Skyping With Milanda

Reading with children is one of the best investments anyone can make. The returns are gratifying on so many levels; not the least of which is bonding.

Every Saturday morning, I Skype with a friend, Shengdong and his daughter, Biyun Lin. They live in China.  Sometimes, if it is a holiday, his wife Mary will be home from work and then we all gather around our computers to chat. Shengdong spent the past year at the University of Rhode Island as a Fulbright Scholar. His wife Mary stayed for a few weeks but went back to Xiamen to her job as a librarian. Biyun, who chose an American name, Milanda, was enrolled in kindergarten at our local elementary school. She did not speak English, but by the end of her year in the US, she was quite fluent for a six-year old. Being young, she picked up the
0B-FawXCRkdLCOU9wN05xcENXVDQlanguage quickly. I met them at our church in late fall and they shared an American Christmas with us. Milanda decorated her first Christmas tree, ate her first turkey dinner, emptied her first holiday stocking, opened her first Christmas presents here as I snapped pictures to etch these memories in our minds.During the year, Milanda and I spent days together building our own friendship. We baked  cakes and cookies  in the shape of gingerbread people, stars, hearts and bunnies. We frosted and meticulously decorated cupcakes with sprinkles and jelly beans to bring to our church’s coffee hour on Sunday mornings. We danced, sang, colored, polished our nails, gardened and sat on the porch watching the hummingbirds squabble for the best place at the feeder. And we read together.

Now that she is home in Xiamen, we continue our traditions via Saturday morning (night time for her) Skype sessions. She demonstrates her latest dance moves, practices her keyboard and when I play my ukulele, she  claps and sings along with me,. She brings out her newest art work and tries in vain to teach me origami. (Long distance origami is extremely difficult!) Each lesson usually ends up with me placing my “art work” on my head and saying, “Look, a hat in the shape of a boat!” She heartily applauds my efforts, no matter what the outcome.

IMG_7287In May, I mailed her a copy of Berkshire Tale.  Now, every Saturday after we catch up on the latest news and weather, she opens the book and we read together before she goes to sleep.

First, we look at the pictures and talk about them. This week, we counted the pumpkins and tried to guess how many under the pile were hidden from view. We discussed ZuZu eavesdropping on the family’s conversations in the quilt bag. I  read where we last left off  and eventually, she jumped in to read, too. If there is a word she does not understand, she puts up her hand and says, “Stop!” I explain the meaning to her and we continue. We read a small section at a time and then we review by discussing things from previous pages. We talked a lot about  seasons this week because in the book, ZuZu does not want summer to end. She worries  about winter and whether the flowers and butterflies and hummingbirds will return. Her mother assures her that they always remember to come back. Milanda likes this thought. I do, too.  There is a certain solace for us both in the idea that things we love will return to us.

Monarch Butterflies

We are now on page ten, with many pictures and words to go. I’ve assured her that I am writing new ZuZu stories, so that when this  book is done, there will be more adventures to share. There is a certain, special solace for us both in the belief that the things we love will continue on.

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21 thoughts on “Skyping With Milanda

  1. Hi, Clare, this is Shengdong. Milanda and I read your blog. She was so glad to see her pictures in your blog and recalled our wonderful days in RI.

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    1. Hello, Shengdong. Well, we had just finished skyping this morning and I started to work on my Blogging 101 assignment and there you were! I’m so glad that you saw this post, as it is truly my favorite one. It was so much fun reading with Milanda today, but I’m afraid I kept her up much too late. I’ll send those pictures to you and we’ll Skype again next Saturday. Sleep Tight! Sweet Dreams! Love, Clare

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  2. What a wonderful story and what a wonderful thing to do! I miss a multicultural mix here in the country, I’d love to see refugees settled here. Hope you’re feeling better ( can’t comment on the re-blogged graphic on reading where you mention feeling unwell).

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    1. Hi, Kate, About that reblog – I was reading a blog and loved the graphic about the importance of reading, so I wanted to reblog it but didn’t really know how. I was directed to go to the original sight and there was a reblog button. I put in my thank you note to the blogger (Rachel), wrote the link and pressed “reblog”. When I went to my home page, Rachel’s intro about not feeling well was there but in place of “more” which would lead my followers to the reading graphic I wanted to reblog, was “?” I tried to edit it and it didn’t work, so I trashed both. But my followers who are notified by email got sent what I had trashed. This is why I don’t attempt anything new. I’ve also been playing around with memes and screwed that up too! I may write a blog post about my blogging ineptitude some day but it would be very, very long! I’m fine, not sick at all and I hope you’re doing well, too. Thanks, Kate.

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      1. Hiya Clare > Wechat’s great for free texts but when I was in the UK the calls always jammed up when the missus called me from China. I think you both need a good 4G for it to work. At the end of the day I guess its all about being as patient as possible with Skype, A bit annoying that it still cuts out after all these years and advanced technology. Amazing! Sorry not to be anymore helpful mate

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      2. I know some of the symbols for weather and flowers but I have to cheat during flash card tests. I think Milanda feels if I learn Chinese I’ll come to visit, so she keeps at it. She has also tried to teach me origami but all of my creations end up looking like a sailboat hat. But she never lets me give up. It’s exhausting!

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      3. I’m pretty good at pronouncing the words right after Milanda says them. At least she applauds me and seems extremely happy with my attempts. But I promptly forget the inflections after our Skype session. I think I’ll avoid the word purple for a few more lessons. Hope the pollution is at a decent level today and you’re running around outside enjoying the city.

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      4. Hiya Clare >> The pollution’s been down for a few weeks now. It’s not all as bad as it’s made out to be. The trouble is photos of people in masks and yellow mustard gas like air makes for ‘great’ photojournalism. Hey ho. Do try ‘purple’ though as it will make you laugh when you try 🙂

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      5. Hiya Clare > Sounds fantastic and the best way to start any weekend. Not quite there yet but we’re nearly at D-Day. Just writing about it now. Went to see the pandemonium of the train station today >> phew!

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