November 22, 2011

Final days in Nanchong

Sunday found our students returning on two different buses from four service sites to Nanchong. On Monday we gathered to talk about some of our service experiences and to hear about each other’s projects. The variety of projects reflects the variety of students in our group. Some chose topics related to local history, current developments, religious practices, or tourism in their service locations. One student had local cooks demonstrate favorite regional recipes, another observed the operation and activities of his host mother’s teahouse. Others looked at reading habits—fiction and news—or television viewing habits of local residents. The history of the musical instrument erhu was the topic of one project, while a study of Chinese pedagogy for several musical instruments was the focus for another. One investigated Chinese popular youth culture, another the role of physical fitness in the schools, and another wrote about ping pong. How does use of space in a Chinese educational institution differ from that found in the U.S.? What are the objectives and teaching habits of Chinese middle school teachers? Several creative writing projects—short stories and poems—completed the mix.

We spent much of the time rehearsing habits of recollection, reflection and articulation that will help cross the bridge from experience to learning. Although we still have a week of learning through travel ahead of us, we began to think about what we may experience once we leave China and return to our homes. What parts of our story can we narrate (and in what ways) so that we can build on what we have experienced here in China? What things surprised us after arrival here? What do we want to carry back with us? What might we find awkward or surprising upon our return home?

We also found time for more light-hearted interaction: On Monday afternoon the Foreign Affairs Office of the China West Normal University hosted a delightful farewell gathering. We again got to see our language teachers and other people whose background efforts contributed so much to our experiences here. Hosts and guests alike shared performances and played games together. Before we parted on Tuesday, we each received playful calligraphic awards crafted by Jo-Ann and based on some characteristic we demonstrated during our time in China.

On Wednesday afternoon we depart Nanchong to see some important sites elsewhere in China: Xi’an and Beijing are our destinations. We may or may not have time to post entries while we travel and learn in the week ahead. If our next entry is delayed until the end of those travels, you may see us personally before you the next entry appears here.

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