Sadly, today was our last day in Hengshui!  We spent the day traveling around the city to various sites.
First we arrived at an elementary school and were given the option to learn Chinese calligraphy with the children, draw pictures or play with them outside.  I chose to go outside with the students along with some of the other Andover troops.  We thought it’d be a nice idea to hand out candy, but Hugh Smith’s entire jug of Neco wafers was gone in about 3 seconds. Mr. DiGloria, one of our chaperons, described the swarming around all of us as a scene out of the movie World War Z.  After I ran out of Andover pins and Neco wafers, kids started to hand me pieces of pen and paper.  I don’t think I’ve signed my name that many times in such a short period of time ever before in my life.  We all know what it’s like to be a celebrity now.
After I had signed maybe 100 papers, the children invited us to play with them.  Chris Lord, Mr. DiGloria and I took on 2 gym teachers and a student in 3 on 3 basketball.  The children circled around our court like there was a school yard fight going on in the middle.
We then were brought to the most interesting meal we’ve had in China yet.  In the center of each table was an almost volcano-like metal chute with boiling water collected at the bottom and the steam filtering out of the top.  Each table was brought different kinds of meats and vegetables to cook in the boiling water and several sauces to dip them in.
Next we visited an authentic Chinese snuff bottle museum.  Snuff bottles are intricate glass bottles that are painted on the inside.  One woman gave us a demonstration of how difficult it is to paint these delicate, detailed images on the inside of the bottle with only a tiny neck to fit the brush through.  They even had some novelty bottles with several American presidents painted on them.
After that, we traveled to a smaller village just outside of Hengshui.  The local village women taught us some traditional Chinese dances and in return we taught them the Cupid Shuffle.  Next we visited the local elementary school in the village where we were greeted with several performances from the children.
Before heading to Hengshui High School, we visited a farm that grew all sorts of vegetables.  Each plot of land had trees strategically planted on them because the roots help to hold down the soil during any extreme weather.
Finally we arrived back at Hengshui where we were grouped together with the students that would be coming to America in June.  We were taken out to dinner with their families and were given time to get to know each of them.
I think for many of us, today has been our favorite day in Hengshui.  To see the pure joy in each child’s face as we simply signed our names on little pieces of scrap paper was an incredible sight.  Each person we have met here has been genuinely interested in who we are and where we come from and it’s truly something I have never witnessed in America before.  China has made an eternal imprint on each of us that I hope I remember for the rest of my life because these people have shown us the utmost kindness and respect that only a king would receive in America.
We all knew this part of our trip would come to an end, but I think we never realized how much it would impact us until tonight when we finally said goodbye to the Hengshui students.  Hugs were given, hands were shaken and final email exchanges were made.  And as our bus pulled out of the gates leading to our beloved sister school, tears were shed by both parties.  We will head to Beijing for the second half of our trip tomorrow, and I am positive that what is in store will never cease to amaze us.  Keep reading to hear of our adventures at fantastic historical sites like the Great Wall and the Summer Palace.
By Zach Perry