Friday, July 30, 2010

China: Day 25: July 29, 2010 Thursday

More stories. This time I told Robert Munch’s Stephanie’s ponytail using a girl from the class to demonstrate a ponytail in the back, the said, the top and the front! This hit the Chinese funny bone so hard that the students were literally rolling on the floor. The understood the story and it was so much fun. I also told a couple of classes “Where the Wild Things Are.” Also quite fun!

Then we had another of those rehearsals from hell where we get 100 kids who have been practicing a variety of things in different classrooms all up on stage and chaos issues.

So far, we have done this each week and the performance has come out okay. This time we have three songs, some introductions and a couple of short poems. Kids are also dancing The Mexican Hat Dance. You could pray for us that somehow it works out!

After school, Jenny and I took a cab to the big bookstores. (Thanks to Smiley, the Chinese teacher who wrote out in Chinese the name of the place.) We got there and really enjoyed poking around through the five floors of books.

It is like a Barnes and Nobles supersized. Despite the size, there was very little that we could read, including the signs, and few books. We both found some Chinese books and some bilingual that are wonderful. I could have stayed for hours, but we needed to get back because Jenny was meeting her Chinese host mother at 7.

When we came out of the bookstore it was raining…..not raining, POURING! And did I have my umbrella with? The answer is NO!!! So, Jenny graciously shared her tiny umbrella with me and we ran and waited for a taxi and when we couldn’t catch one, we walked on an overpass and then stood at the bus stop for a while, all the while it rained and rained. By the time we finally caught a bus, I was nearly soaked to the skin and quite worried about my new books I had bought. Jenny lent me her extra shopping bag and I was able to double wrap the books and keep them safe.

After riding the bus for a few miles, we then had to walk another five blocks in the RAIN. By the time we came into the hotel lobby, we were so wet that the hotel manager sent me directly upstairs to change and had someone carry my wet bag up. Very nice. I put on a polartek jacket. I was chilled. I THINK I learned a lesson about carrying an umbrella during monsoon season.

Supper and then some writing time. Keeping up a blog is hard, disciplined work. Tomorrow is the last day of school Wow! The time really flew by.

China: Day 24: July 28, 2010 Wednesday

Stories, rehearsing, getting ready for a new show: number three in three weeks. We are all VERY tired, but will miss these kids! Some VERY lovely children. I had a stereotype that the kids would look so much alike. Especially here in Shenzhen, people have come from all over China and form all ethnic groups. There is a great variety in what the kids look like.

They are really enjoying hearing me tell folktales from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Very, very fun to share these cultures with one another.

Today when I was telling the older students a scary story from Columbia called the Rooster’s foot, when I held my hand up as though it was a chicken foot and said, “This is no ordinary chicken’s foot…” a huge rolling noise of thunder filled the room and all the kids gasped! How cool is that? Those times when the universe cooperates perfectly with your story are very precious!

Today was my roommate Jenny’s birthday, so there was a message on the school marquee. A brunch of us went out for a birthday dinner to a VERY excellent Chinese restaurant that Jenny had gone to with her host family. We were highly grateful when they brought out the English menu so we could avoid the braised dog and peg ear and shallot salad. The food we ate was great!

Then a couple women had bought her a birthday cake. It was highly interesting with a combination of something like spice cake on the bottom, and a layer of cheese cake with purple jello on top, with whipped cream, kiwi, peach and a cherry TOMATO on top. Jenny tried it to make sure it was a tomato and IT WAS! Hmmmmm. I guess technically tomato is a fruit, but really!

Then we strolled about shopping. There are so many interesting places, cool shows and funny signs as we try to find our way around. We all feel quite proud of our abilities to navigate, especially because we never really got a map in English. That makes some of it pretty tough.

To bed and then let’s do it again!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

China: Day 23: July 27, 2010 Tuesday

Today I got videotaped with a class that has at times been crazy out of control.

Put a camera in front of them, and they were angels: interested, volunteering, expressing themselves, having fun, enjoying the stories. After the camera crew left, one of the school officials stayed around and she was impressed. Yah!

I told the story of Monkey and Crocodile. The students LOVED that. Then in a couple of class I was able to share Just Enough to Make a Story, the paper folding drawing version. IT was a HUGE hit, even for the 5th and 6th graders. I love telling these tales to kids who have never heard them before.

I went to lunch along with a class of high school freshmen who were in a special American culture class taught by one of the teachers. They were going to The Holiday Inn and wanted a couple more people to be part of table time conversation. We had pretty American style buffet (including a GOOD salad bar) and a dessert table. YAH! And serviced with silverware, not a chopstick in sight. Interesting! We got to model for the students how Americans would eat at a buffet. One student was totally puzzled by how to eat a chunk of French bread. She tired to figure out how you would put it in your mouth with a fork and knife. Things you never thing about.

I enjoyed the conversation with the young people. When I asked them about the censorship, such as not being able to be on FACEBOOK (and they added Twitter), they replied they felt it would change. That they were young and could wait.

Back at school to finish the day, and then to the hotel. Plans are still very much in flux as to the closing day’s schedule. Trying to meld east and west in terms of expectations get difficult often. We looked a t a list of possible “awards” to give out to campers and it was suggested that we give awards to the most obedient and behaved, the one who won every game, and most popular. That didn’t fit with what we were trying to reinforcements so we spent times trying to brainstorm new awards.

I was interviewed by our young filmmaker for her video on the teachers. It will be so interesting to see what she comes up with.

China: Day 22: July 26, 2010 Monday

The final week begins today. We are all in “the swing” of things. And we will finally have it about figured out when we have to close up shop and go home.

Several of our teachers have gotten very ill. One may have gotten food poising at KFC, a couple more have some kind of terrible bug. I am struggling myself; kind of achy and intestinal track is iffy. Being in a different country has its serious drawbacks.

This week we are focusing on world cultures my level decided to especially focus on Latin America, which I like because I have some very nice resources for this. It is a week that will include telling some favorite stories. Today included the story of The Barking Mouse, about why it is important to learn a second language. I also told my version of Coyote and the money tree. I used American money for this and they were VERY interested in what that looked like. All of these stories are well received for the children. Kids are so curious and interested. We just have to give them things that they can connect with. They are also learning to dance and sing The Mexican Hat Dance and La Bamba....sometimes Ihave to remind myself we are not in Mexico, but China;-)

I am very interested in poling the children to find that at least a third of them have traveled internationally. Most often to Japan, Singapore or Australia, but some have been to the US and some have been to many countries. Also many of them plan to attend University outside of China. These are not provincial shelter children.

I actually fell asleep during my lunchtime phone call with my husband, and then took a nap before dinner.

Jenny and I went over to “The Blind Massage Place”, although I have YET to see anyone blind giving a massage. There we had our feet worked over quite seriously by a couple of guys who were NOT giving Swedish nice soothing massages. They beat your back and your feet and worked those sore places really hard. I had some VERY sore spots on my foot, connected to my sore tummy. By the time we were done, I felt quite a bit better. I will sleep well tonight.

China Day 21: July 25, 2010 Sunday

Up early for a talk with my husband and then roommate, Jenny, and I went to the flower shop to buy some flowers for our Chinese host families.

My family arrived at 8:25, five minutes earlier than promised. I met them: Ken, Alice and daughter Mary. (How funny, I have an Uncle Ken and Aunt Alice, so I have those names down.)

Mary had given me pretty good schedule so I was somewhat prepared, but it turned out to be even a better experience than I had hoped.

The day began with a great tour of their apartment.
Most everyone in the city in china lives in an apartment, which is most often owned not rented. The Chen family live in a very nice apartment that they have been in only two years.
It is so lovely. I got the kind of tour that could especially be facilitated by a young person: all of the nooks and crannies and storage areas. The home was spotless and wonderful. The kitchen was really space aged. They even let me look inside their dishwasher.

The bedrooms were spacious, and they had a guest room where grandma used to live when Mary was a baby. It was fun to see the things they had set up for Feng Shui (the Chinese art of how things are placed and arranged for the best flow of energy.) There were two mythical creatures that were part dragon and part lion that were placed facing a window out of which you could see the hospital.

These creatures are set to protect the family from the bad energy of sick and dying people.

The daughter, Mary is quite an artist and she let me look through her portfolio of drawings. They were lovely!

And then we walked around the complex gardens. These were very extensive being surrounded by many apartment buildings but having the same common space with a swimming pool, community gardens, children’s play areas, walking paths. It was a relief to know that although the building is very dense, there are these lovely green spaces.

I went with them to a two-hour badminton coaching session for their family.... I haven't had such a hard workout in years. I was dripping with sweat.

Luckily they thought to bring me a shirt to change into. I thought that I would watch Mary play and take some video, maybe hit a bit, but it was a huge workout and lesson for all of us! The coach was very serious. I really enjoyed it, but stated with quite a humiliation because I couldn’t hit a serve over. I probably missed 75 of the first 100 serves I tried. And they would just give me back the shuttle cock (really nice ones with feathers on them).

FINALLY, Ken thought of allowing me a really lame little backhand shot which I could do (thank God!) We played and played. Mary finally told me I could rest for a while and she would play with her friends. I join in a bit more, but was really grateful I could stop.

The coach asked to have his photo taken with me and the whole gang got in on it: coach, assistant coaches, Mary’s two friends, their mothers, even the video camera guy….oh yes, I didn’t mention that I had a videographer from the school following me around this whole day shoot me in my glory and the agony of defeat. I don’t know what I would have done without that spare shirt! Oh my! I am going to try to get a copy of the raw footage from that taping. Should be a good show.

After badminton, we went to the mall to a bookstore.

Ken helped me to find two wonderful books in English of authentic Chinese folktales and classic tales and myths. I had previously asked four of the Chinese teachers who teach English and none of them knew of such a book. I will enjoy learning these stories when I get home.

Mary then surprised me with a beautiful original piece of artwork that she had drawn for me and that they had had professionally matted and framed. Wow! What a special gift!

We then went to lunch (Mary invited her two friends t o come along). We had very wonderful food. Much better than to nice food we have everyday at the hotel and at the school lunches. What a feast. We ate and ate!

Then a little stroll behind the restaurant. I played some Rock, Paper, Scissors. They were playing in Chinese first and then switched to English to include me. Very nice!

An additional walk in the park was last on the agenda.

There, we found the local version of a dog park or dog beach with tons of dogs and owners. They would throw tennis balls for the dogs and dogs would swim like crazy. Some things need no translating.

During the walk, there was more chance to talk, especially with Ken about his observations about china, and worries he has for his daughter’s future. He and Alice have already set aside $140,000 for Mary’s college education. He acknowledged that this might not be enough, but that she is only 11 years old. Ken finished his MBA degree a couple of years ago. He would so enjoy talking to Dick, my husband.

They invited Dick and I to return to China and that we could stay at their home and perhaps we could all travel together. How cool would that be?

It was such an incredibly wonderfully great day. Wow! I thought several times, “Now THIS is what I came to China for!”

Evening took a meeting and getting ready for week number three. Tired and sure I will feel sore after all that exercise today. Ken and Alice both said they thought I did well with the badminton. Alice called and told the school that I very clever because I learned the game so quickly, and Ken said that someone my age in China would not be expected to have done so well, so I guess I wasn’t a total badminton loser. Whew!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

China: Day 20: July 24, 2010 Saturday

Last night we went out for dinner and a little shopping. We ran into one of the Chinese teachers at the mall. what a little small world it is...even in China.

Up and ready for breakfast fairly early. I have now taken to calling home by Skype when I first get up in the morning (like 6:45) and then over lunch about 1pm. Nice to touch base with my husband back at home.

Today five of us American women had an adventure in Guangzhou, a city hypothetically a and half hours away from where we were, but with Saturday traffic and maybe an accident it was three hours by bus. It is China’s 4th largest city.

We were VERY lucky that Lulu, a 22 year old Chinese man who ahs been helping with our project agreed to be our tour guide for the day. He is from that city (we heard it was his “hometown’…yes, if you can have a home town of 8 million people.

Lulu guided us all day long from bus, to bus to subway to park to museum to temple. He did a wonderful job, although he said he wasn’t prepared to drop out of the University in order to drive Americas around on tours.

Highlights included a lovely park (China saved some amazing land in green space.) We saw a 7000-year-old wall from the Ming Dynasty and the statue of the 5 goats or 5 Rams.

Here is what we learned about it:

The sculpture of five rams is the symbol of Guangzhou. It is located in Yuexiu Park, the largest urban parkland in China. Legend has it that five immortal beings wearing robes of five colours came to Guangzhou on the backs of rams. Each being carried rice and gave it to the people as a sign that Guangzhou would be free of famine. A sculpture was erected in Yuexiu park in 1959 to pay tribute to this story, and to the origins of the name Guangzhou (which means city of goats).

Did I mention it was beastly hot and we were dripping in sweat? That is a refrain often on this trip.

We also went to a lovely Taoist temple:

The open-air Taoist temple offers visitors a quiet retreat from Guangzhou’s busy streets and a chance to see some lovely architecture through the incense smoke.

As so many of these lovely spiritual sites, it was a peaceful pleasure to just be inside.

We got the added bonus of being there when a monk climbed the bell tower and played a huge drum. Yah!

Then we shot a couple of photos in front of the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. Lulu explained that he was “like George Washington” only Chinese.

Then it was off to Shamian Island which “was Guangzhou’s foreign enclave. The island, translated to Sandspit Island, is home to former British and French warehouses and factories. It’s a quiet area blanketed in the shade of aged trees, is now home to cafes and boutiques.

The former Victorian-era buildings are a stark contrast to the rest of Guangzhou. The riverfront area is a hive of activity in the mornings with locals doing tao chi and fishing in the Pearl River.”

We saw some of the
hive of activity during a rainstorm when people were all gathered under an overpass of the freeway, a man playing the saxophone, playing cards and doing exercises.

An interesting feature of the card game was that if you lost you had to clip a clothespin to your ear. Lulu couldn’t really explain why. It is like playing something where if you drink you have to drink a shot or something. Who knew?

A highlight for me was going to the Swan Hotel:

The White Swan Hotel is the most popular hotel in Guangzhou for adopting families. All families adopting in China must end their trip in Guangzhou because the only American Consulate in China that handles international adoptions is in Guangzhou.

When we walked into the front door there were about ten likely white adoptive families with their adopted baby and toddler Chinese little girls. They all looked as happy and as serious as one could be being at the end of this VERY long process. It brought tears to my eyes. It especially was moving because my husband and I had explored doing a Chinese grille adoption about 16 years ago, and I so could see what a different road this would have mean for our lives. Wow!


wish great blessings to all of those families and am so happy that these children will have good homes. I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that read “every child a wanted child”. I still believe that would be the best for the world.

We made a stop to both McDonalds and Starbucks. Sometimes a little taste of home sounds pretty good.

We ended the evening with a very gracious dinner hosted by Lulu’s mother who is an English teacher at South China Normal University.

She has taught English for 30 years, and was so lovely in meeting us and offering us such a wonderful l welcome.

The food was great, and we also enjoyed the stroll across the campus. This university has 40,000 students and is where Lulu is a 4th year student in graphic design.

Then we made a very mad dash across town through the subway to catch the last train back to Shekou. We might have just missed it, but they had told Lulu early the wrong time, so we actually had 20 minutes to spare. Whew! That was exhausting.

I also met a wonderful little Chinese girl on the subway whose name was "Lucky," Although she spoke only a

couple of words of English and her parents not much more, we spent a lovely 30 minutes playing baby games...peek a boo, and grab hands. Some things transcend language and are such a blessing! Yah for babies!

We arrived back home at about midnight havening had only a taste of the city, but a lovely time.