Monday, January 26, 2004

China Trip: The rest of the week

Monday, January 26, 2004

It was classes as usual. I don’t really remember anything notable that happened. I didn’t really know how to get my students talking. If I did it again, I would stop worrying so much about them needing to save face. Making a mistake when speaking English was so frightening to them that it kept them from speaking it at all. I felt bad that after I finally figured out what my students needed, I didn’t succeed very well in giving it to them.

My class demonstrating the song we learned as a group

Music class--one of our group classes

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
This was a very good day, because I got a teaching assistant! At first, there were not enough teaching assistants, so the green classes did not get one, since they were less likely to need an interpreter. Her name was May, she liked to play the piano, and she taught at a primary school for 3 and 4 year old children. She was so much fun to be around! I was very happy to have her help in my class. The only problem was, I felt bad when I was teaching and she was just sitting there in the room with nothing to do.

May and I rode her moped over to the hotel afterward and we went over lesson plans together. She also took me to a shop where I was able to buy some yarn. [Ha--I still haven't used most of that yarn--and it's 2012!]

I talked with Linda about wide ranging issues. She took me out to this little cafe to get milk tea. What funny tapioca balls it had in it!

I went out to lunch with Sabrina, Ira, and Audry. They brought me to the area of the market I hadn’t been to before, treated me to lunch, and gave me a cute little set of teapots.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Every day we have a large group class after the small classes are over. The skits, stories and games we did with the kids were hilarious! Telephone charades was one that had the usually-reserved kids just roaring with laughter.

It was my turn again for the evening classes. We did games like scattergories & charades.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

My class

Friday, January 30, 2004

Our last day. May let me ride her "electric bicycle" (moped). That was fun. I also went to a job fair with her because she was looking for a job.

All the time we were there, we were treated like celebrities. The local news crew came out more than once to film us, and we appeared on television (but I never got to see it).

Marie and I rode a rickshaw to MingTien Coffee Language! We got more milk tea and said goodbye to May and Cherry.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

We flew home.

This is the last post in this series.
Previous Post: Second week of English Camps
First Post: Pre-departure excitement

Sunday, January 25, 2004

China Trip: Second week of English Camps

Wow. It’s hard to believe this is Sunday. This was the first day of our second English camp, the one for the high school age group. We began again with some opening ceremonies that required us to come up on stage in our uniforms again. I didn’t get nearly as cold this time as I did before. For one thing, we didn’t stand there for as long. Also I had worn more layers in preparation, and I wore my gloves up on stage, and we all stood together shoulder to shoulder to share body heat. We then tested all the students, and the English level of most of the students was very high.

I got a “green” class, which is the highest level. In some ways it is more difficult to teach them, because there isn’t a lot they don’t know, but on the other hand, you can have a lot more conversations where they can understand what you say. I really want to get them talking and allow them to practice English with me. There are not exactly a lot of Americans in Pinghu, and while they have plenty of instruction, there are very few opportunities for them to speak English with anyone. Today in class basically all we did was to introduce ourselves and then I taught them how to write in cursive. I was introducing another activity, but the bell rang before we got to do it. We also had large group, choir, and sports during the day, so it was nice to have a break from having to think about what I was going to say.

I didn’t have to stay for the evening classes from 6:00 to 8:00, because half the teachers are taking turns each day staying for them. I went to the supermarket with Rachel, Jen, and two of our teaching assistants, Linda and Selina. I hadn’t been to a supermarket in China yet, and it was a very interesting experience. The first surprise was finding that you had to check your bag at the front so that you couldn’t steal anything. The second difference was that though the store was small, it had the variety (just not the quantity) of goods you might find at a Wal-Mart Supercenter. There was a shoe section, a baby clothes section, home goods like towels and washcloths, clothing, jewelery, and of course food.

The food section itself was fascinating. There were a few vegetables – carrots, celery, spinach, ginger, green peppers, and others, lots of candy and pudding, and lots of bins of bulk nuts and dried fruit. The aisles also contained a lot of dried fruit, chips, crackers, and cookies. Most of it was more like snack food than good ingredients for cooking. I don’t think the Chinese people cook their own food very much. Most of the people I talk to eat at restaurants. Since the food is so cheap, I guess they can afford it, though I think it takes up a greater portion of their income than it would if they made their own.

Back at the hotel, Marie was bored, so she turned on the TV and we amused ourselves by watching shows and trying to figure out what was going on without the benefit of understanding the dialogue. It was fun, but now that it’s off, I wish we hadn’t. I mean, we didn’t even go to church today, or have any type of special time to focus on God, and instead we watched some stupid TV shows. Why does it always take me until after the fact before I realize that I’ve made a mistake? Oh Lord my God, help me. This pattern is so prevalent in my life, and I want to get it turned around.

Next Post: The rest of the week
Previous Post: Touring Wuzhen
First Post: Pre-departure excitement

Saturday, January 24, 2004

China Trip: Touring Wuzhèn

This was our last day of touring in China. Not many people went today, because a lot of people stayed at the hotel to rest and prepare for next week’s teaching, but I’m very glad I got to go! We went to the little town of Wuzhèn, a place evidently not well known to foreign tourists, but famous in China. It is an old, historic town, with an atmosphere that can transport you centuries back.

The town is built along part of the grand canal, the biggest waterway in the world, stretching all the way from Beijing to Hangzhou. We approached it from a delightful covered bridge, watching small boats float slowly past and taking pictures of the long row of buildings crowded together at the waters’ edge.

We passed a little medicine shop and then entered the narrow street.

The first place we came to was a display of hand carved beds. Some of them were extremely ornate and must have been for very rich people. Our guide told us that one of them took over 1000 working days to complete. That is well over 3 years! The carving in China is very distinctive and has many common themes repeated in many places. Geometric designs made of straight lines meeting at right angles are very popular, and most of the carvings symbolize good luck, happiness, or longevity. There are also shapes carved into the beds to symbolize whether the bed would be for a boy or a girl. It was fascinating to see what time and effort and thought they put into something as commonplace as a bed. However, despite all this, their mattress technology was nothing like what we have today. The part to lie on was composed simply of a thin layer of strong woven fabric, tightly stretched.

We continued on down the street after we got out of the bed museum. I noticed that you couldn’t really see much sky from the street. The buildings were 2-3 stories tall and the streets were so narrow that the roofs came very close together above you. It gave you a kind of cozy, tunneled-in feel. I thought of various things I had read about people living in a big city and longing for a really good sight of the sky, and I thought I could understand what they meant a little bit better.

Rule # 3: No Scratching. Really? 
There were other interesting sights we saw down the street. Every so often, there would be a little number and you would walk into a building, show your ticket, and get to see something interesting or important. We saw a display about clothing and how the styles changed in China, a house with depictions of a Chinese wedding and a room to celebrate birthdays in, and a distillery where they made liquor with 40 – 50% alcohol content. They had rows and rows of large bottles on the ground, and the smell was very strong around the distiller where the liquor was being made. They were giving away free samples, but I decided not to take advantage of the fact that I was 21 years old, and I stayed away.

After this came my favorite part of all. The town of Wuzhen was very famous for a certain type of blue cotton cloth, and they had a display where ladies were making it. One lady was running a hand cranked cotton gin that separated the seeds from the cotton fiber. I had always been intrigued about how the cotton gin worked, after trying to get the seeds out by hand and finding how difficult it was. There were two long rollers close together, and she simply fed the cotton bolls into the rollers. The cotton was pulled through, and was pulled away from the seeds, which were too big to fit. Two other ladies were working at two big looms, weaving fine cotton cloth from very thin thread. Our guide told us there were about 1500 threads across the loom! The loom had a great big roll of cloth on it, which had taken a month to make.

After the cloth was finished, it was dyed to make white and blue designs that were very distinctive for this town. The cloth was then hung to dry on very tall racks outside in the sun. The girls in our group gathered and took a picture underneath the big blue strips of cloth waving in the wind. I bought a yard—oh, no, a meter—of the cloth to make pillows with when I got home. It made me get behind the group, so I missed seeing a collection of books, but they would have all been in Chinese anyway, so I didn’t mind too much.

I lost the group again when I went into the town’s old school. I came out and didn’t see any of them, so I wandered up and down a little bit, trying to see if I could see them. Not too much farther down, I came to the end of the old historic town and entered the everyday life of the people. I still didn’t see any of the group, so I figured that the sightseeing was over and everyone must have gone back to the bus. I walked back to the bus, which was a sort of long way, looking for them as I went, but I got all the way to the bus and no one was there. I decided to go back in and hang around the last place I had seen them, which was what I thought I should have done in the first place, and while I was heading there, Jonathan Eddy found me and showed me the restaurant where everyone else was. There were a lot of people out looking for me, so he went to tell them I was found. I felt really bad about getting separated from the group and making everyone worry about me.

After we ate, we had about an hour and a half to go shopping. I had already done all my shopping, except for wanting to buy some yarn, so I didn’t really want anything, but I ended up buying some special sweets that were famous in that area. I got to try them at the store, and they were really good, so I bought half a kilogram of different kinds for 6 RMB. Then we went back to our hotel in Pinghu. I slept for most of the bus ride back, which was a little over an hour.

Marie and I went to dinner at the little corner restaurant down the street. We got a huge pile of food for 8 RMB, which is one dollar. We constantly marvel at the low prices here. However, considering the price of the plane ticket, it’s not exactly like it would be worth it to fly over here for all our shopping. 

Next Post: Second week of English Camps
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First Post: Pre-departure excitement