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November 30, 2011

Our final day as a group in China was crisp and relatively clear.  We headed out by bus to the Jinshanling section of the fabled Great Wall.  This section is located in Hebei Province, about 130 km outside of Beijing.  Although a wall existed here at least as early as the 14th century, most of the stretch we visited dates to around 1570.  Contrary to the original intent of the wall (to keep the barbarians out), we found an immediate welcome by local residents—hoping to sell us souvenirs, but willing to help us find the easiest walking routes even if…

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November 30, 2011

To start off Sunday, we all went to the Chongwenmen Christian Church.  Originally a Methodist mission congregation, the congregation today has about 10,000 worshipers each Sunday, spread across 5 services.  We attended the third service.  Green-jacketed volunteers gave us an introduction to congregational life, and had reserved several pews for our group.  They gave us headsets to listen to simultaneous English-language translation of the service.  During this service, the congregation used a hymnal that consisted primarily of translated North American/British Gospel songs.  In the pre-service singing, the song leader used the “lining out” method (singing one line in advance of…

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November 30, 2011

After locating the bus that would shuttle us about Beijing for the next few days, we stopped for a nice Chinese breakfast (porridge for some, dumplings for others) along our route.  Despite cold temperatures, our first destination in Beijing was the Summer Palace.  The visit here was the first of a series of encounters today with Chinese aesthetics.  The site as we see it today was mostly conceived in the 18th-century, with the 60-meter high “Longevity Hill” and the “perfect” artificial Kunming Lake.  Following several rounds of destruction by European invaders, remaining structures were mostly rebuilt in the early 20th-century…

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November 30, 2011

After our visit to Xi’an, on Friday evening, Nov. 25, we again boarded an overnight train, this time headed for China’s capital Beijing.  Although the distance we had to cover was greater, the train was faster so we were looking at just a 12-hour ride.  A delay enroute, got us into Beijing about 7:30 rather than 6:30 a.m. on Saturday.  On both overnight trips we took the “hard sleeper” option: open compartments of six sleeping ledges stacked three-high.  We have yet to see an empty train in China, and these trains were no exception—every bunk seemed to be taken.  Some…

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November 30, 2011

On Nov. 23, we met at the Nanchong train station, bid farewell to our generous host families, and boarded a fast train to Chengdu. There we met a friend who kindly offered to babysit our luggage while we headed out to find our evening meal. Our May Term language teacher, Betty Z. joined us to board an overnight train, heading 15 hours northeast to our next destination: Xi’an.  Betty accompanied us through the rest of our time in China.  As we woke the next morning, we enjoyed the remainder of the mountainous landscape we had traversed in the dark. We…

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November 22, 2011

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…

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November 10, 2011

Monday Jo-Ann and Joe caught a bus for Xichong—half the hour-long ride was spent getting out of Nanchong, the rest brought us to the edge of this small, prosperous-looking town. Our trio of students here seems to be enjoying the experience in the smallest of our four service schools. Among other opportunities, one of the teachers/hosts arranged for the three to spend a day in a nearby rural township school—a good experience for all involved. Mondays lesson plans included “body parts” and telling time. Between morning and afternoon classes, our school contacts and the three sets of host parents (or…

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November 6, 2011

Our third site visit of the week was to Yilong.  Located northeast of Nanchong, the region’s terrain has higher hills and deeper valleys than elsewhere in Nanchong Prefecture.  As noted several weeks ago, the government has begun constructing a “new” Yilong at a lower elevation some distance south of the existing population center where the school is located.  Any population growth in “old” Yilong would create additional problems with water and other supply issues the town already faces.  Principal J. and Teacher Z. have been very gracious to all our students and have been pleased to be first-time hosts to…

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November 6, 2011

Upon leaving Nanbu on Monday evening, Jo-Ann and Joe went on to Langzhong, about a 30-minute ride to the north and checked into the same hotel we all had stayed at during our National Holiday excursion to this beautiful city. In Langzhong, our students are teaching in two teams at “Duowei” one of four campuses of the middle school here. (Goshen students also taught here in 2008.) They are working with the junior middle school students (grades 6-8). Several days before our arrival, we learned that there would be school-wide exams on the day of our visits, so we located…

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November 4, 2011

Nanbu site visit

A rainy week of site visits began on Monday in Nanbu. Teaching schedules for our students here are concentrated in the mornings, and by the time Jo-Ann and Joe arrived from Nanchong two of the five students had already completed their teaching days. Each of our students teaches alone, 12 different classes a week. Since all live with families of teachers, they are in close proximity to the school campus. With a student population of more than 10,000, the Nanbu middle school seems to be the largest of the four service sites. Located near the top of a large hill,…

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