The Lydiksen Elementary School community bid farewell this week to 16 new friends who trekked thousands of miles to visit Pleasanton.
Lydiksen hosted three teachers and 13 fifth-graders from Liuxia Primary School Lydiksen's new "sister school" in Hangzhou, China last Friday and Monday.
The visit was the culmination of a process that began last fall when a San Ramon principal and former classmate of Lydiksen principal Jacob Berg and vice principal Janet Gates referred them to United Education, a company that facilitates cultural exchanges between schools in the Bay Area and China.
Gates said Lydiksen pursued the opportunity out of an interest in making their students "engaged citizens."
"When we decided to pursue it, it came out that we have a lot of Chinese families here," Gates said. "We thought, 'Let's bring some of the world here.'"
United Education connected Lydiksen and Liuxia, then paid for Gates to travel to Hangzhou in March to spend two days touring the city and school.
Then it proved time for Gates and the Pleasanton community at-large to further the cultural exchange by hosting the Chinese students and staff. The group from Liuxia Primary School flew into Los Angeles on Oct. 3, visiting Disneyland and Universal Studios before arriving into San Jose to tour Silicon Valley companies and Stanford University.
The group made it into Pleasanton last week, the night of Oct. 6, when students were met with pizza from their host families from Lydiksen and Hart Middle School.
Last Friday the Chinese visitors made their way to Lydiksen, where the young guests were each paired up with a fifth-grade "ambassador" and shown around the school.
Other activities during the group's visit included calligraphy, in which students used water to paint Chinese symbols and drawings on the blacktop; a movie night; and celebration assemblies in which the visiting students performed for their peers.
De Fa Yuan, Liuxia's vice principal and physical education teacher, said Friday through a translator that he appreciated the student decorations adorning the classroom walls at Lydiksen and was interested in making the classrooms in China more colorful.
"I've really enjoyed the journey so far and hope my students can learn from the American students and experience the culture," he said.
Gates said there are no plans in the works to have Lydiksen students go to China, although she said some teachers and host families could take interest in that. In the meantime, she hopes to keep the two school communities connected via email.