So, this week I had the last two official contact hours with my students – written exams for Kindergarten 3 and Kindergarten 4. The end of the year has kinda taken me by surprise. I knew it was coming, and I had been looking forward to it in some ways, but now that it’s here, I feel like there should be something more, like I should be doing more teaching, or something…
There were Children’s Day celebrations a few weeks ago, where Pat and I were asked to go dance with the kids at a special gala concert. The whole thing was put on film, and since then, I’ve had people saying “oh, yes, I saw you dancing on TV!” I’m a TV star. Just call me a Big Damn Hero…
On Children’s Day itself, the school had a massive sports day, which I was expected to attend. I woke up that morning, and thought to myself, “eh, it’s a sports day, I don’t have to be RIGHT on time, do I? I can be ten minutes late or so…”
So, I arrive at school about ten minutes late, camera in hand for happy snaps galore, and I get nabbed by King as I was about to go through the center doorway of the school.
“Charlotte, don’t go that way!” He said urgently. “Come round the side.”
So around the side I go, and I’m so glad that I saw King when I did, cause if I had have gone in the center door, I’d have walked right into the podium for the school awards ceremony. I was late for a TOTALLY formal occasion. Some children were doing a ceremonial flag raising – grade 3 kids, I might add. Raising a flag, doing the ceremonial march, as if they were in the military. Kinda scary.
I was given a look of disapproval by the head mistress, a lady who can make you feel as big as a bug with a single look. I felt so bad. She’s a lady I totally look up to, and I’d hate to think that I’d disappointed her.
At any rate, once the flag had been raised, and the Chinese national anthem had been sung, 5-8 year old children saluting left right and center (actually, I think I’m supposed to only say, Left), something interesting happened. Kang Laoshi came to give a little speech, and then the names of some children were read out. All these kids were amongst my best students in grades two and three. They all went galloping up to the podium, and then an equal number of students’ names were read out, these ones corresponding again to my good students, but only grade one kids. These children ran out, and the first group tied red scarves around their necks.
I asked Guo Laoshi to explain to me what was going on (fortunately, King the SHHH-man had gone away – ever time I asked him a question, he shushed me!), and she told me that it had to do with the children at the school who wore red scarves round their necks.
I’d seen some kids wearing red scarves at school, but I’d just assumed that those kids who didn’t wear them were just not wearing their uniforms properly. It turns out, though, that the red scarves actually signify membership in the Young Pioneers, which is essentially a youth branch of the Communist Party.
I was trying hard not to think about Hitler Youth at this point.
So, the second group of children to be called up, about 8 in total, were the children who had just been admitted into the Young Pioneers. I gather it’s a bit exclusive – you have to be invited to join, and can only do so after showing “excellent academic achievement and leadership skills”
I have about 180 photos of happy smiling kids from that day. The sports day was a huge success. What I love most about this kind of event is that the parents, instead of sending their kids in in sensible sports clothes, dress their little darling girls in their Sunday Best Finery. It’s all lace and frills and sparkly shoes.
Here’s for of my favorite grade threes. These four girls are the top for English speakers in the school, and I absolutely adore them. I’ll miss them terribly when I go. Left to right is Ellen, Kristi, Katie and Rose.
My remaining three weeks in Dushanzi are beginning to be booked solid with dinners with folk who have been kind to me over the year. And on top of that, I plan to go up to Tianchi (you remember, the mountain lake I went to when I first arrived) for a few days with some close friends. We’ll hang out by the lake, avoid the tourists, ride some horses, play some music, and generally have a good time.
Then it’s off to Borla for Mushuk and I. Borla is about 8 hours away by train, and Mushuk’s new family live there, in a SINGLE story house with an outside area. I’m delighted to report that Mushuk will be in more danger of wandering away and getting lost than he will of being a putz and falling out of buildings. In Borla, I’m looking forward to visiting a Chinese farm, milking the odd cow (I promise to put my hair in plaited pigtails and get a photo taken…), drinking some FRESH milk for the first time during my whole time in Xin Jiang…
I’ll keep you posted.
Cheers for now!
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