Edit Blog Post
Published: February 19th 2011
The regular school year ended a couple of weeks ago and so did my regular teaching schedule. This was the time of the year when school lets out and the entire country shuts down for the Spring Festival, (Chinese) New Year, the Lantern Festival and the Cold & Flu Festival.
With school out, there really is nothing for kids to do in this hayseed town.
There isn't even any trouble for them to get into. With so many idle, potential paying customers, my school offered “Winter Camp” in the hopes of teaching proper enunciation and to vacuum up any stray RMB
“Camp” was well subscribed but proved quite grueling for the teachers. Ten days straight of classes, three two-hour classes a day for me, but with no textbooks to work from. It was expected that I would just wing it and be creative.
Now, I know a lot, but a skilled writer of curriculum I am not. That is the sort of thing that really smart people with masters' degrees make careers out of, and I plum just ain't not one of them folk. And if making up lesson plans for ten days wasn't hard enough, it needed
to be designed for different age and skill levels. That's a hell of a lot of time to fill. Being the calm, level-headed person that I am, I started to have a meltdown.
Urgency prevailed over doom and the Aussie and I came up with enough goofy ideas to get us through “camp”. I taught three different age groups each day. I'd go from singing silly Children's songs with six-year-old’s in the morning to discussing film noir
plots with pimply Junior High school students in the afternoon.
By the end of the “winter camp” we were utterly drained, but we managed to get through it all without strangling very many children. The “feedback” forms (the all-important critiques that students fill out on the last day) were overwhelmingly positive. And speaking of Winter Camp, I promised myself “never, ever again”.
For Chinese New Year's Eve, the Aussie and I joined forces with another Foreign Teacher, left town and the three of us took the bus up to Qufu, the much-touristed home town of Confucius. Once there, we checked ourselves into the local Youth Hostel
. Other than wandering around town to peep at the locals as they decorated their front doors,
made their last-minute firecracker purchases and stocked up on enough Baijiu
for New Year's, we just relaxed. For two whole days, I reacquainted myself with clean sheets, hot showers and afternoon naps. On New Year's Eve, while the entire country blew off fireworks and ate boiled dumplings with their families, we stayed in at the hostel, drank Tsingtao beer and parked ourselves next to a space heater.
Back to scenic Weishan, where the seemingly never-ending Spring Festival is now in full force. The town's street trees have been decorated with twinkly lights and everything looks quite festive. Fireworks now explode every day from early dawn until late at night, though that really isn't much of a change.
Since the kids are still out of school for the extended holiday, it is announced by the boss that there will be another Winter Camp. I look over at the Aussie. The Aussie looks back. (“Again? You serious?”)
The Aussie and I split up the classes, he gets the K-6 kids and I get all the teens. This time around though, I am a lot better rested and find it easier to come up with enough original lesson plans for
a week's worth of classes right out of thin air. Winter Camp goes a lot better this time. The kids, parents and boss are happy and I make it through in reasonable spirits. But let's never do this again, OK?
(The Aussie went home right at the end of camp. He had enough fun, did his time and has returned to Oz.)
Regular classes will start shortly, but not without one more celebration. This time around, it's the Lantern Festival
. On this day, firecrackers blow up all day long as always, but this time there are street booths selling paper lanterns and some booths selling tasty snacks.
Once nightfall comes, the entire town wanders down to People's Park (yes, it really is called that) to watch the fireworks show and take part in the whole lantern thing. Colorful paper lanterns equipped with a flaming wick are set aloft en masse like some sort of traditional incendiary prank. Safe and sane, these things are not. They float slowly up in the air like a swarm of glowing red jellyfish. I ponder how often the flames go out before the lanterns come down onto some guy's field. The lantern's red glare and bombs bursting in air continue well past midnight.
The next morning, I am back to being the only Lao Wai in Weishan.
Tot: 0.112s; Tpl: 0.016s; cc: 12; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0406s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.1mb