China Team Journal

Monday, June 30, 2008

Team 161, Kunming, June 27

By Corrine

Thought for the Day: “Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.”

Photo for the Day: Corrine was thrilled to meet Mr. Ma, who was an English guide from her bicycling tour in China 25 years ago.

The day for me began, as usual, with coffee at 6:30 AM and a chat with Yo-Yo. We are the early risers and other team members soon join us in the dining room.

At 7:20 Hu Di began the morning meeting. Included in our cultural lesson today was information on the selection of names when a child is born. There is the family name and the given name. The given name reflects the parents’ hopes and dreams for the baby and may relate to family status, such as farmer, merchant or intellectual. For example, a boy may be named dragon, rock, and tiger because it expresses strength. A girl may be named gentle or after a flower, butterfly, clouds because it expresses beauty and gentleness.

It was the last day of our first week and we continue to evaluate the needs of our students. This morning session began with a review, then oral reports from students who had prepared assignments at home. Questions and discussion followed the reports and we tried to help with comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation in this way. Next we combined our class with the class next door for a period of music and movement activities. My teaching partner, Dixie, is a professional dancer and this is an exercise using many skills. Besides, it is a lot of fun. We encourage our students to try it in their teaching, especially those having problems with discipline, because it releases energy and is calming (hopefully). Returning to our classroom we read and discussed a story and we helped the students set up and play a bingo game using synonyms.

At lunch Hu Di passed out information for a speech festival to be held next week when students will present a 3-5 minute oral report.

Then Hu Di talked to us about the possibility of visiting patients who had survived the Sichuan earthquake. The hospital is near the Stone Forest where we will be tomorrow. We are concerned about appearing as voyeurs but have decided that it will be an expression of sympathy and an opportunity to wish them well in their recovery. Hu Di told us four poignant incidents relating to this tragedy where 70,000 people were killed, 20,000 are still missing and 5,000,000 are homeless. A box is available for personal donations.

Now, a personal anecdote. I was in Kunming in 1985 with a bicycle group and always wanted to return to this land of “eternal spring.” Memories of our guide, Mr. Ma, lingered as I recalled his excellent English, his responses to all our questions about history, government, culture. I recalled his gentle nature as we biked along near Lake Dianchi, the Burma Road and the streets of Kunming. Were there stop lights then? Maybe not. And so, on a Tuesday night in 2008, a Mr. Ma, travel agent, called on team #161 in Kunming, China, to offer options for weekend travel. At meeting’s end I showed him a photo and asked, “Could this be you in 1985?” The answer can only be seen, not described. It was the granddaddy of all bear hugs.