Day 4 – Hard at Work and Play

       This morning was a doozy. Mr. Lamont’s voice permeated window. Wake up! We could all hear him in our rooms and awoke quickly. Oversleeping had not been a problem for us yet but I reckon the hard work took its toll on our growing bodies or maybe I just forgot to set an alarm. Who knows? The important thing is that we dressed quickly and headed straightaway to  Zhongynigzi School that was eagerly awaiting us.

       With the help of very strong and agile students, we continued laying rock foundation in the effort of leveling the road. A couple of assembly lines later, we were a little more than a quarter done. While taking a much needed break, Team Leader Vicky Zhang’13 proposed that we continue work on a mural of the Groton School Crest and Flag. Nancy, Byanka, Vicky and I tackled that project while Mr. Lamont continued to help with the road. White-washing isn’t as easy as Tom Sawyer makes it out to be. I ended up with more paint on myself than on the wall. Thankfully, Nancy (Future Artist of the Issue, Groton CV?), was there to guide me and we were able to successfully coat the wall with two coats of white paint. While Byanka and Vicky decorated a music mural, Mr. Lamont joined the primary school students in the national dance they perform everyday. Needless to say, it was a hoot but I heard he can’t continue teaching Modern China without it.

       Interaction with the students was wonderful today. An incredible group of school children taught me various phrases and characters. One boy, who was particularly good at English, served as my guide and introduced me to every child that gathered around. He even translated a brief description of my life atGroton. They were pleased to hear that I was going to college or rather the college I wanted to go to. High School students here recently took the “Great Exam”, a very difficult college entrance exam that all high schoolers in the country take. Getting to attend the college of your choice is very difficult if your scores don’t rank among the highest in the region. Contented with the fact I’m college-bound; I continued our conversation with a brief geography lesson of whereGrotonis relative toChengdu. My guide and other school children helped me draw a map of the world on the wall with chalk. It was great fun. They were all great teachers. My clumsy characters paled in comparison with their well-developed writing. They were convinced that I would get better but alas, I certainly need more practice.

       After lunch and a brief nap, planning for the Culture Room continued. General ideas turned into detailed and precise blueprints. Our plans of a multi-media library and hanging commissioned art pieces byGrotonartists will be brought to fruition by upcoming generations visitingChengdu. There was a particular emphasis on making the room interactive and welcoming instead of creating a museum space that I appreciated. Working on a China/US History timeline with Mr. Lamont was great fun. I learned some Chinese History and brushed up on my American History. An English teacher helped us with some Chinese history and I felt very much like a student next to two good teachers. Our draft was completed and we all felt very accomplished as walked to our next activity.

       Now, I was never one to regularly attend Groton School Dances but I might have if we danced a Mongolian traditional dance. Our dance teacher, endowed with the gift of patience, made the most wonderful moves look easy and helped us do the same. The dance was upbeat and mimicked riding a horse, a very elegant horse. I discovered the joy of moving my hands and feet at the same time to a rhythm. Our dance teacher was very clearly a professional who moved gracefully with great focus. We had all broken a sweat before she even finished explaining the first part of dance. Dance is very much apart of the way of life here. School children learned national, regional and school dances. Many people are interested in older traditional dance as well.China’s rich cultural history is very alive in the movements of all dancers here of all generations.

       After our workout, we were all joined by Cayo and Angel, two college students. Cayo’s mother works at the #3SchoolofChendu. Cayo and Angel were wonderful dinner companions with whom we discussed everything from the Great Exam to the Emperor Kangxi’s reign to popular films and video games to dating advice. Tomorrow they will accompany us to the Emperor Kangxi’s Summer Villa close to the downtown area ofChengdu. I can’t wait! Everything I learn aboutChinaintrigues me more and more. It’s still pretty early in the trip but I’m certain that this kind of learning experience will prove very valuable toGrotonstudents. Knowledge of different ways of life enriches your own life so much more. Tomorrow when I head to the summer villa, I’ll certainly imagine that I am an Empress in the Qing Dynasty but most importantly, I’m going to focus on the life of that incredible emperor and the lives of the people living under him and the people living here, in Chengde, now.







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