China Team Journal

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A change in plans

We were up and prepared for a half-day tour of a replica of a village for this area of China. Our hopes and dreams were shattered after breakfast when our leader Wang Baoli called to inform us that the trip was cancelled. It had rained all night and the dirt roads were impossible. With no alternatives, we stayed in the hotel, assessing our “belongings” and packing them into our suitcases. We had lunch with Baoli and son and later her husband came and they took Phyllis out shopping. Tomorrow at 7 a.m. we will meet Baoli, her husband, and her son and visit Baoli’s husband’s work place and Exposition Park.

Entry submitted by: Dick

Message for the Day: If you do not live it, you do not believe it. – Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A special farewell program

Today was a special day! Although the rain greeted us in the morning, it turned out to be a sunny day. We kept our morning class schedule, helping the students with pronunciation of nursing terms and health questions asked at a visit to the doctor’s office. After our class was over, some of us were given a tour of the campus which included the sports field, communication center, dormitories, and cafeteria.

It was a special day because a farewell program was held in a big assembly hall. It was also the last day of school for the week because of the Autumn Festival celebration. The Global Volunteers trio was introduced and each of us had to make a brief introduction of ourselves. After that it was questions and answer time, followed by talent performances of dancing and singing by some students. Julia and Baoli joined the trio in singing “What Aloha means.” The Urghur students got up to do their native dance and pulled us up to dance with them. It was fun! What a grand way to end our service adventure.

Before we left the college campus, the college president presented each of us a Chinese Scroll – a picture taken from the wall of an ancient cave - and a Chinese Poem. Mahalo Nui Loa to all!

Entry submitted by: Thelma

Message for the Day: “Yellow Gold has its price. Learning is priceless.” - Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A full day of teaching

Today is our long day. We began teaching at 8:30 a.m. and ended our day at 5 p.m. Our day began by teaching nursing students. We all used their workbooks. We went through their new word list, reviewed last weeks work, sang, and did whatever we thought was needed. We then spoke to 200 – 300 first-year students. We all shared our names and what we did. The one hour was not enough time for them to ask questions. We needed to cut our introduction time so the students would have more time. We enjoyed a very large lunch of various Chinese dishes. In the afternoon we taught the Wicker students again. They were easier to teach. They participated more and their pronunciation of English words was good. We all had an easier and enjoyable time with the Wicker students. This was a good way to end our long school day. We all were too tired to think of shopping. The old guys ate dinner, took a bath, and hit the hay. 

Entry submitted by: Phyllis

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hundreds of dumplings at Lily's house

This morning class was to be with the English club members. We were told it would be voluntary attendance and it would be a surprise as to who would come. Last Monday we had eight students. Today we had two students.

Thelma and Phyllis worked with them doing individual reading of some simple children’s books which we brought, in English, of course. This went on until about 10:15 a.m. Then after a break, the group shifted gears. From then until 11 a.m. the group worked with crafts and conversational English. Phyllis did paper folding or origami and ended up teaching knot tying for buttons on clothes. Thelma then led the group in making soda cap leis with the objective of conservation and keeping the landfill as empty as possible. The two girls embraced the idea of the ribbon soda cap leis with enthusiasm.

Shortly after 11 a.m. we left for Lily’s apartment via an auto ride in Jules’s car. There Lily, her mother, another staff person, and a student were making dumplings. Phyllis jumped in to help. They made literally hundreds for lunch. When they were cooked, we sat down to a lunch of dumplings, string beans, lotus roods, and noodles. There were two kinds of dumplings: vegetable and pork. The meal was very good, but for us the dipping sauce of vinegar, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce was a little rough on our “southern Chinese” palates. The dumplings tasted good without the sauce for us.

We spent the rest of time with them, chatting, singing, and sharing with them Mac Nut covered chocolate candy which we brought from home. We returned to the hotel via the school ar.

Entry submitted by: Dick

Message of the Day: As I was tucking my son in bed one night I said “Try, I love you! He replied “I do, too.” I teasingly said “No, you don’t?” He said “Yes, Mommy, I do.” “How do you know it’s love?” I asked. He responded “I’m not really sure what love is, but you make my heart smile!” I then realized, without a doubt, he understood love better than most adults.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The more students the merrier!

After a night of thunder, lightning, and rain, the morning shone bright and sunny. During our morning session our Global Volunteers trio became a duet when Phyllis left for a weekend destination.

Dick met his new students by introducing himself and showing his family album, including pastimes activity and observations of special events. Then he worked with them on calendar words, names of the month, and days of the week. Next was using the student’s text book to help on pronunciation of medical terms and usage words.

Facing a class of new faces, I greeted them with “Aloha” and a short introduction of myself and where I live. My question - how can I help the students? The teacher then told me to go over the new words and expressions listed in the textbook. By this time, our class size had increased with Phyllis’s class joining ours. Ha! The more the merrier. We managed to finish this page and started with new words on the next page.

Entry submitted by: Thelma

Message for the Day: “An inch of gold may be lost. A lost inch of time, never.” - Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A warm welcome from Principal Liu

Dick, Thelma, Phyllis, and Baoli began the day at school by walking the three to four flights of stairs to their classroom as there is no elevator. We began climbing and singing "Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain" to distract us from our first task of the day. When we reached the third floor, we were informed we needed to go to the principal's office. We were not sure what to expect. To our surprise there was a friendly, warm man to greet us, Principal Liu. Principal Liu welcomed us and shared his appreciation for our volunteering in his school. Also, if I am not mistaken it is Principal Liu’s private car and driver who transport us to and from our hotel to school daily. What a wonderful way for the three volunteers to start their day. 

This morning we had the HNC1 students. All of us used their nursing manual. We helped them with their pronunciation and clarification/definition of the words in their text book. Of course each day can't go by without singing and sharing of our own heritage and theirs. Our day ended with a nap then shopping. I'm happy I found a new Alaska fishing raincoat. My six-year-old raincoat crashed this year and I got soaked and wet. We are still looking for Thelma’s cassette player and Phyllis’ terra cotta soldiers. Now for dinner and bed.

Entry submitted by: Phyllis 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A special day for teachers

It is a special day for teachers. For us, the day began as usual with a big breakfast at the hotel. The three musketeers left for school and began their days with one third of the two-year nursing students. The students were basically quiet, but answered our questions and could pronounce the words fairly well. In my class we practiced “How are you?” and “How do you feel?” We did some round singing of “The more we get together” and getting to know you. We also did some energy work and simple massage. I passed out the sheets with suffixes and prefixes. Dick had fun in his class sharing his Chinese history in Hawaii. He helped them pronounce the words from their nursing text book. Of course the retired minister shared his singing ability with the group, too. As a teacher, Thelma is most capable to help the students with conversational English. She helped them with the pronunciation of the words in their nursing text book and happy songs. We had to stay in our school to be available for the afternoon classes. Julia, Pan Pan, and Baoli took us to lunch at a restaurant across the street. We had a very tasty and popular Muslim dish called “beef or mutton soup with bread.” The most exciting part of lunch break was crossing a street with heavy traffic to get to the restaurant and back to school. We will be teaching another group this afternoon. The classes will be with the Urghur group. Now our day has ended and we are heading back to our hotel and dinner.

Entry submitted by: Phyllis 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Our first day working with students

Rise and shine! We were up early so that we could all make it to breakfast and have time to get ready for our first day with students. Since Monday and Sunday are the school’s weekend, those who would come today were volunteers wanting to learn English and wondering what these new volunteers are like.

We started at 8:00 a.m. with three students so it was decided for the three of us to work with them individually after doing introductions. Well, it started that way after introductions, but soon others joined the group until we had eight or ten students. We then broke up into three groups. Thelma and I took our students to the office and worked with the kids together.

Entry submitted by: Dick

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Our first work day

Today was our first day in Xi’an. It began with a buffet breakfast at the leisure hour of 7:45 a.m. We knew that the next few days would be different - leisure hours will be different and rare and 6 a.m. call ups will surely arouse us from our peaceful slumber.

Our introduction from our leader, Wang Baoli, was to meet at 12:30 a.m. for lunch. Lunch was served by smiling waitresses and was more than acceptable. In fact, it was good. Good ordering, “Madam Leader.”

At 2 p.m. we were off to the school where we will be teaching. We went through the goals and objectives and the other assignments that Global Volunteers sets for all programs.

We then met some volunteer students who welcomed us to the school. We introduced ourselves and they did the same with some hesitation and bashfulness on their part. They sang some songs for us in both Chinese and English. The students were great but shy. We closed with the leader telling us about them. What I forgot to say was that a teacher in the school brought her 5-year-old daughter, who sang a song for us. Of course we all applauded her effort.

We enjoyed dinner at 6:30 p.m. which ended with the question of “Who will do the journal?” Reluctantly I did. So ends the first “work” day.

Entry submitted by: Dick

Message of the Day:Everyone has noted the astounding source of energy that seems available to those who enjoy what they are doing. The self-renewing man knows that if he has not great conviction about what he is doing, he had better find something that he can have great conviction about!” - John Cardner in Self-Renewal

Friday, July 12, 2013

Volunteering in China - July 12

Team #209 started their eventful day with their morning ritual of meeting in room 9 for their fabulous buffet breakfast. Unsurprisingly, there was a latecomer that failed to show up on time for the morning meal. This time, it was Nora who was just stumbling out of bed while the rest of the team was enjoying breakfast. As you can see, punctuality is the key to success, as noted in the team’s list of 15 Characteristics of an Effective Team.

Not only was Nora late to breakfast, but she was also late in joining Tom and Geni’s class this morning. Usually, Nora spends the first half of the morning with Fran and Dia’s class and the second half with Tom and Geni. Fran and Dia’s class started their morning off with reciting poems. Tom and Geni’s class spent their morning practicing for their final performance and learning about oxymorons and opposites. Anne and Myrle’s class was busy performing skits, ordering off menus, and playing various games.

At the end of our busy morning, team 209 headed back to the hotel for lunch. Clearly, lunch was one of the best meals the team has had so far. Anne even ate (and enjoyed) one of her most hated vegetables: broccoli. Geni, Nora, and Dia’s afternoon was almost completely uneventful, including only a trip to the bakery and a few games of cards. At the end of the day, the Gualtieris started to prepare for their weekend trip to Shangri-la while Anne and Myrle went to Green Lake and rowed in paddleboats. What a wonderful way to end a busy week!

Entry submitted by: Geni

Message of the Day: “Alfonso is sweet and all, but he’s too in touch with his feminine side.” –Anne Radcliffe

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Volunteering In China - July 11

Team #209 started the day with a good breakfast and everyone was punctual as usual. We got to school and Myrle and I started class with the presentations of some interesting TV show skits. In the other room, a heated game of “memory” took place, as well as reenactments of popular Disney stories. 

We came back to the hotel for lunch and had my favorite: stuffed buns. There was some interesting conversation at the table; however, no one seemed to believe me when I told them about the world’s best cup of coffee, provided by a small animal that ate, then returned, the beans that were used to create this supposedly extraordinary-tasting brew.

After lunch, there was a lecture back at school given by Fran, who reported back that all went well, except that she accidentally gave out the wrong information about her children. Who remembers that stuff anyway? Nora, Geni, Dia, and I started, but failed to finish, a monopoly game while Myrle worked in his room and Tom attended the lecture at school. Surprisingly, the sun peeked out in the afternoon for an extended period of time, which was very uplifting after a spell of rainy days. 

Dinner was at the hotel and consisted of some more stimulating conversation. We jumped from topics such as Ebonics as a language offered in school (although no one believed me on that one either), to the most popular sports in the U.S. of A. (three out of the five most popular sports were football - who knew), and we ended by sharing our earliest memories (some of which were very traumatic). After dinner we retired to our rooms to get ready for the end of week one. 

Entry submitted by: Anne

Message of the Day: “It is noble to teach oneself, but still nobler to teach others - and less trouble.” – Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Encouraging signs

With all the emphasis on punctuality, it was not at all surprising that barely minutes after 7:00, the entire team was seated and enjoying breakfast and lively conversation. With the usual efficiency of superior leadership, Baoli moved the meeting along quickly to allow everyone ample time before departure to ensure nothing was forgotten or neglected on the day of the big song and dance. In the care of our excellent driver, we made the perilous journey along the rainy streets of Kunming without incident. 

We are by now well adjusted to our teachers and vice versa. Lesson plans are all over the map and trading ideas and schemes that worked well in one class are routinely passed on to benefit others. In our class, we intermixed active segments with language-oriented desk work to maintain the energy level with some success. The “fly swatter vocabulary”, tried and recommended by others in the team, proved to be very popular. The teachers quickly learned how to beat the system to win the competition, but they did so with good humor and no harm done. We will do a repeat. Idioms continue to be a challenge to explain. 

The important day’s take-away for our part of the team was a perceptible shift in the relationship. We seem to have moved from an “us and them” condition to one of friendly colleagues working together to improve language skills and find new methods for teaching English at the middle school level. Our final two conversations, the first stimulated by written responses that were discussed and the second an appeal for a better method of engaging students, were among the most fully engaged dialogues so far.

The unquestionable highlight of the day was the afternoon singing and dancing extravaganza. Ably choreographed by the four young ladies who are rapidly becoming the key to our team’s success, the afternoon session turned into a noisy high energy event that would have made Bob Fosse envious. Once Nora warmed up the group and turned them over to her partners, the beat and step barely paused as they moved from galloping ponies to moving feet to shifting hand games. We can imagine the teachers, sweaty and exhausted, collapsed in their beds and wondered happily what they had gotten themselves into.

Tom and Myrle, wary of being drawn into yet another activity where their motor skills would be revealed as inadequate, fled the premises on foot. Dinner was at another restaurant within walking distance where our thoughtful hostess and intrepid leader lavished dumplings on the stars of today’s endeavors as a well-earned reward. The sun was also visible for as much as 45 seconds today: an encouraging sign.

Entry submitted by: Myrle

Message of the Day: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things that you did.”  - Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Singing and dancing in the classroom

The day started the usual way with the eight of us eating breakfast in room 9. Tom arrives late while saying something about punctuality to make up for being the last one down to breakfast. When we are done eating, Geni and I got supplies for class. I got scissors, paper, glue, and tape for the primary school teachers. Fran started class with the primary teachers writing their homework on the chalkboard. She didn’t plan for homework to take the whole class time. There was only enough time for Dia to quickly teach the Macarena and the Hokey Pokey at the very end of class. I was with Fran and Dia’s class for the first part of the morning, but after their break, I went downstairs. 

I joined Tom and Geni’s class while the junior high teachers were going over vocabulary. Geni and I used their vocabulary words to play the fly swatter game. The teachers enjoyed the game greatly. Later Geni and I got the class to play Picturegram. Somehow the class got an elephant to be a chicken and a car turned into a flower. It was very fun and amusing. Speaking of fun, I heard that Myrle and Anne were teaching their class how to dance to the Cotton Eye Joe. I didn’t know there was a dance for that song; Anne will have to teach me at tomorrow’s dancing and singing session.

Entry submitted by: Nora

Message of the Day:  “Let it be.”

Monday, July 8, 2013

Our first day volunteering

Punctuality is one of the hallmarks of an effective team. Our team demonstrated peak punctuality on the first day of class when we gathered in front of the Golden Spring Hotel. We had eaten our usual hearty breakfasts and had reviewed the minutes of the day before, delivered by Frances, between bites of dragon fruit. “I’m glad to see you're all punctual,” said BaoLi. It was a clear case of hurry up and wait because our transportation vehicle didn't arrive until 9:00 instead of 8:30. But we arrived safely and debouched onto the campus of Kunming University, which hardly any of us recognized as there have been so many changes made over the past year.

Our day began with a special meeting with all the teachers and the staff of Kunming University. We all introduced ourselves, first Tom then Francis, Nora, Geni and Dia, and finally Myrle and Ann. Then Mr. Zhiang held forth, advising the teachers to attend their classes punctually.

On the chalkboard in the classroom:  Students' Lesson Goals
Tom and Geni met their class of thirteen students; Merle and Ann had sixteen students; and Francis, Nora, and Dia had fifteen. The first day was spent with introductions and discovering goals. It was only a half day. During the afternoon, the team retired to their studies and class preparations.

Festivities followed during the evening. BaoLi escorted the English language teachers to the Cross Bridge Restaurant. Of what transpired thereafter, your correspondent cannot say.

Entry submitted by: Tom

Message of the Day: "Spring into action."  -Chuck Norris

Sunday, July 7, 2013

China Volunteer Vacation Begins - July 2013

A new Global Volunteers Team in China!

With a delicious dinner on Saturday evening, July 6th, Team #209 began their two-week journey in Kunming, China. Global Volunteer Country Manager Baoli Wang was a welcome sight for Myrle, Tom, Geni, Nora, Dia, and Fran. Anne has yet to discover what a delight it is to work with this SUPERIOR LEADER.

On Sunday, July 7, 2013 we breakfasted in the Golden Spring Hotel (GSH) before our team orientation. We do love the GSH breakfast buffet as lots of different and interesting treats are available. Our enthusiastic team decided our team goals were: to exchange cultural understanding; to help with the English teachers’ fluency; to enjoy Chinese food; to explore the city of Kunming; to have fun; and to connect with the English teachers.

Our lunch after the morning session introduced us to Gingko seeds, new to all of us but Baoli. Afternoon trips included Myrle’s activation of his Chinese phone; Geni, Nora, Anne, and Dia’s shopping excursion in the neighborhood; and Tom/Fran’s three-hour roundtrip walk to Green Lake. Dinner included an introduction of spicy cauliflower and new ways to present an orange on a platter.

Entry submitted by: Fran

Message of the Day: “A journey begins with a single step.”  - Lao-Tzu (paraphrased) 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

We part as friends and global neighbors

Today is the last day of the 23rd Kunming school teachers' training. All twelve volunteers were excited and saddened with the rapid ending of the program. It seemed that the teacher training was just building up steam. The volunteers were instructed to wrap up their training tasks during the first two hours of the day to prepare for the closing ceremony at 10:30 a.m. in the fourth floor auditorium. 

The closing ceremony was well attended by the Yunnan province education leaders including Yunnan University Training Chiefs, Continuing Education Chiefs, English Program Host (Chris), Global Volunteer China Country Manager (Baoli), all the volunteers, and of course the 90+ student teachers. The noteworthy speeches were offered by the nominated student teacher representative who expressed the benefits and deep appreciation of their two weeks of English training. The individual volunteer short speeches were equally emotional with extended, warm friendship. This was followed by exchanging gifts to volunteers and completion certificates to the student teachers. After the formalities, Nancy and Dixie led everyone in farewell songs. It was a great fulfilling ending to two weeks of intense work!

Zal Jian!

Entry submitted by: Stella

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4 in China - A Volunteer's Story

Today I was awakened by the beautiful scent of the fresh flowers given to me by one of the students. After teaching, we were treated to a delicious lunch by the students. The restaurant served Bai minority recipes. The food was delicious and abundant. It was served by waitresses dressed in minority attire. I commented to the students that the meal felt similar to our American Thanksgiving.

During lunch I enjoyed chatting with one of our Hani minority students while he described all of the fascinating insects he encountered while on a recent hike in the mountains.

While I've now been away from home for 3 weeks, leaving Kunming is bittersweet. I will miss the students and the volunteer team.

Despite my frustration of trying for several nights to locate an appropriate quote on volunteerism from a website that isn't blocked, I found the following quote which seems to fit:

"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead

Wishing all my fellow volunteers “happy trails” and best wishes in all that you do.

Entry submitted by: Wendy