Thursday August 5, 2010

Thought for the day: The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.

Thursday is another teaching day. The drenching downpour of last night is more than just a memory. My school shoes are still so wet, I must choose a different pair.

We met as usual at 8:00 AM in our private dining room, for breakfast and our team meeting. Then, promptly at 8:00, the driver of the school van whisked us off to the campus. It is a beautiful morning, but we are not so trusting now of the appearance of the sky. We have our umbrellas at the ready, remembering the sudden thunderstorms of yesterday that can envelope Kunming without much warning.

The ride to the University was uneventful, as was our dispersal to our respective classrooms. Yesterday we had inquired of our students whether any of them were one of the 55 minorities in China. I had read that 25 of the minority groups have thrived in Yunnan Province for more than 2,000 years. Three of these teachers proudly responded that they were of one of the minorities, and Alice reported that her husband was one of the minority people. We asked them, as a homework assignment, to prepare a description of their minority group. Each of them in the classroom this morning read an extensive presentation about their respective people.

Michael told us of the third moon festival of the Bai People, and described their colorful festive costumes, drawing on the board the elaborate headdress that is worn in their ceremonial dances. We had seen a dance presentation on the stage of the elegant restaurant where we had dinner last night, that depicted many of the minorities of Yunnan Province. Helene remembered that Bai headdress.

Donna presented the customs of her Yi People and described for us in colorful terms the dance of the fire or torch festival. The other teachers listened attentively, even they seem to be knowledgeable of the customs of the various minorities.

Alice described the Dai People and their water-splashing festival (whatever that may be) and the Peacock Dance. She and Mary told me at the break that they would teach Helene and me the Peacock Dance. I’m not sure that I am looking forward to that, and we didn’t get around to such instruction. Tomorrow, the remainder of the class, who are of the Han majority in China (we are told 95%), will describe their people. It will be interesting to hear them.

The most fun in class today was the description of an American wedding ceremony. I had brought photographs of a wedding my wife and I recently had attended in Florida which I explained. We described each aspect of a wedding in a church, and Helene “married” Roy and Amy, to the great delight of the rest of the class, which included their affirmative responses to the familiar question, “Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife . . . ?” and so on.

There was much laughter. Most of the students have overcome their shyness are starting to loosen up.

For lunch today, the five of us walked to the Golden Flower Hot Pot Restaurant. It was different from the hot pot restaurant in Xi’an, which had the boiling broth in a large pot in the center of the table. Today, we had individual hot pots and the broth was not spicy. In addition to the two kinds of meats, we had quail eggs, julienned Lilly flowers, chopped cabbage strips and other vegetables to mix in one’s pot. There were slippery noodles which I found impossible to pick up with chopsticks.

This evening we had dinner in the hotel. Grace was absent with another engagement. The discussion was spirited, including a disagreement whether a proper plural form of “fruit” may be “fruits”. Helene insisted it was not. Marissa and I thought the latter was permissible. Bill was on the fence. Marissa said she would Google the words and report to us.

– Lee

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