Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vermont International Festival

Visiting Scholars from China
 The first weekend in December was extremely for the Visiting Scholars and the staff at the Asian Studies Outreach Program. For the third year in a row, ASOP and the Visiting Scholars participated at the Vermont International Festival. We hosted five tables: two were used for displays, and three were used by the Visiting Scholars who had hands-on art activities ready for the thousands of Vermonters that visited the 3-day event. According the the organizers, over 1000 students attended the School Programs Day on Friday, December 1st, and another 5000 participants attended the event in total over three days. Below, one of the Visiting Scholar from China, Jianhong, shares her thoughts on the event.
Thitima and Sukanya at Festival
From December the 2nd to 4th we took part in the Vermont International Festival at Essex Junction.We four Chinese teachers divided the tasks. One wrote Chinese calligraphy and one folded lucky stars and one folded paper butterflies and the other did blow paintings. Most kids are fascinated with writing their names in Chinese calligraphy. They kept saying, “Beautiful!”, “Amazing!” One Chinese teacher also performed Taichi while the others were singing an ancient Chinese poem song. These activities offer the Americans the opportunity of being more exposed to Chinese culture.
Seeing the big crowds standing in front of our booth, I think it necessary to have more exchange activities between American people and Chinese people, because these activities can enhance understanding and enrich cultures.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Church Bazaar

Life in Vermont, especially as we get closer to the winter holidays, means weekends filled with crafts bazaars, bake sales, and communities gathering together to share in community spirit and cheer. Visiting Scholar Jianhong had the chance to attend her first Church Bazaar in Vermont, and shares her thoughts about the benefits of community in the following reflection:

It is Saturday today but I got up early because I will be going with my host family to the bazaar in the United Methodist Church in Brattleboro. This is the first time for me to go to a church bazaar.
Our preparations for the bazaar lasted several weeks. Last month, we picked some apples in the orchard and made ten apple pies and more than forty bottles of apple sauce. Last week we spent some time making some crafts. On Friday night we also baked some rolls. All these were for sale at the bazaar to collect money to help those who are in need.
The bazaar was held from 9am to 1pm on November 19th. Many people came to the bazaar. The food stands and the personalized ornament stands were the most popular.
I stayed there the whole time and I tried to be helpful. I chatted a lot with people from all walks of life. What impressed me the most is that plenty of grandparents came to buy some Christmas presents for their grandchildren. All the people who work for the bazaar were volunteers.
If everyone is happy to help others, our world will be a much better place.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Step-by-Step: How to Learn the Thai Alphabet

Parisa, the Visiting Scholar from Thailand’s Bangkok Christian College, brings wonderful energy and teaching strategies when sharing Thai culture. Step-by-step, she walks students through the process of learning a new written language. Read the following exert from an email Parisa sent to the ASOP office about her week at Mount Anthony Middle School:

I want to share with you how the students in Mount Anthony Middle School enjoyed learning the Thai alphabet and making bookmarks with their “Thai names” written on them. 

First, I told them about the Thai alphabet and Thai vowels.
Next, I we practiced pronunciation.

I then wrote the alphabet on the board (the first to the fifth one) and let volunteers copy them. It was amazing that they could copy Thai alphabet! Next, I let the students write their names in English down one side of the bookmarker. I then showed them, one by one, how to write their names in Thai. They had to practice on blank paper until they were sure that they could write down in the book marks. The students were so successful!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thai Night for a Vermont Neighborhood

While this even happened over a month ago, the event remains one of ASOP’s favorite host family celebrations with a Visiting Scholar. On a Saturday night, Visiting Scholar Thitima and her host family organized a “Thai Night” and invited all the neighbors to share in food, music, and a chance to view Thai fashion. Read Thitima’s reflection for more details:

Last Saturday night, my host family was the host for a dinner party with the neighborhood for about 28 people. The theme they set was “THE THAI NIGHT”. I cooked Massaman Neu, Pad Paew Whan and Palo for everyone. I wish I had pictures of the food to share, but I totally forgot about taking pictures of the food.
Family in Traditional Thai Clothing
The family decided to surprise the neighbors by dressing in Thai costumes. After cooking, I helped them get ready in traditional Thai dress. I was so busy but it was so much fun. That night I wore an ancient vest and a traditional Thai cloth (เสื้อคอกระเช้า และผ้าถุง) which elderly women in Thailand love to wear, but I changed outfits later in the night because it was too cold to wear เสื้อคอกระเช้า และผ้าถุง. The guest admired my food, which brought me happiness. My host family was responsible for the main course in dinner and appetizers, desserts, etc. It was fun and such a great day. I decorated the house with some paper chimes, paper fish, flowers and colorful flags to create an atmosphere like Thailand. I thought sharing food and decorations with our guests was another great way to share Thai culture with Vermonters.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snow and Pumpkins: A Unique Vermont Halloween

A spooky pumpkin gets cold, too!
Visiting Scholar Lu Jianhong, who is currently at Putney Central School, shares her thoughts about a Halloween that has both snow and spooky ghosts! Lu Jianhong celebrated the event with her host family and the ASOP curriculum coordinator, Gerry Gatz. 
Read Lu Jianhong's reflection here:

It is Halloween today. With the greetings “Happy Halloween!” or “Merry Christmas!” the kids merrily came into the classroom with a full backpack. I was greatly surprised because it was not Christmas yet. They laughed and said it was white with snow outside.
In the afternoon we held a party in the classroom and I showed the kids how to use chopsticks to pick up candies. Children could only eat candies if they picked them up with chopsticks. It was great fun for them.
After school Angela and I drove to Gerry’s home to enjoy Halloween night. When we arrived we were delighted to see a big pumpkin, lit up, carved by Gerry. After 5 pm children began to knock at the door and say “trick or treat”. Some were small kids, only about 4 or 5-years-old while some were high school students. Most of them were dressed up. When a woman dressed up in something like grapes appeared and claimed herself grandma without bringing children with her I was amused. Some children also raised money for UNICEF. Gerry was busy giving out candies from 5:00pm to 8:30pm. While this is a completely new experience for me, I think it may also be a completely new experience for some kids. Maybe they need to gather up their courage to say “trick or treat”. It is also a way of cultivating their ability to communicate with different people.
On my way back to the host family around 9:00pm, I saw some kids still walking in snow playing “trick and treat” in the icy weather.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thai Shadow-Puppets and the Creative Spirit at EES

During the week of October 18th, students at Essex Elementary School Learning Center had a wonderful surprise. Each class entered the Learning Center to find the lights dimmed, beautiful Thai music playing softly, and Mrs. Scrimgeour, Mrs. Doble and Cherry dressed in festive Thai costumes. The children were introduced to traditional Thai shadow-puppets, and then watched a shadow-puppet show of the story “Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together,” a pourquoi-style of tale that explains why something is the way it is.  

Read Thitima’s reflection of sharing Thai art and culture at EES, and follow the link at the end of the reflection for the EES Learning Center link to see more pictures.

Thai House
Thai Paper-cutting
I had a chance to work in the Essex Elementary School Learning Center for the last 2 weeks, and it was great. I have met every student in school. This week I worked with the art teacher. The students in the kindergarten worked on Thai tie dye and this time I let them tie the string by themselves (which is too difficult for them). With the 1st graders, we worked on Thai paper cutting with the Lai Thai and making shirt. With the 2nd graders, we worked on traditional Thai house and decorated with the Thai style. It was fun and I was learning from my mistake. Every day is like a new day for me.

Happy Halloween!

Every country has its own traditions and cultures, and none is as uniquely American as the tradition of Halloween and trick or treating. This year, the US spent $6.5 billion on candy, costumes and decorations for Halloween. The Visiting Scholars across Vermont got to enjoy the traditions of pumpkin carvings, candy corn, and haunted houses. Read the reflection by Crystal Chen as she comments on a Vermont Halloween:

Every year, Americans celebrate Halloween on October 31st. On this day, young people wear masks and costumes. Boys and girls dress as witches, ghosts and other characters. Children like to wear their costumes to school, where there is often a special party. Adults may wear something orange and black, the traditional colors for the special day. I bet pumpkin socks sell well during this period.

At C.P.Smith School, I celebrated my first Halloween with the 2nd graders. A mini-party was held after lunch in the classroom. Mrs. Pallutto (a class teacher) prepared a lot of things such as cake, cookies, fruit and juice so that each kid could have their own plate of food. We said "Happy Halloween" to each other and started to enjoy the food. Music was turned on and a story about Halloween was read by Mrs. Pallutto. Later on, a boy named Rory gave every kid a pumpkin pencil as a Halloween gift. In addition, they each got a toothbrush from a girl in another 2nd grade classroom, because her mother is a dentist. Kids had much fun at school. I received a pumpkin painting from Nash, a lovely little boy.

In the evening, families put their jack-o'-lanterns in front of their houses with a candle inside and leave dim lights on in the house. Children of all ages wear their costumes and carry bags to their neighbors' houses. They knock, and when the neighbor opens the door, they shout, "Trick or treat!" Then the neighbor puts fruits or candy in the kids' bags.

There is no doubt that the Halloween evening belongs to kids and teenagers because they can collect a heavy bag of candy that night and indulge themselves in enjoying a variety of candy for several days with their parents' permission. But remember to brush your teeth carefully after eating candy, and try to control your appetite as too much candy can really do harm to your body.

Monday, October 24, 2011

History Alive: Visiting Scholar Visit Historic Sites

This past weekend Lu Jianhong, who is currently a Visiting Scholar at Putney Central School, traveled to Concord and Lexington with her host family, Mary Anne, to visit historic American sites. In her letter to ASOP, Jianhong shares the fascination of seeing a historic American site that she had read about as a student in China. Read more about her impressions in her letter below:  

Today Mary Anne drove me to Concord and Lexington to visit these two historic places. When I was a high school student, I learned about the First Shot in Lexington in my history book. Now I have the chance to visit the place, so I feel very excited.
After more than an hour’s drive, we reached Concord which is an ancient town with the former residence of Nathaniel Hawthorn (author of The Scarlet Letter) and Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women). After watching a 25-minute film in the Visitors’ Center about the historic battle between the British Regulars and the American militia in April 1775, we walked three miles along the Battle Road. The road has a series of signs along the original route, now partly covered by modern roads, and of reconstructed unpaved roads through the forest between Lexington and Concord. We listened to the ranger’s introduction of the arms in the battle and his demonstration of the firing. We also visited the North Bridge and the Minuteman Satue. Here the volunteer ranger described the battle vividly. Then we visited Lexington Green.
I am grateful to Mary Anne who offered me the opportunity to know more about American culture.