|The Land of Smiles|
|Adventures in Cambodia|
I'm back from Shanghai, a quick trip there this week but the pollution was so bad I've been feeling a little ill. The air was so bad it made me feel tired while I was walking around sightseeing, and after the second day, I felt some congestion in my chest area and developed a nasty cough which I'm trying to fight off. I really hope I don't fall ill as my next consulting job starts on Tuesday after the Dragon-boat festival holiday on Monday. I love this time of the year because most Hong Kong people avoid the sun but they will stand for hours in the blazing heat to cheer on their favourite dragon boat teams.
Overall, the talks were great although I was a little bit disappointed at the lack of variety in the questions from the high school students. The elementary session more than made up for it with their inquisitive questions, active participation and great energy that I definitely appreciated very much. When there's so much energy, the session takes on "a life of it's own" and becomes a unique interaction. The hour-long session with the elementary students, by far some of my favourite groups, passed really fast and it felt wonderful when the audience did not want to leave as there were still hands waving in the air for more questions.
Photo captions: Sophie giving the Regional Program presentation to Elementary students in the Performance Theatre
If you haven't noticed yet, the venues in several schools I've been speaking at are always occupied with band performance set-ups on stage. Campus events are almost non-stop especially towards the end of the school term. In this case for graduation performances, so I was very very appreciative to the HS teacher and ES principal who invited me to Shanghai at short notice. The main problem was finding a venue for me to speak at. For the high school session, it was very fortunate one of the teachers gave up her venue at the Library Media Theatre on request for my session. And for the Elementary session, it was at the Performance Theatre which was really impressive with its architecture, green space and high tech equipment.
The next day, I made my way from Nanpu Bridge where my hotel was and headed to the Pudong District of Shanghai. Taking the metro in Shanghai is not a problem at all as the trains come every few minutes. I had to have my metro map on hand to check which stations I needed to switch train lines at, as there are just SO many routes across this massive city. After stopping off at Longyang Road station, I got out and tried to look for a taxi stand which of course was non-existant (just when you need one).
I showed the school directions (written in Chinese) given to me by my contact from Roots & Shoots Shanghai, to a few taxi drivers who then became very aggressive and hassled for RMB50 to drive to the venue. They didn't look like they really knew where the school was, but somehow came up with the fare price. The previous day, I've already learnt my lesson after getting cheated taking the cab from the metro station to the school. Now if possible, I usually check with a couple of drivers on the cost before deciding which one to get in because they will always try to charge double on the meter by driving around in circles before arriving at the destination. I also had to pay extra in Bangkok when I was on my way to the orphanage, even after Chairman Kun Wasan spoke in Thai to the taxi driver and explained I was going to the school to meet the children. I suppose when it comes to money matters, it's better not to expect people to behave with a conscience.
To get away from the aggressive taxi drivers, I finally called the teacher at the migrant school who gave me instructions to take the local bus(es). First I had to locate the bus stop for number 989, which wasn't too hard after asking about four people who pointed me closer and closer to the right direction. (Again, this would have taken much longer in Hong Kong because people won't usually make any effort to give you good directions)
To find this bus stop, I had to walk around the block for 15 mins as the area around the train station was huge! Okay good, found the bus stop but nothing is in English, and it's hard to read the Chinese characters when they are so small on the board. So I had to ask for help from a young lady who even got up from her seat to help me. (This would NEVER happen in Hong Kong!) She got on the phone with the teacher to make sure I was going to get off at the right stop. Then we realised I had to switch to another bus route after I got off the 989. This worried me. Luckily, a lady overheard our conversation and told me I could follow her as she was going the same way. This was a relief! So about 40-50 mins later on the buses, I finally arrived and the teacher came around the corner to pick me up because I would not be able to find the school since the local government had not designated a road number yet, after naming the street quite recently.
It was a mad rush by then as I was already 30 mins late for the presentation and all the students were waiting for me, including the two wonderful volunteers/ translators from Roots & Shoots Shanghai. I felt just terrible and apologised profusely! In my defense because I hate being late for anything, I was told it only took an hour to get from People's Park to the migrant school and Nanpu Bridge is much closer than People's Park to Pudong. In the end including the train rides and buses, it took me slightly more than 2 hours to get to Pudong.
I got to the classroom and the kids were all really cute, just waiting patiently at their desks trying to figure out what special class I was going to teach them today. The photos and film clips with icebergs and animals got their attention, since some of them have never seen pictures of icebergs before. But kids being kids, about 20-30 mins later their attention span was fading so I ended the talk at about 40 mins or so. I really had no idea what to expect from a migrant school but I was glad this challenged me to get out of my comfort zone!
Photo captions (left to right): Sophie giving the charity presentation to Grade 3 students at Limin Migrant Primary School; a student showing Sophie where China is on the World Map; Group photo with Sophie, Phoenix, Leo and kids; Playtime on the school compound; Main school building.