Saturday, June 2, 2007

Children's Day

June 1 is Children’s Day in China, and my students tell me it is like Christmas for children. Your relatives buy you presents and your parents are to take you to fun activities. And of course you don’t go to school! The schools have activities for kids, though. Zoe’s and Maya’s kindergarten had a huge musical performance. The older kids and teachers (yes, the teachers!) were the performers and the younger kids were the audience. The thing was held at Jiannan Auditorium at Xiada, and there must have been at least 1,000 people in the (unairconditioned!) hall.

Zoe had to be at the kindergarten at 7:30 a.m., in costume, for makeup. I admit to being a little surprised by her costume (denim skirt and pink t-shirt) – silly me, I expected it to be some Chinese-esque outfit or something dance-recitally. (It’s really silly of me to keep expecting dance performances in China to be some kind of “culturally Chinese” experience. It’s not like every dance performance in the U.S. is square dancing or clogging or something else “typically American.” It’s part of my tendency to exoticize China, I think. Somehow it’s more natural to think of China as it was centuries ago (maybe we should call it “Mulan Syndrome!”) rather than as it is today).

They sure piled on the makeup, including a pancake base that bore no resemblance to the children’s actual skin tones (remember, paler is always considered better in China).
And then sparkly eye-shadow, blusher and lipstick . . .

. . . even for the boys!

I worked hard to make Zoe’s hair pretty, but the teacher had her own idea, and all the girls with long hair (not that many) got the “I Dream of Jeannie” treatment, with tall ponytails (with embedded wire – I’m glad Zoe didn’t put someone’s eye out with her sharp pony!) wrapped in ribbon.

While Zoe and her classmates were getting all gussied up, Mimi and Maya were making their way to the auditorium to wait and wait and wait . . . . Still, Maya had fun because she found some of her classmates to sit with.

But even after the show started, they still had to wait for Zoe’s performance – her class went dead last. We sweltered through 12 other performances first!
Some performances and costumes were what I expected – Chinese silk pajamas and ethnic Chinese costumes, for example.

One class included a cute comic performance by one boy as a pompous provincial official.

Some of the performances were typical of dance recitals, like this class of flowers blooming in spring.
Other dances had a more modern aesthetic, like the kids in cheerleader costumes and track suits acting out Olympic sports with Beijing 2008 banners prominently displayed. And then there was this patriotic military number:

The teachers also got into the act with two dance numbers, and they were quite good! I was really surprised when we got to Xiada kindergarten that there was a piano in each classroom and all the teachers could play. I’ve since learned that part of your college degree in Early Childhood Education includes training in dance and music, and ALL Early Childhood Education majors graduate having learned to play the piano!
(Again, one number that met my expectations of “Exotic China,” and one that ran firmly counter to what I expected!)

FINALLY, it was time for Zoe’s class to perform . . . to the tune of “Hey Mickey!” (Hey Mickey, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey!).

Too funny! The kids did a great job, and obviously had tons of fun. Zoe was really delighted, since she regretted missing her ballet recital at home this May. It might not have been ballet, but at least it was a recital!

Since Zoe’s class performed last, they became part of the closing montage, where everyone waved and sang a good-bye song. And there was a parade of middle-aged men who came on stage to shake everyone’s hands – I’d guess they were local education ministry officials. One of the teachers grabbed Zoe and put her stage center – because she’s so cute, of course!

After the performance, we followed Children’s Day tradition and gave Zoe and Maya presents (they each got two dolls in Chinese costumes that I had found at the infamous “Arts & Grafts” shopping center (but not at that shop since it was closed!)). We also did the obligatory fun activities by going to feed the fish at Nanputuo and then to dinner at Lin Duck House.

I bet the girls are going to expect to celebrate Children’s Day every June 1 from now on!


Anonymous said...

My mom was a kidergarten teacher and back then they were required to play the piano too! (She went to college in Wisconsin.) I remember having pianos in my elementary school classrooms in Connecticut, too.

Both our adoption trips occurred in late May/early June, so we've been in China for Children's Day twice. In fact, Meredith's adoption day is on June 1st. And since we celebrate both girls' adoption days together (they are a week apart), and we had already celebrated last weekend, I didn't remember it was her adoption anniversary until late last night!

It looks like it was great fun!

Wendy said...

Thanks for sharing these photos. They look really cute and it looks like a really cute/fun time despite the heat.
Madeline's foster mother emailed a long email wishing Madeline all the best, fun, joy, etc. all about the Children's Day. I didn't realize it was such a big deal--we were in China last year at this time and didn't see a thing about it, but we were in a hotel (WS) in GZ so that may have removed us from the action.