China Team Journal

Friday, September 21, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Woke up singing songs to the kids about their last day in Xian. We practiced our "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" song for the final celebration and I made cold medicine for Cormac and I, and we all headed down to breakfast.


For this last breakfast, we all ate our most comforting foods. I had potatoes, Cassidy had a stack of probably 12 banana bread, Cormac had bacon among his other foods, Cindy had her usual fruit and pastry, while Tarik had sausage, hard-boiled egg, and yogurt with cereal, while Tanya's meal was well-rounded with veggies and fruits. In conversation we caught up on the previous day and prepared for the last day, ahead.


On the last ride to the school, with Baoli along, we noticed the Toyota dealership was now covered in Chinese flags. The driver was playing the radio, and as we got close to the school, the radio segment gave an English lesson. Yesterday's lesson was "promise" and "disagree", but today's lesson was "I see" and "count me on", which Tanya and I laughed at because count me on isn't something we'd ever say. We talked with Baoli about "count on me", "count me in" and "count me out."


We went to teach our last class of second year nursing students. Tanya covered vital signs while I chose Unit 11 from their book: Working with the Dying Patient, and I was able to talk with them about my work with hospice, caring for family, and working with the bereaved. We covered dying with dignity, the stages of grief, and the role of the nurse in caring for the dying. Julia stayed in my classroom most of the time, and provided translation of concepts so class went really well sharing stories, although Cormac felt the discussion was morbid and he didn't like the last class as much as basic English lessons where we would play games.


With the last part of class, I spoke about nursing as a noble profession, a service profession, and the students spoke about why they wanted to become nurses. I shared quotes with them, like "What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us, what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal", and we talked about their meaning.


We had a group photo and class was over. Immediately following class we went across the hall to Tanya's room for the final celebration. Mr. Robinson/Liu Yuanzhang was there, as were several classes of students.


Della, the student group leader, and others made some speeches. Tanya and I were called on to talk about our time in Xian, and we thanked our hosts for all they did for us. Cormac also briefly spoke, but he became shy and was feeling low blood sugar, so only spoke a little. Cassidy managed a thank-you and basic answers to questions like "Did you like Xian" and "Did you like the students?" President Liu spoke about the value of Global Volunteers' relationship with the school, and how he is the head of the school and students are growing in the garden under the care of the teachers. The volunteers are like angels helping the school. He presented us with parting gifts: a scroll with 5 monkeys in the shape of the character for longevity, and we were photographed with him holding up the scroll.


Then students began some farewell performances, including Kazakh or Uyghur dancing by my students, singing, kungfu, and they did a group dance to the song Cassidy was practicing in the field yesterday, so she tried to dance along, and soon the celebration was over and we didn't have to perform our song and the students were dismissed for their lunch break.


We gathered our things and went outside to have a group photo with the English teachers and Baoli. We walked to a picturesque locale by the roses, and were singing "Make New Friends" as we posed.


Everyone at the school had been so warm and friendly it was hard to say goodbye. Della gave parting pictures to each of the children, and we climbed into the school van for the last time, waving goodbye.


We returned to the hotel to drop off things and went to Yong Ming Mountain Noodle for a quick lunch. It was a style of noodle Baoli admitted enjoying, and that she eats most days, and it was delicious and spicy, and came either dry or as a soup. Baoli ordered some of both, as well as round bread sandwiches stuffed with spicy meat, and rice in honey. She even brought a bottle of Sprite to the table.


After lunch we took bus #29 to the city wall, and got off to walk in the park along the wall. The kids ran from exercise equipment to exercise equipment, and as the kids were playing tag and running around the rocks I said a classic quote "don't go anywhere that might be a toilet."


We made our way to the South Gate, precariously crossing the street to reach the entrance to the City Wall, and paid 40 yuan/adult, 20 yuan/child to enter. On the wall, Cormac rented a bike for another 40 yuan, and we strolled along admiring the view and the scenery. We spent about 2 hours at the wall.


On exiting, we rented motorized pedicabs to take us to the Beijing Kao Ya (Peking Roast Duck) restaurant, where we met up with Baoli and Cindy for the last meal. We had a nice final get-together, and especially Cassidy enjoyed the meal even though there was no rice!! There were green beans, dragon's mustache (long xu cai), and fried bread pastry that was proclaimed Cindy's favorite food in China, cilantro with wheat flour, and Peking Duck, with scallions and pancakes and hoisin, which all the kids loved. Everyone ate until very full, and the meal together was a fun final bonding and reflection time, which was photographed.


Baoli said we were a fun, unusual group, not only the first with children but the first to want to ride the city bus. So we enjoyed a final bus ride back to the hotel together, and even walked past the noodle shop where we'd eaten earlier.


Back in the room, I borrowed Cindy's hairdryer to blow-dry clothes, and it felt good to think that might be the last time doing that. I said final good-byes to Cindy and Baoli. I would love for Baoli to visit MN and have her visit Yinghua.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lights, Camera, Action!

We are entering our final days as we prepared for two of our three final classes. Using some of the activities, I had used with previous classes this week, I was met with blank stares. As a result, I quickly changed my tactic and used the work making game, Around the World and Pronunciation Word slap. At least everyone was moving with those games. 


Immediately after class we were to join the rest of the school outside on the field where they were making a documentary/film about the school. Apparently Robinson is taking advantage of a local TV stations interest in making a film to also try to create a school promotional video. As we were the volunteer English teachers, we were led over to two double circles of students and asked to teach to them for the cameras. Unfortunately I cannot think so quickly, so my group ended up playing Duck Duck, Grey Duck with the variation of adding different colors in front of the word duck such as yellow duck, red duck orange duck, blue duck, grey duck. We then played baseball for a little bit while we wanted to see if they wanted to film us some more. When the filming was over, we returned to the same restaurant we ate at the first day with the teachers and cleared almost every plate. Robinson, the school president joined us to express his gratitude and he even introduced us to the restaurant owner who was his friend. A round of photos ensued before we headed back to the university.


There was no rest for the weary after lunch as classes had already begun. Since Comac was not feeling well, he rested in the office. The lunch break events were felt by all as many of the students left after the break and the lack of an afternoon nap could be seen on the students’ faces.


We arrived at the hotel at 6pm, just in time to go to dinner. Cindy was not joining us for dinner since one of the teachers from La La Shoua had invited her to dinner at her home. It will be fun to hear her report on the evening tomorrow. 


The kids had a long day, so they were rewarded with a short Donald Duck episode in Chinese. Then it was off to bed for all of us.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Origami and Performances

This morning I got waked up by my Mom. I was very tired then because I didn't have much sleep. And then we had breakfast. At breakfast I was having a hard time getting the plate out. The bad thing is the coffee spilled on my food, so I didn't want my food, and I only had coffee for breakfast. And apple juice.


Then I was worried about being late because of the clock Tarik's Mom had.  But then we went to another school. We came to a performance at that school. When we went there they gave us oranges, bananas, and grapes. I didn't like the grapes, though, they had weird seeds. We went to a Chinese class. I learned some Chinese about swans. The class was weird and random but the teacher was very nice, good and awesome. Then we went upstairs to the art class. We made a lot of origami, like swans, and I was allowed to get a cat drawing which reminded me of my pet Kai my parents gave to a barn. Cormac got a picture of two fish trying to kiss each other with bubbles.


Then we went to the performances, which were very big and a hundred times better than ours. We did a couple songs, "Liang Zhi Laohu" and "Make New Friends." They did huge performances which were very awesome: they swayed their beautiful dresses and kicked their legs and I am so jealous it was amazing. I wanted to jump rope a lot but I was nervous and messed up like 300 times.


And then we went to lunch, it was very good. I had pretty much a whole bucket of food.


After lunch, we went back to the old school. We taught as usual but the girls chased me more. For the 10 minutes break I pretty much hid in the bathroom the whole time so no one would take pictures of me.


So we went to dinner. But back to dinner, we ate rice and my favorite food in China, green beans. You should have seen me use chopsticks with baby, teeny, not even an inch size little shrimps that were so good. Then the team got ice cream. After my ice cream we went to a big movie camera outside, so if you were on the street it showed on the building.


When we were back at the hotel after the TV, I demanded a picture of the hotel. It was actually 11 and up to come here, but I was lucky to come here at this hotel, and also Tarik was lucky.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Big Class

Today Cassidy and Karen were sick, so Cormac has to go with me (Tarik) and Tanya.  We had a big class with Cormac. When we were done teaching we went back to the hotel and checked on Karen and Cassidy.


Cassidy was feeling much better but Karen was still sick, so Karen skipped lunch and dinner, but not breakfast.


Then we came back and I looked at Cormac playing his DS and we practiced a song for tomorrow and that was all for today.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dumpling Party

After breakfast we went to teach the class from last Monday. For some reason, the class was smaller than I remembered it. Mostly because it was a club, and also, they didn’t have to go. So we taught them a lot about Yinghua, and the school lunch, and then, at the ten minute break, I had a conversation with the class about how my class at Yinghua was like. Then, they had to say what English phrase they liked the most, and someone said “to be or not to be” which was pretty cool. After that, we had some down time, and I wanted to play with my 3DS, but my Mom demanded homework. Then, after that we were headed to the dumpling party for all the teachers. Obviously the little ones loved it (including me!) I ate so many dumplings that now I feel like one! Oh, but it was totally worth it! There were two types: meat and spinach. I mostly ate the meat ones, but both were good. Also, there was a cucumber dish that was my favorite! To gain some weight, we had fruits in yogurt dip.


Afterwards, we had a little down time to play games, do homework, etc. Then we headed toward dinner, and met up with the gang to do our entries and all.  For dinner, there was thousand layer bread with chili to put in it, and kiwi from Baoli’s brother-in-law. Then, for dessert, we had lemon filled custards that were warm and tasty. I’d say this was a good full day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

At La La Shou

Today started as usual with the team (minus Baoli) eating breakfast at the hotel. Everyone enjoys the large breakfast buffet with its combination of Chinese and Western style breakfast foods. 


After breakfast, I was off to La La Shou and luckily got a cab right away (which doesn't usually happen).


Today was a good day with my "pre-school" class. The class is made up of 9 children ages 6-8.  There are 2 girls and 7 boys with a variety of special needs including developmental retardation and autism. All of the students are quite low functioning. The students are mostly non-verbal and all have severe behavioral issues. There are 3 teachers in the class and a variety of volunteers. In addition to me, there is a young American woman from another volunteer organization and there have been 2 Chinese university students. Today, I was the only volunteer there. 


The daily routine is made up of morning exercise, morning activity, exercise and game time, unit study, lunch and nap, hands-on project, snack and talk, music or art and several trips to the bathroom and breaks for water. On Friday afternoons the children watch cartoon movies at the end of the day.  


My role as a classroom aide is to help the kids stay on track (and in the room). This includes getting them to stay in their seats and to follow along with the activities and to participate in the hands-on activity. The kids spend long periods of time sitting in their seats listening to lessons, which is very difficult for them to do. They are not as actively involved as children in American classrooms. Some of the children can follow the lessons but several of them are not really paying attention. They get out of their seats, wander around, pick at papers taped to the floor and have been known to hit, pinch, scratch, bite, pull hair, and even go to the bathroom on the floor.


I am amazed and embarrassed that I have been in the class for 5 days now and still don't know the children's names. The sounds of their names (and the language in general) are so foreign to me that I don't even recognize them when the teachers use their names.


The teachers are young and energetic and very loving with the children. They have a long day and a very difficult job. Even with a ratio of 1 teacher to 3 students, it is impossible to keep all of the students on task most of the time. 


I was very tired after a full week and glad that it was Friday. 


Tonight we had "dinner" at a Chinese tea house.  We had coffee, tea or hot chocolate and popcorn, nuts and fruit.  (Actually, very much like the kind of dinner I would have at home.)  Cassidy and Tarik sat by themselves, did their own ordering and entertained the waitresses. Very grown up. Cormac, as always, was an invaluable help with his excellent Chinese language skills.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tai Chi

It is now harder and harder to be up that early in the morning but the great spread at breakfast makes it easier. Armed with our beginners’ English textbook, we are better prepared to teach our students. Searching the flashcards box and the resource room shelves we were able to add some interesting activities to our lessons.


The morning class went well with a nice question and answer session with Julia’s help. It also gave me a chance to show off some Latin dance moves. Cormac and Cassidy joined the I Spy game in our classroom and added some pep to my game of bingo.


Before lunch we had a back finger and neck bending session of Tai Chi with one of the chiropractic instructors and his students. After learning many exercises for losing weight, we were off to lunch to gain some more. Since the electricity and water were out at the school we could not eat noodles in the cafeteria, so we were off to a very crowded nearby restaurant where we discussed the children’s Chinese Immersion school as we were serenaded by baby shower karaoke singers next door.

The afternoon classes went much smoother as we are getting the hang of the students’ level and can plan more appropriate activities.


We gathered in the lobby to meet for dinner walking to a restaurant near the Tang Dynasty Market and learned about the one child policy from Baoli.


After dinner the Calcaterras and Crespos went on a Dairy Queen hunt as Baoli and Cindy had a leisurely walk to the hotel.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lots of Teaching

Today I remember I had breakfast and we waited like for one whole hour for the taxi.  Even one taxi stopped and didn’t pick us up.  He wouldn’t take us there.  And then this guy on a motorcycle helped us on a bus that goes to the museum.


At the museum I saw lots of very long, long, long time ago, even before the zeros kinds of art that still China made.  I saw ancient kinds of art like old cauldrons and dead horses and things made out of bronze and clay.


After the museum we went to a water fountain and I had ice cream and it was nice there.  The water was dancing like people to the music, but it was like spraying.

We went back home for a little break and we had lunch downstairs at the hotel.


Then we went to teach and that is a long story.  We taught for a long, long time but then we had a break and people took thousands and thousands of pictures.  Pretty much the whole class took pictures.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Off to the Races

Today we are starting to adjust our bodies to China time a little bit more even though we are a bit jetlagged still. Breakfast was at a more leisurely pace today. As we returned to the Biomedical Technical College for our second day of teaching, we come prepared with a variety of activities to do with our students. Yesterday’s brainstorming session helped a lot when coming up with ideas for our morning classes. 


Tarik and I had a successful morning with our students and continue to make improvements to our lesson plans as we learn what works well and what does not work well for the students. Lunch was across the street at a Muslim restaurant where we ate soaked bread soup. Tarik was in heaven to be able to eat a big bowl of soup. Then it was off to the races, at least for the kids. We went to check out the new Astroturf track at the school only to find out that  the test of athletic ability for entrance to the field was your ability to jump the fence. Nevertheless, the kids were still able to run off their energy running around the Confucius statue in front of the school and did some homework before teaching again. 


In the afternoon we were a hit by playing “I Spy” and the Calcaterras also had a more successful afternoon. As we were leaving the school, we were met by Robinson, the President of the college who wanted a picture with us in front of the huge electronic “Welcome, Global Volunteers” sign in front of the school. Despite our efforts to eat dinner early, it seems that dinnertime will remain at 6pm. Mushroom soup filled a variety of stomachs as we learned about Cindy’s day at La La Shou. Then it was off to bed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

First Day of Teaching

Today was the first day of teaching.   First, the school assigned for us to do an introduction and explain ourselves.  Once it came to me, I didn’t know what to say.  But I kept calm, spoke my name, etc., and it all ended out well.  After that, everybody came up to me, took shots of me, wanted me to sign their notebooks, and even my email!  Oh, don’t forget about Cassidy.  She also has been loved by many.


After that, me, my Mom, and Cassidy taught the class, and we played a few fun games.  Then, after that, they were dismissed, and we went to have lunch.  There, we were singing various songs. I sang Blackbird, and everyone was impressed.  So far, the job is  well done. (at least I think so!) 


Back at the hotel, we did homework, and met up with the gang at dinner, and told each other how our days went.  Hope tomorrow is as good as today.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Team #203

Today was orientation day and the 1st day for the full group of China's Team # 203. This team is made up of 6 members and our team leader Wang Baoli. The team members are Tanya (a Global Volunteers employee) and her 8 year old son Tarik and Karen and her 2 children, 8 year old Cassidy and 11 year old Cormac (all from MN), and Cindy from RI. 


The 5 team members from MN all have some degree of familiarity with Chinese. Karen's family lived in China for 10 months and all 3 of the children in the group attend a Chinese immersion school. Cindy, on the other hand, spent $179 on the Rosetta Stone Mandarin program and learned 5 words. 


The orientation was held at the bio-technical college where Karen, Cassidy, Cormac, Tania and Tarik will teach conversational English. Cindy will be working at the La La Shou Special Education Center. Baoli went over the GV Philosophy, Procedures and Guidelines and the program in China. The team came up with team goals and discussed the characteristics of an effective team. Baoli reviewed some Health and Safety Procedures. Robinson, the president of the college, came to introduce himself and to meets us.


After the orientation we returned to the hotel for a traditional Chinese dinner and to discuss the logistics for the first day of work tomorrow and some team work assignments. Cindy will be the Journal Manager, Tania and Cormac will be the Farewell Program Manager and Karen will be the Free Time Planner Manager.


Tomorrow the adventure continues.....