Plans: Study tech and business in college.
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For Antonio Madrigal, the trip to China will be a chanceto burnish images in his mind of a country he might never see again.
The 17-year-old junior lost sight in his right eye to a tumor, and he is afflicted with a virus in his left.
“Because I don’t know if I’m going to lose my eyesight, it will be a special memory,” Madrigal said. “I kind of see this as an opportunity. Just because you have a disability, you can still travel and do what you want.”
For now, he said, his eye is stable.
What does he want to see in China?
“I’m expecting to see a lot of great things, honestly,” he said. “I’m excited if we get to meet the Chinese president. I’m just excited about the whole trip.”
Madrigal, who has traveled to Mexico, where he has relatives, but never overseas, was afraid his mom wouldn’t let him go on the trip after his name was selected in the school’s lottery in the spring.
“Because it’s half way around the world,” he said.
But she gave him permission.
To prepare for the trip, he’s been taking a Chinese language course, even though he had only a few weeks to learn.
“I took French last year, but I feel I’m getting the hang of Chinese faster,” he said after a couple of days of classes.
Plans: Go to college and then start a business to support and teach people with special needs.
For Haley Naparan, the trip to China will be an exploratory one.
“I want to see if China is where I want to be in the future, if that’s the place for me, if I want to live there or possibly work there in the future,” she said.
The 16-year-old junior bubbles with excitement as she talks about the trip she will share with her younger sister, Chloe, a sophomore.
“I’m absolutely excited about experiencing a new culture,” she said. “It’s a really great opportunity to see the world in a different perspective.”
At the top of her list of sights to see are the Great Wall and pandas, which the group will view at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
“When I was little, I was a panda lover,” she said. “I’ve had so many teddy bears of pandas, but I’m really excited to see real live pandas.”
Chinese food also interests her. Her father is from Hawaii and she loves manapua, a meat-filled steamed dumpling that is a staple of the Hawaiian culture and an echo of the Chinese char siu bao. She spotted the Chinese version on a PBS show and is eager to try it.
But what she is looking forward to the most is engaging the Chinese people in conversation.
“I’m really excited about interacting with people, basically from all ages, because I want to see how they feel about us,” she said. “I want to see how I feel about them.
“I think that’ll be just a really cool bond — something you really can’t explain. I personally feel that when you travel … you leave something there, something you can’t take back home with you, and that’s what I’m really excited about.”
And what does she expect to leave behind?
“I hope to leave relationships there,” she said. “I hope I can leave love there, and passion.”
Plans: Study marine biology.
Araya Zackery received an introduction to Chinese culture over the summer as part of an exchange program that brought more than 20 students to Tacoma.
The Chinese students spent several weeks at Stadium High School, and she was among several dozen Tacoma students who volunteered to work with the group.
“We learned how to make their food and in exchange we taught them something about American culture,” Zackery said. The Chinese students made spaghetti, and the Tacomans made chow mein.
The hosts also learned how to do calligraphy and they taught the Chinese the decades-old American game of capture the flag in spirited play at Wright Park.
“That was super fun,” she said.
Zackery, who skipped a grade and at 14 will be the youngest student in the Lincoln High School group, said the students also addressed stereotypes about each other.
Turns out they had some similar views.
“They thought we were really smart, so that was good,” she said. “But we also thought they were academically excellent.”
Zackery is excited about trying spicy Chinese food and experiencing a different culture.
“I know it’s going to be a really good academic experience that I’ll be able to take back and use for my whole life,” she said.
But Zackery also is looking forward to reconnecting with one of the Chinese students she met over the summer.
“We exchanged numbers and we talk on WeChat, but he said when we go over, I’ll be able to hang out with him while we’re in Beijing,” she said.
Jonathan Nesvig, contributing writer
Plans: Study pre-law in college.
There’s little question what excites Katelyn Wear about her school’s trip to China.
“Are we allowed to kidnap a panda and bring it back?” she asked Principal Pat Erwin.
He was amused, but assured her, “It would be a pretty serious crime.”
Wear, who calls pandas “cute,” will view them at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
Among other sights she’s looking forward to is the Great Wall of China.
“I know that when they were building it, pretty much if someone died while they built it, they just kind of threw them in and left them there,” she said. “There are all kinds of dead people in the wall, so it’s haunted. That’ll be fun.”
The History channel’s website says that as many as 400,000 people were reported to have died during the wall’s construction and many were buried within the wall.
Wear, who has never traveled outside the United States, is looking forward to “experiencing a whole new culture and seeing a completely different country. They don’t even have Facebook there.”
Somehow, she expects to survive.
She also wants to try “authentic” Chinese tea.
“Everyone in my family hates tea,” she said, so she’s had few opportunities to drink it. But the prospect of eating spicy food scares her.
Wear, who plans to become an attorney, said: “I hope to use this experience so when I am a lawyer, if I come across a case where I’m prosecuting someone from China, I can use this experience to know how it is there. You’ve got to use that to determine things.”
Plans: Study pre-law in college.
Demetrius Miller is a wide receiver on the Lincoln Abes football team and will miss two games during his trip to China.
But that doesn’t bother him.
“I’d rather go to another country and see new things,” he said.
Foreign travel is on his bucket list.
“I’ve been to so many places around America. I want to go outside,” he said.
The 18-year-old senior is tired of being told America is “the best country anywhere on the planet. You want to go out and find out for yourself. … You need to see the world. You just can’t be in a box.”
Miller is especially interested in trying Chinese food.
“I’m down to eat any type of food,” he said. “Even if it looks nasty, I’ll still try it. I like to try new things.”
One thing that separates him from many others on the trip is his view of pandas.
“I’m not a fan of pandas,” he said matter-of-factly.