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Ti group visits China

TICONDEROGA-Brad Pitt, George Clooney. Patrick Lonergan.

Patrick Lonergan? Yes, the Ticonderoga High School senior was mistaken for a movie star while visiting China recently.

"Chinese impressions of America all come from movies," explained Maria Bagneschi, who led the Ti Travel Group to China last month along with Debbie Breitenbach. "I think every person in China has seen 'Forrest Gump' and believes it's an actual representation of America.

"They're very interested in us," she continued. "We went to China to learn about their culture, but we ended up teaching them a lot about our culture."

Lonergan agreed.

"The Chinese people were very curious about us," he said. "They seemed particularly interested in tall people and people with darker skin."

Bagneschi said the Ticonderoga group stood out in China, where virtually everyone has dark hair.

"It was as if people with purple hair suddenly showed up in Ticonderoga," she said. "They'd be different and we'd be curious. I didn't realize we'd be such celebrities in China."

The Ti Travel Group, composed of teen-agers and adults, spent eight days in Beijing, China's capital city of 20 million people. While there they toured the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, the Olympic Park, the Temple of Heaven, the Beijing Zoo, a Buddhist temple, a local school, the 798 Art Zone and the Front Street Market.

The American visitors also saw a Kung Fu demonstration, an acrobatic show and toured old Beijing in rickshaws.

Making the trip were Lonergan, Bagneschi, Breitenbach, Keeley Andrushko, Adriana Clark, Kalene Gauger, Jay Hebert, Hannah Herbst, Kyrstie McGuire, Emilee Namer, Brandon Russell, Jacob Young, Sarah Gauger, Julie Hebert and Tina Russell.

It was the first visit to a communist country for most in the group.

"When you go to China, of course, you think of communism," Lonergan said. "I thought it might be more protected, that we'd see more police or miliary. It wasn't that way at all. I never had any sense of government control."

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