Saturday, November 10, 2007

100 Days

We're at the one hundred day mark here in China and so far, so good! It's past the mid point of the first semester too.

The Chinese love foreign kids! Everywhere we go, people smile and say "hello", teenagers want their picture on their cell phones, ladies will put them on their lap on the bus and grandpas are constantly giving candy. We've received a few puzzled looks if we mention that the kids are adopted. Although thousands of Chinese children (mostly girls) are adopted internationally and domestically every year, adoption is not well known to the average citizen. Most people are very accepting. However, ever since knowing that our kids are adopted, one parent from the kids' school no longer speaks to us! Many of the blogs that I read are wriiten by Caucasian parents in China with their adopted Chinese child(ren). They are constantly questioned and stared at. Today, while shoppping at Carrefour, Carlos and I were waiting for Gustavo and Elena to come back from picking up an item. A grandmother stopped, looked at me, looked at Carlos, touched her face and said something that included the word "Baba" - father. She was asking me if Carlos' father had the darker skin! Then she kept repeating and pointing to us about our difference in skin tones, shaking her head as if to say "impossible!". I do often wonder when the four of are out and about if people assume I'm the step-mother, since the kids and Gustavo share the "latino look".

Now that we are pretty much in a routine, know our way around some and the sheer overwhelmingness has subsided, Gustavo and I have decided to become more serious about learning Chinese. This week we will start a language exchange with one of the university students - 30 minutes of English for her and 30 minutes of Chinese for us. We are getting frustrated not knowing much more than from our days in Shanghai. Gustavo has been studying and trying more than me. His learning style is very different than mine. He likes the integrated approach: with words and sentences, he wants to hear, say, see and write it. In language learning and teaching, there is a method called the Natural Approach, where one component is a "silent period". This is akin to a baby learning a language. A baby will take in a language silently for months, then suddenly begin to speak. This is how I operate. I like to hear the language for a while, then pick out sounds and words, and put more and more together to form my own speech. I've also become much more curious and aware of the written characters and am now ready for it to make sense.

The kids are progressing nicely in Chinese. Elena will tell me a word, I'll repeat it (usually incorrectly) and she'll say "No, no, like this. Listen!" and repeat it. She gets the tones naturally and knows I'm repeating it wrong, but can't say "Mom, use the second tone, not the fourth tone"! This evening, the kids were "playing school", being teachers and students. The two of them talked in a "pretend Chinese" for well over a half-hour. To them, that's how school is - in Chinese.

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