As President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida last week, Ripon High School students were doing a little diplomacy of their own in a far eastern country.

   They were singing, playing their instruments, smiling at, and visiting with the Chinese people to spread and gain some cross-cultural understanding on a musical and personal basis.

   The 70 students and 30 adults on the first-ever, international Ripon High School choir and band trip have been visiting Chinese cities, learning Chinese political history, experiencing Chinese cuisine, and generally learning to accept and become acculturated in an Asian country — the largest in the world — so different than their own.

   Yet, they learned that the Chinese people really are in many ways quite similar to the ones they left at home 6,900 miles away.

   The Ripon delegation, which will return to Wisconsin late on Friday, is touring four Chinese cities, viewing a wide variety of sites that have historical, cultural, political and economic significance.

   They include a Buddhist temple, a mausoleum of the first Chinese president, the famed Purple Mountain, significant shopping areas and markets, a great city wall around Nanjing — a city that boasts an area almost 8.5 times larger than New York City, the historic Yangtze River, a demonstration by a master calligrapher, performances to and from Chinese students including one Tuesday from Ripon High School’s sister school in Nanjing and today (Wednesday) a visit to the city of Hangzou and a cruise on its gorgeous West Lake, which explorer Marco Polo had described as “paradise on earth.”