China Team 218 Journal for Wednesday October 14, 2015
Message of the day: “Don’t judge a man by where he is because you don’t know how far he has come.” C.S. Lewis
I see China and my students through virgin eyes. This is my first trip to China so all I have known about this ancient country comes through others. And hearsay sources, my lawyer training tells me, are not always reliable. I suppose I had expected more homogeneity in dress and lifestyle. Instead, I have observed an individuated sense of fashion and life choices, from young people wearing chic, urban clothing to religious Muslim women wearing bright turquoise hijabs. The urban streets of Xi’an hum with masses of metal moving through and across the crowded streets –on Chevrolets and Volvos to electric and gas motorbikes. Cars lack seatbelts and motorcyclists lack helmets; and even though collisions seem imminent, no one appears anxious about the prospect. What in the USA would be road rage moments from being crowded out of the lane here is a normal opportunity for driver ingenuity or foolhardiness–often interchangeable–but not anger.
Every morning these asphalt threads deliver me to the Xi’an University School of Technology, where Carolyn and I share the reading room–her 20 or so students claim one end and my 20 or so claim the other. I don’t even know she is there until I hear “The wheels on the bus go round and round.” They are loud. We get louder. It’s becoming the Chinese version of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World.”
While Carolyn and I work with our 15 to 20 year old students, mostly male, on pronunciation and fluency, Claudia and Mary use textbooks to achieve the same goal–increasing enthusiasm for English and skill i doing it. Today my first class gave me a Chinese name–not reproducible here–through a group effort. I was delighted to receive it. The students allow me to make individual demands of then–whether reading a sentence in English or answering a question I put to them. No one whines (one of today’s vocabulary words). Few have good skills in speaking English, but all of the students help each other to give accurate responses.
After four hours of teaching, my mouth is exhausted.
This afternoon we tutored the wait and reception staffs in improving their English responses to customers. Sometimes the failure of translation to accurately reflect the idea provides the humor we all need. Mine occurred today when the information for the wait staff had “breakfast bowel” as one of the vocabulary words. Assuming a typo, I changed it to “breakfast bowl” and talked about cereal and fruit for the bowl. Bao Li said it really was “breakfast bowel”–sausage! I can just picture Americans ordering “breakfast bowel” from the menu!
This evening brought an outing to the Shaanxi Grand Opera
House and what a grand night it was: colorful, ethereal dancing and traditional Chinese musical instruments that clanged, clacked, and plucked their way into the most gorgeous music. A dumpling extravaganza followed. After nearly endless courses of cabbage, fish, pork, fruit, and other dumplings, I felt as stuffed as the duck dumpling. Delivered to our hotel by an honest cabbie–only $2.00 for a ten minute ride–we arrived tired, but in the good way that comes from a day well spent.