China Team Journal

Sunday, February 14, 2010

(Bud Philbrook and An Wei, post author, in China)

Global Volunteers has served in China since 1996. We have had all kinds of English speaking instruction, service teams to help judicial workers, and community construction. All of these service programs have produced an everlasting impact especially the English teaching to young kids and college kids who will shape the future in China.

An outstanding example is one young boy who attended the teaching here at the high school and later became an expert English professor at the university. Global Volunteers has really changed a lot of young people’s lives.

Project peace started in 2002 and helped build a much needed elementary school in a small remote village. Global Volunteers worked side by side with local people. This provided a good opportunity for local farmers to learn English because many may not have been to the capital city even though it’s only a few hours away. A course about laptops now will let the villages say hello and goodbye. This provides a good opportunity. I think Global Volunteers had made this village of just 410 families and 1540 people a model village in China. An Shang by China standards is very lucky! Thank you,An Wei -- Global Volunteers China representative and An Shang village leader

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from January 2 - January 16

580 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English by 7 volunteers and 580 Hours of preparation time.

842 primary and middle school students in Kunming impacted


Sunday January 3, 2010

Thought of the day: “The journey is the reward” – Chinese proverb

Other than lost luggage from Diane's air travel, things seem to have gone smoothly for the first Global Volunteers team in China during the new decade.

All of us were here by about 6:00 in the evening on Saturday.

Except for a small postponement of Baoli's first help with our Chinese, we've followed the schedule on the itineraries we saw before our arrivals.

Saturday night we made short introductions to each other while enjoying our first meal together.

Sunday, after we all each spent a few minutes talking about ourselves, Baoli related the history of Global Volunteers' programs in China, starting with Xi'an in 1996.

She told about how the program in Kunming came into existence, gave some background about the project in the small town of An Shang, and talked about the history of the programs in Hainan Island.

Baoli also talked about Global Volunteers' philosophy. That includes the idea of taking direction from the host community, developing friendships and relations with the local people, promoting peace, and working toward the goal of the host community becoming self-reliant.

She then asked what prompted us to be here as volunteers. All of us wrote three reasons, which Baoli then grouped into five general categories of motives.

The five general categories of motives were the following: to take part in some cultural exchange; personal goals, like finding artistic inspiration; altruistic motives like giving back to society; improving the English skills of local students here; and having fun.

Of the five broad categories above, "cultural exchange" was the one most populated with written reasons for volunteering here.

Baoli reviewed the policies and guidelines of Global Volunteers, such as refraining from taking photographs until the third day here, no intimate physical contact with the locals, no personal gifts, no single volunteer being alone with an individual child, and traveling in pairs.

Baoli mentioned health and safety issues, like being familiar with fire exit routes in the hotel, as well as tips to avoid the flu, like washing our hands frequently.

Characteristics of a successful team that we decided on were the following fifteen:
Commitment to being a team player;
Sense of humor;
Asking for help;
Respecting (and using) the unique talents of individual volunteers;
No negativity;
Creating a safe environment;

After lunch on Sunday, some volunteers went shopping in the city. Baoli and Diane apparently continued the efforts to track the missing luggage.

Meals and service here at the hotel have already, in my opinion, been great. The food is plentiful.

And, though we may not always know what we're eating, the food's been tasty. It seems possible here to simultaneously eat heartily and eat healthy.

Our waitress on Sunday night may be shy with Westerners, but she seems to be brimming over with sweetness and attention to detail. An extra treat on Sunday was when other waitresses actually sang to us during our dinner.

Baoli may have been the only person at our table who understood the words of their songs. But the voices of the waitresses were appreciated by this volunteer -- maybe by other others, too.

Let's hope Diane's missing luggage finds its way to Diane as soon as possible. Other than that, it seems to have been a good start here.

This writer may not be the only one looking forward to Baoli's help with our Chinese, and to our time helping students.

- Tom

Monday January 4, 2010

Thought of the day:
Doesn't matter how hard it is to get there,
To make it to the otherside.

Doesn't matter there is no one to run to,
or a friendly place to hide.

Doesn't matter how fast I get there,
only that I had the strength to try.

IT'S THE CLIMB! It's the interaction between the students and teachers and all the good things we exchange that is important, not the end result.

As we all filed in one by one for breakfast, there seemed to be a buzz in the air; today was our first day of teaching and everyone was excited. After we had all filled our plates with yet another delicious and bountiful assortment of traditional Chinese and American food items, I sounded off the morning by giving the first quote of our two week session and then was followed by Tom, who read his journal entry discussing the events from the day before. After finishing our readings, Bao Li then discussed our itinerary for the day. Our itinerary was rather simple but monumental in two respects: 1. We were to have our first ever Chinese lesson with Bao Li; and 2. We were to go to the school where we would be teaching for the next two weeks for the first time ever (which also included meeting the faculty members and a welcoming celebration).

After breakfast, we began our first day of elementary Chinese lessons from the wonderful teacher Bao Li. Bao Li began the lesson by telling us about the various dialects spoken in China; there are 8 total dialects but she just wrote down the first 5 which were the following: 1. The northern dialect, which is spoken in Beijing and which is also designated as “pu tong hua” or the ordinary language; 2. Yue, which is known to us westerners as Cantonese; 3. Wu, which is spoken in Shanghai among other places; 4. Min which is a dialect spoken in the south; and 5. Xing. We also learned that 1949 was the year that the Chinese government established the putong hua or common language. Lastly, we learned several useful words and phrases in Mandarin; in short, Bao Li’s first lesson was a success and everyone seemed to have fun!
Our ride came to pick up all seven teachers at noon. Although Roberta had unfortunately been feeling under the weather during the a.m. hours of the day, she was feeling a bit better by the time we were ready to part for lunch and the school. Martin, one of the English teachers at the school greeted us in the hotel lobby and showed us to our van which was to serve as the transportation for the day. We drove to a restaurant that was near the school and at this restaurant we met a large group of the teachers from the school, as well as the assistant principle. Together, we all enjoyed a scrumptious meal of traditional Chinese food. After eating, our now considerably larger caravan departed for the school. Upon arriving at the compound, we saw numbers of basketball hoops which dappled the school colossal courtyard.

Inside the school, we had a meeting with the staff and faculty members in which they introduced themselves as did our group members. The school faculty seemed happy to receive all of us from Global Volunteers and after the meeting we took a group picture and were promptly assigned to our classrooms. Roberta and Joe were teaching as a team, sisters Sara and Kelsey were teaching as a team, Dian had offered to teach alone, and Tom and I were teaching together.

Tom and I passed the day filling in our classes about general personal information about ourselves while also keeping the classroom atmosphere light with games such as “Simon Says.” While I did not have the opportunity to visit my fellow team members and watch them in action, at the end of the day, everyone seemed have enjoyed the students. While Dian and Sara and Kelsey had some difficulties with their teaching experience everyone had a great first day interacting with the students!

As well as being academics, the students at the school seem to have a genuine love of sports as evidenced by the numerous basketball hoops and volleyball nets around the courtyard. At dinner after returning from our first day of teaching, Bao Li told us that she would look into arranging a time during the week when those of us who wanted to play sports, could play some sporting games with the students; Sara and I seemed to be most enthusiastic about the prospect of playing volleyball and basketball then the rest of our team members, to each his or her own!!

- Cameron

Tuesday January 5, 2010

Team 180 went to breakfast and the quote for the day was given by (Joe Coleman). This was taken from the lyrics of the hit song "The Climb" sung by Miley Cyrus. The team again talked about their teaching experiences. Diane was still at a loss regarding the location of her luggage but she elected to not dwell on what she could not change, and make the most of the here and now. Tom volunteered to be the "free time coordinator" for the team regarding trips on the weekend. Mr. Ma from a travel agency would brief us on places to go. Bao Li went over the Chinese language class vocabulary and grammar. We would meet for lunch at 12:30 and depart for the school at 1:30 PM. RETURN: Everyone seemed to be more prepared for today's teaching challenge. At dinner comments were made about the classes and different strategies for different grades. Volunteers made adjustments from day one and the overall consensus was that this teaching day went much better. Dinner was prefaced by Diane announcing that her luggage had been found. No one knows the circuitous route this bag may have taken but I know Diane was relieved as she brought the team chocolates that were in the luggage. There was another loss however as Cameron announced he left his laptop cable back at the school. Team 180 will be represented in a volleyball match at the school by Cameron, Kelsey, and Sara. "Go Team"! Roberta described her experiences at a Chinese hospital as Bao Li made valiant efforts to insure she was taken care of. Bao Li noted that there would be another Chinese lesson tomorrow at 8:50 AM. We can all use all the conversational help we can get. A new schedule was handed out as the only constant is change. The team will decide what to do over the weekend to see the sights of Yunnan Province.


Wednesday January 6, 2010

Thought of the day: Up Up on the way.-Superman

Today began with another person getting sick and missing out on breakfast. This time it was Sara, but we were able to continue with the morning meeting despite the rather obvious lack of both her and Roberta at the table. Joe read his journal entry from yesterday, but Roberta was unfortunately not present at the time to give her ‘Thought of the Day’ and so the schedule of journal writers was pushed up one, giving me the job of chronicling the day’s events one day earlier. After breakfast, Diane, Joe, Tom, and I met with Baoli in the Resource room for another Chinese lesson, where we struggled with Chinese pronunciations and somehow managed to learn the words for ‘I don’t understand’. This is a good thing though, as that one phrase seems like it could be rather important to know in a country of non-English speakers.

Following this lesson was free-time or planning time, however way a person wanted to look at those few hours between breakfast and lunch. We ate lunch at noon, this time joined by Sara and Roberta, both of whom seemed to be feeling better. After that we met up just outside the hotel at the van and were taken straight to the school for our third day of teaching English. This time we would be teaching 8th and 11th graders and we had been told that these students were much more advanced than the previous classes. Sara and I were both pleased to discover that this was true and managed to have a relatively successful day of Bingo games, listening activities, and free conversation. Meeting up after our classes had ended, though, I learned that everyone else had not shared our success. Cameron and Tom had done fine, but both Joe and Diane seemed to have had the bad luck to be given some of the students that had come from other schools and had less of an English background. This lack of a more solid English base had apparently sucked away any enjoyment they could have possibly found in the subject and they showed this disinterest very strongly in the classroom. Tomorrow we are teaching 5th and 6th graders though, and they will hopefully be much more receptive to the idea of learning English.


Thursday January 7, 2010

Fill your bowl to the brim
And it will spill
Keep sharpening your knife
And it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
And your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
And you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.


Another day, another volunteer down. This time Kelsey was not feeling well, while I felt much better. The team met up for breakfast as usual and had a very enjoyable meal. After breakfast, it was free time, giving the team a chance to either explore the city or plan for the day ahead. Around twelve, the whole team met up again in a new restaurant to have some new dishes and new scenery. Kelsey and Roberta joined us for lunch this time and the team was happy to all be back together again. After lunch, we left for the school, but sadly Kelsey and Roberta were not with us. All the volunteers had wonderful classes and are still continually amazed by how well behaved and eager the children are to learn. After every class, the students would run up to the volunteers and ask for our autographs. Feeling like complete rock stars, we all signed our signatures lavishly and with some clever little saying.

When all the classes were done, Cameron and I went to play basketball with some of the students and teachers, while the other volunteers went back to the hotel to have dinner. Mr. Wang and two others were wearing a Lakers jersey and I was extremely excited to see that Mr. Wang loved Kobe as much as I did. Before the whistle blew, Martin, or the referee, explained how the game would be full court and both halves. Cameron and I looked at each other in fear; we both had not done any real physical activity for a long time. Cameron did extremely well, making shots and doing lay ups, with Mr. Wang right behind him shooting threes and making passes. I cheerfully skipped up and down the court, touching the ball here and there, having a wonderful time. After the game, Mr. Wang drove Cameron and I home, along with two of the other teachers. With us teaching Mr. Wang English and with Mr. Wang teaching us Chinese, we were all having such a good time that we got lost several times during the way. After making a quick phone call, Mr. Wang found his way and dropped us off at the hotel. We arrived just in time for dinner and had another enjoyable meal before going off to bed. I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.


Friday January 8, 2010

This day began as usual with breakfast, preparation, and lunch before getting in the van to go to school. Unfortunately, Kelsey and Roberta were still not feeling well and had to stay back at the hotel. At school we were again asked for autographs, but, at least for me, there were fewer requests. However, today we only had one class and then went on an outing with some of the Chinese English teachers and Mr. Wong.

We were given bottles of water, loaded into two vans and driven to the Kunming Botanical Garden. The teachers, as always, were very solicitous of our needs. Always they carry our bags, show us where things are, give us teaching tips, erase the board, etc. Today they were concerned that I had no umbrella for protection from the sun. I showed them the black umbrella which I always carry in my bag, but they pointed out to me that black absorbs the heat, and, thus, is not a logical choice for sun protection.

One of our first sights was a patio-like area where a number of elderly people were sitting in the sun playing mahjong. We took turns sitting with them, having our pictures taken, nodding and smiling. Even though most of us know little or no Chinese, we communicated.

Next our group walked together through some green houses, found our way through a maze, followed various paths and ran to avoid being “watered” by the rotating sprinkler. And, of course, along the way we took pictures—tons of them. Enough to surely satisfy Cameron’s sister, I think. An image that will stay in my mind for along time is that of us strolling down a hillside over looking the city on our way back to the vans, chatting and laughing together.

After a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant, some us went to see the Peacock show. Joe, Roberta, Sara, Kelsey, Cameron, and I were in that group. I don’t know what Tom did. We all enjoyed the show very much, but were surprised that, even though there were to be no pictures taken during the performance, many people were doing so. And we were proud that Cameron followed the rules.

But the best part of the day for me came when we first arrived at the Botanical Garden. Lily, one of the Chinese teachers, who had observed my class about American money Thursday, had a thank you gift for me. She said since she appreciated so much learning about our money, she went home Thursday night, quickly crocheted a tiny purse for me and placed 9 coins in it. For the Chinese, she told me, nine is a good number, representing long life, good fortune, and wonderful things.


Saturday January 9, 2010

"Quote of the day": from Abe Lincoln, who, with little more than a first-grade education, went on to be a successful lawyer and who, despite his well-known hatred for slavery some 150 years ago, did much to keep the "United States of America" together as one, and apparently once said Most people are about as happy as they decide to be.

Joe, Cameron, Diane and Tom had breakfast early yesterday (Saturday, the 9th) in order to meet Mister Ma'a, our tour guide, at 8:00 in the hotel lobby.

The driver took a highway, the more modern route to the Stone Forest, taking just over an hour -- apparently a far quicker option than the less-modern route.

According to Mister Ma'a, we arrived at the Stone Forest before the majority of the crowds for the day. It was also appreciated that, instead of taking a cart to see it all, we walked on the paths.

Walking probably meant far more unique photo opportunities than if we'd seen the Stone Forest sitting in some motorized cart(s).

Mister Ma'a also seemed to make an effort to keep us as far away as possible from any large, possibly loud, groups of tourists already there in the morning.

Our good luck with the weather continued, and the karst formations we saw while walking gave many photo opportunities for those of us who like to see fantastic natural landscapes. After hours seeing the "fantastic natural landscapes," we visited one village, then went to lunch.

After lunch, it was on to another village, where a group of six or seven energetic children seemed to thoroughly enjoy having their pictures taken by us -- then crowding around us to see their images in our cameras.

The last village we stopped at was adjacent to a lake, located at the foot of a mountain with two railroad tracks on the side of the mountain. The stop at this village also included a place for Cameron to play basketball, just outside the building where the older volunteers rested.

I played basketball while Cameron's age, and developed a good hook shot with my right hand (though not as good as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's shot) --- but was impressed to see Cameron make a long-distance hook shot with a jacket on his back and with his LEFT hand.

Inside the building where Joe, Diane and Tom rested, we saw beautiful embroidered images of Chinese characters and human figures, including at least one historical figure.

Diane bought a framed image that included the Chinese word for spring (as in "the city of eternal spring," a description we've heard for Kunming) for just thirty dollars.

Both the man who seemed in charge inside the building and Mister Ma'a added to my knowledge of Chinese history, which I liked.

A traffic accident on the way back caused our van driver to take a different route than the one originally planned.

This "different route" brought us past a huge store and/or shopping mall that our guide Mister Ma'a said employed a huge number of local people. He also said the Saturday traffic we ran into on the way back was the result of so many shoppers having visited this huge store and/or shopping mall.

We arrived about forty minutes late -- but none of the other volunteers nor Baoli greeted the four of us with angry words.

It sounded like Rebecca and Sara and Kelsey may have had a somewhat less-tiring but still satisfying Saturday -- apparently shopping in Kunming for part of the day.


Sunday January 10, 2010

Thought of the day: Be Vigilant! Guard your mind against negative thoughts.
An open mind yields an open heart. – Prince Sidhartha ( Who Became the Enlightened Buddha)


I expanded my knowledge of cross-cultural communication also by observing the various postures that my students displayed during class.

The first type of posture that I observed in my students occurred when I called upon them to speak in class. The students would always get up out of their chair and stand straight up before responding to my question. This was a practice that had obviously been ingrained in them from an early age at school because I noticed that even the shier students would stand up and answer my questions in front of the whole class.

I also observed that when students spoke to me, they would bend slightly over at the waist and neck to avoid my eyes. When students were seated at their desks, they were hunched over and this posture indicated to me that they were showing signs of submissiveness. Sometimes, I would ask students to come up to the black board to answer a question. If they got the question right, they would show no signs of happiness; later on I learned from some of the school’s teachers that they do not like to show emotions but they were in fact very happy—lesson learned.

Paralanguage (optional vocal effects):

The use of paralanguage served as an effective tool for straddling the language barrier that separated my Chinese-speaking students and me. The majority of my students had beginner English language skills and were capable of constructing only very elementary sentences such as “Hello, how are you?” and “What is your name?” They were not at a level to learn more basic sentences other than what they had already learned, which I mentioned in the previous sentence, so I decided that learning new vocabulary would be a good idea. I decided to treat them like infants—I know that infants first learning a language learn individual vocabulary first before moving on to more advanced grammatical compositions such as forming basic sentences. With this plan firmly established in my head, I set out to teach these students all the elementary English vocabulary I could think of.

I would play games using vocabulary that would force them to think. I would write for example the word “car” on the blackboard and ask them to come up with similar words, such as “bus,” train,” “airplane,” etc.

The use of paralanguage came into play when I was explaining new vocabulary to my students. For example, I might say, “Now I am going to throw the eraser to Tom” I would put tonal emphasis on the word “throw.” As I stated above, the students’ ability to grasp basic sentences was very limited so, while I felt obligated to speak in full sentences so as not to sound like a caveman grunting out single words such as “throw!” I also needed a way for them to figure out the word I was trying to get them to learn from all the other words in my sentence. And this is where paralanguage came into play. Using the example sentence from above again, I would say to my students, “Now I am going to throw the eraser to Tom.” Putting more vocal emphasis on one particular word in the sentence would get their attention so, while they might not have understood the other words in the sentence, they knew that the emphasized word was the word they needed to focus on.

- Cameron

Monday January 11, 2010

Thought of the day:
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow isn't here yet. All we have for sure is today, use it well, for we will never come this way again

Today Cameron read a portion of a paper he is required to do for his university program. This entailed his observations concerning cross cultural experiences. Bao Li stated we would have lunch at Mama Fu's where we would be able to sample Chinese Pizza. When we arrived at the restaurant, pizza and hamburgers were on the menu and we were in “junk food heaven".

We departed for school and our second week of teaching had begun. Roberta was back with the team with improved health. The team reported few problems teaching this afternoon after having a week of experience under our belts. The school's Headmaster was back and he greeted the team when we arrived. We left a bit tired after a long day.

With the pizza and hamburgers fading, the team was ready for dinner. The food ordered by Bao Li was quickly devoured. Before we left the table, Bao Li arrived with a birthday cake for Roberta's birthday. This also came with a unique candle display which played happy birthday forever. Roberta made short work of the candles and Bao Li carved up the cake. Everyone seemed happy to have a piece of cake which was very good. Roberta was also presented with a nice card signed by all the team members.

Tomorrow we will observe one of the school's teachers teach and then attend "dumpling making 101, a mandatory class for Global China Volunteers". We would then return to the classrooms for an afternoon of teaching.


Tuesday January 12, 2010

Thought of the day:
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Today Bao Li informed us at breakfast that we would leave at 10:40 for the school. We would observe a Chinese teacher (Martin) teach a class, and then make dumplings with the teaching staff. When we arrived we assembled in the multipurpose room. Martin taught a class of 6 groups. The lesson centered on newly opened book stores, one the "Powder Puff Girls Store and the other the Sponge Bob Store". Each of the stores sold specific things such as magazines, maps, dictionaries, newspapers ect. The students were asked what they could buy and where they could buy it. They received credit for their correct answers and this was noted on the chalkboard. Martin kept the dialogue going and the students constantly engaged. The conversation for the most part was totally in English. The students and teachers enjoyed the class.

The dumpling making was done in the school cafeteria. The celebration included some teachers from other schools which were invited by the headmaster. There were many, many, steamed and boiled dumplings and no one left hungry. The festivities included singing songs in English and Chinese, and many toasts made by our hosts to Cameron and Sara. The dumpling fiesta moved outside and evolved into a volleyball game without a net. Cameron, Sara, Tom, and Joe represented the volunteers. It was very cold but it was not immediately noticed due to the warm reception we received. It was obvious that our hosts really know how to have fun.

We returned to the classroom and taught four classes and the long cold day came to an end. The drive home was quiet as one had a sense that the team was trying to thaw out! We all are hoping for a return to the warmer weather of previous days but nonetheless a great time was had by all.


Wednesday January 13, 2010

It was a very normal day for the volunteers. We woke up and got breakfast, read the journal, prepare for classes and go to the school. Sara and I were remarkably successful with both classes and Sara found herself a new favorite person in the form of one student that approached her and began to beatbox. Autographs were signed, and more pictures were taken than should probably be healthy. Plans were made for Thursday’s classes, but a lot of the focus and conversation was more focused on our upcoming departure. The Final Ceremony was brought up and ideas were tossed around for what songs we should sing, but no specific plans were decided on. It seems to be a toss-up between the songs “America the Beautiful” and “If You’re Happy And You Know It”. There was talk of singing a Chinese song, but it was uncertain if we would have the time to properly learn the lyrics.


Thursday January 14, 2010

Unfortunately, Kelsey and I missed breakfast this morning when we slept through the alarm. However, everyone else had a lovely breakfast. After breakfast Kelsey went to the hospital to check on her symptoms, while the other volunteers and I either prepared for classes or prepared for shopping at the Jade Rooster and Golden Horse market. When Baoli and Kelsey came back, we all hopped into a taxi and went on a little field trip. We arrived at the Jade Rooster and Golden Horse market where we immediately all began shopping. A lot of the booths had the same things, but the important thing was that some booths were cheaper than others. The group all hurried to buy as many souvenirs as possible, before we met up for lunch. For lunch we had hot pot, which basically we cooked our food in this steaming pot which had two sauces, spicy or broth. The meal was fun to make and delicious to eat. It was quite the task to get the food out of the pot, but since we have all become experts with chopsticks, we managed. We were having so much fun that we were almost late to school.

Today was our last day of full teaching. Sadly, Kelsey was not feeling well and could not go. Cameron and I decided that since we are both going to be in classrooms the moment we get back home, that we both wanted to do our classes outside instead of inside. Cameron and I teamed up and we used basketball as a way of teaching them. By the end of the day, we were both sweaty and dirty, but very happy. Everyone else had a great last teaching day, and the kids were even more frantic in getting our autographs. We went back to the hotel, where we had another lovely meal. Then it was bedtime for all the tired, but happy volunteers.


Friday January 15, 2010

Thought of 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 (1928 - ), American Poet

Our last day! We were picked up at 9:00, or were supposed to be, but heavy traffic delayed the van, both getting to the hotel and then on the way to school. We were just on time for our last 9:50 classes. After this our final class, we had a special farewell ceremony, which was also delayed just a bit--because of ME! Baoli had to stay back at the hotel to work on my flights to get to Singapore since my original flight had been cancelled. The travel gods have not been with me on this trip--first the long lost luggage, now cancelled flights. And Baoli has worked hard to help me in everyway.

But the ceremony did go on. Around a very big table were the usual Mandarin oranges and water at our places. The principal said a few words, which Martin translated for us. Then we all, Chinese and Americans together, sang “You and Me” the theme from the Olympics in Beijing, but we sang “Kunming” for Beijing. I don’t know about the others, but I do know that Sara and I had to wipe away a few tears. These people who greeted as us strangers less than 2 weeks ago have carried our bags, erased our chalkboards, taken our arms, brought us water (hot, if we chose that) played ball, talked, eaten, laughed with us. They are now our friends.

Some of the students, wearing bright red lipstick, including the boys (which Roberta noted didn’t seem to bother them) sang and danced for us. We Global Volunteers led them in singing “If you’re Happy and You Know It.” Then we were given gifts--a scroll in beautiful calligraphy saying how they had liked having us come, a bag with an ethnic doll and baby in it, and a necklace with a heart-like shape representing friendship. And finally we took many, many photos.

After this, the Chinese staff and faculty took us to a special restaurant where there were singing and dancing and rice noodles. After eating, some of us went with our Chinese friends to either the Bird and Flower Market (Cameron, Stacy, Sara, Joe, Roberta, and me) or Green Lake Park (Tom). By this time, we were all beginning to run out of steam.

Our final meal--with the usual wedding or two going on nearby--was fun, but subdued. Cameron and I went into one of the wedding ceremonies and were given some of the candy. As with all of our experiences, the Chinese have been so welcoming and kind to us foreigners. Now our thoughts were turned to the next phase of our journeys, either further travel or back home. I’m sure that I speak for all of us when I say that we did indeed have a wonderful time.

- Diane