China Team Journal

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Team 161, Kunming, July 8

By Martin

Thought for the day: Traveler’s Prayer: Lord, put your arm around my shoulder and your hand across my mouth….Amen.

Picture for the day: Andy with his guitar rehearsing Martin's class

As we enter the final week of our service program, I am impressed and pleased by the conviviality and camaraderie of our class members. They have become much more self-confident in their casual conversation, have improved greatly in their public speaking ability, and have increased their English speaking conversational skills. They treat each other as members of an extended family and feel a responsibility to their classmates to support and help each other.

Our schedule today includes the usual morning teaching session and then lunch hosted by the students followed by a friendship activity. Lunch is at a charming restaurant near Yunnan University in a private room Aside from an exceptional menu, we have unexpected after lunch entertainment by our student, Andy, who has brought his guitar with him. Andy is a talented composer as well as being a performing artist with vocal and instrumental skills. He entertains us with several of his original compositions which he sings accompanied by his guitar. Several of the women tease him unmercifully about his single marital status which he accepts with good humor. But Andy gives as good as he gets and the lunch turns out to be a festive culinary feast with much frivolity..

We then proceeded to the Kunming train Station to take a train ride around the city but learn to our dismay that the next train is not until 4:30 pm. Plan B is immediately put into effect and we all convoy out to a tea room in the northern part of the city. This tea room is unlike any tea room I have ever been to and is more like a KTV or karaoke room in Kunming. The decor however is out of Somerset Maugham with large fan-shaped wicker back chairs out of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Custom brewed teas with snacks are served on low tables and music is supplied by Andy and his friend, Nick, who sing out of songbooks. The rest of the class members and I play a card game which I cannot comprehend other than recognizing some elements of rummy and pinochle. The main goal of the game is to get the loser of each hand to perform a penalty act, mainly singing or dancing, with the aim to humiliate him or her to much laughter and applause. The class enjoys this three ring circus of singing, telling jokes, making fun and humiliating the loser of each hand, drinking tea, eating snacks, and taking endless photos to document the festivities and making fools of one selves. Time flies rapidly before I realize it is 5:30 pm and I play party pooper by making an excuse that I must leave to attend dinner with my fellow Volunteers. The class sends me off by taxi and I assume they will end the festivities shortly but the ultimate test will be to see who shows up in class tomorrow and in what condition.

At dinner an informal census reveals that the other Volunteers had a spectacular lunch but Carole and Josh experienced an exceptional predining experience of an upper body massage. Friendship activities included dumpling making, sightseeing, and researching out markets. After dinner the Final Celebration Committee meeting was chaired by Dixie who outlined the proposed agenda including speeches, awarding of the students’ certificates, final words by the Volunteers, performances by each class, and finally a song performed by the Volunteers. The entire group of students and Volunteers would then go to the courtyard to perform a folk dance prior to bidding all farewell.