I had a fun time yesterday, helping to celebrate the opening of a new branch of Robert's School (the 5th). This is the first one outside of Kunming, being based in QuJing city - about 2 hour's drive away. QuJing is Yunnan's 2nd largest city, although with a population only 10% of the size of Kunming's 6 million. It holds special significance for Robert, however, as he was posted there some 15 years ago with VSO (at the same time I was starting my own China experience with VSO in neighbouring Guizhou Province). The new school is on the 17th floor of a newly constructed high-rise block which looks pretty grotty from the outside (for now). But the school itself inside is freshly decorated and well-furnished. It's seven small classrooms, with cartoon characters painted on the walls, look very inviting, and the reception area is ready to welcome newcomers [see photo].
The main event was a large, variety-filled, meeting to which leaders, prospective parents and children were invited. There was seating for 200, and a pleasing 150+ turned up. The show included speeches, songs, a great DVD presentation about the school, some juggling, life-size cartoon characters, a domino toppling finale, a short demo lesson and a visit from Father Christmas (the last two of which were my contribution).
It all went smoothly enough (and looked very professional) with the exception of the dominoes, set off by a winding ball bearing run [see photo] which, despite umpteen practise runs, failed to work on the night! The ball simply slowed down and rolled back to the start! Fortunately, the audience were too distracted by the main screen showing a DVD close-up of a previous successful run to notice that the real thing had ground to a halt! The dominoes fell over to spell ROBERT (...or should have done!).
The clear stars of the evening were the Disney-esque cartoon characters wandering around. The children got very excited and the queue for photos seemed longer than the Great Wall of China at times. The actors inside were great, giving umpteen high-fives, posing cutely and managing to ignore the more violent of the boys who thought it might be fun to poke and kick Mickey and his friends!
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