Looking back on it, my days at Harmony school were pretty happy. Even though it was just going to school and meeting our friends, we couldn’t help but have fun every day.
Starting in the morning, we had math, language, social studies, science and other boring classes, but the teachers kept an eye on all of us to make sure we all understood the material, and patiently explained to those who needed help, so there was never anyone left behind. At the same time, we also had a lot of tests — one every three days, if I remember correctly. But most of them weren’t related to what we were learning. It was short essays like “I’m sad, because…”, so they weren’t really stressful.
Rather, what was more difficult were self-expression assignments. Although drawing and clay-sculpting was fun, writing daily essays was annoying. But it’s probably thanks to all the practice I got then that I can write this story without much trouble.
After the boring classes, we spent all afternoon playing. And since we had two days off for the weekends, we spent a lot of time running around outside to our heart’s content.
When I first entered Harmony school, I had already explored all along the lazily winding canals, gazing at the thatched roofs of the houses, going as far as Gold. During autumn, the entire village is covered in golden ears of rice, which is where it gets is name from. But the village is actually more interesting during spring and summer. When you peered into the paddy fields, you could see pond skaters darting on the surface of the water, and loaches and mosquitofish swimming underneath. At the bottom, tadpole shrimp crept about, stirring up mud to conceal themselves among the weeds. In the canals and reservoirs providing water to the farms were giant waterbugs, water scorpions, watersticks, diving beetles, and other insects, as well as crucian carps and various fish. The older kids showed us how to use cotton thread and dried squid to bait crayfish, and after a day, we had caught a bucket full of them.
There were also a lot of birds in Gold. In the spring, the cries of skylarks wheeling through the sky echoed all around, and in the summer, before rice was planted, dozens of ibises frequented the fields to hunt loaches. Ibises mated in the winter and built nests in the nearby trees. The young ibises left the nest the following autumn, and although the sound of their cries wouldn’t be considered beautiful, the sight of a flock of light pink ibises in flight was quite majestic. Other birds that we often saw flying around were black kites, brown eared bulbuls, great tits, Oriental turtle doves, puffer sparrows, triwing crows and more.