By Allison Ashley
Sonoma Academy and Beijing School Number Four have been friends for 11 years now. Every year our relationship with our friends from China grows stronger and we continue to learn from each other’s different cultures.
The exchange students from China recently arrived and stayed at Sonoma Academy for two weeks, as they have every year. They sat in on some of our classes and sang a Chinese song with the Mandarin students during community meeting. I was so impressed with the exchange students for getting up there in front up 200 new faces at a new school in a new country, without looking the slightest bit nervous. They even spoke perfect English. Every time I talked to them I was in awe with their impressive skills of mastering a new language. This was particularly interesting to me because not many people even thought twice when the exchange students had a conversation with an SA student in English, but when someone from our community attempted a word or phrase in Chinese, the exchange students responded with clapping, cheering, and bright smiles. You could really tell that trying to speak their language showed how much the schools’ friendship and bringing the two communities together at this special time a meant to all of us.
During the first week the exchange students were here I got to have dinner with them, which was an evening filled with many American traditions. The Chinese exchange students, the SA students attending the China trip over spring break, Janet, John, Ellie and Lisa Gardner all gathered at Chauncey’s house with his family for a wonderful dinner.
We started off the evening by teaching the Chinese students how to play pool while enjoying many American snacks that included grilled cheese, Chex mix, Fritos, lemonade, and deviled eggs. The yellow middle of the deviled eggs intrigued the exchange students because they have never seen them before. They continued to point and poke at the yoke until some of them finally decided to try it. For how strange it looks, they were very brave, and some of them even ate another.
They continued taking pictures of everything including the house, the food, the dog, and even us when we weren’t looking. We all then sat down for dinner at a long table in the living room with a red and white-checkered tablecloth and blue napkins, very American to fit the theme of the night. For our appetizers we were served root beer floats, an American classic. The exchange students were very confused as to why you would ever mix soda and ice cream together. Needless to say we all enjoyed them. For dinner we had a variety of American favorites: cheeseburgers, French fries, mac and cheese, and a wedge salad. And of course apple pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert, which we ate while exchanging emails. After dinner ended were we very full from all the great food and from the friends we had made.
In two months, seven other SA students and I will arrive in China for two weeks for our exchange program. I am very excited to experience all of the traditions and culture that they have in China, just like the Chinese students did when they came to our community. Hopefully it will be an experience I will look back on and remember that include life memories and experiences I never want to forget. Plus I can’t wait to see my new friends again.