A couple of weeks after the wedding, with actually no warning whatsoever -as in some of us who planned ahead had planned our lessons for the week – we arrived at school on Monday morning along with the kids, and we noticed that those who had them were wearing cute little army togs. This did in no way prepare us for the sight that then came through the gate. Actual army men. In actual combats. Of course, still nothing was said to us about it. No one told us why they were there, what they were doing, how it was going to impact us.
We tried to go to our lessons as normal, which for me, meant going to BB class, and revelling in their cuteness. I then went on to try and find my class, and found both of them on the playground, properly dressed up in soldierly uniform, and watching a demonstration from the soldiers who were there. there was goose-stepping, there was martial arts and there were orders being barked and thrown about the place.
We were a little nonplussed by the show, and by the enthusiasm shown by the kids, who were UP. FOR. IT. But I was personally relieved that I wasn’t going to be teaching them today, even though we were supposed to be starting a new unit, and we didn’t have much time to teach it. Later in the day, when I found out that we weren’t teaching the KB or KA classes for the whole week, I was a little more concerned. That would mean that the unit we were teaching would have to be taught in two weeks in order to have enough time to teach the other units in the amount of term we had left.
The rest of the morning and the day were spent with the kids doing drill. I can confirm that doing drill is not fun when you have an attention span of more than five minutes. It turns out that watching drill is even less scintillating. At least I had a nice view though.
And I was very impressed with how the kids were acting. Other than one or two, who got yelled at as their attention was brought swiftly back to the present and the soldier in their face, they all were very keen to become miniature soldiers.
It didn’t take me veru long to see what this whole exercise was. It’s the same as the CCF, ACF and ATC in the UK, except less overt. When I was in the CCF, it was quite amusing to see active soldiers telling us that they weren’t here to recruit us, before telling us about all the interesting parts of their life as a soldier. So they weren’t actively recruiting us, but they were making sure that we knew that the army was a viable option and that it would be a lot of fun if we joined. By the time I got to university, proper recruitment was in place.
This was somewhere in between the two. China is well known for its displays of martial might. The recent 70th anniversary celebrations that caused Beijing airport to be completely dead for my parents, and grounded all planes for the military fly-by is a perfect example. To have these displays, and to quell any protests that may occur, they need many many people in the army. And how do you recruit? Well, show small impressionable boys how much fun it is to be in the army (and girls too, they were not excluded from this week of activity, but they were noticeably less excited by the prospect).
Drilling is not the way to do this, although you couldn’t tell with Harley and Enzo, who could well end up in the army in the future, but the next few days’ other activities certainly were. They had a display on how to attack a building from other soldiers, and they were allowed to handle the rifles they had brought with them. We curious English teachers were allowed to as well, and they were plastic. All the parts were functional, but they could not be used for actual firing. Or so I thought.
After I impressed the soldiers with my handling of the weapons, and laughing about how I was really bad with a pistol because I was having too much fun being an action hero (true story), we went to the other playground, and the children were allowed to shoot water gel pellet thingies (technical term) at little targets using the modified rifles.
Honestly their weapons handling and weapons’ safety was awful. I know they weren’t firing anything that could cause any harm, but those pellet could probably still sting, and as someone who has been in the army, your weapons’ safety is drilled into you so much that it becomes automatic. Even with a plastic rifle that can’t be fired, I still have to tell myself multiple times that it’s alright to point it at someone. The ones with water gel pellets in? absolutely not. They were not going to be pointed at anyone at any time, except the target, which, when I had a go, I shredded.
The kids also got an opportunity to put up a tent. It was a popup tent, and honestly, we should have them in the UK. Truthfully it wasn’t quite popup, but instead of having the poles separate, they were attached to the canvas in a sort of spider formation at the top, and folded in on themselves.
I’m pretty experienced at the camping thing. I can put up my tent in 10-15 minutes, depending on how much help I get, and who the help is. The way this tent is constructed would reduce that time so much. And when you’re putting it away it’s much easier to fit back into the bag. It’s a miracle and I want one.
At the end of the week, the kids had a presentation for their parents which was boring until it got weird. The children all did their little performances where they turned left, right, open order, dressings and all other simple military stuff. Then the parents were asked to make a very big circle, and they were all handed a rope. They spread backwards so the rope was tight, pulling it and leaning off it. THEN THE SOLDIERS MADE THE CHILDREN TIGHTROPE WALK THIS ROPE. I was confused and speechless and these are small children who are walking along a rope that’s five feet in the air and I know you’re strong and can probably catch them but why? They also made the teachers do it too, which was hilarious. I mean, also maybe unsafe. And hilarious. The teacher of my KB3 class, who had been flirting with the soldier commonly known as the fit one all week got to cling to his arm as she teetered along the rope. It was all very bizarre.
It was an interesting yet boring week, as we had nothing to do but watch, and I had a feeling like they were recruiting way too young. But I did make a new friend. Who I still speak to occasionally. Yep, it was the fit soldier. They wanted pictures with us, because they don’t get to see or interact with many white people. The fit soldier was proud to show me that he had been to Thailand and Vietnam as he still had money from those places in his phone case. I still had a fiver on me from the wedding, which I showed to him and it took a while to work out how much it was worth in yuan. I tried to give it to him, but he wouldn’t take it, so I guess at some point, he’ll have to come to England. The Chinese really don’t travel that much outside of China, and with its size and variety I don’t blame them. But that really would be a coup for him.