Sunday, January 08, 2006

English Corners

English Corner is a designated time and place for the Chinese people to come together to practice their spoken English. Over a year and a half ago, Lady started one in a beautiful local park. I helped her start it. Our first night two friends came with us to help us get it started. We only had four people come. Many more than that gathered around us just to stare at me becuase I am so unusual here. They are also very curious about Lady because she is unusual here, too. The next week, we had six come from the local teacher's college. They adored me! So many people came to stare and listen to the strange language that we had to move to another location. Each week after that we had more students come. Some were from different local junior (grades 7-9) and senior (grades 10-12) middle schools, and some were from the local college. Other adults also came. We had a taxi driver, a banker, a police officer, and a store clerk. Week after week we went to the park and waited to see who would come and visit with us. Other people continued to just stand and stare at us, but if Lady spoke English to them, they would say, "ting bu dong" -don't understand -and leave!
Rain or shine, cold or hot, Lady goes to the park. Some weeks she has a topic they discuss. Sometimes they will talk about the nearest holiday, or learn a special song. Sometimes they discuss current events. I sit in different laps, and get different teens to walk with me. I've trained some of the students to give me treats. Sometimes there are more than 50 people at English Corner, but other weeks there are only three or four. But, every week Lady goes. I had to quit going for a while because the Public Security Bureau decided that animals in public places were a health hazard. If they saw a dog they would snatch it from its human and it would never be seen again! Lady was very upset about this, so I had to stay home. After forever, I got to go again, but Lady takes me in and out the back way. We quickly hop into a taxi to head home. Last night, it wasn't as cold as we thought it would be. About 30 students and adults came. The TV camera crew also came, and took some shots of me with my students. I guess they shot some of Lady as well.
A few months after beginning the first one, Lady began another English Corner for adults only. These folks can speak well! We meet in a local tea house. I almost always get to go. If not, I sleep the entire time Lady is away. When she comes in late and wants to go to bed, I am ready to play and take her for a walk! Sometimes she doesn't get home until 10:00 PM so she likes to take me. It's a long day for her because she teaches at two kindergartens on the same day. This English Corner group is smaller and made up of mostly all professionals. They love me, and take turns holding me on their laps, or shelling nuts for me. If we have dinner, I can always convince them to give me meat! At this English Corner, the humans talk about current events, their lives, and play games. They have become very close friends with Lady, and often visit us in our home. Sometimes only two or three come, and sometimes nine or ten. They are all busy people. Some are doctors, teachers, journalists, transportation workers, and government workers. They teach Lady about Chinese culture, and are quick to help her when she needs it. They are quick to help me, as well!
This week, Lady says I can't go because her friends are giving her a birthday party. After dinner, they are taking her to the hot springs to go swimming. I am not invited because I can't go swimming. The camera crew from the TV station wants to tag along and take more pictures of Lady, and learn about her life. Why, I don't know. The program is about me, isn't it?
After all, I am just a little dog, who is very clever and unsual!

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