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.

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