Sunday, 29 April 2012

A Dinosaur at School Sports Day

I heard through a trusted friend that the children had to dress up for the forthcoming school sports day, and that the theme for Conrad's class was animals. Conrad decided he wanted to be a dinosaur. Not the easiest costume in the world, and being the last of three children my enthusiasm about these parental duties for him has waned a little. But as my Halloween effort was so pathetic I thought I'd better try a little harder this time.

I'll let you judge for yourselves how accurate the result was, but in my defence I'd like to say no one actually knows what colour dinosaurs were. Here's Conrad being bored waiting to go down onto the sports field:

It was interesting to note that most of the other children seemed to be insects, and Conrad's dinosaur costume was a little anomalous. You can see a bee, a ladybird and a praying mantis. (I think the praying mantis should have got the best costume prize, but unfortunately there wasn't one.) I don't know if that's a coincidence, or it says something deep and meaningful about the Taiwanese psyche, or just that I got the message wrong (probably the latter).

The class also had to make musical instruments to play on the day, so the previous weekend we'd put some rice in an empty water container and papier-mached it. You can see Conrad holding it in his right arm. So that was two art and craft efforts in the space of two weeks. On seeing the other classes it was clear that we'd definitely got the raw end of the deal. Some of them only had to hang a CD around their necks as a fake medal!

This being Taipei, it had been raining for most of the week, with the occasional thunderstorm as light relief. (As testament to Conrad's ability to sleep, he failed to wake up when we had two thunderclaps right overhead which shook our building and set car alarms off in the street below. Personally, I believe he's making up for the first three years of his life where he failed to sleep for more than two hours at a time.) But, contrary to Gong Guan's Guo Xiao's usual luck, the weather for the sports day was fine and dry. In fact, it was so hot that the poor children sweltered a little in the sun while listening to the speeches at the beginning.

As usual, I was interested to compare a UK school sports day with what happens here but also as usual I was a little stymied by my lack of Chinese to be able to tell exactly what was going on. There were some speeches and awards given at the beginning, then the children paraded up and down in their costumes, and then they sang the national anthem. They also did a dance that they do during the school day as a fitness exercise. It's danced to a very funky pop song.

Some boogee-ing

It being a sports day, I was expecting more in the way of races, but the few races that were planned were cancelled as the track was still a little slippery from the week's rain. We did see some very good unicycle displays, though.

Another activity organised was decorating the top of one of the new walls with marbles. Each child had to choose one and embed it in the fresh mortar.

There was a small competition between the classes. Grades one and two had to dribble a football around  a set of cones and kick it into a cardboard box. Then there was a set of fun activities for the children to do. If they completed them all they could enter into a prize draw.

Everyone had a really good time doing these. Then it was time to hand out the prizes and go home.

So, as well as well as the warm temperatures and bright sunshine, the Taiwanese school sports day differed from the UK version in other ways. There was much less emphasis on competitiveness and much more on commemorating people's efforts. The competitions that we did have were team competitions, and contrary to the British parental custom of screaming support for your child from the sidelines, the parents clapped politely at the end. Also, no mums and dads race, which is probably a good thing.

The best thing of all is that, because this was an additional school day, there's no school on Monday! 

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