Exploring Shanghai/EFZ in words and video

Mr. Gustavson checks in from Shanghai/EFZ, and Andrew Harrison provides a vlog entry on "play":

Thursday and Friday, we spent most of our time at the school with visits to Lily’s English class, which was preparing a debate about school uniforms; to Garry’s Computer Science class for ninth graders, where they used Anime Studio Pro to learn how to create an animated film, and to the Chinese class of Jingjing, who visited us at Peddie last spring, as she worked her students through various aspects of the Chinese language college entrance exams that students will be taking next week.  The system has changed this year so that students not only have to take a national level college entrance examination but also separate exams for the universities they wish to attend.  In consequence, the pressure on them has increased significantly.  All of these classes were different in substantial ways, but we continue to be impressed by the attentiveness of the students, as well as their good humor and high level of comfort working with each other.  The Computer Science class and the Chinese class were basically set up as workshops, so much of the work was individual or in small groups, but in Lydia’s debate class, the students brainstormed and shared their ideas.  They generally stood at their seats and presented their arguments, but occasionally they went to the front of the room to put their ideas on the board or to present extemporaneous arguments.  They were lively, and the level of their English was quite good.  Students continue to be very friendly and full of questions when we speak with them.

Thursday evening, we saw the second half of a basketball game between EFZ and students from another school.  There were no coaches, no other adults, and only one fairly non-intrusive student referee, which produced quite an interesting spectacle. Students lined the court and occasionally broke into encouraging chants.  In general, the players here compete very hard but do not shoot particularly well.  However, they have pretty good handles and like to get to the rim against a defense that doesn’t want them to get there.  Not surprisingly, in this game, almost every possession left bodies strewn on the asphalt court, but the players kept their cool.  We all continue to enjoy seeing how much pleasure the students take from just playing.

Friday afternoon, we headed to the Pearl Tower with Amy and went up to the observation deck at 800’, which gave us a wonderful view of Shanghai, especially of the Huangpu River and the Bund across the river.  Afterwards we went to Zhongshan Park, near Amy’s home, for dinner.  On weekends, the school is mostly shut down, so we spent today visiting the city, this time with Zoe.  We spent hours walking around the Bund, especially on the esplanade which looks across the Huangpu to the Pearl Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and a multitude of other skyscrapers.  Thus, we looked out from old Shanghai, with its variety of colonial structures, toward new Shanghai.  The view in both directions at this majestic bend in the river is spectacular.  Zoe took us to a wonderful restaurant where she ordered a “typical” Chinese meal, beginning with a soy-based dish somewhat like tofu, but with a much more interesting texture and subtle flavors, and lotus root, then moving to a fish and crab soup where the meat almost melted off the fish as the meal progressed, followed by a spicy beef dish and then roast duck with roasted rice cakes.  I hope that sounds good.  In fact, it was a great, memorable meal.  We then wandered through parts of the old city, including a visit to the Temple of the City God, where, by chance, we saw a special ceremony that honored one of the many figures of the temple.  Afterwards, we went to Xin Tiandi, a vibrant and beautiful area on the edge of the old French Concession.  There Zoe arranged another remarkable meal for us.  Since we had eaten so much for lunch, we had only a “snack” of three kinds of dumpling and then some rice-based sweets.  Did I mention we had a great day?

Tomorrow, we will be visiting some museums and going to a show and then Monday back to school …