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Shandan in April, 2015

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Spring blossom at Shandan Bailie School
Spring blossom at Shandan Bailie School

Shandan in April – spring has arrived!   The trees are in blossom, grass is cropping up wherever it can.

It has been a month of weather contrast – starting with a full-on dust storm for 3 days.  Dust, not sand – so fine the air looks hazy but the particles can’t actually be felt as they are inhaled.   It was off the scale on the particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10 measurements, but that didn’t stop the students exercising, although seeing a football must have been a challenge!

Yes, football is now on the curriculum of schools all over China, following President Xi Jinping’s decision, in Dec 2014, to make it compulsory. It’s part of college entrance exams in a month or so’s time, so keen students have asked me to train them: up at 7am each weekend, practicing ball skills on the public exercise grounds.

A day after the dust storm, winter returned – a heavy snowfall covered the city.

Duststorm - students' morning exercise, at Shandan Bailie School, in April
Duststorm – students’ morning exercise, at Shandan Bailie School, in April
Snow on Saturday morning, April 4, at Shandan Bailie School
Snow on Saturday morning, April 4, at Shandan Bailie School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was wet snow, so melted into huge puddles – I think I’m the only person in Shandan with gumboots – I went out and enjoyed it. Gumboots are not visible in the fields here, the climate being too dry to require it; I was only able to purchase some when I was in south China with it’s wetter climate.

The snow occurred over Easter weekend – there was no mention or even awareness that the majority of the world was celebrating this holiday, but coincidentally the Chinese holiday of Qingming or “Tomb-Sweeping” fell at the same time, so Monday was a public holiday.

Tomb-sweeping ceremony at the tombs of George Hogg and Rewi Alley - A minute's silence
Tomb-sweeping ceremony at the tombs of George Hogg and Rewi Alley – A minute’s silence

All the schools in Shandan made a visit to the tombs of Rewi Alley and George Hogg, and placed wreaths and white flowers as a sign of respect.

The Shandan Bailie students marched from the school, through the city, to the tombs.

Speeches were given by students and teachers, a minute’s silence was observed, large circular wreaths were laid, then each student unpinned a white flower from their chest and placed it on the tomb as they filed past.

After the ceremony the students were given time to read the stories of Hogg and Alley, which are carved in stone on large marble walls.

With spring temperatures – reaching above 20oC during the day, the students are active with outdoor sports: training in volleyball; running; dance routines for upcoming competitions.

Large trees cut down at Shandan Bailie School as their "leaves pollute the school yard"
Large trees cut down at Shandan Bailie School as their “leaves pollute the school yard”

Horticulture classes are involved with landscaping the school grounds.  Many of the large trees in the school area have been cut down, to prevent their leaves polluting the ground, and students dig over the remaining plants. Around the flagpole, recently planted shrubs are pruned to a uniform height.

Jane Furkert