Thursday July 1, 2010

Thought for the day:
“Peace is achieved one person at a time, through a series of friendships.”
Fatma Reda
Psychiatrist/Associate Professor
University of Minnesota Medical School
Also, Spokesperson for the Islamic Community

Our morning classes continue. Nancy and I have experienced exceptional attendance and participation in our class of 16. Bobby, however, has missed two days of class over the two weeks and returned today from a one-day illness. Every time his illness was mentioned, the rest of the class giggled, so we suspect that Bobby suffers less from a medical malady and more from too much of a good time.

We spent a good portion of the morning helping students one-on-one with their speeches for the upcoming Speech Festival (not Contest!) The topics were varied and interesting. Some students struggled to write more than one long paragraph while others wrote several pages. Some of the writing was surprisingly good, considering most students’ limited ability to speak English. Certainly the students have many ideas that they wish to communicate.

Our student Cathy had a birthday today and we delighted the class with our poorly done rendition of Happy Birthday in Chinese. Afterwards, the class insisted on teaching us a dance from one of their nationalities. I’m afraid that I wasn’t much better at the dancing than at singing in Chinese.

Today was Friendship Day, so our students took us out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Lizzy was in charge of ordering and wanted us to help choose the dishes to be served. She showed us the offerings, several pots of stews and soups and whatever, and a refrigerated case full of vegetables and meats. Nancy and I weren’t much help since we weren’t sure what everything was or what the items would be turned into, so we assured Lizzy that anything was fine – as long as it was cooked and not raw. Nancy also made sure that chicken feet were off the menu.

A few minutes later, dish after dish appeared, the usual amazing array of delicious food. One student just shook her head when I told her that a typical American meal might only have three or four items – what kind of meal would that be? Conversation flowed, mostly in Chinese, many pictures were taken by an extremely patient waitress, and we all left with good feelings and a full stomach.

The rain that has plagued us all week continued, but that didn’t stop our group from walking over to Green Lake Park in the light drizzle and exploring the grounds around it. Of course, many more pictures were taken. After a while, the students started asking us if we were tired. “No, we’re fine. We like to walk.” It finally occurred to us that the students might be tired (or at least tired of us), so we suggested that, yes, it might be time to find a taxi to take us back to the hotel.

The rest of the day passed quietly, many of us preparing for our upcoming weekend adventures. At dinner the other volunteers shared their stories of lunch with their students. Two classes left for their lunch early, at 10:30 am, and were properly punished by enduring a pouring rain. Our dinners are always accompanied by lively conversation and much laughter. We all agreed that this has been a terrific team and we look forward to our last week together, a week that will surely fly by, much as the last two weeks have.
– Esther

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