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China

Summer Camp

HUST 2014

sunny 96 °F

07 July 2014 – 23 July 2014

HUST Summer Camp

This year’s HUST Conversation English Classes with TFF (aka Summer Camp) was three weeks of great fun.

Brenda Rubacha and I, were again teaching partners – by design. Our feeling, when something works – don’t fiddle with it. We got together in AZ a couple of times to go over last year’s lesson plans. Most worked, some didn’t – we tweaked (not twerked) the fine points and were ready to go from day one.

School this year was the same as last’s – five days on, one off, five on, one off and five on. Having just one day off is rough but this year’s weather was nowhere near as hot as last year, plus most of the students now had A/C in their dorms. Really made a difference!!
Below you’ll find highlights from our three week session, with a few off time photos thrown in. Enjoy!!!

Week One

Koko in a role play

Koko in a role play

Reconnecting with former student Nicol

Reconnecting with former student Nicol

Celebrating birthdays

Celebrating birthdays

Shadow enjoying our first group mixer

Shadow enjoying our first group mixer

The beginning of new friendships!!!

The beginning of new friendships!!!


First Day off ...Raining .....Raining!!!

Jim..playing in the rain!!

Jim..playing in the rain!!

Greeting us on our river cruise

Greeting us on our river cruise

Week Two - More Fun

Student creations!!

Student creations!!

My Chinese name

My Chinese name

Patty and Wan

Patty and Wan


Exploring on our second day off

Dumplings, wontons etc - Wuhan Street Food

Dumplings, wontons etc - Wuhan Street Food

Xiao Long Bao - Wuhan Style

Xiao Long Bao - Wuhan Style

Jim's Class

Hellen, Eva and Syliva

Hellen, Eva and Syliva

Clement and friends having fun in Jim's Class

Clement and friends having fun in Jim's Class

Mike and Allen

Mike and Allen

Jim's students having some fun

Jim's students having some fun


Celebration!!! Our last day of Class.....

Linda - having a little fun

Linda - having a little fun

Enjoying our last time together

Enjoying our last time together

Talent show fun!!!

Talent show fun!!!

Jim's Class presents the Fisherman and his Wife

Jim's Class presents the Fisherman and his Wife

Florence leading our two class at the Talent Show

Florence leading our two class at the Talent Show

Class photo 2014

Class photo 2014

Dale - my Scottish brotha from anotha motha

Dale - my Scottish brotha from anotha motha

See you next year!!!!

See you next year!!!!

Last day.....Final lights out!!

Last day.....Final lights out!!

Me and Brenda... HUST Summer Camp 2014

Me and Brenda... HUST Summer Camp 2014

Posted by pjburke 02:37 Archived in China Comments (4)

Reunion

sunny 90 °F

06 July 2014

Ok, one thing I didn’t miss about HUST is the beds….really hard but as in previous years I know I’ll get used to it.

Chinese buffet and noodle soup for breakfast – yup, we’re back at HUST.

Brenda, Wendi, Joy and Patty

Brenda, Wendi, Joy and Patty

Brenda and I met Joy and Wendi in the lobby. Charles (Jim’s TA from last year) was supposed to meet us but he didn’t wake up in time, so Jim begged off and it was just the girls for coffee. We walked up to the large open market and found a number of new businesses had been added to the courtyard area in the past year including (as I would later find out) the first McDonald’s on a university campus in China. We tried out a new “very western style” restaurant for refreshments and chatted for a long time. Finally we had to go – Joy’s parents were on their way to help her pack up her dorm and take her home. As luck would have it, we dawdled enough so that Joy’s parents were close by and I was fortunate to get the chance to meet them. We spoke through Joy as our translator –though we all seemed a little nervous, they are very nice. I told them that they have a lovely daughter and they should be very proud. I made her promise to tell them "exactly" my words. Hugs and fewer tears than last year, we said our farewells and bid each other safe travels and “until I see you in America!!”

Meeting Joy's Parents

Meeting Joy's Parents



As much as I was sad to see Joy go, both Brenda and I were looking forward to dinner that evening - a special dinner indeed!! Wendi had gotten in touch with our students from last year and found that a few would still be on campus.

Excited, surprised and touched were just a few of the words to express our feelings when we saw ten of our former students around a large table in one of the hotel’s private dining rooms. They looked great but not so much the college freshman we had last year but the, more mature, soon to be juniors.. but they were still our great, fun loving students. We talked and laughed until the dining staff had to ask us to leave which also reminded us that the alarm clock would ring early the next day for the start of class.

Thank you Wendi, Jerry, Nicol, Jeff, Nero, Jesse, Kevien, big and little Lance, Sam and Michael for such a special night!!!

Good to be back together!!

Good to be back together!!

Reunion with 2013 Students

Reunion with 2013 Students

Lance, Jeff and Kevein

Lance, Jeff and Kevein

Sam and Michael

Sam and Michael

Posted by pjburke 22:54 Archived in China Comments (3)

Catching up ........

overcast 90 °F

03 August 2014

Well, it’s been a little more than a month since we landed in Asia. There has been an abundance of highs with a low or two sprinkled in which has made me appreciate those highs so much more.

On 01 July, an early (0545) flight from Tucson, through LAX, landed us in Shanghai as a rainy dusk was settling in over the city…a mere 24 hours later but a world apart. We’ve traveled on the Maglev (high speed train) from Pudong Airport on a previous trip but with two of us it’s not that much more expensive to take a taxi, so off we went with our “printed in Chinese” hostel address.

Note: so far this trip I’ve made a few “rookie” mistakes. You’ll find small notes throughout these next couple postings, highlighting these in hopes that they might help someone else not relive my mistakes.

BUT…I digress – we arrived at Shanghai Soho International Youth Hostel without incident. Our room is good sized, clean and the hostel is centrally located within a five minute walk to the closest metro station and (much to my happiness) about a ten minute walk to Huang Street which has our favorite xiao long bao shop, Yang’s. XLB is a good sized pork dumpling, about the size of a puffy golf ball. The dumplings are cooked in huge, flat pans so that when cooked the bottoms are crispy but the tops still chewy. These little delicious morsels are probably one of my most favorite Chinese foods. The surprise comes for the uninitiated when you bite in – there is a luscious, steaming hot broth inside that should be slurped out through a small hole in the top made with one’s chopstick. Unless of course one forgets, which will result in a small explosion, sending hot broth all over the front of the eater. I guarantee you, that will only happen once.

Shanghai Soho International Hostel

Shanghai Soho International Hostel

This is our third trip to China where we’ve used Shanghai as a little “get over jet lag” stop. We try and take it easy, stay up as late as possible our first night and then try NOT to sleep in or take afternoon naps. Normal weather in Shanghai this time of year is pretty rainy and hot...so this trip we revisited the Shanghai Museum, rested, grabbed a movie at the IMAX (Maleficent – would not recommend it), ate XLB and other yummy Chinese food and went to the local train station to get our tickets to Wuhan. After being stuck for 6-8 hours in Pudong due to rain delay last year, we decided that the train was the way to go.

Floating Beauty

Floating Beauty

Watching Water

Watching Water


Note: Rookie mistake about to occur.

We found out from the front desk at the hostel, where we could get our train tickets to Wuhan - Shanghai Southern Railway Station. Being pretty familiar with the metro system, it wasn’t a problem getting there. I knew which station we needed to leave from and where we were going to, what I didn’t do was to have the people at the hostel write that information in Chinese. There are times when I think my Chinese sounds pretty close but there are times when “close” is not good enough. We got to the train station and with the help of a nice gentleman, in a white shirt; we were directed to the “English Speaking” queue, asked for tickets, got tickets, paid for tickets and headed back to the hostel. BUT…something just didn’t seem right – I checked the tickets again and when I asked at the front desk to also check the tickets, I found out we were not going out of the train station that I thought we were…we weren’t even in the right city. MY BAD!! Back to the train station, at least now we know exactly where to go, WITH A NOTE IN CHINESE, got the new tickets from one line but had to go to a second window for our refund on our “mistake” tickets. Lesson learned!!

English Speaking Queue

English Speaking Queue

05 July and it’s off to Wuhan, home to Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) and our home for the next three weeks. We’re returning to HUST for the third time – Jim’s third time teaching and my second. A little background: the program with TFF (Teach for Friendship) provides teachers for a three week Conversational English Program (aka Summer Camp) for university students at HUST. Most Students are between freshman and sophomore year, though there is a smattering of different ages and grades. HUST is a leading science and tech school and one of China’s top 10.

It's early morning and we're off . Though the Hongqiao Train Station is HUGE, the process was effortless. The train was very clean and the seats very comfortable. I thought I had asked for first class seats but we paid for second and didn’t regret it. Five hours from start to finish with about a half dozen stops along the way. Waiting for us, when we arrived at Wuhan Station, were the smiling faces of Sia (Jim’s TA) and Fresh (my TA). Jim got quite a chuckle as the two girls tried (and succeeded) in carrying one of our bags – one on each end. I think it probably weighed about half as much as they did.

A short ride to HUST, check in was easy and we had just a short time to rest before meeting the other teachers for dinner.

One thing we did change this year was our accommodations, not the location but our room situation. Last year we discovered that two teachers trying to work out of one small room just did not work. I talked with our group leader this year and she assured me that since we were both teaching that we could each have our own rooms. It worked out so much better. Being just one room apart, I set up all my clothes, toiletries and teaching materials in “my” room but slept in his. As well as a sanctuary to plan quietly – it also served as a “snoring” escape room :-).

Our group leader, Nancy Lutz, had planned a dinner so that all the teachers, former and new had a chance to meet before classes got underway. Of the 20 teachers in the 2014 group, we knew about half: Nancy, Brenda (of course), Phil W, Phil F, David, Lynn, Pat, me, Jim and our friend, Linda L’ai (Jim’s longtime friend from Peace Corp days who we encouraged to apply this year). Adding to the mix were new and former TFF teachers, Linda, Andrea, Stacy, Anthony, Astrid, Elvire, Dale, Syndie, Lily (Pat’s granddaughter), Lillian and Olidia and Maggie from Texas.

While it was nice getting together with the teachers, the highlight of my day was slipping away from dinner to meet with Joy, my TA from last year. We’d been in touch and I was very excited to see her for many reasons, the main one being that, soon, she will be much closer than 7,000 miles away, she’ll be finishing her BA at UC Riverside this coming September. We had a lot to talk about!! Seeing her in the lobby, brought tears to my eyes! We went up to “my” room and talked for a couple of hours about school, China, California, the list was endless. She left with plans for the two of us to meet with Brenda and her TA from last year, Wendi, for coffee in the am.

Falling into a peaceful sleep, it felt very comfortable to be back at HUST. Kinda like coming home!!

Posted by pjburke 21:58 Archived in China Comments (0)

Teaching In China - July 2013

Jim Burke

sunny 97 °F

Patty suggested I write about my experiences in China to accompany photos of my students. Since she is in a Batik class, I guess now would be a good time.

To begin, class this year, was a bit easier for me then Patty, as I had taught in China when we were in Wuhan in 2011. Prior to leaving Tucson, I met with my teaching partner Phil. We discussed the fact that preparation was the key and that we would try not to duplicate classes but if that happened it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I prepared a little more than two weeks of material because even though the students speak English their levels of ability were unknown. Luckily for me, my students had more advanced skills than other classes. The downside is that my students went through my lesson plans more quickly so I had to rely on extra material when that occurred. Some of that material was not the most interesting for some of the students. You can imagine the female students listening to topics such as the difference in automobile prices, buying and leasing. Just writing about it makes me want to take a nap. I don’t remember my Chemistry professor being concerned about whether his lectures were interesting or not. The students took the good with the boring and I could definitely see progress by the end of summer camp.

Phil and Jim

Phil and Jim

They were not the only ones’ learning. One afternoon, the discussion came around to one of their favorite topics-IPhones, smartphones. As I am a self-proclaimed dinosaur, my not having a cell phone was simply not possible in their eyes. Initially, we started the class by dissecting a menu from Davanti’s (a restaurant in San Diego). It is an interesting menu that even a native speaker would have questions about. I told them they could use their phones and in a short time they were able to figure out different items on the menu. I assured them that with their knowledge of English and their cell phones they could get by in an English speaking country. They just had to overcome any fears they had with regards to speaking. I used myself as an example and told them that I was actually a shy person. For those of you who know me, you can understand why they found this unbelievable. I informed them, for me, speaking in front of a class was no problem but when the students brought me to a Karaoke club and requested that I sing. Now, that was another story. Talk about confronting fears. My singing voice is like chalk on a chalkboard but I did it. I don’t think any record contracts will be in my future and I also revealed another phobia and how I flunked ballroom dancing twice.

Enjoying one of Jim's Lessons

Enjoying one of Jim's Lessons

All in all, I looked forward to class every day. Patty and I agreed that it was an extremely rewarding experience. Initially, I was concerned that the experience would not be as good as the first time but it was, possibly better. Who knows, we may be China bound again!!

Jim's Class

Jim's Class

Jim with some of his guys

Jim with some of his guys

Jim's Class

Jim's Class


Posted by pjburke 03:44 Archived in China Comments (2)

Week THREE

It all came together!!!!!!

sunny 97 °F

21 - 24 July 2013

Upon returning on the 21st, I learned that a few of the students also decided to take a two day weekend but those that didn’t enjoyed a different learning approach by our fill in teachers. (Thanks so much to Debbie and Nancy).

The heat ended up being too much for several other students who went home over the weekend. Also, a few had family emergencies and a couple decided that the camp wasn’t their cup of tea. Talking with other teachers, this situation was not unique and we lost fewer than other classes.

I was encouraged that the majority of the students stayed, participated and left with a sense of accomplishment.

The final week of camp was interesting to say the least. With only three days of actual “English Camp”, we wanted to make it end on a high note, even before our last day party – which everyone was looking forward to. In addition to the student presentations and daily activities, we included “College Bowl” which was crazy but a huge success. We found out that our mild mannered Chinese students were ruthless competitors – all in great fun.

Zenobia working out a project

Zenobia working out a project

Prior to class beginning, Brenda and I had decided that we would ask each student to do a short (five minute) presentation which we spread out over the final three days. Suggested subjects were: their hometowns, provinces, Chinese culture and/or personal interests. For presentations, we put both classes together: another effort to let them meet more of their fellow students. So, for about an hour each morning and each afternoon, we were all treated to many wonderful projects, some of which included: hometowns (which students were so proud of), passions: calligraphy and Chinese knot making, Chinese culture: food (from all over China)and marriage ceremonies and also their personal interests: the singing group: Westlife, a favorite TV show: the Walking Dead and one student who brought us to tears with a recitation of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”. (On a side note, we learned that many Chinese students learn this speech in middle school. Both Brenda and I were very surprised by this fact.)

The evening of the 23rd, Brenda, Jim and I took our TA’s out for a dinner. (Phil – Jim’s teaching partner was having dinner with one of his classes and though invited – he wasn’t able to join us). We asked our TA’s to pick a place that would be fun and have good food. They picked HOTPOT!!! The restaurant was a local place near the university and we had a great time. With an all Chinese menu, we entrusted our meal selections to Charles, Wendy and Joy and they did a wonderful job introducing us to some new culinary delights.

Yummy Hotpot

Yummy Hotpot

Patty and Joy - hotpot facial

Patty and Joy - hotpot facial

Brenda and Wendy - Hotpot dinner

Brenda and Wendy - Hotpot dinner

Jim and Charles - Hotpot dinner

Jim and Charles - Hotpot dinner

Hotpot with our TAs

Hotpot with our TAs

In anticipation of the last day, Joy and Wendy came to us and asked us (as representatives of both classes) if we would like to join the students for Karaoke after the party on the 24th. We jumped at the chance. The students also wanted us to join them for dinner, but unfortunately we had to decline, the University had scheduled a dinner for the teachers and the TA’s that same night.

It’s very hard to put into words, the last day.

My task that morning was to pick up the cakes from a bakery near the hotel. I knew that we had ordered two cakes but had no idea they would be so big. As I was looking at the cakes and trying to communicate with the shop owner outside the bakery, I was approached by a young man who asked if he could help. It turned out that he was a grad student who had been a “Summer Camp” student a few years prior. He helped me carry the cakes to the classroom and we chatted the whole way. He let me know what a great experience camp had been for him and he was glad to help. This short conversation gave me insight as to the long lasting effects of English Camp....oh and regarding the cakes - there was a little translation problem at the bakery. Apparently, the only type of "party" they understood was a birthday party but it didn't really matter the cakes were beautiful and delicious.

Cake box

Cake box

Cake 1

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 2


Class was scheduled for 0930 – some students were there before and others made their way in shortly after. We ate and ate, laughed and took photo after photo after photo. Not all the students were able to go to Karaoke, so the end of class was the beginning of the farewells. To say that I have a hard time with “Good-byes” (I’m tearing as I’m typing this), is an understatement. I had hidden my farewell on the chalk board – raising the screen they found, “There are no good-byes – only “Until we meet again”.”

Patty with Merry, Vivi, Ursula and Zenobia

Patty with Merry, Vivi, Ursula and Zenobia

Party photos

Party photos

Merry, Christy and Daisy

Merry, Christy and Daisy

Kemo

Kemo

Brenda and Patty with the girls

Brenda and Patty with the girls

The Guys

The Guys

The Girls

The Girls

Brenda with Hunter, Naro and Jesse

Brenda with Hunter, Naro and Jesse


My hesitation about teaching evaporated that last day. From this experience, I believe the student’s reaction to teachers is cultural. They had never experienced the type of open education that we brought to them. Hugs from the tiniest to tallest warmed my heart in a way that I had never encountered……and then it was on to Karaoke.

School was out and it was time to party. The students were amazed that we (in America) do not have Karaoke rooms like they do in China and after being there I’m wondering “Why don’t we?”

Food, fun and singing

Food, fun and singing

Dandalion with the mic

Dandalion with the mic

Party after party...Karaoke

Party after party...Karaoke

Brenda and I arrived with Joy and Wendy. The students had reserved one of the “large” rooms. There were comfy couches all around, a huge screen TV and just about any song you could imagine. There were probably 30 of us in this one room, singing and singing. We arrived a little after 1pm and started our departure about 3:30pm. Both Brenda and I knew that this would be the hardest of farewells and ….it was. There were long, long hugs and many tears and as we walked down the hallway outside room, waving to the large group of students waving back…Remembering…..”Until we meet again!!!!”

With more than a bit of emotion lingering, we (me, Brenda and our TA’s) headed back to the hotel for dinner. Most of the other teachers had a very early morning departure from the hotel (0500), so what was usually a dinner away from campus, was held in the hotel in one of the private dining rooms at 6pm. It was a very nice meal and enjoyed by all. As far as farewells from the teachers, most of us live in Tucson, so we know that we will be in touch. A few of the teachers are from out of town, but still in the US and there is always email.

Joy and Wendy

Joy and Wendy


To wrap words around, the experience of those three weeks, is impossible.
But I can honestly say, I know now what other teachers have felt and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

The Class - Last Day

The Class - Last Day

Posted by pjburke 23:02 Archived in China Comments (3)

Wudang Mountian (Wudangshan)

overcast 82 °F

19-20 July 2013

The University offered all the teachers a two day trip to Wudang Mountain, which is the home of Tai Chi and Taoism in China. It would be a five hour ride up to the mountain. The tour leader would take the group to various temples. After a night stay in a hotel on the mountain, there would be a visit to the Golden Temple and a five hour ride back. Meals were also included and the trip was supplemented by the university.
At first I opted out but Brenda convinced me it would be fun …so always up for a little fun, I changed my mind. With only one day off, you might wonder how that was going to work. Some teachers who didn’t go volunteered to take other classes and Nancy Lutz (our group leader) would fill in where needed. There was also a little financial incentive for those teachers who didn’t go, so it was a win-win situation. In the back of my mind, I was wondering….”what would they do if everyone decided to go?”

We had heard that the trip up was actually more like eight hours, but it was an easy 5 ½ hour trip up to the base of the mountain. Private vehicles are not allowed up the mountain and there is a hop on/hop off buses that transports visitors up and down (similar to Zion NP – for those that have been there).

Mountian view in Wudang

Mountian view in Wudang

The only suggestion I would make for future trips would be to stress that people should take as “little as possible”. None of us were aware of the amount of walking we would have to do with our luggage. One saving grace though was the weather. Even though it was a bit rainy, it was much cooler than Wuhan. The different temples we visited were beautiful, as was the scenery around Wudongshan.

Making Wishes.....

Making Wishes.....

Wudangshan Temple area

Wudangshan Temple area

Monkeys.....

Monkeys.....

Tai Chi Performers

Tai Chi Performers

Tai Chi Master

Tai Chi Master

Chained Up Hearts

Chained Up Hearts

Tea Service after a long walk

Tea Service after a long walk


The hotel we stayed in was very nice and the beds were super comfortable. After very welcomed showers, we enjoyed a tasty dinner together. That evening, Brenda and I walked around the little tourist town checking out the various souvenirs shops. The only one we indulged in was from the little store opposite our hotel. We enjoyed a cold beer sitting in front of the hotel in the light from the full moon. As we sat there, we realized it was the first time since we arrived in China that it was actually cool enough to sit “out”.

The next morning we were up early, though some of us were up earlier than others. Lynne, one of our teachers, who is an avid hiker, decided to hike up the mountain. For us less hardy souls, it was a bus ride to the cable car and a quick cable car ride up the mountain. By the time we were half way up, the cable cars disappeared into the thick cloud cover and rain surrounded us and never left. Being a Saturday, the park area was much busier than the previous day but the rain stopped no one. Walking up and up and up in the pouring rain only lead us all to the conclusion that we would take the cable car back down also instead of our original plan to walk down.

Disappearing into the clouds

Disappearing into the clouds

Half way up to the Golden Temple

Half way up to the Golden Temple

...it's only a little rain!!

...it's only a little rain!!


Lunch and then a very winding bus ride down the switchbacks of the mountain lead us back to the base where our van driver patiently waited. A quick change into dry clothing and we were headed back to Wuhan. I, for one, was very happy that I had decided to venture up to the lovely Wudang.

Gateway to the Golden Temple

Gateway to the Golden Temple

Posted by pjburke 01:01 Archived in China Comments (1)

Week TWO!!!

sunny 97 °F

14-18 July 2013

Pretty much the same up and downs for me. One day, I wasn’t sure I should have even been chosen and then next day, so glad that I was. Sometimes it would be hour to hour. I think for me, again, it was the lingering effects of a cold and the HEAT!!! There were many three shower days that week!! Also, at the end of week one, students were asked to evaluate their teachers. After receiving my critiques, I felt a lot better. The comments made me realize that I was getting through more than I thought. I had to remember that the way the teachers in the TFF program were teaching was vastly different from our student’s Chinese teachers.

Throughout the summer camp, the University provided a couple of after class activities for the students (and teachers): English corner and English speaking movies. The big advantage for the students was that both were held in air conditioned rooms. I know you’ve heard me complain about the heat but truthfully I shouldn’t. The hotel we stayed in had A/C – none of the students had A/C in their dorms. It was not unusual to have students in the classrooms as early as 0700 just to escape the heat. Also, most would stay in the classrooms during mid-day break, have lunch and sleep at the desks– which never ceased to amaze me.

English Corner was an open forum for discussion. Each night there would be two or three teachers from TFF and also Becky (see note below) available in one of the big lecture rooms for students to stop by and chat. It was open to “anyone” and the times and places were also published on English social media sites. It was not unusual to have former students and even students from other colleges in the area attend the sessions. Many nights there were 50 or 60 students. No conversation subjects were off limits unless a teacher felt uncomfortable talking or sharing. For me, it was an opportunity to share and also to learn. There were many questions about US culture but we also talked about the Chinese government, religion, world politics and education (US and Chinese).

Regarding the movies, there was a nice selection: dramas, comedies and some animated flicks. Every evening, for each of the three weeks, there were five different movies to choose from including: The Great Debater’s, Argo, The Kings Speech and My Big Fat Greek Wedding to name just a few.

Note: Becky is the daughter of one of our teachers, a senior at Tucson HS. Since Becky was coming with her Mom and their plan was to travel for a short time after classes were over, her “job” was English Corner. During the day, she also came to many of the classes, spoke with the students, answered questions from a young person’s point of view and participated in class activities. It was great having her with the group and the students enjoyed the perspective of someone a little closer to their age.

Becky and girls from Jim's Class

Becky and girls from Jim's Class

The highlight of “week two” was the talent show[i]. Thursday evening we all gathered (crammed into) one of the lecture halls to entertain and be entertained. This activity (like the movies and English Corner) was an elective but quite of few of the students attended. The amount of talent (students and teachers) was incredible. Individuals and groups sang, played instruments and our (mine, Brenda, Jim and Phil’s) groups ended up being the last group to perform. With a “flash mob” theme we started with a small group doing a line dance to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” and then more and more students joined in for our first song. A second song, “Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” started and our groups danced right up into the crowd and by the end the whole group was up dancing . The energy in the room was amazing. A great way to end the week!!!The Talent Show Cheer Section

The Talent Show Cheer Section

Melody, Christy and Max

Melody, Christy and Max

Yakecan, Leo and Arthur

Yakecan, Leo and Arthur

Posted by pjburke 00:49 Archived in China Comments (2)

Week ONE!!!

sunny 98 °F

08 – 12 July 2013

Monday – Friday After going over my journal entries for the first week of class, what I found was …not much!!

In the past, I usually spent time in the evening or early morning writing in my journal. This trip, there was no “normal” for me. I was exhausted.
I knew summer camp was going to be a new experience for me but…. It is really hard work. Hard and challenging but in an incredibly good way!!

Having been retired for almost six years, I think I’ve been a little lax in the disciple area. When you’ve got almost 50, of some of the brightest students in China, you’ve got to be on your game. It took adjusting; readjusting, adding content and subtracting when activities didn’t work as well as I thought they would. One of the things TFF teaches is to be flexible – boy, they aren’t kidding. At times, I have to admit I was frustrated, but only with myself. Looking back – it was an incredible learning experience and I thank all my students for, at times, serving as my “lab rats” (which I meant in the most affectionate of terms).

Classes started at 0830 and broke at 1130 for a three hour break, continuing at 2:30pm to 5:30pm. With six hours of English each day and the heat – we all needed that afternoon break.

My first week had its ups and downs. I found that each student had different expectations. There were as many preconceived notions about summer camp as there were students. Some could have done pronunciation, idioms and vocabulary for six hours a day. My job was to convince them that those types of activities would get “old” quickly, by presenting other fun opportunities to not only speak English but interact in conversations.

During week 1, Monday was a “housework” type class. Tuesday and Wednesday, I tried different activities. Some worked – some didn’t. The classes on Thursday and Friday seem to really hit the mark.

Jackson and Arthur's Proposal

Jackson and Arthur's Proposal

Cissy and Green and their Proposal

Cissy and Green and their Proposal

On Thursday, we put our (Brenda and my) two classes together and SKYPED with Scott Kuffer (our great nephew on the Burke side). Scott is a second year student at the University of Florida – Gainesville, which makes him the same age as our students. They prepared questions for him and were also able to do some impromptus face to face. It was a first ( I think) for TFF. Scott was open to anything they had to ask and the students loved it. Of course, once Jim heard how well it went, he scheduled Scott (and me because we know how technically challenged Jim is) for the following week.

Friday was a creative project with a CSI theme. But before becoming detectives, the afternoon class met the morning class for a party-type mingle thanks to the genius of Brenda. Even though the students were all HUST students, most had not met before. It was a huge success!! High fives over beers that night for P and B!!

First Class photo

First Class photo

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Apple and Yakecan

Apple and Yakecan

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Andrea and Naro

Andrea and Naro

One of the other activities that Brenda and I worked on that first week was our practice for the talent show – aka Hootenanny. Since line dancing had worked so well back in 2011, we decided that would be our contribution and Jim being the talent show kinda guy (NOT), he volunteered me to teach his classes also. Really wasn’t sure how this was going to work but decided to give it the old college try. First, was to teach each class individually and then next week – my plan was to get them together for a group lesson. I kept my fingers crossed.

Saturday – One day off between classes and truthfully – it was not enough. With the long days and the heat (Let’s talk about the heat – it was like Florida on a really hot, humid day with bad air quality) – both teachers and students really needed an additional day off. Also for me, still dealing with a cold – I was just tired. I never felt ill enough to have someone take over for me but by the end of the day – my voice was barely hanging on.

HUST offered a day trip around Wuhan for our one day off. Having done the same trip in 2011, both Jim and I begged off. It was nice not to have class but I did find I spent most of the day reviewing and adjusting my classroom activities for the next week. I re-evaluated how the previous week went and talked with Brenda and Jim and got some ideas from them and vice versa. I know that TFF advises that teaching background isn’t imperative to participate in this program but I think it helps especially when you need to pull something out of your little bag of tricks when things do go as expected. But that is part of the learning process – for teachers as well as students.

…..one of the many highlights of the week was getting to have dinner with Brian, John Korzick’s TA from September 2011. We’ve been in touch since 2011. Brian graduated in June 2013 and was back in Wuhan to get his immunizations ….because he’s headed to the USA for his Masters – U of V Charlottesville. We had a great visit. Good Luck, Brian. John would be so proud!!

Brian and Patty

Brian and Patty

Posted by pjburke 23:38 Archived in China Comments (1)

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