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"YingHua in Beijing" Summer Program Announcement

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by Liao,Bonnie on 2012-07-10

Dear Parents,

Sorry for the belated entry! (Today's Internet was down for the most of the day.)

Yesterday was another one of those crazily packed days that the students andn I are getting used to. In the morning, we went to the Temple of Heaven, where we were able to learn about both ancient Cinese culture (in their careful circular architecture which often revolved around the number 9 and multiples thereof) and modern Chinese culture, with lots of groups kicking jian4zi and dancing. There was also an older man who allowed us to try da3 hua1 gun4 (twirling a stick using two other sticks), which was quite difficult. Then, we went to a pearl factory, where we learned about how pearls are harvested, got a single fresh-water pearl as a souvenir, and “stole” pearl cream from the bathrooms.

We went to a dumpling place (Tianjin bai3 jiao3 yuan2) for lunch, where the students enjoyed watching the pros making dumplings as well as eating the dumplings themselves, which varied from the traditional chives/pork to “vegetarian” to beef/suan1 cai4 (sour vegetable). In the afternoon, we headed to JingShan park, where we saw (the model/recreation of) the tree from which the last emperor of the Ming dynasty hang himself when rebels stormed the Forbidden City. The students walked up the "Coal Hill" pass all five pavillions and sang our songs at the top pavillion.

From JingShan, we walked to BaiHai park, where Bonnie went to a lot of trouble to convince the two boathouses to let us take the row boats as they were told not to rent any row boats due to the cloudy weathy for fear of rain. The students initially wished they would rather use the pedaling boats. Though many boats went around in circles quite a bit, we all managed to get somewhere, and Bonnie and I hope that the students once again had the chance to appreciate the difficulty of doing things they once may have taken for granted.

After such a full afternoon, we hopped on the bus for a longish ride to "Sheng Ji Art School," where we met talented students, mostly Tibetan, who were orphaned from the SiChuan earthquake in 2008. Bonnie split our students up for dinner, so that no more than half of the table would be YiB students, while the rest would be the orphans. Students from both sides seemed shy and awkward around each other, and conversation certainly didn’t flow, but I was very appreciative of the opportunity. I encouraged the girls sitting at my table to talk to the other students, and I was able to engage one of the orphans in conversation, but it wasn’t until the end of dinner that anyone really got talking. (To be fair, I’m not sure that I would have been that outgoing if not for my status as a counselor—somehow, I think that gave me the guts to start a conversation; and, of course, I went to school in China for two years, which gave me more common experiences with them than the other campers.)

After dinner, we went to perform for each other. The students and I were floored and amazed by their professional, engaging performances, and many were disappointed by our seemingly clumsy, lackluster ones. (On the bus, Bonnie and I reminded them that the effort counts more than the results, espeically since we’ve only practiced for two weeks, and far from looking down on us, the orphans probably appreciated that we took the time to learn Chinese songs, yoyo, and martial arts.) Peter, who came to the program in 2009 and studied at New Talent Academy, bolstered our performance with a wonderful dan1 kou3 xiang4 sheng1, "I’m a Beijinger."

Then it was time for the songs we sang together. First, with the Song Invisible Wings, we invited the orphans who knew the song (most of them) up to the stage to sing with us; they quickly grabbed our hands and swayed with us to the music. Afterwards, our planned performance of Thankful Heart with sign language also went so wonderfully that Wang LaoShi said we almost moved her to tears.
Throughout our performances, the MC from their school sang along and smiled at me from the edge of the stage, and I really appreciated her friendliness and happiness—she exuded good cheer. It made me think the supremely cheezy thought that smiles are a language that everyone can understand, regardless of their background, and if life has made it harder for some people to smile than others, we should just appreciate the smile of the orphan-earthquake survivors all the more.

It all goes back to something that Bonnie and I were talking about. It’s true what our students complain about when they lament that “it’s not fair,” but usually, life is unfair in their favor, something we think and hope they’re starting to realize.

We got home late, so no group reflections.  

Rachel & Bonnie

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