Sunday, August 7, 2011

Host families

Our time in China is enriched because of our stay with host families.

 Nancy with her host family, Grace, Sally and Afeng.  Nancy has stayed with Grace every year she has traveled to China.

 Donna talks with her Doumen host family at the final banquet.

On our last full day in Doumen we enjoy a banquet with our host families.  Jumbo (second from the right) led a toast at each table.  Jumbo organizes all our home stay arrangements.  We rely on our host families for so much and thanks is not enough for their efforts.

Post by Charlie

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Doumen Camp Annual

The middle school students put together a camp newspaper. We did a mild edit but tried to keep the flavor of the students' writing. Copies of the paper were made for all the teachers and students and handed out on the last day of camp. Note: to view the paper, click on the page and zoom in.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Free talk essay

During our English Camp “free talk” provides Chinese teachers the opportunity to read essays from NPR's "This I Believe" series, then write and talk (in English) about the topic presented.  Teachers are offered an opportunity to write an essay of their own.  This is an essay written by teacher Susan Lee.

I believe attitude makes me a better woman (Susan Lee)
  When I got married I was very happy. Life didn’t change at all. I ate at my mother’s home like I did before I got married. I looked on my new home as a hotel in which I spent the night.
  But two years later, after I gave birth to my son, Victor, things changed a lot. My mother-in-law came to “help” me, which meant, I thought, she would try her best to do everything for me. I imagined that I would be treated like a “queen”. Because my husband is the only son in his family, and I had a son, that means a lot for a Chinese family. It might mean even more to my parents-in-law. So I thought I “deserved” the treatment. However, things ended up far from what I expected. She seemed to try to keep away from taking care of my son as much as she could.
  I talked it over with my husband, Adam. He understood what I felt, yet he didn’t completely agree with me. As a filial son, it was impossible for him to talk about it with his mother. Seeing me being more and more depressed, Adam kept having small talks with me. Finally, he suggested me changing my attitude, saying that might help.
  I doubted it, but I thought I’d better try. I tried to take care of my son all by myself after work instead of hoping for help. I did the food shopping instead of depending on my mother-in-law. Through all this for a period of time, I began to know her philosophy. She believes that she could raise her three children well by herself and her husband, and there was no reason that my husband and I couldn’t do it even better with our only child.
  Thanks to her ‘toughness’ and Adam’s advice, I find I’m living my life happier and my once tense relationship with my mother-in-law is getting closer and closer. And this is I believe: Attitude makes me a better wife and a better daughter-in-law.
  Also, in the first few years of teaching, I had a hard time getting on with my students. I got mad at them when they were not obedient. I was frustrated when they didn’t do what they were supposed to do, and I was crazy when anything was out of control in my class.
  When I realized I was getting on better with my family, I began to ask myself why I was mad, frustrated and crazy at my students. Did I do anything wrong? No, I didn’t! So I decided to face all the challenges in a positive attitude. I told myself I would try my best to teach each student by all means, even if I don’t succeed, and that is OK. Now, I focus more on whether I have tried to make things better rather than whether my hard work has paid off. Now I have a very good relationship with my students. And this is I believe: Attitude makes me a better teacher.

Free talk essay

Learn to obey (Dennis Locky)

 I believe sometimes I had to learn to obey

There is one thing I can’t forget, although it happened more than twenty years ago.

You can imagine that riding a bike in a dark road alone, needs strength and courage.

The year I was graduating from junior middle school. I thought it was boring and not necceary for me to go to a high school without any hope of going to college. Because every year at the poor schools ,nobody can pass National College Entrance Exam ,so I decided to give up applying for that kind schools. also I wanted to burn my bridges behind me.and I'm going to fight with my back to the river,The only choice left is going to the No.1 high school or dropping out of school. But after we knew the result of the entrance-exam to high schools .....And I knew I failed to get a chance to go to the No.1 high school in our county.Then what should I do?I have to find something interesting to do in the newspaper .The most attract my attention one is to study laws by myself to be a lawyer.So I order some legal and reference books by post.but I don't know why I hate to told my father about it.Maybe I think it's a silly thing for a boy from rural area to talk about being a lawyer as his career in 1989 ,and even worse he can't go to a high school.Can I achieve the goal in my slack farming season ?I have no idea about all these things.

When I was boggling
one day my father suddenly come back from the town where the poor school is.He said I rode my bike this morning before sunrise to the high school.there he talked to one relative who worked in that school ,and asked the school principal to give me a chance to study ,that chance I did not cherish it before.and my father had already paid an amount of money as an extra .Because of my youth, My father was riding a bike in a dark road alone .I thought I had no better choice for me than obeying my father inclination. So going to college became my only goal in my high school life. I had betted with one of my classmates that one day I will go to college.I don't know whetherhe can remember it or not.And also from then on,the sight of father's back who's riding on a dark road alone often come to visit my brain.Especially when I had difficulty to study my English-----it seemed to be the the biggest obstacle for my college goal to overcome. and eventuly I become a teacher of English.

Recently when I read of a piece of advice that“Dropping out is not cool, it does not make you a tough guy, nor does it mean you are grown up or more mature - in fact it makes you the exact opposite of all these things. ”,I felt scared .if my father didn't ride his bike at that early morning ,what am I doing now? Can I type an essay in English?

Sometimes I had to learn to obey this is I believe.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Final day activities

The English Camp's last day is full of photos, fun and the big finish!  Click on this link to see a montage of song and the student's final presentations.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Free talk essay

During our English Camp “free talk” provides Chinese teachers the opportunity to read essays from NPR's "This I Believe" series, then write and talk (in English) about the topic presented.  Teachers are offered an opportunity to write an essay of their own.  This is an essay written by teacher Betty Xiao.

Difficult decision, hard choice (Betty Xiao)
It seems that I always have the same problem. During the past twenty years, I had experienced that again and again.
I was born in a poor family. Both of my parents were peasants, we lived in a remote village. I liked singing when I was only a child. In fact, I think I am naturally good at singing. People in my village all knew me well. They said I was like a lark which has a sweet voice. I was singing when I was washing clothes in the river, I was singing when I was walking after my ox in the sheep track, I was singing when I was helping my parents in the field, I was singing even when I was dreaming. To be a famous singer was my dream. After finishing my middle school, I had to decide which high school I should go.
 One night I told my father that I was really interested in music school. My father said it couldn’t be possible for me . Then he explained in two reasons, one was that he couldn’t afford the high tuition fee, the other was that I was not tall enough to be a famous singer. He said that he had understood my feeling. But he asked me to think about that seriously. I couldn’t sleep after talking with my father, I cried under my quilt. After thinking a whole night, I decided to give up my dream , and did what my father told me to do.  I chose a normal high school to begin my study.  
During that three years I was a good student. Both my teachers and classmates liked me. I had a good dream to be a college student in South China Normal Teaching College. Before the big exams, I talked to my father again, this time he asked me to choose carefully. Maybe because of the big pressure, I felt too nervous during the big exams. I didn’t do very well in my exams. So I had to choose another university to study. After three- year study, it was the hard time for me to choose again, Staying in the same city or moving to another city to open my eyes was difficult for me to decide. Because my father has 3 daughters but no sons. My elder sister had married and she moved to another city with her family. And my younger sister worked in a different place. Who would take care of my parents?  I had a talk with my father again, he asked me to choose and he respected what I decided. After a hard choice , I decided to leave my parents and move to another city to begin my teaching career.
When a native guy pursed me after I finished my 3-year teaching, I wonder if I should choose a native people or a fellow-villager. So again I had made a decision. Now I am a mother of  5-year-old boy, my husband and I go back to my hometown once a year. He can’t speak Kejia language, when my parents talk to him, he smiles often. And I am the interpreter among them, sometimes I am puzzled if that was a wrong decision.
I have been living with my parents in –law in a big house for over 7 years. I thank them for taking care of us well. Every day we can eat delicious dinner after work. They also take my son to the kindergarten.  But still some trifles between us exist. So again I had to make a decision to buy a new house. But the price of the house is a lot higher than before, buy or not, so it becomes another difficult choice for me now.
Luckily, every time I made a choice or decision, it didn’t work out badly. But the moment for me to choose and decide is really hard. Because of that, sometimes I was sleepless.  Now I am still living with making different decisions and choices. I wonder if people around me have the same problem .

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Final day of teacher training and English camp

Shoshannah presents her teacher/students with their certificate of completion.

Agnes and her home room primary students take a bow for their final day performance.

Anne passes our the camp newspaper that our middle school students wrote.

Susie receives a gift from her teachers/students.  Presenting gifts is a very important part of the Chinese culture.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Leaving China

It is almost midnight and the team has landed in Hong Kong, to the Booth Lodge after a very long day.  As we process the final day's events we'll post to the blog.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A note about the blog

This is the last day of the English camp. This is a bittersweet day as we say good bye to our Chinese friends and prepare for our trip home.

Please know that between our busy schedule and the fact that we cannot directly access and post to our blog from China, many parts of our story remains un-posted. Tonight we leave for Hong Kong and on Sunday we start our 24 hour journey home. Do not be shy about returning to the blog in the upcoming weeks. Additional postings will appear describing this amazing trip. Thanks to all for your thoughts and support!

Posted by Charlie

Games to help learn English

Greg plays a word game with students.

Parting photos of lunch

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Teacher training is wrapping up

Shoshannah helps teachers with a presentation.

Susie has the teachers do group exercises

Jana explains an activity.

Teachers learn by doing

Nancy leads an activity for teachers. One way for teachers to learn new teaching activities is to have them become involved.

Post by Charlie

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Free talk

Terry leads a "free talk" group. Teachers meet with our "native English speaking team" (NESTers) every day to practice their English.

Showing how . . .

Happy Birthday!

This evening was a night for birthdays! Above, in traditional Chinese fashion, Jumbo's wife Qi helps Audrey cut her birthday cake. The next photo shows my host's daughter Shelly getting ready to blow out her candles. She turned seven today!

Post by Charlie

Primary students - scavenger hunt

Today, all 68 primary students participated in a scavenger hunt. The students were divided into eight groups and each group had to find 48 items we had photographed for them. Here is Agnes with part of her group of boys and Sylvia (one of our helpers) with part of her group of girls. What fun everyone had!

Post by Greg

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cars everywhere

Parking on the sidewalk is common as the number of cars has grown in Doumen.

Converstations continue at lunch

Students and teachers alike enjoy practicing English with our team during breakfast and lunch. Valerie talks with students over rice and vegetables.

Motorbike still abound

I first visited Doumen five years ago and motor bikes were everywhere. Although the number of cars has exploded since my first visit, motor bikes are still popular.

Posted by Charlie

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend downtime

Last week was a blur of activities as 128+ primary and middle school children came to camp and we kicked off the activities.  We heard lots of shouting and laughter – and more and more English as the week went by.  We also had the chance for more and more good interaction with teachers and students.


The weekend was a chance to be together as a team with some of our hosts.  Saturday we went to the nearby city of Kaiping where we ate lunch and saw some architecture built largely by overseas Chinese; many went overseas for work, found their fortunes, and returned to China to build elaborate homes.  This building was built sometime before 1589.  To put that in historical perspective, that was less than 70 years after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, 30 years before George Washington was born, and 200 years before the United States became a nation through the ratification of the Constitution!  China is a country with a long, long history!


We also had a great time river rafting.  Being together having fun with our hosts helps increase our friendships.  No pictures, sorry.  None of us had waterproof cameras.  I’m not sure we’ve have been allowed to put pictures on our website anyway.  We were all pretty bedraggled – like drowned rats – at the end of the trip.  “Homeless lady” was the term used to describe one of our female team members at the end of the trip.  (No slight intended to homeless ladies, incidentally.)


Sunday was, overall, a time to spend relaxing with our host families.  My family went out to a restaurant together.  Of course “family” included a couple of cousins and the family of a friend, so we had a good sized group.  Afterwards, we came home and I played ping pong with some of the college-aged family members.  No, I didn’t demonstrate American prowess at ping pong, though when my host, Tom, said “let’s play five more points,” I actually got three of them.  So I’m going to put that in my ‘win’ column.


As we begin our final week here, we appreciate your ongoing thoughts for our team.


Posted by Jeff

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A trip to Kaiping

It is not uncommon we experience a bit of a cultural exchange on the weekend prior to the final week of camp. On Saturday we boarded a bus and traveled 2-1/2 hours southwest from Doumen through the countryside to Kaiping. The architecture in Kaiping is unique because it reflects the influence of the West. One claim to fame for the city is that many residents moved to the United States in the mid to late 1800s. Some of these folks became successful and about the end of World War I a few returned to Kaiping. Their life in the West influenced the streets of Kaiping. Luke noted that most Chinese in Chicago can trace their ancestors to Kaiping. Another bit of trivia about Kaiping, film star Jackie Chan has made several movies in Kaiping.

Post by Charlie

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chinese food is full of surprises

Add camel to the list of exotic meats I've had the pleasure of trying in China! Donkey, eel, and water buffalo are a few others, but those were in years past. Last night our host's childhood friend invited us to a traditional Guangdong meal of rice congee hot pot. There's a big pot of boiling rice porridge in the middle of the table, and they bring raw meats and vegetables to dip in it and cook. We enjoyed camel, fish, goose, and mushrooms in our congee. We're having some wonderful experiences with our hosts, and we continue to form deeper and deeper friendships with our colleagues here. What a great trip!

Post by Valerie

Thursday, July 21, 2011

First week fun!

This first week with the students has been both good and challenging. I have the youngest group of primary students for my homeroom. I enjoy the task of trying to find activities that are appropriate for their age and level of English competency. One of their favorite games so far is charades. They have to pull out a verb from one bowl and then another with emotions. They then have to act out BOTH. It can get really funny sometimes! One young boy had to act out "angry" and "putting on clothes." The whole class busted out laughing as he attempted to get his group to shout out the answer! Working with kids brings me so much joy!

Post by Joy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Huntington North High School and the Doumen Experimental School

Shoshannah talks with a group of students at the Experimental School in Doumen. An offshoot of our activity in Doumen is an initiative that will start this fall between Huntington North High School and the Doumen Experimental School. Shoshannah will be teaching Mandarin at Huntington North, and Huntington students will have an opportunity to contact English students at the Doumen school in China.

Post by Charlie