So, I've been here in Zhengzhou for 2 days now and am slowly starting to acclimatise to the culture and the temperature! It's around 30 degrees c at the moment and really humid and muggy. There's a lot of pollution in the city because over 9 million people live here in very close proximity to each other and many of them have cars. This, linked with the fact that a lot of the electricity generation is by coal fired power stations, means there's a lot of smog and lots of the local people wear masks to protect themselves from breathing it in.
The people here are friendly and very interested in me as a westerner, especially looking the way I do! There are a lot of people and a lot of new money, many more new cars than you would see in a British city with even very young men driving brand new vehicles. On driver we took a car with didn't look much more that 16! The nursery where I am delivering the training is also brand new and state of the art. They have invested so much money in the physical environment, that it would rival anything in the most expensive nursery schools in the UK. They have a rooftop garden, fully stocked art room, recording studio, real working miniature kitchen for the children to cook their own food as well as a roller skating room and fully stocked woodworking area! This is all in addition to the separate Forest School site they own outside of the city which used to be an organic farm and is fully equipped with climbing areas, fire circles and an artificial lake for the children to paddle in!
It was day 1 of the first Forest School conference today and a group of around 30 parents, nursery staff and owners had assembled from various preschools to listen to me speak for a whole day about the UK model of Forest School - something I have been planning for for a long time, but still approached with a certain nervousness! The day went well, although the Chinese students have a very different way of approaching their training to those in the UK. They expected me to talk for the whole day, giving all of the answers and telling them exactly how to run a FS session. I tried to encourage debate and comment from the students as we do in our UK training, but this wasn't something they were comfortable with! They did eventually start to discuss the ideas with each other and came up with some good concepts. However, rather than giving a few words in response to my call for feedback, they felt they needed to make a whole speech to put their point across, another cultural difference I hadn't anticipated! We're outdoors all day tomorrow, so I'm hoping this will allow them to get a first hand experience of what Forest School is and how it can be applied in practice.
The food here is amazing, such variety of flavours and styles. Lots of noodles, rice and meat as you'd expect, with fresh stir fried veg alongside. I am slowly learning how to use chopsticks! Will seem odd going back to a knife and fork when I return home!
I'll update this blog soon, signing out. Sam