Hey Hey N a Big G'Day to you
This week has been such a wonderful week for the children and the school. The kids have been so full of colour, life and energy. That is if it can be possible for them to have more energy than the normal ten cans of Red Bull worth! For the last nearing two months they have been 'drill dancing' and when I say drill dancing, by this I mean they practice the one dance most of the day rain hail or shine! I have no idea where they got the energy from. How they still ran around like mad smurfs at break time and played chickens with me in class is an amazing feat! I would watch as they repeated the same steps for hours. Well, I wouldn't actually watch for hours but as I went here and there before and after class, there they were in the same spot doing the same thing day after day after day.
The music, oh the music was killing me. Get this...each level chose a song and a dance and every class for several months practiced this dance with the music on full in every corner of the school during every single available small bit of free time! Five minutes free, the teacher would have them out there practicing. The worst song of them all was 'I'm a Barbie Girl' by Aqua. Hated the song before and you have no idea how much I loath it now! Over and over, all day any day there was always a class lurking around a corner practicing to Barbie Girl. There were other songs chosen by different levels but they just didn't seem to tear my brain apart like Barbie Girl. As much as I dislike the song I must admit I did have a heap of fun joining in, stepping on everyone's toes and making all the wrong moves.
I lost my tape player by the beginning of last week. Prior to that I'd arrive in the office to find it had been 'borrowed' for dance practice. Hey, I didn't need it for class or anything! For a month or so it was always returned after class so I could hide it for my next class. Sometimes it was found, other times my class ACTUALLY got to sing along with some music. The last two weeks it completely disappeared. I searched but found no trace of it. I can't believe Barbie Girl 'tape knapped' my damn tape player man! I have no idea who had it or where it was, but I'm sure it was being forced to play Barbie Girl behind some dark distant schoolyard corner.
By Tuesday afternoon the kids were so excited about the two days to follow. Last year for Children's Day the school held the dance competition all on the one evening which was Children's Day Eve. Afterwards the teachers all went out and got hammered playing dice and card games during a huge feast. We all got to sleep in as the children got to stay home for the morning and came to school for a movie in the afternoon (Yes, Harry Damn Potter!). This year, I luckily found out the evening before whilst watching dance practice after English Corner that the dance competition was to be held over two mornings. This actually took three teachers and a student to tell me. Each had their own version of what was to happen.
You see, I've been here so long now they either forget I'm not Chinese or that I can not understand them. In the office they all talk in Chinese and forget I can't understand what they are talking about. Most times I have no idea in regards to the details about things I need to know about. You know simple things like cancelled classes, a holiday the following day and when the dancing will be for Children's Day.
You know the usual unimportant stuff!
The greatest example so far (which I may have written about in a past blog) is this. At the end of term last year the school threw me a party. How cools that and so sweet of them too. The only problem was, they forget to tell me about it so I went away for the weekend. I found out later that they all talked about the party in the office whilst I was there and naturally thought I knew all the details. Yes they did talk about it I'm sure, but in Chinese.
That's a perfect example of what happens if you're a foreign teacher here in China. It does happen to all of us and if you come here it'll happen to you too.
I hear some of you saying, 'you should bloodywell learn Mandarin mate!'
Of course I should. BUT for many things here in Tianyang it won't help me, nor will it help in other places in the south of Guangxi. Why? They all speak in their own dialects. Believe it or not, many of the older people don't even know how to speak Mandarin, I might as well be speaking in English to them as I'd still get that same look of confusion. Even if I knew Mandarin, I would still miss out on most of the information I need in the office as I can't understand the dialects.
'Mate, learn the bloody dialect' I hear you say. Did I hear you say 'the or a dialect'?
No no no, there is not one dialect my friends but many. They all know many of them too. Some people can't understand each other and have to find a dialect to share, or so I've been told. In some villages Mandy couldn't understand the people but Yang Yang could, in other villages it was the other way round. Mandy and Yang Yang came from different places. Mandy is from Pingguo and Yang Yang a village not far from Tianyang.
The easiest way to understand it is this, think of Europe with all its different countries and languages. Throw Europe into China and there you have the same thing but in the one country. When I was travelling with Chinese Policeman Brad down along the Vietnamese border there was several times he actually couldn't communicate with people as they simply didn't know Mandarin or his local dialect.
AND THEY WERE ALL CHINESE!
Most Chinese people can speak around three or four languages. Some of the dialects are so completely different that they become a new language. So what you really have in China is a country full of people who know several languages....and I know only English as do 95% of the people I know at home. Knowing only one language is hard for some of my Chinese friends to comprehend. Now that I'm here it's rather strange and silly for me too.
Oh, what did I do in school!
Anyhow, back to Children's Day.
So, there I was, standing talking to Annie. She is one of the happiest students I know. Sadly she is not my student as her family are too poor to pay the extra for her to be in my class...BUT...she actually has the best English in the school. Her father sits with her after school and on weekends and they study English movies, DVD's and books etc. Her comprehension is amazing for someone her age. I can actually hold a conversation with her without really having to explain much at all. Annie's in grade five and most of the grade six students could not even come close to having a conversation in English with her. I remember when I first met her last year (She was in Grade 4). She walked past me, stopped and came out with some strange question. I answered her and she understood. To my amazement she continued the conversation and we've been talking ever since.
So, there we were talking away and I mentioned dancing the following evening. She told me, No silly Shane its tomorrow morning. Bugger and ok I said and ran off to find an English teacher. The first one told me the dancing was the following morning, there were no classes in the afternoon and for Children's Day there was no classes in the morning and the kids got to watch a DVD in the afternoon like last year.
The second teacher told me the same for the first day and that there was a second morning to the dance competition. I asked about classes on the Wednesday and she said no. Later that night I rang my good buddy Lunar who hadn't been at school teaching for two days due to other commitments and she could actually tell me there was to be two mornings dancing, I had classes the first afternoon and the children would be watching a DVD Children's Day afternoon.
Man, you have no idea how confusing and frustrating it can actually get here. Usually I laugh it off but not to be told about the dancing being held in the morning! How much of a bugger for me would it have been to miss the first day. Wednesday I have my first class at 10:45 and the dancing would be nearing its end as it began at 9:00. (There were photos etc held afterwards). Sure I would have heard the music but it would have sounded just like practice every day prior and I would have turned Rob Zombie up louder in hope he would kill Barbie Girl!
I think it would have been the first time I actually would have been angry and not just a little either.
Both mornings dancing were just beautiful. The children were all dressed in what ever outfit or colours they had decided on as a class. They girls all had their faces painted and their hair was full of either ribbons or tinsel. The boys, well they are boys, most of them had the same colour tee shirt on and kind of the same colour shorts etc. Actually my Grade 5, Class 1 boys all had an outfit on, but they are all cool kids. In class they even work well with the girls. It took awhile for me to convince them that the girls didn't actually have germs, nor would they bite them. I'm working on my Grade 3's now, I think get to them early and it'll make it easier later on. Forget about my other Grade 5's and my Grade 6's, my gawd, anyone would think the girls all came to school looking like Freddy Krueger!
All classes danced so well with big happy smiles on their faces. Of course the older the students the smaller the smile! As far as I could see there were no real mishaps. By this I mean no one fell on their butt or face and got laughed at. That was my job at dance practice. I got through the song 'I'm a Barbie Girl' being played five times in a row each morning. I happily sat with all my classes at different times. After each one finished dancing some of the students would run and find me, drag me back and make me tell them over and over how good they were.
Class photos were taken after each mornings dancing and I got to sit in with most of my classes...oh, the tears were near! On the Thursday after class photos, the awards for the school year were handed out. As I was sitting with my grade fours at the time I had no idea what most of the awards were for, but I did guess that the students whom walked away with a new computer keyboard didn't win it for cooking classes or that the students whom walked away with an English book didn't win it for being the best at Chinese.
This is China, maybe they did and I'm the confused one!
All in all, Childrens Day 2006 was just perfect. The rain held out until the afternoon, the kids were perfect and we all had such a wonderful time.
My award goes to my three Grade 3 classes. They were the cutest. The best dancing went to my Grade 6's as I'm sure their only class for two months was my English class. They received a HUGE applause at the end of their song. As far as I know they took the award for both best in Grade 6 and the best for the competition followed closely by my Grade 5, Class 1.....or so I'm told. I'm sure if I ask two other people I'll receive completely different answers from both.
This is China and if you don't love or like it....don't complain, simply leave!
Beers N Noodles to you....shane