May has turned out to be one busy month. I can't believe it's almost
over. I hope all of you at home had a wonderful Memorial Day Holiday.
My mom kept me posted on the festivities that took place in our small town.
It was their 100th anniversary and there were many celebrations. I would
have loved to have been there, but you can't be everywhere I guess.
The semester is almost over. I've only got 3 more weeks, which is really only 3 more classes.....2 if you consider one of them will be the final exam. Like the month of May, the term has flown by. On the 17th and 18th all of our classes were cancelled for the school's annual Sport's Meet. We were all encouraged to participate. I sat in the bleachers and cheered! Jeff, the student from Eastern Kentucky Univ. entered the javelin competition. I didn't get to see his event and if the truth were known I don't think even he know's how well he did. He'd never picked up a javelin until the day before when the Foreign Affairs Office found one for him. Now I've never been to any kind of track meet and have no idea what a "real" javelin looks like, but somehow I kind of doubt it was what Jeff and the student's here used. I was sitting in the Foreign Affairs Office when Darrin came wagging in a couple of long kind of bent bamboo poles with metal points on the ends. I remember saying to him "oh you're going fishing" (and I was serious, I thought it was a homemade fishing pole.....wrong) He told me no, that these were for Jeff. Oh I thought, okay. I'd seen a couple of other male students around campus with them and hadn't paid much attention to them, but now I knew they were practicing for the big javelin competition.
Katie and Adam, two of our teachers competed in running events. They were the Foreign Teachers' Aces! Both of them had run track in college and although they hadn't been training much since coming to China (winter and coal smoke pollution probably isn't very good for your lungs) they still did extremely well. Katie ran in three of the longer distance events and won all three. Adam ran in two long distance events, one on each day and took a 3rd and 4th. We were all really proud of them. Like I said the rest of us rooted on our team from the bleachers.
I've taken to one of the Chinese female customs and that is carrying an umbrella in the sun. Portable shade. Except for the shoes (which I've discussed at length earlier) I really think that Chinese fashion and customs are quite functional. For example, those of you in the US think "Oh get real, she's carrying an umbrella...gimme a break" Well I'm here to tell you, it really is cooler and great protection from those awful cancer causing, wrinkle and freckle producing sun rays. Then there are the flesh colored stocking socks worn mostly by the women, but occasionally by the men. They are literally just that, flesh toned or light colored, really thin (not quite as thin as hose) stocking kind of ankle high socks. You wear them with your sandals or other shoes and your dresses and shorts. Quite functional, but by western thinking not very attractive. But what is fashion or attractive....it's what society dictates it is. Here they are very fashionable (I don't wear them though ;>))
June 1st is Children's Day here in China and yesterday the girls' kindergarten held a fun day for them. It was held across the street from their kindergarten in an arena and was kind of like an Olympic's for kids. First the children all marched in with their classes. Each class had a different theme. Julie and Charlie's class all had on yellow tee shirts and white pants and they carried little Chinese flags. Some of the other classes outfits included: green tee shirts with white pants and they'd taken Christmas tree shiny garland and fashioned laurel wreaths for the kids heads from it, matching leotards, white shirts and white pants (glad my little dirty girls weren't in that class, keeping just the pants white is hard enough) and red shirts with blue pants.
After all the classes were in and lined up Julie and Charlie spotted me high up in the bleachers. They both waved and appeared glad to see me. Then Julie started to cry, just seeing mama wasn't good enough, she wanted me. She stayed with her class and all the classes were seated on the floor. Then several of the different classes gave dance type performances. The children were so cute. After this the games began. They had many different competitions. One was a bunny hop in which they took students from each class and made them hop like bunnies down the length of the basket ball court, pick up a paper egg and put it in a basket and run to the finish line. Leanne's son Michael competed in this event, he was soooooo cute. He was the smallest in the group and got messed up and kept hopping all over the court long after the other contestants had completed the race. He had everyone in stitches. Finally one of his teachers came on the court and helped him out. It was too funny.
There was a really cool game for the older kids (mind you kindergarten over here goes to age 6). They handed each of the kids a card with a number on it and the kids were lined up at one end of the basketball court. Then about half way down they stretched a rope across the court that had all these stars on it with math problems on them like 11 - 4 and the kids had to find the problem that fit their answer. Math starts very early here. The kids ran down to the rope, found the star with a math problem their card held the correct answer to, they grabbed it and ran to the finish line. It was over in a matter of seconds.
There were several other relay type games and then the children were dismissed. They all marched out in formation back to the kindergarten where they had lunch. I found out later Julie was scheduled to compete, but she had spend most of the morning crying and so they just let her be. Charlie was a little too young to really get into all of it and she mostly stayed over with her class flitting and getting.
On Tuesday I had parent teacher conferences, which was kind of neat. Leanne went with me to translate. It was something that all the parents did. You sit on the floor (which I just love to do) and they have the children play with the educational toys so you can see what they are learning. There were only my two girls and two other boys scheduled at this time. The teacher told Charlie to go and get the color wheel toy and show me how to work it, so she did. It has all of these colored tiles in it and Charlie made a color wheel out of it, correctly naming all the colors in Chinese, then she put the cards with the colors written on them in Chinese characters by the colored tiles. I was impressed, she is reading Chinese. Julie is busy learning numbers. How they teach them over here is quite interesting. They have a bowl of single beads, a bowl of 10 beads strung together, square disk (for lack of a better word) with 100 beads (made of the 10 bead strings), and cubes with 1000 beads (made of the 100 bead disks). Then they have the child count out beads, placing them in a line 1 - 9, when you get to 10 then you get a 10 bead string, and count it by 10's until you get to 90, then you get a disk...count by 100's etc. All in Chinese of course. Then they have these cards that correlate with the beads...1-9 for the single beads, 10-90, 100-900 and 1000-9000. and the teacher will pick up a card and ask you to point to the correct beads....like she'll pick up the 200 card and you point to the 200 square bead disk. All the time you are saying the numbers. I couldn't believe it when she picked up several cards and put them together to form the number 3245 and Julie said it correctly. I guess what Julie isn't doing with language, she is making up for in learning math. Leanne's husband had joined us while Julie was working with the teacher and the numbers and he wanted them to try it with Charlie, but the teacher told them, she was too young. Jane another foreign teacher had gone with us to observe and had also observed Michael and a few of the other children the week before and she told me there was a 4.5 year old in that class who was doing division. It's unbelievable the math foundations these kids have. I also see characters and the alphabet on the wall where they have been working with them. The only sad part is I can't reinforce that since I don't know what they are doing. It's really fun being illiterate....NOT
My 16 year old step grandson will be here soon. We are really looking forward to his visit. He get's to stay for a month, although I might try to change his plane ticket and send home sometime before school starts.....It starts in the US in what around November???? His mother would kill me, oh well she'll have to come over here to do it ;>) I think we are going to do some traveling when he's here and see some sights. I'm hoping to go to Suzhou, Hangzhou and Guilin. But if he want's to go somewhere else that's ok too. We'll have to play it by ear.