'Same wishes'

Exchange program teaches CIS instructor China, U.S. are similar

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It wasn't what Annie Stehlin expected.

Before her recent trip, she thought China was a brash, uncaring country.

"They are a very generous, very polite people," Stehlin said. "They have a wonderful culture."

Stehlin, a fifth- and sixth-grade physical education teacher at Craig Intermediate School, presented a slide show to students Friday about her one-week trip to China last month. Stehlin attended the 2006 U.S.-China Joint Education Conference through the People to People Ambassador Programs.

"I just got a chance to go to places I never thought I'd get to go," she said.

Stehlin stayed in Beijing and was able to visit other places in the country during her visit.

During her limited free time, Stehlin visited a Dalai Lama temple, where she spun a prayer wheel.

"I got goose bumps," she said.

Stehlin said she was amazed by the Great Wall of China.

"You just stand back and your jaw kind of drops because you just can't believe the size of it and the amount of people and years it took to build it," she said.

Stehlin said she was impressed with the Chinese people's lifestyles. She noticed exercise parks throughout the city and the tendency to eat healthy foods.

"When we were treated to meals by them, we ate a lot of fruit and a lot of vegetables and a lot of what I hope was chicken," Stehlin said.

Her tour guide joked that there are two kinds of dogs in China -- lucky dogs that are pets, and unlucky dogs that end up in the soup pot.

On a serious note, Stehlin said Chinese people eat everything they can. Food is in high demand in the country, which has a population of 1.3 billion.

"Nothing goes to waste," Stehlin said. "They'll take everything they can off the bone and actually suck the marrow out of it to get all the nutrients."

Stehlin said her trip opened her eyes to China and education.

"It took me a week after I got back to really process everything I went through," Stehlin said.

People to People was established by the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a way to foster peace by allowing members of two different cultures to interact and understand one another's cultures.

Through the program, educators can learn how teachers from other countries operate. Stehlin said about 300 teachers attended the conference.

In addition to attending meetings and visiting other teachers, Stehlin said she spent time with children at two Chinese schools, an elementary school known as The Happy School and a middle school.

She said her favorite portion of the trip was playing games with children on the playground. She said Chinese students play a version of hacky sack that uses a shuttlecock with a weighted bottom and real feathers.

Stehlin said she noticed the country's preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games, for which Stehlin hopes to return to China.

"The country is fascinating, and their culture is just wonderful," Stehlin said. "They're not that different from us.

"I believe that we as U.S. citizens, and they as Chinese people, we all have the same wishes for our children -- we want them to be well educated, and we want them to be happy."

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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