A Murder Most Heinous

“What?!” you gasp, reeling from the news, for how could it be true.

“Dr. Black is dead?”

Days, weeks, maybe even just moments later, your thoughts return to the circumstances surrounding Dr. Black’s death. Isn’t it suspicious that a classy, social climber like Miss Scarlett would find herself snooping around in the basement? And why aren’t the local police force taking an interest in this case? Something fishy is going on and anyone aged eight or above should be interested in finding out what.

At least this was the premise behind introducing Cluedo, or Clue, to my students in Chengdu. But why introduce it at all? This goes back to a particular event taking place at my ESL school, Vertigo.

We had an entire week of “homestay”, or living with your teacher, to bat activities around. There were only so many times we could get the kids to race through activities like making the bed (a great game by the way), formal lessons, exploratory walks through the neighbourhood, and craft sessions. Most of these tending to be appropriate only during the day (see photos below). So then, what to do with long evenings? Board games.

I was fortunate to be working with Yoyo, a passionate language teacher of vivacious character. We had been teaching phonics together and had been focused on developing educational activities for the kids that would engage and interest the children. We were teaching kids aged from 3 to 9. Due to a lack of English language comprehension in our students we found that physical activities with verbal prompts produced a better level of engagement as well as a higher frequency of use. We saw this as using language in context. Games became a cornerstone in our teaching methods.

Many of our activities were site based and used the materials immediately available to us. So in that respect we didn’t always need to create materials. For the youngest children, learning the interplay of nouns and verbs meant following instructions or giving instructions that resulted in funny outcomes. Sometimes this was revealing of the children’s perspective, many children loved saying things like, “Can you stand on the table?” because it was strictly prohibited otherwise. Or, as in the case of one little boy, “Can you kiss Teacher Sharon?” displaying what we supposed was an infant crush.

We had began moving to board games after we had played around for some time with floor mats. We had began looking at classic games and because of the upcoming “homestay” excursion, an oxymoron I know, I put together an adaptation of Cluedo which is available here for download.

The purpose of recreating it was simple; to fill time. The idea of teaching vocabulary was actually secondary and a bit naughty of me. I should have adapted the language to be simpler but became carried away.

The primary school children enjoyed playing the game and picked it up well with supervision. However I would recommend adapting the vocabulary further if you have the time and means to do so.

I’m providing in indesign file (via MEGA) and a PDF. The indesign file would require Adobe software to edit but if you are looking for a quick fix, the PDF should suit you fine. In either case, the file was designed to be printed on A4 paper then stuck together. We laminated ours.

Good luck solving that crime!


Red Repels Demons! Design Your Own Red Packet

It was 2014. A huge family event was taking place, all of my to-be-in-laws were gathered together. Noodles were being happily tossed and relations chatted away. These little envelopes, ang paos, were being handed around but I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to accept them. In fact, I found it difficult to accept them all the way up until recently. So what changed?

First of all I discovered how I fit in the picture. I’m woven in, I can’t just receive ang bao’s I have to pass them on too. The ang bao is supposed to be symbolic of a blessing or well wish and it would be discourteous and rude not to pass them on. But where do these ang baos come from?

In popular stories the colour red, loud noises (think of drums and the dragon dance), and coin shaped charms are revealed to offer protection from an evil spirit that lived in the sea or mountains. He was known as Nian, 年兽, and he typically terrorised villages, most famously Peach Village. This sets a mythical origin for the gifting of money packaged in red.

That’s bad news because if we have to start at a myth, then the evolution of the ang pao to what it is today cannot be clear.

The connection between money and blessings, seems to have origins in early China, likely predating the time of the Three Kingdoms (220C.E). Eminent officials and leaders had began producing coins with blessings on, or coin shaped charms, that have survived until today (primaltrek). The most obvious continuation of this idea is the string of replica coins and charms that are continually for sale for the purposes of fengshui. Then as now, carrying these charms is believed to offer protection, luck, or fortune, amongst other things. Given the symbolism of the colour red, passing a red bag of such positively charged coins to a loved one or a neighbour would have been an extra compassionate gesture.

祥庆荣华 — happiness and celebration, prosperity and high position

Coins, as a form of money, represent power.  Coin-shaped charms are, therefore, a very compact form of power.primaltrek

Today, the ang pao remains a symbol of well wishing and blessing and its contents echo that intention wherever they are distributed; at WeddingsTea Ceremonies, the Lunar New Year, in exchange for a service like Lion Dancing, a bribe, or a baby’s first month celebration. However, ideas, particularly those disconnected from an original purpose or belief, are quick to change. Mystical coin charms are still occasionally found in effigy, printed on ang paos, but it’s rare. Ang pao’s are more often emblazoned with corporate logos instead of blessings and they do not even need to be red.

After using Italic&Bold’s special themed design of red packet, we wanted to create ang paos of our own. First we trawled the internet for templates. This is a good way to start because then you have some print ready layouts and the measurements are all predefined for you. There are some already available online, see below examples, but usually you can just inquire at a printers directly.

Easitech — Singapore (Ai.)

e-print — Hong Kong (Ai. Cdr.)

The Copy Boy — Singapore (Ai.)

Print100 — Hong Kong (Ai. Cdr. Psd.)

Presuming you have the correct software, you can quickly adapt the colours and image to suit your taste. Do you remember that coat of arms we were talking about using? Well that ended up emblazoned on our red packets. We didn’t specify that all the specs on our ang bao were supposed to be in gold foil so we got the CMYK version of gold instead. My bad.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about printing techniques but just know that you should be able to print in “foil” if you have marked a colour or layer for printing in a shiny colour. There is also hot stamping if you want a raised image but honestly, what does this add?

We scanned around in Singapore for a good price and almost went with the company Print City. But in the end we went with a printer in China for cost reasons. Whether printing in Singapore or abroad, ask about gluing, you don’t want 500 unglued and unfolded red packets to deal with.

Prepare to print in advance of your event as designing might take a week and printing can take anywhere from 3 days to three weeks depending on where you’re sourcing the print from.

Extra note: As a teacher, these ang baos were perfect for giving a token gift to my students. We used The Natural Confectionary Co. chews for most packets and YumEarth organic pops for the kids that don’t eat meat or pork. See below.

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