China Team Journal

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