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My First Post

Hello All!!

I am writing this first post just to have an update on the blog.

I am still in Nashville right now and am getting ready to move and travel abroad. It is a bit overwhelming and I can’t stop wondering how much my life is about to change. I don’t have any expectations and I try not to worry about how different things are going to be for me; I have found this is the best way to travel. International travel can be very exhausting and culturally shocking for some people, so it’s always best to not expect too much and go with the flow once you arrive.

For now, that’s all I have to say, but when I leave, I’m sure this blog will be full of emotions, photos, and revelations.

Progress (sorta)

Monday 2 August

Today was a thousand times better than yesterday. Not that yesterday was terrible but there were definitely some bad parts. Today I was with Ms. Halana whose subject is literacy. Today her lesson was on adjectives and the different kinds of adjectives. I was surprised by how much they struggled with it, especially since she said that she has gone over it before. She explained the concept and gave examples and then asked the class to copy down a paragraph from the chalk board and then identify the different kinds of adjectives. What I saw were almost all the other words being underlined instead. Anything from verbs to nouns to prepositions. They seem to struggle a lot with parts of speech. We both agreed that next week we would go over nouns, verbs and adjectives again since there seems to be so much confusion. Ms. Halana said she hasn’t even gotten to adverbs yet but I consistently saw those being underlined as adjectives. Lots of confusion. Hopefully next week we can clear some things up.

I have a lot of confusion myself about my role. Apparently I’m only supposed to be working with small groups of students and I am not supposed to be left alone with the students which happened again today but not to the same degree as yesterday. Ms. Halana even tried to ask me about it but I had to explain, although I knew she already knew that I was not allowed to be alone with the students. I’m not here to replace the teacher but I’m here to help. Mr. Stofile has gone over this with them but I think they want to just try it to see what I do. Maybe next time I’ll just walk out with the teacher. It’s pretty annoying.

Today I was so busy with marking papers I barely noticed that Ms. Halana had left. Every single paper had something wrong with it or they had found adjectives and identified them correctly but hadn’t found all of them. Tons and tons of marking. It was pretty overwhelming. Ms. Halana was helping a little bit before she disappeared but tomorrow officials are supposed to observing so there’s a lot more paperwork to do….I’m not really sure. I’m not sure if I was understanding what Ms. Halana was saying. But regardless she wasn’t helping me too much which was fine because I was busy anyway. So next week hopefully we can divide the class up and I can take some to do a fun learning activity outside and Ms. Halana can do something inside. I don’t know. We have to figure all that out. It’s so confusing!

To add to my confusion Mel and I had a meeting with Mr. Stofile and we discussed doing afternoon workshops specifically for Grade 6 since they have their annual exams in October. The main purpose of the workshops is to focus on the exam and get them to answer questions correctly. That’s probably what I should be doing right now actually. Looking through the question papers as they call them here and finding out how questions are phrased and focusing on that. Lots of work. So starting next Wednesday I start workshops with 15 students for an hour with a half an hour on numeracy and a half an hour on literacy. Like I said lots of work. So next week Wednesday and Thursday I’ll be doing that and then the week after that on Tuesday I’ll be starting a computer workshop with the teachers because most of them don’t know much about how to use it. And then the week after that every other Monday I will be teaching another workshop with the Grade 6s at the computer lab. So if you’re counting that’s a total of four workshops going on during the week in addition to the classroom work that I’ve already agreed to do. Hopefully I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

But today was fine because I was done by around 1 because Ms. Halan tried to leave her class with me and I decided that it was a good time to leave. The schedules still don’t make any sense here because even though I get the time table, we rarely follow it. Like today, we were supposed to go to three classes and we only went to two. Didn’t even go to the other one. I think it had something to do with the officials coming tomorrow and the teachers had to go through some more training for that….I don’t know. Again lots of confusion.

So what I’ve been told is that each day I’m supposed to be in three classes with one teacher moving from class to class. What happens is like today we go to two classes and spend way too much time on one assignment. I’ve been told a period is 40 minutes. What usually happens is usually an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. Makes no sense! But I just roll with and try to do the best that I can with the time I have. But it’s hard when you don’t even know really what you’re supposed to be doing.

So after I left Ms. Halana’s class I went to the GVI classroom and enjoyed some lunch. I didn’t realize until then how hungry I was. After that I watched the sports people who are supposed to be doing dance this week which makes me so jealous. I love dancing. What I saw was more chaos. They didn’t really have a set plan. They asked each of the kids to show them a move but it ended up being lots of kids dancing and volunteers dancing with the kids and no music. Weird but they seemed to enjoy it.

After that I was supposed to go into the computer lab to familiarize myself with the various packages offered but there was a class in there so I didn’t want to disturb the class. What I ended up doing was busy work. Mel kept on asking me if I wanted to help Mr. Stofile and I already knew I didn’t but there really was nothing else for me to do so I reluctantly joined her in his office. What he wanted us to do was basically count the numbers of 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s that they use for coding the students. Exactly what the numbers mean I don’t know. What I do know is that I got stuck counting up numbers over and over again which made my brain feel like it was going to explode. Not fun. What made it worse was the horrible buzzing that the light above us kept making it was driving me crazy, pounding into my head. I was so glad to get out of there.

 

 

Abandoned

They left me at the school. Just completely forgot about me. It was alright though. I didn’t even notice to be honest. I did notice that the door was locked but I just figured that they locked it because they weren’t in the room. Turns out they left me. I was in the computer lab working with Ms. Cwaita and didn’t even noticed. My watch is still on STL time so I didn’t really know what time it was. It was fine because I was enjoying being in the computer lab.

Let’s rewind in a little. We arrived at school at 9 as usual and I went to find Ms. Cwaita. Each day I am with another teacher. Today was Ms. Cwaita with literacy and I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to it. I like math better than literacy. But it turned out fine. It was pretty confusing. She didn’t really seem to know what I was supposed to be doing and I really don’t know either. She ended up teaching a very short lesson on prefixes and suffixes which was good but then she left and I was completely alone which is something that wasn’t supposed to happen. It was very confusing. Also she seemed to think that I was supposed to be teaching today which was definitely not going to happen. It was pretty uncomfortable.

The periods are supposed to be 40 minutes but the first period I was in was short and I was literally in the classroom alone for about an hour. Luckily the next period was great. I marked papers aka grading and I actually helped some of the students understand what was wrong. For example, they were given an assignment to create words using suffixes and prefixes. They were given six root words and had to create new words but they made up a lot of words. It was kind of hard because some words I wasn’t sure about such as freehold which is apparently a word. Who knew? It was very eye opening. I feel like I barely know my own language let alone teach someone else.

We then went to the computer lab which I didn’t even know was happening. Ms. Cwaita just said that she was going to be going to the computer lab with her class and I was supposed to stick with her so I went with her. She didn’t even have a lesson planned. We had to find something relevant on the computer which didn’t take long but I was just so confused. How can you go to the computer lab without already planning ahead? Such is life here. Lots of chaos. Breaks happen when they want to and last longer than they should and teachers don’t teach. It can be incredibly frustrating. It’s very hard to feel motivated when this is the situation that you’re dealing with but the students motivate me. They’re the ones I’m here to help. I have to remember that.

Last Day in Kunming

It is Friday evening and I have said my goodbyes to the Elderly Home, Autistic School and Keats School.  I have mixed emotions of sadness and happiness.  I am especially happy that I was able to volunteer at two places and help both the young and old.  It was extremely hard to say goodbye to the people I have regularly been helping and spending time with for over a month.  I am so grateful to have the Lumos Scholarship which allowed me to experience something so life changing. 

At the same time, I am ready to go home to start classes again at Belmont.  This trip made my passion for China and Asia grow even more.  I am really excited about the new things I will learn in my Asian Studies classes next semester!

Advanced Chinese I – Dr. Andrew Siao
Seminar in Asian Area Studies – Dr. Joan Li
East and West Psychologies – Dr. Peter Giordano
Japanin the Shogun Age – Dr. Cynthia Bisson
Spirituality in World Religion – Dr. Marty Bell

Below are some of my final pictures:

Goodbye picture with the boss at the autistic school

Goodbye/Thank You Letter from the autistic school

Goodbye picture with the boss at the Elderly Home and Wang Yeye

She is such a great teacher and has taught me so much more than just Chinese! She is one my greatest friends now 🙂

Giving me my certificate for completing 120 hours of Chinese study

Validation of Volunteer Service (need that convo credit!) and Certificate for Chinese Study

Special thanks to Cynthia Leu for generously funding this amazing experience. 

I also want to thank Dr. Maggie Monteverde for helping me so much with my application process. 

Thank you Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn, Dr. Andrew Siao and Arthur Lachowicz for writing such great recommendation letters.

Thank you Paul Chenoweth for setting up my blog.

And thank you to everyone else who read my blog!! 🙂

Weekend Edition

Saturday July 30th

Last night we had our farewell dinner for the volunteers that are leaving. It was at the hotel on Habour Island. I was told it was “buffet” style but that wasn’t really true. There really were only three choices: grilled fish, fried fish or a vegetarian option.  The sides were mashed potatoes, tomato sauce and vegetables. It was really good though. There was also a presentation that had pictures of all the volunteers from their different projects. It was pretty sweet. I need to try to get a copy of it so I’ll have the pictures. They give everyone that is leaving a copy.

Today I went surfing for the first time in two years. I went several times when I was here last time and I am definitely out of shape. The water was freezing. Keep in mind it’s winter here so it is to be expected. I’m going to try again maybe by the time I leave here I’ll be great at it. Right now it’s exhausting and I’m not very good at all.

Sunday July 31st

The rest of yesterday was relaxing. I went with some of the program coordinators, Beth, Ali, Nick and Jim to Mont Blanc to watch a movie and eat more. I was so hungry after coming back from surfing but then I got hungry later. I actually rode the bike to Mont Blanc. Beth has a car but she’s not allowed to drive volunteers L But it was ok because it was a beautiful night. Stars everywhere which was sort of a bad thing because I kept on looking up at the stars instead of paying attention to where I was going. But I made it there in one piece and we had pizzas with mushrooms and tomato slices. It was so good! Then we watched Fair Game which is this movie about this CIA agent who is working before 9/11 and sort of discovered the whole lie with the WMDs. It’s kind of hard to explain but I highly recommend it. Then I passed out and enjoyed some well needed sleep.

I did some more laundry today. Did I mention I did laundry on Friday? I did it by hand which really made me appreciate the whole washer and dryer thing. I washed my clothes in the bathtub and then moved my clothes outside to dry. It takes a while but it’s free because Beth left some soap so I won’t complain. There is a Laundromat nearby but I am trying to save as much money as possible.

Later…..

I have met all the new people. It’s very overwhelming but they’re cool so it’s fine. We have a total of 8 girls here including me so we are pretty much full. There is one extra spot in my room but besides that we are at capacity. The new people had a tour so I walked with them and then ended the tour by relaxing on Habour Island. It was nice but we stayed there too long and I got cold. Dinner was veggie pasta and it was delicious.

 

 

Test Day!

Recap of Friday July 29th

Today was test day. At the end of each two week session, the students take a test on what they have been learning. The tests went really well. All my boys rocked it. Onke only got one wrong and then Akona got three. Sinethemba did well too. They all finished the tests fairly quickly so we got to play a multiplication matching game again which was super fun. They all got stickers and you want to know something strange? Sinethemba wanted his sticker on his forehead. I would think that was weird regardless but he hasn’t been the only one to want a sticker on his forehead. Several students have requested stickers on their foreheads which is pretty odd.

Abongile wasn’t here today which pissed me off. But it worked out because I got my first girl! I have been tutoring all boys hoping that when one of them was missing that I would get a girl but to no avail until today. Let me explain how it works: I tutor the same four students each week but if one of them isn’t there, sick, absent, whatever there is a backup list. As of today I have gone through all four of the backup students. Today’s was Sisanda. She was really sweet and quiet. I had an extra test made up and she struggled through it. She had trouble multiplying by 0 and then multiplying by 1-2 digit numbers.

It was also strange explaining to my boys that this was my last day working with them one on one and that I’d be in the classroom starting next week. I’m not sure that they all understood me. I’m nervous for next week. It seems really intense. Mel and I met with Mr. Stofile who is the headmaster at ACJ and it was determined that I would be working with a different teacher each day. So Monday I’ll be doing literacy and staying with one teacher then Tuesday I’ll be doing literacy with another teacher. Then Wednesday and Thursday is numeracy. I’m discovering that I really like math. I think it’s a lot easier to teach than English especially for learners who are learning it was a second language. I need to learn Xhosa so I can handle being in the classroom better. It’s such a hard language though! It involves clicks and not just one kind of click but different kinds of clicks.

So basically next week is going to be completely different from the last two weeks which of course makes me nervous. Next week I’ll only be observing which is good then the week after that I’ll be more involved. The big thing is that 25 October are Grade 6 exams for literacy and numeracy so that’s why my help is really needed. It seems like a lot of pressure for me. I feel like I know so little.

Basically my role is being a teacher’s assistant. So I will be helping planning the lessons and such but I’m not supposed to ever be left alone with the students which is good because I hate how they can speak in Xhosa and I cannot of course understand what they are saying good or bad. I kinda wish I was staying with my boys and then doing classroom work after that but no such luck. We’ll see how next week goes.

Exhaustion

I have to apologize for my lack of blog posts. It is so hard to write every day and then post every day! There is so much going on. I will do my best to rehash last week as well as the week before that because my last post didn’t even finish that week.

Thursday July 28th

I found out yesterday that I’ll be in the classroom starting on Monday. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m nervous about having lots of students all speaking Xhosa which I don’t understand. I’ll still be in Grade 6 which is cool because I’ll still get to see the students I have been working with so at least it will be a little familiar.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was another long exhausting day with good one to ones but the reading groups were still trouble. We changed what we were doing from writing sentences about a challenge you have faced to writing a summary of the book which we thought would be easier. It was still a struggle and I found myself losing patience again. In the first group only one student began writing and the others were still attempting to copy sentences out of the book which is not at all what we asked for. The second group was better with everyone at least getting a few sentences down which was encouraging but we still had issues with Sithandile laughing at other students and I just lost patience with that. He wants to laugh but he hasn’t even gotten very much done either.

The workshop was good. We had four groups again and each group was with one teacher reading a book and answering questions. My first group was good listening and everyone took turns reading. My second group consisted of one student who wanted to be there and then another student Patrick who didn’t really want to be there and at one point walked out and then came back. Then Patrick was the only one who wanted to read. He even wouldn’t let me read the story because he wanted to read. He’s a very bright child but pretty confusing. Going from I don’t want to be in your group to staying after everyone else is gone just to finish reading the book. It was nice though to have someone who really wanted to read. I haven’t seen that very often if at all.

Later…

Another exhausting day but it was encouraging. All the boys did great today and even though I didn’t have the proper copies that I wanted to use, the time still went by quickly. I found a multiplication matching game that the guys really like and most importantly it was picture day! So I got to take pictures with my guys and my reading focus groups. They really enjoyed that. Plus when I went out for recess I was bombarded with students who wanted to get their picture taken. I hope I got some good shots. I even got some at the nursery after school was over.

The reading focus groups went a lot better than they have been going. Everyone got something written though it is still very apparent that they struggle writing sentences. But I’m hoping their writing skills have improved in the short time that we have been working with them. Only Amanda finished all her sentences and tomorrow we don’t have the reading focus groups so we hope that the new teachers will continue our work. We’ll see if that actually happens. We had to explain that this was our last day although I’ll still probably see them since I’ll be working in the 6th grade classes.

It is cold and rainy today which is awful but I just saw a beautiful double rainbow so it’s not all bad. But today has been a pretty bad day for weather.

Me and Onke Grade 6 on Picture Day. I helped Onke with his numeracy.

 

Birthday and trouble at school

Sunday was my birthday! We went to Cape Town by train which took a little more than an hour. There we did some shopping and I got my dad a present. Then we ate at the food court and I enjoyed a falafel wrapped in pita bread. After a few more hours of shopping, we went back to Gordon’s Bay where we watched “The Notebook.” Then we celebrated my birthday with chocolate cake which was delicious and my favourite kind. It was a great day!

Monday

I just got back from school. It was exhausting as usual. During the one to ones, we went over the marvelous me sentences which we wrote last week and decorated them. Then we went over multiplication tables. I had them do as many as they could in a minute and then do 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s and 11s times tables and taught them the rules to those so that they could get faster. Two of my boys knew all those so we moved on to harder ones. I’m going to have to think of better ways of teaching them multiplication because they’re still counting and that takes quite a while.

The reading focus groups were kinda a mess today. The first group finished reading the book and then we had questions for them to answer about challenges they had faced and how they overcame them and we were met with blank stares. We provided dictionaries but still it didn’t seem to help. One girl Amanda was probably the worst. I asked her if she understood and she just said I don’t understand and when I asked her what she didn’t understand she didn’t say anything. It was incredibly frustrating. Only one of the students understood the concept and started writing sentences. Our goal was for them to all write ten sentences and like I said only one was able to write a few sentences. Today at our project meeting we discussed it and I think we’re going to try something more simple since our original plan didn’t work. The second group was also pretty bad. The one girl Charity is still struggling a lot and it was still hard to keep the other students in line. I had to tell them several times about keeping quiet but it didn’t seem to sink in.

The workshop however was really good, surprisingly good actually. We divided our 15 learners into four groups and each teacher had a different book to read that dealt with our theme of animals. My group read The Lonely Giraffe and answered questions while they were reading. It went really well and then once they were done, I got another group to read aloud and they did really well. After the reading focus groups, it was definitely the boost I needed. Now I’m at home trying to keep myself from just going to bed right now. The weekdays are exhausting.

Week 1

It is hard to express this week in words. I’ve written everyday so here’s my week. Pictures will come later

7/16

I could hardly sleep last night. I attempted to go to bed but the combination of a hot room and worried thoughts kept me up. I kept on remembering things that I had forgotten or just in general being quite restless. It sucked because I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the pervious night either. But then around 2:30 in the morning I feel into a very short sleep. I had set my alarm for 5:30 in preparation for leaving at 6. I did not want a repeat of last week’s diabolic when I missed my flight to St. Louis. It worked out fine in the end but I was nervous about the five hour drive to Chicago as well as getting through security.

So with nothing more than a peach in my stomach, my parents and I set off for Chicago. My dad driving and talking. My mom listening and trying my best to fall asleep. It took a while but I managed to sleep most of the way with the exception of a stop at McDonald’s for a bathroom break. I didn’t eat anything because I still find the thought of McDonald’s repulsive. I did try that strawberry lemonade they keep raving about and I don’t see the hype. It’s not as good as they make it sound but I guess it’s good marketing.

I awoke hours later to find us at my brother’s hotel. Winston, the middle child in our family, has been working at an internship in Cleveland and drove all the way to Chicago to see me off. It was nice to see him because he’s always good for a laugh. He’s always been a much easier going guy than me. I was/am so nervous about the trip but being with family helped ease my worries.

My last American meal was at Jimmy John’s. Not exactly the best choice but it was still good and then after soaking up the sun we were off to the airport. My dad dropped my mother, Winston and I off at the Departures section. I am flying KLM which is a Dutch airline that I took last time. They are not the cheapest airline to take but then again it was nearly impossible for me to find a flight under $2000. But then again it may be worth it as I was typing they just gave me a hot towel. Can’t complain about that. Plus each seat has a small TV attached to the back of the seat ahead of you with TV shows, movies, games, etc. And as I recall the inflight food isn’t bad at all. I will not complain.

But getting here took some doing. I had carefully weighed each of my two check-in bags to make sure they weren’t too heavy but as it turns out my big bag was too heavy. 80 pounds actually and it was only supposed to be 50. My heart raced as we got out of line and tried to figure out what to do. Lucky I wasn’t the only one  with baggage and my parents all had bags that we could trade. But as it turns out that wasn’t even necessary because I had put a collaspable bag in my huge bag for the trip back. For any future travelers, it helps to bring one because chances are if you stay in a place long enough, you’ll probably end up with more stuff than you had when you left.

This bag worked perfectly and I was able to transfer everything from my smaller bag into the collaspable bag and reduce the weight of the 80 pound bag. My advice: pack light. It’s just really hard to do that when you’re leaving for a year (or nine months).

With that crisis adverted, I got into the dreaded security line only to be told that my family couldn’t stay with me more than five minutes. And that was after I was asked how old I was. I’m 21 by the way although I have been told on numerous occasions that I look 16. Anyways, the goodbyes were short and sweet which was fine by me because I hate goodbyes.

Going through security wasn’t too horrible though I always feel like we’re just cattle being herded through the checkpoints. I had a lot of stuff and I was just happy to get through the line without being patted down or anything of those other humiliating things they make us do for our protection.

Once through I had about a half an hour before we were supposed to board. For international flights, they usually start boarding almost an hour before departure because they are so many people and it takes a while to get situated. All in all, getting on the plane wasn’t too horrible and I have plenty of entertainment to pass the time. Now if you’ll excuse me the TVs started working again and I want to get back to my movie. More updates later…

7/18

I’m sitting in the kitchen of my lovely apartment and I can hardly believe I’m finally here. After a year plus of planning, debating, and packing I’m here. My plane got here late last night and I went through the various securities before waiting for my baggage and getting my money exchanged, which took forever for some reason. It is cold here but that’s to be expected since it is winter. I cannot wait for summer. There is a swimming pool close by and I can’t wait to take advantage of it.

To my delight and surprise, I’m not the only black person here! I heard last night from the program coordinator, Mel that there was a family here and I was expecting them to be white but they’re not. They’re black and they’re from Philly. I’m happy that my assumption was wrong. Although the other girls who got picked up from the airport last night were white and let me be clear that there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just that we are serving a black community so it would be nice for there to be other blacks serving.

The rest of my journey went by slowing. I had a three hour layover in Amsterdam in which I took advantage of the free internet and was able to use Skype to call home. After that there was a twelve hour journey in which I struggled to stay awake. I mostly watched movies including Harry Potter 7 part 1 and some others. I also met an American teacher who was coming to South Africa for only week which I thought was pretty hilarious considering how long it takes to get here. My journey started at 6am Saturday morning and I didn’t get to Cape Town until 10pm their time which is 3pm central time so it’s long.  But worth it. I felt like I was coming home and I was explaining to the teacher how I had came before and making suggestions about what to do here.

Later that same day….

I’m now waiting to start training specific to my program. There are other programs in this area run by GVI. There’s an orphanage that volunteers work with, a sports program at the school I’m working at and a nursery. We took a tour of the different programs and the kids were so adorable! The school was depressing. Their playground had no equipment. It was pretty much a concert slab in the middle of school, sort of like a courtyard. I think the most depressing was the library which had no books whatsoever. They said that that was because there was no one there to watch the books and before when they had books they were not looked after and walked away. L Being a deep lover of books myself, I found this especially heartbreaking.

Later still….

The rest of the day has been a worldwind. Training, training and more training. I can barely think. I am exhausted. I just finished planning tomorrow. I have one on ones in the morning and I get to numeracy as they say here. Tomorrow I’m planning on testing their multiplication skills and I will be working with six graders. Then later I team up with another teacher and we do a lesson focused on reading. Tomorrow is supposed to be a fun day since we’re just starting and the students are starting another term this week. We are reading a story about a Chinese boy who goes on to become a famous dancer and in the beginning of the story, the boy makes a kite and attaches his hopes and dreams to it. We’re planning on making our own kites and for the kids to attach their own hopes and dreams to it.

 

7/19

Today is the moment of truth. First day of classes. I’m nervous and excited to get started today. My day will consist of four one on one sessions in which I’ll be seeing what levels my students are at in terms of multiplication. Each sessions last a half hour. Then like I said earlier I partner with another teacher and we will have six students and an hour to do our lessons. I think the students will really enjoy making kites. Then we end the day with all four of the teachers and a group of 15 students and we’re going to play games with them. Since this is the first day, we don’t really have to have a strict academic lesson which makes it a lot of fun to plan. Planning for me was difficult because I wanted to make sure I had lots of things to do and made them interesting. My mom gave me a lot of resources to use and I’m definitely taking advantage of them.

The rest of yesterday was a blur. After lesson planning, I went with one of the other volunteers to see if the internet worked. At our apartment there is none but one of the other apartments involved with GVI does so we checked it out. I had forgotten how frustrating it can be. The internet went in and out and the signal overall was very weak. We finally moved to another apartment and it ended up working pretty well. We’ll see later today if it works good enough to use Skype.

7/20

I woke up at 6am this morning, wide awake. I laid in bed for a while before finally deciding to get up at 7. Let’s talk about yesterday. I’m not sure what I expected. I guess the main thing was I didn’t expect to work with sixth graders. I thought more elementary age but here primary does not necessarily equate to elementary. At ACJ (the school I’m working at), the students are anywhere from grade 1 to 7th grade. My primary focus is numeracy aka math and yesterday my one on one sessions focused on multiplication. Most of the students did well. I just want to increase their speed. So I’m thinking about making them their own flash cards and then having them go over them again and again until they become second nature. That’s how I learned it but I also know that the language barrier makes things harder. I need to figure out how to learn Xhosa, their main language, then it will make things easier on the both of us.

The one on one sessions went well though I did notice that after the first two I pretty much did the same thing even though there were things that I never got to for example word problems which is something they all probably need to work on. Today all the volunteer teachers are focusing on “marvelous me” where we have the children fill out a worksheet so we can get to know them better. If they do that in enough time, I’ll move on to word problems. Hopefully those will go well.

After the one on one sessions there was a break and I went outside to meet some of the children. The school looks small but the classrooms are huge and there is apparently 1800 students in one small school. GVI designates one day as picture day so I’ll be sure to take pictures so you can see what I mean. The students were awesome especially the little ones. At one point two held my hand and then more kids linked on until the circle was huge. It was fun playing with them.

Then Aysia and I had a reading focus with six students. We read the peasant prince which tells the true story of a famous Chinese dancer. It was hard at first because there were two groups of six in our tiny classroom but once we left to the staff room it was much easier. I find it hard to know exactly who is understanding or who isn’t. Mostly one girl answered and the rest didn’t seem to pay attention. Once we got through the reading, we had them make their own kites since in the book, the boy ties his hopes and dreams to his kite so we thought it would be cool to have them do it. I’m not sure all of them understood though because a couple kids just copied the example that Aysia had made. Overall I think it went well especially considering it was our first day and we had to make up the sessions on our own.

Aftere the reading focus group, school was out and we had an afternoon session. Those are supposed to be the fun ones. Students literally line up at our door for a chance to be in the session. Since our classroom is so small, we can only take 15 students. Yesterday we split up the groups into two since again our classroom is so small. Half went outside with myself and Beth, a English girl who is also here to teach and then the other half stayed inside and decorated pages with their names on them. We wrote their names in bubble letters and then asked them to decorate inside the letters and outside of things they liked. It didn’t exactly go as planned. First off many of the students just started simply polka doting their letters and not really drawing things they liked. It’s hard because I also think they didn’t understand what we were trying to do. Then a strange thing happened. For some reason the students were convinced that I spoke Xhosa as flattering as that was, it turned out to be a total distraction and some of the students even got angry when I tried to explain that I am an American and that I didn’t speak Xhosa. It was very strange and frustrating because the students then starting speaking Xhosa and it really felt like we lost control which is something you never want to have happen in your classroom. So that was a poor way to end my first day and also when Beth and I had the students outside. We quickly ran out of ideas of games to play. That was pretty bad too and again the language barrier was a huge issue.

 

7/21

Yesterday was really good. For my one to one sessions, we talk all about marvelous me and I had the students answer questions about themselves by using complete sentences. The time seemed to fly by and then if there was extra time I asked them to solve some word problems. This is definitely one area where I want to work on because I had to help most of them through the problems. Also I learned how to write better questions because my questions are pairs of shoes was really confusing. We then had our reading focus which went well as well. We had the students answer some comprehension questions using the book. We split them up into two groups of three and had them compete with each other. One group worked really well with each other but the other one did not fair as well. But the team that won was very excited so competition definitely work as a motivation tool. Then we had our afterschool workshop. Our theme was animals. So we had the children name as many animals as they could think of. Then I had to explain to them why a mammal was a mammal, a fish a fish, etc. I tried to get them involved but they didn’t really know too much about animals. Then we separate them into four groups one group decorated fishes, another group made snakes out of paper, my group drew mammals by hand (quite a challenge) and the other group decorated birds. It was hard for the children in my group to draw mammals. One because they’re hard to draw in the first place and two because many of them wanted to draw things other than mammals. One kid was so frustrated with my group that he went to other, only to come back because he was dissatisified with the other one. He ended moving around to each group because he wasn’t happy. But the girls who could draw did an amazing job of just copying pictures of animals better than I ever could. Overall that went well. We went to the nursery before we left the project site and I played with the babies. They were so cute! One kid just kept blabbing in Xhosa which I don’t understand but he was adorable. Once we got back to house, we went straight to the bar. We found this awesome bar that has free wifi which is a rarity in South Africa and the wine was good so I couldn’t complain. The internet worked so well that I could use Skype and call home which was a nice treat since I hadn’t been to since I got here.

7/22

I feel  horrible right now. I am hungry but scared to eat for fear of just letting it all out again and now I kinda feel like I’m not to throw up but there’s nothing to throw up because I’ve barely eaten today. I’ll probably go to bed soon because I feel like there’s nothing else to do. I pray I’ll feel better in the morning. I think some girls are going surfing and I would love to go again.

It is crazy windy here. You can hear it even inside the house. I am eating biscuits aka cookies. They are less sweet than typical cookies. I’m not over here chowing down on some chocolate chip cookies. I hope I feel better soon. My throat does feel a thousand times better.

7/23

I just got back from our little adventure around Gordon’s Bay. We took a taxi with the intention of going one particular place but ended up driving around with the taxi guy and he took us up to a dam and we took awesome pictures. It’s still really windy here. So we didn’t stay long. We then drove some other places, stopped along the beach and took more pictures. It’s very beautiful, indescribable. You have to be here to experience it. Now I’m at Mont Blanc using their internet here. It’s nice because most of the volunteers are gone so it’s pretty empty. I’ve just been hanging out with three other girls who have already been on the Cape Town tour. Oh yeah and we stopped for lunch at this place called Barbados. I had fish and chips. Well specifically hake and chips but it was super good, not too expensive either!

 

 

 

Elderly Home and School for Autistic Children

After conversing with my Chinese teacher about my volunteer work, I have decided to help out both at the Elderly Home and the School for Autistic Children.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I will go to the Elderly Home and every Tuesday and Thursday I will go to the School for Autistic Children.

After doing some research about autistic schools in the United States, I realize that I could potentially help out at the that school.  Many schools in the U.S. have a personal teacher for each autistic child.  Because each autistic child is different, therapy sessions and exercises must be different.

I just need to be firm with the owner of the school and tell him that I really cannot just sit there and talk to him for most of the time.  I need to do what I am there to do – help the children!  I think that if I sit in on as many one-on-one classes as possible, I could give my advice on their therapy exercises.  This is the one class that parents cannot be in, so I think that will be better.  I observed a one-on-one class on Friday with a boy named Ming.  He is eight years old but cannot speak at all.  Every exercise they did just did not seem very helpful until the teacher sang some songs.  I do not want to take over the class, but maybe give some suggestions and see if they will take it or not.  For Ming, since he seems to really love music, maybe they could include music in a lot of his therapy exercises. This may help him with his learning of every day activities.

One exercise I did not agree with. The teacher was holding the candle so close to his face...any regular person would be uncomfortable with this.

So I will continue at the Autistic School.  I will also be staying in contact with my friend Casey (she went on the Belmont Study Abroad trip to China last summer).  She wants to eventually work with autistic children so I will definitely be asking her for some advice. 

But today is Monday and it was my first day at the Elderly Home.  Some of workers and elderly can speak Mandarin, but most of them speak the Kunming dialect (which I cannot understand at all).  It does not matter, though...because help and company is all the same. 

I learned that this elderly home only has physically and mentally disabled elderly people.  Some of them have already told me things that do not make any sense, but I will just always smile and act like I am interested.  There are a few that can feed themselves but many cannot do every day activities.  Today I helped feed the elderly and took some of them for a walk in their wheelchair.  They were so happy that I was there and are constantly smiling at me!  I am so glad that I can give them happiness.  One old man I took for a walk was SO proud to have me walking him!  He waved to everyone and pointed at me when we passed by.

The way to the Elderly home

One side of the Elderly Home

Another side of the Elderly Home

Helping the elderly eat

Wang 爷爷 - 75 years old - I took him and others on a walk around the elderly home

It is really sad because no one wants to help these elderly people or give them company.  The people running the place even asked me why I was coming there to help, told me it was a waste of my time and I should go somewhere else.  I told them that I really wanted to help and also explained that I have a scholarship.  Next they told me I could just come there, take pictures and pretend that I have been volunteering there. It is so bizarre!!!  It is understandable though because in China there are not many people who volunteer.  I suspect that I am the first volunteer this elderly home has ever seen!  They do not understanding the concept of giving without getting anything in return.  They are always just thinking that there must be some hidden reason why I would do this.  To me, I get the joy of giving these elderly people company, helping them, and seeing them happy.  So I am getting something in return.  The Chinese community just does not understand such things.  I did not even fully realize this until I began volunteering in China.  It is something that cannot be taken personally.