Professional Activities and Goodbyes

Group work

This past Friday, I delivered the second in a series of three workshops on active learning. About twenty people attended, including Jeremy. We discussed the theories behind assigning group work, and then I demonstrated the Think, Pair, Share technique and the Pass the Envelope technique. I also explained how to do Socratic Circles and the ABCs of Reading activities. We had vigorous discussions about how to measure students when they do group work as well as how to engage all of them in the group activity. As with the last time I gave a workshop, we went over by about thirty minutes. I guess next time I should just say that it is a two-hour workshop.

That afternoon, Jeremy and I caught the school bus to the new campus where we helped assess our Freshman students. It seems that the English Department needs some formal way to assess all the students every semester. The Freshmen had been preparing to do a re-telling activity for over a week. They were told that they would listen to a story three times, and then they would have to re-tell it to two faculty members. When they arrived at the assessment, they were told they would listen to an informative text one time and then have to re-tell it. Almost all of them panicked. I felt very sorry for them—as did the other judges. Despite this difficulty, they managed to re-tell the information to us.

In addition to new professional activities, the season of saying goodbye has started. This is normal anytime you live in an expat community or a transient community. I haven’t lived in a transient community for quite a while, so I forgot about it. Last Thursday we had a dinner to say goodbye to two teachers from BYU, Jim and Wendy. They were some of the first people we met when we got here. It is hard to believe that their teaching is over, and they are back in the US now. We also had a lunch to say goodbye to Guilia, an Italian foreign exchange student who has become good friends with the JCCC students.  It won’t be long from now that we will say goodbye to all our friends in Xi’an and come home too.



So Much Has Happened


So much has happened since last week. In fact, so much has happened since this morning. I’ve been interviewed by a media outlet called The Sixth Tone, and photographed by some other Chinese media outlet (maybe CN). No. Nothing bad has happened to me. Apparently, someone is doing a story on our English language mass. I think it could be because the World Wide Day of Prayer for the Chinese Church is coming up soon. It could also be that a short while ago the President of Italy visited China and wanted to attend mass at our church, but at the last minute, the Chinese government wouldn’t allow it. Maybe the story on our church is just to attract tourists. I’ll let you know when the story comes out.

The Sixth Tone story, on the other hand, has to do with some social activism I participated in on Monday. I joined a feminist wechat group. Then I agreed to meet for some activism without asking very many questions about what we were going to do. I was so happy when I showed up at the metro station, and two Chinese women were waiting with signs. They have a picture of a cat who is telling a pig that he can’t touch her even though she is cute. Behind the animals, you can see they are riding on a metro. We walked around with the signs, and we asked passersby to pose with them. We also took the opportunity to share our radical idea that no one should be harassed while riding the metro. Most people received this information very well. I felt so much joy supporting and encouraging my new friends to speak up for what is right.

When the articles come out, I promise to share them here. Until then, I promise to spend the rest of my time in China doing things I love—like riding my new bike, watching my friends perform at international music festivals, filming lectures on APA style, finding weird bugs in Expo Park, and drinking coffee.




Great Wall of China Marathon Race Report


Asher and I signed up to run the Great Wall Half Marathon on May 1, 2017. However, we did not exactly train to run the Great Wall Half Marathon. In fact, we did not read enough about the race before we got there. I thought part of the race would lead us through a village before the assent onto the wall. When we picked up our packets, it was clear from the course map that there would be no running around in villages this year.

Monday morning as we rode past the easy part of the wall on our way to the race, we could see tourists climbing very steep stairs. A British woman in the rear of the bus began audibly swearing in terror. At the race start, girls in line for the toilet were discussing their race plans. One girl explained that the half marathon could take up to seven hours. On the spot, I decided that Asher and I needed to change our plan.

I caught up with the race director, and pulled on is sympathy until I convinced him to make an exception for Asher and I. We were allowed to drop down to the 5K. This was wonderful. Because we only ran the 5K, we actually enjoyed ourselves. The first kilometer was a steep incline, but it was not on stairs. The next kilometer and a half were a very steep incline up rickety stairs. (Oh yeah, the Great Wall is really just a gigantic staircase.) Before we knew it, we reached our turnaround, and we got to run down the rickety stairs and then down the steep slope to the finish.

Low and behold, we finished 5th. Then we got to sit and enjoy the mountain setting until most of the 10 Kers finished at about hour 3. It was quite an adventure, and it was the only race I have run since Psycho Summer at WYCO last year. It was wonderful to put on a race bib and line up at the starting line with runners from around the world.



Spring finally sprang out of the dark rain and cheered us all up this weekend. On Friday and Saturday, I took long walks in Fengqing Park to drink in the sunshine and admire the flowers floating in the tree boughs. Spring also showed up in my attitude and my satisfaction with my work.

Wednesday, my sophomore writing classes wrote Thank You notes for their journal assignment. I wrote along with them. I felt like I could reframe the rest of my day by saying thank you to someone in both of my classes. By the way, I am especially thankful to my student Camille for writing an essay about turtles. (If you have a turtle that was raised in captivity you should not release it into the wild. It might not be equipped to survive, or it could be an invasive species.)

Thursday, Jeremy and I met with Professor Zhang Fuli to discuss several faculty development projects we are privileged to help with. I was excited to tour the Center for Faculty Development. They actually had a classroom with movable tables. In addition, they had a classroom where teachers could film themselves teaching.

This, of course, led to Friday. I got up early, put on the outfit I was instructed to wear, and tied my hair up. My colleague, Lucy, met me at my gate, and we drove to the video studio where I recorded another educational video. When we got to the studio, I learned that I could leave my hair down (yay!). Also, I needed to re-record my last video. I also recorded a new video on doing library research. Next time, I think I will share my thoughts about notetaking. (I’m sure you are all waiting for the sequel—Outlining—to come out in a theater near you.)

Since the sunshine for two days in a row has made me full of gratitude, I will leave you with a list of the little things I’m grateful for this week. 1) I got a free muffin at Pacific coffee because the employees there are simply nice. 2) I was able to buy street popcorn twice this week. 3) In church, we sang the song I did for my high school choir project (Shine Jesus Shine). 4) I bought flowers and they still smell good. 5) I got to watch over an hour and a half of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince before the buffering became too much to deal with. It has been a good week.


A Week In ShenZhen

Last Monday, we took the high speed train from Xi’an to Shenzhen. The train ride took nine hours, and we enjoyed seeing the farmland, mountains, and rivers as we crossed China.

This is the view from our hotel in Shenzhen.


On Tuesday, we took a walk along the beach, and then Jeremy and Asher decided to go for a swim. It was a bit cold for a swim (think Las Angeles in winter). Chinese people stood on the beach in their winter coats filming Jeremy and Asher while they swam…


On Wednesday, we took a taxi to the boarder between Mainland China and Hong Kong. We went through the boarder on foot, and then took a bus into Kowloon. There we found the Walled City of Kowloon Park. Apparently, it was a fort during the Opium Wars. After the Opium Wars, it became a lawless city. In the 1980s it was torn down, and now it is a museum and a lovely city park.

On Thursday, we went for a two hour hike up in the mountains. It felt just a little bit like home to us. We could hear the birds sing all around us.


On Friday, we hiked along the beach. We also ate breakfast at a place called Our Bread. We enjoyed eating at a German restaurant near our hotel as well.

Saturday we flew home. Asher was sick the whole time, and so he felt miserable. Sunday Jeremy and I had to start back to work with a beginning of the semester meeting. Things should get back to normal now.



Trains VS. Hospitals

img_11361This week, we learned about two important Chinese institutions: the train and the hospital. At the beginning of the week, we rode the high-speed train to Shangqiu to visit one of Jeremy’s KU classmates. Asher said we flew on the train which is true because the high-speed train runs on magnets, not wheels. Therefore, the high-speed train is suspended about an inch above the track. The train won our hearts, and Jeremy said he never wanted to fly on a plane again after the joy of train travel.
The train station was easy to navigate, and we did not have to take out our liquids or remove our shoes to get through security. The train itself was roomy and the seats were comfortable. Plus, passengers could get up and walk around at any time. We got the added bonus of seeing some of China’s countryside from the windows.
In Shangqiu we had an amazing visit with Jeremy’s classmate. She took us out for hotpot, to a temple where people were celebrating the new year, and back to her parents’ house for homemade dumplings. The next day we visited the Shang Dynasty city wall and the South Lake. We also got to peer in the windows of the Catholic Church. After a huge meal back at the parents’ house, we rode the train again.
We thought we might try the train again later in the week, but the tickets were sold out when we tried to buy them. This was a blessing in disguise because one of our friends went into the hospital with unexplainable pain. We have spent the rest of the week visiting him, and trying to cheer him up.
On the first visit to the hospital, seven of our friend’s countrymen from Burundi were there trying to help him. Our friend told us he had pain from his back to the top of his head. Plus he could not eat, nor could he feel his feet. It did not seem that the hospital had done anything but put him in a bed. He had no IV and no medicine. The doctor came into the room to check on our friend’s roommate, but was going to leave without talking to our friend. Another friend flagged the doctor down, but it was hard to communicate with him.
We returned the next day to find that our friend’s cellphone had been stolen in the hospital. No one seemed to be doing anything about it. His pain persisted, but at least he was trying some medicine and he had an IV. A nurse came in and told him they would do more tests the next day.
The next day, we asked one of our Chinese coworkers to go to the hospital with us. He was able to translate between the doctor and our friend. He was also able to read the medical chart. It turns out that our friend has an ulcer and he was supposed to be on a special diet. He also had problems with the discs in his back. So at least that is something.
In the Chinese hospital there is a total lack of privacy. In addition, the family members of patients crowd the elevators at meal times because the hospital does not provide food. We took the stairs three different times because of elevator crowding (and our friend is on the 17th floor). Of course, the lack of security is disconcerting. However, the fact that two nurses came into my friend’s room and giggled while they bullied him for more money was probably the worst part.
So this week, we learned about two Chinese institutions. The hospital is a scary place, and I hope that I don’t have to be a patient there. On the other hand, the high-speed train is better than flying. I hope to ride it again and again.

Tourists in the New Year

This week, our son Israel came to visit. In honor of his visit, we trekked out to all of the tourist places we had not had time to visit before. Here are a few highlight from the week.

  • The Xi’an City Wall
  • Muslim Street
  • Francis Cathedral
  • The Terracotta Warriors Museum
  • Emperor Qin Shinhuang’s Mausoleum
  • Fengqing Park
  • Street hot pot
  • Nong Coffee
  • Tang West Market Plaza
  • Redfort Indian Restaurant

While he was here, our son taught us to play a card game called Mao. I’m not sure he was aware how close a metaphor for life in China the game actually is. When you begin playing the game, there are rules, but no one tells you what they are. However, if you break the rules, you receive a punishment. The more times you play the game, the easier it becomes and the more fun it becomes. Life in China is like this. There are a lot of confusing rules, and no one will tell you about them until you break them. But the more times you do any activity in China, the easier it becomes.

For example, we have taken the shuttle bus to and from the airport six times now. The first time we were not even sure where to find the bus station at the airport or how to tell them which bus we needed to take. Now we know to cross the street at the Starbucks, and to take the bus that leaves from gate 45. When the bus arrives at our station, we know to just walk home unless a number 24 or 43 bus happens by at a convenient time. There is no need to wait twenty minutes to go a few blocks.

Anyway, we rode back from the airport after seeing our son off, and we felt a bit melancholy without him here. Of course, it is January 9, and we are still trying to wrap up the fall semester. Hopefully today we will put that to rest. Then we can prepare for our epic trip to Thailand. Happy 2017!