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"YingHua in Beijing" Summer Program Announcement

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by Liao,Bonnie on 2010-10-15

Hello from Beijing,
Temperatures were surprisingly cooler today.  The sky was overcast for much of the morning and afternoon, and we had a light breeze blowing.  Today was a day on campus, and it was so comfortable that many of the teachers opted to turn the AC off in their classrooms and open the windows to the fresh air.
We had a full day of classes and activities, with instruction beginning at 8:45.  We allowed the kids to sleep in a bit after their long day on Tuesday, although I must say we have some diligent students who will still rise early to finish up their homework.  I have started to have to shoo some of the older kids into their rooms at night (all students must be in their own rooms by 9:00 pm).  We have a regular crew of study buddies who often circle up on the fourth floor by the elevator to work on their homework together.  These include Philip Ogden, Phillip Li, Lauren, both Victorias, Jason, Jessika, Stephanie, Shannon, Lionel, Jonathon, Ming Ming and Lin Lin.
After a full morning of class we had a special lunch in the restaurant:  Each table had a large bowl of thick white noodles to serve from and could add their own toppings such as sprouts, green beans, cabbage, a sauce of meat and bean sauce (zha-jiang-mian), or egg and tomato sauce.  Your children really do like noodles!
After lunch we had a special treat.  A Chinese educational toy specialist, Yao Laoshi, introduced the students to a selection of Chinese puzzled and games to help develop their skills in mathematics and logic.  He began his instruction telling the students that in order to do well with these games they would need to break their linear thinking and think in new ways (daopo xiguan siwei).  He began with a four-piece puzzle set and had the students make a shape of a T using these four pieces.  The pieces had both right angles and other more irregular angles and varying lengths of sides.  The task was much more difficult than it first appeared.  Lauren, Jessika, Vicky and Victoria were the first set of students to figure it out—it was delightful to watch their excitement.  Yao Laoshi had the students all work though a set of puzzles that involve a particular perception of right angles and then he changed the game up on them, where they had to now ignore the right angles as outer perimeters of their shapes and find ways to enfold some of these angles inside their puzzles.  Your children were incredibly focused and clearly enjoyed this challenge.  Once again, we were impressed with our youngest group of students: Victor, Rebecca, and Fei Fei.  They kept insisting on solving the puzzles themselves, covering their eyes when others were showing off their solutions.  Yao Laoshi says he thinks they will all be very good with geometry and encouraged them to keep playing with puzzles.  It was wonderful to watch his enthusiasm and patience with your children.  

At one point, Yao Laoshi was so delighted with Victor’s figuring out a puzzle (and with Victor’s enthusiasm) that he swept him up and gave him a sweet kiss on the cheek, which is a very lovely Chinese way of interacting with young children.  Victor just stood there beaming, and then was off to try the next puzzle.  I also observed his working long and patiently with Fei Fei as she contemplated strategies for solving a puzzle.  Her eyes lit up hugely when she finally saw the solution on her own, and Yao Laoshi’s face lit up along with her.  He turned to me and joyfully said, “Ta kaiqiaole!” (That is, “She is really awakening with a new understanding!”).  Yvonne and Elaine were also particularly delightful to watch, as they struggled and eventually figured out how to separate a set of metal rings from one another.  The puzzles and ring sets were available for purchase at a mere 10 yuan each, and some of the children purchased these and have been still playing with them.  They are great for keeping their hands busy!  Shannon and Lionel were an inspiration to the younger and older children alike.  They are both good with strategies games and have some experience with Chinese puzzles, so were quite an inspiration solving some of the more advanced games.  We’ll have one more session with Yao Laoshi before the end of the program as the students had such a good experience with him.
We had a brief break after our exercise with Chinese puzzles, and then gathered to watch a movie together about a village outside of Beijing called Jiaozhuanghu, which became quite famous for their resistance and guerrilla warfare tactics during the War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945).  The villagers built a series of tunnels beneath their homes and village, originally to hide from the Japanese, but eventually to carry out carefully planned attacks against Japanese military encampments.  The film was a drama and was seen by school children throughout China in the 1960s and 1970s as part of patriotic education.  This film was entirely in Chinese with Chinese subtitles, giving the students a good opportunity to practice their listening comprehension and reading skills in order to more deeply understand the engaging plot.  The dramatization was clear enough that the plot was comprehensible even for the beginning level students.  Liao Laoshi also filled in some necessary details as the film progressed to help with their comprehension.
When we were on the Tiananmen Gate, Yvonne had asked me why Mao was still such a hero in China despite the fact that he carried out so many atrocities and such violence was committed under his command and in his name.  This film gave students a window into Mao Zedong’s appeal to the masses, and the way in which school children were educated to revere Mao.  Mao Zedong’s teachings about self-reliance, mobilization of the masses, and resistance to foreign invasion were highlighted in this film.  The film starts with Mao’s calling for a “People’s War” and the conviction that no war will succeed without support of the masses.  It also opens with the ringing of the village bell, sounding the alarm of approaching Japanese troops, a metaphor for awakening the masses during this period.  On Friday we will visit this village, see this bell, and have a chance to walk in the tunnels dug by these villagers nearly seventy years ago.
After the film, we had a brief dinner of liang cai (cool appetizers, such as marinated cucumbers and tofu skin), both vegetarian and pork baozi (steamed buns), and a light broth.  We then gathered for a wu shu (martial arts) lesson with a very skilled instructor who has been working with the students to learn a form that they will present at the performing arts school on Friday.
We ended our day with a group reflection, and once again herded your children to their rooms, reluctant as they were to go to bed!
Thursday is another day on campus.  If you email or speak with your children, you might ask they about their favorite puzzles, about their thoughts on the movie, and about how it feels to be learning this rather challenging martial arts form.  And please don’t hesitate to email us if you have any questions or concerns.
I hope you are all finding a way to stay cool if you are in the middle of the eastern heat wave!
All the best from Beijing,

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