For Payton
and Deona

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Connecting Mandarin and English,
          Chinese and American,
                    people with people

Denvy's First Day of Classes
(September 1, 2008) (return to Homepage)
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     We've become accustom to the constant flow of students as we walk the five-minute stroll from the apartment to the university entrance, but when we turned the corner and could see the entrance to the classroom building, and there appears to be just the one, about 10 minutes before the first class of the day and term, we were highly impressed with the flow of students. Unbelievable! Maybe it might be comparable to everyone leaving a Beavers football but there's nothing close to it on Western. But then if there are 20,000 students and one classroom building, what can you expect?
     All classrooms are the same on the inside: seven rows of students, designed like a jumbo jet with two aisles, two seats on the outsides of the aisles and five seats down the middle all very stationary and fixed. Classroom layout comes with the flexibility and imagination of the mind and certainly not with the movement of desks or chairs. There's a little stage for the teacher, a lectern or pulpit behind which the teacher may retreat and brittle chalk for the blackboard. High tech means that three of the four ceiling fans are working and the windows open.

     At ten minutes before the class was scheduled to start, 34 out of 34 students were in their seats ready to go and so we started. I wrote my name on the board and pronounced it and 34 voices chimed in and repeated the same. Ah, yes, I'm not in America. I wrote my name on the board in Chinese and they applauded. Yes, I like this place.

     
I finished my introduction and they looked attentive. I asked if they had any questions and true to stories and traditions, it seemed as everyone knew everything they wanted to know about me. No questions. Being a writing classes I asked them to introduce themselves through a brief writing assignment. Names come in three forms: Chinese characters, Chinese names using the English alphabet called pinyin, and they all have an English name either given to them by a former English teacher or one that they chose themselves. One asked if I would help her change her English name. Sure, why not? So how do we do this?
     Everything seemed to go well. About 85 minutes into class and five minutes before the end, the hallway filled with anything but quiet students awaiting their next class evidenced through the open louvers over the doors. The second class was a rerun of the first but perhaps in faded pastels instead of the brilliant colors of the first class. Maybe the instructor lost his pizzaz.



A note about Chinese basketball:
Across the walkway from our appartment and our primary view to the north is a boys dorm. Beyond that dorm are outdoor basketball courts, maybe twenty of them, always filled with boys playing half court baskball. They love their basketball. I suspect someday we're find the table tennis rooms.

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