China Team Journal

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Global Volunteers donated funds for 40 classroom chairs to the children in La La Shou Special Education Center. Thanks to the volunteers who made the donations! The teachers and students are very grateful and so excited. See their happy faces in the photos!

April 2 is the World Autism Awareness Day. Please take a momont on that day to think about those children and join us to share your love and offer some help and hope to the children, teachers and parents in La La Shou.

Team 181 Week Three (Mar 21-27)

Six volunteers on TEAM 181 contributed the following towards the “UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”
MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education
: 296 hours of conversational English instruction to 860 Chinese students and 2 hours to 9 local English teachers.
MDG 4: Reduce child mortality: Office materials worth of 449CNY (66USD) to our community partner Xi’an La La Shou Special Education School to improve the learning environment of the children.

Friday March 26, 2010 -Our Last Hurrah!

Johannes is always the first one at the breakfast table but Alice was making a monumental effort to make it before Johannes. After Breakfast, we hurried downstairs to greet Lisa who came to ride with us to the school on the last day.

Morning class went good. Good small class and most seemed happy to be with me. Then after a bit, a few more arrived that I hadn’t seen before, but what could I do. I learned soon that some of these late arrivals were in my class earlier as they quickly produced answers to my questions. I played Uno with this group for the first time and they enjoyed it too. Now, another final wave of late comers arrived with their teacher. One of these students was my favorite student and singer. She brought a handicapped boy who didn’t know much English but wanted to come, so she was constantly interpreting for him. After class, I walked out with this boy and at first he was to nervous to speak. Maqi, the singing student, quickly explained to me that she wanted to help this boy and so brought him to my class. How could I question her heart? This girl will go far, I hope.

Before my class ended, one eager boy, had to excuse himself because he said he had to work in the canteen. I told him I would be eating in the canteen today. So as we walked into the cafeteria, I was escorted to the front window, where Sunshine and Martina helped me order. I told them I coulld eat anything, so they order soup, with vegetables and pork and tofu. Then my student came out and he was so happy to see me. He had on his apron and white cap on. His face was beet red. He was so thrilled to help me and I was so happy to see him too. Later, he brought the food out and it was very tasty. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was that the bowl was lined with plastic.

Later, I walked upstairs to see the second and third floor. Lisa accompanied me because they either worry about me getting lost or maybe they only want me to have only the censored tour. I have seen it all. Upstairs there were far fewer students but different food. Then we went to the third floor which really surprised me. It is a computer lab with at least 300 computers and a huge roomful of students playing computer games, chatting, or watching movies. They pay 2 yuan per hour to do this. I looked like a pretty equipped lab. The manager seemed eager to show me the door. I think this is a private company which has some sort of contract with the school.

Downstairs again, I found my tree planting student. I only saw him last Wednesday and I was promised a tour of his dorm and room. So he told me we could go now to his room. Lisa again accompanied me to his dorm. Talking to him on the way, I found his English ok so when we got inside the dorm, he told us that his room was on the 6th floor.. Lisa asked him twice which floor as we began climbing stairs. I heard him both times and I was determined to get there now, even if it meant climbing up 6 flights. Inside his room, which was small, there were beds(cots or bunk bed type) for 8 but only six were being used. There was a small desk with a mirror and goldfish bowl with one fish. Each student has a locker, which contains his books and a few clothes. Other than that, the room was bare. I think it must be very cold in these rooms at night because they have no heat and few blankets. There is only one dorm for the boys as there are more girls that go to this school.

My last class of the day was a surprise too. All new students. I hadn’t seen them before but they all looked at me with their smiling faces and seemed prepared to listen to my every word. After class ended they didn’t want to leave so I had to escort them to the door. They thanked me for coming and told me to come back again.

Then, the volunteers met with the English teachers for the last time. It was very hard to say goodbye. Many were very emotional and gave us big hugs, wonderful small gifts, and wrote some very kind words about us. This is a very good school with lots of caring and enthusiastic staff. It is very hard to leave. Now, I want to stay longer. But as my father used to say “all good things come to an end”.

In the evening at the hotel, we met with BaoLi one last time. That was difficult too. She has been a wonderful leader and such a terrific person too. I would like to come back here again but I know you can’t relive an experience like this. Maybe next time I will try Kunming. China is a big country and there is lots I would like to see and do here but it is like a cocoon too. I can see this part of the world changing rapidly.

Safe travels to All!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Team 181 Week Two (Mar 17-20)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Message of the day: Don’t let the frustrations of teaching cloud reality.

Though it has only been a week, I know we are making a difference because one student yesterday came up to me and said, in very good English, thank you, what you are teaching me is very helpful for me. That made me feel good and reaffirmed my belief that we can make a difference.

With that, we set out another day in an attempt to make a difference. From the chatter in the van everyone seems to be more comfortable and having an easier-go in the classroom and is finding new ways to engage the students - whether it was through singing, drawing, games or poetry and tongue twisters. The good thing about teaching is that there is no wrong way. I also think our being here is a good change of pace for the students and a good opportunity for them to think and learn in a different way, since our style of teaching is much different from the typical Chinese way.

After lunch we all split up to do our own thing. Alice and I rested, Charlie went swimming, Roger went for a walk and Elizabeth and Johannes visited La La Shou with Baoli. From their report at dinner, La La Shou sounds like a great place for kids with developmental disabilities. It’s a shame, though, that it costs so much and not accessible to most people.

Towards the end of dinner, Baoli reviewed our team goals and team characteristics. I’m happy to note that we seem to be succeeding. We’ve somehow managed:
* To Connect
* To Help
* To Enjoy
* and To Learn

It’s been an honor to share my first experience with Global Volunteers with such an extraordinary group of people and great team leader. What a perfect way to spend my time off. Thank you all for a wonderful two-weeks that I will never forget.

Friday March 19, 2010

Thought for the day: Lets enjoy our final day here together!

We begin our final schoolday together here in Xi’an with a good breakfast, talks about the program of the day and plenty of cofe.

Today all of us seem to be less concerned about teaching methods, lesson plans and activities. Instead, we are looking forward to enjoying this day here together with our new friends from the school.

For the last 20 minutes of our first class we come together with our students in the library to sing the song True Colors.

As we have practised this song in our classes for a week now, it feels difficult to motivate for this siging again. However, the students seem to like the song and today our music sounds better then ever.

We are treated by the teachers on a very delicious lunch in a restaurant nearby the school.

Our second class of the day is short as we practise the song together again and then go over to the auditorium were we have a farewell ceremony - Elizabeth, Tracy and Charly are leaving this weekend.

The students of our English class have prepared a smashing 30 minute program for us:
One student sings a clasical song;
Another student performs Street Dance;
Two students sing together a romantic song;
One student plays a song for us on the piano;
Another student performs a RAP-song in Chinese;
Then we are asked to enter the stage.

We play Stone Soup. The students pay us a lot of attention and enjoy the play especially the moral of the story read by Elizabeth in fluent Chinese.

After a farewell speech by Julia and a thank you note by Elizabeth we sing together with the students True Colors.

This extraordinary day ends in a Cafe Bar in the City Centre where we drink Cafe and Tee and have Pizza, play Majo and chat a lot.

After a tearful Godby between some of us we are brought back to the hotel by our friendly driver.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Team 181 Week One (Mar. 6-13)

First Week (March 6- 13)

The 181st team of volunteers with Global Volunteers is now officially convened on Mar 7, 2010. We are five in number and from different parts of the United States, Canada, Germany, and HongKong. So we are various nationalities, ages, and experience. I think we are already getting acquainted with each other and over the next two weeks we will develop even more camaraderie.

Sunday was spend doing mostly meeting, managed by a very organized Baoli. She is our team manager in Xi’an. Baoli first told us how she got involved in Global Volunteers. After that, we discussed Team Goals, and what make a good team. We did some brainstorming about this. Also, Baoli, covered the general common sense rules like traveling in pairs, not to be out to late at night, and other things.

We broke for lunch, and in the afternoon, we meet with the 3 teachers and 10 students from the school. It was interesting for both us and them. Each students introduced themselves and sometimes talked a little about their interest in learning English. We took a large group photo and finally ended about 5 pm, only to meet back for dinner at 6 pm.

At dinner, we went over last minute details. We had our schedules and were eager to start.

After we get our first day under our belts, we will feel better. After Monday, we will be veterans.... Let the fun begin.

Monday was our first day of class. Everyone arrived at breakfast 20 minutes early. Was this a sign of our nervousness? It was for me. The nervousness increased when we arrived at the school and were greeted by 2 perfectly formed lines of students. Yikes! Talk about pressure.

We all somehow survived our first day of class and all shared our successes and not-so-glorious moments. The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes and make tomorrow bigger and better.

After class, we went to the Heping Village’s Administrative Office where we met the Party Secretary. They seemed proud of what they’ve accomplished in transforming the area from a village farm into a model for socialist development. They showed us their records room, all the major meeting rooms, their modest library, community center and bank. Then we went to the Party Secretary’s house of jiaozi. A few of us got a chance to make some of the dumplings. The food was plentiful and the Secretary was really hospitable. He kept feeding Alice jiaozi. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alice never eats another jiaozi in her life again. =) He also kept filling our cups with kiwi wine which got smoother with each cup.

Couple interesting things to note:

1)The women in the household stayed in the kitchen until Baoli asked to meet them.
2)The Secretary didn’t engage us into any form of conversation.
3)His house was 6000 square meters, has 14 rooms and 4 bathrooms

When we returned to the hotel, Roger, Charlie, Johannes, Elizabeth and I walked to the Xing Qing Park. Alice stayed behind to digest the jiaozi. It was a lovely park with lots of people. It was wonderful to see so many kids playing, unlike many American children who would rather be inside playing video games or surfing the internet.

Soon it came Friday, the last day teaching of the first week. After breakfast we have a quick and smooth ride to the school in two black limos. The first lesson of the day is short as we have a one hour get together with the English teachers of the College before lunch.

Sunshine likes food and listening to music, she also speaks German.
Vivien is a mother of an 1.5 year old boy and she likes English.
Helen learned a lot from Global Volunteer members and likes music.
Swallow married recently and has been teaching English at the college for 3 years.
Lisa likes reading and traveling.
Della likes music and studying the bible.
Fisher likes traveling and shopping.
Martina likes all kinds of sports and likes meeting people and sharing ideas.

At the local restaurant we treat the English teachers to lunch. The food is excellent.

After lunch we are shown the girls dormitory building. We visit a room for 2 students and a room for 5 students. Each dormitory measures around 15 sqm. Each student has a small closet.

After another class in the afternoon we are getting back to our hotel. Dinner is at the restaurant next to the hotel. We start into the weekend with ‘hans’ beer and juice at the hotel bar.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Global Volunteers was recognized as La La Shou's "Excellent Volunteer Organization in 2009"! Ms. Zhang Tao, the Director, passes on her sincere gratitude to Global Volunteers and the volunteers for all the help and love to the children and teachers in La La Shou.