I also had the opportunity to teach my first class today. I described in the last blog post what the setting looked like and how the technology was set up in the classroom. Today was finally the day to meet the students. One thing I was pleased with when I first arrived in the class was that it was just me and the students. I had a little issue the other day with the dean of the Foreign Studies College indicating that she wanted to provide me with some curriculum to teach instead of my own. I stood my ground (after all I didn't fly 7,000 miles to not do what I do) and so I thought maybe I would have a visitor there checking to see what I was teaching. This didn't happen and I just went right into my planned material. I started by introducing myself to the students by showing them photos of the place I grew up in California, my wife and children, Cedar City and SUU, and a few of my other interests (like Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat movies). Yes, I know that there are many good American movie stars, but a little shameless pandering never hurt anyone. Despite what I thought they would be like, my students were super energetic, answered my questions, asked questions of their own, and laughed at all my jokes. Trust me, I've gotten a lot of courtesy laughs in my career so I do know the difference.
Overall, the class was pretty long. I'm only teaching once a week, but it's for almost 4 hours in a room with no air conditioning, so it can be a bit tough. Otherwise, it was a completely delightful experience. I know it's sad, but I already wish my students at SUU were more like the ones here. It's too early to judge, but those fears of us getting passed by other countries (not that we haven't already) seems very real to me now. The students were in class at 6 a.m. and go until into the evening. We definitely have some competition. Oh yeah, I have to share my favorite comment from class today. It was when I was introducing myself and I asked the students if any of them have ever traveled overseas. Everyone shook their heads except for one girl who raised her hand. I asked were where she had been and she said "Beijing."
As good as that experience was, it wasn't even the best part of my day. Chance and Brenna tutor a group of 11 kids (ages 9-11) in a wealthy family's home and asked me if I would like to go and just introduce myself and interact with them a bit. Well, I gladly went because I wanted the opportunity to visit with a different age group than the college kids. When we got to the home where the tutoring session was held, I just fell in love with these adorable kids. They were so sweet. One of the activities that they did was to write to an American pen pal to practice their English. Because of the age group of my three oldest (Annie, Nicol, and Ezra), they became pen pals for three of these kids. They worked on their letters for about 45 minutes and I could tell they were putting a great deal of thought into them. One kid wrote, "I'm a sunny boy," meaning he is very happy. Another kid wrote, "I'm very fat, but I'm also very strong." After the letters were written, I showed the kids the same pictures I showed my college students earlier in the day. They came right up to me and put their faces up to the computer (they had been sitting at a table about 5 feet away, but they wanted a closer look). After I told them some things about our family, Chance quizzed them about some of the details and gave them SUU pencils and folders as prizes. They were supposed to be for the college students, but I didn't have enough for all of them, so I decided to give them to these kids. And boy was that a good decision. They were so utterly thrilled to have them. One girl looked at her SUU folder and said "what is this?" She had no idea what you do with a folder. When I explained to her what it was for, she smiled and hugged her folder. Chance also gave them American candies (Milky Way, Almond Joy, and M&Ms). I saw one little girl take more than 20 minutes to savor her Milky Way bar. At the very end, I asked the students and the parents that were there watching their kids to take a picture with me. I've attached it below. It was the kind of experience that made me so happy to be here. I need more of these to balance out the giant spider incident!
|Just an interesting old building I saw on the way to Walmart in downtown Changsha.|
|Yep, they're everywhere.|
|They do have Sushi, but I'm a little worried about the one that has hot dogs in it.|
|Some kind of dried fish.|
|Those fish aren't dead. They just wish they were.|
|Turtles for the soup. Only about $1.20|
|I heard that some toads are illegal to buy and eat in China, but these aren't those (unlucky for them).|
|Not live anymore eels. I got in trouble for taking this picture. I've got a streak going now of getting in trouble for taking pictures in foreign countries.|
|They have regular oreos, but they also have some interesting other flavors as well.|
|Good view of the look and feel of the place generally.|
|Ah, the essentials.|
|The whole 9-11 year old English class being taught by Chance and Brenna.|
|I don't know why the Chinese always make the victory sign in every single picture. They sure are cute, though.|
|The whole group. The girl on my left was hugging my arm. They are all just really friendly.|
|They are actually looking at the pictures of Stacie and the kids for the third time. I couldn't believe how interested they were in us and how many questions they had.|