Message of the day: “Without rain, there can be no rainbows.” Title of a memoir by Ryan Chin
After the initial greeting in the lobby, the first question was, “Do you have your umbrella?” Before the morning was over, someone announced that it was raining. We will gladly take the rain as our “rainbow” days of eager, smiling students are sadly coming to an end. Only three more sessions before the farewell. We will also miss the warm friendships we have made with so many of the teachers.
Today is April first, but we could find no one to fool today. The best we could do was to trick our classes with Simon Says. Once the students realize the point of the game, there are always a lot of giggles and embarrassed realizations that they have been tricked.
This was our second day on the original campus of the College of Communication Technology, a school about 10 times smaller than where we’ve been teaching. Since Montana and LuRue have been meeting with new classes daily, they have been using the same material with about the same level of success. They try to keep it fresh, as if they haven’t done it a dozen times before, but can only hope that it also seems fresh to the students.
Don began his class with Introductions and, as always, got a few surprises with the dreams expressed by some of his students. Even if they are not realistic, dreams are important. He continued with Vocabulary from the textbooks and Pronunciation.
Montana and LuRue weren’t caught by any April Fool’s Day pranksters, but they were surprised and delighted at the end of each class. After the first session, Lily’s class acted out “The Three Little Pigs”, presenting us with beautifully drawn pig faces as gifts. A very graceful dance was performed by one of the young women in the second session. She ended her performance by gliding into a perfect leg split!
After classes ended, we were whisked away by teachers and van to the old campus where we were led into a hotel on the campus of the college where we have been teaching all this time without realizing that there even was a hotel, which also has a restaurant. Many of the students spend some time there as part of their classes. We were treated to several dishes that were described as “minority” fare, including dumplings, noodles, and some sweet dishes.
At lunch, we got a peek at our next “assignment”…judging the Oral English Contest which was to take place immediately after we finished eating. Montana and LuRue were staring blankly at 5 charts on which the participants would be commenting, while Don was feeling on “home ground”. Before we three knew what we were getting into, we were escorted from the restaurant to a room in the college where we were seated in the front row, with very official-looking pages, pens, and stapled scraps of papers on which we would be writing numbers, expressing our opinions of the quality of the students’ presentations (17 in all) on a scale of 1 to 10, with 5-7 being average. As Don mentioned in yesterday’s journal, there would be three competitions: Retelling a short story after 5 minutes’ preparation, explaining a picture, randomly picked, and explaining a chart. As if the contestants weren’t terrified enough, they also had to endure a question from each of the three foreigners regarding the content of the chart he or she had randomly picked. Of course, Don was looking at the charts as child’s play and challenged the students to provide percentages while comparing one point of data with another. Montana and LuRue looked at each other with open mouths since neither of them would have had a clue on how to answer. And we supposedly speak English! Montana and LuRue had questions such as “In what year was the green higher than the red?” At that point, we gave the student points on how well they managed to maintain poise while under pressure.
Neither Montana nor LuRue like being a judge…we want everyone to do well…but we survived with our dignity intact, we think. The three of us were given the top 3 prizes to present: 2 second-place prizes and first prize. Those and the 3 third-place prizes were all mobile phone chargers of various capacities.
On the way back to the hotel, our driver’s patience was once again put to the test as he dealt with the rain & the rush hour traffic. His audible “tsks” make us realize that his job of getting us back and forth from here to there to everywhere must be very frustrating. However, he skillfully darts into available spaces the millisecond they open up, acing out the drivers to his right and left. Yesterday we saw a young man pedestrian perform a skillful pirouette while leaping a foot or two off the ground to avoid being hit by the car just in front of us. You literally have to be on your toes while crossing streets here!
We expected to experience winter during our entire trip to China. We have been delightfully surprised to watch cherry trees and other flowering trees, some a deep fuchsia color, come into full bloom, while the weeping willows are dressed in new green leaves.