Today was our first day of attempting a routine. The kids seemed gung ho about home schooling, which has always been my idea of hell. I don’t even like to spend that much time in the kids classrooms-- I pay the school or taxes which go to the school to keep them occupied. And there are really smart people trained to teach them. But the fact that my kids are lazing around in a hammock during the hottest part of a rainforest day and have learned to suck on sugar cane suggests that the usual rules may not apply. The plan is to do outside stuff in the morning and inside “school” activities in the afternoon when it gets hot.
We started by picking up our fourth child and traipsing to the electric bus to go into town. The Botanical garden has a handful of western scientists but all are married to Asian women so I am clearly the only white woman who has been here for some time. And with four kids behind me I make quite a site. Although ethnic minorities are allowed to have more than one child the spectacle of three (or four) is still unusual. We have learned, which stalls stock “locally grown” produce and which are “second hand” as the student told me. We purchased lots of vegetables but were completely defeated by the spices which all looked like narcotics. We bought seven eggs, which were given to us in a plastic bag—three made it home. The grilled whole ducks tempted us—they look like market equivalent of rotisserie duck. But upon closer examination the birds still had head and feet and I just couldn’t walk around with a duck head in my backpack. We visited the much touted “yogurt store’ which turned out to be one fridge case with three different varieties of yogurt. I bought six individual containers and the kids had eaten three by the time we got home. All of this purchasing was done with hand gesturing, horribly mispronouncing Chinese words and the help of our eight year old translator. There is not a bit of any Romance language to be heard.
The kids had an interesting discussion about Tai Chi in which Jonathan informed Veruna that it was “the only martial art that is predominantly a solo practice.” Her response was “no it’s exercise old people do in the morning.” And so begins the 8 year old experience of book versus practical knowledge… I was also told by my kids that “in traditional dai villages tank tops are not worn” This was I believe a message to change out of my title-nine sundress. (the kind that the catalogues say you can do everything from running to cocktails in…) The guidebook apparently also recommends “mingling with the locals” which the kids said they want to do.
From my perspective the school part of the day is a way to keep the kids busy during the hottest part of the day Rebecca already informed me that I’m not a real teacher and suggested that I “incorporate age appropriate activities for Eli.” Jonahtan says he prefers it when “Mrs. Spencer OCCUSIONALLY works with him” The high point was Jonathan instructing Eli on handwriting. Jonathan’s handwriting is completely and utterly illegible. But he has been through the handwriting without tears routine with enough OT’s to understand the rhetoric. We did some Chinese animal flashcards on my ipad. Not surprisingly the kids remember vocabulary much better than I and are counting fairly proficiently already.
The oddest sound of the day was a bit of Dai pop music coming out of a very squeaky sound system that featured the incessant repetition of a bit of Mozart’s 40th symphony. I’m not making this up; it was the second phrase of the first theme transposed to Am and on a continuous sequence loop with ethnic dai words.