China Team Journal

Saturday, June 22, 2013

China Team #208 Begins Work in Kunming

"I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
                                                                        Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909)
                                                                        Author, Historian, Clergyman

Global Volunteers China Team #208 began its two-week program in Kunming at Saturday night’s dinner where, besides eating the first of many Chinese feasts to come, we played Global Volunteers’ “name game.”  On Sunday morning we all convened in the hotel’s 20th floor conference room for an orientation, ably presented by our country manager, Wang Baoli.

We began with introductions. Our team consists of a diverse group of 12 of largely Californians. 

Kitty is a retired college professor of English literature, linguistics and ESL.  She is originally from China and actually lived in Kunming as a toddler during the Sino-Japanese War. This is her first experience with Global Volunteers.

Michael and Janet are retired public school teachers who live in Oakland’s Chinatown.  Janet has switched her traveling allegiance from England to China. The two of them have taken some 18 trips to China.  This is their seventh Global Volunteers team in China.  They have also served in Vietnam.

Nancy is a fourth generation Californian.  Her careers have included cattle ranching, computer work and video production.  Music is now her avocation.  This is her fifth team in Kunming.

Nancy and Esther in the classroom on a previous service program.

Wendy is on her fifth Global Volunteers program, having served in other locations in China and in Vietnam.  She is an instructional designer of e-courses. 

Lester and Stella are also first-time Global Volunteers.  They only count partially as Californians because they split their time there with Maryland.  Lester, an engineer, immigrated to the US as a child from Hong Kong.  Stella was raised in Korea and became a nurse.  She worked in Bahrain and Saudia Arabia.  On a vacation in Europe, she re-connected with Lester and they eventually married.  Talk about a long-distance romance!

Now for those of us not from California:

Jim taught French, Spanish and ESL for 34 years in the Milwaukee Public Schools.  He now teaches new teachers best practices at the University of Wisconsin.  This is Jim’s fifth Global Volunteer program in Kunming.  He’s also served on Hainan Island and in Portugal.

Mary, a friend of Wendy’s, grew up in Texas, but spent 22 winters exiled to Albany, New York.  Now she’s retired and has returned to Austin, Texas.  She travels regularly to France and has served with Global Volunteers previously in Xian and Vietnam.

Leon and Dixie are New Yorkers, although Dixie has that California connection because she was raised there with her sister Nancy.  They served in Xian once and are returning to Kunming for the sixth time.  Leon is happy to help with mechanical things like computers and hotel windows.  We will all enjoy Dixie’s talent in music and dance.

Esther and her "teacher-students" on an earlier service program.

Now, who have I left out?  Oh!  Me, of course!  I’m Esther and I live in Minneapolis where I teach parent education.  This is my fourth time in Kunming and I served in Greece as well.

Our introductions having taken at least two to three times the allotted time, Baoli plowed ahead with an overview of the Global Volunteers’ China program, a review of Global Volunteers’ philosophy and the 12 essential services.  We set goals, a process that provided us more information about each other’s personalities. 

Wang Baoli, Country Manager

Baoli asked for help in several areas.  Leon and Esther will share duties as journal managers.  Stella, our experienced nurse, will handle health and safety.  We decided, rather than burdening one person with coordination of free time, that we would have a discussion over dinner where those who have been in Kunming before would share ideas for touring and activities.

After some explanation of Global Volunteers policies and health and safety measures, we arrived at the meat of the matter – the teaching project.  There will be approximately 90 teachers, four sections of elementary school teachers, one of middle school teachers, and one of kindergarten teachers.  Baoli assigned teaching pairs: Nancy and Kitty, Leon and Lester, Janet and Michael, Dixie and Stella, Mary and Jim, Wendy and Esther.

Our afternoon was our own.  Each teaching pair spent some time in preparation.  Several people took a stroll on the canal.  A teacher from Esther’s group last year happened to drive by and spot the group – a nice surprise and rather astonishing in a city of many million.

A delicious dinner was followed by more details of the days to come.  I am sure I can speak for all of us that we look forward to tomorrow when we will meet our students and begin our project in earnest.