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Bangor Daily News, Monday, January 30, 2006   B3
Year of Dog celebrated by 150 at Bangor event


BANGOR Ringing in the Year of the Dog was cause for celebration Sunday as more than 150 people gathered at Hus-son College to join in an event hosted by The Bangor Chinese School and area families. The Chinese New Year began Sunday, and the event was organized by Bangor Chinese School director and teacher Jing Zhang.

The school was started last year by Zhang and her husband, who came to Bangor from China eight years ago. "We try to be a bridge to connect the two countries," Zhang said.

To kick off the celebration, "Happy New Year" was sung in Chinese, followed by lunch provided by China Way restaurant of Bangor. After lunch, an aisle of bubble wrap was rolled out for children to step on to simulate firecrackers.

"It's tradition they light off firecrackers in China," Renae Muscatell, marketing director for the school, explained.

The program continued with performances by Bangor Chinese School students, both children and adults, and a dragon dance that's considered lucky and done to chase away evil spirits. The growth in interest in the Chinese culture has come partly because of an increase in the number of area families who have adopted Chinese children.

The school provides an opportunity to keep adopted Chinese children connected with their culture, language and history. It also gives Americans, children and adults, a chance to learn the same. "It's as important for us to be exposed to the culture as it is for Aylee," Wayne Doane of Exeter said about his daughter. Doane and his wife, Sherry, adopted Aylee in 2001. At age 5, Aylee now is taking hour-long individual lessons each Saturday in Chinese language and culture from Zhang. She can count to 50, write her name in Chinese characters, and Aylee's father said they often find her singing in Chinese while playing. "It's worked out exactly the way we wanted it to," Doane said, pointing out that in addition to the lessons, Aylee gets to see a Chinese family interact with one another, "Which we think is critically important to her." "She also has a close relationship with a lot of the other little girls who have been adopted," Doane said.

There were several local families who adopted children from China around the same time, and the mothers held playgroups for the girls when they were younger. Others who participate in The Bangor Chinese School have no connection to the Chinese heritage other than an interest in the culture. Last year, Zhang began offering after-school Chinese classes to kindergarten pupils at Abraham Lincoln School in Bangor. "It's a very important language to know," Kathy Tenga-Gonzalez of Bangor said. "With the emergence of China as an economic power, I think it's an important language to know," her husband, Jorge Gonzalez, added. Terri Adam said they thought of it differently when they signed their daughter, Katie, up for the class.

"We thought of it as a discipline," she said, pointing out that many children now are raised in a bilingual environment. "If you don't have two language skills, you're kind of at a loss," she said.