China Team Journal

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Spring into Service" in China!!

“Spring into Service” with Global Volunteers to receive a special limited discount offer for our March and April teams!

Four or more volunteers who apply by January 31 for any of these 28 teams in 16 countries will receive a discount of $200 off our standard service program fee, per volunteer, for one-, two- or three-week international programs or $100 off our standard service program fee, per volunteer, for USA programs. No other discounts apply.

Please encourage others to volunteer in our five fundamental project areas: education (especially promotion of girls education), labor and community infrastructure, health care, child care, and food and nutrition.

Call us at 800-487-1074 for details and we'll assist you every step of the way. Our worldwide host communities can’t wait to welcome you!!

Check out this link for more details & service program dates:

China Service Program, March & April Teams:
5-Mar-11 to 26-Mar-11
9-Apr-11 to 30-Apr-11

Friday, November 19, 2010

Please Vote for Global Volunteers this Weekend!

Global Volunteers is engaged in a contest entitled 'Full Page Project' - put on by the Star Tribune newspaper in the Twin Cities - through November 21 amongst Minnesota non-profits and the winner will receive a free full page ad in an upcoming addition of the Sunday paper!

Please vote for us this week ~ you can vote once per hour!

Here is the link where you can register and then vote for Global Volunteers (please copy and paste the link):

We would also encourage you to pass this link along to your family and friends, colleagues, classmates or students, and post it on your personal Facebook page or blog if you are able. Let us know if you have any questions, and remember voting goes until 5 p.m. Sunday!

Thank you for your support.

Team Journal ~ The Final Day

”We came, we saw, we loved, we treasured, we gave, we received, we will never forget.” Kunming Team 189

November 19, 2010

Thought for the day: "You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." Kahlil Gibran 'On Giving'.

In a way, the morning program we were invited to attend was also a morning of giving...from the school administration of all of us….first as a group and then individually.

We arrived at school and were ushered into what had been Mary and Joe's classroom. A wide space was given over for the two groups of students, all girls (with one solo male with the older group), who performed two tribal dances, complete with beautiful costumes and accompanying music via a recording. The school's principals, vice-principals, assistant principals along with our English teachers were all present, when we were asked to take a seat on the front rows. Water and those delicious Clementine’s were placed in front of us. In no time, cameras were ablaze as Serena translated the thank yous from the administration. Phyllis reciprocated by presenting to Mr. Dai a photo of this particular group standing in front of the school along with the logo of Global Volunteers superimposed at the bottom and with our signatures affixed. Phyllis also presented a card written by us expressing the warmth and enthusiasm we felt from both students and teachers during our two week stay. Phyllis further captured the moment of all of us by expressing our feelings of acceptance and friendship we've felt being amongst them. Lastly we were asked to come to front and center for more photo ops and a presentation by their art teacher to each one of us...a handsome 'poster'; each one different. Some related a story while others set out to explain a way of learning; of gaining knowledge; something we have all endeavored to get across to our students.

The program ended and we all met outside for one huge group photo, complete with our dancers. It was then time to say our good-byes, which, for some of us brought tears to not only our eyes, but to the eyes of a few of those dear teachers who could not accompany us to the planned luncheon. After all, there were classes yet to be taught and plenty of students to fill those rooms.

Annie and Lily along with dear Mr. Dai accompanied us to a lovely restaurant featuring 'across the bridge noodles', a local dish in which the noodles continue to cook in the hot broth while other items are added. The bowls are huge. We were met there by Shirley, Owen, Chris, the PE Teacher, Assistant Principal Wang and a lady at our table, unknown to me. We needed two tables to accommodate our crowd. It was during this meal, I learned the value of 'slurping' and it was essential form; even for those accustomed to the chopsticks; so I slurped with the best of them. Served next to this large bowl of soup was a much smaller bowl of what Shirley told us was another Yunnan specialty - steamed chicken soup. It was quite tasty.

We departed the restaurant to allow everybody to get back to school aned we were accompanied back to the hotel for the last time. Goodbyes were said; some teary eyes appeared; and then last minute plans for tomorrow morning and getting to the airport. Mary and Joe and been taken back to the hotel prior to the luncheon so they might make their mid-afternoon flight home. Curtis will be departing early tomorrow morning, even before breakfast time for a few more days in Dali. Barbara and Anita will be picked up by the school van around nine and Phyllis a bit later.

Back to our rooms for more packing and tidying up and then Barbara, Curtis, Phyllis and I walked over to Mama Fu's Restaurant nearby for a last dinner. We had planned to eat there earlier in the week but the rain threw a damper on any walk and so we left it for tonight. Nice meal and I can see why previous teams have suggested it. Not in the same league as previous wonderful minority dinners, mind you, but pleasant--especially their ribs.

So this is how our last school day in Kunming was spent. It did not seem possible that these two weeks have literally flown by the way they have. We've seen so many things, while in this most unusual place. We learned more from the students and their teachers than we possibly taught them and we had a feeling that would be the case. I for one feel all the richer for this experience and will forever have a soft spot in my heart for this Kunming experience.

Submitted by, Anita Verbeke

Monday, November 15, 2010

Team Journal, November 15

November 15, 2010

Thought for the day: "If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up somewhere else." Yogi Berra

Starting our second week with the usual breakfast at 8:00am, each of us have developed a pattern as to our likes and dislikes from the large and varied buffet. At our post breakfast briefing Phyllis put up the chart of “Characteristics of an Effective Team”. These were keywords we had brainstormed at our very first meeting. The ten items we listed were:

1. Considerate
2. Respectful
3. Sense of humor
4. Flexible
5. Think before speaking
6. Acceptance of goals
7. Timeliness
8. Listen to others
9. Patience
10. Sharing
On review of this list a week later, we all generally felt the team did have these characteristics.

Then we reviewed the five goals that we posted at that first meeting which were:

1. To help children improve their English.
2. To exchange ideas with others.
3. To learn about modern Chinese culture and people.
4. To experience Kunming
5. To represent American volunteer spirit in China.

On review of these goals after one week, we do feel we “know where we are going”.

After lunch we departed for our classes with the junior level students and at the end of the day we went to dinner with teachers Annie and Katrina. Our driver, Mr. Dai selected the restaurant and menu. The dinner had a large variety of dishes including tofu soup and a braised pork dish. The restaurant was located not far from the school in northern Kunming. It was adjacent to the huge apartment complex project which we have seen from distance which looks like a dark fortress complex because of construction curtains which are still in place.

At our after dinner at our wrap up meeting in the hotel we all agreed that the local teacher plays an important role in helping us interact with the students such that they are comfortable in expressing themselves in English. Phyllis advised us that on Friday we would be having lunch with the school principal and his staff.

Submitted by Curtis Joe

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Team Journal, November 11

November 11, 2010

Thought for the day: "If you only do what you know you can do---you never do very much.” Tom Krause, Motivational Speaker.

Following breakfast, we met our hotel staff for tutoring for the second time this week. Two original waitresses came back but the one waiter came in to whisper to one of his colleagues he had to work and could not attend. Halfway through the hour, one waitress and one waiter joined our group. They came prepared with huge smiles. Today's lesson was more concrete. 'I am a waitress; this is a glass of water, this is a cup of tea, this is a knife, a spoon, a fork, this is a bowl, a napkin and these are chopsticks.' They wrote the words, we went over and over the pronunciation and then as I pointed to or picked up an item, they would then tell me what the object was...and as the pace picked up, many laughs went around the table as they tried [and succeeded] in keeping up the pace as well. I am not too certain just how much the two new arrivals fared; but they were attentive and those smiles appeared to be most genuine.

We gathered at 11:45 for one last 'Hokey Pokey' goes thru. It was the opinion of the group we not rush through with our presentation at the school. While the early part of the day had us dressing a bit warmer for sure and some of us committed to dragging along an umbrella the sun came out when we arrived for the school's competitive Dance Day. The huge open area that sits between the two buildings was their huge staging area. Tables and benches were waiting for us next to the judges table. The program had commenced at 1:30; and Annie immediately came over to tell me that our group was to follow one group of teachers that were 'now on deck'. She mentioned where we should then report, and be ready to march in and present ourselves to the judges table. March in? Was she kidding? Why for goodness sakes, we didn't know about a 'before' or an 'after' to our dynamite routine, much less practice for it.

Nonetheless, as we were being introduced, all of a sudden we were aware of cheering from all around this grand stage. By George; they were cheering for us. But even THAT loud sound of welcome did not prepare us for their high regard for our group effort. Except for a major boo-boo made unfortunately by Anita, the lady with the microphone, the rest of the Fabulous Five minus One rallied on. Even the many cameras and video did not thwart. We strutted offstage as we had come on....Barbara instantly had a young admirer snap her picture on the youngster's cell phone but gave her a hug as well. Star power. Soon enough, other admirers came forth, grinning and laughing letting us know how well we had done and how we had been appreciated. Silly song notwithstanding--as director, I fully believe that with a little tweak here and there, we might surely take this little gem of ours on the road. I can be contacted after our project...that is if we think we might want to make this a 'go'.
We were all delighted to have seen the children perform...all of them. It became evident that despite our having met but nine classes to date, we recognized OUR KIDS out there front and center and we took proprietary interest in how they danced! They were delicious to watch. The weather also co-operated, making our outing truly a thumbs-up event.

Got caught in bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper one our way back to the hotel for a small and intimate dinner this evening. Once again, we were in Mr. Dai's patient and capable hands driving our van.

Fresh air is sure to work magic this evening when it comes to calling it a memorable day.

Submitted by, Anita Verbeke

Monday, November 8, 2010

Team Journal, November 8

Monday, November, 8 2010

Thought for the day: “ A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” Chinese Proverb

Our first day of work began with some organization of the supplies in our library/office. It appears that over the years, an outstanding collection of teaching materials and aids for a better volunteer experience have accumulated. The portable toilet seat took away a worry of a few of the female participants because of the lack of western toilets at the school. I would think that future groups should limit their contributions to this supply base and bring only personal photos, etc.

Our teaching at the school began in the afternoon. The journey to the school took about twenty minutes. As soon as we exited the van, the kids swarmed us with smiles and "hellos". Each of our three groups had three forty minute sessions with the younger age groups -ages 10-12.

The afternoon was very quickly over and the group was taken to a restaurant run by the Chinese Nan minority (Islamic tradition) who has been in the Kunming area for centuries. Our meal included a Kunming local food-steamed chicken soup with medicinal herbs. Two English teachers from the school and our driver joined us for dinner.

At our closing session in the evening, we shared our experiences in teaching today. All three groups had different approaches and visuals aids-maps blowup globes, photos on computers, math games, days of the week exercises etc. We all quickly modified our approach as the afternoon progressed because the material and language was a bit over the heads of the younger children.

The Chinese English teachers were very helpful with translation and suggestions.

Submitted by Mary Mastin

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Team Journal ~ And So We Begin...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thought for the Day: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." --Maya Angelou, poet; b.1928

None of us had any difficulty in making it down to breakfast at 8 am-- this in spite of our having pushed dinner last night from 5 pm to 7 pm, an executive decision made by Phyllis AND deeply appreciated by Barbara and myself: late-comers due to a canceled flight from Hangzhou.

Breakfast is a grand affair, buffet style with an interesting array of breakfast fare. I could tell I wasn't 'in Kansas anymore' when I realized Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran were not only among the missing, but at the very end of the table, sandwiched in between the pineapple juice and coffee/tea in three dainty bowls I found some Rice Crispies, Cheerios and Muesli. Well, it made my day along with vanilla yogurt, fresh fruit and coffee. I noticed others with their egg white omelets, miss soup, french fries and sautéed vegetables. We even had our own carafe of coffee with hot milk in our private dining room. We met for the first of our meetings up on the 20th floor in the conference room; a large sign greeting Global Volunteers across from the elevator and a smiling young hotel employee showing us into the room.

We spent a good deal of time discussing ourselves in more detail than last night at our first dinner. We're a small group of five; with most interesting and diverse backgrounds and along with our country manager that no doubt will add much to our group's dynamic these next two weeks. 'Housekeeping chores' were discussed and volunteers stepped up for: Anita to remind us who will be keeping the journal along with the thought for the day; Curtis to collate the journals and pass them on to Phyllis before we all depart; Barbara to serve as our 'social director and see who might be interested in sharing a group outing over the week-end and then contact Chris at tonight's Banquet and ask him if he might have a guide in mind for us. Mary and Joe will co- ordinate our last evening's 'wrap party' on Thursday the 18th when we come back from dinner with our teachers. Phyllis's only suggestion was a 'surprise us!'

Broke for an immediate lunch--whose menu had been decided upon by the group at breakfast. We thought three dishes [two vegetables and one meat] in addition to their tasty rice dish would tide us over until tonight’s dinner. It did!

Afternoon meeting at 1:30 discussed Global Volunteers objectives in our own words along with characteristics of an effective team. Touched upon a master schedule from our English teacher and the policies/guidelines of Global Volunteers i.e. we'll not bring cameras to school until the second Monday. Curtis will be doing a solo teaching job while Mary and Joe will team teach as will Barbara and Anita.

After a short break, Serena and Lily came at 3:30 for an hour's Chinese lesson. It was a most intriguing hour of Chinese basics. It also became crystal clear who was our most challenged volunteer, Anita. Our instructors were not only charming but patient—two attributes I will try my best to emulate while I am here with the roles reversed with our students. We also learned our students will range in age from nine to thirteen and our school is the Kunming Heavy Industry Middle School with a thousand students.

Here it is, 7:45 and we're back from our Banquet hosted by principal, assistant principals and the English teachers from our school. We were split between two tables, drank many a toast welcoming us to their city and school. Our lazy susans were filled with [by my count] fourteen dishes including two soups. My palate and I agreed wholeheartedly how one of the soups, a pork-mushroom-tofu plate, and the bread were terrific. Everybody else agreed that the rest of the meal was an event and delicious.

Tomorrow is Monday, the start of our reason for being here.

Submitted by Anita Verbeke

Friday, October 29, 2010

Team Journal, October 29

Friday, October 29 - Greg

Thought for the day: "There's no place like home."

Goodbyes are bittersweet. Bitter for obvious reasons, but there's also a positive side because some of the really good stuff on a trip like this happens at the end.

Last night the girls and I finally got to hang out with teachers from the school- and the reason it worked out, finally, was that we all knew there wasn't much time left, it was now or never. It was a great visit over late dinner at One Noodle Under the Sun.

This morning the students put on a goodbye ceremony for us. At these things we see sides of our students that we don't get to see in the classroom: special talents, more nature social interaction, etc. Then afterwards we said goodbyes and took pictures. There were tears - and of course it's not that everyone was hiding these feelings all along, but the end is when we're moved by the experience and appreciate it this way.

Tonight before dinner I walked down a couple streets taking pictures in the light of our last evening in Xi'an, sort of appreciating the cityscape in ways I hadn't yet and saying goodbye.

Another experience that I had to wait for until the end.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Team Journal, October 28

Thursday, October 28 - Mary Ellen

The ancient story of Gilgamesh teaches that the secret of life is that "all things change." And our lives are all about to change again as we return to our homes tomorrow, and Baoli too will soon start her new life as a mother.

In Future Shock, Tofler wrote of a world soon to come where change will take place at such a pace that humans will barely be able to cope with it. Here in China that accelerated change boggles the mind and convinces me that all people everywhere are in the same boat, even if we don't see it as readily when we're home as we do here. "We all live in a yellow submarine."

Today, Xi'an Biomedical Tech. College teachers taught 2 regular classes. Judith and I combined our last class period, same as yesterday, by teaching "My Country 'Tis of Thee," which really is a great song for china as well, minus the Pilgrim reference of course. Judith did a great job explaining how the song shows pride for both our countries. It's a great song and the students (mostly girls) sang very well.

Our third class was cancelled for a teachers' meeting which was very cordial. They asked us about our techniques and thanked us for our contributions.

Then we ate at the students' cafeteria. We had a delicious soup with noodles and a new drink: fresh hot soy milk. I thought this would be gross but was oh so wrong!
Then back up the three flights of stairs to rest until our 2:30 tai chi lesson outdoors with the students. We concluded the day with the usual van ride home but with three new twists: First, filling up at a gas station inhaling awful gasoline fumes that filled the van; Second, Mr. Sun the driver and his apprentice getting out of the van to switch places at the entrance ramp to the expressway; Third, witnessing the shutting down traffic as a security measure for VIPs passing by with the attendant police cars, just as if Obama was in town.

Ginny, Judith, Baoli and I wrapped up the day with a terrific meal of noodles at the KuKu place with the best-yet dessert of sticky rice and brown sugar.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Team Journal, October 27

Wednesday, October 27 - Fred

Thought for the day: "Fifty years from now it will not matter what kind of car you drove, what kind of house you lived in, how much money you had in your bank account. But the world may be a little better place because you were important in the life of a child, or a student."

Cloudy and cool but no rain this morning. Classrooms were quite cool. Heat will not be turned on at the college until Nov. 15.

Here it is Wednesday already, only two days of teaching left. Today's ride to High Tech fast and uneventful. Had two small classes today, only 15 in each. As usual there were about 6 in each interested in trying to practice their English. It was a good morning though. Our driver and his car had other duties at noon so we took a taxi back to the hotel. I decided to take a walk to Bell Tower, the sun came out, warmed it up some and was a good walk. Bought some things at the Muslim Market.

Highlight of the day was on my way back to the hotel. I looked toward the street and much to my surprise, in a bus going by, were Mary Ellen, Judith and Ginny waving at me. Dinner at 6pm, good food, good conversation and the end of another day in Xi'an.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Team Journal, October 26

Tuesday, October 26 - Gwendolyn

Thought for the day: "Never give up!" - Winston Churchhill

Another cool and rainy day began with Cici picking us up at the hotel. We teachers began to appreciate what a good driver Mr. Sun is as he has navigated some hair-raising traffic every day to deliver us safe and sound at the Biomedical Tech College. Today, he slammed on the brakes to avoid another driver and then that same driver nearly hit us again. Mr. Sun was "very angry," Cici explained to us as he was muttering to himself afterwards. We laughed and assured her that we needed no translation - his feelings toward the other driver were absolutely clear!

The class this morning was lively, eager to participate and especially eager to have fun! We played a couple of games and learned the song "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." Judith and Mary Ellen brought their classes upstairs to sing for mine, and then we sang back.

The afternoon's adventure took us by bus to Art Street, hoping to see the "Forest of Steles" museum. Judith accompanied us on our outing. The neighborhood was enchanting and the stores filled with all sorts of brushes, paper and ink as well as paintings, jade carvings and other treasure. We had several chops made. We were looking for the museum, but couldn't seem to find it. After asking a couple of people, we learned that it was "straight ahead." We arrived at big, red, definitely closed doors and stood there pondering. A lovely woman saw our consternation and told us that the door was around back - Aha! Our quest was at an end. We found the door, looking inside and decided it was now too cold and too late.

We headed back to hunt for the bus home and eventually found it. We were very late for dinner but our teammates were gracious and forgiving!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Team Journal, October 25

Monday, October 25 - Ginny

Thought for the day: "Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff."

Today began as a holiday for Fred and I. It was like a "No-school day in Worchester due the snow" only I knew this last Friday. Instead of rushing from breakfast room at 7:15, we lingered until 8:15.

Around 10:30am Wang Ping called and invited Fred and I to lunch at her house. She won't be doing the cooking (she isn't a good cook or so she says) but another teacher at Hi Tech College will cook, Miao Rong. Wang Ping picks Fred and I up at the hotel and brings us to her apartment on the 6th floor. The apartment is a very large one and belongs to her parents who are in the 70's and presently renting an apartment in another place on the second floor. There is no heat in the apartment but a pipe is present to be hooked up to a heating system if the community wants heat. Then each apartment owner will have to buy the heating, wait to be attached to the pipe. It can be very cold in Xi’an (-10 Celsius to -3 Celsius) in winter. Wang Ping told us she spends cold days in a bed covered by quilts. I notice a wall air conditioning unit and ask her about it. It does give off some heat but not much.

Miao Rong cooks a delicious 12 vegetable soup with a small noodle added called "cat's ears" since this is their shape. Miao states that many Chinese youngsters do not eat their vegetables, preferring meat to vegetables. So she cooks this soup for her 5-year-old son and husband often for lunch. Also two additional cold dishes are served, one a pigskin with garlic in vinegar and another darkly colored egg slices quite colorfully arranged. Sweets of all kinds were served and Wang Ping insists that I bring them to the hotel. Fred leaves to meet his Chinese friend. Wang Ping is concerned about Fred so calls his friend and asks her to call her when Fred arrives. Wang Ping gets the cab for Fred too. Miao returns home as her son gets home from school at 5pm. Wang Ping wants me to stay longer and insists on getting the taxi and riding to the hotel with me. She showed me pictures of me and Kitty taken in 2005. I am amazed that she kept them on her computer.

The most outstanding memory I will have of this day is how Wang Ping has really come out of her shell or shyness with me. She is sharp and gives it back to me whenever she can. I love it. She is still nervous at first but then she realizes we are all friends and relaxes. I forgot to mention her husband came in for lunch and all three of them worked in the kitchen making our lunch. I know I have found more Chinese friends in Xian. Global Volunteers has again made a difference in my life.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Team Journal, October 24

Sunday, October 24 - Judith

It is said that Mark Twain visited Orange County, California, in the height of a summer drought, he stood on the shore above the bone-dry Santa Ana River and quipped, "water does something for a river." And that, slightly adapted to "Water does something for Xi'an," is the thought for today. On Sunday rain came to this part of China; mostly it was a light drizzle that made the sidewalks slick, the hair damp, and the tree leaves glimmer, but, oh, the sweet pleasure of that cooling, smog-defying water. May it rain all week.

The day dawned sleepy, with all the members of our group drifting to the breakfast table a lot later than usual. Thanks to Mary and Ginny's kind intervention, I was invited to tour a bit of the city with them and Wang Ping, a teacher from Ginny's school. And a lovely day it was, though shot through with the nervous cultural dance of Chinese politeness and American unfamiliarity with Chinese social custom.

We taxied first to the Bell Tower and listened to a short but lovely bell concert played by one man and four 4 women dressed in Tang Dynasty finery (Wang Ping dismissed the elegant gowns as "too inconvenient" for modern Chinese). One of the bell players was actually playing not on bells but on beautifully sonorous pieces of slate.

Not long after the bell concert, we had a delicious lunch at the Muslim Quarter; then Ginny took a taxi home and Wang Ping, her sweet, husband, Mary and I went scouring the Quarter for gifts for friends and family at home. Mary emerged as a stellar bargainer. I was less good, but Wang Ping was kind enough to negotiate 50% off one of my purchases.

We were wet and chilly on the way home, but the rain had eliminated most of the smog, so visibility was high and breathing easy. We were able to persuade (actually arm-twist) Wang Ping and her husband into joining us for coffee in the hotel bar. The conversation was lively and we felt like we'd made a good friend in Wang Ping.

At 6:00 pm we got another good meal, at which Elizabeth told me about her Warrior Cats and Gwendolyn regaled us with accounts of the strange but wonderful denizens of the Washington public library system - including "Oversized Book Man" and "Tony-with-the-identical-twin-cousin-named-Xavier". Lots of laughter, then to bed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Team Journal, October 23

Saturday, October 23 - Mary Ellen

Thought for the day: "To pass by these towering crippled remains reduces me to an inner silence, and the lust to express [myself], which keeps tormenting me in the presence of this awesome sight, is stripped of words." - Gao Xing Jian, the first Chinese author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in Soul Mountain

Saturday, I substituted for Fred with Ginny, with Tara and Patty (Wang Ping) from XUT, Xi'an University of Technology. Fred was teaching. Tara's husband took us out of the city to this apartment complex near the airport. We visited her husband's new school, Juntai Training School, which definitely caters to the children of the wealthy and upper middle class.

We walked to one of the gated communities really to visit a beautiful new ground-floor 3 bedroom apartment owned by a very successful business man. We met his wife and children and sat down to tea and fruit snacks. His daughter is an accomplished pianist at only 10 years of age. "Everything is for the children!" said the father. His 3-year-old son is already addicted to computer games and had a major meltdown when father tried to get him away from the computer. Now that's something Chinese and American parents face in common.

We visited Tara's penthouse apartment in another gated community at the complex, rolling out, stuffing ourselves silly on out-of-season New Year's dumplings. Both apartments had 2 western toilets. Imagine the water problems China is headed for if every home in China has 2 toilets flushing. Yet who can blame them for wanting these necessities?

Then we walked back to the school where Ginny taught a group of children "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." And then we ate again, this time at a restaurant in a farming village where we learned that the northern Chinese staple food is corn meal rather than rice -- a bowl of it with almost every evening meal along with vegetables and a little meat.

But the best new food find was a popular delicious drink which we found astonishing: coke with fresh ginger root heated up in a kettle and served hot in glasses. Fantastic end to a fantastic day!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Team Journal, October 22

Friday, October 22 - Greg

Thought for the day: "Now the fat lady is going to sing." - Wang Bao Li

Friday was about people. I spent time with Rebecca while Elizabeth went to the school to teach with Gwendolyn. We missed breakfast but were able to catch my parents on Skype. Once we got video working, I moved my laptop around to show them what Xi'an looks like from our hotel window.

In the morning Rebecca and I ran some errands. She led me to a notebook shop she had been to with Gwendolyn last week. We spent the rest of the morning in the lobby with the laptop, catching up on homework.

In the afternoon we had the farewell celebration with the teachers and students from the two schools. I'm glad we had it now to include the two-week teachers. We got to meet teachers and students from each others' schools. We had a great time. The three-weekers will miss Elli, K.C. and Tommy a lot.

The girls and I hit the Big Goose Pagoda at the end of the day. When we got in the taxi I said Da Yan Ta to the driver and he didn't repeat it back or ask for clarification. Usually when I try to speak Chinese I get some feedback that tells me what (low) percentage I pronounced correctly, so this was a little unnerving. I asked a follow-up question about whether the Big Goose Pagoda was close to the Small Goose Pagoda. He just said Bu (no) which told me that either he was understanding me, or he plain didn't feel like talking. He did take us right to the big goose, so I'm counting that encounter as a language victory.

There wasn't the expected light & sound water show that we expected at the Big Goose Pagoda, but we did meet a guy who spoke English and got to hang out a little with him, talking in Chinese and English. Mostly English.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Team Journal, October 20

October 20, 2010 - Judith

Thought of the day: "Trying is all, the rest is not our business." -- T.S.Eliot

I'm told that in China 10/20/2010 is not auspicious, but to me since it's a palindrome, it looks and feels like a very special day indeed. It began with the standard breakfast at which appeared K.C., who told us that the severity of his cold and the pain of his back meant that he wouldn't be able to continue with his teaching. Our subteam of 5- all more or less healthy and fit- got to the Biotech College with not a single tragedy -- no harrowing traffic incidents and no more smog than usual. Everyone reported (at noon) that our second week classes were good. My family pictures were a big hit certainly.

Lunch was especially good -- featuring two bean soup and other beautiful dishes. A post-breakfast team meeting and discussion revealed that the four goals we established at the outset of this journey are being met. We agree that we know Xi’an better and have, in truth, established ties in the community and the group.

At 2:30 three of us (Greg, Mary Ellen and I) went with Baoli for a trip to La La Shou, one of the only schools in China for children with special needs. The school is a remarkable place. It occupies several stories of a 5-story building, has a fine central office/library/conference room combination, and a large staff. La La Shou's primary purpose is to enable children with autism and developmental delays to reach their fullest potential. At present there are about 60 students- 90% of them boys. Every effort is made to support the parents on their challenging journey with their fragile children. It was heart-wrenching for me to see parents and grandparents come by the school to escort the children home. Most of the kids are autistic; almost all are formidably hard to handle.

Currently the school is recipient of a large grant from the German Helfswerk Project, is in the running for a grant from Jet Lee's charitable organization, and has gained government recognition. This project, started by two brilliant mothers 8 years ago is on the cusp of greatness, I think.

7:00pm found the Haley family, Ginny, Elli, Mary Ellen, Baoli and me heading off (by cab) to the Shaanxi Grand Opera House for a dumpling dinner and musical show. The meal, as Ginny predicted, was delicious and more than ample (and 20 substantial courses including cabbage, shrimp, pork and duck dumplings), a complimentary glass of warm rice wine mellowed the group and made us ready to sing along with the performers. Since Tommy was not there to help us, we refrained.

The Tang Dynasty Show was impressive, with beautiful size 0 dancing maidens skimpy costumes floating with remarkable grace across the stage. Most of the music was westernized. Once Australian man muttered as we left, "I'll bet traditional Chinese are groaning." Still, the show was great. The musicians - a group of 18 - filled the hall with lutes, pan pipes bells, drums, cymbals and trumpets as well as several instruments that were rather like marimbas, hammer dulcimers and balaloukas. For me, the most impressive dance was the Spring Dance in which each dancer artfully used diaphanous fabric to illustrate the gentle breezes of Spring. The best instruments were the 8 man who performed the delightfully amusing "Quarrel Between the Ducks." The piece was richly contrapuntal and full of musical jokes. Quite a tour de force.

In all, QUITE a day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Team Journal, October 19

Tuesday, October 19 - Tommy

Thought for the Day: Fame can be demanding!

Looking out the window the window this morning... I hope there is a fog or heavy haze... otherwise, the smog is thick today. Breakfast as usual, the meal most like home... and, with real silverware, except Fred brings his chopsticks.

I am sorry to say, it is a thick smog but not much of a damper on our day... Cici met us and went with us to the school and then passed us off to Swallow... Swallow took us on to a nurse training vocational school and we began a 5-hour royal treatment... drum and dance... up to their conference room for instructions... then back down for more drum and dance... then to an auditorium FULL of really EAGER students. This was just the beginning... here we introduced ourselves and answered questions...

Then outside to have personal pictures taken by students and with students... play badminton, ping pong, dance etc etc... then a group picture... True celebrities!! Then to a really nice lunch with everyone who was anyone in that county... I have failed to mention that all the men had suits and ties and the women were in more or less formal business suits...

It wasn't over... now to the "farmers'" art museums (plural because there were 2 of them)... I suspect these are professional artists, but, in any case, they have a style and quality that is quite artistic... this 1/2 day ended back at the hotel @ 4:30. End of 2nd Tuesday...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Team Journal, October 18

Monday, October 18 - Fred

Thought for the Day:
"Life is a song--Sing it
Life is a game - Play it
Life is a challenge - Meet it
Life is a dream--Realize it
Life is a sacrifice--Offer it
Life is Love--Enjoy it"

After two days off from teaching, with most time spent seeing the sights of Xi'an, it is back to work. Those of us at High Tech enjoyed our fastest ride to class today. Arrived at our first class at 8am. Traffic was very light. Eager students awaited us with smiles, but had very few words to say to us. The morning went by very fast. Our regular driver had other duties at noon so we were surprised when our chauffeur turned out to be the college president, with Miao Rong as our interpreter, as he speaks very little English. As it was on our ride to the college, a very fast ride back to the hotel, very light traffic. After another great lunch, I believe most took the time to get some rest from a very busy weekend. Dinner will be at a Hot Pot Restaurant near by this evening. After a short walk down the street we came to the restaurant. We had a room to ourselves, with one table with two pots, each divided into two sections. One with a hot broth, the other with a mild broth. Both were very good. The meal consisted of two meats, potatoes, mushrooms, noodles, seaweed noodles, lettuce, quail eggs, and I am sure some other things. All enjoyed doing their own cooking and we left in happy spirits and a full stomach. Another good day with Global Volunteers in Xi'an.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Team Journal, October 17

Sunday, October 17 - Judith

Thought for the day: "None of us can express the exact measure of our words, or our ideas, or our sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat our tunes for bears to dance to, when we long to move the stars to pity." - Gustave Flaubert

For the seventh morning now, I took a pass on "congee" and noodles and opted for more familiar Cheerios and yogurt. By nine a.m. Tommy, Mary Ellen, Ginny and I were standing in the cool lobby where we were greeted by our size 2 tour guide, whose English name was "Chili" but whose Chinese name was the less unlikely Yang Yang. Our tour group was completed by Cyril, a handsome young orthodox priest currently teaching theology in Beijing. Cyril proved to be a cordial and articulate tour mate.

Mr. Toad's wild ride commenced at 9:15. Our first stop was Banpo Museum, on the Eastern outskirts of Xi'an. Banpo, a cultural museum of considerable charm, has preserved the site of a matriarchal Neolithic Yangshao Culture from 6000 years ago. Too soon, we were shepherded to a pottery factory, where we saw all manner of small and large terracotta replicas. The objects in the lacquered table room were stunning, but somewhat out of our groups' budget.

Stop three was the Huaqing Hot Springs and Palace, a famous resort for millenia of Chinese Emperors. It was here that the Emperor of the HanWu dynasty built Xanadu known to most of us because of Coleridge's poem and Citizen Kane. Huaqing Palace was also the site of the "Xi'an Incident," in which Shang Kai Shek was captured in his pajamas by two of his own Generals.

For lunch--not nearly as good as the lunches we get here at the Xi'an Empress--we ate right next to a "Silk Road Exhibit", which was mostly an opportunity to purchase silk products. In our walkthrough, we were told about the silk making process from worm to fabric. Unfortunately, the women who would have illustrated the steps to us were all on their lunch break.

Back on the van, we drove through a busy farmer's market. Even zipping through the streets proved a high point for we saw flower, fruit, and animal merchants-far more like the "real" China than any museum.

The Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Warriors and Horse museum was impressive, crowded, and remarkably short on horses. There was lots of jostling for camera space. Tommy said that weekday visits are considerably less congested. The achievement of the terracotta army is staggering, and the site well deserves its designation as the 8th wonder of the world. Seeing it was worth a 6000 mile trip, worth many an upset stomach; worth difficult teaching assignments. After touring all 3 excavation pits, we 5 celebrated with an ice cream and limped over to watch the cinema in the round presentation on the site--a show presented entirely in English. We were back in the van by 5:00 and home by 6:00. It was a long and interesting day. Would that we were all as young as Cyril, however.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Team Journal, October 16

Saturday, October 16 – Gwendolyn

Thought for the day: “Hop on the bus, Gus.” – Paul Simon

After Friday’s various health adventures, we were all relieved to wake up Saturday feeling much, much better. All the same, we decided to take it easy.

To that end, we set out to take a taxi to the North Gate – Greg remembered that there was a McDonald’s on the north side that we saw from the top of the wall last week. The only problem was that once we got to the North Gate, we didn’t know if the McDonald’s was east or west from there. The view from the ground was completely different! We asked directions, but understanding directions is still a skill in development.

So we walked and walked. Finally we decided that we should try to hail a cab. No luck. Ultimately, we ended up in a motorcycle cab. He took us through the Muslim Quarter to the Drum Tower and a McDonald’s. Hooray!

After all the tummy troubles yesterday, chicken nuggets and French fries really hit the spot. Greg was thrilled to find a hot and spicy chicken sandwich – something that McD’s doesn’t have in the U.S.

Fortified with lunch, we explored the Market and came away with "qi paos" (Chinese dresses/tops) for the girls and various gifts for family and friends at home.

Then it was time to find a cab to go back to the Empress Hotel. No luck on the main street – not a taxi in sight. We decided to try out luck on a side street and so we walked, making our way toward the East Gate. No luck. By this time, everyone was hot, tired and cranky. Still no taxis. They either had people in them, or were not taking passengers. It was one of those situations where our communication skills were not up to the task and there were rules in play that we did not know or understand. But this time, I was carrying Rebecca. We decided to make our way back to the main road again.

As we rounded the corner, we saw the Hyatt Hotel – a welcome oasis. (Did I mention that some of us where in dire need of a restroom?) We went inside, to use the facility, rest and ask the English-speaking staff for help. Lo and behold, the #8 bus stopped right outside and would take us home for 1 yuan each. Hooray!

Refreshed and armed with this new knowledge we sallied forth to wend our way home quickly and conveniently thanks to wonderful public transportation.

When we got home, we vegged out by watching Spongebob Squarepants on TV. It makes as much sense to grown-ups in Mandarin as it does in English. Then out to a dinner of noodles and fried rice. All-in-all a very good day, if a little more grueling than we had intended. Through it all, we found the residents of Xi’an to be friendly and helpful. It was our own inability to communicate effectively that caused our difficulties. Now we know: Take the bus!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Team Journal, October 15

Friday, October 15, 2010 – Greg

Thought for the day (paraphrased from the traditional Wedding bible passage):
If I speak in understandable Mandarin, and master the Xi’an local dialect, but have not love, I have become just a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of perfect communication, and travel all over the city uncovering every hidden mystery of this ancient city; and if I keep up hope, and life the spirits of my travel-weary wife and children, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give every last yuan to beggars in the streets, and weather my intestinal distress without complaining, but have not love, what is the point?

Today my class only had six students, plus teacher Lisa who sat in and participated with the class. The first half of my calls was spent working with English names. I start by handing out pieces of paper with names of people in my life on them; the students take turns asking, "Who is Jill? Who is Doug?" and I respond, "Jill is my sister. Doug is my brother." Then, they choose their own English names from the pile of names I've given them.

I've been enjoying teaching, but even more I've enjoyed talking to the English teachers. This is partly because their English level is higher, and partly because I know that as much as I am helping their students, I'm also helping them in their jobs. Seeing their teachers talking in English to foreigners must build respect in the students for their teacher's ability.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Team Journal, October 14

Thursday, October 14, 2010--Elli

Thought of the day: "If you save one person, it's as if you saved the whole world." Jewish Proverb

Quote of the day: "We survived another u-turn." Tommy

When the day started, I felt like I finally "got it". What am I doing here, how should I teach these young people to improve their conversational English. What approach will work. I left with the group carrying my trustee book bag full of games, reading material, lesson plans, magic markers, and flashcards as well as masking tape and photos.

I started the class (smaller than usual and all girls) with the partners question and answer introductory segment. Questions went on the board. What's your name, How old are you, Where do you come from, who is in your family? Two girls were in a partnership. One told the other the answer-then the one she told stood beside her and told the group what she learned. Everyone presented info., including Julia and Elli-Teacher and volunteer. After the introductions Elli talked about her own situation and showed pictures of her family.

After some time discussing family and breaking the ice it was time for a break. The girls didn't seem eager to leave the room for a break so Elli started to lead the group in ballet exercises including lining up like ballerinas holding on with one hand and lifting the outward leg-front, side, back. Also stretching from the waist with arms high in the air. This energized the whole group and we got back to work.

Asked what they wanted to do and given a choice, they wanted to improve their skills in nouns and verbs. We spent a long time playing with the flash cards with a noun on one side, verb on the other. This continued for a long time.

After this we turned attention to the calendar, naming the months and the holiday in each one.

We closed with Elli reading idioms and slang words like geek, cool, dude, foot in mouth, money talks, etc. The girls laughed and seemed to have fun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Team Journal, October 13

Wednesday, October 13, 2010--K.C.

Thought of the Day: "Never underestimate the ability of a small group of individuals to change the world." Margaret Mead

Started to school 10 minutes earlier to try and beat the traffic. After some hair-raising encounters with cement trucks, public buses, private buses, little school children walking alone, big school children walking in packs, bicyclists carrying huge bundles, mopeds darting in front of us at the last second and various and sundry other means of human conveyance we made it to Hi-Tech College only 10 minutes late for our first class instead of our usual half hour late appearance. I remarked to Fred and Ginny that Xi'an traffic looked like an enormous game of chicken. The wonder is that more accidents don't happen. Fred said that he saw the remnants of one the other day, but I haven't seen any (kena hora).

My first class was new and I told them about my life in Bellingham, Washington and showed them pictures of me and my son in Washington DC, Disneyworld, and Bellingham. They responded well and the time passed quickly.

I was worried about my next class. I had already met with them at the beginning of the week and they had been absolutely silent. Lei Shuya had to come into the room and speak to them in Chinese before they responded at all. This would be our second meeting and I didn't have much planned. To my surprise and delight, they talked quite freely and even asked me some questions about the United States. I was relieved to find that the period ended while we were still actively discussing things.

After lunch, Fred and I went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda to see the water show. Place was spectacular and well worth the visit even though there was no water show this afternoon. We were early when we got back to the hotel and decided to wander about the back alleys. We passed some wonderful outdoor food markets and I found a bakery that I'd been looking for since I got to Xi'an. Unfortunately, we also got hopelessly lost and had to get a taxi back to the hotel even though it was only 3 blocks away.

The evening ended with a delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant where the food was completely different from what we've been having at the hotel.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Team Journal, October 12

Tuesday, October 12, 2010--Tommy

Thought of the day: "I never met a man I didn't like

8:10 as Xi'an biomedical technical college traffic bad but better than yesterday...rain all day (hope it subsides prior to Sunday trip to warriors), morning class much better than yesterdays...afternoon class better than morning may be the teacher...I am going to wear out my little presentation...but I'm not changing it until next role improved very much based on comments around breakfast table....still run out before my group class ends... I have a good presentation I believe...based on colors of the rainbow and how other colors are developed from the primary colors...the kids show an interest...I increased the time for introductions...both mine and the students...then extended the color presentation and this seemed to keep their interest up almost to quitting time...

Then back thru traffic to a nice dinner, which those of us that ate with the school teachers...had two excellent meals...dinner and certainly lunch... plan to do it all over again tomorrow!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Team Journal, October 11

Monday, October 11, 2010--Ginny

Thought of the Day: "Travel is fatal to prejudice. Mark Twain

Monday began early with breakfast at 6:30, transfer by the school car to Hi-Tech College with three of us being picked up by "Hot Ticket". KC, Fred and I are assigned to this school.

Waiting for us out front were the President, Vice-President, and Dean of the English Teachers. Five years ago MS. Li had been the Dean and told me today she was under too much pressure and gave the job up three years ago. Smart lady! We each had 2 50-minute classes with the same students with a ten minute break between each. We had a 25 minute break between the two classes. Tara, one of the Chinese English Teachers came to school today. I met her 5 years ago when she was single. We email each other from time to time. Tara had a baby in April. An interesting story to me, and hopefully for those either reading or listening to this journal was when Tara asked my advice about buying a new to-be-built apartment five years ago. Her colleagues told her to wait for the man to buy the apartment. I told her that I would buy the apartment and when the man came along, I would let him buy the apartment and tent out her apartment. She did this too. School classes were very good and attentive. Introductions from me and then I had each student do the same. The smaller classes were more beneficial to the students. Back to the hotel for another delicious lunch.
Sunny, and English teacher at Xian Normal or Teacher's University came to the hotel to take me to the new South Park. Sunny is a friend of Hu Di's (the country manager) and came tot he University of MA in 2008 to study for a year in 2008. Hu Di asked me about where she could get a bed, a desk, curtains, and one thing more. I emailed a friend and asked her where I could get these things. After she emailed her friends, I received offers of a bed, as desk, desk lamp, chair, microwave, bed covers, quilt etc. My neighbor and I took his truck and picked up all donated items and brought them to Sunny in Amherst, MA about one hour and a half from Worcester. She shared an apartment with two other Chinese girls who had bedrooms. She slept in their living room. She returned to her job in China in 2009. Hu Di is now in her 2nd year at American University in Washington D.C. getting her second Master's in International Development. The afternoon with Sunny was lovely. We walked around the beautiful new South Park, ate dinner at a wonderful restaurant (eel, eggplant with beans, white soup, mushrooms and an egg dish) We walked to the Big Goose Pagoda and then to a pharmacy and supermarket to pick up my night medicine (brandy).

A wonderful day for me, seeing Sunny in China and learning from her how she valued our friendship. It happened only because of Global Volunteers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Sunday, October 10, 2010--Mary Ellen

Thought for the day: In a group of 3, you can always learn something from one in the group. --Confucius

I was surprised to learn during today's discussion that there is no minimum age for drinking alcohol in China. The same is true in Germany. Another surprise was the revelation that for a pedestrian, a green light means you can TRY to cross the street. Thus it seems prudent to find a crowd in crossing a street and to place yourself in the middle of that crowd.

Today we met from 8:00am to 1:00pm for orientation. As a team building exercise, we each wrote 3 personal goals in the to+verb+object sentence pattern. Baoli led the discussion by arranging our individual personal goals in 4 categories: To know Xi'an better; to establish friendships with local people; to make a difference through teaching; and to take pleasure in the experience. These became team goals! Baoli led us through a discussion over 13 characteristics of an effective team:

1. Being prepared
2. Doing things together (socialization)
3. Cooperation
4. Listening
5. Laughing
6. Asking for help/sharing successes
7. Skill building
8. Punctuality
9. Flexibility
10. Respectfulness
11. Patience
12. Being open minded
13. Commitment to team goals

My moment of joy came this afternoon. Remember the young student who said "I am a lovely girl."? I told her in a private conversation that she was indeed "a lovely girl" and she replied, "You are a lovely grandmother."

This afternoon we met with students and teachers from Xi'an Bio-Medical Tech. College and with teachers from Xi'an High Tech College. The first is a private school for students who did not do well enough on the entrance exams to attend a public university. The second is a public univ. for the better students.

I talked at length with Wang Liping who teaches English at the Bio-Medical College. She is 24 and is also studying for the nursing exam in 2011. She was a student at the college and stayed on as an assistant teacher of English while she studies for the nursing exam next year. She is from northwestern China and will loan me a map of China for my classes. She says students at this college come from all over China and would enjoy telling about their home places.

Sorry, I'm skipping around. Back to this morning: Baoli has 4 jobs she needs help with. Judith and Elli volunteered to be "Health and Safety Coordinators. Ginny and Fred (the returnees) will be Free-time Coordinators. KC and Judith will be Final Celebration Coordinators. Greg and Mary Ellen will be Journal Managers.

Referring back to the "Thought for the Day" at the beginning of this journal entry, I learned something from Judith this afternoon when she asked students if she was speaking slowly enough. Baoli asked for a percentage of understanding and students responded 10-30% understanding. So we are all talking too fast. Li Ping (Diana) told me the Chinese word for "slow a little" is "man yi dian". Tomorrow I shall write the Chinese word on the board and make a fool of myself pronouncing it. Then I'll have students practice saying "Slow down please." and ask them to say this when I'm talking too fast.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday September 24, 2010

Thought for the day: Xian is now part of us, and who knows? We may be an English-speaking part of some Xian students' lives.

Team 187's final day volunteer-teaching in Xian brought rain and grey skies. The van ride to campus was swift, thanks to light holiday traffic. The bike and motor scooter masses were clad in many colored ponchos. Rain and the harvest holiday didn't halt work at construction sites. At one, a laborer, like tens of thousands before him, patiently waited as his hefty woven backpack basket was filled with wet sand to be carried up to the masons high above. We saw preparations underway for several weddings.

Marcella and I began class with the nursery rhyme: Rain, rain, go away, come again another day -- more tough words for students to pronounce.

I asked my students to describe their dream home some years after college. One young man wanted an apartment with many rooms in a high rise building and a yellow Ferrari. Some of us had a mix of nursing and Uighur students. Lively sessions.
Afterwards, another cordial exchange with local teachers. We continued to advise them of errors in the answer guide for their test manuals.

College president "Robinson" Liu Jin Tian and his always cheerful wife Julia hosted us to another multiple-course lunch and far ranging conversation, including general agreement that the US and China should stop worrying about any threat posed by the other and join in finding solutions to our energy problems. Robinson said private colleges do not receive government financial help, but students can qualify for aid. He expressed his appreciation for our GV service for his students and spoke of his desire to use his college also to build friendship between Uighur and Han students.

Afterwards, Julia invited us to group teach a physical education class how to play baseball -- indoors because of the rain. We probably set the sport back 50 years, but the students had a rousing good time. Maggie, Marcella, Claudia and Wally demonstrated jitterbug and swing dance steps to Bill Haley's "Rock around the Clock" and the twist to Chubby Checker's classic. Later, Uighur students again glided into their graceful ethnic dance, followed by a female Han student who gave a stunningly muscular hip-hop performance. Julia led a moving chorus of "We Are One World.
Student requests to have their picture taken with us strung out our farewell from campus for 45 to 60 minutes.

Back at the hotel for our GV farewell dinner, it was a similar occasion of mixed emotions -- happy to have finished our service, a little sad to part from our new friends. Much praise for our team leader Baoli. Then off to pack for morning departures.

- Tony

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday September 23, 2010

Thought for the day: We can disagree without spite or violence.

Team 187, the "A" team, is winding down in our teaching duties. My morning class was a pleasant surprise. There were 2 Uighur students among the 8 students I had in my class. When the class started I was under the impression that the 2 Uighur girls had had very few English lessons. To my surprise after the first 10 minutes they could read and speak English quite well. Actually some words were easier for them to pronounce than the Han students. I was having fun and I also believe that the students were having a lot of fun, despite my goofy teaching style. We didn't know the class had ended until we saw Tony and Claudia waiting at the library door. Even so the students wanted to read and then sing an English song before the class ended. Of course the song they sang is the one that team 187 made famous here -- "You Are My Sunshine."

At our usual noon feeding, Baoli gave us GV questionnaires to fill out. She also informed us that Julia thought that Maggie was going to teach the students ballroom dancing. There might be over a couple hundred students tomorrow afternoon for our farewell event. Teaching hundreds of students ballroom dancing is an unimaginable task. Hmmmm! There seemed to be a communication problem between our team and the school. However, Maggie is a fast thinker having been a teacher for over 20 years: she has learned how to compensate when the chips are down. Maggie suggested we teach the students Swing and the Twist if we have to. After solving the dancing lesson problems we had to solve our second challenge for the Friday afternoon program. The students expect us to sing and dance. Since Wally is our designated entertainment director, he came up with the idea that we should do a skit in Chinese so the students could have a good laugh over our butchering Chinese pronunciation. So after lunch we practiced 3 Chinese tongue twisters and moved to the hotel mezzanine to practice a couple of swing steps and a few twist moves. The music for swing and the twist was to be downloaded from Wally's computer. This turned out to be quite a task. It took me over an hour to download and install iTunes onto his laptop. Rock around the Clock and The Twist are downloaded and we are ready for Friday - - our farewell party.

Before our evening feeding we had a little celebration in Claudia and Maggie's room. Thanks to Wally. As the evening progressed, Wally's English sort of vanished and he was speaking more and more in the native tongue -- Chinese. At dinner we had a wonderful disagreement and yet friendly discussion of our favorite subject "politics" which we had avoided for the entire 3 weeks. We demonstrated to Baoli how civilized we were not to kill each other when we disagreed. The truth is we do tolerate each other and like each other at the same time. In our mind, Team 187is the "A" team, the "Dream Team."

- Marcella

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday September 22, 2010

Thought for the day: Speak softly, learn Chinese.

The team assembled for breakfast a bit later than usual – it was the Chinese Moon Festival Holiday. However, it wasn’t really a holiday for the dedicated 187 Team! The first task of the day was to arrange for a suitable venue for our guests, scheduled to arrive at 10:30AM. Marcella spoke with the Western Restaurant wait staff in our hotel and arranged to have a table set by 10AM. We adjourned to work on lesson plans and our mottoes for the College students – to reconvene at 10AM. The table was set and we busied ourselves arranging the goodies for the tea: oranges, candy, moon cakes, walnuts and cupcakes. The wait staff would provide and serve tea.

At 10:30 our guests arrived, minus the college president, Robinson, who was unavoidably involved in meetings. His wife Julia, teacher Della and a friend arrived bearing marvelous gifts – a beautiful chest containing eight drawers with a moon cake in each drawer and a lacquered box with two amazing enameled tea canisters. The team immediately captured these gifts on film and thanked our guests profusely. They were very kind to include us in their holiday tradition.

We then sat down to tea, goodies and far ranging conversation. We discussed our teaching experiences, the Uyghur students that we taught for the first time on Tuesday, and a myriad of other subjects. Tony brought their IPad and the guests were most intrigued by the high resolution and capabilities of that marvelous gadget.

At 11:45 the wait staff served a delightful Chinese lunch which Claudia, Maggie and Marcella had ordered earlier in the morning. The highlight seemed to be the asparagus – which our guests had not previously eaten. Sliced lamb with a moderate hot sauce, sliced beef, noodles and vegetables as well as the asparagus rounded out a very good lunch.

The guests departed at 1:30 and the team dispersed to catch up on missed sites in Xi’an and do some last minute shopping. We reconvened at 6 PM for a lighter dinner at the hotel and continued a review of the day and our enjoyable experience with our guests.

At 7:30 the team strolled over to the park across the street and enjoyed watching the line dancers and the people, especially children, enjoying the cool air and the full moon – obviously shining in honor of the Moon Festival. We strolled up to the outdoor pool hall – Wally and Tony showed the locals how the game is really played – had an interesting discussion in English and Chinese with some fellow strollers – and retired for the evening around 9PM.

The holiday was indeed to be remembered. Great weather, good company and an all around enjoyable day as we rapidly approach our final teaching day on Friday.

- Wally

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday September 21, 2010

Today, we were scheduled to teach the Uighur students. The college has had students from Xin Jiang but this year over 100 enrolled. We had been told that they had little English. We discussed how to change the lessons for them and we were worried that what we were planning might not work. Marcella, Wally, and Claudia speak Chinese so they had an advantage, but Tony and I would have to rely on body language and enthusiasm to get the lessons across. I had studied the geography of Xin Jiang ahead of time and drew a map of China on the board so that the students could find their home towns. We began with introductions. While it was clear that their English was limited, they more than made up for it by being attentive, eager, and happy to try the sentences we were teaching them. It turns out that all but two students came from Kashi, Xin Jiang. We went on to colors and clothing and they began to smile and talked more naturally. They have less trouble with "th" but "w" was difficult. We marched on to names of parts of the body and the hokey pokey. We ended with counting, American money (with all the different presidents) and family pictures. Wally worked one side of the room and I worked the other making sure that the students knew what to say before they stood up to speak in front of the whole class. They have such a positive attitude and they will pick up English very quickly. Marcella, Tony and Claudia reported that their students were quite lively and that their English was much better than expected. They had a wonderful time with them and we all felt we would be happy to teach them again.

After lunch, we headed out to the jade shop to buy some presents for family and friends. Our taxi driver had a hard time finding the place but we finally joined the others. Then we all went to our favorite shop - Ren Ren Le to buy moon cakes, cupcakes, cookies, oranges and nuts for tomorrow. We have invited Julia Dong, the head English teacher, and Mr. Robinson Liu, the college President for tea and lunch. Tomorrow is Autumn Festival and classes are cancelled. We are looking forward to having time to talk about teaching and their plans for the college.

For dinner, we decided to escape the hotel dining room. Three of us ended up at A Small World Cafe for some western food including French fries. Two of us ate at Chengdu and had Sechzuan food with numbing peppers.

- Maggie

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday September 20, 2010

Thought for the day: If you think some small thing doesn’t make an impression, you’ve never been in a room with a mosquito.

Entering the nonsmoking section of the hotel restaurant we were greeted by a cool breeze through the open door. The team assembled and made selections from both Chinese and western dishes on the breakfast buffet. After the journal reading by Tony and announcements by Baoli, we trooped back to the 8th floor to gather our teaching materials before boarding the school van for the 45 minute adventure in driving safety-not. Diana asked for help with a project involving an employment contract. The first page was routine – company and employee information including the province of birth. The 2nd page referred to standard employment practices as directed by Chinese law. Since I was not familiar with Chinese employment regulations I tried to check grammar but had to defer to Dong Laoshi for accuracy of the terminology. Since many students had departed for Autumn Festival, we were unsure whether we would team teach or meet our separate groups. Eventually it was sorted out as English Club students straggled in. The library where Marcella, Tony and I regularly teach had no electricity and I envisioned a hot morning. Luckily a workman was called and solved the problem. Lights and fans were turned on and vocabulary review began. After listing campus locations and time words, students constructed and reported on schedules for a typical college day using what, where, and when questions to direct their writing. “I eat breakfast in the dining hall at 7am.” The students were inventive – “I slept late and missed breakfast this morning.” and the exercise went well. After some pronunciation practice, we ended our session early so that the volunteers could visit the student dormitory [6 floors, about 20 rms/wing and 4-8 [most common and cheapest] students to a room. Nearly 1000 girls in that wing alone. What an enormous adjustment for some girls, who previously lived with family only, to be crammed into a small room with complete strangers.

After the usual photo ops, we were off to visit the home of the in-laws of Mr. Hao, a school leader. A bumpy ride ended in a small village just beyond Xi’an’s technology expansion area. Brick enclosures and brightly colored doors provided privacy for family dwellings. Our host and hostess greeted us warmly and invited us to enter through their small vegetable garden into their spacious and comfortably furnished home. The downstairs area included living room, 3 bedrooms, bath, kitchen and dining area. An early family portrait depicted the couple in their prime with their four children, 2 girls and two boys. The children evidently purchased the house for their parents – filial piety in practice. Our attention was drawn to some beautiful calligraphy and paintings gracing the walls – such exceptional art work. We were awed to discover that Mr. Tan, our host, was the calligrapher. Introductions and photos were interspersed between handshakes. We settled into chars while being served persimmons and tea. Questions and answers flew back and forth in both Chinese and English as we exchanged information about one another. Soon it was time to adjourn to the kitchen where the volunteers tried their hand at rolling and stuffing jiaozi. The table was cleared and everyone was seated around the table laden with food. As our host pointed out, “When Hu Jintao visited the White House he was served only four dishes but we were being served 6 dishes.” We all laughed. The food was flavorful and remarkable. Of course, the jiaozi were a hit, but the organically home-grown vegetables stole the show. A pepper in sauce, a tangy tofu-red cabbage and spice dish and a lovely orange squash were recognizable. One platter held a unique combination of marinated stems and fiddle heads of a mountain fern. A 2nd held dandelion greens with garlic, peppers and vinegar. The latter two dishes were touted to be aids in preventing diabetes and cancer. Ah, nothing like having plenty of antioxidants.

When we could eat no more we enjoyed Marcella’s family pictures and Mr. Tan exhibited his calligraphy technique and presented his art to Marcella. More photos were taken and heart-felt thanks offered for a wonderful afternoon. During the return to the hotel I learned from the student president of the English Club that he wanted to study in the US but feared that his English was too poor. Many students aspire to study abroad but application and living costs are beyond their resources even if they succeed in attaining a good score on the foreign language exams.

So, do we make a difference? Maggie related that during her visit to the Han Tomb museum she spoke to a shop girl and complimented her on her English. The young woman asked if Maggie was visiting. Maggie responded that she was a volunteer English teacher. The girl grinned and said “Global Volunteers? I had Global Volunteer teachers in 1997.” Then she said, “I’ve never forgotten them.” So, I guess we do make a difference!

- Claudia

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend September 18 & 19, 2010

Thought for the day: Consider blessed even Sunday teachers in the park who can attract such eager, willing learners.

Team 187 soaked up more Chinese history and neighborhood life in Xian. On Saturday, Marcella, Maggie, Wally and I visited the Western Han imperial tombs on the outskirts of the city, while Claudia re-visited Xingqinggong Park.

Only about 10 of the 81 Han Yangling tombs have been extensively excavated. Jing Di (aka Liu Qi) was enthroned in 157 BC at age 32 and ruled 17 years. Although he and his father Emperor Wen subscribed to the Taoist principle of "doing nothing" (go with the flow) their reigns were considered a golden age. Jing crushed a rebellion of 7 kingdoms.

Jing is the Rodney Dangerfield of emperors -- no respect. The Qin terra cotta warriors get all the tourists, but the Western Han anatomically correct figures and artifacts are extraordinary in their own right. Han tiny figures should not be brushed off as Barbie dolls. The hologram film was superb. Amazingly, we had the other exhibition hall all to ourselves. Some ceramic vessels looked as modern as any we see today on worksites. The soldier figures included female troops on horseback. Western Han loved their pork -- lots of little piggy figures. For 28 years of Jing tomb building, the heavy lifting was done, again, by forced criminals.

On the way to and from the museum, our trusty driver Carravagio briefed us on high rise building economics. In exchange for farmers' land to build, say, 100 apartments, the farmer gets to live in one apartment and collect rent on perhaps three other units. Near a forest of new high rises, we saw the grand new railway station rising skyward.

Later, Wally, Maggie and Claudia reported good pickings at a jade factory. On the bus ride to dinner, Wally's pocket was picked. We ate a savory meal at the Xian Hotel restaurant where reportedly Zhou En Lai and friends in December 1936 met to resolve the impasse from Chiang Kai Shek's capture in the Xian Incident.

Afterwards, at the mobbed Muslim market, enterprising vendors with giant white barrel telescopes mounted on three-wheelers were charging 10Y for customers to look at the harvest moon. At a silk shop, Marcella checked the labels and found all the merchandise was polyester.

On Sunday, Marcella and I learned from the corner bullwhip slingers that the practice dates back to the Qin dynasty when they used whip cracking instead of firecrackers to salute the emperor. At Xingqinggong Park we were charmed to see how locals gladly devoted their Sunday leisure to outdoor practice under the direction of a teacher or leader, be it choral singing, hard tai ji, Chinese opera, belly dancing, ballroom, line dancing, knitting or whatever.

At dinner, the hotel kitchen lost, not misplaced, our order, but the meal once it arrived was tasty. Our team offered to perform surgery with a dull dinner knife on a US doctor who has been giving Baoli the runaround about volunteering.

- Tony

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday September 17, 2010

Thought for the day: When the going gets tough, don’t go shopping; get a good night’s sleep.

Another scorching and humid day in Xian. Friday is a very long tough teaching day. We taught a morning class until 11. Then we had teachers’ meeting starting at 11:15; it runs about an hour till noon. As last Friday, we had a wonderful lunch at a local restaurant with Julia and many English teachers. Julia ordered a variety of local specialty dishes we never had before. Among the nine different dishes 8 were vegetables and only one was a meat dish. Maggie commented the Chinese could do wonders with vegetables. I couldn’t agree with her more. During lunch Vivian was very surprised that we ate very little. What she doesn’t know is that we have been fed every 4 hours non-stop since we arrived in Xian. Personally I haven’t been hungry at all and yet I could not stop eating when the food was in front of me. We also learned a new Chinese saying: “Sweep off your doorstep.” It means at the end of a meal if there are still leftovers on the serving plates, each person should finish the dish of food in front of him or her.

After lunch we taught another class. At this morning’s class I had about 12 students. They were engaged and tried quite hard with their pronunciations and struggled with their writing. It went as well as could be expected.

However, my afternoon class was truly a test of my endurance in teaching. It was hot to begin with plus there were students I guess were in the class by command. This was not an ideal situation for a non-professional teacher like me, without a great deal of self control, who was tempted to scream and run out of the room. What saved me in this afternoon class was to see some improvements in 5 students from my last week’s class. I guess I did make a difference. On our drive back to the hotel from the school I was wondering whether our teaching in this school is a waste of time. Claudia and Maggie were trying to convince me it wasn’t. And that we do make a difference because there is a cumulative effect. I wish I could truly believe them.

At dinner time we had a long discussion about the problems we saw in this school and in their testbooks. We sympathized with both the teachers and the students. I for one am not qualified to solve this impossible situation. I think the best thing for me to do is just to go to bed and get a good night sleep.

- Marcella

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday September 16, 2010

Thought for the day: A proper attitude conquers all evil.

Today was the most exciting day to date for our team. Teaching went very well – we had interested and enthusiastic students. Claudia presented a technical lecture to the nursing students. Baoli joined us and visited our classrooms and took pictures of us with our students. We returned to the hotel for a working lunch. The teaching experiences were reviewed and we then planned the rest of the day. Tony and Marcella headed for the huge electronics store to purchase a laptop replacement for her IPad – which died – but could not find a suitable replacement. Claudia stayed at the hotel to research additional material for a lecture. Maggie and Wally left to visit the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and managed to find a bus that stopped a block from the North Gate – quite a feat! The team rejoined at 6PM, meeting Baoli for a fantastic Peking Duck dinner.

The carver arrived with a beautiful roasted duck which he artfully carved onto three plates. Hoisin sauce and the thin wrappers were quickly snatched up and married with the scallion slivers to create a delicious duck roll. It was during this feast that Marcella informed us that Chinese characters and English words were not the same?? The team shows no mercy for such clairvoyance. When we thought dinner was complete, a fabulous basket of steamed sticky rice and spare ribs arrived which was quickly attacked. During a lull, waiting for the duck soup, Baoli drilled us on the team goals. It seems her professionalism never rests!

All of Baoli’s meals have been excellent but this dinner will be exceedingly tough to top.

The duck soup arrived and we devoured that as well. Marcella observed that it tasted too much like duck – two in one evening sets a team record – but we are a forgiving bunch.

After dinner Tony and Marcella headed back to the hotel – another bus adventure – while Claudia, Maggie and Wally waited for 15 minutes trying to hail a cab. Baoli stayed with us and we finally captured a cab during a very busy time. The three of us headed for the International Studies University to visit the English Corner. This proved to be a fascinating evening. The English majors, as well as other students and graduates, gather on the University Terrace to speak English, hopefully meet Americans or other English speakers and engage in what must be termed a free for all. Each of us had a large group of students around us who were not a bit shy about asking questions on everything from the Opium War to 9/11 and Americans opinion on building a mosque near ground zero. The enthusiasm and dedication to learning was palpable. These students engaged us from 8 until 9:30 and it appeared that they would have continued as long as we could stay. Many of the students want us to come back next Thursday but it is a National Holiday so we will probably not have this opportunity again. However, I feel certain that if we go, there will still be a crowd of students anxious to practice their English.

The students found a taxi for us and we returned to the hotel at 10PM – tired, hot, but thrilled to have had this opportunity. It is these somewhat impromptus engagements that make volunteerism a truly meaningful experience.

- Wally

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday September 15, 2010

In spite of a long discussion about teaching topics at breakfast, we were able to depart on time and arrived early at XBTC. During our ride, Swallow related information about the construction industry. Her father’s company hires workers from Shanxi and surrounding provinces. Workers stay in rooms, often in temporary buildings resembling dormitories, at the construction site. Oversight of the workers needs and “care” is relegated to an on-site manager.

Off to class where some of the volunteers had the same students as last week while others, including me, had new students. Marcella and Tony team-taught and laughter and singing from their group confirmed their successful enterprise. Maggie reported that in addition to her talented students from last week medical secretarial students joined her class. A dialogue about making an appointment to see the doctor was a highlighted activity. My class of 11 men and 1 woman told me they were 2nd year medical instrument students. One young man with an engaging smile confirmed that indeed he had been in my class last year. How nice to see progress in his performance. After a standard set of questions and dialogues to assess listening comprehension and speaking ability, we reviewed vowel sounds and the most troublesome consonants. “We want to do something more difficult.” said 2 students. In response to my question about a text, one student entered the stacks and located a book with some useful information. These students will learn to operate and fix instruments but will not interact with patients. I asked them for some appropriate vocabulary and they responded with ECG, current, battery and circuit. Ah, ha! They will be working with electronics. Not my forte. Although it was pretty basic, we managed to discuss, in English, wave energy, wave length, amplitude, various meters, and oscilloscopes. To lighten things up a bit after such a difficult topic, we talked about sports and one student gave a Tai Chi demonstration. We also sang “It’s a small World” and took pictures.

Julia, Swallow, Fisher and Diana accompanied us to lunch and we enjoyed a lamb and glass noodle soup, several well prepared vegetable dishes and bread with a tangy relish. Just as we thought we were finished, 2 more plates piled high with spicy goodies arrived. After a brief rest period, we were off to our afternoon classes. The young women in the nutrition class, although not as advanced as the morning class, were enthusiastic and wrote creative dialogues about “good foods”. We also used a table in the text to review the role of vitamins and problems related to deficiency diseases. I think, however, that I disappointed them by not knowing a Michael Jackson song but they sang a Chinese folk song for me.

On the way back to the hotel, Mr Zhao again demonstrated creative driving maneuvers. Dinner included jiaozi, crispy pigeon, mushu pork with pancakes and finished with apples which were gifts from students and teachers. Maggie and Wally are nursing colds so they turned in early. No adventure this evening.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday September 14, 2010

Thought for the day:
“May your hands show mercy.”
“May your feet care for the green earth.”
- Sign at the Grey Goose Pagoda

We set off for school today trading last minute ideas on how to get the students to talk. I drew a town map on the board while the students were making shopping lists. Then we found the stores and they gave directions from one building to another. After that, we worked on pronunciation: th, l, and v, also "ing" and d. They want to drop the "g" in "ing" and add an "e" to the final "d" in a word. Then they opened accounts at the local bank. They like the dialogues especially when they write them. Today, I had dental students, so we went over dental vocabulary and they acted out their own dialogues about toothaches, cavities and teeth that got knocked out.

In the afternoon, we went to the Grey Goose Pagoda. The fearless Marcella and Tony went to the top. I stopped halfway fascinated by a movie about Xuan Zang, a Buddhist monk who left China in 629 A.D. to travel to India along the Silk Road in order to bring back the holy scriptures. When he returned in 645, he "burried the grey goose and built a pagoda". The courtyards were peaceful and the exhibit halls on the sides were filled with carved jade murals of his travels or Buddhist images.

We all met for dinner at the Bamboo Garden Village for Mongolian hot pot. We happily dipped meat and veggies in swirling stocks, one mild and one very spicy. Claudia and I took a cab home. Marcella, Tony and Wally stayed for the light show at the fountains in the square outside the pagoda. Claudia spent the evening working on her presentation on cells for a biology class at the college on Thursday.

- Maggie

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday September 13, 2010

Thought for the day: It's not the brightest students who need the most help.

Week 2 of team 187’s volunteer teaching in Xi’an: English Club students can cure whatever ails visiting English teachers.

We managed to extricate ourselves from a sudden swarm of smokers at our hotel breakfast, and driver Zhao demonstrated some NASCAR-like reflexes by detouring onto a sidewalk to extract us from a traffic jam. We passed a classical Greco-Roman building reminiscent of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome except the rooftop apostles in this case were nude to advertise a bath house Wei Duo Li Ya Yu Chang. Rush hour drivers carved an additional lane out of oncoming traffic proving once again that in China the wrong way can be the right way.

I had 23 students in my class. Thanks to Maggie's and Claudia's suggested dialogues, my students worked hard and some showed real imagination with their dialogues. The rest of our team reported similar good results.

I also asked students to help me make a list of tough to pronounce "th" words, then asked them to weave such words into complete English sentences. After class, several students spoke of their frustration in not being able to practice English with native speakers like us. Local teacher Swallow sat in on my class. It may be some sort of Freudian disorder, but once again I forgot to give them homework.

Marcella noticed in the office a school list of pesticides including "heavenly cow." It turns out that's the name for a long-horned beetle.

After lunch, we scattered to our separate errands. Maggie walked some of the city wall. Marcella, Wally and I checked out the local market, with many of the vendors taking their siesta. We passed two rag-tag old-time knife sharpeners pushing tool-laden bicycles and calling out their trade as it must have been done for centuries. One vendor was using a gas torch to burn hair off a pig skin. Moments later we were startled by a tour bus that also decided to use the sidewalk behind us as its personal traffic lane.

At the Shaanxi Daily headquarters we tried to wangle an invitation to see the newsroom but a meeting was in progress. A reporter in the lobby knew all about Marcella’s father and his various government posts. The paper employed about 700, 230 of them reporters.

Next we visited Xingqinggong Park. A brass band of Christians tried to save our souls but lost interest when they found we didn't speak fluent Chinese. They delivered the worst rendition of Onward Christian Soldiers I have ever heard. I doubt if even Jesus could stand it.

Dinner was at the Muslim restaurant Old Sun House, where we worked for our supper tearing up biscuits for lamb soup. The stroll back from Renrenle was fascinating to see life on the city sidewalks, people eating, gambling, repairing bikes, etc.

- Tony

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday & Sunday September 11 & 12, 2010

Thought for the day: Whatever you do have fun otherwise it's not worth doing

Saturday. Team 187's weekend started with a trip to the Hua Qing hot springs and the Qin Shihuang Terra-Cotta Warriors' Museum. Our private "WHITE" van was from Raphael's travel service. We were picked up at the hotel right after breakfast around 8:10. All the seat covers in the van were with a "Pooh" bear design. I thought it was quite cute so I made the comment there was a "pooh" on the cover. My comment gave Claudia quite a shock for she thought it was something other than the cute Pooh bear from Winnie the Pooh. Afterwards all went smoothly during the ride.

The famous Hua Qing Hot Springs were built in the Tang Dynasty. Supposedly one of the most beautiful concubines from the Tang dynasty took her bath here. And this was also where took place one of the most famous incidents in Chinese history during the early years before the Communist Party came into power. Chiang Kai Shek the "generalissimo" of the Nationalist Party was captured by rebel leaders when he stayed here.

The highlights of this place for me are the rooms where Chiang Kai Shek and his entourage stayed. Also, the grafted persimmon trees on top of local Xian fig trees. According to the locals this gives Xian persimmons a unique flavor. All this I overheard from local tour guides explaining it to their tour groups.

There were hundreds of local tourists but only 5 non locals and 4 non Chinese at this place. I don't think I need to visit this tour site ever again.

From the hot springs we went to the Terra-Cotta Warriors Museums. Thanks to Claudia, we had our own private tour guide. The place was huge! Claudia showed us where we should start our tour -- the panorama theater. The show gave us a general history of Qin Shihuang, the process of how these extraordinary figures were made and a simulated re-enactment of life during ancient times. The movie was well scripted and the cinematography was well executed.

Next we went to the second museum building. There in an enormous domed structure were hundreds of the Terra-Cotta Warriors. It was breathtaking. I feel I could spend days in this part of the museum and never get tired of looking at these remarkable figures. It's the thought of how skillful these craftsmen were. The artistry, the craftsmanship, the creativity and most of all the amount of labor that went into the creation of this masterpiece. Later I learned in another museum building that many workers were criminals, forced laborers who created this enormous and one of a kind work of world-class art.

We were in the museum for so long that the wonderful driver provided by Raphael Travel called twice to make sure we hadn't left the museum without him. We got back to the hotel around 5:30. 6:30 we met at the dinning room for dinner. We each ordered a dish and shared in the Chinese style. Wally ordered two crispy pigeons since one pigeon were a bit small for 5 hungry people, Tony ordered a whole steamed flounder, Maggie ordered two plates of steamed dumplings because again 12 little dumplings per order are not enough for 5 people. Claudia ordered the healthy vegetable of stir fried asparagus and I ordered a great bowl of spicy noodles. Of course we all had beer to help us top off a wonderful outing.

Sunday, was a free day for all. Tony and I went to walk on the old city wall. It took us 4 hours to walk the complete wall because I was stopping every few minutes to take pictures. To see Xian in the morning when the city is starting its day is fascinating. The market was bustling, shoppers bargaining at the fruit stand, men doing laundry on roof tops, a woman washing vegetables on the street, a barber cutting hair on the sidewalk, a man sleeping on the couch in the open on the side walk, men and women exercising in the park, a man standing on his head in the park, rows and rows of ping pong players in the park, workmen on roofs laying roof tiles, window washers hanging from roofs without safety lines, brick layers laying bricks at the edge of a building on the third floor without guard rails, workmen squatting in a courtyard eating. Amazing sights.

After getting off the wall we went to a gigantic department store near the Bell Tower. The store has 7 floors and was packed. The busiest floor was the women's shoes department. I believe this might be true world wide. There were so many people inside the stores and on the street it was overwhelming. There were people eating everywhere, people selling things every few feet, people squatting and sitting on the steps in front of the gigantic department, people in front of stores shouting into bull horns, people sitting under trees. It was hard for me to think what it would be like if there were no one child policy in China.

We picked up a birthday cake for Wally because it was his Birthday. Team 187 celebrated his birthday at dinner with a pink lotus flower candle brought by Baoli which opened up with flames on all petals and in the center. It played the happy birthday song at the same time. We were lucky that we did not set the place on fire.

The cake looked so over the top. I cannot describe it to do it justice. All I can say is the cake had tomatoes, parsley, dragon fruit and other fruits on top. Only a photo can capture it.

It's getting late and I need to end this report. But I can not end this report without reporting that at dinner that Tony jokingly suggested that I should write this report as a dialogue. Such as what we do in teaching our English classes. Claudia humorously delivered a mock dialogue. We laughed so hard at the suggestion that I actually hurt myself.

- Marcella