男儿当自强

On Monday, I got to work and found a surprise next to my desk. A boy named Carl (王小磊) was sick and so he is practicing typing pin yin on the computer next to me, away from the other children. Carl did not speak a lot but he could learn just as well as any other child. He pointed to all the letters and words on his screen to me. He is a little confused sometimes about the capital letters on the keyboard and the lower case letters that he is shown on the screen. I taught Carl how to close windows and turn off the computer. It was quite a struggle because with his motor difficulties, moving the mouse to the correct place and then clicking it without screwing up can be hard. But I encouraged Carl to keep trying, and he laughed a lot at his struggles. I told him it’s okay, just try again. He was resilient and was back at it in 10 seconds, after he finally finished laughing.

Carl wrote his name for me, in English and in Chinese, and I showed him mine. Carl was ready to step things up, so we’re now looking at a word document, and he’s typing in our names in both languages. After a while, Carl asks me to help him type a song title. It was called 男儿当自强, the theme song to a classic Chinese film in 1992 titled “Once Upon a Time in China II.” The film was about a “Chinese folk hero,” and the song is about men who are strong and independent. I was so proud of Carl for wanting to find the lyrics to this song, so I helped him look up the lyrics and copy and paste it into the word document. Carl was quite a perfectionist! He asked me to center the title of the song and align the lyrics to the left. We added the lyrics to a Chinese children’s song as well. The joy on Carl’s face was frankly priceless when he was watching the printer print out the lyrics. Words that he had typed and saw on a screen, coming to life right before his eyes. Something so simple can make us so happy. Carl patiently waited ‘til the printer was done before he took the paper, staring at the lyrics.

Do you want me to play the songs for you on my computer so you can sing along? I asked. Carl eagerly nodded his head. I pulled up the heroic songs about strong boys who do good things and tried to sing along with Carl. Even though he could not articulate the words very well, he loved every moment and made sure to ask me about why the song ended when there were still more lyrics.

Of course, Carl can’t be stopped. He starts typing away again, trying to type the names of everyone in his class, group yellow. Group Yellow’s Children and Adults. With all of their official names and nick names. There were some characters that I really did not know how to pronounce, even though Carl wrote it out for me. My pin yin abilities are mediocre but Carl never gave up, trying tons of combinations of letters that could possibly sound out the character he was looking for. He would excitedly point to me when he finally cracked the code.

When lunch time came around, he asked me when I will be back from lunch. 5 minutes? He asked, showing me five fingers. I need a little more time than that to eat, little buddy! Okay 10 minutes? How about thirty? I asked. He nodded his head Okay.

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