Today we visited Seymour Smith Elementary School.
The school, established in 1932-1933, is the oldest one in Pine Plains. At present it contains 6 grades, from kindergarten to Grade Five, with a student enrollment of approximately 500 students. Not a few teachers in the high school used to teach here. The school is in an old three-storey building. The crimson bricks in its wall shows us its long history. Or in other words, the education in Pine Plains started just here. At the mere thought of that, you cannot help feeling deep reverence for Mr Seymour Smith, founder of the school.
Hearing that the Chinese delegation would come, the whole school became excited. When we entered the auditorium, or their gym, the school band was rehearsing the Chinese Anthem. Although there were some problems in the rhythm, we could feel their friendship towards the Chinese people. The teacher supervising the band came up to tell me that it was only one year and a half since the children began practicing, so they didn't do as well as the high school students, but they were intent upon the rehearsal.
The welcoming assembly began after less than 10 minutes. Mr Richard Azoff, principal of the school, presided over the assembly personally. Same as we did in the previous years, he gave me a copy of his speech and asked me to translate on the spot. It was interesting that this year the school accepted a grade four student Linda Ye who came from Taiwan and they asked the girl to read out the words which was written by the girl in Chinese in a gift book, which touched us deeply. I specially quote her words below:
To our good friends,
We sincerely hope that you can enjoy everything that we do for you. There are some pictures of New York that may help you remember your New York trip.
— All the teachers and students of Seymour Smith Elementary School, February 2007
To our surprise, by the end of the assembly, a group of kids walked into the gym, holding up a paper "dragon". They were letting off electronic firecrackers while they were marching slowly in the gym. Now we got to know that it was the "parade of dragon" that the school had prepared meticulously. All the kids broke into cheers immediately and the welcoming assembly reached its peak.
After the welcoming assembly, we were divided into 3 small groups and got into the classrooms to communicate with the American kids. The teachers and the students here were very friendly. They had prepared abundant activities for us to participate in (not merely to watch!). Our students and the teachers sat separately at the desks and did painting or handwork and talked with the American students. In this way, our students got further understanding of the life and studies of the American students.
At noon we had lunch in the school.
The communicative activity lasted the whole day; it didn't finish until 3:00 pm. We were still interested in it even when we left the school.
Shopping in a hurry
In the evening, our hostess drove us to the Wall-Mart in Kingston. It took us about half an hour to get there though it was the nearest supermarket to her house. The hostess suggested that we should make a prompt decision when we bought gifts to take home. "Once you find something, you buy it. You will never do shopping in a hurry in the last minute," she said. However, we still came back without buying anything.