Hi, y’all. I’m Elizabeth Muire, I’m an English teacher and an SOS staff member. I didn’t get to go to Wuxi, but I got lucky enough to be asked to help when the students from Wuxi came here anyway.
A fun fact about me: If you asked me at any moment who my favorite historical figure is, I would answer William Barret Travis, commander of the Alamo garrison. I can recite Alamo statistics in my sleep, so I was the obvious choice when SOS was looking for one of us to lead the tour of the Alamo.
We came to the Alamo direct from Mission Jose, where Park Ranger Tom gave a good tour and historical accounting of Spanish settlement and the building of the Missions. Then we literally moved into the city and metaphorically moved into the Texas Revolution. I thought it would be easy—I’m a teacher, I know this stuff, I love this story that I get to tell.
But then the question arises: how do you really explain to someone a historical even that shaped your entire cultural worldview? No matter how much you care about it, how do you explain the need to Remember the Alamo when that person doesn’t remember it?
And then I wondered what it had been for them. What part of Wuxi had they fumbled and struggled to explain to their new friends, something they felt was integral to them, and something they felt utterly inadequate to explain?
In that moment of clarity, I found my voice. And in short sentences and bare facts, I relayed through the translator the major details of my hero, William Travis, the woodsman Davy Crockett, the cannoneer Almeron Dickenson and his wife Susanna, and the 180-odd heroes who died to buy Texas time.
As I led them through the museum complex, I let the weight of history and the talking walls of the Alamo give the impact of the story.
And they could hear it from the walls, feel it in the air. I could tell, in their faces, in their hushed conversations, in their slow tread, that they heard what my heart was telling them, even when my words could not.
And it seems to me, watching the students intentionally and steadily build connections between our cities, so much of our communication—and communion—happens in the silence, when we let the weight of emotion do the talking for us. And as usual, when I reach out to teach students about the things I love, I wound up learning as much as I taught.
Our Wuxi ambassadors have been having a great time hanging out with their American friends and host families.
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear with both American and Chinese students coming to the Lee/ISA/STEM campus to play some ice breaker games and learn about each other’s schools. We dropped by Musical Bridges to see some exciting art connections between San Antonio and Wuxi, and then took them to the exciting world of American shopping malls at La Cantera. Since the building friendships between our students is the whole point of this exercise, then we turned the Chinese students loose on their host families, and let them spend some time hanging out and getting to know each other better.
Day four opened back at the Lee campus, where the students played The Great Game, representing countries and trying to bargain and fight their way to stability. A few students got poisoned, a table got conquered, and a great time was had by all. After lunch, we headed out to natural bridge caverns to see some of the geology that makes Texas’ rugged landscape so unique. We said our farewells (and happy birthday to one of the Chinese teachers) at dinner that night, and were left with the lingering realization that building these relationships between our cities was tiring, important, wonderfully fun work.
We left China a year ago, better for having been there. Our Chinese friends left us yesterday, and we can only hope they left feeling better as well. I know we are better for their coming, and I know our world is too.
Our friends from Wuxi came to San Antonio to visit, and we wanted to give them as great a time in our city as we had in theirs.
On the first day, we wanted to show them some of the history of our city. We started with a tour of Mission San Jose, led by a very knowledgeable park ranger, to see the Spanish settlement and the spread of Catholicism. Then we journeyed into downtown for a tour of the Alamo, to explore the lead-up to Texas Independence. After a tasty pizza lunch, we continued our exploration of Texas history at the Battle for Texas experience at River Center Mall.
The Chinese students seemed amazed by the struggle against the Mexican Army, especially as our pioneer guide led us through some of the (reenacted) fighting for the fort.
We took a walking tour of downtown, culminating in a riverboat tour so the students could see the vibrant color of San Antonio daily life, and then we brought them to San Fernando for a quiet moment to cool down before introducing them to the City of San Antonio International Relations Office. They got to see Market Square as we took them to have authentic Mexican food (enchiladas!) for dinner.
Day two, the Chinese and American students served together at the San Antonio Zoo, and then got to learn to be cowboys at a ranch in Bandera. They learned to ride horses and throw a lasso, and then had traditional barbeque for dinner, just like a real ranch hand.
All in all, the first few days of their visit were a whirlwind!