Although touted as a holiday, NTA Day is really more a day to honour teachers. We still have to go to work! On Sunday, however, we were included in a big celebration of teachers from 5 high schools, all of which have some sort of international affiliation. Our school, Jiaxing Senior Seconday, has both a German and a Canadian program. We met the German teachers and other Jiaxing English teachers at this luncheon held at in a huge conference center. It was strange to think we hadn’t seen any of them on our campus, but that gives you a sense of how big the school and grounds are. The school sits on about 6 square blocks of property and is (boarding) home to about 2000 students.
Celebrations are a big part of life in China and anything to do with schools will invariably have lots of performances by students. This one was no different. Students played instruments, dance and sang to all kinds of different music, with a backdrop of wild horses running in the distance. Several of the dance groups represented traditional costume and dance of minorities in China. One award-winning group sang “Do-Re-Mi” from the sound of music. I always thought Kurt looked a little too big for his lederhosen and this particular Kurt was no exception!
There was one part of the program with which I was very uncomfortable. The smallest performers, perhaps 4-6 years of age, were made up and dressed up in ways that would look at home on the set of “Dancing With The Stars.” Tiny little girls wore little tops with open laced-up backs and short fringed skirts that waved provocatively when they swung their non-existent hips, which they did regularly as they samba-ed with equally tiny boys dressed in black tuxedos. They had the moves but it seemed so inappropriate. They were too young and innocent to be dancing suggestively. Nonetheless, the moms were very proud of their babies. (Ed. note: See below for a 30 sec. video. You decide – Talent vs Exploitation).
After the presentations, a film introduced us to the philosophy of this educational group, who concluded through research, that the way to best help their students progress to become players in the international world is through a major emphasis on reading, both quality and quantity: a fascinating coincidence that the BC government only recently announced a renewed focus on reading in the elementary years. I don’t doubt that this is a truly accurate assessment as reading helps not only with understanding but also with writing, speaking and thinking in the mother tongue and other languages. There is also an acute understanding here that English is the language most needed in the global economy. Their children will be prepared!
The feast arrived after the entertainment and speeches (many teachers received awards, including 5 or 6 from our school.) Geoff has posted photos of some of the dishes served on Sunday. He has been the most adventuresome eater since we have been here and is willing to try everything. I refused the duck tongues and the frog; is an explanation really necessary? There were so many other dishes! Beijing Duck, stewed plums, steamed crab, fish, pork, beef, dumplings, vegetables, fruit…the dishes kept coming even after we were standing to go! Excellent food, lots of spice. We love hot food and are finding that most often things are nicely spiced and not at all bland. Geoff is eating his share of vegetables, too.
The Chinese like to drink as well as eat, especially on occasions when toasting is involved. Several times groups would surround our table to raise their glasses and toast us. After awhile, we got to our feet and toasted other groups. At one point the 5 principals got on stage and gave a toast to the teachers, then with shouts of “Gambay!” upended their glasses. Luckily for us, we were drinking beer which allows for a fair amount of toasting without falling afoul, or down.
We were glad to have been included in this celebration! We met some other English speakers and came away with a better understanding of the school and people we work with. All in all, a good day.