The Adventure Continues

[Honfu Temple in Qianling Park under snow]

The winter of ’10-’11 is one to remember.  “Leng si la!”  (Cold to the death.) “Never have I met a winter such as this,” said one of our students.  Both are true statements, I will not quickly forget this winter, but I’m happy to start that process now! For the Colorado folks who read this blog, of course we’ve lived in “cold country” before, but this is a whole other beast. You have indoor heat in Colorado! Alas, trees are now beginning their Spring budding and the air is filled with their sweet perfume. After a couple of summer-like days, we are ready to obsess about things non-weather related, like a new semester with new projects and actually wanting to venture outside.

[Beka demonstrating how to roll & cut-out the cookies]

Before we move on too quickly, let’s celebrate the end of last semester.  Despite the flurry of activity; we made time to decorate cookies with the cast of Dream.  It is one of my favorite family Christmas traditions, so it was fantastic to see the students so jubilant about decorating candy canes, angels, gingerbread men, and holly leaves.  Never before have cookies been so well documented.  They had their cameras going like crazy!

[Some fantastic cookie decorators]

Yes, that cup is filled with Wilkins Family Spiced Tea; that was a huge hit as well.  Sometimes our cultural food differences can make for disappointing results, but then I think there are some universally good things: Christmas cookies & Spiced Tea.

[Four actors from Dream chowing down at our Christmas party]

Mawmaw’s “good stuff” was a big hit with the students as well, they devoured bowl after bowl of it.  I think part of the joy was in the fact that they were given free range to devour bowl after bowl.  The fall semester at Chinese Universities does not officially end until the middle of January, so our typical release during Christmas celebrations was abruptly halted with the realization that we still had finals to give and projects to grade.

[Beka’s freshman students proudly showing their “Family Trees”]

My freshman students created “Family Tree” Ropes as their final project.  Each rope contains 15 symbols representing the most influential people in each of their lives, then they had to share from their journal in the form of a 5-minute speech explaining their “Family Tree.”  I was blown away by the detail and care that each of these students put into this project.  Many of them are quite talented visual artists, so it allowed them to use those skills to express themselves.  Charlie and I both love to see our students being creative while learning English, we’re trying to infiltrate wherever we can. The hypothesis is that if students are engaged in a creative endeavor whether visual or theatrical, their facility with the language increases at a greater rate than other methods. [Charlie adds his two cents: “Either way, Chinese educators these days are becoming aware of things other than standardized tests, things like critical thinking and creativity. Oddly, US schools are actively forgetting such things and devoting themselves further to the wonders of standardized tests. Okay, okay, enough of that.”] There is no data collection happening yet, but hopefully soon we’ll be able to see if these students do better on their mandatory Sophomore TEM-4 & Senior TEM-8 tests.

We were honored to be able to lead a workshop session on “Creativity in the Classroom” at Peace Corps-China’s In-Service Training this February.  We aren’t really doing anything truly new, we’re just doing what we do in a different context which always seems to make people ask questions.  I think we both like that a little more than want to admit.  It’s that rebellious streak coming out!
[On top of Huaxi Park’s Unicorn Mt. with some of some Peace Corps friends & a Chinese friend in the middle]

Now the semester is under way with one week down and 15 more to go.  We’re planning to tour A Midsummer Night’s Dream and have students over for a monthly dinner & a movie.  This next week we will celebrate Mardi Gras with Italian night. No real link there, but it sounded good. Charlie is making capellini pomodoro, and I will make a King Cake while we watch The Godfather.  We are all about the American style of cultural stews.  We’re also planning some Spring Clean-up hikes in conjunction with Earth Day in April.

3 thoughts on “The Adventure Continues”

  1. how fun to see the students love our traditions as much as we do. Some things are universal! How we love all the pictures. love, mom

  2. I know you are having a GREAT time teaching and working with those students. Thanks for letting us in on a little of what you are doing. I’m enjoying reading it and seeing the pics. Love, MOM

  3. Wow! Thats so cool!! I cant wait till you both come back!! We miss yall so much!! Hurry up:) im still waiting for our rematch on wiffle ball! I miss yall and love yall so much!! God bless yall!!

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