Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Busy Day

Mimi’s first full day at Xiada was a busy one. Since I have an early class on Thursday mornings, we were out of the apartment before 7 to take the girls to school. Mimi was impressed with the tropical foliage, and took this glorious photo of a perfectly-formed hibiscus. And with Mimi here and toting her camera, you’re going to have to suffer through many more photos of me, like this one of me and the girls on the overlook to the ocean near the girls’ school.
On Thursdays, we get to school before it "officially" opens, but the porter lets us in anyway. There are other kids who get there as early as us, but not many. Today we were the first to arrive. In the courtyard of the school, Zoe had to show Mimi her tai chi moves from the morning exercises her class does. She's getting pretty good at it!

Mimi then walked to the law school with me, and can confirm that it IS up hill all the way, as I’ve claimed! She suffered through a class on individual liberties, including moot court oral arguments from my students. She found their English hard to understand – I’ve had a few months to become accustomed to it, and I had the advantage of knowing what they were talking about! I thought I'd lost her a few times, but she managed not to nod off, despite the dryness of the lecture and the intensity of her jetlag!

After class we headed to the market to buy fruits (fresh pineapple, already peeled, papaya, and some little green and red fruit I've been eyeing without knowing what it is (and it turned out to taste like green (not yet ripe) peaches)), vegetables (baby bok choy and spring onions), and eggs. Of course, I had to show Mimi the meat market, too—with live fish and chickens and duck – but it didn’t faze her at all. After all, she says, it’s just like the markets in Africa where she lived as a child. In front of the egg-seller's booth, you can see a game -- on the blue table -- we frequently see played by the old men at the market.

On the way home through the park, we came upon a group of artists on the small island in the lake (as you can tell, the park is an interesting place). Since Mimi is an artist herself, we had to check it out.
They were working in oils, and some were very good. I don’t think they were students, since they were much older than the students here, so it must have been some kind of art club that gets together to paint. For purposes of comparison with what you see on the easels, Mimi took a photo of the artists’ view:

The buildings are the original dormitories for Xiada – built in 1912 – and still in use. You can tell by all the clothes hanging out to dry that it is the men’s dorm, and as we’ve walked by it dozens of times, I can tell you that they leave their clothes hanging out permanently, not just to dry on wash days! It looks much less ethereal close up, doesn't it?

We rested this afternoon – after all, Mimi is still jet-lagged, though I don’t have that excuse! We then headed back to Xiada kindergarten so I could teach Maya’s class some English. We added colors to our repertoire today, and the kids were amazingly good at remembering the English names for the colors. They had a lot of fun finding the people in the class who were wearing that color. Later, on the playground, I was playing with some of the kids, and I’d point out the colors on the balls they were playing with, and they really got into that.

We also did our usual stuff – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes:

And we did my made-up song of “Hello, Hello, How Are You?” And the kids loved the “I love you” part where they hugged themselves.

And then I hugged Maya and said, “I love you,” and it wasn't enough to hug themselves -- they all had to hug each other, too!

The teacher really liked the “How Are You” part of the song where we shake hands, and she sent one child up to shake my hand and say, “How are you?” And I answered, “I’m fine, thank you!” Soon all the kids were coming up one at a time to say “How are you,” and “I’m fine, thank you!”

The kids were just so sweet! The teacher told me later that the little girl above told her that “Maya’s mama is so beautiful!” LOL! On the playground, the little girl was stroking my arm and saying something about my skin, but of course I have no idea what.

Zoe and Maya were very excited to show Mimi their classrooms. Maya showed Mimi where her washcloth hangs in the bathroom, and where her cup is kept, and the space where she sleeps

So Zoe also had to show off her nap space. (Zoe informs us that the teacher has moved her to a different bed. Why, I asked. Not surprisingly, "Because I was playing with my friend next to me and keeping her awake." ALL of Zoe's previous teachers will understand this, since she has ALWAYS been moved for exactly the same reason!).

Mimi was suitably impressed, and was also very impressed with how bright and cheerful the kindergarten is. There are decorations everywhere, including on the landings of the staircases.

After our English lesson, but before class was dismissed for the day, we went out to the playground with the kids. Zoe’s class was also down on the lower playground – I had not been down there before, but Mimi went down to take pictures and reports that there is actually a swimming pool (without water!) down there! Zoe always yearns to go to the lower playground, but it is frequently locked. So she was excited to have an opportunity today.

Maya and I stayed on the upper playground – the usual courtyard playground you’ve already seen pictures of. Maya loved showing me the toys that are usually put away when we play there in the late afternoon after pick-up time.

I was interacting with several of the kids, one of whom kept calling me "teacher" in Chinese. One child brought me a “flower” – a weed he had pulled from the grass. I said, “Thank you,” and soon ALL the kids were pulling up weeds and giving them to me!

The little girl in the orange jumper seemed really shy during class, and didn’t say anything or sing any of the songs. And then she sat by herself instead of playing with the other kids. But she also ran to pull weeds for me, and gave me the sweetest smiles when I said “Thank you.”

School was then over for the day, and we walked home.

(I’ve been meaning to mention the building you can see to the left in the photo, just behind the blue fence. It has been under construction since we got here – the outside seems done, except for the windows, and the workers are working on the interior. Just about the entire country of China is under construction. And most of the construction is done by migrant workers – people who come to the big city from rural areas to find jobs. They live in the buildings as they are building them, and you can see clothes hanging to dry from the open windows. This crew has at least one family working and living there – we frequently see a woman and a little boy on the second floor of the building as we walk by. Of course, the building does not yet have electricity or water, so it must be a very hard life.)
Whew! An exhausting day all around! Even the girls seemed tired out, going to sleep easily after a bedtime story from Mimi.

Looks like Zoe conked out before the story was finished! I'm surprised that Mimi didn't, since jetlag woke her up at 3:00 a.m. today. But if keeping busy and staying on local time gets you over jetlag quickly, Mimi will be over it in no time -- because at the pace we're setting, there's no way she can fall asleep during the day! Nighty-night, everyone!


Milo Bloom said...

I love your journal. Thank you for sharing so much with all of us strangers.

Here's an interesting tidbit for your readers: The Chinese equivalent song to "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" is "Hair, Shoulders, Knee caps, Feet". You can hear the entire word-for-word translation at (a great place to learn Chinese Mandarin).

Anonymous said...

It's so nice to see pictures of YOU, Malinda! I continue to love your story.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that your mother is taking pictures of you to post! You are looking quite marvelous.

Shifting topics, thank you for pointing out the actual definition of "migrant" worker - someone who moves from one place to another, possibly within the same country, for work. The Dallas papers keep printing headlines about illegal immigration but the headline will say something about "migrant workers." It irritates me no end since illegal immigrants are not the same thing as migrant workers. The two groups have some significant overlap but also some significant differences. (OK, so I'm a bit thin-skinned on the press.)

H. Whitaker
Flower Mound, TX