A Week of Jelly Bean Happiness in China

Palm Sunday Rehearsal

            Last weekend was Palm Sunday, which had me in church on Sunday as usual. Choir rehearsal with the children took place immediately after our service ended at 11 a.m.
            As you know from last week, the adult choir, retired persons’ choir and children’s choir are joining together for Easter Sunday celebrations. We are singing the familiar hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” with a lot of difficult parts. As we practiced both in the upstairs choir room and then in the sanctuary, I was so pleased that John had taken my suggestion that the children sing the first verse by themselves. They sounded so sweet!
             Hearing all these young, exuberant voices, introduced to Christianity at such an early age in this pre-dominantly non-Christian country, made all of us smile. Those waiting for the kids in the sanctuary, from parents to grandparents to bystanders, were beaming with pride.
             I can just imagine Easter Sunday tomorrow, when I heard we’ll have the younger kids dancing as well, our hearts will all be singing with joy at the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

On A Mission:  The Search is On For Jelly Beans

            Our Palm Sunday rehearsal time demanded my full attention for 45 minutes but I was actually a bit fidgety.
            I had been searching throughout the week for jelly beans without much luck.
           This past week was designated as my Easter Traditions lesson, which included examples of egg coloring and special candies, such as chocolate eggs and jelly beans. Chocolate eggs are impossible to find but jelly beans are in China. You just have to know where to look.
            When I first came to Luzhou some 10 years ago, I knew all the small convenience stores that sold these around the city. Jelly beans are called “Rainbow Beans” in Chinese and usually come in single serving packages for little children. Elementary schools are always surrounded by small mom-and-pop shops that sell ice cream, bread buns, candies or dime toys for the kids. After school, the children swarm to these places and they make a killing off of penny items for the eager hoards.
             Jelly beans are just one such candy I could always find although only in small amounts. To allow everyone in my classes (400 of them) to taste a jelly bean, this usually meant I had to visit numerous stores to buy out all they had.
            Not only did I need one jelly bean per student for my lesson, but I also needed jelly beans to fill small containers for our Jelly Bean Contest: “How many jelly beans are in the bottle?”
During my Easter tradition unit, students write down their names and guesses on the contest paper, then we see who comes closest to the number. The winner gets the entire bottle.
             Depending on how many jelly beans I can find depends on how big the bottle or jar is. I’ve had as many as 600 jelly beans in a plastic water bottle to as few as 130 in a plastic jelly jar.
             During my 2-week search, it looked like I wasn’t going to have any jelly bean contest this year because all the small shops I had visited from years ago were either no longer there or didn’t have jelly beans anymore. My mission for after church on Palm Sunday was to search out new, downtown supermarkets and stores with the hopes that I’d have some luck.
              That would be my last ditch effort in finding those infamous Easter candies.

Rapid Development Pays Off

              I was really up for an all-day search when I quickly headed out of church at noontime. My first stop was going to be the fancy corner store not more than 100 yards from the church. After the huge development projects around the church, modernized shops and small groceries had popped up to accommodate the 3 huge apartment complexes that towered over our small alleyway.
             While I was saddened to loose my nostalgic view of old China because of this, I certainly couldn’t complain when that fancy corner store provided exactly what I was looking for.
             They had jelly bean containers of all sizes, shapes and prices to choose from. There were loose packages, small bottles and mini-jars stacked on the shelves hiding at the bottom of the candy section. I couldn’t believe my luck!
             Much to the surprise of the store owner, I grabbed a market basket and filled it with every single jelly bean item she had. I even asked if she had more, which she sadly reported I’d bought out all she had.
            When I hauled it to the cashier, she was astounded at how many I had.
            “Why so many?” she asked me in Chinese as she electronically checked each item.
               How do you explain a Jelly Bean Jar contest? And would anyone be able to understand if you did?
            “For my students,” I told her. “I have over 400. These are prizes.”
            “You are a good teacher!” she said with a smile after totaling the entire thing: $20 worth of jelly beans.
            I’d say more like a good customer.

The Contest A Success, Despite One Winning Error

            While I didn’t have enough jelly beans to fill five bottles with the maximum number of 600, I did manage to fill two 550 candy count containers for the second year classes and then 3 smaller bottles for the first year classes.

During the Easter tradition lesson, students pass the bottle and write down their guesses.

During the Easter tradition lesson, students pass the bottle and write down their guesses.

Everyone hopes their guess will be the winning one.

Everyone hopes their guess will be the winning one.

         Excitement mounted during the entire 2 periods while everyone waited anxiously for the last 10 minutes when the envelope holding the exact number would be revealed.

During the break, students pose with our visual aids for Easter:  bonnets, colored eggs, bunnies and the Easter basket.

During the break, students pose with our visual aids for Easter: bonnets, colored eggs, bunnies and the Easter basket.

I get in on the fun as well.

    When it’s finally time, I let my monitors (class leaders) handle this part of the lesson so I’m not to blame if any mistakes are made in checking to see who is the winner.


Monitor Elroy (tallest) hands out the prize to his classmate, who guessed 243 while the true number was 251.

Monitor Elroy (tallest) hands out the prize to his classmate, who guessed 243 while the true number was 251.

Another very happy winner and her friend in yet another class.

Another very happy winner and her friend in yet another class.

           I only had one monitor who announced the wrong person but that was quickly remedied when the real winner caused a huge fuss, saying her number was closer.
           “Not right! Not right!” she shouted, grabbing the bottle away from her surprised classmate who eventually relinquished it after the error was publicly made known.
         You would think college students wouldn’t be quite so competitive about a bottle of jelly beans but think again. That girl wanted her candies and she wasn’t going to be quiet until she got them!
           It was all in good fun, without any hurt feelings, and I was happy to see that she immediately shared with everyone in the class after the bell rang.
          “Who wants jelly beans?” she shouted and was suddenly surrounded by excitedly screeching classmates, their open hands waiting anxiously for her to distribute the candy. Lots of grabbing, pushing and shoving with jelly beans spilling not only into hands but onto the floor as well.

"Who wants jelly beans?"

“Who wants jelly beans?”

"Our generous winner continues long after the bell as students shout, "Give us more!  Give us more!"

           Classes that end right before lunch are always a bit more hyperactive than others.  Everyone’s starving.  I’m sure their over-enthusiastic reaction to the invite for free jelly beans had a lot to do with their rumbling, growling, empty stomachs more than their desire to taste jelly beans.

Easter Sunday (复活节)Nearly Upon Us

          Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Our service is starting at 9 a.m. so I’ll be heading over earlier than usual on the downtown bus. John suggested an 8:30 arrival for choir practice with the kids. I’m sure the congregation will be delighted and uplifted by all our Easter celebrations tomorrow. I know I will!

         From Luzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (peace) for our Chinese 复活节 (Fu Huo Jie), translated as Return to Life Holiday.

Mary's donkey, used for our Christmas story re-enactment, says "Happy Easter!"

Mary’s donkey, used for our Christmas story re-enactment, says “Happy Easter!”