Visiting a primary school
On Thursday June 7 three foreign exchange students and me had the privilege of visiting a primary school in Zhenjiang for the purpose of interacting with the children, dressing in Chinese costumes , performing small dances and watching and listening some other opera dances and songs. As for me, I can honestly say that this morning of activity was a very special one that it is always going to remain in my memory for the following reasons:
Firstly we got into a classroom full of children from whom we were greeted with a warm-hearted and love-filled "hello" full of enthusiasm and smiling faces. This immediately touched my emotions and recalled many previous memories of mine as I have been working in China with children of the same age (and below) before. This time, however, for the first time I and we could communicate with the children in both languages, English and Chinese. Intentionally I tried to let several of them introduce themselves in English which they all could and which filled them with a sense of pride. It was nice to see their joy and smiles about this. Then we foreign students continued with working with them on painting facial masks for Beijing opera. This too was an interesting experience for me as I had never done it before. Many photos were taken and now I’m much clearer on what these kinds of masks can all look like.
In addition we were also given the opportunity to try out to wear some of highly traditional costumes. What a picture that made seeing myself in an emperors garment! As I was the only male student among the four foreigners I, of course, was the emperor and the girls were my wife & concubines. My only problem, however, was that I could never decide who of them was to be my wife and who my concubines.. Yet, in any case, my female colleagues all seemed to not be too happy about the question I faced anyway. Several photos were taken of ourselves and many more together with the children outside. Furthermore, we were also taught some traditional dances by some teacher which we tried to imitate, yet, in my opinion, only with very limited success. But I think we and the children all enjoyed it a lot.
Finally we were also given the chance to listen to some traditional opera song performed by a seemingly professional male and female Chinese opera singer. This, in my opinion, was and is real cultural exposure and experience as we in Austria, my home country, don’t have anything like it. This is Chinese culture and tradition in a rather pure form as Chinese opera has a long history in this country. The teachers’ voice was marvellous indeed and I enjoyed listening to every bit of it. Actually, what I found to my surprise was that virtually all school children in the proximity suddenly turned silent and listened attentively as soon as the performers started singing; and this without interruption until they finished.
Hence, overall I can and must say that for all of us students this day was a day of enjoyment, delight and pleasure. Not only did we meet and interact with many sweet and lovely children who provided us with many moments joy, but also could we learn in a "hands-on" manner about an integral part of Chinese culture which I now would not have wanted to miss!
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