The best moments in life are often the most unexpected.
When we first heard from Stuart Krohn, the rugby coach of an inner city foundation in Los Angeles, California called ICEF, we had no idea what was coming our way. It seemed a bit out of the blue and certainly not our typical inquiry, which sparked our interest from the start. Coach Krohn found us through recommendation and, after a brief introduction of his rugby program’s goals and objectives, he asked us to put together a quick 2 1/2 day trip in Beijing.
Beyond the fact that we didn’t even know kids in LA played much rugby, we were baffled that they’d be flying to Beijing as part of a two week China program (stops in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong) where they’d get to watch the Hong Kong Sevens tournament alongside the program Krohn started at the French International School. Impressed and intrigued, we knew that there would be 10 boys and 10 girls between the age of 14-17 coming from LA, that they would be accompanied by their rugby coaches and a few chaperones – oh, and we were also told that they would be followed around by a trio from New Zealand acting as a film crew.
We should preface this experience by saying that the Hutong’s Educational Programs are much more than just showing student groups a great time in China, we are continuously striving to improve our student trips by engaging and challenging students to push their boundaries, open their eyes to new knowledge and customs and appreciate another culture’s traditions and history.
Knowing that none of these students have set foot in China’s capital, we were pumped to show them as much as our limited time would allow, to give them a taste of the real Beijing – taking them on scavenger hunts through hidden hutongs, teaching them the power of Qi Gong (a traditional Chinese breathing meditation), showing them how to make Chinese dumplings, treating them to a proper Peking Duck banquet dinner, leading them on a hike up to the Great Wall and one of our favorite moments, taking them to get schooled by local elders in pull-up competitions in the park perimeter of Temple of Heaven and dancing with old Chinese ladies in the park.
ICEF Rugby Embark on Scavenger Hunt in Beijing’s Hutongs
The Hutong’s Education Program Director Josh Kernan Teaches the History of the Great Wall
Apart from all these Chinese culture activities, we also squeezed in a couple of rugby matches against ISB’ girls and boys team at Dulwich College Beijing. Shout out to Dave Archer, Head Rugby Coach of Dulwich College Beijing (DCB) for organizing the rugby tournament between ICEF, ISB, Dulwich, and Beijing She Devils.
Dulwich College Beijing Head Rugby Coach Dave Archer Leads by Example
Rugby Dance-Off: ICEF Girls vs. ISB Girls Rugby Team
Looking forward to exposing all our favorite bits of Beijing to these LA students and opening their eyes and minds to Chinese culture, food, language and history, we quickly realized that they would be the ones to inspire us.
An exceptional group of bright students, they were among the most polite, courteous, appreciative and curious The Hutong has ever hosted. It was an honor and privilege to have had the opportunity to spend quality time with them. These kids are a credit to ICEF, to South LA, and served as exemplary ambassadors of the US.
If you’re interested in learning more about these students, ICEF public schools, or their rugby program, we highly recommend watching this film trailer for the award-winning documentary, “Red White Black & Blue” which was filmed on their previous international trip to New Zealand for a U16 tournament. A beautifully shot film, it shows the story of the team’s leaders and a few of the players who rise above their circumstances of growing up in the inner city and travel abroad together to play rugby in a land where rugby is its national sport. “Red White Black & Blue” won Best Documentary and Honorable Mention for Best Director at the Idyllwild Cinema Fest in January. It received the Canada International Film Festival’s 2013 Rising Star Award and is a finalist in the Africa World Documentary Film Festival, which will have screenings in the United States, United Kingdom, and Africa. Locally, it was recently screened at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles.
Stay tuned for an upcoming fundraiser where The Hutong will be screening this moving documentary with all proceeds going to support ICEF Rugby’s future international trips.
Not to brag, but we’re pretty darn proud of this testimonial we received from ICEF –
“Thank you so much for an amazing time. You both made our experience here in Beijing one that we will all remember for a lifetime. Your organizational skills were extraordinary and knowledge inspirational. Good luck with all your future endeavors.” – Avis Brodess, ICEF Beijing trip March 2013