A Few Reasons to Smile

Four of us had more than a few reasons to smile, all day Friday:

-We were completing our first week of working with our students on their English: their spoken English was at a higher level than we had expected, generally.

-We were ending the morning with songs and dances for all 60 students.

-We were invited by Chris/Li Baokun to relax in a Hot Springs for the afternoon.

The “rain on our parade” Friday morning, though, was the absence from school of Team Member#5, Leon. At breakfast we learned that he would be spending the day in the hotel, recovering from a flare-up of asthma and troubled tummy.

Nancy subbed for Leon. We decided that the last 45 minutes of the morning we would meet in the big room on the first floor for activities all together.

In our respective classes we asked the students to recall and share some of the material from the “Break out” sessions of the previous afternoon. They responded to the new experience of “Break out” sessions favorably, although they found that some of the topics had advanced vocabulary or concepts that they found very challenging.

Break-out session topics were:

    pronunciation – led by Nancy

    what every good teacher knows – led by Jim

    idioms and slang – led by Leon

    the language of American Politics – led by Esther

In my class I asked the students for topics that they might suggest if choosing a Break Out session in the future. Their suggestions were:

     American teaching methods

     Comparing American teaching approaches to Chinese teaching approaches

     How is reading taught in American Schools?

The assembly for everyone, at the end of the morning included the game, “Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar.” They did pretty well at fitting the words within the strict rhythm of the game.

Our afternoon with Chris/Li Baokun began with a drive to a Muslim restaurant. We sat around a deep copper skillet that was placed over a bucket of hot coals. The spicy beef broth bubbled and cooked pieces of beef, potatoes, mushrooms, taro, two kinds of tofu/doufu, slices of lotus root, greens, and possibly a few more ingredients that I don’t recall.

After lunch we proceeded to the resort town of Anning. Our destination was the Jinfang Japanese-style Hot Springs. We changed into our swimsuits. Enrobed in blue terrycloth bathrobes and plastic sandals, we walked along stone pathways under pine trees. Each of the stone-lined pools had warm or sometimes very warm water. We would stop, disrobe, and ease our bodies into the pool for a relaxing soak. Depending on the pool, the water was sometimes clear, sometimes tinted, and sometimes scented. One pool had white water and a coconut scent. Another pool had pink water and the scent of roses. The most unusual pool, “the fingerling bath,” had small fish that nibbled gently on feet, legs, or other body parts. This pool was a particular favorite of Jim and Baoli.

After three hours of luxurious liquid languor, we four and Baoli left the Jinfang Hot Spring with Chris/Li Baokun. Our next and last stop in Anning was a Dai-style restaurant. Here we ate outside under a thatched shelter, sitting at a low rattan table and low stools. Pecking the ground around us were chickens. All of the food at this restaurant was prepared on a grill. The featured meat was barbecued chickens, served flattened, and with heads on. The other dishes were barbecued fish, mushrooms wrapped in banana leaves, eggplant smoked and baked in the coals, slices of beef, rice served in half of a pineapple, and a squash soup. We ate with chopsticks and with the plastic disposable gloves that were on the table. Delicious!

Feeling very satisfied, we then got into the cars and were driven back to the hotel, smiling inside and out.

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