Indo-Chinese Student Exchange (October 2014)
It is said that sometimes, the journey itself matters more than the destination. If the flight from Kolkata to Kunming proved anything, it was that the only important word in that saying is 'sometimes'.
The flight to Kunming, Yunnan, was full of mixed feelings: apprehension at staying in another country, eagerness to meet old friends, anxiety about staying without parents and siblings but at the same time, anticipation in what was to come.
The flight landed at Kunming Airport on 12 th October,2014 . There, the students were received by their host families. Most of them were old friends, having been acquainted during the visit to India. However, some of the Chinese students were new, having been called to replace old partners who had to leave school for various reasons.
Wanting to make the most of the seven day trip, the students from Birla High school went shopping on the first day itself after a short rest. A street market was visited, and gifts for a multitude of various relatives bought. They had a small brunch at Starbucks, before returning to their respective partners' homes.
The students went to Kunming No. 8 High School on the second day. The first thing that caught their attention was a huge, electronic board on the main building, probably used for announcements and the like. On it, in huge red letters was flashed the welcome note “Kunming No.8 warmly welcomes the Indian Delegates from Kolkata ” . They attended the first period, after which they were taken on a school tour and eventually to the Conference Hall, where they received a warm welcome from the Vice Principal. Every student was gifted a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The gift from Birla High School and Sushila Birla Girls' School-a painting based on Rabindranath Tagore-was also given to the Vice Principal. This was followed by a short visit to the school museum where photographs and copies of noted school personalities, achievements and relics are displayed. These included a scroll in Chinese calligraphy, a list of all the teachers and heads of the school and, in an amazing disp[lay of efficiency, the painting both schools had gifted only minutes ago in a glass display case. The students were then taken to the lounge into the rest room where they had lunch. After a quick session on training in Chinese traditional fan dance and a visit to the gym, the students were taken to an Indian restaurant where they had dinner. This concluded the hectic first day in Kunming No. 8, Kunming, China.
The third day was a bit more interesting. After attending the first period, students were taken to the art room where they were taught how to make blue and white porcelain, a craft that China is famous for. Students were taught how to brush the dust off cups, mark figures with pencil, paint over the lines with glaze, and dip it in a special liquid that would form the shiny outer shell once the cups were heated. The entire process took around two hours. The cups would need to be heated in a furnace for another nineteen hours. After lunch, they were taken to the Conference Room again where they were taught elementary Chinese. Students learnt how to draw characters for the words 'sun', 'moon', 'tree' and 'forest'. Finally, they were taught how to recite a famous Chinese poem, one that every Chinese child knows by heart. In keeping with the practice of saving the best for the last, students were taken to a Wushu class, a form of Chinese Kung fu. There they were taught a series of basic techniques of Wushu and sword fighting. A quick visit to the various clubs in the school followed next. The students visited the Music Club, the Korean Club, and the Dance Club.
On the fourth day, students were taken to the Animal Museum, where they attended a discussion on endangered species, namely primates, by a famous animal conservationist. Students were encouraged to ask questions after the presentation. On returning to school, they went to the art room again, this time to make clay sculpture. Every single student of Birla High made one sculpture that remained with the school as a memento in remembrance of the visit of the Indian students.
The fifth day was a fun filled one with a trip to the famous Kunming Stone Forest. The students spent the better part of the day there looking at the magnificent rock formations and even trekking to the top of one of the peaks. After a short picnic at Naigu Stone Forest -in the valley of flowers-the students had dinner in an Indian restaurant and went home.
The sixth day was the busiest, since the students from BHS and SBGS had to prepare presentations for the farewell that was to be held on the same day. The day began with the students making posters and presentations on endangered species simultaneously. The farewell programme was extremely eventful, with lively and entertaining performances by all the schools, Chinese and Indian. Notable performances by the students of Kunming No. 8 included two dance performances, a song and a duet by two extremely talented musicians. The highpoint of the show undoubtedly was the Chinese folk dance put up by the Indian students. The dinner that night was hosted by the teachers of Kunming no. 8.
The last two days of the trip included local sightseeing, visit to places of tourist interest and shopping at the many malls of Kunming.
The group left for the airport in the evening of 21.10.2014. The airport lobby was a touching sight of parting friends exchanging good bye wishes and promises of future such get togethers.
The exchange programme did indeed meet its optimum potential-the participants returned enriched with an improved understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture and the Chinese education system. The enhanced awareness is sure to help expand the global perspectives of both students as well as teachers and positively impact the quality of education in both schools.