Saturday, May 12, 2012

24 hours on a train with middle schoolers.

This year I have been working part-time at the Shenyang International School to help off-set some of Elisabeth's tuition costs.  I've been teaching in the middle school English support program and it's been fantastic.  The kids are great, the teachers are so committed and it's been a good experience all around.
Every year, the students go on a Spring Adventure.  They go to different places in China-this year we went south.  I was asked to come along as a chaperone and without hesitation, I said yes.  The trip is to expose them to more of China and to stretch them individually.  They start out each day with a devotional that has a theme.  This year it was "hesed".  "Hesed" is a Hebrew word that has a meaning for humans and for God. For humans, it implies kindness and mercy.  For God, it means His Covenant or one way love/mercy for us.  They studied about different friendships in the Bible and considered how to be good friends for each other.  These kids are 11 and 12 years old and the studies and ideas were very challenging to them.
We started off with 24 hours on a train to Nanjing.  You might think that 24 on a hard sleeper in China would be difficult but it was really fun.  Middle schoolers are old enough to take are of themselves but still sweet and respectful.  During the train ride, they played games, sang, read books, knit and just hung out.  Most slept pretty well and woke up ready for our day in Nanjing.
Traveling in China with a group of international kids and a multi-national staff brings a lot of attention!  There is no social prohibition against staring in China or picture taking.  Many of the kids speak pretty good Chinese and storekeepers and others are always surprised by this.  The kids dealt with the attention with good grace and humor.  One of the kids is from an African country-dark skin and a shaved head are not often seen in China-he got more than his fair share of attention and pointing.  He was amazing at the way he dealt with it - he laughed, got a fan, covered his face with it when the cameras came out and pointed at the American kids and told people to take a picture of the Americans.  He then told people they could take a picture with him if they gave him 5 RMB.  I was pretty impressed with how he dealt with it- that kind of attention can be exhausting.
One of theother funny things that happened was this.  The train was air-conditioned but warm.  The train compartments have no doors so you are open to the aisle.  I got hot in the middle of the night and stuck my feet up from under the quilt.  I woke up a little later as a train worker was gently covering up my feet.  It wasn't creepy-it was actually rather sweet.  Keeping your feet warm is a critical thing in Chinese culture and they were just being nice.
I won't post much detail about the trip but here are a few pictures.  We were in a beautiful part of China- so different than where we live now. Southern China is green and lush and very economically prosperous.

Sun Yet Sen  (father of modern China) Mausoleum.

Old astronomy instrument.

The top of Golden Purple Observatory.

At one of Suzhou's Gardens.  These tiles are laid on the in formation of the Chinese character ren 人 which means "people." This is where the men could walk.  The idea was that if you walked here, you would have great prosperity.

This is where the women could walk.  Hmmm. no 人 for the women?

The gardens were stunning and peaceful.

Lily pads

Canals in ZhouZheng

Boats in ZhouZheng

"Everybody's got a water buffalo
                                                     Yours is fast but mine is slow                                                     Oh, where we'd get them, I don't know                                                     But everybody's got a water buffalo"(from Veggie Tales)

We stopped outside a house on a commercial street in ZhouZeng.  This man came out and invited us into his shop-he was a well known painter and showed us how he painted.  Great experience for the kids

HangZhou Silk Museum...the worms, cocoons and mulberry leaves.

Ancient Silk Garments.

Old, huge looms.  The history of the silk trade in China is really interesting.  Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama is one of the best books about this  Actually, all of her books are excellent.

The floating dragon boat on the West Lake...or as the kids called it "The Lochness Monster of China."

Small bridges at the West Lake

Heart shaped flowers.

Passing through Shanghai on our way to the airport to fly back to Shenyang.  We didn't have enough time to really stop here but it looks like an amazing city.
The trip was good on so many levels- the kids, the things we saw, the discussions, singing and more.  I got to know one of the Chinese teachers better and to talk with her about life and marriage in China.  I am so glad I was able to chaperone this trip.


prechrswife said...

Sounds like a great trip! I had to chuckle at your quoting the Veggie Tales water buffalo song because someone from our adoption travel group would start singing that every time we saw one in China. (different people at different times)

Angie said...

What a beautiful trip, and one that everyone will remember. I think living overseas is one of the best opportunities people can have as it opens our eyes to other cultures. What a blessing!

Sharon said...

What a fun trip. I'd like to here about life & marriage in China, if you can share.