Connecting Mandarin and English,
One Week Down
(September 4, 2008) (return
been just a couple hours more than a week since we landed in Nanchang and
we have now completed our first full week of classes. It a relaxed whilrwind.
Relaxed because there are none of the issues that we need to resolve as
when at home; there are others appointed to to that. Whilrlwind because
every moment has been focused on something new. And now we're packing to
head to Changsha for the weekend to visit with Luo Li, one of the students
So how did class go? Well, take that very
question and translate it literally as if you were a Chinese student and
ask yourself, "What do you mean 'class go'? Go where?" Let's just
say that there's still some work to be done. One of the beauties of this
arrangement is that currently Gail and I are teaching either Oral English
or English Writing and we have each other's students in the other class.
So half way through the week we had already met all the students even if
we hadn't met with our classes. So through collaboration and little scheming
we have managed to break the self-imposed Chinese student code of silence
and gotten every student to actively participate in class. One other staggering
observation is that as we talk, all eyes are glued on us. We wander around
the room and the heads just turn and crank as we move. We hope this will
continue throughout the term, but then let's get real.
The classes are once a week for 90 minutes
with a 10 minute break in the middle. During one break some of the students,
and as you've noticed in the pictures, they are primarily girls, started
taking pictures on their cell phones. That evolved into coming to the front
of the room and standing with me for a picture. It's cute and, of course,
it boosts most egos, like mine.
A note about Chinese thinness:
As I gathered the papers
from the students in class, I couldn't help but think about the
thinness of the paper. The pages were small in size, perhaps less
than half the size of a letter size in America, but the thickness
reminded me of what we called onion skin paper, not much more that
tissue paper. My thoughts actually went from the quality of the
paper to the many thin items we have encountered in our brief. I'm
afraid to turn the faucet on at the kitchen sink in fear that the
sink will bend or break. The metal is very light weight. The garbage
bags and plastic bags in the vegetable section of the store are
also thinner than what we are accustomed to. But think about it.
This country manages millions and millions of people and the resources
are limited. If you reduce the thickness from 2 mil in a plastic
bag to 1 mil you can make twice as many bags with the same resources.
I you reduce it to one half mil, you can make four times as many
items. Chinese items are not made cheap; they are made to stretch
their resources. We Americans have a hard time adjusting. Of course,
when you look at the students, especially the girls, thin is in
and there are no students who are over weight. That quality could
be passed on to Americans as a virtue.
We'll be back here on Monday with stories
and pictures of Changsha.