This weekend, it was Children’s Day in China. Friday, Saturday and today, Children’s Day. No, the maths doesn’t sound right to me either, but kids are fairly important here. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but since China’s One Child Policy ended in 2015, folks have been popping kids out like crazy, and the family traditions are still really strong here. Grandparents don’t necessarily live with the family anymore, but they do play a huge part in the family life. For example, one of my kids, Lawrence, has never been picked up or dropped off by his parents, but by his grandma, who seems like a lovely lady, by the way. So Children’s Day was a pretty big deal.
As such, we’ve been being told for the last month or so that we will have lessons to teach on Friday that won’t be like normal and that they would be about water. That was it. That was all we were told. We tried to ask for some more specificity to do with water, as in case you haven’t noticed, it’s a pretty big topic. We got nothing. On Monday, while the kids were enjoying an unexpected bonus day at home due to a red weather warning for heavy rain (no one told us that this was in place, so we thought it was a normal day until we got to school), we planned a bunch of games that we could play that involved water and water based vocabulary. Charlie cut out fish, I made dice (that I could fortunately use multiple times), and we were given a dance that we apparently had a month to learn – bearing in mind that only Lucy can dance – and was really difficult.
Our lesson plans were summarily dismissed and after lessons on Tuesday, we were given a dance lesson. And told that we were performing on Friday, so good luck folks. Luckily (or unluckily, I still haven’t decided), it was not the dance we had been given the day before but a different one, that while it was quite a bit simpler, was still not learn-able by Friday. Between Tuesday evening and Thursday morning, we had spent approximately an hour trying to learn this dance (apparently the parents learned it in this amount of time, to which I say good for them, but it was not enough time for us) so we revolted and spent a good hour and a half on Thursday morning watching the video that had been taken during our Tuesday lesson to try and actually remember the moves. We did not care about being in time, just that we did the moves in the right order. Of course, we still did it with a huge amount of complaining that we had to do it and that it would look rubbish.
Anyway, Friday finally rolls around and we come into school with little exact idea of what would be happening, because telling us just wouldn’t be as much fun, and would be breaking the character of the school. We had a timetable but it wasn’t exactly specific. We had no idea if we would actually be teaching lessons or not.
I went to my KC (littlies) classroom as that is who I was with in the mornings this week, and fairly quickly, kids with their parents began arriving, so I put on my best “I’m the fun teacher who you don’t understand but it doesn’t matter because I’m so outgoing” persona, despite feeling like death warmed up due to a cold – although at this point in time I was still insisting it was a bad case of hay fever – and wanting to go back to bed. Sarah, the KC teacher taught a lesson in which I helped out with English words and pronunciation, before the kids did an “under the sea” art project with their parents, which was, predictably, near chaos.
Once all the artwork had been hung up to dry, I bustled over to the theatre to tog up in my culturally appropriative costume for our dance, and we performed. It was terrible fun. There is a video somewhere and no, it will never be published. What’s left of my limited dignity would never recover.
Then was the kid’s “fashion show”. This seemed to be mostly the kids dressing up in various costumes then walking onto the stage and off again. I have many pictures of this, most of them terrible as I was not the official cameraperson, I was the official kid-corraller. I will share a couple of my favourites, but again, I don’t want to put too many pics of the kids up as they’re not my kids, and the internet is a nasty place. And a lot of the kids were in swimwear of some sort.
Some other highlights that I didn’t manage to get photos of: Dad as a crocodile while the kid was a chick; the cuteness of the twins Rachel and Raymond in matching cow onesies; fairies; a leprechaun; a caterpillar; and general cuteness that comes from being 4 and dressing up.
After the fashion show came the fun part. At least for me, but the kids and even the parents seemed to enjoy it. The water fight. At first, it was just the kids squirting each other with their water guns. But then one bright spark (and I don’t remember who it was (it was a parent)) thought it would be funny to blast Lao Shi Katie with their SuperSoaker. Lao Shi Katie didn’t have a water gun to use to get them back, so she just splashed them. War ensued. And I realised that I couldn’t stay in my white t-shirt, so after a quick change, I fought with a vengeance. It was a war with no winners. Sarah found a jug, the parents were vicious opponents. Washing up bowls got involved. I lost my shoes. I had water thrown at my face so hard it disodged one of my contact lenses. Wei got pushed into the paddling pool (I pushed her after she tried to push me). I had been given a poncho type thing to wear, but 1. That’s no fun and 2. They didn’t work anyway as they ripped and as soon as someone poured a jug of water over your head, they were next to useless.
Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this event, because as soon as I realised that I was going to get wet, I abandoned my phone so it wouldn’t get involved. Hannah has given me some pictures, but I’m not going to post them as they have young children who are not mine in not much clothing, and I’m not comfortable putting them on the World Wide Web. All I will post is a very happy me, afterwards, once I’d walked home in the rain, not bothering with my umbrella, as that would be like closing the stable door after the horses have bolted.
The afternoon was very similar. Except the parents did the dance instead of us (they were not as good as us if I do say so myself, so they clearly needed more than an hour), and there was exciting SCIENCE before the fashion show using water and chemical reactions. I was sitting behind the official camera person, so my pictures are even worse than the others, but it was very exciting.
There are no photos of the afternoon fashion show as the kids were all in their swimming stuff and I had a more involved job with the corralling of them, especially my pseudo-son King (one time, someone mistook me for his mother, despite the ethnic differences because I spent the whole field trip just looking after him, but that’s because he’s naughty, doesn’t listen, and needs one-on-one supervision).
For the afternoon water activities, I was adopted by Kevin as his parents weren’t there, and I dutifully helped him with his tasks, until it devolved into another water fight, once again with buckets and vicious parents. Charlie broke a bucket and threw Vicky into the paddling pool. I soaked Lucy multiple times and may have ruined my shoes (every time I took a step after, they bubbled. I don’t think shoes are supposed to do that). I threw a number of children into paddling pools, mostly after they shot me. I had a blast.
After the school day ended, we were invited to dinner with the teachers. And we went to…wait for it…a seafood place. Great. It wasn’t that bad, the shrimp were spicy and alright, but not worth the effort. The others can rest easy knowing that when they have them at school I will still donate my portion to them. I was feeling very rubbish by this point and all my pep had been used up so I went home after the food and felt sorry for myself for the last few hours of the day, finally admitting that it wasn’t just very bad hay fever. Though to be fair, I was due to be ill, since I have yet to be truly ill while here in China. It was worth it though for the totally awesome day I had.