China Team Journal

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Report from Kunming - Team 162

United Nations Millennium Goals Addressed by this Team: (Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.) Eight volunteers provided 210 hours of conversational English language instruction to 45 teachers and 72 secondary school students.

Reflections On Week One:
The teachers whom we are teaching begin gestures of respect and friendship. Several stop us in the hallways or stairways to thank us for our comments in Tuesday’s afternoon’s lecture. Others ask if we could go get a bowl of noodles with them for lunch. Still others invite us to come to their home villages. We learn much more of the challenges they face in their packed classrooms, of the disparate salaries and working conditions for the private school teachers Kerri and Natalie talked to on Tuesday afternoon. One asked, “Can you tell me how to get the government to change things?” Across town at Kunming Teacher’s Training College, another wrote to us “How do we change the world?” We stand in awe. We are humbled.

Since we have all been having great English classes, let me share with you some English we have encountered in Kunming thus far…

  • Hi! Just for You! Do you like it?

  • No Smoking –for your safety, please do not smoke on the bed

  • Lanky Nursing (cosmetic product)

  • I’m a Love - Aholic

  • Please You Go Out (exit sign)

  • Be Pleasing Wait for a While in the Pure Field

  • So Sweet – make yourself at home, cut and come again.

  • Please help yourself suiting your own taste.

  • In Case of Emergency, Use Fugitive Route (hotel map)

  • Shoplifting is a Crime, Cherish Your Future, Don’t Do It
    Am I Cute? Please Remember Me (sign in taxi)

  • Drifting Fragrance Chicken

  • Passengers: Get on or Get off

  • Be a Party Hottie

  • Care Land Slip

These phrases remind each of us how much we have to learn and explore in Kunming and really shows how Chinese culture has evolved and developed. These new experiences remind us to always strive for the extraordinary.

Reflections On Week Two:
At lunch, we discussed the difficulties that China has faced this year and it is important to remember and respect the sacrifices of our hardy host nation. Understanding these tragedies brings me closer to one of my personal goals of being humbled—my troubles at home are almost meaningless when compared to the struggles the people of China have faced this year—to think that I thought I was having a rough year. We must remember that we are part of something called “Project Peace,” and that matters now more than ever. (journal entry by James)

Both Kerri and Natalie take on class assignments single-handed. Rob, Sue, James and Sabrina work in two-person teams, although it falls chiefly to Sabrina to acquaint Chinese students with American music, including that inscrutable product of the Occident—the heavy metal band.

All of us note a change in our classes. Students are more verbal, more assertive, and much more at ease. There is a growing focus on the demands of the upcoming speech festival. Students also want to share what they know about yesterday’s bus bombings. To their credit, both Hu Di and Chris share information readily: this is what happened. This is how it happened. This is the unhappy result. Their candor is the best possible antidote to any anxiety we may feel as strangers in this strange land.

Following morning classes on Wednesday, the volunteer teachers had lunch and spent time with their classes in a friendship activity. Some enjoyed Across the Bridge Noodles, others Dai cuisine. Green Lack was a popular spot for walking, enjoying the views and the lotus blossoms at their peak, even seeing an impromptu concert of traditional folk dance and songs by a group of retired dancers, singers and musicians who meet each Wednesday at the park to make music.

Finally, a night of karaoke that we will never forget. Philip and Hu Di put the westerners to shame with their Chinese songs. None of us will ever forget Sue rocking out to the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Rob and his Blue Suede Shoes, Sabrina and Natalie as Barbie Girls, James trying to sing like a Chinese woman or Kerri playing the tambourine. All in all, fun was had by everyone. As we have spent the past two weeks teaching our students American says and idioms it seems only fitting that I end this journal with an American saying which sums up our karaoke performance ~ “Don’t quit your day jobs!”

I know that we have accomplished a great deal and we should be proud and honored that we all had this opportunity. I cannot wait for yet another new teaching experience on Monday with the “fantastic four” Kerri, Natalie, James and I. I will hesitantly call us that, with Hu Di as the real power behind us all, as we cruise – albeit cautiously- into our third and last week in Kunming! (journal reflection by Sabrina)

Reflections On Week Three:
We all swap tales of naughty primary school students and time-outs in our new teaching assignment, but more importantly, Kerri and Natalie mention that they see real progress in their kids’ English, especially in understanding what we are saying! I find that my kids’ English is very low, but then that allows me to do fun activities with them, such as singing “Old McDonald” and teaching them animal names, and never forget, the old stand-by of doing the hokey pokey.

We all had a fun time wit h our classes and in our discussion it seems we are making progress. What a shame it’s only 1 week! Imagine the development if this program was longer. I have been able to introduce movement and learning away from the tables to my classes and the students like to play games and join in the fun. They are doing so well!

Our last action packed day was a catch-up day, different from our other teaching days, it was very moving, sometimes difficult. Every student, it seems, gave us a huge variety of gifts. It was very touching and we knew how much the students appreciated us through their kind words, beautiful drawings and thoughtful gifts. It was very emotional and sad to say goodbye. I know we have made even the smallest, significant difference. So safe journey, happy hearts and keep in touch as we scatter to the world – But our hearts are in Kunming.