The Democrat Herald, a local paper in Oregon recently published an article about a group of CHI exchange students.
But pinatas? To the 35 students who traveled to Lebanon from Beijing for a 2 1/2-week visit through Cultural Homestay International, that was a new one.
Puzzled looks on the faces of the students, ages 12 to 18, followed CHI adviser Heidi Durrett of Sodaville on Wednesday as she picked up a wooden stick and stepped under the pinata, suspended from the ceiling of the River Center by a rope controlled by her husband, Doug.
With no blindfold handy, Durrett borrowed an oversized St. Patrick’s Day top hat from one of the boys and pulled it over her eyes. Then she took a swing at the cardboard star, while Doug yanked the rope to send it spinning away.
“OHHHHHH!” chorused 35 voices.
The students leave today. The pinata, part of an “unbirthday celebration” to say goodbye, was just one of many surprises to unfold during their stay.
They came to learn English the way Americans speak it â€” very different than the formal phrases they’re taught in class, Durrett said â€” and to experience American culture.
They stayed with families in Lebanon, Sweet Home, Albany and Brownsville, who took them bowling, to the coast, to church and out to dinner.
In turn, they taught their hosts to use chopsticks and say Chinese phrases. One group of boys made potstickers, with wraps donated from Sum Yan restaurant.
Students had English classes most days at the River Center and had several activities, including playing American board games, participating in a scavenger hunt and eating an American pancake breakfast. One night, Bing’s, a Lebanon Chinese restaurant, put on a buffet of traditional dishes for the group.
Ma Yixing, 15, who went by the name “Alice” during her stay, said she especially enjoyed a hike with her host family.
“Here, the air was fresh. I was surprised, because in China there are many cars and the air pollution in some places is very serious,” she said, “And the trees, they’re very tall. My family told me they have a long history.”
Chen Lei, 17, who went by “Nick,” said he wasn’t expecting shopping prices to be so low, particularly at the Nike store in Portland.
“Very, very cheap,” he said, showing off a new pair of black sneakers. “I bought three pairs. The prices of three pairs of shoes, you can just buy one in China.”
Host mom Carol Hollingsworth said she took her visitor, Yang Chao, 16, to the Dollar Tree to get a gift for the unbirthday white elephant exchange. Just about everything in the store, she told him beforehand, is made in China.
“He goes, â€˜I must see this place!'” she said, laughing.”