Beijing, TUESC: Class Party & Last Goodbyes

First Days, Last Days

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After weeks with my trusty, temperamental bike, of hitching rides off Stefan in the morning – and doing my fair share of return journeys – the three and a half weeks at Tsinghua University, Beijing are drawing to a close.

I am going to sorely miss my Floridian teaching partner, my right-hand man and my back-covering classroom bud. I am going to miss making up Greek Chants with my students are we learn about American University life, going to miss cramp inducing hilarity at their interpretations of Shakespeare drama and their proud presentations in English. Onward and homeward journeys are being planned by students and volunteers alike. Closing drinks, letters, address exchanges and travel tickets. But, before all that,  Blue G plan a proper send-off:

Class Party!

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I didn’t write nearly enough, or photograph enough and I wish I had the time to take the whole experience again from start to finish, but sadly the end is finally here… To celebrate our time together, class Blue G decorate our lecture room, and we volunteers pile it full of edible treats.

For the last class of Tsinghua English Summer Camp 2013 we play 60-student strong games, sign T-Shirts and finally, chorus a deafening Westlife ‘My Love’ through twice, teary and stubborn to make the most of our last few hours as Students and Teachers.

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Origami Messages
Origami Messages

Thank you Blue G!

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 The class presents items to each of us, and I am incredibly touched by the glass jar of hand-folded origami hearts with my students names, as well as a folder of fabulous letters from my students thanking my for our time here. I can’t read it with them as my inability to control my tear-ducts is embarrassing. We give out our photo that we’ve printed out for the class to remember us by.

Blue G, we will miss you!

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Find out more about the Tsinghua English Summer Camp, including volunteer application details and deadline by following the link!

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Beijing, TUESC: Blue G Take Charge!

Cue the Class Trip!

 

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A few weeks into Camp, the Blue G group teams up with another class to take us Volunteers on a trip to the nearby Temple of Heaven, and the Beijing Hutongs. Dan, Christine and teacher, Cindy joined our Blue G teacher Jennifer, Stefan, my co-volunteer and myself as we toured Beijing with out students –  Cue Class Trip!!

Blue G had everything down to a T, from note-cards with readings describing the history of the 15th century building to the symbolic architecture in excellent English, especially by comparison to the rather bizarre translations given on the public signs, and in addition, carried rucksacks of speciality treats for hungry teachers!

I managed to escape the hoards of tourists, foreigners and Chinese alike, to snap a few shots of the Temple on its own… I can only imagine how tranquil and silent it must have lay until the original harvest ceremonies performed by the Emperors.

Now it’s quite crowded.

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As we headed into the Hutongs of Beijing, we soon realised the depth of preparation our classes had gone into as we were split into five groups and handed a bundle of photographs and a camera: we weren’t about to get off easy as our students tested out tenacity and endurance of Beijing summer heat with a Hutong treasure hunt!

The Hutongs themselves are a one-story maze of traditional Chinese courtyard architecture separated into neighbourhoods; a strange time-warp of history, not preserved, but living. The Hutongs are packed tightly with small grey-brick houses, the contents of which splay onto the surrounding streets: chickens, cartons, washing lines and old, stained vested men hunched over mahjong gesticulating with abandoned, plastic flip flops – barefoot.

Some tight alleyway doors are opened, giving brief glimpses into a cool, shaded life; a woman washes her vegetables in a worn, red plastic tub; a small child, jet bowl of hair, squats beside a docile white rabbit; a tiny, floral patterned 阿妈 ( (Āh mā) fans herself with a child’s cartooned fan. Others are tightly shut, windows curtained, front step swept and lintels hanging faded red 門聯 (ménlián) from the New Year. There are no personal bathrooms behind these low-beamed, red doorways, and instead residents from a block will share a public toilet and washing facility.

It’s hot and sticky, and our curious team of Hutong explorers have many a trailing eye following our path through these sharp turning streets as we search for the originals of our photograph clues. The winning team will take a new photo, with the clue, at the original clue site and return to the meeting point once all five clues are solved. There are moments of desperation, and even flickers of weakness, until at last we make all five clues and return, last.

Green tea ice-creams all round!

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Beijing, TUESC: Tsinghua Get-In

‘Get-In‘: [theatre speak] the theatre term for the precious few hours a company have to get into a theatre, get their props and costumes in, actors prepped with routine and ready for the rehearsals and big show.
[everyday slang] get stuck in, wa-hoo!

Cue Tsinghua Get-In.

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We’ve made it to China, we’ve been picked up by four lovely first year students who shepherd our post-nausea wracked bodies (ok, well that only applies to me) into a Tsinghua levied little bus, 小巴士 (xiǎo bāshì), for the journey to the University.

There were several of us student-teachers on the KLM flight into Beijing, and it’s with not just a little curiosity that we survey each other from across the aisles of the plane seats; for the most part I succeed in having some introductory chat with students from London, Nottingham and even little Exeter and for the latter part I’m focusing on keeping the contents of my stomach from the interior of the plane.

UNPACK

The University bundles us into our dorms, and it’s not till the next day that we get assigned to our teaching groups and classes.

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The camp is split up to mirror the political structure of China’s provinces; pretty neat the camp functions as a state TSINGHUA, where each of the letters represent a province  T to A in which the student are split into classes according to English ability top class red to bottom purple.

I’m teaching Blue G with my fellow teacher Stefan from University of Florida (Go Gators!) and Jennifer, an Applied Lingistics Major from University of Georgia, with helpers Lauren an Alpha Chi Omega from Baylor and Jeff from University of Chicago.

I’m over-run with Americans and I forsee dustbin/trashcan-esque problems.

But all jokes aside, I can’t wait to get teaching with the team!

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DORM LIFE

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Here’s a sneaky peek at my relatively luxurious room at Tsinghua University Summer Camp. Tiled floor? Check. Hard Chinese-style bed? Check. TV with only Chinese channels? Check. Washing hung up in the window already? Double-check. I am so acclimatised to Asia you’d think I was half Asian… (I am.)

I am not however, Asian enough to fathom sharing a dorm with six to eight other students, with a curfew of 1030PM as the local students here at Tsinghua do.

The British half of me recoils at the thought of lack of privacy; I was never a boarding school student, never a stay-at-summer-camp kind of girl. I like the relative freedom British student Dorms have, and certainly by comparison, the Chinese University style seems both foreign, militant and daunting. However, the students here say that there are upsides to sharing: the community spirit, the group mentality and the quick bonding of friendships. I don’t think I’m ready for China-style dorms just yet…

Some of the Western volunteers complain at the sparseness of the rooms.
I’m silently thinking we’re being seriously spoilt.

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Can’t wait for teaching to commence!

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