Today, we wrapped up the first week of camp. While we're all exhausted, we're incredibly happy to be here and just excited for a little bit of time off this weekend. Today we celebrated Christmas in Minnesota. (I lobbied profusely that we should have told the kids that due to a blizzard, we got stuck in Wisconsin and couldn't make it to Minnesota, but that idea did not make it very far.) We taught the villagers to sing Jingle Bells and Joy to the World which, I must admit, was extremely odd, considering that the sun was out and it was, once again, very hot and humid outside, however, these kids really like music and I think it's been pretty helpful for their understanding of English.
While in our language classes, Santa Claus (Brian) came around and gave the children candy if they said that they were "nice". Amazingly, they all said that they had been nice even though some of them are the most disobediant children I've ever seen! We asked a few of them how this compared to normal Chinese school and they all told us that Chinese teachers never smiled and were way more strict. Most of them do not like going to school. However, they did tell us that they are learning more at camp than they did in school. I'm not sure if that's really true or if they were just trying to be polite!
We're trying to show them some traditional Christmas traditions. We made a paper chain and decorated a tree with that, which the kids really enjoyed. We also showed them mistletoe and Jamie and I showed them what people do under the mistletoe. Oddly, none of the children wanted to be caught under the mistletoe then! In our English lessons, our groups focused primarily on the difference between needs and wants and how that related to Christmas presents. I was suprised, although maybe I shouldn't have been, at the things these kids considered to be "needs" (toys, etc.). Then again, it was pointed out by several staff members that these children are, predominantly, all going through the "only child syndrome" (getting everything they want, having their parents' undivided attention, etc.) and almost all come from rather affluent backgrounds. Perhaps that also offers some insights into their behavior as well. (As an aside, our Chinese leaders informed us that China still has its "one-child policy", however, there are certain scenarios in which families are allowed to have more than one child based on if they were only children, if they are farmers, etc. Furthermore, any family, may have a second child if they wish, however, they have to pay a rather large fine to do so.)
In the afternoon, we put on a Christmas program for the kids, with carols, decorating the Christmas tree with ornaments made during arts and crafts, reading "The Night Before Christmas" and also a visit from Santa. We let all of the kids have their picture taken with Santa, although many were afraid of him (just like in the US, right?). Then we took "family pictures" (an all-camp picture), which, of course, the kids hated, and then had a snowball fight (using balls of newspaper instead of snow). The kids absolutely loved that, but by this point in the day (and week), they were so squirrelly that it took almost 15 minutes to get them be quiet in order to explain things! I guess they were as burnt out as the staff.
Finally, we sent the kids on their buses to go home. In all honest, it was somewhat sad to see them go. These kids have really started to grow on us and we're starting to build some good relationships with them. Our plan is to get as much work done in preparation for the following week on Saturday, so that we can spend more time just hanging out with the kids next week while they are here. Currently, we're planning on having some fun on the weekend as well (soccer game, Shanghai zoo, etc.). I'll let you know the beginning of next week how that all turns out...