China Team 179 Journal- Kunming Day 1-3

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thought of the day: Great changes may not happen right away, but with effort even the difficult may become easy. –Bill Blackman (Founder of Hearts and Minds – a volunteer organization)

We began our day at the bright and early time of 8 in the morning. Cindy and I made it to the restaurant on the 2nd floor for breakfast, and Baoli was already waiting for us in a comfortable booth. She showed us the variety of food available, and there certainly was a lot of food, mostly Chinese food, but a surprising number of items were also food from other parts of the world, or shared by other cultures around the world. For example, there was a large pile of sweet potatoes, which are quite well known in the United States. As I browsed the array of food, I was amused to find that some of the translations were misspelled, but I understood what they meant. With so many different items to choose from, I took quite a bit of time to choose, so when I got back to the booth, there was a new person seated next to Baoli. I had no idea who he was, and Baoli did not introduce him. The man did not talked the entire time he was there, probably because he was enjoying his noodle soup. I guess it’s normal for people to sit where there is room.

We discussed the scheduled for the day, which included lots of meetings, and bit of free time in between. Our first meeting was the introduction to the program meeting. Baoli told us about all the different programs in China, thos currently opened and those that were closed. It was fascinating to learn about all the different programs, and I was particularly inspired by the Anshang village program. I remember reading about that particular program on the Global Volunteer website a couple of years ago and wanted to join a team to the site, but could not because of scheduling conflicts. Baoli also reminded us of the philosophy, requirements, and guidelines of Global Volunteer.

After this morning meeting, we had about 3 hours of free time. Cindy and I decided to look around and perhaps do some shopping. Cindy was looking for a wool coat, and I wanted a wrist watch. We headed east on Renmin East Road. There were lots of small shops selling mostly clothing and shoes. There were a few that had office supplies and snacks, but it seemed that clothing was a specialty here. Cindy and I went into multiple clothing stores, but did not come away with any clothes. She found a beautiful red coat, but they did not have it in her size. Since she and I are about the same size, I doubt the stores would have something in my size, either. She tried on several more coats in different stores, but none were the right size. The store employees were generally very enthusiastic about helping to find the right stuff. In one particular store, there was a coordinated effort to locate the perfect coat, but in the end they just didn’t quite fit.

So, we decided to turn back and check out the Wal-Mart to the west of the Golden Spring Hotel. We decided to cross the street and see what’s on that side as we walked back. On the corner was a McDonalds. We got two vanilla ice cream cones. They were ok, but not quite the same as in the States.

We passed a tailor shop. Cindy thought it was a place that sold cloth, but I told I thought they actually made what you wanted from the cloth you selected. I was right. But it took a while to figure out how to communicate since neither of us spoke Chinese, and the shop owner didn’t speak English. Eventually, Cindy was able to sort it out with the tailor, with some help from a local shopper. Then, we went to Wal-Mart. I had no idea there were Wal-Mart stores in China. I had to take a picture.

Inside the store, it was chaotic. There were lots and lots of people shopping for everything. The store was four stories. I bought a wrist watch here. Cindy found a cool rolling suitcase/laptop bag. Unfortunately, they did not take credit card.

We got back to the hotel in time for the meeting with the English teachers from the school where we will be teaching for the next two weeks. The teachers told us what they would like us to do, for example, the 4th through 6th grade classes, we should follow their books, since these students have an upcoming exam. The 1st through 3rd grade classes, we can choose our own activities. We got to see the books the students used, which were very helpful. We also learned that the school is a private boarding school. The students live at the school during the week.
After the teachers left, we spent some time looking through materials to use for the lessons, then had dinner. There was another wedding at the restaurant. Apparently there two to three weddings each weekend at the hotel. I was still feeling jet lag, so I went to bed right after dinner. Tomorrow we get to meet the students.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Thought of the Day:
Wants the horse to be good and at the same time want the horse not to eat hay. (Chinese Proverb)
Moral: Nothing is perfect.

The first day school for the Global Volunteer team, I am not feeling nervous but it’s hard to know what to expect. We would like to do a good job but without first meeting the kids and observing the student/teacher interaction it’s hard to gauge. When we got to the school we were brought to the principal’s office to meet her. She was a very stylish woman and friendly woman. She allowed us to sit in her office until it was time for the welcome ceremony. As I got up I accidently spilled some water on the floor and it was funny to see the principal grab a mob and clean it up right away. I thought, “Oh, great what a way to start the day!”

When we got the welcome ceremony all the students (approximately 700) were lined up in rows according to their class. These kids were in perfectly straight lines and they shifted into different body stances and they were commanded to them. Some of the students helped to raise the flag and some of the older kids served as line leaders. Many of the kids were staring at me as if shocked to see and Africa-American woman for the first time. However, they were very polite about it and it felt quite nice to be a celebrity of some sorts. After the principal spoke about Global Volunteers and our role for the two weeks, my roommate and I were introduced. The children listened attentively and they applauded us.

After the ceremony, my roommate and went into teaching. It was hard-core baptism by fire but we both brave. As far as the children go these kids are just like the kids in American they like to sing, they like hands-on participation, they love to play games and they can be LOUD!
One thing I noticed was the classroom teachers, principals, and staff members were all wearing heavy coats. My roommate and I were not exactly ready for this and so it was very difficult not to focus on how cold it actually was all day long-everywhere! Hence, the Chinese proverb I chose–nothing is perfect! I admit it was hard to understand why they don’t invest in fireplaces or mobile heaters.

After we taught, we were invited to a local restaurant by the principal and staff. The restaurant was completely empty expect for us and the bathrooms in the restaurant was similar to the bathrooms in the school. It was a latrine-style and the opening is on the floor and you have to squat down and hope that it lands in the rectangular hole and not on your shoes. The one thing that surprised me was that the whole school had only one boys and girls bathroom and so teacher and students alike use the same bathrooms–which by the way have no doors, no toilet paper (so bring your own). I am sorry but I have to say this, “what if you are a teacher and you have to do no. 2 and one of your students walks in?”

Anyway, in the afternoon our team leader (Baoli), my roommate and I observed a grade 4 English class. I was impressed with all the modern teaching styles I saw. The teachers definitely do the best they can with the resources they have available. Each classroom has about 35 students. And I saw the kids recite a lot of what the teacher taught them in English. The English teacher had they work in small groups of four. She also had them play a game where they had to race another student to identify the English word she was pronouncing. The English teacher also had them act out the four words that she introduced. For example, for the word nurse the student got into pairs and pretending to be giving each a shot just as a nurse would.

I also got to observe a math class. I noticed the teacher used a lot of the same processes that we use in the U.S. to actively engage the students. She had them use multiples of ten to solve 2-digit division problems. She also had them come up to the board to show their work and explain their thinking. Another thing that the math teacher did that I liked is that she showed them non-examples as well as examples of how to do division problems. That way she could address misconceptions. If a student went to the board and had a mistake she used that student’s mistake as a teachable moment because she knew that other students in the class could make the same mistake. She took about 10 minutes to have a class-discussion about the mistake and how to fix it. She also had them work independently and I noticed she walked about to make sure they were doing it correctly.

After teaching some more in the afternoon, we went back to the hotel and had dinner. Even though, it was only around 7:30PM my roommate and I have been going to bed early to get some rest. The days are long and there is a lot to do by the end of the day we are exhausted. So exhausted that we actually said no to our team leader, Baoli when she offered to take us to Wal-Mart last night.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thought of the Day:
People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
– Anonymous

We woke up to bright sunshine this morning. This is the first time that has happened, and my roommate and I are very excited about seeing the sun because this meant that the day is probably going to be warmer.

We left for the school today knowing much more than yesterday. This helped since we now have a better idea of what we should do in the classroom. I certainly felt more prepared for the tasks I’m asked to complete.

The ride to the school was chaotic, as usual. I still cannot grasp how people navigate through all the lanes, the cars, the motorcycles, the bicycles, and the pedestrians. To me, it seems as if people go when they see an opening. Cars would turn and switch lanes while they’re turning as pedestrians dodge between the cars. At any moment, I expect to see a crash, but none has happened. The ride to and from the school is definitely a bit of an adrenaline rush.

At the school, I discovered a small fish pond near the entrance. We waited there while the students did their morning exercise. My roommate took this opportunity to get warmed up under the sun. I took some pictures of the fish in the ponds and of the students exercising.
My first class was pretty good. I had flashcards of the alphabet and use them to check the students’ recognition and pronunciation of the letters. We spent the whole class time checking and reviewing the letters. Next time, I will introduce some vocabulary and possibility some sight words. The students are in the vocabulary building stage of English language acquisition, so they need lots of repetition and practice.

My second class was also pretty good. They had already been introduced to the words that I reviewed with them to day. The students were enthusiastic and wanted to show what they knew. We spent the class going over the words in different ways. I think this is going to be the biggest challenge for me, finding different ways to review the same five to six words in a 40 minute class.

We came back to the hotel for lunch, then decided to rest until the afternoon session. On the ride back my roommate and I both felt that we were having a good day. Once again, our driver took us safely to the hotel.

The afternoon session was one regular English class and one interest class. Both classes went well for me and my roommate.

During dinner, Baoli had a brochure for a dance performance that highlighted Yunnan’s ethnic minorities’ heritage. It looks interesting, and I hope I have a chance to go see it. Tomorrow, she is going to teach us some Chinese.

– Dee

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