Sunday July 18, 2010

Thought for today: The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Neibuhr, American theologian and Christian intellectual. God give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

We are half way through our two week service session in Kunming and it has been exhilarating, exciting, fun, and exhausting. I was very happy to have the weekend free in order to recoup after being away from home for over one month, traveling over Southern and Southwestern China and winding up at the Shanghai World Expo before starting my Global Volunteers session in Kunming.

I anticipated teaching in Kunming would be relatively easy since this is my fourth term back to Kunming University (previously Kunming Teachers College). But it has been a little disorganized for both Kathleen and me, first time teaching as a team, in that we have not gone over and refined our lesson plans as we had planned to do before starting our China journey. But we started our first week in Kunming on cruise control and like bicycle riding, the techniques come back on a subconscious level.

The first week ended and I was happy to rest yesterday with spending some time in the street next to the hotel with shopkeepers whom we have known for four years and who recognized us from prior sessions. We have also had an opportunity to touch base with some of our former students who have kept in contact with us throughout the years.

This morning was the first time Kathleen and I ate breakfast at the late hour of 8:00am in the hotel and enjoyed a long leisurely meal. We didn’t have an opportunity to eat with the other team members although J.K. Chun stopped for a few minutes to have a second cup of coffee with us.

After breakfast, Kathleen and I went to Green Lake Park to spend several delightful hours mingling with the local people and seeing how Kunming families, young couples, and a few tourists, spend their Sundays. The park is quite nice for a large park located in the heart of a big city and like Central Park in New York, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and Grant Park in Chicago, it forms a large part of the culture of the city dwellers. We enjoyed seeing young singles, one, two, and three generation families, the little kiosks offering souvenirs, toys, refreshments. the lake with its lotus plants, ducks, paddle boats, and many people, like us, enjoying a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

We returned to the hotel and had lunch at a restaurant a few yards adjacent to the hotel, XiYingZhai, a modern Chinese fast food/cooked to order, hybrid, restaurant/cafeteria. The decor is clean, McDonald’s style, with their logo on plastic plates and bowls. After entering the restaurant you read the menu with accompanying pictures on the walls. After deciding what you want to eat, you go to the only cashier, tell her what you want and pay her for your meal. You get one receipt for each item you offer. You then turn around and go to the counter where your food is cooked and present your receipt. Your order is filled, you take your tray and utensils and find an empty table and enjoy. The dining room employees, almost all young women, clean all the tables and keep the condiment trays filled. No self-busing.

The food is quite good for simple dishes, well prepared. For 12 Yuan, approximately $1.80, I had a four item tray: a covered bowl of seaweed soup, a covered bowl of rice, a plate of sliced barbecued roast pork, and a small dish of stirred fried cabbage with mushrooms. Utensils and paper napkins are included. The only unusual part of this nice lunch was the absence of anything to drink — no water or tea. Since soup is served, most patrons do not drink anything else. As usual we always bring a bottle of water with us in case of situations like this.

My wife had a large bowl of soup rice noodles with beef: 6 Yuan or 90 cents. Total cost of a leisurely lunch for two, nice ambiance, tasty and enjoyable food, good nutrition: $2.70 American. Tipping not expected nor desired, but probably appreciated. Welcome to Yunnan Province! The only downside: if you don’t speak elementary Mandarin, you may have some challenges to overcome. Learn to point or study Wang Baoli’s Chinese lessons.

After lunch we retreated back to the hotel, relaxed with some television and computer time.

Dinner at 6:00 pm at the hotel with the team who filled everyone in with their Sunday activities. Wang Baoli gave us some background material for our Hump Memorial visit on Tuesday. After dinner Kathleen had her weekly nail treatment at the local beauty emporium on the adjacent street. As a finale to a restful Sunday, Kathleen and I went back to our room where we prepared for our teaching session tomorrow and where I did my journal duties.

Week two begins tomorrow with a morning visit to the wholesale Dou Nan flower market in the New Kunming area. Let the activities commence!

– Martin

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