Published: September 13th 2008September 13th 2008
HELLO AGAIN FROM KUNMING
Another week has passed and due to Monday being a National Holiday for Mid Autumn Festival (which actually falls on Sunday, Sept 14) we are enjoying a 3 day weekend. Actually it is almost 4 days for us as I only have one class to teach on Friday which ends a bit before 10 am. As for my classes, I am slowly beginning to get to know all my students, which collectively equal around 110. Many have chosen English names which makes both pronouncing and remembering easier, but one class has a number of students who have not chosen English names, so struggling thru as correct a pronunciation as I can is the order of those days.
I have 4 classes: 3 are referred to as Business English, and the 4th is an International Trade class. All of my students are in their second year here, and range in age from 19 to 22. They all know each other well, so they interact with each other with ease. I have two 90 minute classes on M W R and one 90 minute class on Tuesday and Friday. The 3 Business English classes use the
same book, so I only need to prepare one lesson at a time for those, which is a time saver. Two of the classes I really like, and the other 2 I am close to really liking as well. What can be difficult is figuring out how to deal with the range of English speaking abilities in each class which run from close to zero with a few students, to impressive, with a few others. The books can be boring, so I try to think of additional activities to give them a chance for free speaking. Almost all can read dialogues from the books with appropriate expression and cadence, but most stuggle with free speaking.
My classes are in 2 different buildings, each about a 1 minute walk from our apartment. Most are in the Foreign Language building which I have referred to as the English Building in the photos. The other is across the "Playground" where the students play a lot of basketball.
I have provided a number of pics of the campus. The first (campus birdseye) is from a large sign on the campus and nicely shows the layout of the buildings and recreation
areas. The next couple of pics were unexpectedly taken from a model of the campus we came across yesterday when visiting the library for the first time. The first one (campus overview) shows one of the entrances, (where the cars are), and by following these directions you can find where our apartment is. Continue on the road/walkway where the red car is, and go north. You will run into a set of 3 buildings. The one on the right is the Foreign Language (English) building where I teach most of my clases. Following the road/walkway just past that building, and taking a hard left, follow all the way north to the last set of buildings near the top of the photo. The sort of L shaped buidling is our apartment. See, very close!
In the next pic (campus Overview 2) you can see, again our apartment near the top, as well as in the middle of the pic, a large pond and nature area, which the students have comically dubbed "Green Lake". The real Green Lake is a large lake in the center of Kunming, and when I was here to adopt Ya-Li, we stayed in the Green
Lake Hotel. Just south of the pond is the library where we found this wonderful model.
In the pic Campus Overview4, the building which holds the 4 dining halls can be see closest to the bottom of the picture. We had a chance to finally eat there this week, as I asked 2 of my students to be our guide on how to use it. There are always many administrative steps to doing about anything, and I was glad to have the help. I think we will eat there a lot more now, as the cost of the food is unbelieveably low and the food itself is not unlike what I often cook anyways. If we take our own bowls it is even cheaper.
The pic Campus Overview5 shows the new gym (middle of pic above the soccer field) where the school held a huge celebration for Teachers Day which was last Wednesday. The day started out with students lining the entrance to the teaching buildings crying out in sequence, Happy Teachers Day as each teacher walked in. Most of my classes also gave me cards or gifts, which was totally unexpected, yet sweet.
Since my classes were in the morning, I was able to attend the celebration extravaganza which was more like an old Ed Sullivan variety show than anything else. All of the college's teachers (who weren't teaching) were expected to perform.....something.....up on the stage. Our group of 10 foreign teachers (combination of English/ Korean/ Thai/ and Japanese) opted out. Except that the Administrative staff, of which Sophia (our angel) is head, asked Ya-Li to sing with them....You Are My Sunshine. Ya-Li jumped at the chance, but not without her mom up there on the stage with her. Plus how could I say no to Sophia who has done so much to welcome us to day. So part of the troupe I became. Ya-Li and I had to start the song alone on stage, then 4 other Admin staff joined us. I think the pictures (Teach apprec day) and short video present it best. It was the first time the new gym was being used, and as you can see, much decoration went into the fanfare.
Many of the photos that follow the gym pics are shots from on or around the campus. Visiting the library was a real boon,
as on the 5th floor are many English books. If you can believe this, Ya-Li found a whole bunch of Narnia books, which she has begun to devour as I write. Next door to our school is another college with a very lovely campus with lots of gardens and more ornate buildings. We visit almost daily as there is a playground where Ya-Li likes to burn off some of her energy. We added a jump rope yesterday to our growing list of purchases, and many of the Auke Bay Roper moves are coming back to her.
A few days ago, when two of my students acquainted us with the dining hall/cafeteria, afterwards they agreed to take us off campus to show us where we could buy soymilk by the glassful. As we were exiting, a woman riding a bike, and pulling a cart of fishbowls and small fish passed us. I asked them where she was going and they said was simply selling fish from the back of her cart. Well Ya-Li has been a bit forlorn with no pets, so I asked them to stop her, which they did, and we were soon the proud owners of
a fish bowl, gravel, a ptcostemis, and 4 fish. Unfortunately the biggest fish died by next morning, but shortly after the orange momma fish gave birth to little babies. Several were eaten, but this morning Ya-Li's sharp eyes detected 4 hiding in the gravel. We ladeled them out, and soon may have enough to start our own bike/cart enterprise!
Finally, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, Sunday is Mid Autumn Festival (or Moon festival as we have come to call it in the states) and is a day to spend with family and friends, eating specially prepared meals, and other delicasies such as roasted chestnuts and mooncakes. Don't forget to go out and look at the full moon and think of us that evening as we think of you!
There are more photos below