Thursday, September 2, 2010

July 16, 2010 Parent Update

We can hardly believe that our third week of camp and our last full week in Beijing is winding down. Today was a day of taking stock of what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown over these few weeks together. We began our day with morning exercise, and are happy to report that all of the students were able to run the mile loop at Chaoyang Park. This is quite an achievement and we are very proud of them!

Classes resumed today—our last morning of formal language instruction before the final exam on Sunday and then our trip to Huairou. All of the classes focused on review and preparation for the comprehensive exam that students will be taking. There is a lot of buzz around the test itself. The teachers have been very clear about the content and supportive in their review, but I think for some of the students it is awesome for them to consider just how much they have learned in this brief time. I am impressed that they care to do well on this assessment.

After our family-style lunch in the hotel we headed back to the same Community Center in Maizidian that we visited yesterday, this time to use their conference room for a lesson on Chinese medicine. We had a terrific instructor—a recent doctoral graduate from Beida. With the help of Shannon’s translations, the students were introduced to the early history of Chinese traditional medicine and the different types of treatments, which include zhongyao (herbs), zhenjiu (acupuncture), anmo (massage), bagua (cupping) and guasha (scraping). We were then given an introduction to the kinds of ingredients typically used in Chinese medicine, such as leaves, roots, seeds, and insects. The instructor passed around a number of different ingredients for us to touch and smell, such as ginger (good for stomach woes), dates (to increase the red blood cell count), cloves (also good for the gut), and anise (which repels worms). After showing us different kinds of needles used for acupuncture, she then got to the mot exciting part of all: the introduction of meridian lines and pressure points. We were given a hands-on instruction to the eight most important pressure points and their usefulness for self-treatment of bodily ailments. The instructor provided great visuals and verbal instruction on how to locate each of these, and then she circulated amongst us to make sure we had accurately identified these on our own bodies. Ask your child which pressure point they might press if they are feeling car sick, have lower back pain, a headache, pain from their braces, asthma, or sore hamstrings from running. They were all amazingly focused during this long introduction and were determined to learn all eight points (in past years, students only learned four!).
The instructor then took student volunteers to be patients so she could demonstrate a useful form of massage that is good to practice on children and adolescents to strengthen their immune systems. Victor happily volunteered, and so she had him lie on his stomach on a table and showed us how she could work her way up his spine, pinching the skin on his back between her thumbs and forefingers, then inching her way back down again. Several students said their Chinese parents or grandparents have used this same technique on them at bedtime every night. Benoit and Phil O. also volunteered to be teaching subjects and all three volunteers reported that this massage felt great!

Next, the instructor asked for volunteers to introduce cupping, which involves lighting a flame under a glass cup and then using the cup to create suction on the skin of the back. We had very few volunteers! Our first was Tristan, who was given a somewhat mild treatment where the practitioner rubbed his back with these warmed cups using gentle suction. Tristan was ambivalent about whether this ultimately felt good or not. Then Max volunteered to be our second volunteer and he agreed to let the practioneer create a true suction on his back, pulling a circle of skin into the glass cup and allowing it to remain there as the blood was drawn into this section of skin. I used to get cupping done regularly during my last year living in Beijing and I’m fairly convinced of its benefits, but I’ll admit the whole thing looks very bizarre. Max was a trooper, withstanding his classmates’ giggles and shocked observations, and he admitted it actually felt “pretty good.” He then volunteered to remain on the table to demonstrate “scraping”—where a jade (or amber) stone is rubbed along the back. Based on the coloration of Max’s skin in response to these treatments, the instructor determined that Max is healthy and that the cough he has been having is on its way out.
On our walk back to campus we took a surprise detour—a bakery. Today is Shannon’s birthday, as well as the eve of Jason Q’s birthday, and the teachers found a bakery that would accommodate our large group. We had delicious cake topped with fresh fruit and lots of frosting, after singing a boisterous round of “Happy Birthday.”
Swimming was on the agenda for the brief slot of time right before dinner, but many students felt they would rather study or play basketball. We split the group with me taking some of our youngest to the pool at Chaoyang Park and Zong Laoshi and Gong Laoshi bringing some to play basketball and others to study back in their rooms. We gathered together for dinner at 6:30 for a meal of roubing (bread filled with meat), salad, fruit, a cold mushrooms dish, and soup.
We ended our day with reflection. Many of our students shared special birthday wishes for their friends. Some also expressed appreciation that we have shown some flexibility with the schedule, considering and responding to their input in ways that help them feel “responsible” and “trusted.” We were done with reflection by 8:15 and encouraged students to get to bed as soon as possible, knowing we had a full day of activities planned and an early morning departure.
A few of your children are starting to feel of bit homesick while simultaneously talking about how much they will miss one another when we part. This is a very normal response to being away from family and friends on an intensive and lengthy program such as this, so don’t be alarmed if you are hearing some sadness when you talk with your children. As your children encounter homesickness our approach is to remain present with them in these feelings, not trying to talk them out of it, or rationalize how they could be feeling better. We see this as an opportunity to help them further develop their emotional intelligence as they identify their emotions and learn strategies for responding to them. Homesickness also offers them an opportunity to connect more deeply with their siblings and friends here with them on the program, as they share with one another their past experiences of being far from home and seek to comfort and support one another. We have a very sweet group of children together and are happy to see how good they are to each other. You must be missing them a great deal as well!
All the best from Beijing,

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