Monday September 13, 2010

Thought for the day: It’s not the brightest students who need the most help.

Week 2 of team 187’s volunteer teaching in Xi’an: English Club students can cure whatever ails visiting English teachers.

We managed to extricate ourselves from a sudden swarm of smokers at our hotel breakfast, and driver Zhao demonstrated some NASCAR-like reflexes by detouring onto a sidewalk to extract us from a traffic jam. We passed a classical Greco-Roman building reminiscent of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome except the rooftop apostles in this case were nude to advertise a bath house Wei Duo Li Ya Yu Chang. Rush hour drivers carved an additional lane out of oncoming traffic proving once again that in China the wrong way can be the right way.

I had 23 students in my class. Thanks to Maggie’s and Claudia’s suggested dialogues, my students worked hard and some showed real imagination with their dialogues. The rest of our team reported similar good results.

I also asked students to help me make a list of tough to pronounce “th” words, then asked them to weave such words into complete English sentences. After class, several students spoke of their frustration in not being able to practice English with native speakers like us. Local teacher Swallow sat in on my class. It may be some sort of Freudian disorder, but once again I forgot to give them homework.

Marcella noticed in the office a school list of pesticides including “heavenly cow.” It turns out that’s the name for a long-horned beetle.

After lunch, we scattered to our separate errands. Maggie walked some of the city wall. Marcella, Wally and I checked out the local market, with many of the vendors taking their siesta. We passed two rag-tag old-time knife sharpeners pushing tool-laden bicycles and calling out their trade as it must have been done for centuries. One vendor was using a gas torch to burn hair off a pig skin. Moments later we were startled by a tour bus that also decided to use the sidewalk behind us as its personal traffic lane.

At the Shaanxi Daily headquarters we tried to wangle an invitation to see the newsroom but a meeting was in progress. A reporter in the lobby knew all about Marcella’s father and his various government posts. The paper employed about 700, 230 of them reporters.

Next we visited Xingqinggong Park. A brass band of Christians tried to save our souls but lost interest when they found we didn’t speak fluent Chinese. They delivered the worst rendition of Onward Christian Soldiers I have ever heard. I doubt if even Jesus could stand it.

Dinner was at the Muslim restaurant Old Sun House, where we worked for our supper tearing up biscuits for lamb soup. The stroll back from Renrenle was fascinating to see life on the city sidewalks, people eating, gambling, repairing bikes, etc.

– Tony

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