China Team Journal

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.