Amy and I are all packed and ready to go so we wandered up and down quiet, (sad) foodless Stir Fry Street (can I really leave it?) and are now at the clean cafe for just a half an hour. I guess I didn't mention that we have an all-night "soft seat" train ride to Beijing. I don't mind the train ride, but I hate getting my luggage to the train.
Last night Gail and I got "Elegant" Taiwanese massages (one of the only ones in the neighborhood left to try) and then met the others over at my hair washing place because most of them had yet to experience that (which was hard for me to believe after how much I talked about it). What a sight to see four Americans reclining in a row with soapy hair and an attendant at each head. Wish I could send the picture.
Then Miguel, Jess, Karis, Amy and I went down to the carnival for one last walk along the water. Earlier in the day, one of the TA's told us something interesting...that the boats on the water in Shaoxing (and Keqioa - our polyester suburb) were different than all the boats in China. They are canoe-shaped with two overhead coverings and because of them Shaoxing is referred to as "The Venice of the East." For some reason we had not tried these boats, so at 11 last night we decided to hire one of the many guys beckoning passersby into their boats. It was a bit scary getting in, but our oarsman was quite competent. We were very surprised to see (because it was hard to see him on his perch behind the covered area) that he was rowing one oar with his feet and the other with one hand (he was also smoking a cigarette). We sang Italian songs and had a great reflection hour regarding our time in Keqiao; another bittersweet moment because it is Jess' last night with us. She is meeting her parents in Shanghai and is going to Beijing with them rather than joining the group tour. I haven't talked much about Jess, but as one of the youngest in our group, she has been one of the most steady and able to bounce with all of the chaos. She is great, and we hate to see her leave early.
So, for more emotional reporting, this morning at breakfast, calm cool Jess couldn't help crying. Our group, thrown together under very difficult circumstances, has functioned very well together. In fact, the director of ACT visited the other day and he said we were the most independent group out of the 75 teachers in China this summer. He was impressed that we had ventured out so much on our own...in fact I can't remember if I mentioned this, but we weren't supposed to leave until tomorrow. None of us wanted to miss out on another day in Beijing though, so on the train we go "alone" tonight. Anyway, it has been non-stop action, up down and sideways for four weeks, all eight of us, and it is hard to break that magic.
Before I go, I forgot to tell you one of the highlights from yesterday. Five minutes after I said goodbye to my first class (the third graders) and returned to the break room, there was a knock at the door. Someone opened it and there they were, all fifteen of them. Their teacher was in the break room, too (they leave their kids unattended in the classrooms all the time). She said, "Oh, they miss you already!" Then, because she is a music teacher, she suggested that they sing "Jingle Bells." They did, and we received perhaps the only caroling to occur in China this summer.
Gail told me a touching story last night. Thoughtful Debbie bought us each a puzzle of China as a parting gift. Since Gail taught her very bright fifth grade class a lot of geography, she put a piece of the puzzle in each kid's goodbye bag and then gave them a speech about working as a team to accomplish things. She told them "You all have a piece, but if you work together, you can make a whole and build the world" (she did not say 'in one day') (although her words were more inspirational than what I remember). One of her students stood up, independently, and took his piece and put it in the puzzle. Every single student followed and when they were done putting China together, they gave the puzzle to their Chinese teacher, whom Gail said was wonderful. She said she was holding back tears. Gail really is a wonderful person, and at 60, a very brave one to venture out to do this. She took all of her students on an imaginary journey for two weeks...they got to pick where they wanted to go and then they "flew" in a plane (she even had the kids act as stewards serving rows in a plane cake from across the street). The kids loved it and her. People here do not really think about traveling outside of China very much because it is very hard to get a Visa and it is so expensive and Gail helped them to imagine it.
Here is another t-shirt saying (just saw it) STOP SAD it says.
Oh, and Amy bought me a bag of chips, Inca Chips, "Ethnican Flavor."
Oh, and one of her students wrote in a penpal letter "My favorite food is dog."
Mine wrote to penpals, too. I can't decide which girl to give my niece as a penpal but she can choose from the video of them (Crystal, maybe your daughter wants one?). Anyway, I put a list of questions for them to answer on the board (yes, in chalk, did I mention the only tool I have had to teach with for the last four weeks is chalk?). Lily, my favorite, wrote "I like Marjie, but I don't like tomatoes or pork."
Now I really have to go! Good bye!