Gobal Volunteers Adventures
Marcia Chang Vogl
Copyright 2022 by Marcia Chang Vogl
Photo courtesy of the author.
planning to join Global Volunteers in Xi'an, China for about a year.
After our 2006 auto accident in Cambodia, there was some doubt as to
whether we would be able to do this trip. By the grace of God, we are
healed and are off to Xi'an right on schedule.
Days of Touring
October 4, 2007
are here safely in Xi’an, China. After six hours in LAX, and 17
hours in the air, we are on solid ground again. Our flight to Hong
Kong was on time and we had just enough time to get to the gate to
meet our Dragon Air flight to Xi’an. We were advised to change
our US currency at the Xi’an airport for convenience and a
better exchange rate. Unbeknownst to us, the banks are closed today
as it is a national holiday.
affable fellow flashed his taxi license and followed us to the
tourist info counter saying, “I take you to hotel. Where you
want to go?”
woman at the tourist information counter was stone-faced and did not
encourage nor discourage us to accept this ride.
can pay me at hotel. Same money.”
agreed to take the chance. He took our bags and led us to the
basement level of the airport and across some tunnels to a deserted
parking lot. We began to worry as we followed this eager cab driver.
After a long walk, a car with another man was waiting. They talked.
He put our luggage in the trunk and said, “Get in, get in,”
as he waved his hand. To our surprise, he was not going to be the
driver. The two men spoke again, nodding their heads and waving their
hands. This driver could not speak nor understand any English. We
just had to trust as we were captive in this cab. We could not read
the street signs and had no idea where we were. Fortunately, he took
us right to the Hyatt Hotel and waited nearby the car for his fee.
Rich ran into the hotel to change money while I stood near the car
and luggage to be surety of the cab fee. The bellman paid the fee to
release the driver. When Rich emerged from the hotel with the correct
money he paid the bellman.
Hyatt Hotel was a welcomed refuge from airports, airplanes, and taxi
cabs. After freshening up a bit, we went for a walk down the main
street. There was a huge modern shopping mall that dwarfs South Coast
Plaza in size and surpasses it in glamour. The streets are filled
with crowds of people five to eight deep in some sections. We found a
“food loft” on the top floor of one of the malls with a
variety of cuisines—Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Maylasian,
Western, Pizza, and a dessert bar. We enjoyed dinner while watching
people roaming the mall. Rich said he was feeling like a minority
here as there are very few Caucasian people on the streets. Because I
am Chinese, everyone assumes I speak Chinese. In the shops and
restaurants, they speak to me expecting I could understand. I’m
going to have to learn some basic phrases fast.
traffic is unbelievable! Our taxi ride made a New York taxi ride
seems like Disneyland. Pedestrians literally “dodge the buses
and taxis.” Traffic lights are merely suggestions. We were
advised to follow a pregnant lady or a native to cross the street. At
one crossing, a man who observed our hesitancy came up to us and said
in English, “You must be tourists! Follow me.” We learned
to just stick close to the locals and pray we make it to the other
Days of Touring
October 5, 2007
city tour on a 20-seat bus, with a very good English-speaking guide,
was shared with a family of three from Germany. The highlights were
the East gate of the city wall, the Terra Cotta Warrior factory,
lunch at the silk factory center, the silk factory demonstration, the
Terra Cotta Warrior site, and the Wild Goose Pagoda. The city was
enshrouded in fog, haze, or smog. The blue sky appears only after a
rain so we hope there will be some rain while we are here.
China is preparing for the 2008 Olympics and mega tourism, the Terra
Cotta Warrior Museum, being a major attraction, the government built
a mile-long entrance served by golf cart rides to the entrance and an
equally long exit plaza with shops and food places leading to the
parking lot. The plaza areas within the museum can hold thousands of
people at any one time. The idea of a “crowd” in China is
mind-boggling. There are 10,000 visitors a day to this site. When we
visited the Terra Cotta Soldier Museum 23 years ago, we could not
have imagined this development. October 1-8 is a national holiday
week, instituted by the government as a week of vacation for all
workers, to encourage them to travel.
asked, our guide told us, “Only 4% of the people are involved
in any kind of religion. The four religions recognized are Taoism,
Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. Since the cultural revolution,
there is no need for religion since everything is new. Many young
couples today like ‘western weddings’ with gowns and
tuxedos.” We saw a bridal shop window display of people dressed
in western wedding attire standing as mannequins, or so we thought.
We noticed they were real people talking to each other and moving
our tour, we checked into our Global Volunteer headquarters hotel,
the Sino Peal Hotel just outside of the old city wall. A $1 taxi ride
got us there after a long day of being up at 4 a.m. adjusting from
California time and touring all day.
will be meeting with the co-coordinator Saturday morning to find out
what new adventures await us. So far, all has been good.
What We Came to Do
October 6, 2007
was a full day of orientation preparing to be Global Volunteers. In
the afternoon, we finally met our host school leaders through a long
program of welcoming speeches, introductions, and entertainment by
children. Rich and I have been assigned to Rainbow School of about
2500 students of ages 5 to 18—week 1 with 17-18-year-olds, week
2 with 12-16 year-olds, and week 3 with 8-11-year-olds. They want to
learn about American culture while using their English conversational
skills. Rich came prepared with a wooden alphabet set, a deck of
cards, and a stack of consumer Reports magazines. Tomorrow is our
October 8, 2007
school driver and an English teacher, Ashley, picked us up at the
hotel for the hour-long drive to Rainbow School. We each had three
classes of 40 minutes each from 9 a.m.-12 noon. The assignment was to
encourage the students to speak English. Today we met the “best”
students aspiring to attend university. After a lovely lunch, we
returned to “English corner,” an informal group for us to
be available to just talk with students. We are told “anything
goes” and students are free to talk or ask us about anything.
These young students were interested in American pop culture.
Unfortunately, Rich and I are not well-versed in American pop culture
so I’m afraid came across as fuddy-duddies. It still was a fun
day. This will be the routine for the next three weeks.
October 9, 2007
was not only an interesting day but an exhausting one. We were “on
stage” non-stop from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. During the hour ride
to and from the school, Ashley wanted to engage in conversation.
Fortunately, our schedule has been changed so that these long days
will be only 2 times a week, and on the other three days, we will
return to the hotel by 1 p.m.
different styles of teaching give the students a variety of
interactions. Rich uses his alphabet to prompt words they know. I
have taken them on “Bear Hunts,” which is a
call-and-response game, to have them speak through repetition. Most
of all, they are intrigued by our family. We have brought photos of
our family and our house. I am especially a subject of curiosity
since I look like them but act and speak like an American. We brought
photos of us from our daughter’s wedding so we all look like a
beautiful movie family. Our daughter gets “ooh's” from
the boys, and our sons get giggles from the girls. They are all
amazed at the photo of my mom age 86, and dad age 90. The elderly
they know of those ages look ancient and are not so well dressed.
Global Volunteer coordinator here in Xi’an, Hui Di, is
exceptionally efficient at organizing this group of thirty people.
The meals are ordered and served on time, even if we are not there
yet. They insure the food is good and safe. They also arrange tours
for the weekends and dinners at various restaurants.
our excursion to the Vanguard department store, our guide described
items most of the group have never seen. The grocery market on the
third floor has all the baked goods, spices, meats, and vegetables.
For me, it was like being in Hawaii Chinatown. I was able to help
explain some of them as although the guide knew what it was, she did
not have the English vocabulary to describe them.
had hoped there would be some rain to wash out the smog but it has
rained the last 4 days. Most of us came prepared for the weather in
the 70-80s F. So far the temperature has not reached 60F. We are all
wearing our coats all the time. The Internet Technician (IT) of the
hotel has been here twice to help me get my computer hooked up
properly. The room is cleaned daily; we get plenty of drinking water
and more than enough good food. The hot water comes from mineral
springs so the hotel's hot water is not drinkable. There is a large
sign in the bathroom warning you not to drink the hot water. Instead,
we have an automatic water pot to boil water for tea and free bottled
October 10, 2007
is the third day of our “teaching English” adventure. We
are more comfortable and not so stressed. We each found our comfort
zones and developed our own style. Rich and I both use our family
photos as a way to introduce ourselves. Today I had a group of
students who were in Rich’s class yesterday so they already saw
the photos. My routine was deflated. I then launched into the story
of how my grandparents went to Hawaii from China. They were
fascinated when I told them that my grandparents on my mother’s
side had eight children and my grandparents on my father’s side
had nine children. China’s one-child rule makes them the only
child. Very few have a sister or brother. They do not have the life
experience of growing up with sisters and/or brothers, cousins,
aunts, and uncles. Our challenge is to repeat the same lessons three
times a day for three weeks and keep them fresh. Fortunately, my
music teacher's bag of tricks came in handy.
a week we were directed to a local laundry. It took us two trips to
find the shop “just a little way down the street.” We
finally found the little cubicle where we left a few pieces as a
test. We then walked down a street where the local people shop. I
found a pair of knitted gloves for the cold weather. Almost every two
cubicles is a food place with people cooking in a wok on a blazing
coal fire. Everyone seems to cook the same things: noodles and stir
in our group had never experienced the typical Chinese “family-style”
hot pot meal. We sat at tables of eight with a huge divided cauldron
of boiling soup--one side was very spicy with chilies and one side
was seasoned without chilies. . We first started very carefully
dipping the meats in but then decided to just put everything in and
fish it out with the ladles or our chopsticks. The soup was at a
rolling boil so it was figured safe to share from the same pot.
October 11, 2007
this smoke-free, emissions-conscious Californian, breathing
smoke-filled air is quite a respiratory challenge here in China.
People smoke everywhere—restaurants, elevators, hotel hallways,
taxis, and sidewalks. The Global Volunteers group frequently gathers
in the smoke-filled lobby of the hotel so we try to stay there as
little as possible. It is a blessing that we have a private dining
room so there is no smoke at meals when our room is closed off. On
the first day of our ride to the school, we made a special request to
the escort that there would be no smoking in the car. Rich and I sat
in the middle seat of the SUV and we immediately reached for the seat
belts. This was a new car and the seat belts were tucked under the
seat. We requested to use the seat belts but were told it wasn’t
necessary because this was the back seat and the driver was a “good
driver.” We know better and insisted we have seat belts to use.
The driver then unfurled the hidden seat belts.
lunch, hosted by the Rainbow School was in a private room at a large
restaurant. The food, unusual to us, was a bowl of finely diced bread
soaked in a beef broth soup complemented by chicken, and
spinach/garlic dishes Students, who were particularly interested in
English attended “English Corner” sessions during their
lunchtime. Our magazines jump-start the conversations and the
pamphlets on Disneyland were of special interest.
Rainbow Television manufacturer in Xi’anyang developed the town
for their employees providing housing, schools, shops, restaurants,
hospitals, and other industries. Due to competition, the television
production demand has shrunk in size. The government annexed the
school as a part of the public general education system. This is a
very large middle and high school with about 2500 students and 300
teachers. Classes each day runs from 8 a.m to 12 noon; students go
home for lunch (either walk or ride bikes); return at 2:15 p.m. until
5:40 p.m. Different students escort us to our classes every day. The
best English-speaking students have the honor to escort us as they
have the opportunity to make conversation along the way. The school
building is a three-story fortress with a tile-paved courtyard that
is slippery and wet this week. Students and teachers walk through
swinging badminton rackets and birdies just like they do through
traffic on the street. Scary!! When our assignments end at noon we
ride through the sea of lunchtime bicycles.
and Mrs. Vogl
October 12, 2007
and I decided we wanted to be Mr. and Mrs. Vogl as we did not feel
comfortable with young students calling us by our first names. Not
realizing it, our choice to be called Mr. and Mrs. Vogl gave head
knowledge of interracial marriage another dimension. A Chinese woman
married to a Caucasian man is rare here in this part of China.
Students became very curious about us and our families. The fact that
we adopted children was also very unusual to them. Here in China,
they are limiting children and we, instead, took in other people’s
children to be our own. That tweaked their thinking about a family.
One of the questions raised was, “Why would adopt children
since it costs so much money to raise children?”
morning we had a new escort to accompany us on our ride, Kim. By the
end of the ride, I learned that her husband and son live in Xi’an
while she lived in Xi’anyang as an English teacher. She was
going to be in Xi’an to see her husband this weekend and would
be happy to be our tour guide. Rich and I planned to be on our own as
we already have been on the tours offered by Global Volunteers. Kim
would be our native guide on a non-tourist shopping trip plus show us
picked up our laundry at the local place and were pleased to find it
all in good order. We were told that dinner tonight would be served
in the Western restaurant. After three meals a day of Chinese food,
mouths were watering for some comfort food. Some members of our group
had visions of hamburgers, BLT, or a tuna sandwich. Disappointed, a
full Chinese meal was served in the western restaurant We all then
ordered some kind of American dessert. I had apple pie and Rich had a
Around the City
October 13, 2007
from Rainbow School, met us at the hotel at 8:30 a.m. and we were off
to the city.
explained, “The ancient bell in the Bell Tower rings to wake
the people. The drums in the Drum Tower are played at the end of the
day to bring the people in from the fields. The Muslim Open Market is
a street market where you can buy almost anything. I will bargain for
smells wafted from exotic spices and unusual foods in the food
district. Since the weather was cool with no rain, we strolled down
Culture Street with its many calligraphy and jade shops. The South
Street entrance into the city is used by dignitaries. A short cab
ride returned us to the Drum Tower area for a dumpling lunch where
the locals eat. The dumplings were like won tons with various kinds
lunch, Kim talked about the changes in China.
was about 4 years old during the Cultural Revolution. My father was
taken and punished because his family owned some land. My uncle was
punished because he studied in Japan. We had no food. We had tickets
for 1 kilogram (about 2.5 pounds) of rice per month and vouchers for
clothing. We were always hiding because we were afraid of being taken
away for no reason. The Cultural Revolution ended when I already
graduated from high school and was allowed to go to university. Only
very few could go to university. I studied English to be an English
long have you been at Rainbow School?”
don’t you move to Xi’an where your husband lives?”
you have a job like mine, you do not have permission to move to
another province or another city. You must stay in the job or you
will lose your pension and benefits.”
do they monitor the ‘one-child’ policy?
started in 1984. You can only have one child to replace yourself. The
government watches birth registrations very closely. Government
officials live in the villages to watch if anyone has more than one
child without recording the birth. All births must be in a hospital
to be recorded. No home births allowed. You could face a very high
fine or lose your job. Most children born after 1984 are
about 1 p.m., the streets were crowded. The department store
escalators were so crowded we could hardly move. We chose to rest at
an ice cream shop. Kim got us typical Chinese ice cream popsicles. We
found a new plaza connected to a side street where the locals shop
and live. It was not crowded but full of activity. We ate roasted
chestnuts, and cookies along the way.
half-hour walk brought us back to our hotel. It was a wonderful day
as Kim bargained and translated for us. She said she was happy to
practice her English. She requested to be our escort for the rest of
October 14, 2007
morning, Kim and Jason were eager to give us a day’s tour. He
drives a new Toyota Camry but unfortunately speaks no English. Kim
interprets everything. First, we visited the beautiful new history
museum. Everything is displayed in cases with dramatic lighting. My
study of Chinese history is sketchy at best and I just could not
remember all the dynasties. Seeing the displays in this museum put
more structure on my understanding. The artifacts from 2000 BC of
such fine works of pottery and bronze were amazing.
explained, “Xi’anyang, the location of Rainbow School,
was the first capital of China united by the Qin emperor. Xi’an,
where we are staying, was the new capital of the Tang and Han
Dynasties. The Ming and Quing Dynasties moved to Bejing.”
went to see their new unfinished condo. “All condos come
unfinished—no bathroom, no kitchen, no walls—just open
space. Owners must hire a contractor to complete so it’s double the
cost.” To get to their unit on the 16th
floor, we picked our way through an active construction area with
loose marble stones, boards, bricks, mud, rubble, and open pits.
There were no safety precautions required as in the USA. The
government has condemned villages to build modern high-rise
buildings. Unfortunately, village people cannot afford the new place
and must relocate.
translated Jason’s story. “I was 14 years old during the
Cultural Revolution. I and all the young people in middle and high
school were sent to farms to work. I shared a room in a poor
farmhouse with four other students. After three years, I could return
to my studies and qualify for university. Some students stayed on the
farms because they married farm girls. I will take you there next
in China, although the weather has been below 60 degrees, the
government does not allow the heat to be turned on before November
15. The students are curled up freezing and wet in the classrooms,
but there is no heat because it’s not supposed to be cold. We
have been wearing our coats all the time, everywhere. Global
Volunteers made a special request for the heat to be turned on in the
hotel but none reached our room. Fortunately, we packed two heating
pads as substitute mini electric blankets to keep our feet warm.
October 15, 2007
week we are teaching senior students on level 1 at Rainbow School. We
are more relaxed knowing the routine. The lunch buffet at a local
restaurant near the school was rather spicy. Since chilies are grown
in this area, the food has more than the normal seasonings of
chilies. After lunch, “English Corner” drew fewer
students, but in a more comfortable room.
fix my own dinner in the microwave,” one student volunteered.
mentioned, “When I grew up and now our family eats dinner
together to share our daily activities. Don’t you eat dinner
with your parents?”
parents come home late from work so we don’t eat together. I
just watch TV and eat by myself.”
Tang Dynasty show and dinner that evening were quite spectacular with
music and dancing in beautiful costumes. Afterward, we were served a
sumptuous dumpling dinner. There were eight cold dish appetizers
followed by 19 rounds of dumplings. The waitress explained the
different fillings of the won ton like morsels. The shapes
represented the fillings. The fish came still steaming so the “fins”
were still moving. The most unusual tasting was the walnut and
pumpkin sweet dumplings. The finale was “baby” dumplings
in chicken broth.
October 16, 2007
is the unexpected which keeps us interested. With the first week of
the adventure completed and the daily efforts not now being hampered
by both the cold and the wet, the city has taken on a different
ambiance altogether and our enthusiasm for this adventure has
regular one-hour ride that Darlene, Gladys, and Marcia and I make to
Rainbow School each day is entirely different without rain as we can
truly see out of the windows of our seven-passenger van. There is a
striking disconnect between the one and two-story brick houses and
the 15-story, gleaming buildings being constructed immediately next
door. It seems that within a block this country is jumping from the
century to the 21st
century. The buildings being built may be for housing or offices or
could be a combination of both.
a pleasure it is to ride on the near-deserted roads to and from our
school! Although I want to call them “freeways”, they are
not free, as a toll booth appears from time to time. If my reading of
the signs is correct, it is very low--about $3 for this daily trip to
the school. The road is six lanes wide, clean as a whistle, and with
hardly any traffic. What is going to happen here when this country’s
population of millions each owns a car? Workers sweep the roads clear
with the tree branch brooms for the many bicycles in the city. There
are no bicycles on the major highways.
ride is not normal. Although we have bright sunshine in spots, we run
into fog banks so thick, we come to a full stop. It is an hour before
we are cleared to proceed on our way. Normally our arrival at the
school each day is a cause of celebration. The school guard greets us
with a grand grin, and the enthusiastic students hover around our
teacher’s room getting us tea and wanting to talk. Today, we
are late and missed our first class. We just finished breakfast and
we’ve been on a one-hour ride. We don’t want tea. We want
students begin their ten-minute exercise period. All 2,500 students
organize themselves in neat rows according to their class. They swing
their arms, kick their legs, and do jumping jacks with abandon. Some
of the students recognize us from our lectures. They wave and grin.
half of the Global Volunteer team are career teachers and the rest
are winging it, learning as we go, trying out this idea and that.
This unusual pack of tourists, these self-selected folks are an
extraordinary group of people: mostly highly educated, certainly
highly experienced in life, and all with an open heart and willing
hand. What a pleasure to be included!
today’s classes are over we pose for pictures, say our
“goodbyes” and head for the van. The sun is bright and
pleasant, now, and we anticipate a quick drive back to our hotel. It
is not to be. As a further surprise to us, the van is slowed by both
a work party painting white lines on the road and also by a herd of
goats being shepherded across the highway.
today was Chinese pizza. For our afternoon excursion, we decide to
walk to the “Small Goose Pagoda” on the recommendation of
another volunteer. With the map in hand, we soon discovered our map
was deceiving. The short walk took an hour and a half. The Pagoda
site is lovely: a very large garden with a huge museum opened only in
the last few months containing artifacts discovered on city grounds.
October 17, 2007
Di explained. “School is compulsory and free until grade 9. The
population is so great that students are assessed at an early age. A
exam determines whether students are assigned to an academic path or
a vocational one. Those who qualify for the academic path have better
teachers and more difficult work to prepare for high school. Parents
must pay for high school. Those who do not attend high school must
find a job or apply for a vocational school. Those who go to high
school must pass the 12th-grade
exam with a high score to have a chance
to go to a university. The national university exam is on June 7 and
8. The answers are given on June 9 so students can estimate their
scores. They may apply to only three universities at their score
level. Even then it’s not a guarantee. Formerly, students must
attend university by age 23 or they will have missed their window of
opportunity. There are not enough universities to accommodate
everyone. This system ensures only the very best get the
adventure also is turning out to be a culinary experience. We have
been to a dumpling dinner, a hot pot meal, a Peking Duck special, a
lotus root soup treat (like my mother used to make), and tonight, a
Muslim dinner of soup with bits of bread. We each shredded hard bread
into our bowls. The bowls are numbered and taken to the kitchen where
they are filled with transparent noodles and mutton, beef, or
vegetarian soup. The waitress could not speak English so we didn’t
know what number she was calling. We eventually sorted out our
dinners. We added seasonings of cilantro and pickled garlic. The
dinner was delicious.
October 18, 2007
husband is in a legal career so a visit to a private law firm was
special. The path in the legal system is very stringent. One must
complete a four-year university course in law. (We learned how
difficult it is to attend university.) Then he must pass a test to be
certified to study with a private law firm. Few pass this test. No
one in Xi’an last year passed. While with a private law firm,
he must study on his own for the “bar exam” to appear in
court. There are only 130,000 lawyers for a population of millions.
October 19, 2007
was the last teaching day for the two-week volunteers. It was our
last day with high school students at Rainbow School.
Farewell Celebration was held in the western restaurant for 100
people at our hotel. Each school we served had a thank-you speech and
some kind of performance to offer. The performances ranged from a
troupe of folk dancers, a calligraphy & blow painting
demonstration, a saxophone solo, a three-piece rock group, an
eight-year-old Chinese zither player, a piano solo, and karaoke
singing. We, volunteers, did a short folk dance that Dixie taught us
with the Chinese guests participating at the end of the two-hour
celebration. All this was fun but tiring.
evening, a screech and a bang on the street six stories below brought
us to the window. There was an accident involving a taxi and another
car. We watched in amazement as the traffic did not stop, though the
accident blocked the two lanes going north. Everyone just made their
path around the cars driving in the bike path or on the wrong side of
the street. No police came. It looked like someone who was hurt was
put into another taxi that sped off. A police car came by but did not
stop. Bicycles, buses, and cars continued to weave in and out around
this accident scene. It is like an ant hill that just re-routed the
Mausoleum and Zhang Village
October 20, 2007
took us to visit the Hanyang Mausoleum. The highway was closed for
repair so on the detour we got lost.
and Kim conferred with each other. “We have never been here
before. This road is new so there is no map yet.”
museum only opened in 2006 using modern technology. This is the only
archeological dig that is preserved underground with the museum built
over it. We walked on floors of glass and look down into the pits
while listening to wonderful commentary in English on audio handsets.
The Han Dynasty emperor had built in the burial pits a miniature city
that reveal life as it was then. There were areas of government, food
storage, court life, concubines, etc. It is amazing how archeologists
can recreate things from dusty pottery. They have recreated models of
the emperor’s chariots, clothing, and court life. Only a
fraction of the tomb is excavated and the government has decided not
to open the tombs further until better methods and technology are
developed to preserve what’s there. It will take generations to
excavate these digs. They were built over 28 years with a multitude
of slave labor.
lunch, we were off to visit Zhang Village where Jason lived during
the Cultural Revolution.
translated) This is where I lived during the Cultural Revolution. The
father had five sons and six of us were sent to his village house of
two rooms. I have not seen my foster mother and father in two years.”
observed corn drying on the roofs and in trees, farmers digging sweet
potatoes, apple trees, bicycles, and tricycle trucks laden with goods
and farm odors.
ya,” Zhang’s daughter-in-law greeted us. “Come,
stepped through a brick entry with a bedroom on one side and a room
with a weaving loom on the other. Once past the entry, a white
marble-like stone house stood across the courtyard.
old man with Harry Potter-style glasses was sitting there rubbing
corn off the cobs. “Oh, Jason! Come, come, my boy.” This
was Mr. Zhang.
gave us a tour of the house. It had an anteroom was filled with
apples, a kitchen, a closet, two furnished bedrooms, a large empty
room, and a back patio with “His and Her” outdoor
toilets. This house was built by his sons who all got good jobs at
the Rainbow Company through Jason. We sat for tea and apples.
mother is on the farm.” The farm was an apple orchard with the
fruit already individually wrapped while on the tree as bug
prevention. Food brokers buy them after harvest through February.
we were leaving, Jason met one of his Junior High friends. We didn’t
know what they were saying but could see they were happy to see each
October 21, 2007
and Sunday seem to be like any other day of the week. Students go to
school on Saturday and it’s business as usual on Sundays. With
no school on Sunday, we headed out for Tang Paradise, an attraction
recommended by our leader and internet travel advisories. For
comparison's sake, this is like Epcot Center except all about the
Tang Dynasty. This 160-acre park is dedicated to recreating the
glories of the Tang Dynasty. The buildings and gardens are
beautifully rebuilt. We saw costumes of the era, paintings, a music
concert with Chinese instruments, a puppet show, and a spectacular
lion dance/acrobat show with young boys. We spent the whole day
slowly taking in the culture.
sat outdoors at the small restaurant where the wait staff did not
speak English so we pointed to the pictures. With hand language, we
asked if the food was spicy hot. The waitress called someone from
inside who spoke a little English but he got tongue-tied. He then ran
off to find someone else. A young lady from another restaurant spoke
enough English to tell us what kind of meat was in the food and
understood that we wanted to share the meal family style for the
three of us. The very tasty dishes finally came. We enjoyed the whole
it like to be thousands of miles away and know your house is in the
fire zone? We had seen on the internet there were fires in
California. I had a dream that our house was in danger. I emailed our
son, James to tell him to keep vigilant about the fires.
a rough first day with 2nd,
graders, were catching our breath in the hotel room, when we got a
call from James. Cowan Heights area was on voluntary evacuation so he
and his sister, Stephanie, were removing the valuables from our home.
He wanted to know what we wanted to be taken out. Did that give one
pause? We had just been to the farm village just on Saturday and were
remarking how fortunate we are to live in a lovely home in Southern
California. We now stood the chance of our home on the hillside being
wiped out by the time we returned home. This was a test of our words.
Did we mean “they are only things?” Needless to say, our
thoughts were preoccupied and we have been checking the internet for
the latest news. Unfortunately, tonight our internet connection is
down and world news would not show fires in California.
morning we encountered classrooms of 30-40 second graders with
limited English vocabulary. I sang my way through doing songs with
hand motions. I was able to do that for 40 minutes. Rich meanwhile,
struggled with the alphabet with few responses. He felt like a total
failure. After lunch, with more materials from the Global Volunteer
office and a meeting with Annie, a former primary school principal,
he got strategies and tips on how to keep things going. Now he is
ready for tomorrow’s challenge. Fortunately, we will have a
different group of students. The English teachers stay in the
classroom with us so there is supervision and translation available.
students are crammed into a classroom with three students to a desk
built to accommodate only two. They are sitting elbow to elbow on
small stools with their backs up against the desk behind them. Our
fire department would go nuts if they saw this. Once all the bodies
are in place, there is no walkway for students in the back of the
room to reach the door quickly.
they have been taught to scream out answers. Does louder make it
do they scream?” I asked our escort teacher.
teachers always tell them to speak louder, so they scream,” she
tonight was at a restaurant that specialized in northern Chinese
food. They grow potatoes as their staple. We had potato flour
noodles, a mashed potato-type dish, boiled lamb, scrambled eggs from
free-range chickens, Chinese peas, and fried pumpkin. In our private
dining room, a woman sang a couple of songs from the northern area.
It sounded very Middle Eastern—high-pitched and a little
whiney. After dinner, we walked back to our hotel through the
well-lighted park along the city wall.
October 23, 2007
going to bed last night, I picked up a text message from James saying
the fire was close but we were clear. What a relief! This morning we
could not connect to the internet so had to head off to school
we reached the lobby, there was serious deliberation as to whether we
should go to the school. There was heavy fog on the way and Hu Di did
not think it safe for us to be on the road. The driver had done the
40-minute drive from Xi’anyang to pick us up and our escort,
Kim, was there too. However, the decision was made not to go. We were
relieved and welcomed a day off.
then took Rich and me to the hairdresser to get haircuts. We both had
our hair washed and Rich got a haircut from a young girl. I waited
for the master stylist. He was a master indeed. This tall over 6-foot
young man didn’t speak English nor did he try to ask me
anything through Kim. He just combed through my hair and started
cutting. He was VERY skillful. I have never seen anyone handle
scissors so artfully. It was like a dance in his hands. In about 20
minutes, I had the most flattering haircut I have ever had. It was a
style I imagined but never could find someone who could do it exactly
as I envisioned. Now I know it’s possible but I’d have to
come to China.
went shopping in an area that had many clothing stalls. I was happy
to find clothes my petite size.
1 p.m. we joined our team for lunch at “Beautiful Soup”
Restaurant just walking distance from the hotel. These restaurants
have upper rooms which are private dining rooms for small groups.
With only six of us, we had a quiet, non-smoking room to enjoy our
lunch. We are eating endlessly. At this rate, it’s hard to
believe the stories of starving Chinese.
was at the “Crossing Bridge Noodle Restaurant” where this
noodle dinner was an activity. Each of us was served a variety of
thinly sliced raw meats, some salted vegetables, a quail egg, and a
bowl of rice noodles. We put all the condiments into the piping hot
soup so that they cooked in a few seconds, then added the noodles and
seasoned them with vinegar and/or hot pepper sauce. Many were not
accustomed to slurping noodles or picking them up with chopsticks so
there was all manner of creative ways to get the noodles eaten. It
was a fun dinner.
October 24, 2007
Today was a great relief for Rich as his classes went extremely well
as he followed the directions of Annie, on the team. He engaged the
children in speaking, laughing, and even singing. He has a new
respect for “Hokey Pokey.” Fortunately, the same teacher
who was with him on Monday was there today and saw the great
difference in his teaching so he feels exonerated. This still is not
his favorite thing to do but he at least feels a bit of success.
turns out to be one of the most beautiful days we have had since we
arrived--sunny and warm with unusually clean air. The rain last night
washed the skies. I had a fun time with the students in my classes as
I use my music teacher's bag of tricks. One class was so funny and
fun that I got into a laughing fit and had a hard time stopping. I
could barely sing the song. Yes, I have been doing a lot of “Hokey
Pokey” and “Little Peter Rabbit.”
spent this afternoon walking on the streets of the city and
especially on the city wall. At dinner at a nearby restaurant 13 of
us squeezed around a table for 10 in close fellowship. I noticed our
teammates have become quite good at using chopsticks. They do not
resort to forks anymore.
have been keeping a watch on the internet for the fire situation in
California. We are fortunate the fire has moved away from our home
but it sounds very bad in other places. Praying for cooler and more
humid weather—maybe some miraculous rain.
October 25, 2007
had a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Rainbow Color Picture Tube
factory. No public tours are offered, only private tours for special
guests. We went directly to the factory where the president and his
assistant were waiting for us at the door. We donned blue
surgical-type coats, hats, and shoe covers before entering. After
photos, we walked through the assembly line in action, with the
president explaining and Kim interpreting. The line is automated but
the workers put the pieces into place. The small tubes are handled by
workers but the large ones are on an automated assembly line because
they are too heavy to handle. The glass is by Corning, and the other
parts are made by Rainbow at other locations and assembled here.
These picture tubes are then exported to Asian companies that label
the televisions under various brand names. Rainbow is the largest
color picture tube company in China with 20,000 employees. The
parents of Rainbow School students work here.
our tour, we visited a “regular government school” with
grades 1 through 8. This public school wants to have Global Volunteer
teachers but has not yet made the connection so we were the
ambassadors. The students have never had a “native English
speaker” speak to them, so we were the first. We were greeted
by the English teachers, the principal, and the headmaster, then each
of us was taken to two classes to just introduce ourselves and speak
with the students in 7th
grades for about 15 minutes. Rich and I did a little Hokey Pokey and
talked about our family. Before we left, we were swarmed by students
and had to get away by getting into the car. It was like being a
movie star. The teachers were snapping photos. Darlene and Rich,
being the non-Chinese ones, got the most attention.
Rainbow’s Kindergarten school was our next stop. There we were
met by 6-year-olds who were ready to perform for us. They sang and
recited English rhymes then invited us to join them for Old Mac
Donald and London Bridges. The principal and teachers gave us a royal
tour of the school eagerly speaking with us and telling us all about
their school. We felt like dignitaries.
the afternoon, Rich and I checked out lunch at MacDonald’s. The
meat is the same but it is combined with lettuce, cucumber, and
mayonnaise that has a chili flavoring giving it a spicy hit. The
French fries taste the same. The cost is about the same as in the USA
so by China standards, it is quite expensive. People can have a meal
at the outdoor stands for less than 75 cents so a $3.50 lunch is
the Bank of China can change dollars into RMB. Of course, there is
one on every corner, except when you need it. The bank seemed fairly
empty so I stood near a clerk’s window waiting when I noticed
two people enter and take a ticket from a machine on the side. So I
got one too. Then I heard a voice over the loudspeaker announcing
something, which brought people from a side room to the window. Only
then did I notice the numbers over the teller windows so I would know
when it was my turn. I had my passport and clean 20-dollar bills
which the clerk inspected with great care. Then she gave me dirty
crumpled RMB in exchange. This visit was crucial since we only had
enough money to get a cab back to the hotel.
was at The People’s Kitchen again with a “make your own
mu-shu” dinner with tofu soup and corncake fritters. On the way
home, we stopped at a small grocery store to pick up more goodies. We
have noticed in all our shopping today, there is an abundance of
store salespeople eager to wait on us. Even if we are just looking
and they cannot speak with us, they follow us around, trying to be
helpful--so very different from the stores at home where everything
is self-service with no one to help.
been here three weeks, we are beginning to feel like we know the
city. The streets are looking familiar and we can figure out where we
are, and even cross the street like the natives. Every morning since
being here I got up at 4 a.m. Today was the first day I adjusted to
the time change. To think we will be home in 48 hours and I’m
going to have to readjust all over again.
October 26, 2007
was our last full day here. The usual breakfast buffet has always
been a combination of Chinese and western foods. We could have either
or both. I always opted for the Chinese as I can have western
breakfast anytime at home. We had our usual breakfast gathering
listening to Rich’s joke of the day and the daily journal by
Pierre. It was a little sad to think we may never see these friends
usual, our Driver and Kim were waiting for us in the lobby at 8 a.m.
Again there was discussion about us going to the school as the fog
was very thick on the highway. Kim said the school would be very
disappointed since we did not teach yesterday. The principal is ready
to present us with thank-you gifts and they want to treat us to
lunch. Hu Di suggested the driver take another way to Xi’anyang
avoiding the open highway. He took his chances and went on the open
highway hoping it would be clear. After a short way, the fog was so
thick we could barely see in front of us. Fortunately, there is not
much traffic on this new highway as the driver slowed to a crawl. He
then took the next exit and found some other way not as foggy. It was
white knuckle time as trucks were diverted from the highway while
pedestrians and bicycles (with no lights or reflective material) kept
crisscrossing the road. We finally reached the school on time. This
very good driver that has been ferrying us back and forth for three
we arrived, Ashley was waiting to escort us to the primary school
where the teachers anxiously waited. They were worried that we would
not come as they were looking forward to us being there. The children
seem delirious with joy upon seeing us. I think it’s because
they would have a break from their routine. The English teachers had
their cameras and took oodles of photos with and of us. In my
classes, I like to teach songs with hand motions. The teacher had her
camera and snapped away to get all the hand motions so she can lead
the songs later. We taught only two classes of 3rd,
11:00 a.m., we were escorted to the middle school lounge where the
principal presented us with beautiful gifts of framed Chinese puppets
made with transparent animal skins. They are beautiful copies of the
ancient dynasty puppets. After exchanging appreciation, we were taken
to lunch at a local restaurant with Murphy, Kim, Ashley, and the
driver. The food was different again and the conversation fun. We
have become very close to our Rainbow teachers. They were sad to see
us leave. Even if we have not conversed with the driver, we feel he
is a friend as he so carefully drove us every day. After lunch, we
headed back to our hotel where we bid our final farewell to Kim and
our daily rides, we talked about almost everything and anything we
wanted to know about China—the one-child policy, birth control,
school requirements, street sweepers, taxi drivers, where to shop,
and even about Chinese toilets. Some conversations were very serious,
and some were very funny where we laughed and giggled. We invited Kim
to visit us in California. She and Jason could stay at our home.
“That is only a dream!” she said. “I cannot imagine
we can go so far away.”
now is time to pack as we will be leaving tomorrow morning. Since we
bought things and were given gifts, getting everything in the
suitcases with the correct weight was the challenge. Using the scale
in the bathroom to weigh the bags, I had to shift the items so each
bag would be under the weight limit. We are just making it. We also
have some money left so decided to walk to the local bakery and buy
some very good cookies and moon cakes to take home and share at
dinner tonight. The shop girl recognized us from past trips and
smiled broadly. We now know the routine of getting a tray and putting
our selections on it before going to the counter to pay. She could
not explain what was in each one so we got a variety. She was quite
pleased that we bought so much.
we came here, we didn’t know what to expect. We were told to
teach conversational English but since neither of us had done that,
it was all theory. In retrospect, even if we had known what it would
be like, we would have come anyway. We would do this again in another
location to interact with the people. Global Volunteers has done a
wonderful job in taking care of us volunteers. Hu Di is a trove of
information. She knows this city inside-out and caringly looks after
all of us. I hope all their leaders are like her.
dinner will be Team 154’s “last supper” together.
We have had about 50 meals together as a family. We know each other's
likes & dislikes; who drinks beer, Coke, or water; who likes
spicy food; and who can use chopsticks. Everyone has been cooperative
and willing to go with the flow. It’s a real privilege to be
part of such a group. This is my last blog entry from China and I
hope you have enjoyed tagging along with us. We are on our way home
looking forward to seeing our kids, our dog Oatie, and sleeping in
October 29, 2007
left for China from LAX, where we went 5 hours in advance of our
flight to be sure we made it through TSA security on time, we were
concerned on Saturday morning in Xi’an when we were taken to
the Xi’an International Airport by Global Volunteers at 9 a.m.
for an hour drive to the airport for a 12:10 PM flight. It turned out
that there was only one “international flight” going out
to Hong Kong. The international area did not open until 10:40 AM,
through which you had boarding passes, passport checks, and security
checks. We went through all checkpoints without a problem and waited
for our flight. While there, we realized that only foreigners like us
and the very rich travel internationally.
of our teammates had asked a class how many had ever been on an
airplane and there were none. Most didn’t know what an airport
was and much less have ever been on an airplane to see it. The
average school teacher makes about $250 a month. Plane fares are the
same for them as for us so few can afford a trip.
few more thoughts about China.
tourists go there, they are interested in the history and the ways of
the dynasties 600BC. The Chinese want to know about the future—new
inventions, music, dress, business structures, modern buildings, etc.
The old city of Xi’an is a juxtaposition of the 15th
century and the 21st
century. There is a modern glass and steel shopping center on the
main street and a block away on a side street, a brick and mud
structure where the people live with no bathrooms. On the old streets
are carts pulled by hand or bicycles full of vegetables, fruits,
nuts, and cooked foods. The government has replaced many old living
quarters with more modern ones but there is so much more to do. They
face both cultural and financial challenges.
saw a man “tightrope walking” over eight lanes of traffic
on electrical wires making repairs. On another site there was a man
balancing only on his bare feet, hanging protective plastic on bamboo
scaffolding five stories up with no safety harness. Visitors can walk
through construction sites without protective helmets, and climb over
steel rebar, piles of marble, and construction holes. The schools
have 60+ children shoulder to shoulder in a classroom where the back
door is padlocked from the outside. The concept of safety precautions
is certainly different from home. It boggles the mind.
how a 12-hour airplane ride can seem like a time warp. Three weeks in
Xi’an seem like a dream. We are home now putting away our
suitcases and trip items plus the treasures our children removed from
our house in the evacuation effort. It seems we arrived just in time
as the garbage disposer leaked, and the lawn sprinklers shorted out.
Also, I lost my wallet with my driver’s license and credit
cards. It’s still better than losing our whole house. It gives
me pause to realize that most of the Chinese people we spent time
with do not have any concept of the things I am concerned about now
at home—but they will. China is the sleeping giant getting
ready to wake up.
(found on Amazon.com)
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to Reign, The Christian Guide to Spiritual Maturity. (Sept 2022)
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Secret Place, Judson
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