Today was quite possibly one of the most fun days we've had at camp thus far, especially for Jamie! That's because we got to celebrate Valentine's Day, her favorite holiday, with the campers. (We also tied in Homecoming with this venture as well.) We had all of the campers make Valentines which were delivered at our Valentine's Party at the end of the day.
We've noticed that the kids are extremely shy around members of the opposite gender. It's difficult to say whether this is a cultural thing, or something that is universal among young kids at this age. My guess is that it's the latter, not the former, but in all honesty, I'm not really sure. In my small language group, I had a couple of girls who were deathly afraid of writing a letter to a boy in the group, so I had to let them write to each other.
It also turns out that there is a young eight-year old girl who has developed quite the crush on me! Earlier in camp, she insisted on holding my hand whenever we walk from the auditorium to the language group. Then yesterday, this individual sent me a note, saying that I looked like her father, I'm a very good teacher, and she loved me! (It was rather cute!) Thankfully, Jamie wasn't jealous. After all, when teaching preschool in the US, she gets flowers from little boys all of the time!
In the afternoon, we crowned our Homecoming court. It was funny to see their reactions when we did so. The girls really got into it and were very excited when the queen and princess was announced. For the boys, it was almost a symbol of shame as the ones who lost were far more happy than those that won. (The "queen" was not nearly as excited when she found out that she had to dance with the king for the first song of the night, though!)
Afterward, we were rather exhausted, however, six of us (actually, it was the same six that were stranded together in Tokyo just a few weeks ago), decided to venture downtown to People's Square rather than go straight back to the hotel. People's Square is very similar to Times Square in New York, except much larger and there are way more people trying to sell you immitation watches and DVDs! We ate at McDonalds, which was quite the experience. In many ways, it reminds me of McDonalds back in the 1980s, when they didn't sell salads, grilled chicken, and the other "so-called healthy stuff" that ours sell today. (Thankfully, the prices were also in line with what they were back in the 80s in the US!)
Next we ventured a little farther down the street and finally came across a place called The Underground Market. The best way to describe it is that it's similar to a market where all sorts of immitation and knock-off products are sold. Nothing there is authentic, but then again, the people shopping there don't really care, they're just looking for cheap souveniers. It's amazing how many people wanted to be "my friend". It's amazing how "friend" was pretty much the only word that the majority of the shop owners knew in English! As we were walking around, Justin and I were led into one of the shops (no bigger than six feet by six feet) and the owner pushed back a wall to show us another room with all sorts of immitation purses. Why he insisted on showing us these is unknown to us, but it was somewhat weird how he basically threw us in this "secret room". At any rate, it maked for a wonderful story.
The best part of the whole experience was negotiating with the shop owners. We had been told earlier to offer 20-40% of what they were asking. The shop owners will never accept a price below what it cost them for the product, so on several occasions, our prices were accepted as we were walking away because they desperately wanted our business. I felt really good about getting a t-shirt for 50 RMB when it originally cost 120 RMB (about $7 instead of $16-18), however, I found out that Bryce and Jonathan each went to a different shop and got similar shirts for 20-30 RMB. Oh well, it was still a deal for me. The highlight for the women in the group was fake purse shopping as they both got "Coach" purses and wallets for about $9.
This was exactly what we needed after a long day. It was so nice just to get away for a couple of hours, away from the hotel, and just experience a different aspect of camp life! Tomorrow, we're all gearing up for the camp Olympics and wedding celebration. Chinese children are not allowed to attend weddings, so many of them are really looking forward to what a wedding looks like! I'll tell you all about it soon!