Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Tianjin Children's Home Journal by Rebecca Wu
Sunday May 25, 2008 & Monday May 26, 2008
First Days and Impressions
I arrived at the orphanage with my bags and was greeted by one of the administrative workers, Pei Lei. After treating me to dinner at the orphanage’s cafeteria, she helped me settle in at a nearby hotel Jin Jiang Inn. The hotel is a simple 3-5 minute walk from the orphanage so it is very convenient. The next day, I went to the Tianjin Children’s Home and was introduced to Madame Feng. She welcomed me to the orphanage and then had Pan Lao Shi help me settle in at the orphanage. He assigned me to help with the 4-8 year olds. I walked into the classroom and was introduced to Yin Lao Shi and her two teacher assistants. The children in the room were all dressed up in costumes and they were absolutely adorable. Some of them were dressed in shining clothes as if they were super stars. Others were dressed up as little bears. I soon learned that they were preparing for their performance on May 31 to celebrate China’s Children’s Day on June 1. I accompanied them to the auditorium, a little nervous still since everyone around me already knew each other and I was a complete stranger. I felt a great sense of community and love emanating from the orphanage’s yard as care workers seemed to know each of the children by name and vice versa. The kids, with big smiles on their faces, went into the auditorium and prepared to perform the “Three Little Bears,” a Korean children’s song. As I watched six of them with their little, furry ears on top of their heads, I knew that I would love the next few weeks I’d be spending at the Tianjin Children’s Home.
Tuesday May 27, 2008
My schedule at the Tianjin Children’s Home was set and I was to go to the orphanage Monday through Fridays from 9am-5pm. After lunch, when the kids took their naps, I could take a break as well. My days ended after sending the kids onto the bus that would bring them back to their foster families. As I interacted with the kids, I began to understand each of their stories. Zhang Yu Xiang was deaf. Unlike the other kids who could mutter words to get across what they wanted to say and how they felt, Zhang Yu Xiang had to use sign language and his tears. Xiao Xiao, a 3-year-old and the youngest boy in Class 1, had a cleft palette and difficulties eating and drinking. Qi Qi and Jing Jing both had a bad leg and limped as they walked. Neither can run nor jump very well. Xi Xi and Bing Bing both recently had surgeries for their cleft palettes and could not speak very clearly. Their words are somewhat slurred. Tian Tian’s ears were somewhat deformed, but she was full of life and could talk fluidly and clearly. Each of these children had a story of their own, and I looked forward to better understanding their stories in the coming weeks.
Wednesday May 28, 2008
First English Lesson Attempt
I tried to teach the kids some English today and they found it quite difficult to learn. All of them have very short attention spans and it was somewhat difficult to keep them in their seats. The orphanage had some simple Chinese/English books to describe colors, shapes, and animals. I tried to teach the children some vocabulary, but they forgot very quickly. I would point to the red square on the page and ask, “这是什么颜色? (What color is this?)” and some of the children would be able to respond, “红色 (Red).” After repeating this question and answer a few times, I would ask the children again “这是什么颜色?” and some kids would once again say “红色.” When I asked them how to say it in English, they would look at me with their big, round baby eyes with confused expressions on their faces. These kids spend most of their days playing. The teacher usually teaches them a hand game/exercise, helps them draw, or teaches them a children’s rhyme/song. Although the kids are all full of life, to be honest, they are also somewhat out of control. When visitors stop by and bring new toys, the boys all try to grab the new toy. Despite how many times the teachers try to discipline the children and ask them to play nicely together, the boys nonetheless just forcefully grab toys out of each other’s hands. The two girls whose legs are handicapped and little Tian Tian (who’s one of the smallest and thinnest children in the class) are often left to play with older, more worn-out toys or have to wait until the bigger children are done playing with the new. As I watched the children play, I would ask myself, “How do you go about caring for orphans?” You want to be able to shower them with love, but at the same time, you can’t let them become too out of control (为所欲为), which can be a tough balance to achieve.
Saturday May 31, 2008
“我们是福娃, 共享祖国情” (We are children of fortune, cared for by our motherland)
Today was the day of the children’s performance in celebration of Children’s Day “六一儿童节.” There were a number of festivities planned and the entire auditorium was packed with people. Madame Feng introduced the event and spoke of the orphanage and its children. She said that simply in May, a month with 31 days, the orphanage took in 24 more orphans. The orphanage currently has over 700 children, some of which live with foster families. The event featured the orphanage’s children singing, dancing, and telling jokes. Class 1’s children performed “Three Little Bears,” and as Shi Tou was performing, the furry ears put on top of his head were beginning to fall. With a frown on his face as he danced, he kept trying to keep the little furry ears in position on top of his head. The audience chuckled and then Madame Feng went up to help Shi Tou adjust his furry ears so they’d stay on top of his head. They also prayed for the victims of the Sichuan Quake, singing “感恩的心” and “祈祷.” The children’s handmade artworks were displayed as well. The event ended with the kids celebrating the upcoming arrival of the Olympics in China. The children carried pom-poms and hula hoops to create the five circles of the Olympic symbol, dancing to the Chinese song “Hero.”
Monday June 2, 2008
I went with the kids today to do their morning exercises (早操). Jing Jing, the one with a bad leg, tried doing the exercises, but I could tell that it was difficult for her to move around. She was very excited though and would jump around with everyone else. Her jumping, however, soon made her fall. She bruised her arm, but quickly got up and continued trying to do more exercises. Jing Jing’s eyes are somewhat crossed as well, and in some ways makes walking even more difficult for her. After finishing their morning exercises, the children went to the orphanage’s playground (乐园). The kids were able to ride around on bicycles and play in a little small children’s house. Afterwards, we went back inside and I drew with the children. Qi Qi really likes to draw and I helped her draw bunnies. Jing Jing was drawing with us as well and was really just drawing scribbles. I asked her, “What are you drawing Jing Jing?” And then Qi Qi cut in and said, “她瞎画呢! (She’s just randomly drawing things!)”
Wednesday June 4, 2008
Some of the children at the orphanage sometimes remind me of a movie I saw when I was young, “Little Rascals.” The children at the Tianjin Children’s Home are a lively and active bunch, but at the same time, their tempers are short and some of them are not happy unless they get their way, always. When Xi Xi is unhappy, he takes off his shows, throws them into the air, and then lies on the floor, throwing a tantrum. They each have their own unique personalities though. Vivienne, a volunteer at the orphanage from Switzerland, and I like to call Zhang Yu Xiang the “policeman.” Although he is deaf, he is very aware of his surroundings. When any of the other children bully each other, he stands up for the underdog. When it’s time to clean-up the toys and legos on the ground, Zhang Yu Xiang is usually the quickest to put away his toys and makes sure the other children do as well. When standing in line to leave or go eat lunch, he makes sure the other kids stay in line and holds the doors for them as well. He keeps a watchful eye on the other children, although he has his moments when he’s misbehaving as well. Shi Tou is quite a character as well. He’s a clever one. When someone else has a toy he wants, he starts yelling, “大家一起玩儿! 玩具要大家一起玩儿! (Let’s play together! Toys are for everyone to play!)” However, when he is in possession of the toy, he doesn’t like to share either. Ning Ning is also another playful little boy. He is full of energy and often gets himself into trouble by either spilling water on the ground, drawing with black crayons on the floor and walls, or touching the teacher’s personal items in the classroom. The other children have picked him out as the troublemaker and when something bad happens and the teacher asks who did it, the children all go “Da Bai Ning (Big White Ning!)” because he is somewhat pale and a bit taller than some of the other children in the class.
Friday June 6, 2008
English Lesson Attempt #2: Can I go play?
Today I tried to teach one of the boys, Shi Tou, how to speak some English since he was going to the U.S. soon. His adoptive parents are scheduled to come in July. Shi Tou was misbehaving and Yin Lao Shi made him sit down in a seat. He would then ask her, “尹老师, 我能去玩儿吗? (Can I go play?)” Yin Lao Shi would say, learn how to say that phrase in English from Jie Jie (the children called me “older sister”) first. I would tell Shi Tou, repeat after me: “Can I go play?” After repeating that phrase numerous times, I thought Shi Tou had finally learned it. I then told him to ask Yin Lao Shi if he could go play in English. Shi Tou said, “尹老师, 我能去玩儿吗?” Yin Lao Shi then said “No!” I then asked Shi Tou again how to say “我能去玩儿吗?” in English. And he couldn’t reply. I asked him, how do you say “玩” in English? And he said, “不累! (bu lei),” his way of pronouncing “play.” And I told him, “No! 不是不累! 是 Play!...P-l-a-y!” enunciating the syllables and sounds for him. After repeating it numerous times again, Shi Tou began to whine and said, “我学会了! 可以去玩儿了吗?” I told him to ask Yin Lao Shi in English if he could go play. Shi Tou then said, “尹老师, 我能