teaching and tutoring (a mass email home)

September 25, 2005

Dear Folks,
It feels weird to realize how quickly I am approaching the halfway mark of SST. Our estimated departure for Hong Kong is Nov. 20, which is less than 2 months away. But there still remains so much to experience here in Chengdu. This weekend our group went to see the Dujiangyuan Irrigation system and climbed the Daoist mountain, Qing Ching. The day was also very misty and a light rain was falling for most of the day, so by the end of the day we were all quite happy to return to our comfortable and dry dorm rooms. Although I was also pleased to actually be chilled, maybe this marks a turn in the humidity here to the promised crisp lovely weather of autumn.

This coming week is our last week before National Day (the anniversary of the declaration of the People’s Republic of China and the following week long national holiday. Most of us will be attempting to get ourselves invited to various homes and towns of our Chinese students and friends. I have a possible invite that I hope works out and another invitation from my host family, so it should be an interesting week. Speaking of my host family I just returned from a delicious meal at their apartment, my host mother made fried jiaozi (dumplings), huanggua (cucumbers), nurou (pork), and my favorite huangdou (soybeans). Home cooking is something that I rarely get to experience here, because all our meals are eaten in restaurants, which at first was a wonderful novelty, but i am realizing how much I miss cooking and eating in private. I think the fact that we are still somewhat novelties in restaurants also impacts the experience. Prior to dinner, my host father took me to a very nice tea house and we chatted about racism, the Chinese experience during World War II, the treatment of minority cultures within China, the debate about Tibet, educational system, advising by professors at the undergraduate level. And no that conversation did not take place in Chinese, only in my dreams of fluency would I be able to carry on that conversation. But I am very lucky because my host father is obviously almost fluent in English.

This past week also brought about my first encounter with teaching English. I met and taught my class for 45 minutes. It went well, but I was surprised at various parts of the lesson. My class consists of junior level tourism majors, and luckily enough I have only 29 students (some of my fellow SSTers have 40-50). Although I felt that my class respected me, I was not prepared to have to bring up discipline issues such as listening when their classmates where introducing themselves. However I think this was also due to the redundancy of this activity for them, seeing as they already knew each other and hadn’t understood that I was doing this as a means of giving them practice and giving myself a chance to evaluate their English level. It was also difficult for me to find a balance between being the teacher and wanting to interact with them as peers, because after all they are only a year or two younger than myself. But it was nice that they seemed very surprised when I told them how old I was.

Along with teaching, this week in our Chinese class we began learning a few characters, I now know how to write “I am American” in characters and can recognize a few basic signs. But considering it is estimated that one needs to know approximately 3000 characters to be able to read the newspaper, I have a long way to go 🙂 This week we also finalized our tutoring sessions in various Chinese activities, I selected Tia Qi (incorrect spelling), a form of deep breathing and slow movements which has some similarities to yoga, and traditional Chinese painting. So my weeks look like they are quickly filling up.

In other news I found out this past week that a friend from my graduating class at Bethany High School, passed away from a overdose. Although I was not particularly close to him, several of my fellow SSTers knew him well and it has been a more difficult week. Your prayers both for his friends and family is appreciated along with our SST group.

I heard from various sources that many of you attended the MCC relief sale this weekend, and I hope you all had great times and ate many apple fritters. My best to all of you and keep the emails coming!

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