Friday, July 27, 2012

Essay by Ada

As the camp comes to an end it is not uncommon to find inspired writers presenting an essay to the free talk group.  Following are essays from Ada, Iris, Mary and Susan.

The Most Important Person in My Life
By Ada Yu Yanxia

When it comes to the most important person in my life, my father’s image always occurs in my mind.

My father was just an ordinary man of medium height, neither rich nor influential, but he’s the best father in my heart. However, I won’t have the chance to love him and respect him anymore, because he left us forever on the April’s Day in 2010 – the biggest and worst joke ever played on my family that special day.

As a veteran driver for more than 40 years, he had a record of safe driving for millions of kilometres. He’s a good father and a good guide in my life, although he was seldom at home before he became a laid-off worker in 1998. Up till now, the dribs and drabs of my life with my father are still vivid in my mind. My mother always tells me that it was my father who tried his best to save our lives when I was born of a difficult labor and into a poor working family. Anyway, we had a happy family life all the time.

I’d never learnt to play any instrument or enrolled in any interest class when I was a child, but my father would try to take me out whenever he could on his business trips, which helped broaden my vision a lot. He used to be a frugal person, and did what he could to save money and help finance the education of his children as well as taking good care of his parents and siblings in the countryside.

Besides, he had always been a kind and warm-hearted person in his 62-year-long life. He often helped his neighbors, friends, colleagues or even strangers. Sometimes I would discourage him since I thought it would take him too much time, but he always smiled and said the world needed more warm hearts. In my mind, he's just like an living Lei Feng then. Even when he was not well, he would do everything as far as possible to help ease my burden of work. This impressed me a lot and I would follow his good example as much as I can.

My father loved reading newspapers and watching TV news. In fact, this was his habit after he joined the army in 1965. He said this would help him keep up with the world.

On the other hand, my father was strict with my brother and me while we were growing. From time to time, he would remind us of his stories in the army. He always taught us to be good, to be hard-working and to be honest. The most important of all, we must learn to be somebody good to the society.

My father loved his family, and he loved his work better. Some of his colleagues even called him a workaholic or a crazy one. As a result, he didn’t enjoy good health. When I found that his hair turned white overnight a week after he was transferred from Zhuhai to Guangzhou for hospitalization and treatment, I was so frightened and worried that something unlucky would happen. The tragic happened almost two months later. He didn’t leave many words at his last moment, since he couldn’t speak much with so many tubes on his body as the assisted respiration. Anyway, I knew from his eyes that he would like to stay a little longer with us, and give all the love he could to us.

Essay by Iris

Following Rules Is Liberating
Iris Gan Haichan — Zhuhai, China
From following the rules, we gain more freedom.

Yesterday, on my way home, I saw a delivery boy lying on the main road with a bicycle next to him. Then as I continued walking, I saw a taxi stopped not far away, the taxi driver holding his cell phone calling someone, maybe for the insurance. Fortunately, no one was hurt this time. That reminds me of the accident that I saw when I was in grade four. A sixth-grade pupil was riding a bike. When he was ready to turn at a crossing, he was hit by a taxi; unlike this one, he died instantly. In Zhuhai, taxi drivers are notorious for their rampaging through the street, driving too fast, and moving into others’ lanes. Coincidentally, the bicycle rider also broke the rules; he rode into the motorway. We know that was not something unusual in our life. We see jaywalkers everyday. Following rules is a safety guarantee for us.

People think rules restrict us. They should have the freedom to do what they want to. Individuals give excuses for their rule-bending, especially when they think their behavior does not do harm to others. But since we live in the same society, we are interdependent. How can our rule-bending not affect other people in a negative way?

I have a student in my class who is very good in every aspect and she is interested in laws and rights, but she likes to chat with other students in class. But one week, after a weekend, she changed her little foible. I asked what made her change. She said she realized that when she enjoyed her right to talk, she also interfered with other students’ right to listen to the teacher. Following rules is protecting others’ rights.

Last but not least, I am going to give a simple, but shameful example about myself. Once a month, I have dinner with Jana. In the 12 times a year we have dinner, I keep her waiting nearly one third of the time. My being late not only keeps her waiting, but also makes her miss the last bus. Moreover, not being punctual not only causes inconvenience to others, but also interferes with their appointment after mine. Following rules is also a convenience to others.

There was a famous experiment in Germany. German is famous for their obedience to rules. The tester put a male sign and a female sign on a telephone booth on the street. In the test, even though there was a long queue on the male side, no one was making their phone call in the other booth. Following rules puts icing on the cake for a nation’s prestige.

An essay by Mary

Mary Ellen Rayles

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match,
Find me a find, catch me a catch,
Matchmaker, matchmaker look through your book,
And make me a perfect match.” 
These words are from the musical drama, Fiddler on the RoofIt is a compelling story about a poor milkman and his family set in Tsarist Russia in 1905.   In this song, Tevye’s three eldest daughters are dreaming about finding the perfect husband and escaping the pitfalls of an arranged marriage by the village Matchmaker.  My family enjoys singing obscure songs from old musicals and this is one of our favorites.
I recently celebrated my thirty-third wedding anniversary and have been thinking about what makes a perfect match.  I believe that good matches do not happen by chance.  I remember the days when I was a university student and thinking about what my future held.   Many of my friends were facing graduation and felt the cultural pressure to find someone to marry.  I saw them choose someone who would improve their social status or enhance their career.   Others chose someone because they met an emotional need or there was a physical attraction.  To me, these seemed like empty reasons.
I wasn’t even sure if I would be a person who would marry, but if I did, I wanted to make a match that would last for the rest of my life.  It needed to be rooted in a deeper purpose and be a relationship that challenged each of us to grow.  I looked at the lives of people I knew who were cultivating lasting and meaningful marriages and I knew it was rare, but possible.
When I met the man who eventually became my husband, he was unlike anything I expected in appearance, career, education, family, age, status . . . all the things most people measure.  But what I saw surprised me and challenged me.  I had never met a person who was so genuinely selfless and kind.  He respected and loved people from all walks of life. He made people laugh and they loved him.
I wasn’t sure if I was the right match for someone like him.  When he asked me to marry him in the fall of my senior year I told him no.  But eventually I became convinced that we shared the same core values and that this was a person with whom I could happily share the rest of my life.  We will both admit that cultivating that kind of relationship takes honest conversations, compromise, trust and above all, forgiveness.
We have faced difficulties and joys that we never would have imagined.  Our strengths and weaknesses complement each other and sometimes drive each other crazy.  But I believe our relationship was meant to be and there is no other quite like it.  On a good day you may hear us singing our heads off:  “Bring me no ring, find me no find, catch me no catch, unless it’s a matchless match.”

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More Banquet Fun

More Banquet Photos

Host Family Banquet in Doumen

Last night we had our final banquet with the host families.  It was a great time to reflect on a wonderful three weeks here.

Norrie, Luke, Jana, and Greg at dinner with Mr. Li, one of our strongest supporters

An essay by Susan

I believe that Free Talk keeps improving me
Susan Li Pingchang

Four years ago, when I found there was an optional part in the camp called Free Talk, I had no idea what it would be like. Then I had a whim to try it.

I found that though it is called “free talk”, I was actually not feeling “free” at the very beginning. Usually there were quite a few new words in each essay. After I looked them all up in the dictionary, what I usually did was to translate the essay into Chinese literally, which, because of the different culture, most of the time, didn’t make sense at all. At that moment, I would feel like I was in a tough situation without knowing what to do. Worse than that, when the foreign trainers were giving their opinions on some points of the essay, I sometimes ended up not being able to follow. That would make me very nervous. And the more I was nervous, the blanker my mind would be. When Jeff raised a follow-up question, no Chinese teacher volunteered to answer it. My heart would keep pounding, because I was afraid I would be called to give my opinion.

So did I learn anything from the free talk? Yes, I did! First, my vocabulary is getting larger and larger, and my listening is improving. I believe if I keep participating I will learn more. I believe free talk keeps me improving my English.

As time goes by, with the accumulating vocabulary, we talk more and more, deeper and deeper in both the camp free talk and Jana’s free talk. We sometimes get into heated discussions. We sometimes turn to related, interesting topics. We sometimes share our own experiences. I begin to raise my own questions or give my opinions. I am happy I can learn something valuable or special from each free talk. And I think my English is getting more and more fluent. I am not nervous any more. It is more like a free talk now. I believe free talk not only keeps me improving my English but also builds up my self-confidence.

In Jana’s free talk, beside the essay, I also learn a lot of teaching activities and I learn more about western festivals. She is so nice to share with us some good books and movies that are very instructive and very inspiring. I like them and I have to say they help me a lot in my academic teaching. So I believe that free talk not only builds up my self-confidence but also makes me a better teacher.

Back home, I have informal free talk with Mary Ellen, Terry and Janessa. I am learning more about the differences in culture between China and the US. I am learning more intelligent, fun games. They all help me improve.

A few more photos of the English Camp

David Kline always takes lots of photos when he visits the camp.  Lots!  Here are a few starting with a self portrait with students.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Doumen Camp Annual

For each year, except for the first, students have published a camp newspaper.  Bridger lead this activity but I helped assemble the paper.  Through the technology of "cloud" computing, the articles and photos were placed in the cloud.  I grabbed the material; cropped, converted the photos to B&W and composed the paper in Huntington.  In China, copies of the completed paper are made.  The students will staple and distribute the newspaper at the final day's ceremony.  

The opportunity to read about the camp through the eyes of students is always fun.  Post by Charlie.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Holidays in July

More Christmas/Easter in July

Christmas and Easter in July!

The camp schedule had to be rearranged today due to the weather delay in the morning.  Jana ended the day for all of the teachers with a really fun workshop on how Americans celebrate Easter and Christmas.  Here are photos of the teachers (and Ken!) acting out the Christmas story, decorating cookies, making Christmas cards, and decorating Easter eggs.

Go Team!

Here's Bill ready to face whatever comes his way today!

Dodging Puddles!