Last week, I, along with eleven other teenagers and a teacher (Li laoshi – laoshi means teacher in Mandarin), traveled to Dongguan, China. All the year 1s at LPC took part in some kind of project – some people stayed in Hong Kong, while other people went to the mainland.
The purpose of the trip to Dongguan was a cultural exchange with the locals there. Our trip was split into two main parts; teaching at a primary school in Dongguan, and sightseeing in Dongguan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
As any other successful service project, this one took a lot of planning. Each teaching group had to prepare a lesson plan – we were all going to teach English to 8 different classes from three different year groups. We also had to prepare a performance, as our part of the cultural exchange.
My teaching group consisted of me, Chien (Malaysian who speaks Mandarin) and Day (Thai). We were given the topic ”family”, and were told to keep it simple, because the children have a limited English background. With that in mind, we made a simple Powerpoint presentation, including words and sentences to learn, along with a song and a couple of games.
The other part of our preparation was, of course, the performance. I coordinated the performance, and gave myself the fabulous title of Director of Performance (or DOPE, for short). We came up with many different forms of entertainment; the circus people on our trip prepared a fabulous array of tricks, we sang the cup song, danced to three or four different songs and even learned (most of) a Chinese song!
After many many meetings and hours of preparation, we were finally ready to leave. On the Sunday afternoon, everyone gathered by the roundabout. We took a bus to University Station, and from there we took the MTR to Lok Ma Chau, which is a popular place to cross the border into China.
Crossing the border didn’t take as long as I thought it would. It was very entertaining along the way, because the overseas students had the chance to observe something that had come up in Geography class. In China (and most of Asia), breastfeeding is not a very popular thing. Most people prefer to give their babies powdered formula. There was a scandal in China a few years ago, where the powder being sold wasn’t actually baby formula. Since then, many people have preferred to buy their baby formula across the border in Hong Kong.
Because of this, regulations on how much baby formula one can take across the border have been imposed. Adults over 16 can take two cans of baby formula, with a combined weight of up to 1.8 kg, across the border once every 24 hours. The consequences for breaking these rules are actually up to a HKD 500 000 fine and 2 years in prison!
After crossing the border, we were met by our friendly tour guide Erica, and we got into a huge bus (designed for at least 40 people, so we all had a row to ourselves) and began the journey to Dongguan. The drive to Dongguan from the immigration centre in Shenzhen took about an hour and a half, and some people decided to sleep (bad decision – here is a photo of Chien sleeping).
The hotel we stayed at was a four-star hotel (that was part of a mall complex), so it is safe to say we lived comfortably for our time in China. Any food we needed could be easily bought from the supermarket on floor two, and there was even a McDonalds around the side of the mall. The hotel even had detachable showerheads (a luxury people living in Block 1 don’t get, although I know there is one shower with a detachable showerhead in the girls’ showers in Block 2). I was sharing a room with Lina (Ecuador) – even though we were still sharing rooms, it was really nice to have a little more space than in the LPC rooms, where there are four people to one room (although getting used to sharing a room with three other people wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be).
We had one evening to relax, and we got to work the next day. We had breakfast at the hotel every day, and each day it kept getting better – in our group we had several people who could not eat pork, so some mornings we ended up sending food back and asking for different dishes. After a couple of days, the hotel staff figured out what kind of food we liked (noodles, baozi, mantou, etc). Before you ask – yes, my chopstick skills have improved dramatically.
We taught at a local primary school for two-and-a-half days, visiting a total of eight classes from year 3 to year 5. My teaching group was given the task of teaching about family – not the easiest topic, as we had to try to keep the teaching fun. We ended up teaching simple family words with some sentences (like ”sister”, and then ”I have a sister”).
The Chinese way of teaching was very interesting to me – the smallest class we taught in contained about 40 students. They all sat down as soon as the bell rang, and we had hardly any trouble making them pipe down when we wanted to teach – even if there were no actual teachers present. Also, because there were so many students, it was very difficult to interact individually with the kids. There were three of us teaching, compared to only one teacher normally. Therefore, the kids usually learn by the teacher saying or writing something, and then all the kids shouting it back to the teacher in unison.
As well as teaching family words and sentences, we also taught ”You are my sunshine” and played Chinese Whispers and Hangman with the kids. They really enjoyed the song and the games.
After we had finished teaching, we performed at the primary school and at a local university. We also visited a historical garden, a ”book city”, an art museum and a cake factory. Our performances (the one in front of the primary school and the one in front of some university students) went great. The primary school kids literally loved anything we did, and Li Laoshi performed a song together with the principal of the primary school.
Pictures from our days out can be seen here:
The art museum we went to was great – Li Laoshi taught me a lot about Chinese characters and how the calligraphy from each dynasty has a different style. I also learned a lot about the ”evolution” of Chinese characters – how the characters in old times looked a lot like the thing they were supposed to represent. Over time, of course, the characters have changed, as language does. Now the character for ”water”, for example, looks a lot less like water than it did a few hundred years ago.
We also went to Shenzhen, which is right across the border from Hong Kong. In Shenzhen there is a ”book city”, which is basically a mall containing many bookstores and cafés. I really liked it – I bought many Chinese books (at kindergarten level), and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to read them by the time I graduate from LPC.
All in all, I feel that I had a highly successful China Week trip (horyiiii). It makes me a little sad to know that next year I’ll be staying at LPC while my first-years go off to China – Li Laoshi is leaving next year, as she is joining the new UWC in China. Hopefully there will be a teacher willing to carry on the annual trip to Dongguan – it was a great trip, with great people and a great teacher. Li Laoshi, you will be missed!
IB 7 laaaaa.