As China celebrates the start of the 100-day buildup to the Olympics a reporter from China.org.cn met overseas teachers and students who are preparing for the Games in their own special way.
Michael Rahn teaches PE at the Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA), an international school in Beijing's east side. Our reporter found him practicing the popular Chinese song "Friends". He was singing in Chinese "Zhe xie nian...feng ye guo, yu ye zou..." (In the past few years we've seen so much wind and rain), while simultaneously signing for the hard of hearing. Studying a piece of paper marked with Pinyin, English and sign language illustrations he complained about the difficulties of the Chinese language. "We're putting on a performance for the 100-day countdown" he said. "I just hope I can remember the lyrics."
"Beijing is such a dynamic city. I wanted to experience China in Olympic year. I love China and the Chinese people and can't wait for the Games to start," said the energetic American. A huge soccer fan, he joined a Beijing expat soccer team when he arrived in Beijing a year ago. They play against local teams two or three times a week. He has already booked Olympic tickets online and plans to book more once 3rd-phase tickets become available in May. "I'm going to take my American friends to the games when they come to Beijing in August".
Rahn introduced our reporter to his colleague, Janet Yao, a native of China's Taiwan Province, and the master-mind of the school's countdown performance. Their performance at the 300-day countdown celebration in Chaoyang District was such a hit that they were asked back for the 100-day countdown. The act features 70 teachers and students from 20 countries including the US, UK, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Nigeria, as well 20 kids from Beijing Sun Village a care home for children whose parents are in prison.
"The Olympics brings people from all over the world together. We wanted the kids from Sun Village experience this, to share our love and care with them. The spirit of Olympics should reach into every corner of the world." -- Janet Yao
Our reporter watched the group rehearsal. It kicked off with energetic drumming as students rushed on to the stage waving national flags. Then teachers and kids from Sun Village sang two songs, "Friends" in Chinese and "The Spirit of Greatest Love" in English, simultaneously singing and signing. For the finale three teachers ran on to the stage carrying Olympic torches.
Ms Yao explained the aims of performance, "The Olympics brings people from all over the world together. We wanted the kids from Sun Village experience this, to share our love and care with them. The spirit of Olympics should reach into every corner of the world. We added the sign language to celebrate the Paralympics. We want to express our joy not only through songs but also through touch and gestures".
Julian Williams (L) from the UK, and Jean Trenbeath (M) from the USA are two of the torchbearers during the performance.
Julian Williams from the UK, and Jean Trenbeath from the USA were two of the torchbearers during the performance. Our reporter asked them about the disruption of the torch relay in London and Paris last month, "It's very sad that it happened. There are many important issues that need to be discussed in regard to China and China's position about the world, but to hijack the torch while we are celebrating the Olympics, to politicize it, I don't think it is correct," said Williams, who came to Beijing three years ago and is director of the international program of the BWYA, "China looks upon the Olympics as a way of showcasing itself, but it has to accept that some people might disagree with its policies; as for me, I think people want to see the torch relay and celebrate peace and unity and the things the Olympic ideal is all about. I have huge expectations for the Beijing Olympics and I am looking forward to seeing the opening ceremony. I am especially interested in the taiji and martial arts performances; they are a very important aspect of Chinese culture and I'd love to see that celebrated."
Jean Trenbeath, a native of North Dakota, US, also an English teacher at the BWYA gave her views on the Olympics, "I hope everything will go smoothly and there will be no conflicts between countries. I am disheartened to hear there are troubles. The Olympics is not about conflict, not about politics, it's about people getting together, it's about unity and taking part, bringing people together for healthy competition, nothing political,"said Trenbeath, She also explained that the main reason she came to China was that she thinks China is becoming the center of the world stage, "I want to understand the culture and learn the language,"said Trenbeath. She is also considering study law, especially international law, and hopes to work in other countries in the future, "All eyes will be on China in August. All Chinese citizens are excited about hosting the Games. It is like a coming out party for this country. I am very excited just being part of the Olympics," When to comment on Beijing's environmental problems, Trenbeath said, "I honestly think China is doing a pretty good job, considering how many people there are in this country, I have heard many things have been done in this regard, I don't think it will be a big problem for the Olympics."
Students as well as teachers are excited about the performance. Kiki Evania Donnelly is a pretty 17-year-old with a Chinese mother and an English father. She has been in China for 11 years and speaks fluent Chinese. Her role in the performance is to recite a short paragraph in Chinese, urging everybody to celebrate the Olympics, "It's really interesting to take part. Before, I didn't know much about the Olympics. Now I am here and the Games are coming, I am really excited I am able to be a part of it."
17 year old Nigerian Adama Ameda came to Beijing with his diplomat parents a year ago; he has taken part in the four rehearsals and feels confident about the performance. "It's really interesting to take part." He is eagerly anticipating the Olympic track and field events. "I'm definitely going to go watch." he said.
On April 27 the group performed without a hitch before an enthusiastic audience in a Beijing stadium.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wang Qian, April 28, 2008)