June Bug & the Bee in My Bonnet

Although I did not write the Armchair Guide to Parenting, I adhere to many of its tenants. Like not having a party for children all day, several times a week, for the last 6 weeks of school. Parent volunteers are wanted almost every day. The teachers tell me this phenomenon is parent driven. If that is the case, get me OFF this bus. Things 2 & 3 have had so many festivities, outings and events I will be astounded if they have learned anything during the last month. Is this what Expat National Company pays $20k in tuition for for each kid? So my life is encumbered by a raft of cupcakes, brownies, and tug-of-war games? I don’t think so.

Against my better judgment and in violation of the aforementioned philosophy, I attended a field trip today with Thing 3 to a local Peking Opera boarding school for children. The last field trip was such a muck up I swore off all things school related. But the lure of the opera was too great. The boys from the soccer boarding school had already run such circles around Thing 2 and his soccer team, I am convinced China will win the World Cup in 2018. If the soccer team was so great, what tricks could a bunch of twelve year old operatics perform?

Plenty, as it turns out. Think Cirque du Soleil meets yoga in platform shoes meets vaudeville at a high pitched whine only certain animals can hear. Children, scouted from all over China, are selected to attend the school starting at age 7. They train daily, get Sunday afternoons off, and return home for Chinese New Year. I asked V3 about the grueling training schedule and he responded with proverbial wisdom, “If you stop training for one day, your body will notice. If you stop for two, the teacher will notice. And if you stop for three, the audience will tell the difference.” During a female dance practice, I thought one little girl’s lumbar spine was going to disengage from her thoracic, she whipped it back and around in a circle so fast. Three preteen boys, in platform shoes, stood on their right leg, one arm outstretched and holding two long knives, with their other arms flexing the left over their head. Impressive. The opera is not for wimps.

The music, however, gets tiresome after about two minutes. Instead of waterboarding, the CIA might want to try Chinese Opera Torture. Cymbals clang and clash like unruly garbage men lifting off aluminum trash can lids. The three stringed instrument produces a sound not unlike a baby’s sustained teething scream. And you all know what a gong sounds like. One little number, performed by students who had only been there a year, portrayed a tea house woman who protected injured Japanese POWS from Chinese soldiers in the Sino-Japanese war of the 1940s. The mustaches were a little Hitler-esque, a look that might have been popular back in the day but sent shivers down my spine. V3, who stayed for the performance, his first live one ever, did not enjoy it so much and called it a “government story”. Everyone agreed that the performance of the men fighting with swords in the dark was much better – there was no music.


In other news, Thing 2 was afflicted for two days with the June Bug, a mystery fever which started on Sunday during a soccer BBQ for 50 here at our house. Thing 1 has her panties in a bunch over finals. Science, her hardest final, is on Friday and she is already grumpy about it. Why be a crankster on Tuesday in advance of Friday? Mr. U reminded her that “life is short”. “Especially in China,” Thing 3 rejoined. A new, postquake awareness in nine year olds.

Packing paralysis has set in. Gifts are piling up in the guest room at an astounding rate. I just look at the mound and think, “Later.” I don’t want to get too excited about going home just yet. Packing the suitcases makes it real. It has been a long 10 months since we first set foot in Shanghai. This trip, I am flying solo with my Things. Finally, we are back in the expat groove. Ironic, no?

Happy Birthday, Winnie!



Filed under Birthdays, Customs, Family, Folkart, Life

9 responses to “June Bug & the Bee in My Bonnet

  1. Oh Happy Birthday Winnie. Love and Kisses from the other side.

  2. Mood Ring Mama

    Love this blog, especially the description of the opera and V3’s comments. The end of the year party/field trip/big event thing is not unique to your American school in China; I am suffering too. Homework is now apparently for grown ups too. I spent 45 minutes last night hand sewing a Billy Goat Gruff puppet costume for G’s class project; at least I was with my sister and she gave me a glass of red wine, which miraculously did not drip on Baby Gruff. Now we get to ready ourselves for 2 field trips next week (one for each boy) and end of the year parties. C is supposed to bring an appetizer to share “celebrating his heritage” — whatever that means!!!

  3. 425Heidi

    So, MRM, your mood has changed regarding sewing the puppet costume this year? Was it the red wine? Last time she had to do it, she threatened to write a scathing letter to the principal and rally a boycott.

    Loved V3’s comments. Is he as wise as he sounds?

  4. Raftbuddy

    Okay, well at least your field trips seem somewhat interesting, so you can look on that bright side! My journey last week to the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery in the pouring rain with a bunch of 5th and 6th graders seems snorifying in comparison. My 8th grader needs to provide donuts for a celebration in Language Arts to kick off a last poetry unit (Huh?). The end of the year parental time-suck never ends (book return volunteers, locker cleaning volunteers, end of the year promotion and celebrations volunteers). I feel your pain, Expat! Speaking of parental stress, I now have a child driver in the house. Enough said….

  5. SarahP

    Luckily the end of year responsibilities are over in the Philippines. Nothing was accomplished in May except field trips. (Preschool went to a private beach club where the yearly dues are $35,000 U.S.) Now we are getting ready to go back to the U.S. and I am not looking forward to packing. At least I can go to Target when I get there.

  6. MRM & 425: I think I would sooner slash my wrists than sew a puppet. That is just cruel & unusual punishment for parents. I had to sew one in 2nd grade – but we did it in class. It was a pink bunny and my stitches were uneven.

    Raftbuddy: donuts for prose???? Inspirational! Maybe your son can write an Ode to a Buttermilk Log. But at least you can get them. Brownies are the treat of choice here because you can buy a mix in a box (for $5). Will discuss the teenage driver in person with you.

    SP: I say don’t pack and just buy all new on aisle 5! Don’t you feel better that you have part of a stint under your belt before returning home?

  7. gamamãe

    Any tips for packing and making a move?? I have 6 days from when movers come , we move to rp plaza and we actually leave country. 2 suitcases per person??
    Year end festivities have started along with endless buffet parties on school nights. Even my 4 year olds social life has kicked it up a notch – lunch dates with coleginhas from preschool and no napping!!!!!
    school is honoring their original contract with Mr. Harvard and will pay to ship back a max of 200 kilos in boxes with their freight shipper. What is that- my shoes?
    Despedida churrasco on Sunday- at the doing of Mr. Hs separated at birth twin and sister lormé. Had a “cho-ro-ro”morning as my kids say.
    ” tristeza não tem fim, felicidade ,sim”. Will Target be as special if I know it will be there when I want it???

  8. Gamamae: See last June’s comments. Pack all electronic cords in suitcases before movers get there. Your departure from the ‘Pinas truly marks the end of an era. Save your tears for the Land of Plenty, take lots of photos, and yes, Target will still be special. See you in Bean Town!!!!

  9. Flaky Friend

    The end of the year stuff is pure craziness. There was just a story about it in today’s Oregonian. The endless parties, field trips and such are attributed to us anxious parents. Fortunately, my kids’ school doesn’t pressure parents to attend everything.

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