China Team Journal

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Four volunteers on TEAM 183 contributed the following towards the “UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”

MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education: 122 hours of conversational English instruction to 330 Chinese students and 2 hours to 9 local English teachers, donation of 8 English books to the host school.

MDG 4: Reduce child mortality: 120 hours of work at Xi’an La La Shou Special Education School to improve the learning environment of the children.

Global Volunteers also donated funds for transportation of the field trip La La Shou school organized for the children in honor of International Children's Day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

May 22 – 29, 2010: The third week of volunteering and only Yibo remained. The following entries are short summaries of his last 7 days in Xian.

Thought of the week:
There are many chances that you only encounter once in a life-time. Do not miss those chances and make your damn best shot at them so that you will never regret later in life.
- Yibo

Saturday May 22
Today is the day that three of my volunteering teammates, Allison, Bob, and Karen, are leaving Xian for Hong Kong, where Bob and Karen will stay briefly before flying back to San Francisco, while Allison is going on another exciting trip to Taiwan but I believe she is also going through Hong Kong first. It is indeed very sad to see them leaving, after two weeks of eating breakfast and dinner together and all those other times we spent together as a team. I will certainly miss them and hopefully fate will allow us to meet again somehow (probably not all of us at once because we all live quite far away from each other in North America). Maybe we will all return to Xi’an to do some more volunteering together? That is totally possible.
Anyways, after sending them all around lunch time, I spent the rest of the afternoon studying. It was too hot to go out anywhere.

Sunday May 23
I originally planned (or at least thought about it) to go see the Terracotta Warriors. But it was another extremely hot day and I woke up really late at around 11 AM, so I guess I will just have to leave Xian without seeing these awesome immortal warriors of China who are still, to this day, guarding the First Emperor of China’s tomb. Instead, I went to the center of the old Xi’an city to see the Bell Tower and Drum Tower. The bus I took there was very crowded and extremely hot inside. After 30 minutes of unpleasant bus ride, I arrived at the Bell Tower. The underground passageway to get to the Bell Tower is circular and in my opinion, inadequately labeled. It took me a good ten minutes to find the entrance to the bell tower. The view of the old city is indeed spectacular on the top floor of tower, but other than that, there wasn’t too much to see in the tower. I then went to the Bell Tower, and there were much more interesting artifacts to see. I then walked to the shopping district close by to look for a thank-you card that I can give to the La La Shou teachers. Unfortunately I was unable to purchase one, but I did find a Wal-Mart hidden inside the mall. I have to say it is quite different from the ones in Canada, as it is tailored for the local people. That’s about all I did today. One more thing, I had ducks for dinner and it was quite tasty.

Monday May 24
Another ordinary but always fun day at La La Shou today. In the morning we viewed the pictures we took on our trip to the Zoo last Friday. For the rest of the day we followed the regular schedule. I told my fellow teaching assistants that I will switch with them to take care of the dish washing duties while they sweep and mop the floor. Surprisingly, washing dishes was actually not as bad as I thought it would be. I never washed dishes for so many people at once before. I decided to have dumplings tonight again (I had it for lunch last Saturday), and it was good as expected.

Tuesday May 25,
We had art class in the morning today. I was assigned a student called Xinyi, an extremely cute little chubby girl, to work on a dry oil painting. Together, we drew a beautiful picture of two little kids holding hands in the sky with moons and stars. I think we were both very proud of our painting, as the teacher agreed also. Nothing out of ordinary happened in the afternoon.

Wednesday May 26,
Today I woke up with a blocked nose and a headache. Probably should have turned the air conditioning to low or off last night.
It was another fun and exciting day at the school. We just followed the regular class schedules. After washing the dishes, I went and took a nap with the kids at lunch time with hopes to help with my headache, and it did help quite a bit actually.

Thursday May 27,
It rained really heavily today. We had math class in the morning and Baoli came to the school to take more pictures of me with the kids while I worked with a student called Kaiyuan. My assignment was to teach him the number “2” and make sure he is able to use it in various settings including recognize and write the actual number as well as being able to count the two objects. I think he got a pretty good grasp of “2” by the end of my lesson with him. In the afternoon I then went shopping again near the Bell Tower area for gifts and food to take home. I found a sushi place near the mall and had dinner and it was really delicious.

Friday May 28, 2010
Today is my last day volunteering at La La Shou. It is hard to believe that three weeks have past already, and I found that it is very difficult to say goodbye to these kids and the teachers. In the morning we had art class and in the afternoon we watched some TV. Before I left the school for the last time, the students and teachers hosted a little goodbye party for me. The kids sang a couple songs for me and gave me warm hearty hugs. The teachers also gave me a little gift and a group photo of the class, and I’m sure I will treasure them both well.
I was going to walk on top of the city wall and maybe even bike around it for the rest of the evening, but unfortunately I decided not to and come back to the hotel and get ready to leave for tomorrow.

A little conclusion:
My past three weeks’ of experience at La La Shou had been extraordinarily good, and I’m very pleased and impressed with Global Volunteers and the Xi’an coordinator Baoli Wang, as well as everyone at La La Shou who helped organize this wonderful opportunity for me. I am therefore very thankful to all of the people I have mentioned above and I will most certainly consider returning to do more volunteering as well as recommending to others who might be interested.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thought of the day:
Our brief but intensive experience working with Chinese young people has provided us with opportunity to share this experience at home.
We came with common purpose to learn more about China, and to share our knowledge of English and to offer helpful service to the people of China.
Yibo, you’ve shown much kind concern particularly for Allison’s well being.
Allison, your desire to provide a rewarding experience to your students, your earnestness in trying to improve, are commendable.
Bob, you have a delightful way of making English as much fun for students. You are such a wonderful partner in our teaching.
Baoli, I admire your ability to use English in an amazing way, to always be available to go beyond the call of duty in kindness and concern. You are truly amazing and I wish you good luck and health – you deserve it!

A crisis occurred at breakfast! There was no yoghurt in the yoghurt dish. “Well,” I said to myself, “I’ll eat something else.” But Karen, she and a woman in a baseball cap took an aggressive position by the bowl. Several minutes later Karen appeared, triumphant with her 2 regular cups of the stuff.

In the bobby we met a sleepy Lisa who said she’d stayed at the concert till almost 12. We had wisely left early arriving back at the hotel before 9 so I had time to write my thought for the day.

At the school Karen and I combined our classes. Our instruction today would be only periods because we would be meeting the English teachers from 11 to 12.

The combined classes were only about 20 in number. We thought we might encounter some sleepy students because of the music concert, but a cheerier group of students I’ve never met. From the start it went nicely. They responded to the period of rapid drill, especially enjoying the birthday line graph. Then we showed them pictures of San Francisco and Hawaii. We passed out the fresh copies of “My Bonnie…” and they sang very well. Finally Vivian told us we’d past 11. So we concluded quickly telling the students how much we appreciated them especially their good-naturedness and their ability to concentrate on what we knew was a hard subject. For the last moments we asked Vivian to translate for our good-byes in Chinese.
Our meeting with the teachers was mostly a long good-bye. Karen and I talked a little about the advantage of teaching in the second year at the college.

Back at the hotel after lunch we rested and packed. We decided not to walk to the Holliland Bakery because we would be pushing hard to return to the hotel for the Chinese lesson at 5:00. But at 4:30 Baoli called to tell us that she was detained. We were disappointed but put the time to good use. Dinner was a delicious selection of dishes thoughtfully selected by Baoli to include several of our favorite courses. As we ate we talked of many things- little of it about our schools perhaps because now our teaching was over.

I apologize for the length of this with almost nothing of the previous evening’s program. I will conclude with a few brief remarks.

1. At the last minute we were still discussing whether to use the recorded music to accompany us in the hula dance or whether to sing with no accompaniment. We will never know whether singing ourselves would have been better. But it went well. The young teachers were in post-performance heebie-jeebies which took manifested itself in unending picture taking that generated laughter.
2. We returned to the hotel in time for me to write my Thought for the Day by 9:30.
3. I will conclude with a comment about the entertainment program. Never have I felt so transported, so far away from home. In that experience I have met my match. I could not begin to do it justice. So each of us will have to reply on our own memories to recall the events of that evening.

- Bob

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thought of the day: We ask the voters to let us serve them, and after we are selected we proceed to rule them.” – Charles De Gaulle

Often I think of our two countries – China and the U.S.A- and I hope for centuries of peace between us. Two great and growing countries living as co-equals could contribute greatly to world stability.

I know very little of China’s system of succession in leadership. Of course I know more about our own, but both countries, each in its own way, must strive to select leaders of compassion and wisdom with a vision of world peace.
There is no grand international formal treaty between us, but there the recognition of mutual interest in world trade. May all our disagreements be minor blips and may our friendship continue to grow. – Bob

I’m sitting here writing the journal entry for today with two of my favorite dishes right in front of me that Baoli had ordered for me, the Yangzhou Fried Rice and Tomato Stir Fry with Eggs. Life really can’t get any better than this (other than the fact that I have to write this journal), just kidding.

Anyways, the reason why I’m having dinner by myself is because my three other teammates, Allison, Bob, and Karen, as well as Baoli, are currently attending the Xian Biomedical College’s Singing Competition of some sort, and they won’t return until very late tonight. If memory serves me correctly, and fortunately it usually does, I believe this is the first time that I have to have dinner by myself since I arrived in Xian. Now I’m having trouble scooping up some tomato with eggs, where’s Captain Spork when I need him the most? Sigh. The thought of the day really should be “never rely on superheros.”

Now let’s move on to how my day went. The new student came to school with her lips slightly cracked, and it seemed to be due to dry weather. However, the weather has been quite wet in the last few days, so I really don’t know. The good thing is that she seemed to be in a much better mood than yesterday, and she is now less shy and played with her classmates more frequently. I’m sure within a couple weeks of time she will fit right in with the class no problem. Because we are going to the Zoo tomorrow (Friday), we didn’t have any of our regular classes in the morning but instead we practiced the dance that we will be performing tomorrow for an hour or so, and then we joined the rest of the classes in the main gym and rehearsed for another hour or so until lunch time. The class I’m with (Grade 4) is performing the dance together with student from Grade 3. Some of the students performed quite well, but there were a few trouble makers and me along with several other teaching assistants’ jobs were to make sure they don’t run around, and trust me, it is a lot more tiring than it sounds.

Oh and I almost forgot, Baoli came over this morning to take some pictures of me with the kids. I even had my global volunteers T-Shirt on just for this occasion.

I think that’s all I want to say about today, back to eating my delicious dinner follow by some serious MCAT studying.

- Yibo

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thought of the Day: Health is the most important thing in life. Without good health, you can’t fully enjoy any of the things you like. It is crucial that you take care of your body.
- Yibo

Today was a challenging day for me because I felt I had to try to get replacement blood pressure medicine. Baoli, as always was very helpful, and found out I would have to go to a hospital. Thus I decided I could not go to the Shaanxi History Museum with Bob and Karen. However, the medicine became a true team experience. Baoli got the medicine but I thought the strength was too great. Yibo checked on the composition and usual strength of the dose. Bob having had experience in these matters obtained a good sharp knife from the kitchen and cut one of he pills and crushed another which I could then divide for a dose. Then Yibo advised me about the rest of the doses- small and then increasing. Makes sense to me. Karen was having an in depth visit with Sunshine, but also contributed good advice. I felt cared for.

Then that evening I went to the Chinese opera. I got there just as it was starting, but I found my friendly James who helped me get the exchange ticket, and led me to a seat in the 3rd row or way down front. The costumes were fabulous, the singing was as expected, happily there were English subtitles. Contrary to my usual taste, I found the military scenes most appealing. And once when it snowed on stage, it also snowed on the audience. But it was disappointedly short ending by 9:10. And the shops in the lobby were closed as we left. Obviously the thing is to get there early.

My class went better using techniques borrowed from Bob. I most concentrated on speaking slowly and eliciting responses from the students in whole sentences.

Respectfully submitted,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thought of the Day: We can all learn to, and benefit from, replying on the strength of others.

The day started with some sun peaking through the smog…and we started with our second week of classes. The ride to the college continues to become familiar – we were accompanied by Lisa from the English Chinese teachers. She is such a sweet lady, as are all of the teachers. I’m becoming very fond of each one of them! And all too shortly we will have to say goodbye to them. I do hate goodbyes!

My first class today was a delight. I had the students review some of the information we had discussed last week, and I asked for more detail about their home towns, and how long it took them to go home. One girl who is a Hui, takes over two days and nights by train to visit her parents, so she returns home only during the Spring Festival.

Fortunately she has a grandmother who lives just two hours by train from Xi’an. I learned so much from the girls about their home towns, information they volunteered.

We then joined Bob’s class for more questions and answers, and showed pictures and talked about Monterey, where Bob first lived in California. Then we showed pictures and talked about San Francisco, near our home, and finished the “geography lesson” with pictures and discussion about my childhood home in Honolulu. The students seemed fascinated by it all. I think they will remember our photographs. We concluded the morning by singing “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.”

For lunch we were joined in the student canteen by most of the teachers. It was fun to see all of the other students, many of whom were dressed in camouflage. Bob and Allison had a big bowl of noodle/beef soup, while I went upstairs with Fisher and Sunshine to get vegetables and rice. It was really a delicious meal for all of us, and so much fun to see what the students do for meals. Many took their meals out, carried in plastic bags. Sunshine told us that in the mornings students like to sleep as late as possible, and so they rotate having someone go to get their breakfast food. Not a bad idea!

The teachers had arranged for Allison, Bob, and me to rest…we had about 45 minutes to put our feet up. I, unfortunately, was so cold that I had trouble trying to sleep, so didn’t.

The afternoon was complicated by the fact that I’d forgotten that we would spend the entire time with Bob’s class. It wasn’t until Bob came down to remind me, that this was remedied. We had a class of nurses, and they are so very conscientious and anxious to learn…a delight to teach…and learn from. Their singing of “my Bonnie” was terrific.

I wrote one of my emails to friends, and we had dinner of foods we’d enjoyed before- Baoli has obviously been watching. Then we reviewed our goals and had a good discussion, and finally I got Baoli and Yibo to help get my password and email out of the computer downstairs, before I came up here to type this. It’s now off to bed. I’m EXHAUSTED!

Ciao, Karen

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

We were reminded today by the President of our host college that our presence here serves as a valuable example of a way to promote understanding and appreciation of other cultures and other peoples in an increasingly global community. –Let’s remember this not just in our weeks here, but as we return home to share our experience with Global Volunteers! –Karen

I began the day by wishing Karen “Happy Birthday”, her third birthday in a row in China!

At breakfast our journals backed up like a plugged sink. All that came out were 2 daily entries and one extra Thought for the Day.

Our day was to be different. We each met with about 12 students, some who presented their speeches to us for critique. Somehow my day’s schedule worked like clockwork. Period 1 I heard seven speeches and gave them some ideas to improve their presentation. In period 2 and 3 we made a sign-up list of the seven and I saw each of them for ten minutes ending exactly at 12 noon.

I strained “at the bit” dragging the teachers to the van. This old horse knew what lay waiting for us back at the stable.

It was a wonderful meal, its centerpiece being plates and plates of dumplings. We ate sumptuously. Robison offered us wine and tea and soft drinks. Their attractive young daughter Alice was with us.

It was a perfect-sized group, abut 14 in number. We talked of our good feelings about the volunteer program. Robison, whose English is fair, chose to speak in Chinese and spoke in broad terms about the “Global Community”. Several of us responded to his thoughts.

The teachers has given us vases of flowers, Kaken’s was especially beautiful in recognition of her birthday. We sang Happy Birthday to her and afterwards I told them of things Karen has achieved in her life.

Our van left, reaching the hotel about 4 o’clock. Karen, Sunshine and I then walked to Ren Ren Le and had great fun browsing in the foods section. We made several purchases and walked back to the hotel. The rain began just 5 minutes from the hotel and I arrived drenched. The others had graciously waited dinner for us though we were 30 minutes late.

After dinner Sunshine joined us for a (surprise) birthday cake for Karen. The cake was delicious and beautifully decorated with rows of cherries, dragon fruit and peach slices. But as elegant as it was the cake was over-shadowed by the amazing lotus petaled birthday candle, sparkler thing that gave a squeaky rendition of “Happy Birthday”. We excused ourselves at 8:30 since lurking in our minds was the long day ahead that faces us.

It is 9:30. As is usual at this time of day Karen is in her bed, sitting up this morning eating the cup of yoghurt she stole this morning from the hotel buffet. And I am writing, glad to conclude this entry before 10:00.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thought of the day:
Was Hillary Clinton thinking of the “Global Family” when she wrote It Takes A Village?

It is vital for us remember our “Family Relationship” is symbiotic.
For my part I can in a small way help their young people to see us as good friends who wish to share our language with them. –Bob

I’m sitting here writing this journal entry that was due over two days ago. Normally if this was an assignment for one of my courses, I would get at least 20% off for the delay, but fortunately Baoli and my fellow teammates were kind enough to grant me the extension without much penalties.

It was a cloudy day today. I had breakfast downstairs with Bob, Karen, and Allison in the morning, where we planned out the details for going to the Art Street and the forest of stone tablets in the afternoon. We decided that we will first take a taxi to South Gate near the entrance to the Art Street, and then walk through the Art Street to the Stone Tablets Museum.

After breakfast, I went to Room 302 to do some studying while Bob and Karen did their lesson planning together for the new set of lessons next week. I believe Allison was finishing the journal entry for the previous day in her room. The morning went by quickly and at around noon, I went down the hotel together with Bob and Karen to the photocopy shop because they needed to photocopy extra copies of the song lyrics and I needed a copy of my passport. While we were at the shop, Bob and Karen each bought a No Smoking sign in Chinese and they said they will use them in their houses to ward off those pesky smokers.

After lunch, we carried on with our tour plans, and at first we had some issues getting a cab. Thankfully a hotel staff was able to quickly get one for us before the day dragged on too much longer. The Art Street turned out to be a street full of small street vendors and shops selling the usual Chinese souvenirs of jade bracelets. I didn’t buy anything but I did help bargain for Bob for the nice little ceramic goldfish he bought for his daughter.

At the end of the Art Street was the forest of stone tablets. It was an extremely interesting and beautiful place filled with ancient stone tablets with books, poems, and drawings on them. I’m now curious to know how on earth they moved these tablets back in the days, because I can assure you they are quite heavy.

Unfortunately we ran out of time and were not able to visit all the rooms. We had some serious issues getting a cab to get back to the hotel, and we while we were waiting in the rain we were constantly harrassed by the little two-seater electric tricycle drivers. Boy they sure don’t understand the meaning of “no” and “go away”.

After about 40 minutes, we finally got a cab near south gate and returned home safely to Baoli’s warm arms. Allison had to cancel her opera trip because of the delay but it was an interesting experience for all of us today.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thought of the day: Always set your alarm clock before you have a chance to fall asleep (preferably in the morning when you wake up). - Yibo

I had breakfast early and did not see anyone except Karen, who brought me the notebook at 10 this morning. She informed that she and Bob are going to walk down to the big department store. Karen’s friend is meeting them at the hotel and they will spend the rest of the day together. Karen and Bob saw Yibo at breakfast and she said he was vague about any plans. I tried to get in touch with him but failed and I have heard nothing from him. So I will sail out on the day and do whatever fits my mood.

I will try to see a Chinese opera and tonight and check in with everyone tomorrow.

Respectfully Submitted


Addendum: Thanks to coaching from Baoli, I made it to the big Wild Goose Pagoda, wandered around the grounds and up to the entrance to the Pagoda itself although I did not pay to go in. I had tried to go to the History Museum, but the line was so very long, I would not have gotten in. The side buildings to the pagoda contained interesting and highly gilded statues, and there was a large incense burner.
I did try to go to the opera but it was sold out. I now have an exchange ticket. I will try to go some night soon because tonight I am too tired.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thought of the day: We touch the future, we teach.

Friday is our last day of teaching for the first week of teaching and I am feeling good about how it has gone – so many of the students are earnest and appear anxious to learn English.

The day was gray and smoggy as we drove to school. I’m really getting a good sense of our route – going through the East Gate, passed the Bell Tower, Drum Tower, through the West Gate and the industrial west- we encountered a military roadblock just before the college so had to detour around the back of the college. It gave us a chance to see the dormitories and sports area.

My students, nursing students, were so conscientious and willing to participate. I told them how much I enjoyed being with them and how I admired their desire to be nurses.

We joined Bob’s class briefly to talk about families and learned “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” They were amazingly quick learners and sang beautifully an with gusto ! It was so much fun!

Finally we and the Chinese English teachers met – Bob described his experience with the Uighur girl and Julia talked with the teachers about how to avoid such problems. She also told us that some of the teachers provided counseling services and that they had a Nationalities Club fir those non-Han students.

On our drive home Vivienne caught a ride to her home and we learned a bit more about their school year – 2 terms (semesters) and, because they are a private vocational college, in the summer teachers are required to recruit for the school. Because teaching is so demanding I find it unfortunate that they don’t have more time off.

After lunch we rested, I talked with my friend Rui and set a date for tomorrow, then Bob and I walked down to Maky Bakery for pastry and cold tea – it’s sunnier & warmer. When we got home, we rested 15 minutes and then turned around and walked back to a restaurant near the East Wall for a soup and bread meal. We had more fascinating cold dishes – the flavors and blends of flavors are fascinating. The walk home in the dark was surreal - the crowds, the lights, the sounds, the sights- What an experience!


Volunteering includes 'A Day in the Park…’

I have been to Xi’an, China two times with the Global Volunteers. The first under the guidance of Hu Di, the second under the guidance of Wang Baoli. I have spent both these years at the High Technology University. The English department professors are wonderful group to work with. Lei Shurya was our leader with Miao Rong, Li Dong and the others. They took great care of us, letting us spend time with their students, who came from all parts of China. Taking us to see some of the great things to see in Xi'an.

As much as I have enjoyed the time with them and their students, there is another part of this adventure that, to me, has been as great a pleasure. It is the people I have met in the parks near the Sino Pearl and Empress hotels where we stayed. The hotels are very close to two large parks, the Xingqinggong Park and the park by the south wall near the Hucheng River.

A cup of tea with two opera singers, a conversation with the dentist, a couple who let me watch their wedding, a conversation with 3 young children, yes they could speak some English. A group that wanted their pictures taken with us. A young girl practicing her instrument, the man who let me fly his kite. The man who let me use his whip to keep the top spinning. The trip to the Famen Temple with Lei Shuya. The five 12-year-olds who stopped to talk for about one hour. The camera club from Jiao Tong University.

Li Xia, whom I met on my first trip to China, we have become very good friends. Five girls who were in my class the first year, had lunch and a great conversation with them. Conversations with a group of students from another High Tech College. Amy, a student from another college who sat in on my classes. Students in the park doing a sketching assignment. There are so many more that I have met and talked to.

Then there is Niu Shuai Hang (Alice) who came up to me to practice her English, she is 13 years old. She was in the park with her mother on a Sunday afternoon. We spent 3 hours talking and walking through the park and the beautiful campus of the Jiao Tong University. We were going to meet again, but our schedules did not permit it. We do e-mail each other. Can you imagine how I feel when I do get that occasional e-mail from her and the first words I read are “Hi Grandpa.”
There are wonderful opportunities to meet so many people. You do not go to the park to meet people, you go to the park so they can meet you. Looking forward to October 2010.

~ Fred Powell

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thought of the day: Let’s remember, as we see the faces of our students, the goals of our Global Volunteers to promote peace and understanding between/among peoples. –Karen

(Prelude: Thursday evening I was too exhausted to write and fell asleep at 8pm. I awoke at 9pm, while I was trying to decide whether to get up and write, I fell asleep. I awoke in the night, I wanted to rise by 5am to write this. Finally after an hour of restlessness I got up to se what time it was, 2:45. I lay there for some time and finally rose at 3:45. I am now in the small room sitting on the white ceramic chair and writing with this notebook on the marble sink.)

I was glad to see the rain this morning. It would mean the dust and other pollutions would be dampened for a while. But the rain I guessed would make for more hazardous driving. I was right. It was a 2 fender-bender day on the way to school.

At the school, we learned the electric power was out. The library has large windows so it didn’t affect us.

My class has 12 students, with only one young man. They were a bit more reserved and my attempts to warm them up were hot so successful. Perhaps they’re slightly dampened by the annoyance of the power outage. During the first period, I have them recite sentences, so I can assess their pronunciation. It goes well. During period 2, Karen and her class join us. This expands our possibilities for dialogue because Karen and I can talk to each other and we can each speak to the class in 3rd person. The recitation is quick but relaxed. In the 3rd period we sang our two songs and as usual they seemed to enjoy them. We had stipulated they could take pictures at the end of the class at 11:55. So, at the end they crowded around taking pictures on their cellphone cameras.

One unpleasant incident happened. A shy and somewhat sober Uighur girl stood by me to have her picture taken by a friend. A taller and exuberant girl pushed her from behind to get alongside me. The first girl was shoved two feet and she turned, obviously surprised and hurt. She ducked her head and went around on the other side but then withdrew because her face was contorting. She was about to cry. I motioned for her to stand by me bit she wouldn’t come and walked away and stood by a pillar obviously holding back tears. She walked to a friend by a window but the friend ignored her, waving her away, because she was on her phone.

Our lunch was at a nearby hotpot restaurant picked by Julia because the other restaurants needed electricity. It was an interesting meal but I prefer hotpot at home with only 4 or 5 people because it is less chaotic.

My afternoon class was more advanced. They took to everything so smoothly. They were so attentive and responsive. The understood a great more than I expected and it was great fun. They were all 20 or 21 with one exception – one girl was 19. They wore the navy blue pant suit with pink shirt blouse which I thin is the nurse’s student uniform.

Vivian suggested Karen teach the hula. We formed a rough circle and a good time was had by all. There is much more I could write but it is 4:42 and there is still time for an hour’s rest.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thought of the day:
In high school 55 years ago, I learned in my Geometry class that the sum of the parts is equal to the sum of the whole.
But the sum of life may be more than the sum of its parts.
We have only ten brief days of instruction to give but what might be our influence here? Perhaps most of the students may barely remember us in a year. But perhaps some will remember us forever as those Americans who made learning English a pleasant experience. – Bob

Today I woke up extremely pleased to find out that my near-deaf right ear is now much better. I’m glad that it got better on its own because otherwise I will have to go see an ear specialist and miss spending time at La La Shou special education school, and that is something I would like to avoid to the best of my abilities.

La La Shou special education school is school primarily for kids and teenagers with disabilities such as autism, intelligence and mental growth retardation, as well as other birth defects that significantly reduce their ability to communicate, learn and even the ability to perform basic daily living activities such as brushing teeth and going to the bathroom. I will be spending 3 weeks volunteering at the school, and my role is more or less like a teacher’s assistant, to help the teacher keep the classroom in order, to help carry out the lesson plans, and many other misc. things such as cleaning up and serving lunch.

Today the class started with the usual morning reading of a few children’s articles (written by the teachers themselves), followed by some morning exercises in the classroom. Unfortunately, for the teachers and me, the children were extra “wild” today and the morning exercises became us constantly chasing running children down. They are usually less crazy than this, maybe because of the rain?

Anyways, the students finally settled down just in time for art class. Today’s art class was to fill colors of fruits with the outline already drawn out by the teachers. We all had a lot of fun doing that and all the students did a great job, although we had to hold some students’ hands to finish the drawings as they lacked the hand and finger dexterity and coordination.

We then had lunch and it was hot and sour soup with white flour buns. We all liked the lunch very much and I especially enjoyed the buns. Although I was supposed to eat them with hot spicy paste, I decided not to and just ate them plain.

The students then went for a short nap while the rest of us washed the dishes and cleaned up the classroom. I personally can’t cook too well but I am able to do many of the chores. So I was able to help the teachers out quite a bit. After about an hour and half, the students began to wake up.

We began the afternoon lessons with a little bit of show and tell and some biscuits. It went by relatively well and then for the last lesson of the day we had a combined music class with the neighbor class. We rehearsed some songs that the students will be performing at the zoo trip which will take place next week sometime. We had some progress but there were still a lot of practice that needs to be done. After the music class, the students packed their backpacks and were picked up by their parents one by one, and that’s a typical day at La La Shou Special Education School.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thought of the day:
You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good. –Jerry West

This has been the first full day of teaching, with classes in the morning and afternoon. The teachers have all been very solicitous about my strength and agility, and give me much help up and down the stairs and over distances which are long for me, but not for the others. I feel pampered and guilty, but I must admit, not as tired as I might otherwise be. They even carry my books for me.

They have delightful English names, such as Sunshine, Swallow, and also Diana and Della. One student asked Bob to name her, and he chose Diana, goddess of the hunt. What an honor for him.

Yibo, our fellow teacher, works at another school with autistic children. He speaks fluent Chinese, and is a cheerful soul, and seems to have the patience and caring to do much work. I am glad he is with us.

Our co-teachers, Karen and Bob are experienced teachers in life, and by being here last year. Bob was a career teacher and Karen has held a variety of jobs. Nonetheless, or because of this, I learn just by listening to them, talk about plans for their students and evaluating their days. I am also thankful for Bob’s spork.

I continue to be humble about my abilities. I am essentially learning by doing, and my students suffer for this. I have two or three teachers from the school in each period of each class and I am grateful for them. It was either Swallow or Fisher who suggested the game that was such a success yesterday. The first student picks a word, and the following student picks a word beginning with the last letter of the first word within a certain time, or must perform in some way. Those who failed mostly sang songs. The students delighted on this game both in thinking of words and thinking of songs. Singing songs as a group was also a favorite activity. Unfortunately my voice tends to crack, which it never has done before. We sang Frere Jacques in French, English and Chinese.

Today when the students introduced themselves, I took notes, the better to remember them. I was glad I started this.

In my first class I had several young mamas’ students I had trouble keeping their attention and eventually some did not come back after the second break. The teachers told me their English skills tended to be low, and they also would leave regular classes. None the less I feel I should be able to teach them.

Today I tried to use a book about Obama’s life designed for level three readers. I had hoped for spontaneous comments about the pictures, but most students chose to read the pages. It was hard to correct their mistakes unless I followed the book to each student. However, their reading was pretty good. It broken, we did not finish the book, but will save it for class next week with them.

So tomorrow is another day, and I will try and try again to find ways through Karen and Bob and Yibo and my life to teach English skills to my students.

Respectfully submitted,


Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thought of the day: We were all young students once, and if we are lucky we will be students for the rest of our lives.

Monday seemed to come quickly, but fortunately I felt rested and ready to meet the students, and the English teachers whom I remember fondly from last year.
Julia met us with the small van that took us to the Xi’an Biomedical College. That ride was much as I remembered…a fascinating trip through the Inner City where we saw the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower, followed by the ride through the highly industrial Western part of the city to the college.

We were greeted by the English Club students and the English teachers whom we had seen last year, with one exception. CiCi is a new teacher, having been here ONLY one month. We walked up the three flights of stairs to the office for the foreign English teachers, and then over to our classes in the library. This is a new location for us, but they had set things up nicely with each of the three classes set far enough apart so we weren’t too distracted by each other.

My first period was spent introducing each other…I had the students mimic my words, introducing each other, giving names, age, family size, and of them took the initiative, following my example by telling what they liked to do. I was pleased with their intiative.

During the second and third periods Bob and I brought our students together and shared stories about our background, visiting San Francisco, and talking about our families. Then we sang songs…”My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” and the Hawaiian hula song, “Hukilau”. The students seemed to have fun learning both. Finally we asked them if they had questions of us, and they asked what kinds of foods the Hawaiians had, and also about Hawaiian history. They learned about fish, pork, poi, and fish and also about the Hawaiian monarchy and about World War II, and we talked a bit about war and people’s desire for peace.

Then it was time to go back to the hotel, to another delicious meal. Baoli helped me reach Rui, who will phone with suggestions about a good time to visit. Then I checked email and wrote to friends before going upstairs to rest. Sadly, jet-lag is still somewhat with us. Just before dinner (more food!) Bob and I had a very good Mandarin lesson with Baoli, who is so patient with us! Allison was tired, and YiBo obviously didn’t need a lesson, so it was just the two of us!

YiBo worked with autistic children all day, and came home with a ringing ear. We’ll hope that a good sleep will help him.

A very satisfying first day came to a close!


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thought of the Day: Bring Joy and Understanding to Learning!

After our late arrival Saturday night it was a tired group of three who joined BaoLi and YiBo in the dining room. But the delicious array of breakfast good and several cups of coffee helped some of us begin to recover from our arduous trip.

At 8:00 am we met in Room 302 for our first meeting. Bao Li gave an introduction to the city and some of its sectors. She said that Xi’an is called the Education City because of its numerous colleges and universities.

After we introduced ourselves, Bao Li gave a history of the Global Volunteers program and a list of principles that have helped Global Volunteers be effective in 19 countries.
We did a team building activity to Form goals for our group. Perhaps because there were only four of us, we reached consensus quickly.

Next four managers were picked:
Bob- Journal Manager
Yi-Bo- Health and Safety,
Karen & Allison agreed to share Recreation and Final Evening Celebration

After a seven dish lunch we rested for a while and looked forward our meeting with some of the teachers and students of the college and one teacher from the school for autistic children where YiBo will be working.

Reviewing the schedule and learning more about our assignments was very useful but the greatest pleasure was seeing the three teachers who came- Della, Sunshine and Lisa, and meeting two very nice students who came – Rainbow and Mike, who seemed genuinely pleased to meet us and who each sang a song in English for us. We chatted for a while giving the students an opportunity to speak. Mike said that he liked English very much d. but he apologized for his pronunciation. I told him that I could understand him and I looked forward to helping him. Rainbow, whose English is good, helped Mike understand my questions. Around five o’clock we ended our meeting and all said we were looking forward to our first day at the college.

After dinner BaoLi reviewed some best teaching practices for working with Chinese students. An other-wise pleasant dinner was marred only by the “Mysterious Chopstick Caper” that, to this day, remains unsolved.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Xi’An Program Journal April 10 – May 1, 2010

This program was unique from the standpoint of I was a group of one for this outstanding 3 week program. The following is a summary of my working at the Xi’an College of Career and Technology augmenting the English speaking program.

When I arrived in Xi’An, Baoli was temporarily ill, but she had chosen an assistant Susan Shang, a student at the career college, who did an excellent job meeting all the scheduled commitments.

The first week I met with students studying hotel management. There were about 30 shy students who were for the most part beginning level English speaking although their reading and writing skills were much higher. For the week we practiced making room reservations, conference room reservations, dialogue for questions about a hotel health club, and various other hotel situations. I wrote the basic script on the board for the students to follow with encouragement to create or add to it as they felt appropriate. One day we practiced and discussed international differences in using hand and body gestures used in everyday communications. China and the USA seemed to have no conflicts although students were cautioned to be mindful of possible problems. Near the end of the week we discussed differences in school systems, postal systems, and possible jobs available to students after they graduate.

On the weekend of the first week I went to dinner with the family of a student I met while on a GV program in 2001. Janet is now an English professor at Xi’An International University.

During the second week I worked with a group of students studying international business. They seemed to somewhat better speaking skill than last week’s students, but still mostly beginning level. During the week we worked on creating business letters and negotiating contracts and developing dialogue for buying merchandise for an international business. Tuesday I was invited to a dumpling lunch at one of the teacher’s apartments on campus. As I am a hobby cook I was able to get a lesson on how to make Chinese dumplings. Wednesday and Thursday the international business students described the various job opportunities were available after graduation followed by each student describing their family members and what kind of work they did. A significant number were either farmers, apple orchardists, or small business owners. China produces 30% of the world’s apples. Friday we continued with the family profiles and a comparison of Chinese and American holidays. Saturday I visited a Confucius museum an art street with many stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs. While at the museum one of the guides asked me if I could visit with him so he might improve his spoken English. So for the next 45 minutes we had an interesting conversation that has now become email visits.

The last week was a return of the hotel management students of the first week. We compared American and Chinese holiday celebrations, how to write a business letter and returned to having the students create various hotel situations such as ordering food at a restaurant, answering hotel guest’s questions about exchanging money, finding the laundry facility, and giving directions to hotel guests. I wrote a basic dialogue on the board and encouraged students to add to it and develop their own two-way conversations. Wednesday I was invited to lunch by the school director at one of the restaurants that is uses the hotel management students as interns for part of their training. This is probably the largest restaurant facility I have ever seen as it has the ability to serve over 1500 guests at one event plus individual banquet rooms for smaller groups. The staff that attended our lunch was made up of hotel management students. In China lunch is kind of a misnomer as all my lunch experiences were more on the order of a banquet. After the “lunch” students spoke on what part of China they are from and details about their immediate family. Students at this point began to show their English speaking ability skills, which were improved from the first week. Much of their improvement was from a loss of shyness and being more comfortably with the class the second week. Thursday the students explained how and what their cell phones answering various questions from me about the individual features of unit. After lunch the students and faculty held a farewell party for me at which students sang, read poetry, and gave many speeches that seems to be a cultural phenomenon in China. On the last day I attempted to present some English idioms. To my surprise some students already knew some and had Chinese idioms that had similar meaning as ours.

I found the 3-week program as a group of one a very enjoyable event and am looking forward to participating in another GV program.