Monday, June 29, 2009

June 26-28th: Final Days in China

We spent our last few days in China packing, sleeping, shopping, and hanging our with our newly made friends in China. We had no more work, classes or tours, and most students branched off to relax in their own way.

Our only offical events were our two going-away parties.

On Friday, Tianjin Normal University gave us an offical Closing Ceremony to celebrate the conclusion of our partnership.

First, officals from TNU and UM gave a few speeches.

Next, some U of M and TNU did some performances.

And of course, we taught the Chinese officals the Cha Cha Slide and the Cupid Shuffle.

In turn, TNU presented us with farewell gifts...beautiful group photographs and adorable plush panda bears!

On Sunday evening, we had our own private going away party.

We celebrated with cake and pizza (a often craved food over the past month)

We gave gifts to each other, and viewed some of our favorite pictures and memories.

Finally, we shared some GIEU love, and said our goodbyes.

We will be heading to the airport in the morning.

See you back in the States!

June 25th: Volunteering in Beijing

On Thursday, we returned to Beijing to spend the day volunteering with a non-profit organization. Simply getting there was an adventure. We had to take taxis, trains and buses to make our way back, but it was worth it!

We volunteered with Three Primary Colors--an arts and crafts workshop for individuals with mental and learning disabilities. Just like our project in China,3 Primary Colors focuses on connecting with different types of people with different background through the universial language of art.

The workshop is one branch of Beijing Hui Ling - a non-profit dedicated to helping both children and adults with both physical and mental disabilities. Because non-profits are still new and few in China, we were particularly excited at the opprtunity to lend our time and help to this one.

In the morning, we participated in their daily arts and crafts, making cards, paintings and bracelets.

After sharing a delicious lunch of egg rolls and dumplings, the trainees showed us some of their skills, including sports, playing musical instruments, and using Chinese yo-yos. We got to try the yo-yos as well!

Next, the trainees set up a performance for us. They sang and danced, played musical instruments, recited poetry, and performed skits.

Some of the performances required audience participation.

Although some of us were shy at first, we soon found ourselves having a great time dancing, giggling and jumping around with the trainnees. We played London Bridges, and even did a little Macarena!

Three Primary Colors and Beijing Hui Ling focuses on teaching their trainees life skills and the ability to earn their own income. They sell the cards and bracelets that are made during the arts and crafts workshops at fundraisers; the wonderful home-cooked meal was prepared by trainees; and trainees also receive compensation for their performances and demostrations.

Although we went to Hui Ling with the intent to help the trainees, in the end we were the ones who learned more. We had a great time, and several of us hope to come back and do longer term internships in the future.

June 24th: Finding Europe in China

On Wednesday we learned more about the historical significance of Tianjin. About one hundred years ago, during the Opium Wars, European and American concessions were created in Tianjin. Because of this, Tianjin has much historical significance. Recent efforts have been made to restore these areas so that domestic and international travelers can see what the concessions were once like.

In the morning, we walked around "Italy town".

The architecture was so European that it was hard to believe that we were still in China!

In the afternoon, we took a tour inside one of the European houses that was restored with the furniture of the period. Afterward, we got a tour of the entire concession district, by horse-drawn carriage!

June 23rd: The Tanggu District

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we went to several locations around Tianjin to learn more about the social, cultural and historial background of this area.

On Tuesday, we went to the Tanggu district. This ocean-side neighborhood used to be very rural only a few years ago. However, since the Olympics, a lot of time and money has been spent on making Tanggu a world class port. Buildings have shot up overnight, and with them have come lots of new businesses and jobs. We got a tour of the central business district from our bus.

Next, we hung out at the boardwalk area along the water. There, we watched the boats come in and checked out the wares of the local seaside street vendors.

Afterward, we walked inland to one of Tanggu's largest shopping areas to practice our barginning skills before grabbing a bit to eat at a dim sum restaurant and heading back to our hotel.

Friday, June 26, 2009

June 20th & 21st: The Weekend!

On Saturday, we divided into teams and had a photo scavenger hunt about Chinese culture around Beijing. Tasks included: participating in an outdoor group activity with Chinese people, purchasing something using at least 4 words of Mandarin, a picture of the "best balancing act", and lots of other assignments. The winning pictures will be posted on the blog shortly.

On Sunday, we had a long day of R & R. We started out in the morning with a cruise of the Hai river.

From the boat, we got a great view of all the different neighborhoods of Tianjin.

Afterward, we had an afternoon full of shopping for souvenirs at several traditional Chinese areas.

One of the favorites was "Cultural street", a very old neighborhood where the city of Tianjin first started.

One of the most popular items was tea sets! Nearly eveyone bought one by the end of the day. We've all bought so much stuff that now we are going to have to buy new lugguage!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 17th & 19th: College of Primary Education

On Wednesday and Friday we visited the College of Primary Education.

Wednesday morning we broke into small groups and audited different classes. Many of the students had just returned from practicing teaching primary school for three weeks, so we got to hear many stories, and even see some video of the primary schools.

Next, we took a course for ourselves! They arranged for us to take an intro to Mandarin language course at the College. It was hard work. Even though the professor went easy on us, we were struggling to pronounce the tones correctly. However, we learned lots of useful information, such as how to order food at a restaurant in Chinese!

In the afternoon, we got to teach English classes using our own modules. We taught them to play hang-man, charades and Uno-- all while giving them an opportunity to practice their English.

Uno has become so popular among the students that we have visited, that several of the teachers went and bought decks online!

We finished our day with a cooking class at the restaurant at our hotel! We learned how to fold dumplings!

We also had a dumpling folding contest. The chef blew everyone else out of the water with the record of 7 seconds!

On Friday, we returned to the College of Primary Education for more auditing, group discussions and teaching English.

In the afternoon we had another party. They taught us how to make some Chinese pottery and how to do a few Chinese magic tricks.

In turn, we performed the Cha Cha slide and taught them the Cupid shuffle, as well as another dance that our students choreographed for this project.

This was our last day teaching at TNU. However, we have some busy days ahead, working with other organizations and learning some more about Tianjin.