May 18, 2011 Volunteering in China – Global Volunteers

Journal by: Peace

From our hotel room on the 11th floor I can see down to the old city walls and the park. In the morning there are a few dozen people out there doing a calisthenics routine or Tai Chi. Living in such small places, it seems to be a treat for them to exercise in open space like that. Mostly it’s people over 50. I asked Teacher Della about running yesterday since people do that so much for exercise in the U.S., she said she thinks people don’t do it because there is no room. I told her we run on sidewalks and in the streets, she doesn’t know why people don’t do that here. I’ve seen an gym advertisement, perhaps this will catch on here, who can say.

No teacher accompanied me today, just the driver who is the father of the baby I held yesterday. Time has taken on a strange quality, it seems like that is a week ago. I don’t think he spoke much English, it was a very quiet ride, but quicker than yesterday. The sun has come out. We passed a dental clinic, all glass walls on a busy street, everyone can watch you as you get your teach cleaned or pulled or whatever.

Driving up to the school the gate wasn’t working and we had to drive around to the side and be let in by a person. The driver walked me up to the Foreign Affairs Office on the second floor and I met with Della and Julia. My classes were supposed to be held in the library, but there was no power so they asked if I minded walking up to the fifth floor for class. I asked where the materials were, the ones left by other volunteers, but Della said there were none. I had a rough outline and a few materials, so I went with what I had. My class was about 25 people, but only 2 boys! I thought there were more boys that girls in China and yet here I am with a class full of 16 year old girls. A couple of girls in the front row stood out right away, giving every answer, knowing a lot of English. Everybody kept telling me these kids were low level, but several of them have studied English 5 or more years and knew a lot. All the stuff I had for reviewing numbers, time, all way too easy for them. In fact we blew through everything I had in the first hour, with 2 more to go. It was fantastic when the teacher stopped in and led class for a while, she ended up asking me to do the first few exercises in their book with them, and then she assigned the rest as homework. I wish I had taken pictures.

They already knew the alphabet song, although they sing it differently ABCD, EFG, HIJK, LMN,OPQ, RST, UVW, XYZ, Chinese ending. A few of the girls knew Old MacDonald too. At some point I realized they were calling me teacher and we hadn’t practiced introductions. I wrote my name on the board and then one of the girls asked if I could write my name on her textbook. This started a rush, and soon I had printed my name in every text in the room. It was a little rough the whole morning though, I really had a beginner lesson plan and they were intermediate students.

For lunch Julia & Della walked over to the cafeteria with me, it is much like college cafeterias everywhere. They asked what kind of soy sauce I like to drink, but with a little translation I figured it was soymilk. I said, “what do you mean what flavor?” and Della said, “you know, green bean, black rice, etc.” I said in America the choices are vanilla, chocolate or plain. I let them choose. I got piping hot sesame flavored soymilk and it was good. Grain flavored and weird, but good.

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