China Team Journal

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thank You Speech by a Chinese teacher in Kunming

Today is a special day for me. Standing here, I have so many thanks to say to all of you.

I have taught for 15 years, teaching becomes boring and tiring for me although my students sometimes give me a surprise, happiness and the sense of success. From you, the volunteers, I learned a lot and have changed a lot. You are not professional teachers, but more than teachers. What you did make me feel shamed at my thoughts.

Thank you, Bill and Marissa! You taught us so well. You are kind, patient and hard-working. Thank you for your idioms and slangs. They are so interesting. I’m not a smart cookie, but I learn them for kicks. Thank you for your tongue twisters. Now I can say “If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch” well. Thank you for teaching us how to distinguish the pronunciation. Now I know I cook with a pan, not a pen. Thank you for the papers you gave us. I’ll keep them. When I see them, I’ll remember you and I won’t forget the time we spent together. I want to tell you I’m so lucky to be your student.

Thank you, Lee! I tried my best to catch every word you said about law, but I failed to understand because my knowledge about law is so poor. But your speech about American History was interesting; please know I did not fall asleep for that.

Thank you, Helene! From your speech, I know when someone is ill in America, he would call 911, not 120. I also remember you like helping others. You said “Helping others is also helping yourself”.

Thank you, Grace! You are cleaver, active and beautiful. If you lived in China, I think you would be a super girl. From you and Marissa, we learned a lot about American teenagers.

I’m always wondering why America develops so fast, although it has a history of only about 200 years. From you all, I’ve got some answers.

- Kathleen
A teacher from Dehong Prefecture in Yunnan Province of China

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Today is the last full day in Kunming. Because I have not walked around much by myself around the area, I decided to take a trip myself. The days in Kunming are beautiful, except for sudden rains in the middle of sunny days. After my short walk, we started the day off in with an unusually cheerful breakfast.

Because today is the last day at the Kunming University, we had our final celebration. Marissa, who is in charge of arranging schedules for the final celebration, picked a total of six songs for us to perform. Although we do not have strong vocal chords like the couples in the Dehong prefecture, we were excited to sing our songs and celebrate our days together.

We headed off to the University in a shorter route than usual. When we arrived, we went off to start our last lesson, which would end approximately an hour earlier. Today’s class was exceptionally enjoyable. We spent only about fifteen minutes quickly going over some idioms and quotations and dove into role - playing. The students seem to enjoy this game very much. We set up scenarios, such as having students playing parents of Sean and me. We ended the class at ten fifteen on a good note – singing “You Raise me Up” and “Take me to your Heart”.

After the shortened class, all students and teachers went into a “meeting hall” for the final celebration. Because the directors of education of Kunming have not arrived yet, the classes each performed what they have prepared. The class taught by Bill and Marissa performed first. A lovely, outgoing student named Tanya did a graceful flowy Chinese dance, which the rest of the class sang to. I made sure to tape it on my iPod. The next class, taught by Lee and Helene, sang Auld Lang Syne, English and then in Chinese. Finally, my class went up and sang a beautiful song while doing sign language. The song is named “Thank you” and their sincerity almost brought tears to my eyes.

Now it was our turn. We may have not been very loud, but our spirits were up in the air. We sang the following songs: America the Beautiful, Good Bye Teachers, This land is Your Land, It’s a Small World, Clementine, and an old, and cute Chinese song named “Kan Guo Lai” just with Marissa and me. We also recited a poem, “We are Global Volunteers”, which had the words “We will always love our English teachers dear and hope we see you over here or over there”.

Just then, the directors of education in Kunming arrived. Thank goodness that some people moved the chairs for them to sit. The speeches were short and sweet. But the real sweet part of the speeches was when all of a sudden, they called all the volunteers up to the stage. They presented us individually with a box of expensive Pu’er tea, a CD of pictures, and a colorful “man bag”. The closing ceremony was not over just yet. Just as I was starting to pack up my belongings, about fifteen students came running to where I was with one hand, their certificate, and the other, a black pen. I first started signing all the certificates with my Korean name, English name and my Chinese name but as the piles of certificates got higher, I only started to write my English and Chinese names.

After hugs and photographs, we headed to have lunch with the leaders. The food, of course, was delicious, but I thought the sliced bamboo sticks were a little hard, until I realized I have to peel the surface numerous times before it is edible.

Any how, in this trip, I’m sure all the global volunteers have not only accomplished our initial goals, but made friendships and memories that will last forever. These last two weeks flew by and I would love to come back to the Yunnan province to see the students’ lovely smiling faces again.

- Grace

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thought for the Day: There is nothing we like to see so much as the gleam of pleasure in a person's eye when he feels that we have understood him. At these moments something fine and spiritual passes between two friends. These are the moments worth living.

We had our usual morning routine of breakfast and team meeting at the hotel. As we were driving to KU, I was daydreaming and watching the cars, scooters and people move about the streets. I realized that it was like a flowing river; where someone stopped another moved on… as long as you had the flow, you moved. If you slowed down or stopped you were the rock in the river and everything flowed around you… It all seems to work. Somehow it is natural. Earlier this week I mentioned to Marissa that I thought I could ride a scooter around Kunming – how hard could it be? Thousands of Kunmingese ride about the streets every day. Surely I could too. Now I’m not so sure.

We arrived safely at KU and headed to our last full day of teaching. We quickly reviewed for the whole class some of the keys to public speaking: don’t read your speech, make eye contact with your audience, speak slowly and remember to breathe! We were pretty flexible in class today – the teachers wanted to go through the final handout of tongue twisters. We ran a little long on this section and consequently had a late break. As the break period was ending the students started practicing a song they will sing at tomorrow’s closing ceremony. It was a lovely and soothing melody. We told them that they could continue to practice as long as they sang in Chinese but spoke only in English. It was a bit of a challenge but they did a good job using their English skills.

The class broke into small groups as several teachers had specific questions regarding pronunciations and this afternoon’s speeches. Soon the volleyball made it from the podium and was being volleyed back and forth. After a close call with breaking the ceiling lights, we put the ball away but started jump roping. James is quite good! We were ready for some fun and adjourned to the great outdoors to play volleyball, throw the Frisbee, wiggle the hula hoop, and jump rope. It was good to see all the teachers out participating and trying something new.

I’d been curious all week about the school’s cafeteria and so we walked over with James, Kathleen and Erin to see what was happening. We recognized over half of our combined teaching group sitting at tables eating lunch. After a few minutes we hurried along to the van for our ride back to the hotel for lunch and then returned for the afternoon Speech Festival.

We had 21 teachers present their English speeches – the topics ranged from Travel in China, Chinese Festivals and My Home Town to Pollution, a Mother’s Love and Thank You’s. Each of the teachers did a great job and all of the volunteers were very proud of their students – those that spoke at the Festival as well as each teacher that presented within our respective classrooms. Public speaking is stressful in and of itself – let alone in a foreign language.

After the Speech Festival we visited the East and West Pagodas in the southeast part of Kunming and then shared dinner at Seeing the Dragon restaurant. It’s been a long, tiring, rewarding and successful two weeks with our new friends – both volunteers and teachers. It has gone by quickly. We achieved all of our group’s goals as stated at our first team meeting. Thanks Baoli!

- Bill

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday August 11, 2010

Thought for the Day: “Instead of counting your days, make your days count.”

I woke up unusually early this morning. Instead of groaning and hiding my head back into the sheets, I could not help but be distracted by the things I wanted to do for the day. So I kicked off my sheets and went on to my computer. I had just planned to talk about the Independence Day as the culture of the day, but as soon as I typed in “different cultures” into Google, I found myself sending 12 pages of materials for the class to Baoli.

Ever since I have joined the Global Volunteers, I have always felt a sense of accomplishment or some sort of satisfaction at the end of the day. Instead of spending my summer days drooling in front of the TV, and/or getting up at 2 in the afternoon, teaching has allowed me to feel that I may have made a difference, no matter how small, in someone else’s life. So here is the thought of the day: “Instead of counting your days, make your days count”.

As soon as we arrived at the Kunming University, there stood waiting not one, but two people greeting us. Sean, the usual face, brought his cousin named Cherry. She is an English major student at the Yunnan University who wanted to participate in what she called “free” and “fun” American style of education.

So we started off the class with the different kinds of greetings in different cultures. They especially enjoyed the greeting in Tuvalu, which is to press a face to a cheek of the other and sniff deeply. I also demonstrated the Korean style of bowing down to the elders. I was not aware that China does not have a bowing-down culture, as does Korea. Great to know that now. Anyhow, we moved on to making our own movies. One thing that still sticks in my mind was that one of the students wanted to be a terrorist who would bomb America. The next activity was debating. I wrote the most cliché opinion essay topic on the board: Should high school students wear uniforms? Then I enjoyed the students’ fervent participation in the debate no matter what their language level.

After the class was over, we headed over to a traditional Dehong restaurant. We had a great meal with rice in the pineapples, mysterious milk tea – like – drink, and a ton of different dishes I have never tried before. The never-ending list of different dishes is one thing that never fails to amaze me about China. It was also very nice to have lunch with the students and seeing them socialize outside of the classes. It surprised me though, that the students would not start eating the food unless I try it first. Although I was slightly reluctant to try the foods with the word “la” or spicy in front, or the soup with a chicken’s foot in it, it was great fun tasting a little bit of Dehong.

After eating lunch, the students got together to go shopping. They were excited to have the day off in a cosmopolitan city, compared to the villages where they came from. Unlike many other girls of my age, I do not particularly enjoy shopping so I went back to the hotel.

At around five thirty, Sean decided that we should eat American food after the chicken foot episode at lunch. So we went into a restaurant, and ordered some curry, which the waitress said it was not spicy. Well, later I found out, it was not spicy for a local Chinese. So, I ended up ordering some pasta. We walked around in Kunming a little bit and called it a day after planning together the activities for tomorrow’s lesson. We were most looking forward to having Sean’s cousin for the rest of the classes.

- Grace

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday August 10, 2010

Thought for the Day: If you plan for one year, plant rice. If you plan for ten years, plant trees. If you plan for 100 years, educate mankind.

It was a day of firsts: seeing our first traffic accident, our first field trip with our students and the first night I’ve not gone out for sweets after dinner…

After saying just yesterday that we’ve not seen any traffic accidents, we saw three today. Fortunately none of the accidents looked too serious – mostly of the type we would call fender benders.

Our driver, Mr. Na, arrived promptly at 8am this morning to drive us to Kunming University. He drove the “long way” past the Yunnan Provincial Museum to the campus. Even though it is a longer distance, we arrive quicker to our classes as there is significantly less traffic. We had a full morning session reviewing tongue twisters, responding to questions about Thursday’s speech festival, a review of the Hump Memorial, Claire Lee Chennault and the Flying Tigers as well as general conversation exercises. As our class ended, Judy, who has apparently been appointed as the coordinator for our class stood up and spoke to her classmates in Chinese. Marissa and I sat and waited as Judy and the class had some back and forth discussions – none of which I understood. On the way to the van for our ride back to the hotel, Marissa related the portions of the discussion she could understand… basically Judy was reviewing the schedule for the balance of the week, including tomorrow’s friendship day and where the class would take us to lunch – but some noted that Marissa may indeed understand what was being discussed and that the class had better complete their “friendship day” plans later and without us within earshot. Marissa is a good poker player, she didn’t let on that she understood anything they were saying!

We had lunch at the hotel and discussed logistical coordination for our Saturday flights out of Kunming – primarily the need for flight confirmations and timing of our flights. For once we ran out of rice (we never run out of food at any of our meals!) and Baoli asked for an additional small bowl of rice. Well there is no such thing as a small bowl of anything here. The waitress promptly delivered a full, large bowl of rice that we had no hope of ever finishing... oh well, we tried!

We met our combined classes at Kunming University at 1430 for our ride to the Hump Memorial. The Memorial is located northwest of Kunming University and our driver, Mr. Na, did a wonderful job of getting us there safely. We had short detour to fill up with gas and then a longer detour as there was significant road construction at the base of the hill we needed to climb. There was no signage directing vehicles which way to go, that the road was indeed “closed” ahead. It was basically follow the leader and see what the cars in front of us were doing. Amazingly, somehow Mr. Na found his way through the construction, around a dead end path and onto a paved road that lead up the hill to the Memorial. Our students arrived in two buses but had to walk the last half mile as their bus was too large to be allowed up the narrow road. The Memorial was dedicated in 1993 by several Chinese agencies/associations. The description and photos of the joint efforts of the Americans and Chinese – each doing the work they were best suited for, left me in awe. Fighting the aggression of the Japanese invaders with the limited resources but with great valor showed heroic actions by all involved with the transportation of critical materials from India to China in support of the Chinese Resistance efforts. It was a vital effort for all of China. I was proud to know Americans were involved with this effort and glad to be able to share the experience with our new Chinese friends. Eventually just about everyone brought out their cameras and the photo shoot was “on”… We must have taken photos for over an hour with every permutation of classes, teachers, school districts, counties, friends included in specific photos. I think we felt a little like celebrities. As we finished at the Memorial and were getting ready to jump back into the van for the ride back to Kunming, we were directed to walk down the roadway… following our students’ lead. Eventually, we arrived at a stage after passing through an amusement area and groves of trees. There was music and the students started dancing traditional Minority dances. It was great fun to participate and to watch the dances and have an opportunity to socialize with our new friends. After several dances, we headed back to the van for a short ride to a restaurant located adjacent to the “old” Kunming Zoo (not the Zoo and Animal Park that we visited yesterday). We were the guests of our hosts and we shared a delightful hot pot dinner and conversation. We commented to our hosts that we were having a good time although Baoli has kept us very busy. Our hosts noted that the students are enjoying our interactions and improving their English verbal skills – a win win for all!

At the Golden Springs Hotel there must be wedding at least 5 nights a week. We’ve learned the Chinese “congratulations” to recite to the Bride and Groom – gong xi, gong xi. Each time we’re rewarded with candies, peanuts and/or cigarettes. It’s called positive re-enforcement and I’ve responded very well to the conditioning. I can’t wait for tomorrow night’s wedding party.

- Bill

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday August 9, 2010

Thought for the Day: You can turn off the sun, but we’re still gonna’ shine.

Today we had morning classes, and the rest of the afternoon was free. Class flew by, mainly working on pronunciations of different, but similar sounding words. (For example, rule / rural, lead / lad, wheel / will...)

After classes, we had lunch at the hotel. Bao Li ordered the perfect amount of food this afternoon… Shocking! Definitely a memorable event in our short two week stay.

With lunch and reviewing the team goals under our belt, (literally and figuratively…) my dad (Bill) and I decided to cross off the Kunming Zoo and Wild Animal Park off our viewing list. Bao Li assisted in our communication to the taxi driver. She even had to pull the “they’re helpless Americans!” card to get him to agree to drive us to, and wait for two hours while we roamed the Zoo. Luckily, he agreed in the end, after warning us that normal people can spend up to five hours in the Zoo. Well, we aren’t normal. We’re crazy Americans, substantially worse than usual, given that we’re from California!

Anyways, the Kunming Zoo and Wild Animal Park was pretty interesting… We were each given two tickets, one for the entrance to the Zoo, the other I translated as “electric bottle car”… Not really sure what that was for. Turns out, it’s your pass to get on an oversized golf car and ride around the Zoo. Once we saw the map of the Zoo, I was grateful for the “electric bottle car”. The place is huge. It would have taken much longer than two hours to walk the park…I guess the taxi driver really did know what he was talking about! It would take days to walk and see each of the different animal enclosures.

The Zoo had some “normal Zoo creatures” – giraffes, antelope, assorted bears, monkeys, apes, tigers, pandas… They had a couple of unique animals indigenous to China, and raccoons, which I found to be a little odd in a Zoo, but they were cute, so I was ok with it. There were three pandas that I saw. I’m sure they’re quite active when they’re a bit cooler, but today it was pretty sunny out and they were sweating, if you’ll excuse the idiom, like pigs. They looked pretty miserable… And I thought it was hot in jeans and a t-shirt.

While exiting the tiger exhibit, after watching people who had bought chunks of meat and had them tied on bits of string, attached them to a bamboo pole and were swinging the meat over the tiger’s enclosure, we noticed signs attached to the fencing that led us through the far end of the enclosure. Two of them I found to be really amusing. The first – PLEASE DO NOT FEED FINGERS TO TIGER! The second – Only those who strongly believe in Rebirth should risk going near. Good ol’ Chinese humor… I think?

The notable unique thing about this Zoo – the animals are free roaming. But some of them (not the big cats, don’t worry) have open enclosures, which, while being an oxymoron, was really interesting. People were allowed to walk through the deer, antelope, and peacock enclosures, while the animals roamed around. Many times, they ventured close enough to touch. While I decided it was probably not the most intelligent idea to touch some of these animals, many of the visitors risked their fingers to pet a deer. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it… It was definitely a personal person – to – animal experience. If you have the chance, visiting the Zoo is worth the effort just to be so close to these normally wild animals. Not for the faint – of – heart, however. An emu almost took a bite of my cell phone… Close call.

We returned to the hotel, and went to dinner with the team, less Grace, who was attending Sean’s 21st birthday bash. Che Che’s is dubbed an American restaurant, which proudly proclaims, under its name, “We use no MSG”. Well that’s reassuring. We had two pizzas, half fruit, half meat, and another one a whole meat – mushroom, as well as an herb – roasted chicken. It was actually pretty good. What I found most amusing was that Bao Li, who ordered her Asian dish after we ordered our American dishes, received her dinner substantially earlier than we received ours. I guess the staff had to go through the bookshelves and dust off the American cookbooks. The wait made the food taste better, so perhaps that was part of the strategy?

After dinner, my dad and I ran to Wal-Mart, to re-stock our chocolate supplies, which were running dangerously low. I’ve decided the walk to Dairy Queen is much shorter than to Wal-Mart, and, in the end, more rewarding. Although, the DQ route it is more dangerous, containing many dangerous large – intersection crossings. How much are you willing to risk to get your sugar cravings satisfied?

I’m happy either way.

- Marissa

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday August 8, 2010

Thought for the day: “Nine-tenth of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

The morning is beautiful. Most mornings are, in Kunming. But, as Helene remarked, it has rained every day except Friday, and now today, Sunday. The statement s correct, but may be misleading. Better said, it has rained at sometime on every day except Friday. For example, we put off our departure from the hotel yesterday to go to the Yunnan Nationalities Village because it was raining. At midmorning, the rained stopped, and we enjoyed a beautiful day. Then, this morning when we awoke, the streets and sidewalks were wet. So, it has already rained today, but by dawn the sun was shining. Nevertheless, we have learned to always have our umbrellas at hand.

We met in the lobby at 8:30 for our prearranged ride with Chris, our teacher program manager, to the Stone Forrest. However, when the school van arrived, Sean, our young Chinese volunteer, and the regular school driver, were also present for the outing. The drive to our destination was one hour and 45 minutes. We first stopped in a stone village in the mountains near the Stone Forrest. We mean “stone village” literally. Only stone was used as a building material. Every structure, every fence, every curved and hilly road was of stone. The roofs were of handmade clay tile. The inhabitants were Sani, a subset of the Yi ethnic group. They maintain their own dialect, such that our Mandarin speakers cannot understand them. Life is simple in the village. The people, population 1,475 in number, are farmers. Interestingly, they appear to grow tobacco as their principal crop. Their transportation was either by the familiar motor scooter/truck or by oxcart.

We watched as one family tied tobacco leaves, one by one, to a six-foot pole, to be stacked in the kiln for drying. The six-year-old boy sat on the pile of leaves in the back of the wagon and handed the leaves individually to his father for tying. On the opposite side who appeared to be the grandmother was handing the leaves to the mother for tying. They were working next to one of the many kilns in the village, which were perhaps 15 feet in height. The small oven at the base of the kiln was fired with coal, a sack of which lay open near the oven.

We explored the small village on foot, and came to a compound which contained a larger building, which Chris told was a very small hostel for artists, who come to paint. There appeared to be no artists in residence at the moment. The proprietors were a nice-looking Saki couple, who were dressed in the bright, colorful working costume of the Sani. Her apron was hand-embroidered, in the now-familiar pattern and color, which she sells, along with scarves and other cloths.

To our surprise, Chris had arranged for them to serve lunch. We sat at a low table on a patio, on lower stools, as the couple brought dish after dish of delicious foods. We drank tea, but after we were first toasted three times with a corn alcohol drink, a whiskey, while they sang songs of welcome to us. It was a happy occasion.

I have noticed on my trips to China that when we go for lunch, whether in a nice restaurant in the city or in a countryside village, all the students who may be along and the driver join us for the meal. It is truly a classless society here.

The Stone Forrest is an immensely popular tourist attraction with a large parking lot and many tourist busses. We are among the few Caucasians in the crowd. The Stone Forest is a beautifully landscaped park in the mountains where tall limestone projections create a forest-like setting. It is the most popular tourist attraction in the Province, the kind of place surely National Geographic has featured in a photo article. We spent two hours walking along the laid stone walks through the largest stones. Our many photographs will have to serve to complete the description.

We had a wonderful outing today. I am glad that I came to Yunnan Province this year, for a different teaching experience and a different environment. I still haven’t made up my mind whether I prefer the program here or that in Xi’an. Perhaps I will know after we complete this final week, and then again, maybe I won’t be able to decide.

- Lee

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday August 7, 2010

Thought for the day: “It is possible to store the mind with a million facts, and still be entirely uneducated” Alec Blourn

Saturday early morning was filled with thunder, lightning and rain by the bucketfuls. Not an auspicious beginning for our only free Saturday. It was still raining after breakfast so Lee, Bill, Marissa and I decided to head to the Yunnan Provincial Museum by taxi.

We had two Chinese college students approach us in the museum, asking if they could practice English with us. They were volunteer guides in the museum. Joseph was a student in Kunming and lived in another city not far away. He is studying business English. Darryl lived in Kunming but is a student in Beijing, studying electrical engineering. They explained in fair English many of the exhibits to us and made our visit much more interesting. We helped them with their English pronunciation and sentence structure.

The museum was quite good, with a large exhibit of bronze artifacts from a nearby site, which was discovered in the 1950's. Reportedly, bronze pieces were found for sale in the Kunming Bird and Flower Market. Further investigation led them to the Lijiashan village site. The Museum also had an entire wall mural of the Dai Minority Water Splashing Festival. It looked like a massive water fight with wall-to-wall people. Too bad it is not happening while we are here. It would be great fun to participate!

The skies looked less threatening after lunch, so we decided to head to the Western Hills and the Yunnan Nationalities Village. The trip was about 30 minutes and to our amazement cost only about 31 Yuan. We tried to find the cable car to the Western Hills, but no dice. Something must have been lost in translation when Baoli told us it was “right next to the Village”.

We headed into the Village through a maze of souvenir shops and snack food. Lee got in free with his driver’s license. Marissa could not get in at half price without her student ID, so we three had to pay 70 Yuan each. The Village contains 26 different minority areas. I will just mention a few. The Dai People have the Water-Splashing Festival I mentioned earlier. They have dragon-boat racing, singing, dancing, and fireworks. They also have an exquisitely beautiful dance called the “Butterfly Dance”. The Yi People have their Torch Festival, where they build bonfires and dance with torches. They also have wrestling, bull fighting, singing and dancing, The Hani People do precision dancing between bamboo sticks. The Dulong People are famous for their colorful weaving, and they wear elaborate masks in their ceremonies. The minority that surprised me the most was the Jinpo People. They are a minority who uses our English alphabet for their language. They were converted to Christianity by Western missionaries and worship in a church. There are pictures of The Last Supper and the life and death of Christ. The guitar is one of the instruments they use for their singing.

Unfortunately, Bill received a very painful bug bite on a finger in a Buddhist Temple “some kind of a big black flying bug.” Fortunately, there was a little concession stand close by. No ice, so we did the next best thing. Bill held a frozen ice cream cone on his finger until the cone melted. By then, his finger was feeling less painful.

When we entered the Bulang Village we found an insect display, where the insects were visible in plastic pendants. It was funny to see Bill and Marissa going from bug to bug, trying to identify what had bitten him. We also met an exceptionally talented artist in this village who did wood carvings. A very colorful butterfly carving caught Marissa’s eye and Bill decided to buy it. We all agreed it was a good decision.

On the way out of the park we saw an elderly woman in ethnic garb. I approached her for a photo, but her husband kept walking, saying something in Chinese which obviously meant “no”. We continued walking, when about five minutes later the same woman put her arm through mine, indicating that she wanted the photo after all. So, Bill took a photo of her, Marissa and me; he showed the photo to her and to her husband, who was now all smiles. I don’t know what changed his mind, but I’m glad he did.

The taxi back cost us a whopping 33 Yuan. We did not get back to the hotel until about 1900, but Baoli was nice enough to delay her meal to wait for us. I gave Bill Benadryl for his bug bite, and by morning he said his finger was feeling a lot better. We all had a fun day, even without the Western Hills.

- Helene

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday August 6, 2010

Thought for the day: Kind words can be short an easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.

Today began with breakfast and an uneventful ride to Kunming College, excluding the new route we took, in order to see the group of people practicing tai-chi at the park.

In our class today, we discussed American holidays; namely Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Christmas was a source of minor confusion in our class. Some people had questions as to whether there really was a jolly old man who slid down our chimneys in the middle of the night to steal our cookies and give us toys. Luckily, that was sorted out without much difficulty. Since it was Friday, I toted a hula-hoop to school, and before class ended, we let everyone have a go at hula-hooping. We all got a kick out of it, as did Bao Li, who dropped in to photograph the novelty.

After lunch at the hotel, the whole gang hopped in the van to attend the afternoon lectures. Lee discussed the history of the United States, Grace presented the Evolution of Beauty, my dad (Bill) shared the history of Chinese immigration to the United States, and Helene talked about teaching in California.

We ate dinner out, at Jorden’s Café. With some time to spare, we sat and chatted before setting off to the Yunnan Dynamic show. The show was, for lack of an adequate description, amazing. The lighting, costumes, and set were shockingly elaborate, really beautiful. The entire cast was energetic and extremely talented. A few of the crowd favorites – the moonlight dance, and the peacock dance. The moonlight dance was a solo, and unique in the fact that the audience didn’t see the dancer. For the entire dance, we watched her silhouette, as she danced behind a lighted screen.

The peacock dance began as a solo, with the dancer performing a series of complicated hand motions at center stage, in a shimmery white dress with the peacock feather – pattern on the train. She was joined by twenty other female dancers, and a young (six year s old, we guessed) girl another crowd favorite. All the dancers wore the same dress as the original soloist. The finale of the dance, as well as the entire show, was a woman who dressed in a black, similarly patterned dress, whose train literally covered the entire stage, silently made her way upstage and down a flight of stairs at center stage. What a show. We the made our way back to the hotel, thoroughly satisfied with the memorable performance.

Craving a snack after witnessing all that hard work on stage, my dad and I decided to try a late – night run to DQ. Disappointingly, DQ had just closed for the night, so we settled for a shake from Mickey – D’s. Note to all future sugar fiends visiting Kunming – DQ closes at 10:30, not 11:00.

- Marissa

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday August 5, 2010

Thought for the day: The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.

Thursday is another teaching day. The drenching downpour of last night is more than just a memory. My school shoes are still so wet, I must choose a different pair.

We met as usual at 8:00 AM in our private dining room, for breakfast and our team meeting. Then, promptly at 8:00, the driver of the school van whisked us off to the campus. It is a beautiful morning, but we are not so trusting now of the appearance of the sky. We have our umbrellas at the ready, remembering the sudden thunderstorms of yesterday that can envelope Kunming without much warning.

The ride to the University was uneventful, as was our dispersal to our respective classrooms. Yesterday we had inquired of our students whether any of them were one of the 55 minorities in China. I had read that 25 of the minority groups have thrived in Yunnan Province for more than 2,000 years. Three of these teachers proudly responded that they were of one of the minorities, and Alice reported that her husband was one of the minority people. We asked them, as a homework assignment, to prepare a description of their minority group. Each of them in the classroom this morning read an extensive presentation about their respective people.

Michael told us of the third moon festival of the Bai People, and described their colorful festive costumes, drawing on the board the elaborate headdress that is worn in their ceremonial dances. We had seen a dance presentation on the stage of the elegant restaurant where we had dinner last night, that depicted many of the minorities of Yunnan Province. Helene remembered that Bai headdress.

Donna presented the customs of her Yi People and described for us in colorful terms the dance of the fire or torch festival. The other teachers listened attentively, even they seem to be knowledgeable of the customs of the various minorities.

Alice described the Dai People and their water-splashing festival (whatever that may be) and the Peacock Dance. She and Mary told me at the break that they would teach Helene and me the Peacock Dance. I’m not sure that I am looking forward to that, and we didn’t get around to such instruction. Tomorrow, the remainder of the class, who are of the Han majority in China (we are told 95%), will describe their people. It will be interesting to hear them.

The most fun in class today was the description of an American wedding ceremony. I had brought photographs of a wedding my wife and I recently had attended in Florida which I explained. We described each aspect of a wedding in a church, and Helene “married” Roy and Amy, to the great delight of the rest of the class, which included their affirmative responses to the familiar question, “Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife . . . ?” and so on.

There was much laughter. Most of the students have overcome their shyness are starting to loosen up.

For lunch today, the five of us walked to the Golden Flower Hot Pot Restaurant. It was different from the hot pot restaurant in Xi’an, which had the boiling broth in a large pot in the center of the table. Today, we had individual hot pots and the broth was not spicy. In addition to the two kinds of meats, we had quail eggs, julienned Lilly flowers, chopped cabbage strips and other vegetables to mix in one’s pot. There were slippery noodles which I found impossible to pick up with chopsticks.

This evening we had dinner in the hotel. Grace was absent with another engagement. The discussion was spirited, including a disagreement whether a proper plural form of “fruit” may be “fruits”. Helene insisted it was not. Marissa and I thought the latter was permissible. Bill was on the fence. Marissa said she would Google the words and report to us.

- Lee

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday August 4, 2010

Thought for the day: A life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.

Wow, it was another busy incredibly busy day for us in Kunming. The morning started with the usual breakfast fixings and our morning review of the past day’s Journal. At 8am we headed over to KU-Teachers Training Center through what seemed like the heaviest traffic we’ve encountered. An extraordinary sight along the way was the young lady dressed in a fine pink dress holding a frilly pink umbrella. She riding on the back of a motor scooter driven by a young man in a white shirt and black tie – it was an unusual contrast to the other morning commuters going to work!

The morning session seemed to pass by very quickly starting with a short review of volunteerism and the concept of “pay it forward”, then some exercises involving students describing, in some detail, their weekend routine. We ended the morning with a rather animated round of tongue twisters…peter piper picked a peck of pickled…oh well, you get the idea. We headed back to the hotel for lunch – geez, didn’t we just eat - and some last minute preparation (for me) for this afternoon’s volunteer presentations. Around 2pm we headed back to KU-TTC and each of us made short presentations to the combined classes.

Lee discussed general education, examination and professional careers for people that pursue a legal profession as well as a brief history of the origin of the American legal system with some contrasts between the American, British and Chinese systems.

Helene explained the fundamentals of nursing / healthcare in America. (I did not know the difference between primary, secondary and tertiary hospitals.) And gave an example of how the US healthcare system requires medical treatment for those needing medical attention, whether or not those individuals can pay for the care they receive.

Marissa discussed life as an American teenager and explained each of the seven habits of a highly effective teenager (from the book with the same title) and how those habits have helped her in better organizing and prioritizing her days.

Grace reviewed the many challenges and differences between American and Asian cultures - for example, the differences in the meanings of different expressions and colors.

Bill presented a short power point and talked about the history and events at the Hotel Del Coronado.

After a hot afternoon and a busy teaching day we were ready for a special night on the town. We shared a wonderful meal and dinner show at the Yunnan Flavor Restaurant. We enjoyed watching (and Marissa and Grace participating) in the show highlighting songs and dances of different ethnic groups from around the Yunnan province.

As the show ended and we were finishing our dinner, a huge thunder storm erupted and it poured rain – even through areas of the restaurant’s roof! Only Baoli and Helene planned ahead and had umbrellas. After a short, but futile, attempt to hail a cab, we bought a couple umbrellas and had a pleasant walk back to the hotel. Yes, the weather in Kunming changes rapidly. Gotta remember to take the umbrella with me tomorrow morning.

- Bill

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday August 3, 2010

Thought for the day: A human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind” - William James.

Before I get to talk about the adventures we had today, I would like to talk about yesterday a little bit. Yesterday was my birthday. Because I did not think that our team would celebrate a birthday of someone whom they have just met, I did not expect anything. However, Baoli surprised me by appearing with a card, a cake and a mysterious looking plastic flower bulb. As soon as she lighted the middle of the flower bulb, the flower opened up with the tune of “Happy Birthday”. It was a really pleasant surprise. As soon as I got home, I called my family and friends that I had the most special birthday.

Today was the first day of regular classes. So we went off to school and went into our own classes. At first, I was afraid that the teachers would not respect me as their teacher because I am much younger than them and because I am of Asian descent. However, they gave me a warm welcome as soon as I entered the classroom. Although they were puzzled that I am both Korean and American, they accepted me as their teacher, either way.

For the first portion of the class, I taught them different idioms, such as, “music to my ear”. They struggled a little bit understanding why Americans would use such a phrase, but as soon as they understood it, they incorporated the idiom into their language. Also, we talked about Halloween. Using a power point that I made the night before to explain it helped them focus. They liked the idea of free candy. Some other things we did together are interviewing each other, singing an American song, interpreting poems, and playing games. Because education in China is focused on doing well on the exams, they were not used to being creative and having fun. So, during a break, a student came up and told me that he most liked interpreting poems because a poem can be interpreted in so many different ways.

After the class was over, we went to the hotel for lunch, and headed back to the school for two more hours of lecture. As Americans, we could not help but feel bad for the students who have to sit in classes and lectures all day long during their summer vacations. Anyways, Baoli took over the first hour talking about Global Volunteers organization. She explained the history of the organization, the philosophy, and why we do it. She also introduced the concept of helping others, because Chinese who come from rural areas have a hard time understanding why people would spend their own money and time to help others. Then, the rest of the team went up to talk about their experiences with volunteering.

At the end of the lecture, Baoli collected the questions from the people who were too shy to ask questions in front of a crowd. The questions mainly had to do with how they could volunteer without having much money. We had to explain over and over again that we do not need to have a lot of money to be able to help others. A helping hand is all we need to have. There is the thought of the day. “A human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind” by William James. We hope that by having shared our experiences with volunteering, the teachers would change their attitudes and pay it forward.

- Grace

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday August 2, 2010

Thought for the Day: Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back.

We arrived at Kunming University at 8:30 and proceeded to our welcoming ceremony for both the teachers and Global Volunteers. We listened to five different people for 75 minutes, all of whom said the essentially the same thing in different ways:
1) The teachers have a great opportunity to be here and work with Global Volunteers and they should use the time wisely;
2) Thank you to Global Volunteers, who actually paid money to come so far just to help Chinese teachers improve their conversational English.

After a group photo, we proceeded to our classrooms. Lee and I are teaching 17 teachers. Bill and Marissa also have 17 teachers; Grace, because she is teaching alone, has 11 teachers.

Some are from the same city, but none from the same school. All of our teachers had English names and only one was unusual “Luxxan.” We had the teachers introduce themselves in pairs to each other, and we used the opportunity to tell them about the American need to have a firm handshake and to look the other person in the eyes. Then, we had them introduce themselves to the class, since they had also just met. They each told their Chinese name and their English name, where they were from, where they taught and something about their home city. We learned that all of them came from “beautiful” cities, and that they all loved their students (unlike in America schools where teachers definitely not love all their students). For homework, they were told to find other adjectives for “beautiful”.

Their English skills are so much better than the students we have taught in the past. We should have expected this since they are English teachers. Our challenge will be to have them speak freely in class.

Our class day was shorter because of the welcoming ceremony. We left at 11:30 to return to the hotel and have lunch. During lunch, Baoli gave the team ideas on how to try to get the teachers to participate more in class. For example, call on individuals rather than wait for a volunteer.

After lunch I was just about to leave my room to explore the side streets, when it suddenly started raining cats and dogs (another idiom for class). The highlight of the day was the celebration of Grace’s 18th birthday at dinner, fireworks and all. Baoli brought a traditional Chinese cake, complete with grape tomatoes on top. Will wonders never cease! A group of hotel staff came in and sang “Happy Birthday” to Grace in both Chinese and English. We laughed when the staff started speaking to Grace in rapid Chinese. To her credit Grace was able to understand some of what they said. She should have no trouble passing her Chinese exams. They also sang a traditional ethnic Yi welcoming song, including their toasting each of us, as they circled the table. Grace will never forget the unusual celebration of her 18th birthday, and neither will we!

- Helene

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday August 1, 2010

Thought for the Day:
This is the first day in the China Global Volunteer program for Team 186. None of us is a teacher by profession, but we will undertake to teach others for the next two weeks. And, ironically, we will be teaching professional teachers. One thought that inspires us is:

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

A friend described his first stint as volunteer here in China as “a life-changing experience.” Just maybe we can make this a life-changing experience for these 45 middle-school teachers from a rural prefecture in Yunnan Province, most of whom will never have been face-to-face with a foreigner before.

Our team has only five members, an unusually small, and very diverse, group. Bill is a retired San Diego CPA from a large accounting firm, and now a large project construction manager. He is accompanied by his high school age daughter, Marissa. By herself is Grace, just turning 18, whose family is from Seoul, Korea, although she attends a women’s’ boarding school in Connecticut. This is their first service with Global Volunteers. The other member besides me is Helene, a nurse from UCLA Hospital. Helene and I have been team members together in Xi’an during the past two years. This is my fourth Global Volunteer program, my first in Kunming.

To prepare us for the two weeks ahead, Baoli conducted an orientation session in a beautiful conference room on the top floor of our hotel. Among the subjects covered, she had us list 15 characteristics of an effective team, such as being flexible and having respect for the opinions of others, and working together for the team goal. We reviewed the Global Volunteer philosophy of only doing what is asked of us. We are not here to do, but to help.

We spent perhaps three hours in the team meeting, before taking an afternoon break. At 5:00 PM, we assembled in our hotel lobby for the 30-minute drive to Kunming University, specifically the Teachers Training Center. We were met by “Chris,” the driving force for the collaborative effort of the Training Center and Global Volunteers. We walked down the narrow streets of the nearby neighborhood to a favorite restaurant, where the teacher-students awaited us. I happened to be seated next to Chris, who explained that these teachers traveled 12 hours by bus from their rural prefecture to be with us for two weeks. In prior years, the participating teachers came from Kunming, but it was decided to go outside this provincial capitol and reach those teachers who come from more disadvantaged areas. Chris reports that they come mostly from rural villages, only three being chosen from each county. It is apparent that young teachers are selected for this program which is considered by them to be a rare privilege. The government underwrites most of the expenses of the teachers. We are excited to be with them for the next two weeks.

We returned to our hotel after a sumptuous Chinese dinner, less Marissa and Grace, who were detained by “Sean” for a tour of the campus. Sean is charming ever-present young student, who hopes to go to UCLA next year.

One of the slang words listed in our Teaching Guide is “pumped.” That perhaps best describes out state of mind as we prepare to go to the campus tomorrow.

- Lee