Sunday August 1, 2010

Thought for the Day:
This is the first day in the China Global Volunteer program for Team 186. None of us is a teacher by profession, but we will undertake to teach others for the next two weeks. And, ironically, we will be teaching professional teachers. One thought that inspires us is:

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

A friend described his first stint as volunteer here in China as “a life-changing experience.” Just maybe we can make this a life-changing experience for these 45 middle-school teachers from a rural prefecture in Yunnan Province, most of whom will never have been face-to-face with a foreigner before.

Our team has only five members, an unusually small, and very diverse, group. Bill is a retired San Diego CPA from a large accounting firm, and now a large project construction manager. He is accompanied by his high school age daughter, Marissa. By herself is Grace, just turning 18, whose family is from Seoul, Korea, although she attends a women’s’ boarding school in Connecticut. This is their first service with Global Volunteers. The other member besides me is Helene, a nurse from UCLA Hospital. Helene and I have been team members together in Xi’an during the past two years. This is my fourth Global Volunteer program, my first in Kunming.

To prepare us for the two weeks ahead, Baoli conducted an orientation session in a beautiful conference room on the top floor of our hotel. Among the subjects covered, she had us list 15 characteristics of an effective team, such as being flexible and having respect for the opinions of others, and working together for the team goal. We reviewed the Global Volunteer philosophy of only doing what is asked of us. We are not here to do, but to help.

We spent perhaps three hours in the team meeting, before taking an afternoon break. At 5:00 PM, we assembled in our hotel lobby for the 30-minute drive to Kunming University, specifically the Teachers Training Center. We were met by “Chris,” the driving force for the collaborative effort of the Training Center and Global Volunteers. We walked down the narrow streets of the nearby neighborhood to a favorite restaurant, where the teacher-students awaited us. I happened to be seated next to Chris, who explained that these teachers traveled 12 hours by bus from their rural prefecture to be with us for two weeks. In prior years, the participating teachers came from Kunming, but it was decided to go outside this provincial capitol and reach those teachers who come from more disadvantaged areas. Chris reports that they come mostly from rural villages, only three being chosen from each county. It is apparent that young teachers are selected for this program which is considered by them to be a rare privilege. The government underwrites most of the expenses of the teachers. We are excited to be with them for the next two weeks.

We returned to our hotel after a sumptuous Chinese dinner, less Marissa and Grace, who were detained by “Sean” for a tour of the campus. Sean is charming ever-present young student, who hopes to go to UCLA next year.

One of the slang words listed in our Teaching Guide is “pumped.” That perhaps best describes out state of mind as we prepare to go to the campus tomorrow.

– Lee

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