Going to China was supposed to be a great experience for a group of teens from South Florida. Well, it's turning out to be a memorable one for all the wrong reasons.
Nine Palm Beach and Broward high school students are among a group of Americans being quarantined by the Chinese government amid fears the foreigners brought the swine flu virus with them, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. A Pembroke Pines teacher is also among the group being held isolated from the rest of the billion-plus citizens of China.
"We're thinking about her, worried about her, and she's in our thoughts," Glades Middle School principal Krista Herrera said of her employee Brandie Taylor, who has been at the school for five years.
The trip was organized by People to People Student Ambassador Program, which is based out of Spokane, Wash. It's unclear how many students are on the trip, but the Sun-Sentinel reports as many as 20 could be from South Florida. Ages of youth on the trip range from 13 to 19.
"We are making sure that our students currently in quarantine are safe and well. I will see them and talk to them personally as soon as they wake up in the morning," said Mike Bowers, director of health and safety for People to People. "On my way to China I stopped and purchased candy, gum and other treats, magazines, books, cards and other games to keep everyone occupied. We are working with authorities and hope that the quarantine can be lifted quickly."
Candy and Monopoly must be a fine consolation for being stuck in a foreign country thousands of miles away from parents and familiar surroundings.
The group of students apparently were confronted by Chinese officials in the popular tourist destination of Tiananmen Square when they were escorted back to their rooms. The air conditions were turned off to keep the air from circulating. Students have been able to check in with parents, but are confined to their rooms as the not-so-honored guests of the Chinese government.
No one in the group showed signs of illness that would trigger a swine flu panic, but Chinese officials said a passenger that arrived in the country on the same plane had the virus. Mainland China has reported 97 swine flu infections since May.
The traveling students are tested twice daily and will be detained for at least a week until Chinese authorities release them.
"Before he left for this trip, I told him that something was probably going to happen that was going to be life changing," Freddy Aquino told the Sun-Sentinel about his last words to his son. "This wasn't what we thought it would be."