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  • Writer's pictureHannah

Happy birthday Parkrun

So after six weeks as substitute teacher, the actual teacher returned from lands afar and so my contract ended, mainly to my relief. The fulfilment was in witnessing how the children gradually adjusted, with support and nurturing, they became so much more confident and relaxed compared with the terrors of the first week when another colleague compared it to an asylum where the sound of screaming and crying pervaded the corridors for most of the day. It was also in hearing them practice some of the English vocabulary and songs we had looked at and in their determination and enjoyment of some of the crafts we made. Credit to my Chinese colleague, though, for most of the discipline and actually keeping a mainly calm environment. The not so fulfilling parts were the naps times, where I would be required to encourage the 24 kids to go off to sleep. Lots of 'shhhh' 'lie down' 'be quiet' 'give me the toy' 'keep your legs to your self' etc etc interspersed with threats to sit on the chair in the corner if they wouldn't comply. This cycle would go on for the whole 2 hours some days.

There are a few kids that I'm not missing much, such as the little girl who despite being able, would whine and whine for assistance to put her shoes on and whine and whine for the ayi ( assistant) to feed her and the chap who who was selectively deaf to my voice and would therefor take 20 minutes to wash his hands because of the entertainment value of the soap and taps. But there are others who I do miss, such as the one I had the privilege of naming with an English name. There was Tom, who looked particularly cute, who took a lot longer to settle and to whom the sight of me seemed to make his experience much more painful, (the Chinese ayis, assistants, could calm him much more easily) but after the first few weeks he would often grip my hand and lead me around and like to say: 'Oh my god' to me on repetition. There was slightly chubby Zoe who when everyone was standing in a circle, guaranteed, she'd be drifting in the middle, or if everyone was lining up, guaranteed, she'd be dawdling in her own space along side the line somewhere, not following it at all. She was usually so cheerful though and would burst into song or dance every now and then. And there was little William who pulled on my heart as he would sob silently and profusely through his nap times. *

So anyway, its back to sock darning and soup making until the next job opportunity springs forth. It is with some relief though that the kindergarten post abruptly ended, to quote Mike: 'the food quality is about to increase' , the kitchen is no longer a perpetual puppy-mess sess pit and there's been a definite reduction in door slamming. How families can thrive with every parent in a full-time career is something to be admired. Besides soup making, I've begun teaching a foundational art class for 4- 10 year olds, once a week as an after school thing at the Suzhou Arts Collective. On the first week I was told to expect 6 children, so when 12 appeared it was quite a surprise and except for Emily and another girl, no one spoke any English. The second session went much more smoothly as only half the group came back and I had a translator!

Last Saturday, we celebrated the second anniversary of Suzhou Parkrun. The event included the usual 2 distances, 2.5 and 5 km runs, but this time we had a birdie, (an adult human dressed as one) to chase. We had an awards ceremony with prizes from various sponsors such as Lululemon and Berry Runner. Lululemon lead a yoga stretching session after the run and we had a drone photo of all attendees gathered to form the word: 'Striders'. We then had cake with the first edible Suzhou Striders logo, (oh and 81 cookies and 200 + Korean rice balls rolled out by me and friend's fair hands), sparkling wine donated by Il Milione restaurant, then team games. So it was a great event. It was a slight shame the lifeline support guys didn't show up like they promised. Now the vision for Striders is to focus on training and competition, but Parkrun will continue!

* we did try to console him!

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