China Team Journal

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the China volunteers!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

China Team 179 Journal- Kunming Day 1-3

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thought of the day: Great changes may not happen right away, but with effort even the difficult may become easy. --Bill Blackman (Founder of Hearts and Minds – a volunteer organization)

We began our day at the bright and early time of 8 in the morning. Cindy and I made it to the restaurant on the 2nd floor for breakfast, and Baoli was already waiting for us in a comfortable booth. She showed us the variety of food available, and there certainly was a lot of food, mostly Chinese food, but a surprising number of items were also food from other parts of the world, or shared by other cultures around the world. For example, there was a large pile of sweet potatoes, which are quite well known in the United States. As I browsed the array of food, I was amused to find that some of the translations were misspelled, but I understood what they meant. With so many different items to choose from, I took quite a bit of time to choose, so when I got back to the booth, there was a new person seated next to Baoli. I had no idea who he was, and Baoli did not introduce him. The man did not talked the entire time he was there, probably because he was enjoying his noodle soup. I guess it’s normal for people to sit where there is room.

We discussed the scheduled for the day, which included lots of meetings, and bit of free time in between. Our first meeting was the introduction to the program meeting. Baoli told us about all the different programs in China, thos currently opened and those that were closed. It was fascinating to learn about all the different programs, and I was particularly inspired by the Anshang village program. I remember reading about that particular program on the Global Volunteer website a couple of years ago and wanted to join a team to the site, but could not because of scheduling conflicts. Baoli also reminded us of the philosophy, requirements, and guidelines of Global Volunteer.

After this morning meeting, we had about 3 hours of free time. Cindy and I decided to look around and perhaps do some shopping. Cindy was looking for a wool coat, and I wanted a wrist watch. We headed east on Renmin East Road. There were lots of small shops selling mostly clothing and shoes. There were a few that had office supplies and snacks, but it seemed that clothing was a specialty here. Cindy and I went into multiple clothing stores, but did not come away with any clothes. She found a beautiful red coat, but they did not have it in her size. Since she and I are about the same size, I doubt the stores would have something in my size, either. She tried on several more coats in different stores, but none were the right size. The store employees were generally very enthusiastic about helping to find the right stuff. In one particular store, there was a coordinated effort to locate the perfect coat, but in the end they just didn’t quite fit.

So, we decided to turn back and check out the Wal-Mart to the west of the Golden Spring Hotel. We decided to cross the street and see what’s on that side as we walked back. On the corner was a McDonalds. We got two vanilla ice cream cones. They were ok, but not quite the same as in the States.

We passed a tailor shop. Cindy thought it was a place that sold cloth, but I told I thought they actually made what you wanted from the cloth you selected. I was right. But it took a while to figure out how to communicate since neither of us spoke Chinese, and the shop owner didn’t speak English. Eventually, Cindy was able to sort it out with the tailor, with some help from a local shopper. Then, we went to Wal-Mart. I had no idea there were Wal-Mart stores in China. I had to take a picture.

Inside the store, it was chaotic. There were lots and lots of people shopping for everything. The store was four stories. I bought a wrist watch here. Cindy found a cool rolling suitcase/laptop bag. Unfortunately, they did not take credit card.

We got back to the hotel in time for the meeting with the English teachers from the school where we will be teaching for the next two weeks. The teachers told us what they would like us to do, for example, the 4th through 6th grade classes, we should follow their books, since these students have an upcoming exam. The 1st through 3rd grade classes, we can choose our own activities. We got to see the books the students used, which were very helpful. We also learned that the school is a private boarding school. The students live at the school during the week.
After the teachers left, we spent some time looking through materials to use for the lessons, then had dinner. There was another wedding at the restaurant. Apparently there two to three weddings each weekend at the hotel. I was still feeling jet lag, so I went to bed right after dinner. Tomorrow we get to meet the students.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Thought of the Day:
Wants the horse to be good and at the same time want the horse not to eat hay. (Chinese Proverb)
Moral: Nothing is perfect.

The first day school for the Global Volunteer team, I am not feeling nervous but it’s hard to know what to expect. We would like to do a good job but without first meeting the kids and observing the student/teacher interaction it’s hard to gauge. When we got to the school we were brought to the principal's office to meet her. She was a very stylish woman and friendly woman. She allowed us to sit in her office until it was time for the welcome ceremony. As I got up I accidently spilled some water on the floor and it was funny to see the principal grab a mob and clean it up right away. I thought, "Oh, great what a way to start the day!"

When we got the welcome ceremony all the students (approximately 700) were lined up in rows according to their class. These kids were in perfectly straight lines and they shifted into different body stances and they were commanded to them. Some of the students helped to raise the flag and some of the older kids served as line leaders. Many of the kids were staring at me as if shocked to see and Africa-American woman for the first time. However, they were very polite about it and it felt quite nice to be a celebrity of some sorts. After the principal spoke about Global Volunteers and our role for the two weeks, my roommate and I were introduced. The children listened attentively and they applauded us.

After the ceremony, my roommate and went into teaching. It was hard-core baptism by fire but we both brave. As far as the children go these kids are just like the kids in American they like to sing, they like hands-on participation, they love to play games and they can be LOUD!
One thing I noticed was the classroom teachers, principals, and staff members were all wearing heavy coats. My roommate and I were not exactly ready for this and so it was very difficult not to focus on how cold it actually was all day long-everywhere! Hence, the Chinese proverb I chose--nothing is perfect! I admit it was hard to understand why they don't invest in fireplaces or mobile heaters.

After we taught, we were invited to a local restaurant by the principal and staff. The restaurant was completely empty expect for us and the bathrooms in the restaurant was similar to the bathrooms in the school. It was a latrine-style and the opening is on the floor and you have to squat down and hope that it lands in the rectangular hole and not on your shoes. The one thing that surprised me was that the whole school had only one boys and girls bathroom and so teacher and students alike use the same bathrooms--which by the way have no doors, no toilet paper (so bring your own). I am sorry but I have to say this, "what if you are a teacher and you have to do no. 2 and one of your students walks in?"

Anyway, in the afternoon our team leader (Baoli), my roommate and I observed a grade 4 English class. I was impressed with all the modern teaching styles I saw. The teachers definitely do the best they can with the resources they have available. Each classroom has about 35 students. And I saw the kids recite a lot of what the teacher taught them in English. The English teacher had they work in small groups of four. She also had them play a game where they had to race another student to identify the English word she was pronouncing. The English teacher also had them act out the four words that she introduced. For example, for the word nurse the student got into pairs and pretending to be giving each a shot just as a nurse would.

I also got to observe a math class. I noticed the teacher used a lot of the same processes that we use in the U.S. to actively engage the students. She had them use multiples of ten to solve 2-digit division problems. She also had them come up to the board to show their work and explain their thinking. Another thing that the math teacher did that I liked is that she showed them non-examples as well as examples of how to do division problems. That way she could address misconceptions. If a student went to the board and had a mistake she used that student's mistake as a teachable moment because she knew that other students in the class could make the same mistake. She took about 10 minutes to have a class-discussion about the mistake and how to fix it. She also had them work independently and I noticed she walked about to make sure they were doing it correctly.

After teaching some more in the afternoon, we went back to the hotel and had dinner. Even though, it was only around 7:30PM my roommate and I have been going to bed early to get some rest. The days are long and there is a lot to do by the end of the day we are exhausted. So exhausted that we actually said no to our team leader, Baoli when she offered to take us to Wal-Mart last night.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thought of the Day:
People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
- Anonymous

We woke up to bright sunshine this morning. This is the first time that has happened, and my roommate and I are very excited about seeing the sun because this meant that the day is probably going to be warmer.

We left for the school today knowing much more than yesterday. This helped since we now have a better idea of what we should do in the classroom. I certainly felt more prepared for the tasks I’m asked to complete.

The ride to the school was chaotic, as usual. I still cannot grasp how people navigate through all the lanes, the cars, the motorcycles, the bicycles, and the pedestrians. To me, it seems as if people go when they see an opening. Cars would turn and switch lanes while they’re turning as pedestrians dodge between the cars. At any moment, I expect to see a crash, but none has happened. The ride to and from the school is definitely a bit of an adrenaline rush.

At the school, I discovered a small fish pond near the entrance. We waited there while the students did their morning exercise. My roommate took this opportunity to get warmed up under the sun. I took some pictures of the fish in the ponds and of the students exercising.
My first class was pretty good. I had flashcards of the alphabet and use them to check the students’ recognition and pronunciation of the letters. We spent the whole class time checking and reviewing the letters. Next time, I will introduce some vocabulary and possibility some sight words. The students are in the vocabulary building stage of English language acquisition, so they need lots of repetition and practice.

My second class was also pretty good. They had already been introduced to the words that I reviewed with them to day. The students were enthusiastic and wanted to show what they knew. We spent the class going over the words in different ways. I think this is going to be the biggest challenge for me, finding different ways to review the same five to six words in a 40 minute class.

We came back to the hotel for lunch, then decided to rest until the afternoon session. On the ride back my roommate and I both felt that we were having a good day. Once again, our driver took us safely to the hotel.

The afternoon session was one regular English class and one interest class. Both classes went well for me and my roommate.

During dinner, Baoli had a brochure for a dance performance that highlighted Yunnan’s ethnic minorities’ heritage. It looks interesting, and I hope I have a chance to go see it. Tomorrow, she is going to teach us some Chinese.

- Dee

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Three Bottles of Water in my Life

by Christina, a Chinese English teacher in Kunming

These days are cold in Kunming, so I always need some more hot water to warm my body. When I was pouring water, suddenly I thought that I was this red empty bottle. I’m so thirsty. Who can give the water? I admit there are lots of people had given me countless help. But who give me the first bottle of water? It was my mother. She's an ordinary woman and had worked in a factory for over 30 years. Now she's retired and stays at home everyday. But I've been to an honest, polite, or kind to other person because of her. I still remember, when I was a student in Grade 3, I loved to eat strawberry so much. I found there were some strawberries outside of our school planted by the farmers who lived nearby. After school I went to the strawberry’s field myself, and picked up a lot of fresh strawberries until I was so full. I felt I was so lucky because no farmers or dogs caught me. Then I hurried home quickly and told my mom how lucky I was. But after hearing my story, my mother told to me “No free lunch at all.” She took me to the farmer’s home and had me apologize for my action. She also paid him 10 yuan for the strawberry I picked. I thought that my mother had poured me the first bottle of water. That is to be honest and courageous to correct my mistakes.

Who gave me the second bottles of water? I think it was the dean of English department. Her name is Ou’Yangming. She always takes good care of us just like her kids. And she knows each student’s needs very well. Before I was to graduate from university, I was confused what I can do in the future. I was the chairman of student union in the university, and also I loved to join all kinds of students’ actives, such as speech competition, dancing or singing. I even became a tourist guide when the World EXPO Garden was held in Kunming. Of course I earned some money, but I was still not sure about my job. I was not sure weather I could be an excellent teacher or other professionals. At that time, Mrs Ou told me:“You should be an English teacher in primary school but not in the middle school. You’re so smart, funny and active. The students will like you, and you have learnt English for many years. They need you. I think you have reasonability and ability to teach them to learn English very well. It’ll be your return to our society.” So I choose my job as an ordinary English teacher in a primary school called Chunyuan primary school. Until now, I’ve been a professional English teacher for 10 years. I think my choice is right, because I’m so happy everyday now, because the children I’ve taught are so pure, lovely. On every Teacher’s Day, they give me some little gifts to thank for my hard work. I feel I’m so lucky because I choose the right job for me, because I got the second bottle of water in my life.

Now after being an English teacher for ten years, I feel bored of the routine work. Sometimes I even imagine me like a famer and my students like the plants. My work is just like farmers planting crops in the fields every year. This feeling makes me very uneasy. But my mind has been changed by the Global Volunteers teachers who have come to teach us. I am shocked by their action. Many of them have retired, but they still fill every student with great enthusiasm. Everyday my dear teacher Danielle and Aleatha greet us with the most beautiful smiles. They are always so patient when talking with us even we have made lots of mistakes. Also, we have learned that Global Volunteers not only teach English in China, but also help special needs children, people in rural village. I am deeply inspired by your spirit. You have given me the third bottle of water in my life. Thank you so much!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday, November 13

Thought of the day: “You have more power than you realize! One person can’t make much of a difference, we tell ourselves. But that’s just not true. One’s smile can brighten someone’s spirits. One word can improve their whole outlook. And one kind action can set off a chain reaction that changes everything. And you can start it.”

After breakfast, Ted read a very humorous account of the day’s activities which had us all laughing—a very good start to the day that made us all forget it was Friday the 13th, all this and he was not feeling well. It’s another beautiful day, and as we head off to teach, Bill keeps teachers on their toes and we had a busy morning with discussions and British/American words and phrases. Lunch at the Golden Flavor Hot Pot restaurant was exactly as it sounds and lived up to it, but then Ted was not there to add humor to our lunch—we miss him. He was not up to it, so left halfway through class. We were joined at lunch by Chris and a volunteer, Margie Shuler from Abilene, Texas, who is teaching at a local boarding school for a semester, she had previously done Global Volunteers (in Xi’an) and was very excited to see us. After much ado, we were brought a firepot each, then bowls of tomato soup (or clear broth, or “hot” broth), lots of raw vegetables, meat, noodles, etc., which you then cooked in the firepot, talk about cooking your own lunch.

On our free afternoon, various activities took place. Bill and Louisa swam and caught up on e-mail and even found a magnifying glass; myself and Eleanor went to the Yunnan Provincial Museum, exploring ancient artifacts. Aleatha slept, while Danielle swam. Little did we know Ted was busy getting dessert from Walmart, which we found out when he made an appearance at dinner. In fact, we had two desserts, as one of Aleatha’s students brought some bayberries which we all shared.

By Brenda

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday, November 12

Thought for the day: “People lie down, chickens lay eggs.”

Much of each day’s activity is similar to the previous days. In the Navy, we had an expression to cover such a situation: “Steaming as before.” So this journal scribe will not discuss events similar to the other days, only variations.

Group members had discovered how to get eggs the way they wanted them. Ted took a thousand words or so to deliver a six-word thought for the day. Aleatha used as many to describe the previous day. Then Sgt. Major Bao Li shaped up and sent her motley platoon off the carry the GV banner over the ramparts of Kunming University. Classes as usual from 8:30-11:30, back to the hotel for lunch, and then back to school for the Danielle Special Performance. It was a tour de force!

After a quick turnaround at the hotel, we headed down the back alley to the strangely named “Jordan Café.” Special plaudits for the pumpkin and the soup. The standing pig ribs were artistically impressive but very tenacious in retaining its meat until Bao Li and Eleanor wrestled it into submission.

And that’s the way it was, in a slightly imaginative way, on Nov. 12 09 for the GV Team 178 in Kunming. Hey, we’re working hard, having fun, living well, and enjoying the fellowship of a young teachers, plus a group of mostly over-the-hill volunteers under a superb leader. Can’t wait to see what happens on Friday, the 13th.

by Ted

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 11

Thought for the day: “The more a child feels valued, the better his/her values will be.”

At breakfast, Ted reminded us of the historical significance of this day. He shared some tragic statistics of the final 6 hours before the official armistice was signed, a history that is detailed in Joseph Persico’s book “11-11-1918.” The air was crisp as we boarded our van for our second full day of teaching. The tone of our voices indicated greater confidence, now that we were acquainted with our teachers.

We had much to share over another bountiful lunch. I related that I had never had so many students escort me for a trip to the toilet! Brenda and Bill told how that had such meaningful stories with their prior assignments for written and oral stories. The trust level was evident in the painful experience that one student told about—losing his mother too early—and changing his life in tribute to her.

Eleanor and Ted had exercises for teaching homonyms and synonyms. The students were flabbergasted when Eleanor gave some examples in Mandarin!

Sally and Louisa continued their restaurant game—some interesting questions came up regarding paying the bill in different situations. They also had students take turns in introducing a partner to the group.

Danielle had presented the 5 stages of life (infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and senior citizens) and how they could be used with a grid of terms—what make you who you are, i.e. heredity, environment, culture, education, experience—and then illustrated this with persons in the news from movie/rock stars to Michelle and Barack Obama. She also had the students do a “quick write” about their favorite teachers.

The afternoon was free for everyone to plan on their own. We met in the lobby for a brisk walk to the Yunnan Flavor Restaurant, with a stop at the top of the bridge for a photo session. Costumed greeters welcomed us and an old mill wheel was to the left as we crossed over the water to the restaurant.

We had tasted many dishes and were feeling rather full before a humongous bowl of clear broth was set in front of each of us. We were warned that it was very hot. Then the famous noodles of the province and several other items were skillfully dumped into the broth. Our eyes got bigger as we wondered how we could ever consume even a small portion of the contents.

And then the show began. An encased piece of jewelry was presented for auction by the mistress of ceremonies, but no one responded to the minimal bid, so it was taken away. There were dancers, musicians, drummers, all in colorful costumes, presenting once at after another. The old children’s saying of “Liar, liar, pants on fire” had new meaning as performer inserted flaming torches below their navels as they manipulated their “circular tablecloth” costumes with the other hand. Not something that either of our males intend to demonstrate when they get home! Then one man scaled the narrow ladder to the left of the stage and we became aware that it was made of knives! Another feat that won’t be attempted by any of us! He was amazing.

Back at the hotel after another memorable day.

By Aleatha

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday, November 10th

Thought for the day:

“It’s a very ancient saying
But a true and honest thought,
That if you become a teacher,
By your pupils you’ll be taught.” (The King and I, Rogers & Hammerstein)

At breakfast, Bill read his well-written account of Monday. Some discussion of the order in which the “thought of the day” was assigned, but we got it figured out. Bao Li sent us off to our first full morning of teaching with a reminder to slow down and not talk too fast.

It was a particularly beautiful day, streets alive with cars, curiously silent motor scooters, and bicycles. “Spring every day in Kunming,” a sign said, and it was correct.

Sally and I had a good morning with the “students,” who expressed themselves more freely and at greater length. Several of them voiced concerns about management of their own classrooms and wanted ideas about how to get students to want to learn English. A couple of the mature teachers offered some suggestions, like getting to know your students well, using games, etc.—but it was clear that some of these teachers were facing major challenges, such as children with absent parents or parents who “didn’t take care of” their children. We assured them that the U.S. has similar problems.

At lunch, we volunteers what had gone well. Bill and Brenda said that some in their group had responded at length to the question “How did you meet your spouse?” and that “Take me out to the ball game” (requiring some explication) had been a hit. Ted and Eleanor took students outside for the final hour and had a good q and a on American culture. Danielle and Aleatha had their group share information about their teaching, in particular what they liked about it, what was easy, and what was challenging.

We went back to the college at 2 pm for the afternoon session. Bao Li gave a very concise and informative talk about Global Volunteers’ philosophy and its work in China. This was a case when Power Point was obviously very useful and made the talk easier to follow. (Sometimes in the US, I find it silly to have people read what’s on a screen.)

We then divided into small discussion groups, which gave us a chance to talk to teachers not in our group, which all enjoyed.

Back at the hotel at 5 pm, caught our breaths or did preparation and/or errands, dinner at 6. The variety of the delicious dishes that keep coming is truly remarkable. At around 7, Mr. Ma, a travel agent/tour guide, came to talk to us about possible weekend excursioning. This journalist was fading fast so did not follow the ensuing discussion closely, but could tell that Aleatha was doing a great job of figuring out a Plan. We are gong to the Stone Forest for a half-day on Saturday, then be on our own for the rest of the weekend. There are several things in and around Kunming we’d like to see—it has much to offer.

A full day!

by Louisa

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday, November 9

Thought for the day: “The Perfect is the enemy of the good.”

We began our first day of teaching with at 7:30 breakfast. Bill, suspecting we were not absolutely ready for the challenges ahead, tried to put the class at ease with the thought of the day. By 7:55, we were well fed, and Sally read the Sunday journal. She also gave us a thought for the day.

Bao Li gave us some beautiful new water bottles and some teaching tips, including: speak slowly, use simple words, use the blackboard, don’t correct students on the spot—keep a list to discuss later, and don’t use cursive writing or all caps on the blackboard. She encouraged us to break the ice with humor, games, and songs.

At 8:30, we piled into our trusty bus and were ensconced in our front row seats of the multi-media room when the opening ceremonies began promptly at 9. The dignitaries were on a raised platform in front of us and the 62 students seated behind us.

Mr. Xiong, Director of the Teachers Training Center, was host, and welcomed us all. He introduced the others on the platform: Mr. Liu, Vice President of Kunming University;

Mr. Wu Chief of the Teachers Training Divisions; and our own Bao Li. Mr. Ha, the Director of the Foreign Affairs Office at the Kunming Teachers College, translated for everyone.

All speakers were warm in their welcome. Bao Li told of the mission of Global Volunteers which went beyond teaching English to making the world a more peaceful place, friendship by friendship. She said we volunteers were here to learn as well as to teach. She then invited the volunteers to introduce themselves. We echoed her overall theme: that we had come to help and also to learn.

Mr. Wu spoke next, and emphasized that Kunming was beginning to open itself to the outside world, so programs like ours were essential. Vice President Liu spoke last and stressed the importance of English in the global economy. Kunming itself was at a turning point, and to make sure it makes the best of it, we all had to make this program even better than before. He closed with warm words which concluded the formal ceremony.

Next, Mr. Li Baokun (Chris), gave all the student teachers their groups and assigned each group to a team of volunteers. We all repaired to our appointed rooms and had our first contact with our students. By the time we were settled in our classes, only about an hour and a quarter remained.

We regrouped at lunch to compare notes. Each group was warm in its praise of the students themselves. All groups found the students not only willing but also eager to participate.

The afternoon was spent variously in recreation and class preparation, including a trip to the stationary store for supplies.

At dinner, Bao Li questions about what we were prepared to do individually or collectively to fill the afternoon lecture slots produced lively discussions. The upshot was that Danielle would lead a discussion on Thursday, Nov. 12 on changes in education, using a time line. We would then break the students into small groups to continue the discussion. All volunteers agreed to participate in the small group discussions.

Then on Tuesday, Nov. 17, most, if not all, volunteers agreed to give short presentations on some aspect of their careers.

by Bill

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thought of the day: “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Red Skelton, Favorite son.

The first full day in Kunming for the entire Global Volunteers 178 Team opened at 7:15 a.m. with breakfast in our private dining room. Our orientation session began at 8 am in the hotel conference room. Project manager Wang Bao Li explained the origin of Global Volunteers’ teams in China, beginning in Xi’an in 1996, continuing with programs in An Shang in 2002, Kunming in 2005, and Hainan in 2007. She stressed the dedication and the hard work of all those involved and the positive results.

We discussed the Global Volunteers philosophy, characteristics of a team, and rules to be followed. Eleanor, Louisa, and Bill volunteered to be in charge of the daily journal, Brenda and Danielle for Health and Safety, Aleatha for free time activities, and Louisa, Ted, and Sally for the final celebration on November 20.

The next subject concerned our host the Kunming University Teachers Training Department. These representatives are Mr. Wu Yanming, Chief of Teachers Training Division, Bureau of Education; Mr. Yao Zhongquing, President of the College; Mr. Xiong Shaohong, Director of the Training Center; Mr. Li Chunfu (Tom), office staff; Mr. Ha Jinhua, Director of Foreign Affairs Office of the College; and Ms. Kora Lin (summer), staff of Foreign Affairs Office.

Bao Li announced we would be working with 62 teachers of English from Yunnan Province, two groups from middle schools, two groups from elementary schools, and four or five teachers from kindergarten. We will leave for the school at 8 am and begin classes at 8:30, Monday through Friday. Two days a week, we will also teach in the afternoon.

We then adjourned. Many headed for 711, the storage area for teaching materials.

We met as a group again at 5:30 pm and proceed to a restaurant hidden in a quiet corner near Green Lake, where we met for an evening of good food with our local hosts. Mr. Ding, Vice Director of the Teacher Training Center; Mr. Li (Chris); Mr. Liu, Vice Principal of the University; Mr. Ha; Mr. Xiang; Mr. Qian; and Mr. Na and Mr. Guan, our drivers for the next two weeks.

by Sally

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday May 22, 2009

Thought for the day: “A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway”

Friday morning – our last breakfast together as a team. We chat about our day before - Thursday. Julia invited the 7 of us who taught at the Bio/Med Tech College back to her home for a “Dumpling Party”. She had everything ready for us. We took our shot at “stuffing” the dumplings, and then they were cooked for us. We spent over 2 hours eating dumplings and vegetables, talking, and even sipped a bit of “Great Wall” wine. After we all had our fill, we stayed a bit longer so as to not “Eat and Run”. More photos and sharing, and for me – a bit more Great Wall wine. If it was up to Julia, we would have stayed all afternoon.

After breakfast we all left for our last day in class. A lot of sad goodbyes and a few tears and as always, many “thank yous” and “Please come back soons”.

In the afternoon we had our “Team Farewell Party”. Members from all 4 work sites came to the hotel. Students from the La La Shou School and the Bio/Med Tech College also joined us.

Bao Li began by thanking all of us – volunteers and worksite reps – for our hard work. The microphone was then passed around and we all took turns doing the same. I told my students and teachers that I had a wonderful time and would be back in the Fall.

Then it was “Showtime”
John and Ken sang songs and danced with their students from the La La Shou School. It was touching to see the students follow John and Ken. They concluded with a song I believe is called “Have a grateful heart & never give up” and as the song began, the students from the Bio/Med Tech College joined them “on stage” and stood behind them, lending support. Not a dry eye in the house.

The Bio/Med students then sang for us, followed by a beautiful solo by Jenny – only 16 but with the voice of an angel. Helen, a teacher at the Bio/Med School who nicknamed me “Naughty Boy” the first day she met me, performed a harmonica solo. Yes, harmonica.

Then it was our turn to “shine”. Our team danced a Hula, and then sang songs selected for their reference to some of the states we were from. All great fun, and fortunately NOT YET on YouTube.

The teachers and students from the Bio/Med College then sang for us and we concluded the performance by singing “Auld Lang Zine” together. We took more photos, and said our goodbyes, and the party ended.

That evening, Hu Di – the China country manager - arrived to join us for our last dinner together as a team. We took MORE photos, and said our goodbyes.

After dinner, Ken, John, Joanne, Lucy and I joined Leigh and two of her friends on a last visit to the “Big Wild Goose Pagoda” and park. Seemed simple enough – jump in a few taxis and meet there. Except each taxi dropped us off in a different location. Add a million Chinese, and of course we could not find each other. After over an hour of some of us finding each other, then losing each other, then finding each other again, we met for a final drink and chat and photo opportunity. Then back to the hotel to pack.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday May 21, 2009

Thought for the day: “Make the most of yourself, that is all there is of you.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is development work, really? And what are we here to help China, a civilization and a people group many thousands of years old, develop into exactly? These are questions that have been running through my mind throughout my time here. In addition, who are we, as outsiders, to think that we have something of value to offer here?

I am often struck by the stares I receive on the street. I cannot tell how most people feel about my presence here. The reality is that most people probably do not give my presence a lot of thought, but still I wonder: “Do they think I am just another foreigner coming in, trying to impose my foreign ways upon the? And am I? I appreciate the philosophy of Global Volunteers, that we only go where we are invited and only stay as long as we are needed.

In my time here, I have seen that child protection laws in China are not nearly as extensive as they are in the states. This has caused me to wonder how culture affects the development of and expression of universal human values. When I get to know Chinese people, though, I feel that the differences between us are only superficial, and at a deep level, we are all the same.

Chinese people understand as well as anyone that it is good to protect the small and weak members of society, and the protection of the weakest members is something with which all societies struggle. If there were not a human tendency for the strong to overrun the weak, then there would be no need for child protection laws in any country. I wonder at what point without societal development laws protecting weaker members tend to emerge. Does a society have to be at a comfortable place in its own economic development in order for the government to take on the cause of all of its weakest members? Many children certainly fall through the cracks in the U.S. system, as well. Whatever the problem is, it is one of degree and not one of a kind, because it exists in all societies.

Can we ever overcome our selfish inclinations to look out only for ourselves: Probably not, but maybe there is still something good that can come out of development work. In the grand scheme, of course we hope that development work benefits those whom we come to serve, yet I cannot help but be struck by how greatly I find myself changed and benefited by the work. Perhaps this feeling of personal change and growth is part of what we are seeking in an experience such as this one. It’s not entirely altruistic, but no human endeavor ever really is. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing, after all.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday May 20, 2009

Thought for the day:
Confucius say: Equitable apportionment of lazy Susan only derived by astute planning

A few impressions of my days teaching at Biomedical Technical College:

Being the only male student in the class is difficult enough but after all the girls described their names a “sweet flower”, “beautiful girl”, and “lovely lotus”, when asked to define his Chinese name it was apparent that no definition was forthcoming. And so he became known as William. After several girls had introduced themselves with information about their villages, etc I gave William a smile and a nod. After much hesitation he arose. In quite good English, he spoke a sentence. The teacher who was assisting me whispered to me, “Those are first English words I have ever heard him speak”. She was his regular English teacher and William was one of 62 students. For me this was a heart warming moment and I imagine William must have had his own unique feelings as well. Just about that time the teacher figured out what the translation of William’s Chinese name is ”King Dragon” and thus William became King Dragon – a well deserved name. I await my next meeting with King Dragon this morning.

My cultural learning continued at dinner tonight as Baoli announced that she rather enjoys a good plate of fried scorpions. I suggested perhaps I join her for such a delicacy. I was quite relieved to learn the scorpions are not a menu item in Xi’an. Millipedes and cockroaches from the Beijing market, anyone? Some even more exotic delicacies we’ve discovered on the hotels’ Chinese menu, by Leo of course, eliciting surprises from the men and exclamations of shock by the women. My interests were solely as biology major. What better way to have discovered some of the culinary specialties of China than during our evening meal together.

More than anything else, I will remember my experience here in Xi’an as “one big smile”.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday May 19, 2009

Thought for the day: “When a ruler’s personal conduct is correct, he will be obeyed without the issuing of orders. If his personal conduct is not correct, he may issue orders but they will not be followed.”
- Chinese Proverb

When I get home I will have to give my sheep and chickens extra rations as payment for all the material they’ve provided me. My students are enchanted by my hens that lay colored eggs, my cat who speaks three words, and my black sheep. Without my animals I would be sunk. My team mates all have such special and unique skills.

Karen has totally swept the students and teachers off their feet with her expertise with Hawaiian music and the hula. What a wonderful gift to the students.

Sandy shines as our prestigious professor. His eye-catching ties will keep his students awake if his lectures do not.

As far as the younger crowd, Leigh has stepped up to the plate in all challenging jobs, as have Ken and John. They have shown us oldsters a thing or two about grace under pressure and serving without complaint.

Other Bob’s infectious laugh lifts our spirits as we sometimes drift into fatigue.

We have a resident artist in our midst in the person of Gail, who talented as she is, is able to bring out artistry in our students.

Lucy’s enthusiasm is matched only by the wealth of tools and ideas with which she tirelessly delights her students.

Stalworth Bob’s entertaining formats and keen observations give us a fresh perspective in looking at things.

Last but certainly not least is our ring leader Leo. He is our heartbeat. What would we do without him – what will he do without us?

Not surprisingly under our outstanding team, Baoli’s subtle guidance we have evolved into a team that I feel without a doubt has left its mark on this little corner of the world in China.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday May 18, 2009

Thought for the day: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read” - Groucho Marx

I’m a fan of old Marx Brothers movies from the 1930’s. This past week at LaLa Shou, I’ve often felt like a straight man in one of those films, swept up by the schools frenetic energy. Like silent Harpo, I communicate by pantomime. And because of the language barrier, I feel as though I’m experiencing the school in black and white, much as these children must live their lives.

But the teachers at LaLaShou, through humor and patience and unflagging energy, are determined to give the kids lives that are rich in color. I work with three teachers in a class of 10 students. One teacher is 22, the other two are 25. They are caregivers, wrestlers, therapists. The room is filled with twitches and shouts, with hopping and stomping and moans. They never lose their temper. The teachers will correct kids – they will be firm. This morning, a boy I’ve taken to calling “Sleeves”, because he likes to lift your sleeves up to your shoulders, punched the boy sitting next to him in the back. And then he did it again – despite being corrected. After a third shot, a teacher smacked his hand, not hard, but enough to get his attention. And then she said something that sounded to me like “Not so much fun when it happens to you, huh.” And then she kissed him.

LaLaShou is not a sad place – The students are usually smiling, the teachers seem always to laugh. The affection they have for the kids is obvious: the way they cup a hand around a child’s cheek, the way they giggle when a child says something cute. In fact, my biggest regret is that I’m missing out on so much of the comedy, though I find myself laughing too.

I don’t think I’m helping much here. The language barriers are too great. I often feel like the 11th student. But I think the teachers like having me around. I’m an English-speaking novelty; a break from their exhausting routine. So I smile, more than I ever have before, and I do whatever I can to ease their load rather than add to it. I consider it a privilege to know these strong, spirited women, who help these children to experience life outside of the dog, away from the dark.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday May 17, 2009

Thought for the day: To experience difference is to know oneself. – unknown

I still get up very early in the morning – tired and annoyed at myself and this jet lag that just won’t go away. But then, this is quiet time and a chance to reflect on all that has happened. I have experienced much, gained much and I think, accomplished something. And we’re only one week into our two week commitment. This is quite a team that GV has assembled. I do feel fortunate to be a part of this collection of committed, caring individuals, very different from myself and yet, very much alike. The sense of discomfort and unease that I initially felt – being a part of this group of strangers and being in a place where I was unable to speak the language, unable to understand gestures and behavior – was difficult and disorienting. But after a week, my perceptions and reactions have changed. The stares in the elevator still get to me and I am still embarrassed when someone walks up to me and starts speaking to me in Chinese. But now I see past the unfamiliar. I see more of the humanity that I share with the Chinese people. It is the smiles and warmth that lifts my spirits and it is the rich traditions and history of this great land that awes me. When I observe something I do not understand, I realize it’s because we are different and that difference is what enriches this experience. And in the end I do think China and I are slowly becoming friends.

Team Journal:
It is Sunday, another free day, and all of us looked forward to further exploring Xi’an city and Shaanxi Province. Lucy, Leigh, Karen, Bob and I headed to the Shaanxi country side on Tour #3 to see a part of Chinese life that is in sharp contrast to life in Zi’an city. We were greeted in the hotel lobby by our guide Ellen. And left on a 90 minute drive to a small village south (?) of Xi’an in the HuXian County. Upon arrival we were greeted by Mr. Zhang Qingyi, a local wheat farmer and renowned water color and wood burning artist. He informed us that the village had a population of about 670 and that the farmers grew mostly wheat and corn- he himself works 8 acres of farmland. He quickly escorted us to his family home and gallery where villagers were awaiting our arrival. There we were treated to a dragon dance (which Lucy, Leigh and Bob later participated in) and to the rhythms of a drum and cymbal played by four village men.

After that warm welcome, Mr. Zhang took us on a walking tour of his farming village where we met local villagers,, toured an older home, walked by wheat fields and kiwi growers and visited the villages, Pureland Buddhist temple.

For lunch we returned to his home for a wonderful meal of hot and cold local dishes prepared by his wife and daughter-in-law. After we proceeded upstairs to his main art gallery and studio where he demonstrated his water color and wood burning techniques.

We were then given time to browse and to purchase some of his art works (which we did).
In ending the visit, Mr. Zhang took us to the village’s primary school. There we met some teachers and walked through a classroom. School was not in session.

Rural life appeared to be a very difficult one. As Mr. Zhang said, while villagers do not have a lot of material goods, their spirits are strong.

In leaving, I think we were all in agreement that this was an invaluable tour – personal, different, real – and that we’d highly recommend it to future Global Volunteers.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday May 16, 2009

Thought for the day: “I know of no more encouraging fact then the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor:” -- Henry David Thoreau

“John?” The teacher approached me. “Yes”. “You help write” She gestured toward the west room of the small concrete-floored apartment. The room had a large window overlooking the building’s court yard. I was familiar with the writing exercise. I was to help the students practice writing his numerals.
The student held his arm out politely allowing me to enter the room first. Then he got two chairs from the corner and slid them up to the table at the window. It was raining outside and cool fresh air poured across the tabletop from the open window. I sat down with the student and opened the practice book to the first uncompleted page.

“Oh, seven today”. I looked down at the sheet. The teacher had drawn a grid – six rows, nine columns. In the left-hand column wee six neatly drawn sevens. The student was to copy the example into each of the boxes of the grid.

“Right here”, I said, and tapped my finger on the first blank box to try to draw his attention there. “Bah”. He half shouted and thrust his hand up to point to something outside the window. He turned his fourteen year old face to me – mouth and eyes smiling broadly. I tapped my finger a few more times and looked down at the sheet. He reached for his pencil box opened one side pulled out one of the pencils and examined the tip. A few more finger taps.

He looked down at the page, held the paper flat with his left hand and drew a seven with the right. He drew a second. He began a third but apparently dissatisfied with the first stroke, he reached for his pencil box and retrieved his eraser from a small compartment on the end with a magnetic clasp. He closed the box and paused to look at one of the stickers on it. I tapped my finger a few more times. He turned to look out the window. I put my hand on has and moved it toward the paper. He looked down, seemed to recall his dissatisfaction with the pencil stroke and reached for his eraser. He smeared away the pencil mark and started again. Better. Hew moved on to the fourth box, then the fifth. By the sixth his seven was looking more like a one.

I stopped his momentum and pointed for him to re-examine it. He reached for his eraser and re-drew it. Still a one. I put my hand over his and guided his hand and pencil to make a seven.

Then I helped him with another. He pushed my hand away and finished the final entry in the row himself. He moved his pencil to the beginning of the 2nd row. A sound came from the other room- one of the other students. He spun his head around to look, then looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back then looked down at the page and tapped my finger. He looked down and drew a neat seven next to the example the teacher had done. He reached for the pencil box again and got out another pencil and attempted to write, no mark. The pencil needed sharpening. Back to the pencil box to get out the sharpener. He pressed a button and small door flipped open and he pulled the sharpener out of its slot. He put the pencil in and started turning. Crack. The tip broke off. I handed him the original pencil. “Maaa”, he cried. I helped him sharpen the pencil with the broken tip and he returned to the paper. He drew another seven then turned his head to look out the window. I tapped my finger. He looked down and drew another seven. Not as good as the previous one but still acceptable. He paused, then flipped forward to the next page in the practice book. Another page of sevens was waiting. He flipped again. More sevens. He flipped again. There were the eights. He paused and stared. I turned the pages back to where we’d left off. He looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday May 15, 2009

Thought for the day: “Talking about Art is like dancing about architecture” - Steve Martin

The act of teaching is an art. Your intuition will tell you – if you listen – when to push, and when to slacken – when to praise, when to be silent – when to diverge, and when to stay on task.
At 9:09 as we walked thru the dark corridors of the school towards our classrooms, Robert asked me, “Are you feeling better?”

I’d told him in the bus I’d woken at 1:30 and how tired I was. Still heavy with fatigue I told him, No. I’m still really tired”, and I wondered if my tiredness would effect my teaching.

But did anyone ever devise a more wonderful way to begin your work day! Seventeen girls sitting in a small u-shape turned toward me as I came into the room; they smiled and clapped their hands and said/ Welcome-Welcome!” and for three hours I forgot my fatigue completely.

I smiled and thanked them and walked to the table by the window and took about a minute to set out my supplies. I went to the table in front of the room and said, “Good morning, class”. They stood and in unison replied Good Morning”. They sat down and we began our day.

I introduced myself. I asked them each to stand and say their names. I wrote one sentence at a time on the board and then read it aloud. If it was a long sentence we broke it into parts. We practiced the more difficult words. If the meaning of a word was unclear I pantomimed the word or drew quick simple sketches. Sometimes I asked Fisher the teacher to say the word in Chinese to save us time – in order that we didn’t lose momentum. I signed into California and U.S.A with maps and photos. I asked them to tell me their town. We did sentences “(name) lives in (town) which they recited aloud. All the time I kept in mind my wonderful French teacher Mrs. Chavdarian and all the various ways she conducted the drills and how she helped us all – brave and timid alike- to try.

She would call on me to recite and say with a radiant smaile “Vous ete un bon studiante, Robert”., and I would blush and be seated. Never once did she leave French and lapse into English.

Drills with pictures of Chinatown evolved easily into pictures of my daughters and their artwork – and photos of my cats. I asked them to guess Amber’s age from her photo and they were all amazed when I wrote her age on the board.

I wrote “I have two cats” on the board and asked “What is a cat?”. One girl went “mew-mew”. I pretended to not see her. I cupped my hand to my ear and said “I hear a cat,” and I looked down at their feet. When I came to the girl who’d mewed I feigned surprise. * My situation here is perfect. I cannot lapse into Chinese. “You! I said, “you are the cat!”. And for a few seconds l7 cats mewed. Only then did I show the pictures of my cats.

About half-way through the morning, we went to the workbook. I moved my stool into the top of the U so I sat within 6 to 8 feet of all of them. I made eye contact and smiled and moved quickly, trying not to act rushed. I remembered Mrs. Chavdarian and heaped praise on each person.

We first went over vocabulary and then read the dialogues and the paragraphs. Frequently I went to the board to write or sketch a diagram. I asked Fisher to explain what “good” meant because I said it after every response and I could tell they were pleased to know I was praising them

At the end of the morning we had 8 minutes. Fisher said, “They would like for you to teach them a song”. I said I couldn’t think of one but I would teach them a tongue-twister. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many peppers did Peter Piper pick? A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many peppers did Peter Piper pick?” We did one line at a time in unison. Then I had them do it all and of course it collapsed into bedlam- as it is supposed to do – with laughter and applause.

I ended by thanking them for being such good students, said “Xie-Xie”, and “bye-bye” and thus ended on of my most gratifying teaching days.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday May 14, 2009

Thought for the day: “May every creature abound in well-being and peace.” Buddhist tradition

I woke about 5 a.m. to heavy rain again. We’ve had only brief sun, but hope for more at the weekend. So we prepared to take umbrellas, rain jackets, and some warm cover as it promises to be cold as well.

Today we teach for just three hours. Unfortunately, the rain wreaked havoc with the traffic and we were about half an hour late – so I raced off to class. I had a junior dental technology class and I believe that their English was less advanced than any previous class I’ve had. They were energetic and willing (with two exceptions) but it was quickly obvious that they understood very little, at least initially. I let my English teacher help only when absolutely necessary as I feel that they need to try and listen to my talking, my speech. They followed words I wrote on the board about myself, my interests and my family, particularly since I told them that I wanted them to share similar information with me later. We looked at photographs and pictures and they repeated words after me. But it took an extra bit of energy to try to make them understand.

After lunch, thanks to Joann’s suggestion about spending the rainy afternoon in the Shaanxi History Museum, five of us took taxis there – just over $2.00 each taxi. The museum is fairly small (almost more gift shops than art) but very well laid out with decent signage. Since I know something about Chinese dynasties, I found the Han, Sue, Tang and Ming dynasties exhibits fascinating – We learned about the early Han explorers who walked to the west (taking silk and iron) He is regarded by the Chinese much the way Marco Polo is regarded by the West – only over l,000 years earlier. When we left the museum at l: 50 the rain had stopped (Hallelujah) and we got a taxi immediately for about $2.00 (13.5 Yuan) I gave him 15 yuan. Oh yes, I bought a cinnabar covered bowl (got it for “half price”) from the Friendship House at the museum.

We returned for a fascinating lecture about Chinese names as well as the Chinese Family Policy given by Baoli (very well done) just before dinner – Another rewarding day!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday May 13, 2009

Thought of the day: The earliest we can begin any project is now, and if not now, when? Anonymous

On the third day of our work in Xi’an, it seems as if the volunteers have found a philosophy, a routine and a way of working with the gaps between our expectations and the reality of our missions here. As for those gaps, speaking only for myself as a volunteer assigned to the Technical College, I have been impressed both by the positives and the negatives. I have been overcome by the warmth of the welcome given us by the staff and the students, as well as by the affection expressed by the students inside and outside of the classroom. At the same time, I have been disappointed by the low level of knowledge of English and the reluctance of many to make the effort necessary to achieve even a basic proficiency. I know we were warned, but I was not quite prepared for the reality.

The day began in the usual way with breakfast, the reading of yesterday’s journal, and the ride to the campus. When we reached the campus, the students were again waiting for us, and greeted us by standing and applauding. I began my class by introducing myself and then giving the students five minutes to write answers to simple questions about their family structure, their hobbies, and their goals for life after college. I taught them the friend song (Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other, gold.) We then talked about the United States a bit with the aid of a US map, and a look at the soft plastic world model the school possesses. We made some comparisons between the U.S. and China. We sang the “small world song, and the students remarked that it was much like a song sung at the Olympics. I then tossed the globe to one of the boys, and after he recovered from his surprise, asked him to read the information about himself he had written. He then threw the globe to one of his classmates, who followed suit, and we proceeded until the whole group had performed. It seemed easier to do this and more fun than to go systematically all around the class. I made some corrections of pronunciation, and got most of them to improve (followed by much praise). I drew a stick figure on the board, and labeled most of the body parts in English. We then played a rousing game of Simon Says, using the body part vocabulary. We took a break, during which about six girls decided it was time to teach me Chinese. So we had an impromptu lesson much enjoyed by all, as it provided some comic relief.

After the break I made the mistake of turning to a unit in the text but working on a paragraph instead of a dialogue, through my misunderstanding of instructions. It became clear that the students were not prepared to read even a few words aloud, much less understand their meaning in context. After about 20 agonizing minutes, which included heavy contribution by the assistant and much role playing, I gave up. We then looked at some photos of Lucy’s lifestyle, each with short captions which the students were able to read. This took us to lunch. Lunch was much like yesterday, except that we substituted hilarious finger and shadow play for the singing of national anthems. Though the menu included some mystery foods such as ancient eggs and some delicious but sinister looking eggplant, once again Julia had found delicious food and we had a great time.

The afternoon class was the high point of the day. The students were more advanced and more ready to participate than the morning contingent. We skipped introductions and did some songs and some games, with work on pronunciation and developing some vocabulary. During the break, one of the girls asked if she could sing a Chinese song. She sang a long selection from a Chinese opera, after which she explained the plot in Chinese to the assistant, who then translated. The child has a velvet voice like an angel. It was an unbelievable experience. After the break we played Simon Says and then learned another song: “This Land is Your Land" We discussed love of country and the meaning of the song. One of the girls later confided that she loves her country and thinks it is pretty. It was then four o’clock. Both the assistant and I thought that was the end of the session. Before we left the classroom, the group burst into song: “You are my sunshine? When we found that we had 30 minutes to go, we found a vacant office, and after a few false starts where I tried to get conversations going, I decided to tell them a story. Speaking very slowly, and with some translation, I told them about Goldilocks and the three bears. When we got to Goldilocks trying out Poppa Bear’s bed, the bell rang and we left everyone in suspense including the assistant. I promised to finish next week, and will probably go on to the 3 pigs. We drove home, ate dinner, had an inconclusive discussion of tour choices, and realized we had reached the end of another day.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuesday May 12, 2009

Thought for the day: “The best way to learn something is to teach it.” Anonymous

I, too, feel like a superstar – from the moment I wake up in my lovely hotel room, eat a sumptuous breakfast in the company of good friends and greeted with applause by my adoring, yes, adoring students. Who wouldn’t feel like a rock star?

But I am here to learn and to teach and our morning meeting included a health alert by Baoli. She advised us to be extra vigilant – wash hands, cover mouth after sneezing avoid touching eyes, drink lots of water. She also gave us a very interesting cultural lesson on Chinese names and their different characteristics that the family name comes first, another woman keeps her formal family name and the children take the mother’s name as part of theirs. It is also important to incorporate the 5 elements; metal, earth, fire, wood, water – determined by the minute and hour the child was born.

At school we were officially welcomed by a group of faculty and administrators, including the president Mr. Liu.

Morning class went well with much laughter from both students and teacher. And I could not do my job without the help of my teaching assistant, Della, tho I’m sure she is starting to tire of my well used introduction and stories about my chickens and sleep. Today to liven things up for them I selected Del to be one of my sheep and I chased her around the room trying to lasso her before catching Del and throwing her (symbolically) on the ground for shearing. That led to a discussion on washing the wool, spinning, knitting hats and mittens, etc. I find that one thing often leads to another. I think the students are able to keep up.

Julia and some of the readers took us out to lunch at a restaurant just a couple of blocks from school. We all enjoyed a convivial meal singing national anthems and other songs. After lunch we strolled through a small park and Julia took many photos of us. We returned to school just in time to join a commemorative moment of silence for the earthquake victims.

My afternoon session was fun – I’ve found if I can get the students to laugh without making too big of a fool of myself it breaks the ice. The sheep lassoing trick usually does it but I sometimes add in a little Chinese lesson. I usually go around and ask how old they are. They tell me in English and I say it in Chinese. After about the tenth time they see how much I have improved and I tell them that’s how it works – they will too. Drive back to the hotel with the usual game of tag with pedestrians, bikes, trucks and this time one with a train thrown in. Lucy commented that she thought she saw one driver with his eyes shut.

Dinner and probably an early night of it for most of us as this was our first full day of teaching.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday May 11, 2009

The facilities at Xi’an Pei Hua University are drab. The halls are poorly lit and the offices are crowded. What a contrast with the students, who are exuberant, alert, and vitally interested in learning English. I was the fortunate recipient of all of this energy, greeted with thunderous applause as I entered the classroom – a superstar on my first day of teaching on behalf of Global Volunteers. I covered two classes under the direction of Cynthia, a superb English teacher with barely an office in the University.

This was Monday, so the initial activity was the presentation of two plays in English written by and acted in by the students. The students even memorized their parts. In general, they were clever and fun. Three of the four performances were adaptations of Chinese romantic plays, their version of Romeo and Juliet, cast into a modern version. One of them was a play about the relationship between children and their parents, the parents depicted as an apple tree. The play demonstrated that the children need the support of their parents even as they grow older. This gave me a great opportunity to introduce the idiom: “The apple does not fall far from the tree”.

After the presentations, I introduced myself, observing the intense level of interest on the part of the students. They applauded when I told them that I had a doctor’s degree in engineering. Then I showed them pictures of my family. They were enthralled with my grandchildren and my younger son’s cat, Po. This was followed by photos of my neighborhood and the interior of my house. They were interested in the difference between the living room and the family room, a question I had some difficulty answering.

Then I showed a map of the U.S. describing the various regions and discussing some of the most important states, including Illinois where I was born. They asked about the climate, and I gave some rough estimates of the temperature extremes. I had planned to follow this with presentations by the students describing their home provinces. We only got as far as Shaanxi Province, when the bell announcing the end of the first period rang. I will see this class again next week, and they made me promise that I would make time for presentations by students from other provinces.

During the following period, I presented pictures from Washington, DC and New York City after showing them my family and neighborhood. They were excited to see Barack Obama’s White House, and pictures of the cherry trees around the tidal basin. They explained that there are also cherry trees donated by the Japanese in Xi’an. The highlight of the New York City photos was Chinatown, pictures I had taken three weeks ago while visiting my son in NYC. Of particular interest to the students was the diversity of New Yorkers, demonstrated by pictures of African Americans and Asians sitting together on park benches in Central Park. This was followed by images of Chinatown, an unexpected treat.

I listed a number of topics on the blackboard for discussion, each with opportunities for the presentation of US and Chinese perspectives. They were asked to select their particular copies of interest, and they chose “pastimes.” I presented some of the favorite pastimes of Americans, and several of them got up to discuss music, hiking, and sporting activities in China. One of the gals sang a song written by one of her favorite popular music contemporaries she could easily qualify for American Idol. Then one of the few boys in the class came up to the front of the class and declared that he had a dream, just like Martin Luther King. When I asked him what it was, he explained that it was to embrace me. So we embraced. I realized that this would only be appropriate for one of the boys.

I brought with me a map of the world and told the class that my wife and I had done a lot of traveling. They asked where we had been and I pointed out several of the countries we had visited. They were particularly interested in Africa, and wondered about economic conditions in South Africa.

Before the class ended, one of the students stood up and reminded that I had spoken several times about my wife, Gail. She asked whether we had a “romantic relationship.” I assured her that this was the case.

I enjoyed being a superstar for a day, and hope that I was able to enrich the English learning experience for a few of the students.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday May 10, 2009

Thought of the day: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (& women) do nothing.”

The formation of Team 173 began Saturday evening with our welcoming dinner hosted by Mrs. Wang Bao Li. We all met in our private dining room and introduced ourselves.

The 12 of us sat down around a huge round table with the largest glass lazy Susan we had ever seen. We broke the ice with the “name game” helped in part by our brand new Global Volunteers name tags which included our American name and a Chinese name selected by Bao Li. She has not told me what my Chinese name means. I have worked with Bao Li before and I am not sure I want to know what she calls me in Chinese.

We all spoke and gave the who, what, when, where and whys we were in Xi’an. Then the food began to arrive and just kept on coming until finally the watermelon and cherry tomato platter arrived and ended the food fest.

Then I remembered why Bao Li feds us so much on Saturday evening. She was getting us ready for our marathon 12 hour Sunday workday. That’s right, Mr. IRS Taxman – if you are reading this we worked 12 hours on Sunday.

Sunday began promptly at 7:20 am with our breakfast meeting. Then we were whisked to the 4th floor conference room where Bao Li told us about Xi’an, the history of G.V. in China, and our training to become a team began, interrupted occasionally by fireworks outside our window – a wedding! We discussed our goals, the characteristics of a good team, how to stay alive and not get robbed in Xi’an, and the policies and guidelines of G.V. 4 ½ grueling hours later, surviving only on tea and hard candy, we broke for lunch and an afternoon break.

At 3pm, representatives from the 4 schools where we would be teaching arrived, told us about their schools, and they proceeded to thank us for 2 hours. We met teachers and students from the Biomed/Tech College, and their excitement and enthusiasm at the opportunity to work with us was overwhelming. We are needed here, and we are appreciated here 24/7. This is always the case on all 5 of my Global Volunteers trips.

Our day ended with a dinner meeting and at 7:20pm I returned to my room, Tsing Tao in hand, to begin to prepare for my 3, yes 3 weeks ahead.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kunming-A Place for a Cool Summer and a Warm Heart

(with pictures from the summer programs in 2008)

This is going to be Global Volunteers’s 5th summer in the City of Eternal Spring (Chinese nickname for Kunming). Our hosts are getting excited and prepared to welcome three teams of our volunteers in June,July and August, Team 174, 175 and 176.

Team 174 (starting on June 20th) and Team 175 (starting on July 11th) will work with Kunming Teachers College to help with the Teachers’ Training Program provided by Teachers’ Training Center at the college. As all the teachers are required to take 10-credit training course during the summer to maintain their qualification as government-sponsored teachers, the school campus is always busy with classes filled with teachers. Our program offers the local English teachers an incredibly valuable opportunity to improve their English speaking and listening skills with the help of native English speakers.

The volunteers are paired up to teach a group of 10-12 teachers in small classes in the morning and rotate to hold afternoons sessions with other volunteer team members. While the mornings are focused on English pronunciation, idioms and slangs and speaking skills, the afternoon sessions cater to the teachers’ interest to learn English songs and games, western cultures and western education system, etc. On some afternoons, volunteers and teachers will join a field trip together to Flying Tigers Memorial, a local free market or a city park.

This is truly a program of friendship. During 2-week and 3-week period of time, the volunteers have the same English teaches as their students. They make friends in the classrooms, in the field trips and in friendship activities. The volunteers are often invited by the teachers to their home for tea, dinner, or making dumplings.

Team 175 (starting on August 1st) will have the honor to join a summer camp at Jinyuan (Golden Resource) Century School. The school is located in the biggest and most beautiful apartment complex of Kunming. The school has over 4,000 students enrolled from K to senior high school.

Our volunteers will teach conversational English to children of 12-17 years old. Each of the volunteers will have about 10 students for two-three weeks. The volunteers will teach in the morning for averagely three hours a day. In the afternoons, the volunteers will rotate to teach. Once a week, there will be a field trip planned to generate a more relaxing English learning atmosphere outside of classroom.

This school is directly administrated under Yunnan Provincial Education Bureau, which grants it more autonomous management abilities. After the school extended their invitation to Global Volunteers last summer, we piloted one-week program. It was a wonderful and successful experience for both the school and Global Volunteers.

Please consider joining us in Kunming this summer. Here you will find a cool summer and a warm heart!