We have just returned from a really interesting weekend accompanying the team of three girls that we coached to participate in the Regional English Speaking Contest in Fuzhou. Altogether 75 candidates from different Universities in the province competed to go to the National Contest in Beijing. Our team consisted of Mavis,Witty and Shirley three lovely girls who have somehow become our “Xiamen Daughters” or possibly the 3 Musketeers.
WE coached them on pronunciation, presentation,body language and suchlike over the course of the last 6 weeks and became very close. They frequently came over to work at our house and were regaled with tea and biscuits. Anyway the culmination of this process was the contest. For this we had to take a fast train for 2 hours to neighbouring Fuzhou where we were met by a volunteer from the Fuzhou College of Foreign Languages and Trade,this year’s venue for the Contest. The organization of this contest was terrible even for China, but despite all the hitches we had a great time. This was partly because of the girls, but also because of the people we met.Out of all the hundreds of people attending,the only non Chinese were me,Danny, a coach for the Xiamen University team called Michael Oviedo (A Jewish guy from California) and Michael Garnett, a judge from Hatfield,(more of him later) and another lady judge whom we didn’t talk to.The girls were really nervous but did a great job. We got 6th place out of 74 and they performed really well.On arrival at the venue there was a draw to determine the contestants’ running order. WE got 1,23 and 37 which meant first contestant and then one in the middle and one almost last,as there were two separate rooms of speakers. The girls had to give a 3 minute prepared speech and then an impromptu unprepared speech followed by questions. Then we were taken by bus to the hotel (not so great but ok) and then dinner. Chaos was the main theme of the checkin at the hotel and then the subsequent running of the contest. What was really enjoyable was meeting all the young people participating and seeing their seriousness and fervour in preparing for their speeches. Some were really excellent too,although a few were weak. During the long afternoon in which the girls got all dolled up in their best and put on makeup and practised, we were suddenly approached by a Chinese lady who addressed us in fluent Hebrew! She turned out to be the wife of Michael Garnett,and had spent 10 years living in Israel,on Kibbutz Hazorea and then in Haifa. She embraced us like long lost family and said that now she and Michael live in Fuzhou and teach at Fujian College! Talk about a small world!. We of course exchanged phone numbers and emails and will stay in touch.
Mavis doing her thing
At one point Shirley was in the lead,but at the end of the day the 3 winning contestants were from Xiamen University and Fujian University. The contest finished at 6pm when we were returned by bus to the Fuznou train station,together with Kevin the Chinese teacher from our school who had been a judge in one of the rooms. On arrival back in Xiamen,Kevin ran us home in his car which he had parked at the station,and thanked us for all of our hard work. Today is Sunday,so we have a well earned day of rest!.
Mavis,Witty,Me,Danny,Kevin and Shirley