China Team Journal

Monday, June 30, 2008

Team 161, Kunming, June 28

By Dixie

Thought for the Day: When you come to a fork in the road, take it. By Yogi Berra

First Photo for the Day: A Yi lady, 64-year-old, who has spent her whole life in Stone Village. She has six children and she was proud to tell us her son-in-law was the Principal of the village elmentary school.

Ah..., the end of our first week of teaching in Kunming. But today, Saturday, was our fullest day yet: We 13, Hu Di, two Chinese middle-school teachers and a child, departed from the hotel in our bus to see and experience the flavor of rural life. Chris, one of our G.V. Program's Hosts, was our Guide.

We drove Eastward over 3-lane highways, through 4 tunnels, and past fields of green. After about two hours we made a stop, stretched, and re-embarked for the morning's destination: the Stone Village. Yi people of this village met us: School Administrators and male singers. We heard rousing songs of welcome. We reciprocated with a rendition of "Do, a Deer," which they seemed to know.

We walked the stone streets, up the hills, noticing that every building was constructed of the local stone, from dwellings to smokehouses for curing tobacco, to pigsties, to goat enclosures, to bee hives made of stone. At the top of the hill we entered the courtyard of a very attractive Restaurant and Guesthouse. We sat at low tables on tiny stools and were served many courses of delicious vegetables and meat. Warm, salted peanuts and pumpkin seeds were much appreciated after the long hot climb up the hill. We drained our personal bottles of water and also drank the local "wild tea."

The Singers from our Morning Welcome re-appeared in brilliant blue Yi dress and sang again, this time performing a few drinking songs. Our enthusiastic response to this musical display encouraged the young couple who had been serving the meal to offer two of their own songs. Everyone parted warmly as we said "Zaijian" to the Villagers and continued our day's journey.

Second Photo for the Day: When we handed out the roses to the earthquake survivors, we knew they may not remember our faces, but we hope the warmth of friendship will last.

The second destination of the day was the Tian Qi Hospital, about 40 minutes away, in the Stone Forest County Town. We had come to offer sympathy and cheer to patients who are being treated there for injuries suffered in the Sichuan Earthquake of May 12. The patients and their attending family members seemed glad to see us and hear our brief statements of goodwill. We visited in small groups, with Hu Di and Chris translating our words. Many of the particular patients whom we saw are to be sent home (a 19-hour journey), in the coming weeks. The more grievously injured patients are being treated on another floor of the hospital. The day before our visit, we had spoken among ourselves about the plight of the earthquake victims and had taken up a collection amounting to 2,500 Yuan (about 370 USD). This donation was turned over to the Yunnan Red Cross, to be used for toiletries and other basic supplies that the patients will need on their journey home. We Global Volunteers felt very much moved, and I believe that the patients and their family members, and the doctors, were touched, and perhaps heartened by our visit.

Third Photo for the Day: We put our arms around their shoulders, because we are supporting them from the other side of the world.

The third destination on the day's tour was the Stone Forest. All day we had been seeing examples of grey/white/tan colored Karst (limestone) rock formations, scattered about the landscape, with crops cultivated in the red earth around them. The layers of limestone sediment were from a time, 270 million years ago, when a sea had covered this area. Anyway, at the Stone Forest Tourist Area we left our bus and boarded a tram. We viewed Karst shaped like warriors, elephants, stone screens, as well as a very tall peak resembling the maiden of the Sani nationality called Ashima.

At 7:00 PM we travelers arrived back at the hotel, met for dinner and recounted the day's events: it had been a very special and heart-warming day indeed.

Team 161, Kunming, June 27

By Corrine

Thought for the Day: “Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.”

Photo for the Day: Corrine was thrilled to meet Mr. Ma, who was an English guide from her bicycling tour in China 25 years ago.

The day for me began, as usual, with coffee at 6:30 AM and a chat with Yo-Yo. We are the early risers and other team members soon join us in the dining room.

At 7:20 Hu Di began the morning meeting. Included in our cultural lesson today was information on the selection of names when a child is born. There is the family name and the given name. The given name reflects the parents’ hopes and dreams for the baby and may relate to family status, such as farmer, merchant or intellectual. For example, a boy may be named dragon, rock, and tiger because it expresses strength. A girl may be named gentle or after a flower, butterfly, clouds because it expresses beauty and gentleness.

It was the last day of our first week and we continue to evaluate the needs of our students. This morning session began with a review, then oral reports from students who had prepared assignments at home. Questions and discussion followed the reports and we tried to help with comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation in this way. Next we combined our class with the class next door for a period of music and movement activities. My teaching partner, Dixie, is a professional dancer and this is an exercise using many skills. Besides, it is a lot of fun. We encourage our students to try it in their teaching, especially those having problems with discipline, because it releases energy and is calming (hopefully). Returning to our classroom we read and discussed a story and we helped the students set up and play a bingo game using synonyms.

At lunch Hu Di passed out information for a speech festival to be held next week when students will present a 3-5 minute oral report.

Then Hu Di talked to us about the possibility of visiting patients who had survived the Sichuan earthquake. The hospital is near the Stone Forest where we will be tomorrow. We are concerned about appearing as voyeurs but have decided that it will be an expression of sympathy and an opportunity to wish them well in their recovery. Hu Di told us four poignant incidents relating to this tragedy where 70,000 people were killed, 20,000 are still missing and 5,000,000 are homeless. A box is available for personal donations.

Now, a personal anecdote. I was in Kunming in 1985 with a bicycle group and always wanted to return to this land of “eternal spring.” Memories of our guide, Mr. Ma, lingered as I recalled his excellent English, his responses to all our questions about history, government, culture. I recalled his gentle nature as we biked along near Lake Dianchi, the Burma Road and the streets of Kunming. Were there stop lights then? Maybe not. And so, on a Tuesday night in 2008, a Mr. Ma, travel agent, called on team #161 in Kunming, China, to offer options for weekend travel. At meeting’s end I showed him a photo and asked, “Could this be you in 1985?” The answer can only be seen, not described. It was the granddaddy of all bear hugs.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Team 161, Kunming, June 26

By Carole

Thought for the Day: An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. --Martin Luther King

Photo for the Day: In the afternoons, we also offer our time to help the hotel western restaurant staff with their English. Margaret is having fun teaching them new words.

Being on a Global Volunteers trip has many advantages. One major one is the opportunity to meet and learn from a variety of people. Obviously, for us Americans, it is an adventure to learn about and from the Chinese people. Another bonus is that we, Americans, get to know each other. It helps that we volunteers meet and eat our meals together as a group. I find my co-volunteers truly interesting. At these meals Hu Di always gives us brief lessons, which include Chinese culture and language lessons.

Today we learned about some Chinese idioms.
"Play the lute to a cow" comes from a story about a Chinese musician. Without going into the story, the meaning is that a speaker should always consider who his audience is.

"Mark the boat to find the lost sword" means to be flexible and not stick to the old ways. It comes from a ferry passenger who accidentally dropped his sword in the river. The passenger made a mark on the boat exactly where he dropped his sword. Then when the boat docked at the shore, he tried to find the sword in the river at that marked spot on the boat.

We are unbelievably busy on this trip. We do some touristy things. We teach the hotel staff. Our main project, however, is developing and giving lessons to our students. We each have a class of Chinese teachers who themselves teach English. Since we will see the same students for 3 weeks, we have already begun bonding with them. Through our conversations we are beginning to understand a bit about each other's lives.

The teachers here have a long work day, which varies somewhat by school. Generally classes in the primary schools begin about 8:00 and end about 6:00. The secondary schools sometimes also include night classes. Even in primary school, a given teacher only teaches one subject. They do have planning periods. Teachers are assigned to schools based on the needs of the school- which seems similar to public schools in America. However, what is different is that all children begin learning English in primary school. Also, there are very little discipline problems. For instance, children learn that they must always sit up straight at their desk.
When a person needs to see a doctor, they go to the clinic and chose what level of care they want. If they are admitted to the hospital, they must have a friend with them since the hospital staff only deals with direct medical issues. For instance, the friend must bring in food for the patient.

After giving birth, a mother must stay home for about a month. During this time, she shouldn't bath or eat cold things.

Our students have mentioned the need to protect the environment on different occassions. They seem very well informed on the issue. They point out that the goverment is encouraging (by price differentials) the use of a recyclable cotton bag instead of plastic bags.

The clothing of the people in Kunming is similar to that in the States. Men, however, wear their pants higher on their waist. ( I imagine this may be because the people here are slim and do not have bellies like we often do.) More women wear high heels here than in the States. Dyeing your hair black seems to be common. There is a very interesting type of jacket that bicycle riders use. In comes down halfway on the chest. The sleeves are split so that only the top of the arm is covered. It seems very practical as a means of protection from the sun. I hope to find one for myself to use in the States.

If a women is not married by the time she is 25, her parents begin to worry. It's not unusual that the parents suggest she marry the son of friend of theirs. We know that in the States we have had the custom where the husband carries the bride over the threshold into their new home. Here they have something similar, but also different. The husband must go to the bride's home and carry her out of the building. If she lives on the 7th floor of an apartment building, that means he must carry her down all those flights.

Kunming is known for all of their beautiful fresh flowers. You can buy a bouquet of a dozen roses for about half a dollar. You see fantastic flowers here everywhere.
The meals have been fantastic here- both in the hotel and in restaurants. Tonight we hit a particularly high note when we got to try Cross the Bridge rice noodles. We went to a restaurant and had a many course meal (typical of all of our meals here). That in itself would have been more than sufficient. But then these huge (really huge) bowls of hot broth came to each of us. We added raw strips of meat, mushrooms, vegetables,sauces and noodles. Stirring it all together cooked everything and soon we had delicious soup and noodles to eat. Desert was stuffed dates and fruit.

After dinner we were treated to a live show of songs and dances performed by people dressed in the clothes of the many ethnic minorities found in this Yunnan province. A walk home in the comfortable 70 degree night ended another great day.

Team 161, Kunming, June 25

By Tim

Thought for the Day: According to Confucius, he who would secure the good of others has already secured his own

Photo for the Day: Rachel, our beautiful star of today, celebrated her 14th birthday in China.

Today is gray and cool. It would be nice to see the sun more, but the cool temperatures are a nice change from what I and many of my teammates would be enduring in Chicago and other parts of America.

Breakfast ended with another Yunnan cultural lecture from Hu Di. We learned among other things, “Three Yunnan mosquitos make a plate”, that Rachel, just 14 today, would be considered an “old lady” in some parts of the province, “Grannies can climb mountains faster than monkeys,” Buddhist monks can engage in dating, and in a certain minority group the men pack their women lunch and send them off to work while they tend the home front.

On the health and safety area, newly arrived Rhonda decided to get some medical imput today while Josh’s stomach is back in line and Dixie joined us for dinner and is feeling better.

This afternoon, Martin and YoYo plus Leon lectured the teacher group on their experience as Chinese in America, and the story of an emigrant's journey from Europe to America.

We enjoyed a group dinner at the Western style Che Che Restaurant. The group was ready for a western food fix as steak, pizza, and omelets seemed to be the favorites. In fact, Josh had two dinners.

The highlight of the night was a surprising 14th birthday party for Rachel featuring a beautiful birthday cake, a pyrotechnic Happy Birthday music machine, a light up leí and a laminated birthday card with all the volunteers’ pictures.

Team 161, Kunming, June 24

By Margaret

Thought for the Day: You can give wisdom but someone must use if for the benefit.

Photo for the Day: It is a new custom in China that meals end with fruits. This was the fruit plate we had at Crouching Dragon River Restaurant.

Hi Ho Hi Ho it is off to Kunming Teacher’s College we go.

Here are some of the comments made at lunch for our second day:

Carol/Joshua-Students had a debate if there should be a beauty pageant for men? Carola got our attention by saying NUTIE. She sure did get our attention.

Dixie/Corrine-Students started a story about a frog. Then each student added to the story, but the frog almost got left out at the end of the story.

Glenda-students are teaching her new songs.

Martin/Margaret-Conversation skill if you had 2 weeks off and lots of money where would you go.
Students were interested in Martins’s occupation. If he was an eye surgeon, why do you wear glasses?

Hu Di was talking about the weekend trips and she meant to say tourism, but it came out terrorism.

A good laugh is good for the digestive system. With all this good food, we need a good system.

Yea my roommate has appeared, Rhonda.

Volunteerism was the subject for the afternoon class. Hu Di talked Global Volunteers and John, Tim, Margaret, Corrine talked on other volunteer positions.

We walked to the Crouching Dragon River Restaurant. If we were ducks, it would have been great. It was lightening and pouring down raining all the way to the restaurant. Food was very good. I have not had a bad meal in China. We gained Rhonda and last Dixie, who is having stomach issues.

Meeting with Mr. Ma from Kunming International Travel Service, he did not have all the information. He will have it tomorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Team 161, Kunming, June 23

By Joshua
Thought for the Day: The World is Flat

Photo for the Day: Joshua with a Yi ethnic minority girl from Shi Ping in the south of Yunnan Province.

The day started off as any other; sitting around a large table eating our American style breakfast at the Hotel. I had no idea what the day was to bring. You see, it was the first day that we were going to teach at the Kunming Teacher’s College, and my first Global Volunteers experience.
When we arrived at the College, we first entered into a large room filled with the jubilant faces of the awaiting English teachers. After standing up one at a time and introducing ourselves to our students, we were welcomed in speeches given by Mr. Yao Zhongqing, the President of Kunming Teachers College, Mr. Wu Yanming, the Director of Teachers Training in Kunming Education Bureau, and Ms. Shan Yong, the Vice Director of Foreign Affairs office in Kunming Municipality. The next fifteen minutes were spent taking a group photo with the students following which we dispersed into our specific classrooms.

After our teaching finished, we returned to the hotel where we ate lunch and discussed our days. It seemed that many volunteers took a more interactive approach, testing the level of the students by calling each out individually, asking simple questions. The approach varied, with some volunteers using even dance to try to build the connection with their students. My sister and I found our youth advantageous, as it seemed that the students felt more at ease when a younger volunteer was in the room. The volunteers found that, unlike some prior experiences with Global Volunteers, the level of the students in cases differed drastically, with some nearly fluent and some knowing very little. Yet we found that most students were in the middle area, and in spite of all of their skill differences, all seemed quite ready and willing to spend 3 weeks of their lives learning a strange tongue from barbarians.

Team 161, Kunming June 21-22

by Martin

Thoughts for the day:
(1) Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
(2) It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life

Photo for the day:
We had a group photo taken with our Kunming host, after we enjoyed delicious food at the welcoming banquet.

On a lovely Saturday evening our team met for the first time at dinner at the Golden Spring Hotel with the mission of improving the English conversational skills of teachers from Yunnan Province. Our country manager, Hu Di, begins her 4th year leading this successful and popular program at Kunming Teachers College. The majority of the Volunteers are returnees and most have a teaching background but other fields such as science, food service, the arts, and student study are represented. Each of the Volunteers made a brief biographical statement:

(1) Carole , a retired professional educator from The Villages, Florida, spent the majority of her career in Washington DC teaching hospitalized patients and home-bound students. After retirement she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. This is her first time in China and her first program with Global Volunteers.

(2) Dixie, from New York City has previously served as a Global Volunteer in Xi’an. With a background in music and dance, she comes to Kunming with her husband, Leon Ablon, and two grandchildren. Dixie and Leon are involved in tai chi as practitioners.

(3) Leon from New York City is a retired college professor of mathematics and computer science. Having previously served in the Xi’an program, he enjoys volunteer activities with non-native English speakers.

(4) Rachel is a granddaughter of Dixie Piver and Leon Ablon, from Nashville, Tennessee and is a first time Global Volunteer. She has traveled to China before as a member of her middle school study group.

(5) Joshua, Rachel’s older brother, is a junior in high school who is interested in Ultimate Frisbee. He and his sister have studied cello for many years. This is his first Global Volunteer assignment.

(6) John, a retired teacher from Bisbee, Arizona comes to Kunming for the first time but has served on two prior Global Volunteers programs in Crete and the Ukraine.

(7) Corrine, a professional educator by training, is one of the initial Global Volunteers since the inception of the organization. This is her twelfth program and she brings a wealth of teaching experience to her students in Kunming.

(8) Kathleen from the San Francisco Bay Area returns to Kunming for her third consecutive summer to enjoy the teaching program and cultural enrichment experience in Kunming. She looks forward to meeting another new class of English teachers from Yunnan Province.

(9) Martin, Kathleen’s husband, also returns to Kunming for the third consecutive summer. With each year he looks forward to improving his teaching skills, adding to his database of enjoyable life experiences, and renewing his old and making new acquaintances with the staff at Kunming Teachers College, Global Volunteers, and the wonderful people of Kunming

(10) Tim from Chicago returns as fourth time Global Volunteer, having served on three previous occasions in Xi’an. A former high school teacher and businessman, he has extensive experience in volunteer teaching of English as a second language to Chinese immigrants in America.

(11) Glenda of Denver, a teacher by profession, returns as a sixth time Global Volunteer, having served on three prior programs in Xi’an. Last year she taught at Nanjing University

(12) Margaret, a food service manager for the Columbus, Ohio school system is a sixth time Global Volunteer. This is her first program in China.

(13) Rhonda from the San Francisco Bay Area was not present at the dinner but has previously served in Xi’an. She works as a recruiter for Foothill Junior College in Los Altos Hills, California

On Sunday morning the formal orientation began at 8:00 am with Hu Di covering the history of Globabl Volunteers, the philosophica constructs underlying the organization, and its mission. Individual and team goals were discussed with a listing of those qualities needed to insure a successful project. The next agenda item was setting up supporting managers/coordinators in 5 areas. These are:
(1) Journal managers: Joshua, Martin, Margaret
(2) Health & Safety Coordinators: Glenda, Tim
(3) Free Time Activity Coordinators: Leon, Carole
(4) Final Celebration Coordinators: Dixie, John, Rachel
(5) Official Photographer: Corrine

Hu Di then reviewed the six Global Volunteers’ Policies and 3 Guidelines for team member behavior.

After a delicious lunch at the hotel, the afternoon session began with Hu Di discussing lesson planning, various teaching methodologies, and the composition of our student body of elementary and middle school teachers whose age range is from the mid twenties to early forties. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, cultural enrichment lectures will be presented by several volunteers to the entire student body.

The final item of the afternoon agenda was an introductory Mandarin language lesson by Hu Di with instructions in pronunciation, character formation, common everyday expressions, and numbers. Each Volunteer was then given individual instruction in writing his name in Chinese.

The class was dismissed and met again for dinner at the Stone Screen Restaurant hosted by our local hosts from the Bureau of Education. A good meal was enjoyed by all; on the way back to the hotel, Hu Di announced the formation of seven teaching teams:
(1) Glenda
(2) Leon and Kathleen
(3) Dixie and Corrine
(4) Tim and Rachel 
(5) Carole and Joshua
(6) John and Rhonda
(7) Margaret and Martin

A full day was experienced by all who look forward to beginning our teaching sessions in the morning.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our Tribute

Please enjoy this video tribute to our past, and present, China Global Volunteers. It is played to background music of "Forever Friends"

Forever Are Friends
Friends are not easy to find even you go a thousand miles.
More friends make life easier.
Treat each with honesty and honesty creates miracle.

Let us be friends forever. Loads of gold cannot buy friends.
More friends keep spring around always.
Show your heart and hearts connect.
Let us be friends forever.

Make new friends and do not forget old friends.
New friends become old friends.
The sky is high and the earth is deep.
Water flows when mountain is high.

Hope we have good friends all over.

If you have joined us on a program we'd like to thank you for all the contributions you have made. If you have never joined us, we invite you to do so - we know you can make a difference in China, and perhaps China can make a difference in you!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Nancy Pine Spoke at the 2nd Anshang Folk Art Festival

(Photograph: Nancy Pine with Anshang Villagers)

Governor Gao and Governor Dong, ladies and gentleman,

We, the members of the Global Volunteers Team 160, are grateful to be part of life in An Shang village. From the first day we arrived, we have been welcomed by you.

We have come from many parts of the United States to learn from you and to share with you in building a better world. In the last few days we have watched you work from early morning until late in the evening making improvements on your houses.

As we enjoy the luxury of walking along the new roads we recognize how much effort it has taken to build them. We also see the street lights and the cell phone towers, the Folk Art Gallery, and of course, the impressive school and gardens around it, and we are amazed that you accomplish all of these things while also planting and harvesting your crops, running your businesses, and caring for your families.

Although we do not speak Chinese, we are learning from you –from your kindness and generosity to share your lives with us, from your incredibly hard work, and from your ability to find new ways to improve your lives.

And now we are fortunate enough to be in An Shang village for your second Folk Arts Festival. In the next few days we will deepen our knowledge of Chinese traditions—from Chinese opera to the handicrafts you make.

Many foreigners travel to the cities of China, but few have the privilege of seeing the changes occurring in the countryside and to see the many talents of An Shang villagers. We know you—the farmers of China—are also the heart of China.

Thank you for the privilege of being here. We wish you great success for the Festival and hope it is the beginning of a long tradition.

Nancy Pine,
April 10, 2008