Friday, September 16, 2005

Autumn has finally come on a little stronger this past week as the temperature dipped significantly a few days ago. It's actually a little chilly in the evenings, now.

Went to a kindergarten in the North of Beijing last night to give a presentation about the Carden Method®. The school was a beautiful, huge, new Montessori school adorned in warm pastels and neon at the entrance of a nearly completed residential area. My colleagues and I arrived at about 5:30 PM after a nearly two-hour drive during rush hour on a rainy evening. We waited until 7:00 PM, and then moved to the third floor where the show would be staged. I say "show" because there was a runway in the center of the room and we had heard that some children would be modeling the latest in pre-primary school attire.

As the Carden entourage marched up the stairs to the third floor, we were greeted at every turn by a number of young women in pink sweaters and black polks-dot skirts. I thought they were just the exceedingly cute catering staff, but we learned later that they had a greater role in the evening. We entered the hall and there were, perhaps, twenty tables well-set with paper plates, plastic cutlery, an assortment of room temperature drinks and cellophane-wrapped snacks. A massive, sparklingly new collection of stage lights was hanging from the ceiling all spinning and flashing and just plain heating the already hot room. Nearly every table was full with the semester's new students and their parents. The technicians were still working on the lights and checking the sound and we seated ourselves in the already warm room, amid the smell of glue and new wood, awaiting the already late start of the event.

Carden China Director Bob MarcacciThe lights dimmed and the speaker system played a few songs by Patsy Cline. Things finally got underway and the hostess, wearing a bright pink Chinese silk dress trimmed with gold, took the small stage next to the runway. After some preliminary comments, she introduced the owner of the school who addressed everyone for about fifteen minutes. Then the hostess returned and introduced my colleagues and me and it was our turn to take the stage. Speaking to an audience of people who can't understand the presentation was difficult, and I'm not a very good pitch-man, but things went well despite being cooked by the stage lights. I could feel the sweat running down my back as if the beads were running races under my silk shirt. After my presentation, my associate, Estee Lynn, recapped my speech and gave a short presentation about our teaching materials in Chinese. We were on stage for about twenty hot minutes, but reached the end and returned to our seats.

The hostess, once again, took the stage, and introduced an elderly woman who, I was told, was a local official. She made some remarks and, while she was speaking, the girls which I thought were merely the catering staff, lined either side of the runway. The elderly woman finished speaking and, while "Lady of the Night" was playing, the young ladies made their way, one-by-one, to the end of the runway. There were about sixteen or eighteen of them, and they all introduced themselves: the kindergarten's teachers. After all of the teachers introduced themselves, the school's nurse and cook introduced themselves. Following all of this hoopla, a brief talent show was held, highlighting the talents of the young teaching staff, basically a dolled-up karaoke show. After this display of talent, some of the teachers, who had changed into street-clothes, escorted some of the little ones onto the runway to cap the evening with the fashion show. The event concluded with the cook returning, bearing the delights of his kitchen, which were distributed among those in attendance.

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