Monday, October 20, 2008

What are we doing here in Beijing?

Dear Fellow Travelers,

We realized we should give you some background on our “Malindi’s Journey” Project, and why we are here in Beijing.

In 2001 we began our journey by traveling to Chinese cities on the Silk Road with Primary Source in Watertown, MA. We became curious about the role of Africans in the Silk Road traded. We read a lot about Chinese traders and European traders, but we couldn’t find any information about the African traders who traveled on the Silk Road over the desert and the ocean.

Then we learned about a giraffe who sailed from East Africa to China in 1414! She traveled by boat across the Indian Ocean on an mtepe, an East African boat built without nails. She also traveled on the Treasure Ships of Zheng He, the famous Chinese Admiral of the Ming Dynasty.
We learned that Ambassadors from the Kingdom of Malindi presented the giraffe to the Emperor of China as a special gift in 1414.

The Emperor who called himself Yong Le, had never seen a giraffe before. He was so happy and excited that he had a painting and a poem made in celebration of the giraffe’s arrival in China.
The inscription on this painting congratulates the emperor on the arrival of such an
auspicious beast. The giraffe is still used today by the Chinese government as a symbol of friendship and cooperation between China and Africa.

We decided we wanted to write a book for our students telling the story of this giraffe’s journey. When we began to write the book, we decided to call the giraffe “Malindi,” after the place she came from. Malindi is now town on the coast of Kenya.

In 2004 we were fortunate enough to travel to Malindi in Kenya to research Swahili culture, history and trade.
We gathered evidence of African connections to China by visiting museums and archeological sites,
and learning about Swahili boatbuilding. We also interviewed historians and storytellers from Malindi who knew about the giraffe and the visits of the Chinese.

We were able to do this thanks to funding from the Fulbright Foundation through Boston University, and a Fund for Teachers Fellowship and moral support from our schools.

In 2006 we were invited to present our research and classroom work at the Fulbright Conference in Morocco!
We finished writing our book Malindi’s Journey in the summer of 2007. It is now in the process of being published.

The Fulbright Task Force on International Education invited us back to present our book and our classroom work.

Now, here we are in Beijing in 2008 for the Fulbright Conference on “The Interconnected World.” Thanks to the Asian American Studies Program and the Confucius Center at the University of Massachusetts/Boston, who are supporting our work and made it possible for us to come to Beijing.

We will present on Wednesday afternoon at the International Education Task Force Plenary.

Here is a link to the description of the conference:

Here is a link to the conference program:

Our project is part of a larger vision of global education for our students, and it fits into the context of Dr. Johnson’s vision how to move BPS forward into the 21st century through global education at all levels. She has spoken of the need for our students to become global citizens of the world and the need for them to be dual language learners, so that they will be prepared for the opportunities that await them. This level of education will help close the achievement gap and opening pathways to excellence for our students.
Tomorrow we will attend sessions of the conference, and visit the International Book Store on Wangfujing Street!
That's all for now! We promise more stories tomorrow!
Zai jian pengyoumen!
Lucy (Meng Ru Shi)
Alicia (Ke Ling Si)