Saturday, January 17, 2004

China Trip: Our general routine

I don’t know of anything particularly interesting that happened this day. Things have kind of run together in a blur. Plus, our schedule and everything was much the same each day. Marie and I would get up at 5:45 and prepare for the day by reading our Bibles, showering, and getting dressed. The hotel restaurant breakfast was just too strange for us, plus we didn’t set aside the time to go, so we ate in our room. In my room I had six little applesauce packs, six granola bars, cheerios, granola, fruit, and bread, so I was well supplied and it took a lot of days to eat it all up for breakfast.

At 7:30, we were supposed to meet in the lobby for a van to pick us up and drive us to the school. Marie was always ready at 7:30, but I usually didn’t make it out right away and had to ride in the second or third van. This was usually due to disorganization on my part, and though I regretted being late, I was never the latest one – there was always somebody who came after me. (Isn’t it funny how we can justify our actions?)

Class started promptly at 8:00. My students and my teaching assistant were always there before I was. The “bell” to signal the start or end of class was a little song that would play on speakers installed in every room as well as around the grounds. The first time I heard the music, I had begun class already and I was interrupted by it. It played for five seconds or whatever, and I realized that I could wait for it next time before I began.

Every morning we taught junior-high kids at the high school, and every afternoon we taught younger kids at an elementary school. The program was the same: two small groups in the classroom, a large group, and an elective (sports, manners class, or Christmas class). Our teaching curriculum for the classroom was the newly developed program that combines character with English instruction. We taught each day using a workbook that each student had a copy of. There were SO many times I had NO idea what to teach and I was immensely happy to be able to say, “Open your workbook, and let’s complete this activity…”

Sports was led by Jonathan Eddy and Galen Houser. There were a lot of rainy days the first week, so we did a lot of indoor things, like relays and tug of war. I had a blast during the relays with my elementary kids. All the teachers had to stand a certain distance from the line of kids, and each one would have to run up, go around the teacher, run back, and hand the baton to the next person. When they came close I would hook my left elbow in theirs, pivot on my heel, and swing them around so they could run back to the line. Some of them took full advantage of this system (which I wanted them to do), and they wouldn’t slow down at all, but ran full speed towards me. When I swung them around, you could really feel the centrifugal force!

The Christmas class was taught by Debi Canterbury, and included some Christmas vocabulary, a story about St. Nicholas, a crossword puzzle containing Christmas words, and a “game show” type review, with pictures of the vocabulary words they had learned that were worth different amounts of points if they remembered the word.

Rachel Winsted taught the Manners class, and had lessons on eating politely, tying a tie (for boys), and I’m not sure what else. I never got to go to the manners class, because my scheduled day fell during the time I was sick.

Lunch was at the high school cafeteria every day, and dinner was at the elementary school. At lunch time, we would get a little white paper ticket in the cafeteria and take it up to window 6. There, we would get a big heap of rice in the largest section of a stainless steel tray, along with usually three small stainless steel bowls containing different dishes. Fish, pork, beef, and chicken were the usual meats, and then there was always a vegetable, such as spinach cooked in water and oil, or celery strips, or brussels sprouts. Sometimes there was also a dish of scrambled eggs with tomatoes, but I never liked the tomatoes that well, because they were half-cooked and lukewarm.

Dinner was at the elementary school, and wonder of wonders! They had forks for people who wanted them! That first week I very much enjoyed the one meal a day when I got to eat with familiar utensil. There always seemed to be too much food to eat during one mealtime, but after a while, when I gained skill and speed with chopsticks, I found I could eat it all.

All of us had a teaching assistant, who acted as an interpreter for our students and did things like take the role call and help the students line up for walking from place to place. My helper, Echo, didn’t always understand my English, so I didn’t get to know her very well, but I appreciated her help very much. At the end of the week, she gave me the most beautiful bracelet! She was also the one who picked out and gave me my Chinese name.

Considering the fact that Starbucks is the favorite restaurant of a bunch of my Verity classmates, the news of a coffee shop in Pinghu was met with great delight. Mr. & Mrs. Wang treated us all to have something there. It was called “Ming Tien Coffee Language,” and was within walking distance of our hotel, as everything in Pinghu seemed to be. At the restaurant, you would walk in at the street level, but then immediately go up to the second floor, where there was quite a large restaurant area set up with booths and tables where people could sit. To our great delight, there was a grand piano in the middle of the room (it was white with gold trim!) which opened for playing at 8:00. A bunch of people played it, and we cheered for each other and enjoyed the chance to make music. The only sad thing was that we didn’t feel like we could play or sing any Christian songs, so people played movie songs instead.

A funny thing happened to me the first time we went to Ming Tien. A random Chinese guy came up to me and asked if he could take my photo. I agreed and he came and stood next to me and his friend took the picture. I think he was going to boast to his friends that he had an American girlfriend. Haha...

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