China Team Journal

Friday, October 29, 2010

Team Journal, October 29

Friday, October 29 - Greg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Team Journal, October 28

Thursday, October 28 - Mary Ellen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Team Journal, October 27

Wednesday, October 27 - Fred

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Team Journal, October 26

Tuesday, October 26 - Gwendolyn

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Team Journal, October 25

Monday, October 25 - Ginny

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Team Journal, October 24

Sunday, October 24 - Judith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Team Journal, October 23

Saturday, October 23 - Mary Ellen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Team Journal, October 22

Friday, October 22 - Greg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Team Journal, October 20

October 20, 2010 - Judith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In all, QUITE a day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Team Journal, October 19

Tuesday, October 19 - Tommy

Thought for the Day: Fame can be demanding!

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Team Journal, October 18

Monday, October 18 - Fred

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

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Team Journal, October 17

Sunday, October 17 - Judith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Team Journal, October 16

Saturday, October 16 – Gwendolyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

Team Journal, October 15

Friday, October 15, 2010 – Greg

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

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

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Team Journal, October 14

Thursday, October 14, 2010--Elli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Team Journal, October 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Team Journal, October 12

Tuesday, October 12, 2010--Tommy

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

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

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Team Journal, October 11

Monday, October 11, 2010--Ginny

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Sunday, October 10, 2010--Mary Ellen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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