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Cultures merge as Chinese students spend day at Rainier High

February 4, 2018

RAINIER, Wash. (AP) — Monday was a typical day at Rainier High School — except for the 18 visiting Chinese students and teachers.

The guests, who come from the sprawling city of Xi’an, have been in Oregon since Jan. 26 and stayed until Friday. After spending the weekend visiting Portland, Seattle and Longview, they sat in on Rainier High’s classes Monday morning, each Chinese middle school student partnered with a Rainier leadership student.

“I feel like it’s really enjoyable,” Rainier student Jack Richardson, 17, said of the experience. “You get to learn about someone else’s culture, ask them questions about what’s different between here and there. It’s really cool to meet new people in general.”

The Chinese students, all from the Xi’an University of Science and Technology Affiliated Middle School, communicated with their Rainier hosts using a smartphone translation app called WeChat.

Two Chinese students — Zhang Qiyin and Li Jiashu, both 13 — said they enjoy many of the same things as their American counterparts, such as movie franchises like Harry Potter and Iron Man, and basketball stars like LeBron James.

Li Jiashu is an athlete himself: He plays basketball and ping pong “very well,” according to his English teacher Hao Jing.

This is the second year that students from China have visited his school, said Co-Principal Graden Blue.

“Our kids have become accustomed to having Chinese students with us,” he said. “Even though there’s a language barrier, you see a lot of hand gestures trying to communicate, and the kids seem to be responding well to that process.”

Hao, 30, who also worked as a translator for the students and other teachers, said the group enjoyed their time in Seattle, but she was shocked at the low prices when they visited the original Starbucks in the Pike Place Market.

According to Hao, a cup of coffee in a Chinese Starbucks is 60 yuan, or about $9.49.

“In America, you just pay four dollars for a cup of coffee; I think it’s too cheap,” she said, laughing.

After spending the morning sitting in classes, Rainier’s middle and high school students met the Chinese visitors at an assembly. Each student gave a short speech describing themselves, their interests and favorite U.S. experiences.

“I like listening to the music and (eating) the food of America, such as pizza and chips. They are very delicious,” said one young Chinese boy. “I love the people of America because all of them are very friendly. I also love the environment of America. The air here is fresh and there are many trees.”

China has struggled with air pollution, particularly in major cities like Xi’an. According to Newsweek, a 328-foot air purifier was built in the city to help combat smog.

Another student, who said his English name is Jack, joked about the language barrier, saying, “My favorite subject is English, but my English is not very good.”

The assembly included lessons in which Rainier leadership students and Chinese teachers give brief lessons about Chinese culture and the history of Xi’an, which is best known for its “army” of hundreds of life-sized terracotta warriors and being the ancient capital of multiple Chinese dynasties.

At one point during the presentation, the middle school’s P.E. teacher, Cui Zhilin, showed off his high-kicking martial arts moves, wowing the American students.

The principal of the Xi’an middle school, Li Xiaoping, gave a speech at the end of the assembly. She thanked Rainier Superintendent Michael Carter and Co-Principal Melissa Sandven for organizing the event, and brought up the Northwest’s natural beauty as well.

“I am very surprised that the sky is blue, the water is so clean and the mountain is so beautiful,” Li Xiaoping, through the translation of Hao, said. “The air here is transparent, and I’m most surprised at people’s consciousness of environmental protection. This is what we need to study.”

Hao added that she felt welcomed by Rainier’s relaxed, friendly feel.

“I’m very honored to be here with all of you to exchange (cultures) and study,” she said. “These days, I have experienced American life with my host family. They are very friendly and warm, just like all of you.”

Rainier will send 11 students and four chaperones to Xi’an in March as part of the exchange. During the assembly, Carter said he hopes to repeat this exchange every year for the foreseeable future.

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Information from: The Daily News, http://www.tdn.com

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