Tuesday 23rd July - Day 8 - Typical Chinese School Day
Tuesday 23rd July - Day 8 - Typical Chinese School Day
Today was a typical Chinese school day where we left at 7.40 am and arrived, ready to start lessons at 8.30. Mandarin was our first lesson and today’s lesson taught us how to talk about ourselves in conversation.
Following this, we were split into our subject classes. For Class 2, this was Embroidery. Five of the boys from SPH all instantly embraced this intricate art, showing off impressive needlework skills. The Embroidery required concentration and patience and all stuck to the task in order to complete their own floral handkerchief. Jacob enjoyed it so much, he brought it back on the coach to complete!
Meanwhile, Class 3 learnt the art of making dumplings. First, the class watched the cooks (more like chefs) from the school canteen prepare the dough into a long sausage shape, before cutting into small balls which would later be rolled into circles and form the outer case of the dumpling. This was a particularly fascinating aspect of the craft as the cooks seemed to manage to roll the pin into the ball of dough, making it flat but whilst doing this, they spun the dough around with their second hand and, within seconds, formed a perfectly round circle, in circumference, shape and even thickness. This alone was fascinating and a skill in itself, particularly because as novices, we could only form a thin layer of dough by rolling it into some misshapen oval or rectangle. Inside the dumpling, there was a mixture of pork, onion and celery. Whilst making the dumplings, we were told that this would be lunch. Miss Cox then told students that this would be all they would have for lunch so they’d better be good and, before Jamie Oliver could make a bowl of pasta (15 mins), we’d made three trays full of dumplings which were ready for the taste test… Even if some of them looked like a Cornish pasty!
At lunch, as promised, we got to try the dumplings we had made in the previous lesson. Unfortunately, whilst some of the other schools and teachers tried these, most of us chose to avoid these and leave it to the professionals.
In the afternoon, Mr cooper and Class 2 headed off to experience the Kung Fu class. Roger, the teacher, demonstrated a graceful and powerful set of moves which we all had to follow. Despite him making it look elegant and simplistic, it proved somewhat more difficult with our first attempts looking more like we were running the Wipeout obstacle course. But, after a few attempts, we began to get to grips with the various punches, kicks, stretches and turns. This culminated in having to recreate the routine in our groups without Roger’s lead. Dominic stepped up as the SPH lead man as he was the only one who could remember all the moves! By the end, we mastered the sequence. In fact all the moves except for the elusive ‘magic move’ which involved Roger running 3 or 4 steps forward with the grace of a ballet dancer and jumping before landing low to the ground in the pose of a praying mantis. Perhaps Bambi on ice would be a better description of our attempts to copy this though...
After lunch, Class 3 had Calligraphy: the ancient art of handwriting using Chinese characters. First, the teacher explained the purposes of calligraphy and where we may see it. Then, she explained the history and different styles, as well as how to hold the brush and the movements of using the brush to create the writing. Josh and Libby modelled after the teacher, showing others the direction and brush strokes for each of the important characters meaning ‘fortune’. In Calligraphy, the brush must be held straight up vertically and move from top to bottom and left to right in swift movements. The brush needs to be clean and ink should be used to cover the brush but not make it sodden. The method was quite complex but many got the hang of it and, had soon crafted their own piece of calligraphy art to take home and frame for their bedroom wall.
The final activity of the school day was ‘Introduction to Shenyang’ from the Chinese students who spoke in English for a whole presentation about the local area and traditions in the area. The students were very confident and then asked SPH students for any questions. Josh asked about games that students play as he visited an escape room on his host day and wondered how much Chinese people practiced chess. The students explained a similar game to chess and where it originated and then, before he knew it, Josh was up playing a 2D paper version on the board. Sophie drew similarities to the games Connect Four and Noughts and Crosses but, somehow it seemed that in true Chinese style, this had far greater complexity!
Once we’d arrived back at the hotel, we went to the nearby square which holds an enlarged statue of Chairman Mao. Beneath this, members of the general public, danced in couples, groups or pairs. Josh was particularly confident and joined in the yoga type stepping/ dancing. Within minutes, there was a group of students willing to take part! With some prompting and persuasion from Miss Cox, most of the others joined in for fear of missing out and all were in awe at this common practice in many communal areas around China. Meanwhile, Mr Cooper had a go at arm-wrestling. Unfortunately, to his dismay, he lost all three times!! Dominic, however, was the closest to beating the man. What was even more shocking or unbelievable was the man’s age and reinforces how important health and fitness are in China. (The age of the older populations may be further evidence of this too as there were elderly people, nearing 70 or 80 dancing in the park and even climbing ‘The Great Wall’ back in Beijing).After the visit to the square, we played a music quiz in the hotel lobby and before we knew it, it was time for bed before our third day in school and an afternoon Shenyang sight-seeing.