By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Although they mostly ate authentic foods -— including octopus on a stick — the Baker High School students who visited China last month did miss a few staples from home.

“They didn’t have peanut butter or pickles. I looked the whole time,” said Cassie Pettit.

During a 10-day trip in March, 15 people from Baker City traveled to China on a trip organized through the Baker School District. For several years, students from Shiquan Senior High School have spent time in Baker City, most recently to attend school for three weeks in February.

The Baker City travelers included nine students, three high school teachers, one school board member, one Baker High alum and one former host parent.

A highlight of the trip was visiting Shiquan Senior High School, where the Baker City visitors were greeted with a welcoming ceremony of dancing, tea and singing of American songs.

“We got to meet a lot of the students and see their lives in school,” said Kale Cassidy. “Almost all of them could speak English.”

They found out school in China is structured quite a bit differently than in the U.S. For starters, the students board at school, where they attend classes from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. High school students also have mandatory study until 10:30 p.m.

“There was a lot they have to cover,” Cassidy said.

“Their senior year they take a test that determines their whole future,” said Weston Chastain.

That test, called the gaokao, determines a student’s path after high school. For those who qualify for higher education, their test score dictates which school they can attend.

While visiting the school, the BHS students were put in charge of a classroom to answer questions.

“They were really fascinated that we can drive,” said Chastain, who spoke to an advanced physics class.

Zoe Carlson-Morrow visited a class of 8-year-olds, and said she spent her time showing them pictures and they would give her the English word for the object.

One interesting fact learned is that Chinese students aren’t allowed to date, and they can be expelled for violating this rule.

The Baker group also had the chance to visit homes and enjoy a meal with their Chinese hosts who were eager to share. Pettit soon learned not to voice all her comments.

“Anything I showed interest in, they gave to me,” she said.

Carlson-Morrow and Chastain were both gifted famous classical novels — written in Chinese, of course.

“It was a really meaningful gift. They were so thoughtful to everyone,” said Dave Laws, who teaches English at BHS and has a master’s from Stanford University in Chinese language and literature.

Laws and Thomas Joseph, who also teaches English at BHS, have worked to develop an exchange program with two high schools in China.

In addition to visiting schools, the Baker City group visited the Great Wall of China, the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Terracotta Warriors and various museums.

“A lot of sight seeing and cool restaurants,” Chastain said.

See more in the April 20, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.