Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Recycling Program and Education

There are different recycling systems here, depending on the size of the city, it seems. In ZJ, the most effective way to get your bottle recycled was to give it to a kid scouring the streets for bottles. They'd carry plastic bags in their hands or big baskets on their backs to collect bottles for recycling. In return, they get some cash from the recycling depot. Kids would operate either individually or in packs. Sometimes they'd argue over who gets to have a bottle. Lesson learned, never give your bottle to a kid in the presence of other bottle searchers.

In Xichang, kids were competing with adults for the bottles. Both kids and adults would roam the city in search of that special used plastic that could bring income. Kids would operate in packs, but adults would operate individually.

Here in Chengdu, it seems to be only adults. And not only do they collect bottles, they also collect paper. I presume that Chengdu has a paper recycling facility that ZJ and Xichang do not. It is quite funny to see them hanging around the computer stores. When you walk by the computer or mobile phone stores, there are often people handing out flyers to anyone they see. Walk a few more steps, and there is someone collecting those same flyers from people for recycling.

We have bottle collectors in Vancouver too, but they operate with shopping carts, not baskets on their backs. It's kind of weird to compare how it all works. And with all these bottle collectors, I wonder if something's actually left in the recycling half of the trash bins on the sidewalk when the official garbage people come around to collect the trash.

What's crazier is the kids. I don't ever recall a kid being a bottle collector before. But here they are, collecting bottles for either their families or for themselves. It'd be much better for these kids to be in school, but until last year, it'd be too expensive. Finally, last year, education was made mandatory (and therefore free) for nine years. It's still not the full 13 years we'd get in Vancouver (Kindergarten, plus grades 1 to 12), but it's a start.

The Chinese really value education. When we were in Xichang, there was a kid who had been accepted into China's #1 or #2 university. They had banners celebrating this kid's entrance into university. Like the CITY had banners. That's crazy.

However, it's a little different in ZJ. Many parents can't see the point of their kids going to school, it seems, for several reasons. Firstly, when you graduate, what are you going to do with all the stuff you learned? There are hardly any jobs that you can get and apply yourself. What's the point of preparing for a bleak future? Secondly, you can help out your family right now, on the farm or in the shop, or whatever it is your parents do. And that help is really needed. And thirdly, is all the stuff you learn really necessary? It seems many of the parents believe that all the education is good for their kids. But many more do not, simply because of the environment in which they live. We're talking about ZJ here, not Xichang or Chengdu. Please keep them in your thoughts. This mandatory 9-year education thing is a major step forward.

Monday, August 13, 2007

We're not in Zhaojue anymore, Toto...

Yesterday morning, we left Zhaojue by bus to come to Xichang. Then we took the overnight train to arrive in Chengdu at 5:30 am today.

Our last week in Zhaojue was spent doing a variety of things. One of those things was helping out at the Sunshine Farm, a place run by MSI to grow many different things. These vegetables and animals are then sold throughout Zhaojue, or something like that. I don't have all the details. Many agricultural students learn how to farm here, I think. Or rather, there (we're in Chengdu now).

The team did everything from building and painting fences to picking vegetables. One really interesting part was cutting the grass and then bringing it to feed the pigs. Watching the pigs eat was interesting to me, mainly because of their eyes. While they were eating, they would sometimes look at you. A pig is a large animal, and they have large eyes. Plus, their eyes seem to have an intelligence that they know that you're looking at them, so they are in turn observing you to see what you are doing. It was a little unnerving. The farm will start breeding the pigs soon.

Something I ate during our last night in Zhaojue doesn't sit very well with me. But I think I'm nearing the end stages of my sickness. One of my team members gave me a lot of advice as to what to do. I'm going to now go out and find some Gatorade to drink with some of these Loparamide Hydrochloride Tablets (that's what it says on the back).

We'll back in Canada soon, Toto. Kind of strange to think about it. We're probably most worried about decompression now. Back in Canada, we'll be out of the greenhouse, and we have no idea how we'll react, being off the field and back into normal life. Please think about that for us.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Conversations with a 5-year old

Guess who was waiting outside my door this morning? A former student, and two others. The youngest was five years old.

Kid: Bobby-wawa!
Me: Wo bu shi wawa!
Kid (clinging to my leg): Wo de Bobby wawa!
Me: Wo bu shi ni de wawa! Ni shi wo de wawa!
Kid: Wo de Bobby wawa!
Me: Wo yao zou la!
Kid: Bu yao! Wo bu yao Bobby wawa zou la!
Me: Wo bu shi ni de wawa!!

Kids are too cute to be strict. :(

Thursday, August 2, 2007

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly...

Hannah ate a fly today. It was gross. I don't know she swallowed the fly. OK, I do, but I would never do it. :p

We went to a hair salon to get a shampoo and head massage. 5 yuan, right? Sounds good. :)

/after massage
Hair stylist: Blahblahblahblah
Me: Keyi (OK)
Hair stylist: Blahblahblahblah
Me: Keyi (OK) (yes, I didn't know what she was saying)
Hair stylist: Blahblahblahblah
Me thinking: Um, maybe I better get a translation first.
Me: David! Ni fang yi xia keyi ma? (David, can you translate for me for a second?)
Other hair stylists: /laughing
Me: Duibuqi! Wo shi hanguoren. /big smile :) (Sorry, I'm Korean)
Hair stylist: Blahblahblahblah
David: Ah, she wants to know if you want gel. Gel, ok?
Me: Hao, keyi. (OK, good).
Hair stylist: /starts cutting my hair
Me thinking: Uh, what is she doing?
Ruth: Bobby... ni xiang jien toufa ma? (Bobby... you intended to get your hair cut?)
Me: /nodding
Ruth: /puzzled

During post-analysis, David and I determined that when the hair stylist heard David say gel, she thought he said jien. She then repeated jien to me, and I gave the OK signal to go ahead. @@

It's not a horrible cut, you know.

Our last day of classes are tomorrow. Then we have closing ceremonies on Saturday. So tired... but ok. :) Many of our team members are healthy again, so looking good. Big daddy gave us lots of help for many things.

Our kids have to make up a presentation for the closing ceremonies, just like the other classes. So far we have... Hot Cross Buns? We'll see what happens. :)

I got really angry today. These kids that we've been trying to teach about good values made one of their classmates feel so horrible that she didn't want to come to class anymore. That student's younger sister is in my class. Normally, she's very happy (today, we gave her an award for having "The Biggest Smile"). Today, she was crying, and wouldn't explain what was going on. Found out that these kids that we've been working so hard on were the cause of it all. I was very upset. It was hard to control my anger for a while. But big daddy didn't come here to help those who needed no help, right? He came here to help those who had problems. These five kids have major behaviour problems. And others too. Four of these are the ones we caught smoking. I get to see these guys when it's their class's turn to come to Game Period (Bryan, Tim, and I manage Game Period).

We had several rounds of talks with them. In my round with them, I told them many things. I told them how angry I was. I showed it. I went through everything. Why did they want to attend these classes. Why is respect important. How is responsibility distributed among culprits. What is chivalry supposed to be. How could they have such a lack of self-respect. Why did they insist on acting like trash. What kind of trash did they have in their lives that influenced them to become this way.

I think I did some things that I shouldn't have done. Like explicitly state what I felt like doing to them. Maybe calling them trash. I'm not sure. I was very angry, but I'm sure that is no excuse. Big daddy's anger is carefully chosen and revealed only when it is necessary. Was it necessary for me? I don't know. The only thing I had going for me was that they sometimes respected what I said and therefore valued whether or not I respected them. But I had lost all respect for them today. After so many sessions of talking with them, they finally got around to hurting one of my own students.

They decided that they would make a public apology in front of the whole school. They said they wanted to do this because they felt regret and wanted to be people of value, not trash. It's very nice to hear, but who knows if they can keep it up? I know with many of my own personal problems, it's not easy. That's why grace is so important. The short-term outcome of this whole thing was perhaps good, but this incident has only made it clear to me as to how unconfident I am in my abilities to say and do the right things in resolving conflicts and applying discipline. It scares me. Big daddy is smart. I hope he teaches me. Please keep these troublesome kids in mind. I don't know how many chances they will get to have some sort of good foundation in place for good values. If this little thing can spark a yearning in them to search for how to become good people, and realize that it is not possible, and that is why big daddy does what he does, then I will be thankful. We can only plant seeds here and think hard about them.

Remember that second name of mine? It's Bobbydoe. I couldn't figure out for the longest time what the kids were saying until finally I realized that they were saying Bobby Wawa in English.

Still a wawa.....

Bobby Wawa

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kids are so free here

It amazes me how free the kids are here. They go everywhere, alone, or with friends their age, with no adult supervision. All over the town. Many of them are already starting to work, like carrying baskets on their backs to sell plums or other fruits or vegetables. Others carry their younger siblings in baskets or cloth slings on their backs until the babies can walk. Even the babies walk the streets alone, though usually their parents will be watching from a short distance.

Life is just so safe here, that people don't need to worry about their kids. It's amazing. I wonder how long it can stay that way. I'm sure it's easier in a small town.

Our class teaching team ate lunch at the restaurant run by the family of one of our students. We had these fantastic noodles. Yum. :) Our student was helping her parents prepare some vegetables for the restaurant while we ate.

You see it everywhere here. Kids grow up young and fast. They learn about life young and fast. And they start to work hard young and fast.

One of our kids cried because she got nothing write on our test. David gave her a pep talk on perseverance. Two other kids got the top two marks in the class (one of them got 100%). These were the same two that we had given the same perseverance talk last week because they were also crying for academic reasons. There's such a wide range in our kids.

Monday, July 30, 2007

home stretch... already?!

Due to my inability to use a Mac, you will have to scroll down to read the few words that I wrote before uploading these pictures... but meanwhile, please enjoy the visuals! ^^

May I introduce you to Mark (top) and Steven (bottom). As you can see, they are a bit rough-and-tumble, but we are always entertained by their antics. Both their parents work (and live?) at the Youth Center, so these boys hang around us a lot after classes and in the evenings. We were even led on a hike up the mountains by them! This is a prime instance of seed-planting opportunity ;)

Crafts class! The best afternoon activity ever!! (In addition to games, sports, and drama/reading of course)

Some of the finished products. Amazing what joy can be brought by a few pompoms, glitter, and other cheap decorations! I wish I'd brought more...

English classes happen every morning. Here is the wonderful Class 3 (around Gr.6) :D

Here's our big group picture before Daniel and Cenia (TAs) left. The program for teachers teaching teachers (Chinese teachers learning to teach English) ended on Saturday, so we've had to say farewells already. Please remember Daniel, a new C with a lot of big decisions on his plate, and Cenia, not yet a C.

Most mornings we perform a skit during the opening session. Here is the popular "Farmer Dave" playing the Good Samaritan.

Sidewalk Chalk! Here are the 30cent Walmart purchases in action. They just loooove it~
A close-up of said wonderful sidewalk chalk

Bobby and Bryan doing some outdoor games. Beautiful sunny days ^^

I'm glad one of us got a shot of this group... please bring these 5 students especially before the Throne. Larry, Jay, John, Lamont, and Chris -- they are all in my Gr.6 class, and 4 (not so sure about the fifth) were caught smoking in the washroom last week. They are troublemakers in a sense, very rowdy, but also really sweet boys ... just breaks my heart that they would abuse their bodies in this way. I'm so glad they were able to hear what Bobby mentioned in the previous post.

Thank you to the guys for keeping the updates rolling! It's been an exhausting few weeks, yet we simply cannot believe that there are only a few days left. Last Saturday has already hostd a few farewells -- please remember Daniel (one I don't think any of us are ready for all the goodbyes we will have to say this coming weekend. Saturday morning will be the last day we have with our students... a few team members and all the TAs will be leaving on Sunday... we just keep asking Him to move mightily during our remaining time together.

Like Bobby said, there have been so many seeds planted... from simply talking to Father in the presence of our students to making crafts with crosses on them... we've been noticing that they've been noticing.

Please keep us in mind as we wrap up the teaching portion of our journey -- may we finish the race running strong!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Corellation is not necessarily causation

I have learned that washing clothes by hand is extremely hard work. Crazy. I spent what felt like an hour washing four pairs of socks. My clothes were soaked from the shower head. Finally, the socks were sufficiently clean (not all the other clothes that still need washing), so I took them outside to dry. There's a long wire where everyone hangs their clothes.

As I stepped out, Harry Potter was sitting there. And it started to rain. I couldn't believe it, it had been a sunny day up to the point when I brought out my socks to dry. I brought them back inside to hang them somewhere in the hallway. And just when I finished hanging them, it stopped raining. So I brought them back out. Harry Potter said to be careful because obviously my socks had power over the rain. And of course, it started rain again, just as I stepped out. But it was only sprinkling, so I risked the chance that it would stop.

We had a carnival for the kids outside today. In the pouring rain. Emphasize pouring. Why did I have to leave my socks outside??

Caught some kids smoking. They denied it at first, but the smell was clearly there. After emphasizing the importance of telling the truth, and the amount of respect one gains from being able to tell the truth, they were willing to admit that they were smoking. We had a discussion on the negative effects of smoking. But I did not command them to stop smoking. I said that it was my preference that they not smoke, and focus on fulfilling their potential. I asked that they make the decision for themselves, as young men. These kids are 11, 12? I wanted to give these kids the ability to develop respect for themselves, that their opinions mattered, and that they could make decisions for themselves that depended on their own thoughts, rather than external factors like peer pressure. I wanted them to feel like they were making a positive decision, instead of being punished. Was I taking the right tact in dealing with this matter?

I hope that every single lesson I give to these kids is taken seriously. They seem to be listening on some fronts, but not on others. They don't fight as much anymore. Some of them have really responded to the talks on leadership. Some of them have responded to the talks on helping those who can't do things on their own. A lot of them still disrespect each other, while others have become very good friends. Is this really working? I don't know. But I hope that these kids are really learning. We are so limited as ST, and also, the local rules complicate things, so that we can only use allegories, stories, lessons, and so on, without being able to discuss what we really want. Frustrating, but also so positive when we see some of these kids actually growing. :)

They stopped calling me Bobby Wawa. I'm not sure what it is they call me right now. I'm trying to figure it out.

Eric's a superstar. He made pizza for all the kids, and for most of them, it was the first time they've ever tasted pizza. Today, kids were bringing him gifts. Not just any gifts. Porcelain figurines, hourglasses, etc. We had some pizza too, it was great. But it was insane about how much it filled up my stomach. My stomach seems to have shrunk, and pizza doesn't seem to fit in there as well as it used to.

I hit my head. There's a small gash there. I was in the home ec room, watching some of the YC's home ec students make pizza, according to Eric's recipe. On the way out, the door frame is really low, and I crashed into it and fell down. Which gave me a nice burn on my right forearm. I'd forgotten what peroxide feels like.... It seems like we're becoming the walking wounded. Bryan sprained his ankle. Carrie's immune system has acted up. Sarah has a bit of a fever. Please think about us. :)

We're entering our last week with the kids. Oh please keep them in mind. Also, we planted some seeds the other day. With the rain here, these plants should also be able to grow really well. But who am I to say? Big daddy says that they could grow well. I hope they do, the beans would be great.

Bobby (something? not Wawa anyway)