Hawaii Global Links Newsletter
Hawaii Students Visit Asia!
Monday, 21 July 2008

High schoolers gain new perspectives on China and Taiwan.

“There is such a big world out there,” said Annie Tran of Roosevelt High School.

The “big world” that she was referring to was China and Taiwan. Tran and 20 other students have returned from a 17-day trip to cities that they had only dreamed about seeing in their lifetimes.


Students and chaparones at Tien An Minh Square:  first
row (L to R):  Melissa Goo (chapanone, Moanalua), Chelsea
Tran (UH Lab), Tien Austin (Kealakehe), Alyssa Nishihira
(Waimea), Judy Guo (Roosevelt), Lin Rui Li (UH Lab),
Natasha Chappel (PAAC Program Director).  Second
row:  Jennifer Quach (Campbell), Marcie Kagawa
(Aiea), Mitch Cadiz (Farrington), Leigh Ann Tangaro
(Campbell), Roger Shiu (Roosevelt), Annie Tran
(Roosevelt), Jessica Caraang (Maui), Richard Gima
(Lanai), Richard Kiyabu (PAAC Program Coordinator). 
Third row:  Tristan Lopes (Lanai), Kawika Keahiolalo
(Waiakea), Mallory Miner (Kauai), Liam Graham
(Connections), Marc Abundo (Kauai) and Malakhi
Reynolds (Radford).  

 “It would be hard to imagine any group of individuals from any country experiencing more than these Hawaii students experienced in little more than two weeks,” said Pacific and Asian Affairs Council (PAAC) Executive Director Jill Canfield. “Not only did they visit important sites, they had a very unique opportunity to interact with people of all ages—and learn a great deal from persons in responsible positions who are closely associated with China and Taiwan.”

The students came from 13 public high schools and participated in PAAC’s 5th Annual Summer Study Tour, from June 15 to July 2, 2008. Their travel and all expenses were paid for by the Freeman Foundation. PAAC’s goal for this program is to encourage Hawaii students to gain a first-hand understanding of the history, culture and current issues affecting the nation to be visited, and increase their awareness of the state’s position as part of America, the Pacific and the world. Previous groups went to China (2004), South Korea (2005), Japan (2006) and Vietnam (2007).

The timing could not have been better. In China, the students observed preparations for the 2008 Olympics, and experienced the nation’s impressive economic growth in even the most rural villages. In Taiwan, they learned that the March presidential election was expected to bring about considerable improvements in China and Taiwan relations.

How did they qualify for the Tour?

Students had to be enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in a public high school or public charter school, and be in good academic standing. PAAC gave preference to those who had participated in PAAC clubs or other international activities. In addition, PAAC wanted students who had demonstrated an interest in China and Taiwan, and who had shown maturity and independence. The ability to adapt to different languages and cultures was a definite plus. Financial need was another consideration.


Before the trip, team-building exercises at Camp

Before heading off to Asia, on June 8, the students stayed overnight at Camp Timberline for team-building activities. This was followed by a one-week orientation session at the East-West Center. This included lectures on China and Taiwan—both past and present. They heard about U.S. China relations, the Olympics and China’s political and economic development. They also learned journaling, as they kept a daily journal for the duration of the trip. In addition, they practiced hula, because spreading Hawaiian culture was an important part of the trip.

Another important part of the session was learning Chinese. They received an introduction to the language, which they continued in China with lessons at a middle school in Beijing. They later tested their ability with their “families” at home stays; with newly-found pen pal correspondents; and with students, waiters, shopkeepers, and many other people they met on their journey.


Mitch Cadiz from Farrington studies Chinese.

In China, the group traveled to Beijing, Guiyang and Shanghai. Highlights included visits to such familiar sites as Tian Anh Minh Square; the Forbidden City; the Bund in Shanghai and, of course, the Great Wall. They also enjoyed the Beijing Opera and a Peking duck dinner. In addition, they met with officials at the US Embassy and Reuters News Agency in Beijing and the Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.


On the Bund in Shanghai looking across at Pudong.


The students visit the Great Wall.

One memorable visit was to the Changping Practical Skills Training Center for Rural Women. The school has helped thousands of women from the poorest rural areas to receive training for jobs in the service industries. The PAAC students announced that they are continuing to raise money for future students’ entering the school. To date, they have accumulated more than $3,500 through sending letters of support, collections at schools and churches, and selling leis and food. It costs $120 for one student’s tuition and room, board and training materials for three months. A highlight of the visit was performing the hula for the women, who reciprocated with a Chinese dance.


Hawaii students teach hula to the trainees at the
Changping Practical Skills Training Center for
Rural Women.


Trainees from the Center join Kawika Keahiolalo.


Annie Tran (center) from Roosevelt, with new friends
from the Center.


Performing hula for villagers in Xijiang.

The students also stayed overnight with Miao families in Xijiang, a village near Guiyang in Guizhou Province. They visited an elementary school where they chatted with the students, exchanged dances and later played basketball together. The next day, they helped with weeding, carrying water and cleaning the streets. They then headed for Landge, a village about an hour away, where they were treated them to a traditional dance performance. The Miaos are one of China’s largest ethnic minority groups.


Inspecting the corn crop, while Wainane High's
Searider Productions film.


A villager in Xijiang teaches water-carrying skills.


Langde villagers perform a traditional Miao dance.

In Taiwan, the Hawaii students interacted with Taiwan students at We-Go High School in Taipei. For many, it was like visiting "old friends," as they had exchanged emails with the students before the trip. In Kaohsiung City, the group over-nighted at the famous Fo Guang Shan Monastery. Back in Taipei, they visited Longshan Temple and a night market, and met with officials from the Government Information Office; The Children are Us Foundation; and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, before taking in a building materials trade show. The following day, former Hawaii resident Greg Wong and his colleagues provided a briefing on the American Institute in Taiwan, where he is now the Chief of the Commercial Section.


Hawaii students (white shirts) on an outing with their
penpals (black shirts) from We-Go High School in


In monks' attire for an overnight stay at Fo Guang
Shan Monastery in Kaohsiung City.


At the night market in Taipei.


Sampling dim sum treats.


Hula at the TWTC International Trade Building
Corporation in Taipei.

During the trip, the students offered their impressions of their experience in their journals:

Marcie Kagawa from Aiea High School commented: "I definitely know that I would like to go back to China and Taiwan for extended periods of time to learn even more and enrich myself more. This experience opened my eyes and taught me that considering new, different experiences can lead you to the most amazing things."

Roger Shui from Roosevelt High School noted that: "Being immersed in the Chinese culture on the homeland has reinforced my decision to pursue Chinese studies or Asian studies as a minor. My mom told me that learning one's own heritage is very important, and I believe her, but I never found the right motivation to make me want to and enjoy learning Chinese. Now, I have found my answer."

Tran from Roosevelt thought that: "This trip has exceeded all of the expectations I had for it. We didn't just sightsee like regular tourists. We learned and met with government officials and made connections and got to the inside of everything. Because we listened to the briefings and asked questions, we were able to question ourselves and our previous ideas of China and Taiwan. Everywhere we went meant so much more, because we knew the meanings and importance of what we were doing."

Tran went on to say that "I will never forget my pen pal and all the good times we spent together. I never in a million years believed I would make such close friends while going around China and Taiwan. I've never felt so connected to the world before."

"I think the most important thing I gained was perspective,” Tran observed. “It finally hit me that there is such a big world out there. Seeing the tall skyscrapers and wooden houses made me realize that there are people like me out there who live in totally different ways, see life through completely different lenses. Although we are all in one world, under one sun and moon, we are all so unbelievably different yet so similar."

And Mitch Cadiz from Farrington High School pointed out that “The China that I was expecting is absolutely different from the China that I witnessed during the trip. The locals are hospitable with so much pride in their own culture, language and achievements. I can really see China today as a nation that is standing up again.”

The next PAAC Summer Study Tour will take students to Thailand in June, 2009. For further information and to read about previous trips, please visit their website at www.paachawaii.org. To read about previous trips, check out: www.paachawaii.org/travel.

Last Updated ( Friday, 01 August 2008 )
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