China Team Journal

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finishing Up

Today was the last full day morning and afternoon classes for everyone except Judy who will stay on for another week. This week Janice’s classes joined Judy’s for a rousing game of Alphabet Scramble. The students and teachers get very excited and competitive so we play it in the last half hour. A fun way to end the class.

Julie took us out for a going-away lunch at a nearby restaurant. She and Della ordered and we happily ate what we consider a banquet. Back to the school with a stop at the near Confucius statue for pictures, we and the students can’t pass up a photo opportunity.

After dinner at the hotel with Baoli, it was a quiet evening and hope to catch up on sleep.

 - Janice

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."

“Sign with Global Volunteers, kid, and we’ll make you a star.” After 2 days with the film crew (o.k., one guy with a camera and tripod), we’re hoping for an entry as “Best foreign Documentary” in next year’s Academy Awards. But we’ll be content if the films help the collage and future China program adventures.

After our morning’s teaching, we returned to lunch at the hotel—yummy spring greens among the delicious dishes—and a free afternoon, each of us heading our separate ways before meeting up at 5:20 to head off for dinner and a performance at the Shaanxi Grand Opera House/Tang Palace.  The evening was a success: after a seemingly never ending supply of steamed, fried and boiled dumplings, we watched sinuous dancers, takented musicians, and a comic whistler, all dressed in gorgeous costumes reminiscent of the Tang Dynasty—well, perhaps not the bare midriffs. A quick cab ride home to our hotel to prepare for a long day on Thursday.

- Mary

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Volunteers in Action

Today a young man came to video tape us volunteers in action. We had expected him in the morning, but due to miscommunication, he didn’t enter our class rooms until the afternoon session.  I was teaching a song, “When You’re Smiling” when they arrived, and though it went well, my raspy, off-key voice has now been recorded for poor, unsuspecting souls.

At lunch Della gave us a tour of some of the dormitories. I was impressed by how well the space was utilized in the four-bed units. Each bunk bed was over, not another bed, but a desk/study unit.

In the evening we met Baoli in the hotel lobby, and at our request, we had dinner at a restaurant in the nearby Tang West Market. High Fly features Italian food, and we gorged on pizza, a pleasant change from our usual Chinese fare.

- Judy

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn."

Today my students participated in a lesson on introductions and numbers. The last hour was spent playing the Banana grams Word game in three teams. The students enjoyed the game and it was a successful activity. Before going to lunch we met Robinson, the university’s school master (and also Julia’s husband), and took some photos. 

Afterwards we went to the dumpling party at Julia’s house. We practiced wrapping chicken and vegetarian dumplings with the other teachers. The dumplings and the fruit salad were quite delicious. Julia also gave us a tour of her lovely home and all of us appreciated her kind hospitality. Back at the hotel, we later enjoyed a Mandarin lesson from Baoli after dinner and reviewed our team goals. We all agreed that we were helping the students, spreading goodwill, learning about the culture and achieving our personal goals as well. Tomorrow is another exciting day.

- Wendy

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fun Filled Weekend

Thanks to Baoli, we had a great driver, Fisher, for the weekend. Wendy planned the itinerary for east of Xi’an on Saturday and west on Sunday. Saturday we visited Big Wild Goose Pagoda where the gorgeous peony gardens were the highlight for me—winding paths among flowers that are in full bloom now. Next, Fisher drove us to the Mausoleum Site Museum, the famous Terra Cotta dig site. It may be the most visited site in China and it’s as amazing as advertised. Visitors view the actual dig sites, see parts of warriors and horses that are “emerging,” those fully revealed and wonderful close-up displays. 

Sunday, Fisher drove us to the Hanyangling Museum, “the unique underground museum.” It‘s a site where visitors can walk on glass floors (or not) and view the actual dig site of a “domestic” burial below. The terracotta figures are small (not Warriors), various animals (dogs, cows, chickens, etc.) and household “appliances.” Our weekend finale was a 70 mile drive into the country side to Famen Temple, a sacred Buddhist site. Before visiting the temple, Fisher took us to a farmer’s house where we selected fresh vegetables, tofu, meat, etc. for a variety of dishes. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."

After yesterday’s rain, the sun came out and we left on a cool, clear morning for our last day of teaching in week one. Today we met with small groups in the Uyghur class, younger students studying Mandarin and English before beginning their technical coursework. The thought of having to learn 2 such un related languages is mind-boggling and it was a pleasant surprise to find I actually recognized the Uyghur word for Friday, jemma (an Arabic word for mosque). 

Another delicious lunch including spring greens was topped by Girl Scout cookies, courtesy of Wendy. ATM and laundry errands taken care of, we cabbed to the walled city to shop on Muslim Street and see the Great Mosque. Charming young college couple, after giving us wrong directions, rushed back and led us through fascinating back streets to our destination. Mary toured the Mosque and Janice and Judy followed Wendy for a lesson in serious bargaining. Back at the hotel, we met up with Baoli for a fascinating and delicious hotpot dinner including fried rice cakes fitted with pumpkin and red bean paste for dessert.

- Mary

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Life’s like a play; it’s not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters."

We woke up to a rainy cold day. And no Baoli or Julia this morning. But on this, our fourth day of teaching we began feeling like old pros.

The morning went well and the rain stopped before we headed to the cafeteria for a lunch of rice or noodles with vegetables and meat. Della offered to buy us ice cream and was jumping for joy when, after buying one ice cream bar, she learned she had won another. She became more ecstatic when she won another free bar with her second purchase, and was in heaven when she won yet a third one. The ice cream wrappers were like scratch-off lottery tickets, and Della was a three-time winner.

Back at the office we used the computer, read, did journal entries and lesson plans, and relaxed before tackling our second three-hour class of the day.

At our evening meal at the hotel, we enjoyed sweet, fresh pineapple that Baoli had purchased.  Table conversation covered a wide range of topics from making homemade vinegar to drunk driving.  Happy and full, we went our separate ways.

- Judy

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles."

This trip has been an amazing cultural experience for me and the time is going by so quickly.  Today we enjoyed a comfortable half day of teaching. My students were biomedical engineering majors and enjoyed ordering from the menus and playing with the fake U.S. money. Later we built our “dream house” on the chalkboard and practiced vocabulary pronunciation related to homes.

After a delicious lunch at our hotel with Baoli, our volunteer group headed to the South Gate of the Wall in Xi’an. We strolled the old Art Street. There were lots of beautiful paper cuttings. So we enjoyed some ice cream, walked the old wall, watched drummers perform, and practiced our traffic dodging skills before catching a cab back.

Our dinner was a fascinating lamb bread stew (Yangrou Paomo) which was quite delicious. Judy opted out of the stew, but chose delicious beef with greens and fried rice instead.

Tomorrow is forecasted for rain, but I am looking forward to cooler weather. There’s lots of fun activities and cultural discoveries ahead for us.

- Wendy

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today."

Our first day with a morning and afternoon class was challenging—learning students’ levels, adjusting planned activities as we go. Students pick up on humor; enjoy seeing a little “ham,” loosening up. Julia hosted a delicious lunch and Della chose great dishes with the ying/yang flavors going on.  Fun, much needed break for our full day.

Outside, at the school’s entrance, was a Welcome Global Volunteers sign. And, in the courtyard, a recently acquired statue of Confucius had its unveiling. Very impressive, with its gold color shining out to welcome and inspire all of us. Groups were present for pictures and the official presentation will be later.

Our driver to and from the school does interesting maneuvers among cars, bikers (motor and manual), carts, pedestrians and other obstacles. His horn is talking all the way.

We had dinner at our hotel with Baoli—an egg/tomato dish that is a Xi’an family favorite (and mine). Plus, local spring greens and, of course, more!

Monday, April 9, 2012

"Wherever you go, go with all your heart."

We’re off. Since Monday is normally part of the weekend for XBTC students, we eased into teaching by meeting with volunteers from the English Club.  Each of us soloed with 4-7 students and we were aided by Julia, Della and Baoli. The students were delightful, and the experience helped us better calibrate the complexities of our lesson plans. As we discussed over lunch and group meeting back at the hotel, we will be speaking more slowly and simplifying the material somewhat. We have both morning and afternoon sessions tomorrow, so Tuesday will be the real test.

Mary and Wendy spent the free afternoon wandering around the fascinating West Tang Market, Judy and Janice stayed in. Then we all met Baoli in the lobby and walked to West Tang Market for a dinner of steaming broth with noodles and the fixin ‘s.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito

What a full day! Baoli started our morning at the Xi’an Biomedical Technical College by leading an orientation session that included review of GV’s philosophy, setting goals for our stay, delineating the characteristics of a good team, and going over health and safety guidelines. We also signed up for adjunct duties before walking to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

In the afternoon we were treated to several labors of love. Under the guidance of Julia, head of the college training program, and Della, head of the foreign affairs office, several students welcomed us with greetings they had created in English. Though it was Sunday, they had made a special trip to school to do this. Then we were presented with artistic hand painted Easter eggs and serenaded with both English and Chinese songs. We were also able to peek into the classrooms where we would be working, classrooms personally cleaned and prepared for our use by Della. We received our class schedules before returning to the hotel where we had a chance to catch our breath for a couple of hours before dinner. After dinner, Baoli went over additional health and safety issues, as well as the schedule for the beginning of the week. We left the dining room eager to begin our teaching adventure the next day.