Surrounded by American flags, Shan Li said thats when she knew she was truly experiencing what it means to be in the United States as part of an exchange program.
Li, 27, is one of 25 Chinese citizens that came as a group from Jiangyou, Sichuan Province, China to tour the Lewis Army Museum July 18 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
I have never been to a military museum and neither have any of the other kids, Li said. Ive always seen military vehicles and tanks in movies, but now I actually saw a real one in person.
Li helps Ron Chow, president of the University Place Sister Cities Association, translate and navigate the children throughout their various tours.
Jiangyou High School partners with Curtis High School in University Place so students can experience life in the U.S.
Chow said this is one of the biggest groups hes had for the 12-day program with 10 girls and 11 boys ages 12 to 17, Jiangyous vice president, Chow, Li and a bus driver.
Last year we had only nine children, Chow said. There are three students from last year that came back this year to go to Saint Martins University. I think its a great program and it shows, even in a little way, that we can change peoples lives with this program. This is very different from what theyre used to. I hope to give this generation of children from China a different perspective.
Seventeen-year-old Chuanqi Wang said he thought the museum was cool and mostly enjoyed looking at the various guns that were on display.
Guo Zi Hui, 17, said his favorite part was seeing the big tanks and jeeps.
Joe Koczur, volunteer at the Cannon Gift Shop in the museum, said one
of the biggest reasons he enjoys
volunteering at the museum is meeting people from all walks of life.
Last year we had an African prince come by, and we do a lot of various school groups too, Koczur said.
Koczur said the most popular items in the gift shop that day included a Fort Lewis flask, coins and playing cards.
The first item that was bought
was the Fort Lewis flask, Koczur laughed. Thats always a popular item.
Lewis Army Museum has two employees, 10 volunteers and five Soldiers.
We are still in the process of getting more gallery funding, Koczur said. And the Soldiers really help out doing a lot of the physical work in the museum.
Lewis Army Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The group flew into Seattle July 14 and will leave Saturday. In the meantime, they are staying with host their families in University Place and will tour other areas in the states, including Disneyland.