Amazing Grace

Anne Marie Gustavson and her husband, Eric are former Peddie teachers who recently helped to chaperone a trip with students visiting from EFZ Shanghai. The group went to Princeton for the day, where they visited Princeton Hospital, toured the University and had lunch in town.

Take a yellow mini-bus, fill it with twelve Chinese teenagers and their two teachers, and you have a recipe for a perfect day of discovery!

My husband Eric and I were asked to be chaperones for the day with Brian Davidson in charge of seeing that things ran smoothly. With Brian at the wheel and at the helm, they did.

The rain was coming down hard as we boarded the bus early that Saturday morning, and we were a bit apprehensive as to how the day would go. But then, greetings were exchanged with fourteen smiling faces, so we felt somewhat relieved. And a few minutes later, as the bus was on its way, one voice, then two then more were raised, and Amazing Grace floated in the air sung beautifully by our young guests!

We could not help but join in although our rendition was no match for these kids’! The song ended amid laughter and applause (on our part). Leaving us no time to recover from our surprise, from the back of the bus came a choir of young male voices singing Janelle Monae’s We are Young at the top of their lungs and again in harmony, soon to be joined by the rest of the bus. Then came a whole slew of the hottest American songs from Bruno Mars to Train via Taylor Swift. We were treated to a rock concert sung by a bunch of teenagers whose language was not English, but whose pronunciation and pitch were nearly flawless as they sang their hearts out!

The only interruption came when we passed a big field of plants in bloom, and our singers all stood up and gave a big shout of surprise and possibly of admiration for our Garden State!

Other highlights from the trip were the visit to the Princeton Hospital and the respectful attention paid by all to our guides, lunch at Panera where the students placed orders with ease, the awe triggered by the stained glass windows in the Princeton University chapel, and the pleasure they had taking pictures of the spots where A Beautiful Mind was filmed. They had all seen the movie and liked it a lot.

On the way back, it was all contemporary Chinese songs on the little yellow bus. Eric and I could not understand the lyrics, but we loved the music, and it made us feel part of these kids’ world at least for a moment. A perfect ending to a fun-filled day.