01/26/2013 - 02/12/2013 70 °F
Roller skating is quite popular among kids in China, particularly guangzhou given its mild temperature even in winter months. The second day after we arrived, we went to a shopping center for lunch with Zhexiong's friends. On the big empty square in front of the shopping center, a school for teaching kids roller skating was busy recruiting students. Two male young instructors were skating around, handing out pamphlets about their programs. Skyler and Ellie started watching them with acute interest. One instructor noticed the business opportunity presented by these two kids, started doing some demonstration among the cones and strings that were set up on the ground. Both Skyler and Ellie sat on the stool and watched him for quite some time. I asked some questions, not sure if their instructional program would work for us given our short stay in Guangzhou. Skyler had some experience with roller skates when he was in the summer camp at the YMCA last year. Back then, he was too timid to let go of the wall even for a second. His version of roller skating was to walk around half leaning against the retaining wall. I thought this would be a great activity to get the kids outdoors.
Zhexiong picked up our interest and ordered both kids a set of equipments online a few days later. Each set includes the whole nice yards: roller skates, helmets and protective pads. Here are Ellie and Skyler trying on skates the day they arrived.
The thick rug in the middle of Zhexiong's living room provided a good spot for the kids to try walking on the skates. The friction is big enough to allow them steady steps. The stone floor though was too slippery and hard to be the first practice surface. So for the first day, we just walked on the rug.
In the next few days, we went downstairs and tried to skate in the corridor. Xinxin came with her skates one day, and she was really good. This provided good motivation for the kids. Instead of going to a school, I decided to teach the kids myself.
I skated when I was a teenager. The skates we used back then had four wheels, two at the front and two at the back. I still remember skating with my friends in big circles holding hands occupying the entire arena some late nights. However, I never got on the roller skates that had one column of wheels, so when it comes to teaching my kids, I was really just a theorist with related experience. I told the kids that they needed to lean forward so that the center of their gravity is forward, to always walk in the pattern of Chinese eight "八“， left and right, left and right.
Skyler got it on his 3rd time putting his skates on. He was first leaning on me a lot, which really did not help in him getting the sense of skating. I walked by him, holding his arm, then hand, then just one finger. All I did was to call out "left, right, left, right, make an eight, make an eight". The next thing I know, he was holding on to only the tip of my finger and I could let go of it completely. He was skating on his own!
His interest peaked once he could move himself freely on the skates. He kept on skating and skating that he was completely drenched. His accomplishment made Yeye so happy that an ice cream was awarded.
Ellie, being 2 years younger, spent a little more time getting a hang of it. I think the weight of the skates itself is a challenge for her little legs. Initially, she complained about her legs getting tired about 10 minutes of walking in the skates. I could feel her complex sense of jealousy and disappointment when everybody rushed to praise Skyler for his newly learned skill. Of course, she is not a girl who easily gives up. It was not too long before she started skating on her own as well. She has this amazing ability of balancing herself by swinging her little arms rapidly back and forth.
Now it was time to try out my own theory on myself after 20 some years. One day, when Zhexiong was around, thus I am sure there was somebody who was strong enough to catch me if I fall, I decided to put on the skates myself. The single row of wheels definitely felt funny under me, and it was much harder to keep the balance in the standing position than I remembered. I started walking slowly, constantly reminding myself of the theory I used to couch my kids. As I stumbled and fell, I started admiring my children and their amazing ability to explore and learn so quickly. Gradually, I could move on my own, slowly. The kids were delighted to see me on the skates and asked for a match. Of course, Skyler was the fastest, and Ellie, with her little arms swinging, came in second. I, the mother, who was too afraid of falling, was the turtle. With the bystanders watching, I took in comfort that they might think I was letting my kids win. The truth is, I really could not keep up with either Ellie or Skyler.
For most of our skating adventures in Guangzhou, We frequented this shopping center made on the old spot of Guangzhou airport terminal building as the spacious square between the parking lot and shopping center is smoothly paved. Zhexiong, Xinxin, Skyler, Ellie and I skated together, with my parents watched. This has become a regular outing for the entire family.
My father, being quite healthy and active, believes that he would have no trouble on the skates whatsoever. His confidence was boosted after he met and chatted with this 60-year old skater, who seemed to be really enjoying himself.
We almost wanted to dare my father, but thought better of it given the potentially dangerous consequences in an accidental fall of an almost 70-year old. I am happy to report that I can now catch up with Ellie in terms of speed even though Skyler still goes way faster than me.
During the week of the Chinese New Year, a hugh blown-up play structure and some trampolines were set up in the square for the kids to play in. The set up is similar with what you normally would encounter in U.S. except that you have to pay to play and the place can be quite crowded. Ellie was slightly too young for the tall slides, but Skyler had a blast with them every time he went in. All in all, I am grateful for this great location and all the fun time we had together. As much as I am trying not to accumulate things for the trip back, I am happy to take the kids' skates back to Michigan!