Park City students take China by storm | ParkRecord.com

Park City students take China by storm

Jared Whitley Of the Record staff

A group of Miners visited China in October, continuing Park City High School’s legacy of outreach and friendship to the People’s Republic.

PCHS Spanish teacher Martyne Stout led the group of 11 students. Vice Principal Janice Jones went too.

"It was nothing like I imagined it would be," sophomore Lea Anderson said. "There was always something to do. I learned a lot about the culture."

The group visited Shanghai and Beijing. A port city of about 13 million, Shanghai is more westernized than Beijing, China’s capital, where preparations are underway for the 2008 Olympics. Park City students climbed the Great Wall, visited monuments, visited with Chinese teenagers, and viewed a performance of the world-famous Shanghai acrobats. "It was really a mix: athletic, cultural, academic, artsy, music, and we traveled like crazy, we covered a couple thousand miles," Stout said.

Some of the students in the group are enrolled in Mandarin Chinese classes at Park City High School, but some didn’t have any language training at all. The visitors appreciated the Chinese hospitality. "I have never been treated better anywhere in my life when I’ve traveled," Stout said, noting, "The Chinese kids were just a hoot, their English is excellent."

The Park City students visited Beijing People’s High School No. 4, Stout said, which is the best academic high school in that province. "Our kids were pretty impressed when they went to classes," Stout said.

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Beijing students hosted Park City kids for two nights, "which is almost unheard of for Americans,’ Stout continued. To repay the favor, in early February, students from the school will come here to visit and live with Park City families.

Junior Victoria Kochanek was nervous because this was her first vacation where she didn’t know anyone, but that quickly changed. "I enjoyed most the Great Wall experience because it’s not only physically demanding but I also found it to be a point for spiritual growth," Kochanek said. "On the hike I really connected with a lot of the girls and through it all we made great friendships I discovered my ability to climb and conquer literally mountains."

In Beijing, which is also known as Peking, the group had authentic Peking duck. They ate the whole animal, including the heart, the tongue, and the webbing. Kochanek said the heart tasted best.

"It’s the most that’s considerably in the section of meat," she said.

Stout said, "I ate everything except the web and I just shoveled that around the plate until one of the kids caught me."

Anderson didn’t know anyone when she left, but "everyone came back as best friends." "Since it was so different, you depended on everyone in the group so much since they were the only familiar thing. It was like a temporary family," Anderson said. "I didn’t think people would click like they did." The experience was "definitely an eye opener," said senior Alex Hill. "Everything you can’t learn in books, you can learn in travel," Hill said. "Some of the dishes we ate were pretty gnarly."

Hill appreciated how friendly the Chinese were, and thanks trip organizers Val Chin and Shirley Smith.

Sophomore Ian Painter’s favorite part of the trip was the seven-mile hike along a section of the Great Wall. "It was incredible. It’s actually very steep. There’s no edges on it, like a railing or something," Painter said.

Chinese students aren’t much different from those in the United States, Painter said, and family structure is more traditional. "They’re not really (different). They’re more academically driven and less social," Painter said. "There’s usually only one kid and a mom and a dad. The mom stays home and cooks and the dad goes out and works." Kochanek suggests that anyone who has the chance for such a trip to take it. "The Chinese kids are great, they’re very smart," she said. "They can actually speak incredible English. For the most part everything is extremely accommodating." Contributing: Kendall Fischer, Dale Thompson