Mandarin Language Assistant.
In 2011 Newmarket School joined the Confucius Mandarin Language Assistant Programme, through Auckland University. This means we have a Chinese Language Teacher who teaches language and culture at our school. Our school is dominantly Asian and as such we believe in the importance of first language maintenance for our Chinese students and that our other students can benefit from learning another language in addition to Te Reo and English.
In 2011 we had Mengmeng and then last year I agreed to host Jiao.
The first time I saw her I thought, whoa she is tall and skinny as, like about a size O,
However after the first few weeks, I mentioned to my principal that I was a fairly large eater and yet she could match me and then some. She was always hungry. My principal advised me to purchase a rice cooker and that was an excellent suggestion.
Jiao was only supposed to stay with me for a few weeks. However because we were such a good fit, she ended staying with me for the whole year and I am so glad that she did. I am a mother of grown up sons and never had a daughter, so Jiao is like my adopted daughter.
I have so many memories of her
EG: like within the first month, I asked her to clean the bathroom, which was a task that she would do each week.
After her first time, doing the task unaided without me,
She said to me. “Do you know what the day is?”
I replied that it was Saturday and that it was the day for cleaning the bath room.
She said, “I know that but it is also my birthday. This is the year of the dragon and I am a dragon baby so this year is as significant as a 21st birthday.”
I think this major event broke the ice between us because I laughed and said, “Oh my, you will never forget this birthday. You have no cake, no special event, and I made you clean the bathroom. Come on I will take you to the movies.”
And so we attended the first of many.
However, she proceeded to hold me accountable to this event by telling my parents the next day, my sisters and then at school the following week, how I had made her clean the bathroom on her special dragon birthday. So my parents and sisters teased me about what a dreadful host mother I was.
Jiao taught me heaps, like how to make dumpling, introduce myself in Mandarin and the Game of Thrones.
Me I introduced her to bacon and taught her how to cook and bake.
She took to baking like duck to water and made many muffins and cakes to fill up the lunchbox and to share with friends.
Once a week, she would hurry home from school to prepare the evening meal. She used the internet to search out recipes and experimented continuously.
Her favourite meal of the week was Sunday cooked breakfast. She got to sleep in and rose later for the event.
We had a lot in common. A love of science fiction, to a love of our communication devices. She introduced me to the Chinese Social media that she used to keep in contact such as QQ and wechat. I haven’t yet understood QQ but definitely know wechat.
I watched this quite shy quiet, young girl blossom into a confident and organising young woman.
Her first major task was introducing herself in front of Confucius and later on in the year she also gave her experience of being hosted. Both major events made my heart swell with motherly pride.
She organised her travels around New Zealand each holidays and I loved the fact that she did not rely on me to entertain her. She sometimes had friends over to stay.
She had no hesitation at letting me know how she was feeling and her dry sense of humour continuous to have me in stitches.
When she was told that as part of her teaching programme that she would be teaching Chinese dance, I think this was one of the major challenges that she had. She said to me, “I can’t dance Sonya, how on earth am I supposed to teach a Chinese dance.”
I told her, “You must think in patterns and it is easy. Anyway, you have access to youtube so do your research and you will be fine. “
The fan dance she taught our children was stunning.
Jiao ended up thinking that she was quite an expert and that the dance she picked out for the next MLA was so advanced and intricate that I still laugh at the memory.
In 2013 I was selected as a TeachNZ Sabbatical and I toured the world. I told Jiao that I would come and visit her in Shanghai.
This I did. By then she had a boyfriend and was excited for us to meet.
When I arrived in Shanghai I could not believe how beautiful she had become. Her confidence had continued and she had developed into a lovely young woman.
Gone were the trousers and replaced with skirts and pretty sandals.
She introduced me to her young man Chao and I observed how her treated her. She had chosen well. He was delightful and obviously adored her. He was clever like her and could match her for intelligent conversation. He was very kind to me too. They spoilt me rotten with their time.
Jiao was very proud of the univeristy she attended and she took me especially to meet Professsor Li and a chance to tour the university. She organised for me to catch up with Mengmeng and I was able to meet her husband to be.
One fabulous memory I have is when they took me to visit the ancient town of Xitang in Jiashang county, Zhejiang Province.
Because of the vastness of China, I got to meet her mum and his parents via Skype. They were wanting to meet me in person but because I had a short time, I said I would come back for the wedding.