China Team Journal

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week 1 - 3/5/12 - 3/11/12

After a quick briefing from the team leader Wang on the ride from the airport, we arrive at the Le Garden Hotel where I planned to get a bunch of much needed rest.  However, due to the drastic time change, sleep did not come.  So, I went to work for my first day at Xi'an Biomedical Technical Institute very exhausted and met my teachers and others I would be working with.  Everyone is very warm and welcoming and my first class even sings some Chinese songs, including their national anthem.  The students are generally very attentive, shy but enthusiastic.  However, the level of  English speaking and comprehension is quite low.

I start out with some basics of greeting and introduction and have the students do the same - some are certainly better than others.  I try to help engage them in English conversation and attempt to politely correct grammatical and pronunciation errors.  Next, we move into their college English books.  The content of this unit is on Subhealth - a concept practically nonexistent in American medicine.  The words being used in the reading are extremely advanced, and in my opinion, certainly out of the ballpark of the classes English level.  Nevertheless, we trudge through the material day after day - the same 3-4 pages of the same text, only different classes.  I start to feel a bit like a broken record but try to keep my energy positive in attempts to engage the students.

Finally, I realize I'm gonna have to get creative, so I take the difficult vocabulary terms and create a word search and crossword puzzle with them.  These are a bit foreign conceptually for the students and teachers alike.  But, after a bit of explanation I find everyone enjoying the break from the lecturing and actually learning the material too.  I'm running out of ideas quickly though, so I'm brainstorming on more active and educational activities for the following week. 

The week is cold and smoggy in Xi'an but seems to be warming up to spring as my first week teaching here comes to a close.  It is certainly a different experience from my other teaching expeditions with GV, but I think I'm getting the hang of it and finding my groove.  Wang has been great and we are getting to know each other quickly.  She shows me the good places to eat, what and how to order and eat when the food arrives, and my very basic Chinese is slowly progressing.  By now I know how to greet and respond, ask for a toilette and I can even write my name in Chinese-which is quite complex but very cool.

The first week of work finished, I spend Saturday with Rafael, my guide through the Terracotta Warrier museum and archialogical site.  The enormous scale of the project and its vision is fascinating.  I even got to meet the farmer who found the site while digging a well in the mid-seventies.  He now sits at a desk and signs books all day.  What an amazing thing to find in your backyard.  We eat at Subway for lunch, which is a nice break from all the new foods I have been eating these past six weeks, and we drive back to Xi'an to visit the city wall.  The wall is gigantic in size and scope and I take a rickshaw to the drum tower as the sun almost peeks out from behind the clouds and ever-present smog to warm the chill from my fingers. Afterwards, I say goodbye to Rafael and head to the hotel.  I take it easy and go to bed early on Saturday and spent much of my Sunday also relaxing and prepping for the next week's classes.  It has been a great week and I am beginning to really warm to China and its people.  While I am certainly looking forward to returning to the states, I have a feeling that I still have some great experiences to look forward to here in China first.