Friday, November 15, 2013

October 28, Donghan Village / Chengdu

This morning I was woken up very early and went down to breakfast: pickled vegetables, a quesadilla-type thing, and a bread-type thing with sugar on the top. One of the other three women is going through caffeine withdrawal with only tea instead of her morning coffee: lucky me!

Then we went to the school which serves a larger area than only this village. It was an elementary school with about 300 kids. As soon as we arrived kids rushed up to us and grabbed our hands to lead us to their classroom: beyond cute. Overseas Adventure Travel helps to support this school financially, which must make other area schools jealous. Their latest contribution is money to construct a bathroom for the kids – what Mike calls “the happy room,” as in, "Anybody need to use the happy room?" — to replace the current setup which is to pee and poop onto the dirt over which more dirt is shoveled. You can imagine the smell and I am happy I didn't experience it myself.

The child who adopted me showed me her English book; tattered is an understatement. These kids in the third grade started studying English two months ago. Here she is:

Girls and boys share a classroom. Some kids wore “Red Pioneer” scarves around their necks that have nothing to do with the early days of the Party – now it denotes that they are good students. I noticed later that there were significantly more younger kids than older kids who wore the scarves: maybe the older ones start to goof off? No answer. 

 Before we were all called away, we left our presents on the teacher's desk and rushed out. She will be perplexed to find a picture book of San Miguel, Mexico, when she unwraps them.

Every Monday morning is the raising of the Chinese flag and singing the national anthem.

 Then there was an uplifting speech by a student – today's, I am told, was on the importance of keeping the school clean. And in fact the school and China in general are very clean. People pick up trash and many people are employed to sweep the sidewalks and streets with twig brooms. However, if it's so clean why do they need the reminder?

Next came the principal – male, of course, with only female teachers. I hate this. He gave a long speech which the kids seemed to ignore. I was told every Monday morning he reviews each class's achievements over the past week. 

Next the group broke up into classes and the teacher did the same thing about the individual students in the class.  As we left the school we passed many uplifting billboards meant to instill good morals in the children.  This one was also in English.

Back in the village the local tour guide with great distress told us to hurry, hurry: the plane to Chengdu leaves an hour earlier than they thought. So we all rushed back to our houses, grabbed our things and rushed to the bus. This is the first logistical snafu I have observed so far on this entire trip: an impressive performance. We did make the plane but not by much. With such an early breakfast I was starving and was delighted to be served something hot on the plane labeled “Muslim” – a bread-type thing with obviously no pork, sort of a Chinese burger. Once in Chengdu (pronounced CHUNGdu, just as feng shui is pronounced FUNGshway) we went to a restaurant where I had good practice picking out the hot pepper bits with chopsticks: Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province, and they like their food spicy. Being big noses, however (the Chinese nickname for Caucasians – a Jewish couple at first took offense thinking it was an anti-Jewish slur), we got served dishes that were not or only a little spicy. By then it was late, nearly 4 PM, so I will skip dinner tonight. Enough food, delicious though it is.

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