So this is me, one full week back in China. I feel so at home here, it almost scares me. I’m not one to do well outside of my comfort zone, but here I am in a culture that is drastically different from mine, and I am almost more comfortable walking down the streets of Qingyundian than I am walking down the streets of New Hope (though I guess New Hope can be a bit scary in it’s own right anyway).
My schedule is wonderful and fairly lax. I have been waking up at 6:30am every morning! It is a beautiful thing, I really love the mornings. I get to the foster home at 8:00, after a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Might I mention here that I live on the sixth floor of my apartment building, I walk 15 minutes to New Day, and it takes a good 15-20 minutes to walk into the village from New Day (even longer from my apartment). Lots of indirect exercise … I love it!!
Once I get to the foster home, I spend time with the kids in a big playroom as their nannies get them ready for the day and send them there. The older preschoolers (Ben, Seth, Savannah, Julia, and Emily) head out at 8:30 and I go with them and help with the preschool every day until 12:00 (the younger preschoolers join us at 9:30). The kids learn in Chinese and in English. They know alot of English children’s songs, and some of them know their colors and numbers in English. There is a fair bit of play time in preschool, but it is for the most part structured play time, with specific tasks to work on, such as building blocks or putting together puzzles, etc. The kids talk to me in Chinese alot, and then I stare at them blankly and respond to them in English. At that point, they either walk away or grab my hand and drag me somewhere and point until I get the idea of what they are trying to tell me.
My first day in the preschool, Sarah (the teacher) introduced me to the older ones as “Bekah ayi.” “Ayi” means aunt, or nannie, or helper. The kids repeated my name after Sarah. It was something so small, but to hear these kids who mean so much to me say my name out loud was one of the most precious things I have ever experienced.
12:00-1:00 is my lunch break. I eat in the cafeteria with most everyone else at New Day, including the students from the school. I spent $14.58 (100 yuan) on a meal card that is going to last me the majority of the two months I am living here. And I never leave hungry.
From 1:00-3:30 the kids are either sleeping or being fed by the nannies, so I don’t spend more time with them until 3:30. I spend those 2 1/2 hours helping a lady named Amy with her English, and brainstorming lesson plans for the preschoolers. Helping with English is fine. Lesson plans is not (not yet, at least). I am a Media Communications / Music Management major. I know nothing about education, especially not early education that is trying to cross cultural lines. Any help that anyone can give me would be greatly appreciated!
3:30-5:00 is spent simply playing with the kids. We are either in the big playroom, or outside where there is a big playset and a sandbox and lots of grass and swings and other equipment to play on. It is my favorite time to take pictures when the kids are outside. They get a new energy and the happiness exudes from them (I will be posting pictures sometime soon, I promise).
5:00 until I sleep I am free to do as I want. More often than not, I walk into the village with my roommate or other people from New Day. I am getting very spoiled with the fresh fruit they have there, particularly the mangos. There is also the most amazing chicken on a stick that I have ever tasted in my life (yes, I am eating food from street vendors in the middle of a small village in China. I haven’t gotten sick yet). One of my most favorite things to do while walking down the streets of the village is to say “ni hao (hello)” to the inquisitive little Chinese kids who love to stare at me. One of two things happens at that point: their faces break into huge smiles and they say hi back to me in English and wave frantically, or they turn their eyes down and run to hide behind their mother. Either response brings a smile to my face.
Last Friday, we took 19 of the kids (and 19 adults) to the Kimberly Clark company building. Kimberly Clark supplies New Day with many many many free supplies, it is really so wonderful. The company hosted a party for the kids, so they got all dressed up in frilly dresses and white stockings and bows, or slacks and collared shirts and ties and baseball caps, and we piled onto a bus and drove to the Central Beijing District. “My” kid for the morning was Adah. When we got onto the bus, she sat in my lap and as we were driving, her eyes were glued to the outside world. She would repeat words after me, like “truck,” “car,” “green,” “tree,” and she would point at things excitedly and chatter endlessly in Chinese.
The wonder that was in Adah’s eyes at the site of scenery outside of the foster home or her foster parent’s house got me thinking. My mind came to the song “American Girl” by Tom Petty. One of the lines goes “After all it was a great big world, with lots of places to run to.” Adah was able to find wonder in such a small part of her “great big world.” She was 20 minutes outside of everything familiar. Just 20 minutes, and EVERYTHING was new to her. This little girl has no idea how much more of a great big world it really is. How big will her eyes get when she meets her forever family? How much wider will they open when she sees and airplane and then flies to her new home?
As adults, we talk about how small the world is. (And really, it is. One of the girls who works here has a sister who worked at the same camp in Wyoming that I worked at for two summers. She is also friends with the new RDs of the school I am going to next semster that is in Martha’s Vineyard. Talk about a small world!) But as children, the world is huge. And for the kids here at New Day, they never know just how big the world is until their forever family finds them.
And it is my hope that each one of these kids is able to experience their great big world.
(Allow me to remind you that you can go to New Day’s Site and click on “Babies” on the left hand sidebar, and see pictures of the kids that I am working with this summer.)