Friday, May 31, 2013


The photo above is of one section of our sophomore students. Very typical. One day while I was back at my father's funeral, I had Paul take this Oral class on a tour of campus - actually they took him. Note the statue in the background. Impressive. Further back is the new library. It just opened a few weeks ago. We heard it was the largest in Asia. Our student clarified it. "Largest library surrounded by a man-made lake" (which they are just finishing and have not yet filled).

I teach these sophomores American History and Oral English on Monday and Thursday mornings. I teach a total of 51 freshmen Pronunciation Monday afternoons in 2 classes. On Mondays and Thursdays Paul is teaching Business to seniors and will soon be teaching American Culture to freshmen. On Tuesday mornings Paul teaches Sophomore Advanced Writing (20 students in each class). Last semester I also taught Movie Appreciation and Paul taught Public Speaking. We mostly take an uncomfortable university shuttle bus on a 50 minute ride out and back. In the mornings we typically leave at 7 AM and Mondays Paul gets home just before 7 PM. 

Some of the freshmen. All our classrooms are the same, although we seem to spend most of our
time  teaching in this room 306. Note how the desks look brand new. Not one single mark or scratch on them. The Chinese students are significantly more respectful of private property than Americans. The classrooms all have their own teacher computer system and projector.
Lesson preparation takes of a lot of our time at home along with correcting assignments. Paul has an extra dose of correcting with all the essays. Sometimes we grab a bit of breakfast before class or even lunch in the student cafeterias. We also need to meet in dozens of small group sessions of students called "Free Talk." These help students have an opportunity to spontaneously practice their English. Some we do in our apartment and most we do on campus. Office hours are also required. 

Getting places, doing laundry and grocery shopping (totally different from at home but that is another blog for another time) take a surprisingly large amount of the rest of our time. Things like no dryer and hanging all your clothes up to dry and shopping almost daily because you have to carry everything home make the days seem much shorter than in the states. 

Often the classes come with suggested text books that are available but not mandatory. That is good because all the books are in Chinese and unless a teacher has taken the time to translate the instructions they are useless to us. Fortunately  mine has been translated and is very helpful.

Paul had his business students get a couple of books he had bought for $40. He told them on Monday and they all had their identical copies on Thursday. Price? $2.20 for one and $1.50 for the other. When asked how they got them so fast the answer was "PDF files to the printer." Ah, this is China.

The students are just great and we love them!  They are bright and happy and so smart!  Their grasp of the English language is quite good and they are able to express their thoughts quite well usually.  They are fun to talk to and they actually like talking to us and make an effort to be with us and converse.  

Church has been quite a bit more lively than normal thanks to
an influx of BYU study abroad students. Young Ambassadors
a few weeks ago. This is a group of BYU dance students
studying here for a couple of weeks. Had a BYU engineering
group. Also several BYU independent traveling groups. 

Funny story. The other day several of the girls came up to me and told me that another student would be absent because she was “hot headed” and couldn't come. I got all worried that she had gotten herself in trouble with the authorities for getting mad at someone. Come to find out she had a fever and was sick! We all laughed at that one! Just when you think you understand them....  

There is a 10 minute break in each class because the classes are an hour and 40 minutes long – each class meets once a week. I know, a bit different than home. During the break one of the girls in Paul’s writing class who had just come to my Oral class came up to me and wanted me to help her correct her written assignment that Paul had marked up.  She was so earnest and wanted the help so I helped her – I just hope her Professor won’t get too upset. But then again, you might as well use the resources you have available.

20 of the BYU dance students asked if they could come over for FHE. Not a large apartment, but we all fit. Had a wonderful time. They loved Ann feeding them. They were really longing for a little "western LDS" feeling that we were able to provide.

These Chinese students cope with some of the same issues as students do at home. The freshmen are away from home for the first time and have a tendency to maybe get a bit homesick. They are learning to deal with spending their money for the first time and how to manage that. Some spend the whole semester's funds the first few weeks. Many of them have never had a roommate and that can be an adjustment from being the center of the universe. They do not choose their roommates and so they make friends almost immediately. Pretty much the same stuff. For all it is their first doses of freedom and some spend too much time playing games on their phones and not enough studying.

A “Typical Chinese”

We are on an airplane. As our flight attendant filled a minor request for us we commented “she is really the 'typical Chinese' that we mostly interact with: young, bright-eyed, happy, cheerful, smiling, well groomed, looks nice." We would also add: well raised, polite, helpful, kind, optimistic, educated, disciplined, inquiring, reserved and so very hopeful about their future. They are proud of their ancient culture and they are proud of their country today. 

They create a wonderful and positive impression of what China is and how it will be even better in the future. Some come from poverty, some from very modest backgrounds, some from the middle class (which lives like the American middle class of he 60s), and some from wealthy backgrounds. But they all have big dreams and ambitions which they see others constantly achieve and know that they can too.

Look at this picture or others of our students and friends from other posts of this blog. This describes them. This also describes most of those we encounter and interact with in their 30’s and 40’s.

Older Chinese generally receive a different description. In the same way American “Greatest Generation” was marked by being raised during the depression and living WWII, older Chinese are marked even more so by WWII, The Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. They are from a different time, a different world, a different culture and have known poverty and difficulties beyond our experience. We have been touched by much of what we have read and especially by occasional first and second person accounts we have heard. Their outlook, demeanor and behavior contrasts dramatically with the youth.