Monday, February 8, 2016

Chinese Dinner

The Chinese students at our local college prepared a Chinese dinner tonight and invited their "foster" families to join them for the lunar new year. The girls and I went because we always like Chinese food and spending time with our Chinese friends..

Our friends Charlie, Cambria, and Catriona were there too, dressed in the beautiful silks that their Chinese friends had given them.

The food was simple, the comfort foods of the Chinese students.

We had rice and chicken, soup, dumplings,
oranges and bananas, tea eggs (my favorite!),
and a big pot of kimchi plus chips and salsa, because spicy food from any culture is tasty! There was a tea station, with hot water, loose green tea, rock sugar, and tiny purple rose buds. I sampled it all - the roses didn't have much flavor, but they gave my tea a wonderful scent.

Our foster student, Viola, was there. We hadn't seen her in a long time, so it was good to spend time with her again. She, and all the other students, were missing their families today. This meal together was a good way to feel a part of the festivities at home in China.
As always, the girls had fun goofing around with Viola's phone, taking silly pictures and videos of themselves and giggling.

There were prizes at the dinner, too. Viola and Rachel had their names drawn one after the other and a few minutes later, Katherine did too.
I am so glad that we have this network of Chinese students and professors and friends right here in town. Twelve years ago, when we were waiting for Katherine and first became aware of the Year of the Monkey, we had no Chinese friends and no local connections to China. Thanks to changes at the college, Chinese students and Chinese culture are now a part of our community. And it is wonderful! Xin Nian Kuai Le to our friends here and all over the world!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Year of the Monkey Arrives at School

When Katherine was in kindergarten, her teacher asked me to come in and teach her classmates about Chinese New Year. So I took in silk clothes, Chinese money, New Year's ornaments, and assorted Chinese things for the kids to see. I read a simple book about Chinese New Year and we made a craft. Kate's teacher had noodles and oranges for a snack and passed out chopsticks for the kids to try. The kids, of course loved it. Other teachers heard about our little celebration and asked me to come to their classrooms, too. I have taught Chinese New year every year since! It is one of my favorite parts of the year.

Yesterday I loaded up my supplies and visited six different classrooms to teach about The Year of the Monkey. In addition to my usual goodies, I added some pictures of wild monkeys that I'd taken when we were in Rachel's Chinese city. The idea of wild monkeys wandering the countryside was utterly fascinating to Kansas kids!

The kindergarten classes made simple monkey faces.

I tried painting with the first graders. In all the years I have taught Chinese New Year I have never repeated a craft project, mostly because it is so much fin to dream up new ones. I have never painted with the kids before, but I saw a very simple monkey drawing and thought they could make something similar. I took in small Chinese paintings from our house and showed them to the kids. I explained that Chinese paintings are often done in just black ink on white paper and that usually only part of the picture is painted and you fill in the rest with your imagination. Then we read a story about a little girl whose paintings come to life and we joked about what would happen if our monkey paintings jumped off the page and ran around the room! When it was time to paint, I showed the kids how Chinese painters hold their brushes (with thumb and all four fingers near the top of the brush handle). I used watercolors that come in blocks and explained that Chinese ink stones are similar. Then we painted step by step. The results were darling!
We even made our own version of a chop, the red inked name stamp that the Chinese use to sign artwork or important papers, I just used a wooden block with the end painted, stamped it on the paper, and wrote each child's name on it when it was dry.
The second graders were excited to see me. Most of them have done Chinese New Year with me before and they couldn't wait to see what we'd do this year. I love that even though Rachel is the only Asian child in the school, her classmates eagerly embrace this aspect of her birth culture. Rae likes having her mom come to her class, too, even though she's a bit embarrassed about the attention.

I made papercuts with the second graders a couple of years ago and they were so pretty that I wanted to try them again. This year we made monkeys and one set of cutting made two different pictures!
I had traced the design on folded paper, so the kids only cut out half a monkey. (Rae is such fun to watch cut. Since she can't hold on to the paper, she balances it on her knee and uses her little hand to turn it as needed. Works perfectly!)
Then the kids glued the cutouts to a background. Second graders still really, really like glue!
The monkeys looked so cool when they were finished.
It is such fun to have a little but of China in our little school in Kansas!

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way