is not due for eight weeks, but JuWan did not know that. She expressed appreciation to Smith and his wife for taking the students on "a trip of a lifetime," adding that Smith is an excellent teacher. "They've learned so much about nature and other cultures."

JuWan's favorite memory was going to Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world. (This office building is 1,667 feet high.)

The students also included Dianna Davis, Daija Dean, Karley White, Dakota Fogle, Jessica Gollaher and Jeremy Ledford.

Terry Smith said the "world travelers" have traveled so far that although it was evening, "our bodies think it's 7:30 in the morning."

Smith added that one of the highlights of the trip was presenting the mayor of Taipei a key to the City of Hannibal. Dillan also was excited about that, and said he met the mayor, and the first president of the country, but he added he did not meet the president in person - the president was a statue.

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