National Day is Here!

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Tiananmen Square decorations. (image from britannica.com)

This week in both our homes, all residential children are preparing for a long break from school, and our vocational students, especially in Fuzhou, are all preparing to come home for a week of relaxation and fun.  Some of our older children, like Ben from Fuzhou, only returns home for the National Day celebrations, and thus our staff and younger children are all excited to see him!

National Day, October 1, is one of the largest holidays in modern China.  National Day represents the open of one of two golden weeks in China, and thus begins a week-long vacation from school and government work.  Like most countries, China’s National Day is a celebration of the founding of the country – in this case the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 in Tiananmen Square.

Throughout the country, the government organizes many large festivals, one of the largest being a famed parade and fireworks display outside the Forbidden City in Tiananmen Square.  There are many annual television events as well, concerts and speeches tuned in to by millions around the country.  The fireworks display is one thing no child wants to miss!  Though there will be a small one in Fuzhou, and another near Fangshan, much like watching the Macy’s Parade in the US, this National Day parade and fireworks are usually enjoyed through the television.

Preparing for the 60th anniversary parade

Preparing for the 60th anniversary parade (image from britannica.com)

 

In our Fuzhou home, we are preparing for most of our children to return home.  Except for Vicky, Justin, and May, all of our residential children will be on-site for at least a couple days, especially for the large feast being prepared for us all to enjoy together.  Thanks to generous help from specific donors, we’ll also be holding some small activities for our younger children, and each family unit is planning some type of outing during the time off from school.

Of course, like all school vacations in China, the children all have plenty of homework – in fact the elementary schoolers have a special booklet of homework that must be completed within National Week.  This might dull the excitement a little, but the children are hoping to get through them quickly – Peter has already expressed that he hopes to have his done before vacation even really begins.

While it is a modern holiday, and does not have the deeper meaning of the traditional Chinese holidays, National Day is certainly a huge event that we’re looking forward to enjoying in Fangshan and Fuzhou.  Following our celebrations, next week we’ll be sure to update you all with some pictures and stories about what we all did!

Fireworks outside the Forbidden City

Fireworks outside the Forbidden City (image from examinechina.com)

Places in Fuzhou: San Fang Qi Xiang

The city where our second home is located is the capital of Fujian, a province of southeastern China. Despite a prefecture-wide population of over seven million people, this is a city very few have heard of and even less have been able to visit.  Fuzhou may be relatively small and not well-known, but it still contains many interesting historic locations.  Today we’re excited to introduce you to one of them.  This is a place that some sponsors have heard about in updates, as our teenagers particularly love it there, so we decided it’d be nice for you to finally see it!

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San Fang Qi Xiang 三坊七巷, literally translating to Three Streets and Seven Alleys is the prime historic district in Fuzhou.  In the midst of the urban sprawl that is Fuzhou, between skyscrapers and the under-construction subway, one can happen onto a street that looks ripped straight from sixteenth-century China, as pictured above.  Originally said to have been lain out in Tang Dynasty China, over one thousand years ago, the area was used primarily during the Qing and Ming dynasties.  More than one hundred houses remain in the area, primarily created by the wealthy and powerful, and though many fell into disrepair the opulence is quite evident.

Following extensive remodeling and restoring in the latter part of the 00s, San Fang Qi Xiang is now the largest and most well-preserved examples of Qing and Ming dynasty architecture in all of China.

When visiting San Fang Qi Xiang, one can partake in all kinds of classic Chinese appreciation as well as tourist attractions.  Viewing elaborate jade carvings and purchasing specialized chopsticks can be done within feet of one another.  Peeking into a traditional courtyard home, some still inhabited by descendants of the ancestral homeowners, is possible down any one of the ubiquitous seven alleys.  And yes, for those Americans who come to visit there is a Starbucks located in a prime spot – not to mention McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.  Don’t worry, if you’d prefer classic Fuzhou fish ball soup, that is available in a dozen locations as well!

However despite the overall commercialization of the area, it is still a quiet respite from the bustling city.  Multiple cafes, some overlooking a beautiful canal just south of the main street, are the perfect spot to spend an afternoon.  And continuing in the vein of historical China, the famed Lin Zexu’s home when he was assigned to Fuzhou during the Opium Wars is within the same area, and is now a museum.

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During holidays there are massive crowds in San Fang Qi Xiang, as people either come to visit the big city or seek to experience a part of traditional Fujianese culture.  On an average evening it is far less busy, though remains a popular public area. 

Our Fuzhou Children’s Home is located just a five minute bus ride away from San Fang Qi Xiang, and it is a spot our family groups often visit.  There are many other places in Fuzhou that our children enjoy and next month we’ll introduce you to another!

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3 Things We’re Doing in Fangshan!

Once again that time of year has rolled around!  As August has closed up and September opens, the weather is still very hot but one thing has changed – our kids are back on-site and getting back into school!  For them the summer likely flew by, spending time with their living relatives or other guardians in a rural setting, and now that they are back in Beijing it is back to ‘regular life’.  For the staff, the vacation that followed summer camp was both well-earned and well-enjoyed.

However, now all that is in the past!  Hopefully we will soon hear from a child about their summer experience, until then it is time for them to focus on getting back into school and the staff to focus on getting everyone as well-equipped as possible for what will be, for many, a very important school year – with many children entering their first year of middle school, or getting ready to finish public schooling and looking to test into further education next year.

Here, along with pictures, are some things we are now getting back into with the children back and everyone feeling refreshed and raring to go:

Park

1. Fun!

We still have plenty of fun, especially with these final few months of warm weather.  Right now most of our time away from the school is spent at parks and other outdoor activities.  Whether it is paddle boats (pictured above) or hiking mountains (as difficult as it sounds!) we always find time to enjoy ourselves outside of just academic pursuits.

Instruments

2. Music!

With our continued focus on preserving Chinese culture and traditional activities in our children’s upbringing, we will once again be returning to weekly music classes.  Nationally-recognized teachers have been providing us with free classes on Friday evenings for more than one semester now, and we are excited to get back together with them.  Hopefully we will be able to upload a performance or practice session here on the blog soon!

Studying

3. Studying!

And, of course, the number one thing we are doing with school starting again…Studying!  As the children are now in classes again, at their same previous school, with a number of them (talked about in a previous post) entering a new schooling level, studying is becoming more and more important!  Pictured above are some of our girls studying during a post-school session, usually lasting for a bit over an hour in the evening, where staff work with small groups to finish homework and answer conceptual questions.  

Outside that, we also have studying of Chinese dance and instruments, mentioned above, which are a bit more ‘active’ and allow a change of scenery.  We do focus on each one of our children’s development as a full person, of course, but it is always important to keep in mind that educational achievement is one major key to their future – and we’ll always do our best to provide them with the best possible platform for achievement.

So that’s what we look like headed into September.  Thanks for thinking of us, and give a big 加油 (jiayou) to everyone as they head into school!