Team 2 Is Number 1!

Team 2 Every weekday we travelled by minivan to Kunming University for a morning session with our students. Ted and I were leaders of Team 2, a group of sixteen primary school teachers from various locations around Yunnan Province. The dedication and enthusiasm of these young teachers is impressive. Some have up to nine classes each day, and teach several subjects, a lucky few are able to concentrate on just teaching English. We soon found that our team’s English vocabulary and knowledge of grammar rules were quite good. However, since they have little opportunity to meet native speakers, our job was to help with their pronunciation and give them more confidence in speaking English. The classes were a lot of fun. My teaching partner, “Mr. Ted,” had more than enough energy and enthusiasm to convert the entire city of Kunming to speaking English; in his free time he set himself up in various parks with a “free English lessons” sign and attracted quite a following.

Team 2 in class Team 2, or at least its Western contingent, also had to adapt to our assigned facilities, with the largest group given the smallest room, some unlucky teacher’s office on the 4th floor of one of the classroom buildings. We managed to get a few extra chairs to supplement the two couches, and the removal of a desk behind the chalkboard to give us a bit more space. As it turned out, the close quarters were a boon during the close-to-freezing second week: with only a single window and the “hot air” from our team efforts in class, we managed to keep a bit warmer than the teams with “real” classrooms. We were also conveniently next door to an office where Ted managed to get handouts and quizzes copied within minutes, and the women’s bathroom, such as it was (two stalls without doors, and a bucket to serve as a flushing mechanism), was just down the hall!

Afternoon sessionIn addition to daily morning “lessons,” the program included some afternoon sessions with everyone attending (one afternoon each of the volunteers gave a short talk about their careers, which may have been even more interesting to us than to our students, as we were a very interesting bunch!), a talk by Baoli about the Global Volunteers programs and philosophy, and a marathon session centered around phonetics. Week two featured a “speech festival,” with each student preparing and giving a short talk on a topic of their choosing to their team. Then five representatives were chosen by the class to speak in front of the entire group. We weren’t sure how well this would work out, but personally I was very pleased with Team 2’s very personal and well-chosen topics, and proud of the confidence they showed when they spoke in front of the group.

Some of the students joined the volunteers one morning for a visit to the Dounan Flower Market in suburban Kunming, the largest in China with daily sales of 2.5 million yuan (as of 2006). Yunnan has the greatest variety of biological resources among the Chinese provinces, and it includes plants from tropical, subtropical, temperate, and alpine growing zones. Our students also arranged an outing for our group, with lunch at a local hot pot restaurant followed by a stroll through Green Lake Park. Unfortunately as the weather had turned cold, the park was not quite as enticing as usual, but we enjoyed the wandering about and many photos were taken. Three of our team members insisted on accompanying Ted and me on our walk back to the hotel, and Ted enticed them up to the resource room so he could teach them how to play “Spite and Malice.”

Afternoon session
Dounan Flower Market
in Green Lake Park

Upper left: Team 2 goes outside
Lower left: Dounan Flower Market
Upper right: Carter in Green Lake

The last afternoon of the program was devoted to the Closing Ceremony, which started with the usual round of speeches by university and municipal officials (in Chinese, with translation). Then each of the volunteers spoke briefly; at Mr. Ted’s request, I made my little speech in Chinese, which seemed to go over quite well. The students received their certificates and each of the volunteers was given a beautiful plaque of a mask painted in the tradition of Peking Opera. Each of the groups planned a bit of entertainment for us, and we reciprocated by singing a few songs in English, plus an attempt at a rendition of “Two Tigers” (a popular children’s song with Chinese lyrics, to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”).

GV Team 178 Group Pic

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