pcchina

10

Ever wonder what a chinese grocery store might look like? This is inside a very large store and these are only a few pictures. Sometimes I can’t tell if I am inside a pet store with all the live animals. You can find fish tanks filled with different fishes, jumping back and forth from tank to tank, piles of frogs and turtles, cages of chickens and ducks, and I’ve even seen a gate with an alligator inside of it. If you can picture it, I would be surprised if I couldn’t find it (except Western food, that’s difficult). Have a try!

So for those who know (not many because it was embarrassing), I hosted the first English corner at my school last Wednesday at 7:30PM.  All of my students sounded gung-ho about it, but when 7:30PM rolled around, and then 7:45, and then 8:00, and then 8:30, it was a no call no show.  None of my students showed up and I had no idea why.  So as I was leaving the empty and dark teaching building, I find all of my students practicing their singing outside - turns out they had mandatory practice for a competition the next day and forgot to tell me.  

So today was the official official first English corner.  At first I was worried that no one would show again, so I brought all of my necessities to lesson plan if I were going to be on my own.  On my way to campus I ran into a few Thai exchange students who decided to come with me.  Around 7:25PM, one person showed up, and soon, my room filled up with students.  There were so many students packed into the room that I had to speak from standing on top of my desk.  It was awesome.  The students got to see a different side of their teacher, and I got to see a different side of them outside of class.  

I also had to take a bunch of pictures with students who have me as their first foreign teacher - which is WEIRD because no one has ever asked me to take a picture with them before.  I guess this is my one shot at being a celebrity.

Dang, what a good night. 

I like this coconut juice. It’s cheap and yummy and let me reiterate–so much cheaper than in America. We’re talking 2.5 yuan here.

When I first came to China, shopping was exciting and confusing and actually really overwhelming. My reading skills were non-existent. People in shops often crowd around you, hoping to help but often just leading you to decide to leave instead of browsing.

I thought it might be nice to create a little online database of sorts, filled with yummy/convenient/nice things that Peace Corps China volunteers have discovered. Of course, it’s fun to find things out on your own…but I’m curious about what everyone else is loving!

So. If you want to contribute to this venture, you can add your faves under #pcchinalikes here on tumblr, and I’ve also started the same hashtag on Instagram.

I hope my China PCV friends will be into this idea…I wanna learn what stuff you like at your site! Feel free to reblog this to let other PCVs in on the fun too :)

new born

The experience of arriving in China was like how I imagine birth was like. Conception was the invitation. Gestation was all the preparation, travel, and orientation.  And now, after a very awkward, confusing, and almost upsetting transition, I am here living with a host family in Chengdu, Sichuan.

I’ve been living out of a hotel in the company of 82 other English-speaking Peace Corps volunteers.  For the past two weeks we’ve learned about culture and language acquisition, picked up some basic Mandarin, and explored the nightlife. Today I moved in with my host family, who have set up a room for me in their home.  

I feel myself craving for the familiarity of English and the new friends I made in the hotel, but I am excited to move onto the next step and to get to know my hosts.  

The fluster of feelings continues to cover a huge range in the spectrum of emotion; confusion, home-sickness, amazement, frustration, doubt, pride, confidence and now, finally, a feeling of place and purpose here in China.  

Weekend activities

On Friday our female team members held their workshop for the Nanning Association of Woman Entrepreneurs. One of the pre-requisits to become a member is to run an own business for at least 5 years. Some of them are owning SPAs, other supermarkets, one is running a pilot school with her husband and another one has adopted roughly 60 (!) children she is taking care for. After the official part ended the men were invited to join and we spent a very interesting evening with these ladies. 

On Saturday, after completing the draft of our Final Presentation and sent it to our interpreters for translation, CSC sub-team 2 visited Nanning Qing Xiu Shan.This is a mountain area close to Nanning with a significant number of scenic spots like Guanyin Temple, Peach Blossom Island, Lotus Pond, Longxiang tower, PCChina friendship Garden and many others. It is an area where Nanning citizens and visitors come to relax and walk around. Afterwards we went back to downtown Nanning to go to a local basar. We were guided by Linda Langfang, the secretary general of our client OSC which was a great honour to us.

On Sunday we started our journey towards the rural mountain area with the OCF team. We went to Du’an in Hechi county which is a city appr. 120 km away from Nanning with 850.000 citizens. From there we went to Jiu Ren and Long Fei to visit 2 elementary schools that are run by Alma Anta. This is an NGO which is funded by OCF within their Rural Children Education Program.  We had the chance to get an insight in their work with the children and also had a discussion with the NGO team members to understand their view on the cooperation with OCF. This was a very impressing experience. We returned back to Nanning late night, however the information we obtained from the NGO will flow into our Final Presentation. Completion of this task will be the major topic for Tuesday and Wednesday. The presentation itself will be shown to the client on Thursday, May 14th. How it was perceived by our client I will tell you soon,

cheers

Volker   

And just like that my second semester of teaching is over!

For my Oral English classes we had our finals this week. Throughout the semester they had large presentations that they had to give so their finals were pretty simple. We did “Show & Tell” as their final evaluations. It actually turned into a great way for me to learn so much about my students, while also being a non-threatening way for them to stand up and speak in front of their classmates. Some students brought in diaries, some brought in pictures, some even brought in pets. This week I saw 2 turtles, 1 mouse, and 1 cat!

Today, in my last group of speakers one of the students who I also consider to be my friend stood up and said, “today, I did not bring anything to show you.” Immediately I felt a little frustrated. I thought that she was taking advantage of our friendship inside the classroom. But then she continued, “Instead, I want to talk to you about our teacher, Krysta.”

Janice (the student) then went on to list seven things about me that she felt showed all my different “faces.” She talked about her first impression of me. How she thought I was just a foreign teacher who was “so fashion,” but then she learned that I was here as a volunteer. She gave examples of how I’ve helped her throughout the semester and she talked about how we became friends by playing soccer together. Janice ended her over 7 minute speech about how I have impacted her life and have made an impression on her that she will always remember. She told the class that I was following my dreams and that I have given her the courage to do the exact same.

I’ve been having difficulty in China because it’s can be hard to feel the impact I was hoping for as a volunteer. I have volunteered in nursing homes, tutoring centers, and even in Africa. All of these experiences left me feeling pride in my work and the ability to see the impact I’ve made, but as a teacher it can easily get lost.

Today, reminded me why I am here. Even though I have difficulties adjusting or making a life for myself, today helped me realize that I am appreciated and am making a difference in people’s lives. Today was why I joined Peace Corps.

As I say goodbye to my students they are showering me with letters and heartfelt words. They are reaching out to me when I need them most since arriving. My students are what makes all of it worth it.

One year mark

A year ago I started this blog with no idea what was to come. I can’t believe the difference a year has made already. Last year this time I was packing, unpacking, packing, eating all the cheese I could get my hands on, and saying goodbyes. This year, today, I’m sitting in my apartment on the edge of Daxue Cheng in Chongqing, China. My second semester has ended and I’m looking out for what’s to come next.

I am still trying to figure out if I belong here in China. So much of this place has become my home, has become me, but at the same time I have struggled more than I ever have. One thing is sure, I’ve learned a lot, but I certainly have a lot to still learn from it all.

The next group of volunteers, the 20s, arrive on Sunday. This also means that the 17s and 18s are on their way out. I appreciate so much from the volunteers that were here when I arrived. They became my friends and I will miss them all. From my own experience, being a volunteer is tough. So I just want to congratulate all of those who made it through their 2 years (possibly 3). You did incredible work and should be so proud of all that you accomplished. To the newbies, everyone is so excited to meet you and welcome you to your home for the next few years. Times will be tough, but they will also be worth it. Even though I don’t know where I stand here, it’s been an amazing journey that I would never regret. Be ready for anything and I wish you all the best of luck!

Changing of the gaokao, an exam high school students take, over the years. #china #peacecorps #gaokao #pcchina

The GaoKao is a higher education entrance exam. Students in high school must take this exam in order to get into most colleges or universities. There is no age restriction, but typically students take this exam in their last year of high school at the end of the year (June). The test lasts 9 hours over 2 days and consists of math, science, English, and Chinese. 

The GaoKao ultimately determines what university a student will attend and also typically decides what they will study at the university level. There are many crazy stories about the GaoKao, for example, students hooking themselves up to IV bags of amino acids to fuel study session. Exam sites have been known to ban many objects, ranging from bras to mobile phones. The Chinese can be very clever in their cheating techniques. 

In the 90’s English had the same maximum points as history, geography, and politics. Being slightly less important than math and Chinese. In 2000 the point system was changed and English was marked as important as math and Chinese and was considered to be even more important than history, geography, and politics. Today the points are all very similar, but a change is coming. The GaoKao is taking away the importance of English. Instead of English being seen as important as other subjects, the Ministry of Education is lessoning that importance. The students will also be allowed to take the English section twice and their highest of the 2 scores will be counted. 

English has been dominating education for awhile now. Many countries force students to learn English because it is often referred to as a “world language.” In China, specifically, students are forced to take English starting very young, sometimes starting in kindergarten.

As an English speaker I cannot deny that it isn’t really nice to be able to travel the world and find people who can help me by communicating in my language, but what about the importance of other languages. Chinese language skills have shown deterioration because of how much English is pushed. Languages becomes less and less observed, some even die and I think that is so sad. Language isn’t just a form of communication, it’s a peek into a culture, it’s understanding different people, and it’s a way to experience a new place.

Again, while it’s always nice to find English speakers, I would never expect people to speak English with me, especially when I am in their country. I live in China and many people know English, but I never get frustrated when I need help and cannot find someone who doesn’t speak English. That’s not fair. I’m in their country, I should speak their language or at least try to communicate in their language. Societies and people should be proud of their languages and embrace the importance of them. 

instagram

Dancing the day away! #china #adventures #friends #travel #peacecorps #pcchina

1st week down

My teaching in China as a volunteer is officially underway. After having plenty of time to adjust to living on my own I now have a full schedule of classes to dive into. I am teaching 3 different Oral English classes (freshmen), 1 US Music Appreciation class, and 1 Culture with an American class. All of my classes are 1 ½ hours and have roughly between 30-40 students in them. My Oral English classes meet twice a week, which means I have a lot of lesson planning ahead of me!

I am so excited to be teaching and my first week went really smoothly! I was starting to go a little stir crazy not having much to do so now I am excited to jump into teaching and make an impact on my students. The first class for every class I just spent the time introducing me, the Peace Corps, my class, teaching style, and got to know my students a little. They were all shocked to find out that I was a volunteer, but more so what a volunteer meant - no money! They also loved the slideshow of pictures I made about me, my life, my family, and friends. 

It’s really interesting how every class has their own personality and how quickly I was able to pick up on them. They range from very shy, to not being able to get them to shut up, but I love each of them! The shy students are hard to get to open up, but once they do it feels so incredible! The loud and rambunctious class is sometimes hard to control, but the English that they produce is so exciting and funny! 

It’s only been one week and I already know that I have a lot of work to do to build up their confidence in learning/speaking English, but I am SO EXCITED! Teaching has already proved to be interesting, fun, and a great learning opportunity for myself. I look forward to getting my first semester of teaching in China under my belt!