China Team Journal

Friday, November 19, 2010

Please Vote for Global Volunteers this Weekend!

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your support.

Team Journal ~ The Final Day

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

November 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submitted by, Anita Verbeke

Monday, November 15, 2010

Team Journal, November 15

November 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submitted by Curtis Joe

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Team Journal, November 11

November 11, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submitted by, Anita Verbeke

Monday, November 8, 2010

Team Journal, November 8

Monday, November, 8 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submitted by Mary Mastin

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Team Journal ~ And So We Begin...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submitted by Anita Verbeke