So I have decided I am pretty bad about this whole blogging thing, but I recently had to write reports on all of my students in the woodpecker class so I decided to post those so you can get a little better picture of what my life with these kids are like.
Chun Kang is such a helper. He is always helping other students put on their shoes or wash their dishes or find their chair. In November Chun Kang joined the Woodpecker preschool class. The class has been learning counting, the ABC’s, basic introductions such as, “hello, my name is Chun Kang,” and “How are you?”. In just these last few months he has learned so much! Adapting to a class structure and schedule for the first time is always difficult, but Chun Kang enjoys school and does very well. In the last month his English has improved so much. Admittedly his pronunciation is not the best because of his two missing front teeth though.
For Christmas Chun Kang received a quilt made for him from America. Like a typical child he wrapped himself up in the blanket and rolled around until he became bored. Then he turned to the box. At first it seemed like he was going to play with the box like any other seven year old boy would do. But instead he lined the box with his quilt and made himself a nice, cozy, little nest!
Chun Kang is so smart! He entertains himself playing with legos and block for hours. I am continually so amazed at the complexity of the things he can build. Chun Kang has an unending supply of energy. That child can run and jump and play, sing and dance nonstop!
During the week I spend my days at Bethel. In the mornings I teach the Woodpecker class. Then in the afternoons I work with the kids and the ponies individually. Or, since it has been getting colder outside, I just play with kids one on one. Then how do I spend my weekend? Lounging in my pajamas with a good book? Staying out till all hours of the night with friends? Nope. I do even more teaching! I go into Beijing on Thursday afternoon for small group. Then I spend all day Friday and Saturday teaching English. My youngest student is 4 years old and the oldest is a university graduate looking to go to grad school in the US. So far I like the teaching and my students are all so different it stays interesting and pays the bills. Sunday I go to an international church called Beijing International Christ Fellowship(BICF). After church, and usually dinner with friends, I make the two hour trek back to Bethel. So it’s safe to say that I keep myself pretty busy!
Opps, it has been nearly a month since my last post. Anyways I am now the teacher of the Woodpecker class here at Bethel along with my Chinese roommate, Ada. I have five students from age 3-7. Ya Yan got the chicken pox on the second day of class and has been in quarantine ever since so I haven’t been able to spend much time with him. Chun Kang is seven years old and he’s practically the assistant teacher. He can see out of one eye and he is always helping the other students to find things or leading them to where they need to be. Bo Ai is three and he’s definitely the trouble maker. He also can see a little and he usually spends most of his time getting into trouble or being punished for it. Ming Tian is completely blind and very timid. He is about five years old but he has never received the attention needed to build communication skills. Melie is also five and blind. She has almost no fine motor skills and does not talk, communicate, eat or go to the bathroom on her own. But just in the past three weeks that I have been working with these kids I have seen so much improvement. They all came to Bethel this past summer and before that they were living at various orphanages. Most of the orphanages in China are not equipped to deal with visually impaired kids, they also just don’t know how. But here at Bethel they are given the opportunity to learn in ways that they benefit from the most.
Today was my second day of working with two of the older girls at Bethel, about 10 years old, teaching english. Yeah, it’s not easy. Not only are they both completely blind but they speak very little english and I speak no Chinese at all. So, how am I supposed to communicate with them? They learn by touch and actions. I learned by seeing and hearing. On the first day I had no idea how to begin. I ended up just thinking of as many things to touch in the room as I could find. We raced from the wall to the sofa to the window to the bathroom to the chair over and over again. Today we played our own version of patty cake and sang all the little kid songs I could think of. I’d like to think I was successful and they learned something, but only time is really going to tell!
The main thing I do here at Bethel is take care of their three ponies, Rose, Lisa and Niu Niu, which means little girl. In the mornings I take all three out to brush and walk them around Bethel. In the afternoons I work with kids one on one teaching them to brush and pet the ponies. It also gives the kids more exposure to English.
Today was the first time I got to help the kids ride. The first girl was both blind and deaf. She spent most of the time laying forward on the ponies neck whimpering. Eventually she learned that she had to sit up and balance herself holding on with both hands. The second little boy came to Bethel two years ago and couldn’t speak at all. Now he mostly just repeats whatever you say to him. But today he talked about the pony and how much he loved getting to ride, all in Chinese though of course. It’s really amazing seeing how much the kids react differently to being on the pony. As the hippotherapist was telling me, in physical therapy the kids just deal with objects, but when they are on the horse they balance and the horse is warm and they breath and move and react.
Today was our very first full day at the orphanage Bethel. We arrived yesterday afternoon and spent most of the day just settling in and organizing our apartment. This morning we took a class of preschool kids into the near by village, Jiao Dau, for market day. For the most part the kids are able to see at least a little, but many of them are completely blind. It was quite the adventure! The kids love to feel everything and they are quite independent and often times try to walk off on their own. When we got back to Bethel we ate lunch which was, pumpkin, vegetable salad, some other thing I couldn’t identify, and manto which is like a doughy bread. So far Chinese food is pretty good, you just have to get over not knowing what you’re eating.
We have made it to the great smoggy city of Beijing, China! We being my cousin Jes, her step sister Kayla and me. The 14 hour plane ride wasn’t all that bad other than the horrible food. We landed at 2pm local time but 1 am my time. Jes made a friend on the flight who offered to bring us and our eight bags to a friends house. We have spent the last few hours walked around the neighborhood and trying to stay awake. So far it’s true that there’s a whole lot of pollution here! When we landed we could hardly see any of the city and breathing is obviously harder. We’re all excited about this great adventure!