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Our Shandan Bailie School Teacher’s Report 4 – Spring 2014

The following is Michelle Elia‘s fourth report on her work at Shandan Bailie School.  She will be ‘doing’ her second year there!

Michelle co-hosting with Caobing at the Shandan County’s celebrations for the commemoration of the 120th anniversary of Rewi Alley’s birth and the 75th anniversary of Shandan Bailie School


“Spring has arrived!  The sun has also arrived and blessed Shandan with its warmth.  As a Pacific Island girl, I’m not sure if anyone knows the importance of this to me… But apparently here in the North West, a lot of people don’t really like the excess heat, so they spend a lot of time in summer under their umbrellas and wrapped up!

“Since my last report, I have been doing a number of things, but one of the most exciting is accepting a second stint at Shandan Bailie School!  Depending on how it goes, I’ll extend my 6 month stay to 1 year.  I think everyone really underestimated my love for such a remote area.  My Chinese is improving slightly (although I’m still really slow when translating someone else’s words in my head) and I’m aiming to take an official Chinese language course, so I can really knuckle into the language.  I can speak Cook Island Maori and Samoan moderately well, so to have Mandarin as a fourth language under my belt will be awesome!

Michelle Elia as co-host at the Rewi Alley celebrations

Rewi Alley celebrations

“On April 18th, we celebrated the commemoration of Rewi Alley’s 120th birthday, the 75th anniversary of Shandan Bailie School, 90 years since Alley arrived in China, and the 30th anniversary of his passing. This was a significant event for Shandan to celebrate our old friend.  As a part of the celebrations, there was an evening array of performances at the county auditorium where I was one of the co-hosts.  It was certainly a memorable experience and one that I will never forget.  There were four events in China to celebrate this great year – one in Beijing, Lanzhou (Gansu Province), Baoji (Shaanxi Province), and Shandan. To play a key role in one of these events was certainly a great privilege!

A dose of loneliness

“I did catch a dose of loneliness for the first time in the past month.  I celebrated my 26th birthday in May, and recently it was my mum’s birthday (June 5th),  so being away from home on these events was a little difficult.  However, knowing I have just a month to go until I go back to New Zealand for a holiday makes me hopeful!  I think it will be a little strange to go back to New Zealand after a whole year here: I’m really nervous about driving when I’m back home.   In China, we drive on the right side of the road, unlike the left in New Zealand, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fish n’ chips and Whittaker’s Chocolate Milk!  I head back to New Zealand on July 18th and will return to China either late August or early September in time for the new school year.

“All in all, the last 10 months in China have been rewarding.  Since my last report, I’ve made many more friends, checked out nearly every restaurant in Shandan (I’m such a foodie), learnt how to use Taobao.com [a Chinese shopping site] successfully (a girl’s best friend in China), and so much more.  I’m really looking forward to another 6 months here in Shandan and meeting the new students to Shandan Bailie School in September.  I also hope to have a chance, when I come back, Taobao to study Chinese officially via distance at a provincial level university or a language course somewhere in China. As always – I’ll keep you updated!

“Samoan Language Week has just passed, so for now…. Tofa Soifua!”