Today’s Chinese lesson was particularly special as Miss Angela prepared our names in Mandarin especially for our 8.30 arrival. Then, she explained the meaning of each individual name. Some were truly fitting for our characters with Lily’s meaning, ‘happy flower’ and Josh’s meaning, ‘confident and enables others to feel comfortable’. As well as this, we learnt how to explain our likes and dislikes. Miss Angela gave us time to explain these and thought many were ‘pretty cool’.
Following Mandarin, Class 3 had ‘Tea Art’ where we were taught the formal etiquette and posture whilst having tea. The boys had a different way of sitting to girls but all seemed to find the arched back position somewhat uncomfortable and difficult to sustain. Nonetheless, the teacher was able to model this elegantly and with ease almost as though her poise in siting statuesque was an art in itself. Then, she explained that China is the biggest exporter for tea. She explained the different types of tea and what they are like, as well as where they originate. Then, it was time to brew up ourselves! One person per pair or trio was the chief tea brewer and had to wash, prepare and serve the tea. We learnt how to gesture to say ‘thank you’ for receiving tea by tapping two fingers on the table three times. Our favourite and most fragrant tea was Ulong- a common mid coloured tea, between yellow and black. Whilst enjoying the peace, we agreed that the level of discipline even required for making tea and ‘enjoying’ tea was somewhat of an effort compared to throwing a teabag in a cup. So, we took a moment to demonstrate our, ‘I’m a little teacup’ stance for the Chinese to exemplify our culture to them too!
Meanwhile Class 2, had Yangko music and dancing. Each student was given a different instrument (a large drum, a small drum, symbols and a gong) and had to learn a particular tune. Then, in groups of 4, they combined their instruments to create a group rhythm/ percussion pattern. After this, we were all taught a traditional Chinese square dance and had to perform in groups in front of the rest of the class. Sam and Dominic seemed to pick this up quickly but the rest looked like a centipede, trying to coordinating its many legs!
In the afternoon, the timetable was slightly different as we had our culture lesson straight after lunch, rather than Mandarin.
For Group 3, this was Martial arts. This lesson began with Roger refreshing our memory on former Chan moves and perfecting them before moving on to even move complex moves. He really does expect us to be like Jackie Chan by the end of the camp! In this lesson, Roger introduced a huge Chinese drum alongside his shouting of Mandarin numbers to symbolise the start of each new move. Whilst we had not yet perfected our moves with sharpness and precision, we had developed an acute respect for our instructor. Especially, when he and the Chinese students brought out the 毽球 or 毽子 (a multi-coloured, feathered toy used like a shuttlecock but kicked between players). The Chinese are so skilled they can do many many ‘keep me uppies’. We, however, could not manage more than two! So, we stuck to our usual basketball and badminton instead.
For Group 2, our final culture lesson was Tea art. Now, it was our turn to visit the beautifully presented tea ceremony room- a tranquil and classically decorated room full of ornate tea sets. Here, we learnt about the history of many varieties of tea and how to make each. After smelling the different types, from green to black and then jasmine, we took it in turns to wash, prepare and pour the tea for those around us and by doing so, learnt more about the social expectations in China.
Sadly, as this is our last full school day, we had our final Mandarin lesson of the trip. In this lesson, Miss Angela asked us to do a writing piece to consolidate all of our learning and as a reward, treated us to some Chinese card games and traditional Chinese sweets. We are truly thankful for the expertise and patience of Miss Angela and will truly miss her and her angelic voice, calm nature and patience whilst teaching us Mandarin!
After some class photos and individual photos with Miss Angela, Miss Cox and Mr Cooper were invited upstairs for a presentation amongst the teachers where Miss Cox was awarded, ‘the most helpful teacher’ award and Mr Cooper, ‘the most friendly’.
This evening, we made sure we ate some of the food on offer in the canteen but kept space for our outing to a traditional north- eastern Chinese meal organised by Miss Cox. In this meal, we chose some of our favourites including fried chicken, sticky sweet chicken, ribs, beef and green beans but also treated ourselves to a delicious fresh fish and fired prawns, amongst other dishes...Some of the other dishes included bugs (beetle style) and duck’s claw. After a celebratory cheer, we all gave one a go. Miss Cox and Abigail found the beetles reasonably tasty, given what we expected they may taste like... However, even Sam enjoyed the duck’s claws, whether it was just for a nibble of a tendon or to play with! The meal was a great success and most said it was their ‘favourite meal of the trip’. Dominic and Hannah even competed against each other for the title of ‘Most adventurous eater’ by agreeing to eat a fish eyeball! Judging by Hannah’s face and the fact she had to spit it out, we decided Dominic may have won this one!! Nonetheless, both were very brave in their efforts!
After this, Miss Cox continued to treat us by buying us a ‘Bubble Tea’. Whilst some had mango, others had strawberry and Oreo with small jelly ‘pearls’ or balls in the bottom. Some found this a little strange but Josh and Miss Cox enjoyed their Toffee Milk with brown bubbles as this was a more traditional form of bubble tea.
One quick look in a gadget shop (aka ‘tat’) and some silly purchases later, we returned with panda stationary, bubble tea key-rings, face exfoliators and even a mini piano!
Whilst the souvenirs may not last...our final night in Shenyang is definitely a memory we’ll treasure forever!