I should say that today WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter were blocked here on campus, presumably by the government. Here is a notice we get from the nice staff here:
“Due to some political issues, our ISP just called me that some of the oversea social network websites ( Facebook, Youtube and Twitter ect.) will be blocked this month (Even the ISP doesn’t know how long it will last, they will wait for the notice from the government). This happened last year when the National Congress of the Communist Party of China hold in BeiJing.”
I am trying to do a trick the IT guy here showed me. So just know that if Mr. Peabody vanishes for a while, it’s going to be OK. I’ll be back when the Great Firewall (as they say) permits. We now return to the Adventures of Mr. Peabody, having just arrived in China….
It is Sunday night, the first night of writing camp and we walk into the huge room on the second floor and sit in the front row with our TA’s nearby and the kids behind them, all on chairs facing a screen on a stand. A slideshow plays with the faces of the five teachers and our coordinator extraordinaire, Carol. Beneath the picture, the screen fills with Chinese characters, but the occasional Western words: UC Berkeley, El Cerrito, Common Core, etc.
This room is where the kids and the teachers will eat all week. It was previously called the Cafeteria but now it has a new blue floor and bright red and yellow paint on the walls, purple columns stretch to a high ceiling. New lights dangle from above and the tables are on wheels for great flexibility. This room has been rebranded as “The Commons.” Nice. Now they can’t play the “This cafeteria food sucks!” cards. They can only bad mouth “The Commons,” which may be frowned upon in a communist country.
The National College Preparatory Academy has been open for two years. It is a private school. It has been adding on grades and next year will have its first graduating class of seniors. Before it became the NCPA, apparently it was a private high school that fell out of favor because it offered the same curriculum as the public high school but, you know, charged for it. That’s what you call a bad business plan, so it went under. Now the students who go here are planning to attend a four year university in the United States. We’ll see how the first grads do next year.
The camp director, Lila, calls us each up, one at a time, and we are handed a microphone to introduce ourselves to the nervous kids, eager TAs and curious parents. We have been told to keep it brief so the interpreter can get everything translated. I announce my name to the room full of Chinese families and my voice sounds stiff as it bounces around the large room. I mention my experience. I say where I teach now. I tell them we will work this week to develop a strong personal voice in their writing. “And,” I add. “We will have fun.” Awkward silence. I teeter back to my seat and smile at the other teachers.
Joan ends her bio by telling her students she already has homework for them and they need to meet her after the event. Laury’s eyes light up as he heads to the microphone. He opens with a little Chinese, “Ni hao!” and gets a round of applause. When he finish his intro he gleefully adds, “And no homework!” He gets a cheer. He later tells Joan the homework thing was too good a set up to resist and that even if he had homework he would have canceled it just to be able to say that.
Week one of camp is about to begin!