Day Four in China- Shanghai No. 3 Girls School

First a flash of green grass, then a snap of girl after girl playing automated piano. A boom of girls running down a stone path. We were welcomed to the Shanghai No. 3 All-Girls School with a comprehensively delightful video about their school, informing us of the mandatory group piano lessons, morning exercises, and much more. Soon after, we dispersed into three groups; one group made its way to music, another found itself making fans, and a third indulged itself in making seals/stamps –all at some point learning some martial arts. The seal making group creating tableaus of butterflies, the fan group mastering painting fans, the music group recreating traditional Chinese pieces, and all groups learning self-defense, immersed themselves in a taste of Chinese culture.

Bam. The lights are out. Wait. Now a spotlight hits the stage, but in a faint glow. A girl stands center stage in a reindeer sweater. What? She’s running, she’s jumping, she’s going to –phew. Another girl in a reindeer sweater stopped her. Click. Pause. What does it mean to write a good play? Click. Action. Let’s create some dramatic tension. Will she die? Will she not? How will we stop her? To write a play takes some clicks, some pauses, some stops, some laughter, some released breath. On the edge. Listening. Falling with the characters. And in the end, when the narrator dies unexpectedly, is this good or bad? Left on the edge. Unanswered. The end. A play by the Shanghai No. 3 All-Girls’ School.

Hello. Nice to meet you. What are you interested in? Art. Me too. You? Dancing and music. How about her? Drama. And that girl? Environmental protection. Her? Much more. Many many more. And then we discussed our interests, after a tour with our newly acquainted buddies. Some talent drifted through the air. They showed us some Chinese dancing about peacocks and good luck. They gave us a picture to seal our friendship –one of them and one of us. And then we left. We left for homes and journeyed maybe not quite so far. Some went in pairs, some went in fours, but in the end all went indoors… (thank goodness for it was freezing outside).

Two of such girls traversed to the same apartment walking along streets with two Chinese girl guides, also friends. We arrived at the complex and took an elevator to the 16th floor, where we found my pseudonym (anonymous) friend’s buddy’s door, opened the which and found her mother awaiting us with ingredient on the glass table in mysterious bags. We would make dumplings tonight. However, I am a vegetarian and had to tell them such, but despite our protests the mother called her husband to buy some vegetarian food and sent her daughter to buy bottled mineral water. We helped make the dumplings, and the mother found it rather funny as I could prepare but not eat any. When dinner was ready, they told us to eat first because they were making some meat-food. And when they came to the table with the cooked dumplings we had made, they served each other, while pseudonym friend sat wondering if she would receive some of the bounty. As it turns out, they thought pseudonym friend was vegetarians too; alas, we can make no comment upon our creations.

Over our meal we discussed how Americans have too many allergies, and we suggested the mixture of many races lay as the root of this phenomena. Jiang mentioned that Chinese only like to paint from real or still life, whereas Americans, although they paint like that do, also paint from imagination and abstractly –an idea she found difficult to comment upon. And pseudonym friend’s buddy said we could call her Fiona.

After tasting many new dishes, we finished dinner and decided to do some origami play cards. Our friends gave us some green and red paper with which we made cranes and lilies. I was not quite so good, and both our birds could only flap with one wing, and my lily was missing a petal… So they gave us some more paper to practice with on the plane. We taught our new friends BS, but called it “Lie.” They loved it and laughed as we forgot what we were going to say.

And when the evening came to a close we had to sadly part after sharing gifts and taking pictures. We will continue to talk and share our experiences over email, as we are sure many will. Our friendship will continue as our friendship cranes suggest. There is so much more to share, but we have to go to bed. We have early wake up call at 6:15AM tomorrow to visit Jinshan. We are sure it will be as equally eye-opening as was today.

Written by Alice Winham

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