Tuesday August 10, 2010

Thought for the Day: If you plan for one year, plant rice. If you plan for ten years, plant trees. If you plan for 100 years, educate mankind.

It was a day of firsts: seeing our first traffic accident, our first field trip with our students and the first night I’ve not gone out for sweets after dinner…

After saying just yesterday that we’ve not seen any traffic accidents, we saw three today. Fortunately none of the accidents looked too serious – mostly of the type we would call fender benders.

Our driver, Mr. Na, arrived promptly at 8am this morning to drive us to Kunming University. He drove the “long way” past the Yunnan Provincial Museum to the campus. Even though it is a longer distance, we arrive quicker to our classes as there is significantly less traffic. We had a full morning session reviewing tongue twisters, responding to questions about Thursday’s speech festival, a review of the Hump Memorial, Claire Lee Chennault and the Flying Tigers as well as general conversation exercises. As our class ended, Judy, who has apparently been appointed as the coordinator for our class stood up and spoke to her classmates in Chinese. Marissa and I sat and waited as Judy and the class had some back and forth discussions – none of which I understood. On the way to the van for our ride back to the hotel, Marissa related the portions of the discussion she could understand… basically Judy was reviewing the schedule for the balance of the week, including tomorrow’s friendship day and where the class would take us to lunch – but some noted that Marissa may indeed understand what was being discussed and that the class had better complete their “friendship day” plans later and without us within earshot. Marissa is a good poker player, she didn’t let on that she understood anything they were saying!

We had lunch at the hotel and discussed logistical coordination for our Saturday flights out of Kunming – primarily the need for flight confirmations and timing of our flights. For once we ran out of rice (we never run out of food at any of our meals!) and Baoli asked for an additional small bowl of rice. Well there is no such thing as a small bowl of anything here. The waitress promptly delivered a full, large bowl of rice that we had no hope of ever finishing… oh well, we tried!

We met our combined classes at Kunming University at 1430 for our ride to the Hump Memorial. The Memorial is located northwest of Kunming University and our driver, Mr. Na, did a wonderful job of getting us there safely. We had short detour to fill up with gas and then a longer detour as there was significant road construction at the base of the hill we needed to climb. There was no signage directing vehicles which way to go, that the road was indeed “closed” ahead. It was basically follow the leader and see what the cars in front of us were doing. Amazingly, somehow Mr. Na found his way through the construction, around a dead end path and onto a paved road that lead up the hill to the Memorial. Our students arrived in two buses but had to walk the last half mile as their bus was too large to be allowed up the narrow road. The Memorial was dedicated in 1993 by several Chinese agencies/associations. The description and photos of the joint efforts of the Americans and Chinese – each doing the work they were best suited for, left me in awe. Fighting the aggression of the Japanese invaders with the limited resources but with great valor showed heroic actions by all involved with the transportation of critical materials from India to China in support of the Chinese Resistance efforts. It was a vital effort for all of China. I was proud to know Americans were involved with this effort and glad to be able to share the experience with our new Chinese friends. Eventually just about everyone brought out their cameras and the photo shoot was “on”… We must have taken photos for over an hour with every permutation of classes, teachers, school districts, counties, friends included in specific photos. I think we felt a little like celebrities. As we finished at the Memorial and were getting ready to jump back into the van for the ride back to Kunming, we were directed to walk down the roadway… following our students’ lead. Eventually, we arrived at a stage after passing through an amusement area and groves of trees. There was music and the students started dancing traditional Minority dances. It was great fun to participate and to watch the dances and have an opportunity to socialize with our new friends. After several dances, we headed back to the van for a short ride to a restaurant located adjacent to the “old” Kunming Zoo (not the Zoo and Animal Park that we visited yesterday). We were the guests of our hosts and we shared a delightful hot pot dinner and conversation. We commented to our hosts that we were having a good time although Baoli has kept us very busy. Our hosts noted that the students are enjoying our interactions and improving their English verbal skills – a win win for all!

At the Golden Springs Hotel there must be wedding at least 5 nights a week. We’ve learned the Chinese “congratulations” to recite to the Bride and Groom – gong xi, gong xi. Each time we’re rewarded with candies, peanuts and/or cigarettes. It’s called positive re-enforcement and I’ve responded very well to the conditioning. I can’t wait for tomorrow night’s wedding party.

– Bill

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