14.11.2011 - 29.11.2011
Not too much happened in the next few weeks. It was beginning of the end of our time in Beibei and passed pretty much as a blur. A couple big events took place that I’ll mention, but overall I focused on enjoying my time I had left in Beibei. I spent a lot of time hanging out with friends, both our group and the other international kids, exploring more of the campus that I hadn’t seen, and just enjoying my remaining time.
The week of (Nov. 14-18) was unremarkable class wise. In Kung Fu class we put the finishing touches on our routine and had a dress rehearsal performance for Ms. Qen. She had the power to say whether we made it into the actual performances or not, so we were glad when she said that she thought we were excellent. In Chinese we had finished all of the material we needed to cover for the year and began to review for the final. We had a lot of work to do before our final to try to learn how to write more than 100 characters and recognize many more. In Ethnology we began to work on our presentation assignment. Wang Laoshi had asked us to present to his Chinese classes on whatever aspects of American life we thought would interest them. Nothing too bad, right? Then he told us he wanted us to present it in Chinese. Yeah, we had some work to do.
The weekend of Nov.19-20 was our second teaching weekend. This time the group that went was much smaller than the first weekend. For the second weekend the teachers consisted of Sarita, Kia, Annie, Bert, Luke, Zach, Axel, and I. We went back to the same school as the previous weekend. This time we had the nice surprise of being transported there by a private driver instead of taking a chartered bus. The school arranged for four cars to take us. In our car were Bert, Luke, Sarita, and I. The drive went much faster than it had the first time. We stopped by the school when we arrived and got our assignments for the weekend. Almost everyone was given a new class, except for Sarita. Much to her dismay, she was given the same class as she had taught before. Her excitement for the weekend instantly plummeted. The fact that the girls would again be spending Sunday at the kindergarten helped her feel a little better though. As for me, I was going to be teaching the same grade as I did the previous weekend, but not my same class. Kia had them instead. I was bummed, but oh well. For Saturday’s lesson I was given 6 lessons to cover. It included colors, clothes, tourist information (such as passports, customs, etc.), careers, and classroom objects. After getting our assignments we headed to dinner and the hotel. Our hotel this time was in a gorgeous gated area that bordered the river. Sadly we never got to see much of the area though because we always returned at night long after it had gotten dark. After watching some TV with Bert and Luke for a bit Sarita and I called it a night.
Saturday morning (Nov. 19) started early at 7:00. After one of the hotel breakfasts we had in China (fried egg sandwiches and spicy beef noodles) we headed to the school. The morning periods went pretty well. The class was smart and polite, but they didn’t have quite the same eagerness to learn as my previous class had. At the lunch break one of the main teachers approached me and said he had a question for me. He asked if I would be willing to switch with Kia and have my original class for the afternoon. He said that they had specifically requested me. I was thrilled and told him that I would love to. After lunch I was excited for the afternoon sessions. Kia had covered all 6 lessons in the morning periods so I was forced to improvise. For a while we reviewed what they had learned in the morning, what Cindy and I had taught them last time, and then I set up some games for them to play. For the last period their teacher asked me to go over how to convert cardinal numbers (such as explain how oen becomes first, two becomes second etc.), how to write dates, and how to answer questions concerning dates and age, such as when is your birthday, how old you are and so forth. When the last bell rang it was far harder to say good bye than I would have anticipated. I have such hope for those kids. They have so much passion, so much drive, and such big dreams for their futures. One of them dreams of studying in the US one day. I wish with all my heart that those dreams come true for them. That they can rise above the limitations of the poverty of the area they live, the less quality education they receive compared to those in big cities, and the hardship of life that plagues many rural Chinese students. I would love to somehow see where they all end up in 15 years.
Sunday (Nov. 20) was our last day of teaching in China. Kia, Annie, Sarita, and I were assigned to the kindergarten. This time I was given the middle age class, so I had three year olds. They were quite cute but also quite crazy. It was a good time though regardless. We spent a lot of time playing like I had the previous weekend. But we also worked on vocab that their teacher assigned. The words were quite random, air conditioner and radio, but I taught them anyways. It mainly just became a screaming match of me saying the word in English and them screaming it as loud as they could back at me. After that we sang some songs and then played outside. The day ended with a big game of duck duck goose. After finishing teaching we had lunch and then headed back to Beibei. This time we took the bus home instead of private cars.
The week of (Nov. 21 -27) was filled with performances, presentations, and events. Monday (Nov. 21) started out far too earlier for our group’s taste. It was the day of our ethnology presentation on American life and we had to meet Wang Laoshi in front of our gate at 7:20 am. The group of us (Luke, Kia, Deanna, Chris, Axel, Cindy, Guy, Dan, Bert, and I) was not really sure what to expect. It was a little intimidating for us to walk into a classroom of over 150 students and have 300 eyes suddenly glued to us. We took our seats amongst the students and class began. The Chinese students presented on Chinese life for us first (in English). I’m not sure what Wang Laoshi gave them as parameters, but I gather that it was similar to us – talk about anything that you think they will find interesting. Almost all of the Chinese students choose to talk to us about their hometowns. Unlike most American college students I know, Chinese students are extremely passionate about where they come from and love talking about it. So we heard over an hour and a half of hometown histories, cuisines, tourist destinations, and anything else of interest. Some of it was interesting and it gave some new places of interest to visit, but it got to be a bit much. In addition to the students who talked about their hometowns a few students took on other topics, including China’s view on money and traditional Chinese calligraphy. After their presentation we had a Q and A with the Chinese students where we could ask them anything we wanted. Most of us asked questions that helped us with our one question projects and it was really interesting getting students’ perspectives on our questions and hearing their opinions on the US. One of the comments that I found interesting was when we asked what they thought of America a student replied that he admired American people because they were generous, creative, and driven. He dislikes the American government though because they interfered with other countries when they shouldn’t. It was a good reminder that one can’t judge a country’s people and a country’s government the same. In China that was especially true. Next it was our turn to present. Unfortunately we ran into problems with our power point. We had all used the new version of Microsoft Office that we got from CSBSJU. When we went to call up the power point though we couldn’t because the computer in the classroom wasn’t compatible with it. Uh oh. So we were forced to present without it. This made the presentation not as effective but we were able to draw some stuff on the board and with our limited Chinese ability it went okay. After our presentation (we talked about food, sports, CSBSJU, holidays, ethnic diversity, Minnesota, and NASCAR) the Chinese students asked us questions. Most of their questions focused on what our perceptions of China had been thus far, how we dealt with the stress of school, and whether or not we felt that the diversity in America was a good thing or a bad thing. The whole presentation was a great learning experience for everyone. Our presentation was supposed to be done by 10:00 so that we could make it to our Chinese class for at least two periods. However, our presentation ran over time and went until 11:15. Poor Sarita (who didn’t take ethnology) had been sitting by herself with Li Laoshi for over an hour. As we were walking across campus to class (about a 15 minute trek) she called and said that class was cancelled since it would have been pointless by the time we got there. Oh well. That afternoon was supposed to be the start of International Student Week at SWU. The plan was to have a big gathering, a few performances, and then all of the international students would have booths for their home countries with information, samples of traditional food, and would dress in traditional garb. However in true China fashion the Waiban in their infinite wisdom changed up the plans. Instead of starting the festival on Monday as we all had been informed it was moved to Friday instead. Unfortunately, our Kung Fu instructor never got this memo. So we spent all Monday afternoon practicing our routine. We were scheduled to be the opening performance of the kickoff event for International Students Week. Eventually, after more hours than we would have liked, Levi got the message that the event had been moved and let us go home. By the end of Monday we were all pretty tired. That night we just had our weekly visual journal party in our room with Guy, Dan, Luke, Sarita, Cindy, and I and called it a day.
The rest of the school week was pretty mundane class wise. Friday (Nov. 25) though was busy for us. We had a full three periods of Chinese in the morning and then had to go directly from class to preparing for the International Student Festival which was scheduled for the afternoon. Each country was asked to make a food that was typical for the location. In China this is a challenge. For the US table we decided to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It doesn’t sound that exciting I know, but people actually loved it. So after Chinese class we got started making 200 servings worth of peanut butter and jelly. Right after that job was done we had to head to Kung Fu practice to do few more run throughs of our routine before we had to perform for everyone. Directly from practice we walked over to the student center where the festival was to take place. It was crazy crowded! There were people everywhere, setting up booths, bringing food, setting up the stage and judging area, and also all the people that just came to watch the performances and sample the food. As we were getting ready to perform Levi let us know that we would be one of only two groups chosen to perform. No pressure or anything. After a brief welcome speech by memebers of the Waiban it was time for us to perform. It didn’t start off well. The music began before we were all in position, but we quickly caught up and the routine went well, despite the fact that many of us (myself included) could not stop smiling during it. In the blink of an eye it was over. All of that practice for two minutes of performing. After our performance there were a few more speeches, one of them by my friend Pablo who had the pleasure of giving a long speech exclusively in Chinese (he did fabulously), and then the final performance. It was a fashion show that the other international students had put together that blended their traditional garb with some traditional Chinese clothing. It was a lot of fun to watch and they all did great. Following the performances everyone was encouraged to go around and visit the different booths and sample the food. Apparently we were supposed to wait to uncover our food until a certain time but our group missed that memo and uncovered it right away. The Chinese students swarmed, it was insane. In the course of about thirty seconds all two hundred sandwiches were gone. After that Sarita and I just wandered around, talked to friends, obliged the numerous photo requests, and tried to get a little of whatever food people had left that hadn’t been instantly engulfed. Afterwards we headed back to the dorms for a much needed nap. That night Guy, Dan, Bert, and I went out with two of our Chinese friends Jill and Ben. They took us around campus to all of their favorite places, including a snack district that had an amazing variety of Chinese snacks; the only one that got anything though was Bert. After that we headed off campus to one of the local eat streets. We got to try some Taiwanese wraps which were super good and then went for some Chinese skewered food. We had grilled bread, tofu, and some kind of root. What the restaurant was famous for though was its chicken. They had a variety of different kinds. The most famous though were their hot wings. They were flavored ghost peppers (for those who don’t know it’s the hottest pepper on the planet and is used in chemical warfare). Jill and Ben decided that we each had to try them. They started us out though a little easier and ordered us the second spiciest wings to eat first. After about two bites we were all sweating and our tongues were on fire. It didn’t manage how much we drank, our mouths were just burning. Rather than doing the common sense thing though and stopping at that point we just dove right into ghost pepper chicken. It lived up to its name. It was the hottest thing I have ever eaten obviously and we were all literally whimpering in pain. Bert started crying, Guy’s entire face turned bright red, and Dan simply couldn’t talk. Everyone in the restaurant was laughing at us and with justifiable cause. It was one of the most bizarre feelings in my life. It took at least 15 minutes for our taste buds to return to normal. After the chicken fiasco we walked around some more, had doughnuts (and they surprisingly actually tasted like American style doughnuts) and then the six of us went to hang out with some of the Thai girls we were friends with.
Saturday (Nov. 26) was spent tackling the mile long to do list that I had accumulated which included my final paper for the One Question Project, my final (and only) ethnology paper, my DC Program application, and my Visual Journal. While Cindy, Sarita, and I were holed up in the room doing our homework all day Bert and Dan were taking part in the basketball tournament that was part of International Student Week. As part of the week the school had set up a number of sports events that included boys’ and girls’ basketball, volleyball, and soccer. For each game the international students put together a team and then competed against SWU’s team. Bert and Dan won the game despite poor refereeing. Yay! After the game they were quite tired and our room was exhausted from a day full of mental fatigue. We decided to make it a quiet night. Sarita, Luke, Dan, Bert, Rae (Bert’s girlfriend), and I spent the night in watching movies. We watched American Beauty and Seven. They were two of Dan’s favorite movies and the rest of us had not seen them before. They were really good.
Sunday (Nov.27) was my turn to play in the sports tournament. I was playing on the International Girls’ soccer team. I was super nervous because it had been a long time since I had played. It was a great experience though. As soon as I stepped on the field it was like I had never left. The girls I played with were all super nice and we had a lot of fun. Unfortunately we ended up losing 1-2, but that was better than it was the year before so it was okay. The game was a great way to meet even numerous people that I otherwise would never have met.
The week of Nov.28 – Dec. 2 was even busier than the week before. Monday was a pretty normal day for all of us. We had three periods of Chinese in the morning. We had finished covering new material at this point so all of our classes focused on reviewing for our final. That afternoon we had Kung Fu. Levi started class by giving us a review of our performance, which he thought had gone very well. Then he told us we would have another performance on Wednesday. Just what we wanted to hear, another opportunity to prove that white kids shouldn’t do Kung Fu. After that we started learning the first five sequences of traditional Tai Ji which is what we would be tested over for our final. That night Dan, Guy, Cindy, Sarita, and I all went out to dinner with Annie at our favorite restaurant with an English menu. Whenever we went out with Annie it was a good time. She just had a personality that made for good discussions and good times.
Tuesday (Nov. 29) all of our classes were cancelled for the day. Instead we were all going to the Chongqing International Garden Festival. The trip to the expo was a gift to our program on behalf of the Waiban and was being led by none other than our favorite Waiban staffer, Chuckles. The garden expo was a really big deal for the city of Chongqing and was a great sense of pride. For the festival the city built a new convention center in the style of traditional Chinese palaces and set aside about a dozen acres for the gardens themselves. For the festival countries all over the world, including the US, as well as prominent cities were asked to build gardens that were representative of what a typical garden for them would look like. It was meant to be a way for countries to learn about each other through something as simple as landscape architecture. The festival started out on a low note for us. Chuck first took us through the information section of the festival which was in the main convention center. It probably would have been really informative and possibly even interesting however it was solely in Chinese so we got absolutely nothing out of it aside from the few random characters we could pick out on the displays. After the information center we were set loose to explore the gardens themselves. Cindy, Sarita, Luke, Dan, Guy, Bert, Nolan, and I had a good time drifting around and looking at all of the gardens. Cindy got to chill on a fake beach for a while which helped ease her longing for LA just a little bit. After a bit though, we all got kind of tired of aimlessly wandering we got kind of bored with it. We ended up just all sitting around in the bamboo cage that was the center piece of the “Germany and China-Moving Ahead Together Association.” We were there talking for so long that the Chinese tourists began to think that we were actually part of the exhibit. Eventually it was time to head back to Southwest. The rest of the afternoon we were free to do whatever. Most people worked on their visual journal which was due Friday but I had already finished mine. Guy and Dan were supposed to play in a volleyball game as part of the sports tournament so I went to watch. Unfortunately, the game never actually happened. It was supposed to be held at playground 4 however it started raining right when the game was scheduled to start. Then they were given clearance to play on the indoor courts by the library. However, the girls had to finish their game which had gotten called early due to the rain and by the time the girls had finished the boys couldn’t use the court because it was reserved for another group. They had the option of waiting around until the gym was available again after the volley team they were supposed to play had practice, but that wasn’t going to be until 6 so they decided it wasn’t worth it. So basically the whole afternoon was spent waiting around for a game that never happened but it was nice to get out of the room and spend some time with the other international students. After that we had to get back to Wisteria Garden for Jesse’s third birthday. All semester Jesse had been looking forward to his birthday party in China. As a result we were all excited to and wanted to make sure he had a great time. For the party Sam and Annie rented out part of the Waiban restaurant and decorated the back restaurant with balloons and a banner made by Harriet. He had as much fun at his birthday as any three year could have playing with balloons, beating up on the boys, eating his Angry Birds birthday cake (with more of it getting on his face than in his mouth), and opening his multitude of gifts (one of which was a pink winter coat given on behalf of the Waiban who had mistaken Jesse for a girl’s name). All of us students came to the party, some of the Chinese students that the Johnsons knew well attended as well as a few members of the Waiban staff and their children who had become playmates of Jesse. It was a fun night helping Jesse to celebrate his birthday.