Tuesday July 6, 2010

Thought for the day: It’s frustrating to be at that age when you are just beginning to understand some of the questions and realize that you will never know any of the answers. Anon.

This rather ordinary day in the life of our nine volunteers started with our usual 7 AM buffet breakfast. A combination of western and eastern delicacies which includes a noodle bar where one can construct one’s own custom flavored dish from the large selection of meats, vegetables and condiments and have them cooked as you watch. There is also an omelet station. “Omelet” in name only since a major triumph is successfully getting a pair of scrambled eggs with less than a cup of oil.

After the reading of the previous day’s journal, we, after some prodding, sang through (melody only, the words were held over until lunch when we all agreed we would be more awake) the number we volunteers will present to the assembled multitudes at our closing ceremony.

The teaching morning in our class went generally as expected: rehearsing the four speeches that will represent our class in the Speech Festival; preparing our contribution to the closing ceremony; and, going over vocabulary items to prepare our students for the lecture that my teaching partner, Jim, will be presenting this afternoon. The most unusual moment occurred when, after distributing a list of ways of representing large numbers (million, billion, giga, etc.) which included the Chinese equivalents, we noticed what appeared to be some dissension among our English teacher students over one of the Chinese characters that appeared on the list. The character used for giga (billion) they showed us, is not the archaic character that I found in my previously trustworthy iPhone English-Chinese dictionary, but a character that looked at first remarkably like a capital G. It took some moments before I realized that it looked like a G because it was a G. As the nimble and experienced teachers we are, we turned this incident into a “teaching moment” that illustrated the dangers of relying on single sources, and the need for fact checking.

After lunch, Jim gave his presentation, “The Changing Population in American Schools”. He illustrated his talk with charts of demographics, photos of American faces representing our “tossed salad” of ethnic groups, and even a few photos showing the Chinatowns of America. From all accounts, Jim’s talk was well received and stimulated considerable discussion.

The day ended with our usual multi-dished banquet in our private dining room in the hotel. Our leader, Wang Baoli distributed questionnaires about our China Global Volunteer experience for each of us to complete before we leave at the end of the week. It’s hard to believe that we will soon say farewell to our teammates and to the 15 or so members of our respective classes.

The likelihood of seeing any of these Chinese teachers of English ever again is vanishingly small. How sad.

Respectfully submitted,


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