Leshan bridge on the Min river.
During our pre-service training, I somehow got the idea that my teaching experience would involve eager female students who craved friendship and meaningful connections.
When I was placed at a small vocational school for construction and engineering, my little bubble popped. My students were almost exclusively male, and really they couldn’t give two flying farts about English. Hanging out with their strange, gawky foreign teacher wasn’t really high on their list of priorities.
The one exception to this was the English majors—a group of 25 bright and quirky students taught by my husband. They became my surrogate students last year. There would be days when I felt like a complete failure, unable to connect with my students. I would pour all my energy into my lessons, only to receive dull responses from boys who’d been up all night in internet bars playing League of Legends. It was Jeff’s English majors who came to my parties, who attended our English corner. It was these kids who made me feel like I wasn’t the problem.
In May, the class will graduate. Many are moving on to other cities—Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, where they will translate or do HR work for construction companies. Many students have gotten positions in Africa, since Chinese companies are doing loads of construction work in places like Algeria and Tanzania.
Soon, their close group will scatter…but right now is a magical time when they are all filled with opportunity and dreams. Life is a gigantic possibility, and no limits have been set.
Last night we had a goodbye dinner for the class, since they will spend next semester interning at various locations away from campus. The students cooked up a storm, hammed it up for the camera and went crazy when I brought out my nail polish collection.
Youth is such a gorgeous, infectious thing. This beautiful group of girls have been an amazing part of my time in China, and I will always remember them.
Peace Corps Volunteers Christelle Domercant and Ursula Wright recently practiced our Second Goal by sharing the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with preschool students who are learning English in Costa Rica!
Giggling girls at school in Colombia - 2013
Peace Corps Volunteers in China organized a prom party at the Lanzhou University of Finance and Economics for over 300 students from three different universities in Lanzhou.
“When a student sees a postcard sent from a faraway place and realizes it’s addressed to them, it sparks an enthusiasm for learning English that the textbooks don’t match. Even my least motivated students will call me aside to help them decipher new words and phrases.”
- Peace Corps Volunteer Matthew Borden, who is teaching students in his Indonesian community English with the help of postcards through a project he calls Postcards to Java
Peace Corps Volunteers, trainees, and staff were just a little excited to meet President Obama in Costa Rica last week!
If you know me in the slightest bit you know I love working with kids. I’ve been a nanny and a summer camp counselor for most of my life and absolutely love the feeling of getting to act like a child again and be ridiculously silly. For the past month, I’ve been working at an elementary school teaching 3rd and 4th graders English, and will be doing so throughout the rest of my service here in China.
The thing I’m loving the most about teaching these kids, besides getting to do the hokey pokey, sing songs, and do arts and crafts, is that they bring me a sense of familiarity. Here in China it’s hard to find many similarities between home (America) and my now, home away from home (Nan’Shan). But these little kids are the one thing that is similar and it’s refreshing. They love to ask questions, they love to help me with my Chinese, they love to dance and giggle and run around, they’re still so innocent and without a care in the world. Being around them brings me so much joy and I can’t wait to continue working with them, to play with them, and watch them grow.
Did you know March is National Reading Month?
Reading is definitely one of the more popular leisure activities for Peace Corps Volunteers. What were some of the books you read during your service? Did you bring home any books from your country? How many times did you read War and Peace during your 27 months overseas?
These kids are from my lowest-level English class. At the beginning of the year they were bored, disinterested and I thought they hated me.
Today they called me up and wanted to see me to give me a gift: a box of apples in honor of women’s day. They were all smiles, and so sweet. They’re not the same kids as they were in September, and I’m not the same person either.
This is Joanna, one of our favorite students. She works insanely hard at the things she wants to accomplish. She wants to be an English translator when she graduates, and she’s also a student assistant in our department.
Last night she came over and taught me how to cook some simple, traditional Sichuan dishes.
Someone once mistakenly taught her that Americans say “howdy!” after they finish eating. The first time she did this, we had to gently explain that this isn’t quite true. But it’s blossomed into a running joke for us. When we finished our meal, she sat back, rubbed her stomach and proclaimed “Howdy!”
It was the perfect sentiment!
In my Oral English speaking and listening class we spent about a month “traveling” to different places in America. We discussed the culture and lifestyles of New York, Florida, Washington D.C. and California. All of which are places my students hope to get the chance to visit one day. While we were discussing California, I decided it would be a good idea to discuss my version of “Environmental Get Down “aka how can we environmentally make the world a better place. I talked about California as a green state and we discussed 5-6 ways we could help the environment. This of course involved me tell my students they should “eat less meat” because cows “fart and burp” methane gases. This turned into to a big laugh, because most people in China think its unhealthy to not eat meat, and because I was in front of a group of 30 students explaining the English words “fart” and “burp” furthering my students ideas that I’m “extremely weird but they love me.” By the end of the lesson I had my students choose one topic that they thought was most interesting and had them create Be Green Comics. The next class they shared the stories they created, all of which turned out fantastic and really interesting. They all loved it so much that next semester I’m going to be doing an “Adventure club” secondary product. This will involve me and some students hiking around different areas of Chongqing and discussing different ways we can help the environment, and maybe even planting some flowers and trees along the way. Check the pictures for the final results 😍
On November 15, 1992 the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived to serve in Ukraine
Teaching English in Mongolia - 2006
This photo shows a scene from the first English-language play (The Odyssey) ever to be directed by a foreigner at Lanzhou University. The performers are English major students.
- Peace Corps Education Volunteer Katie Maclean