Wow! This is Really Something

I wonder if there is an award for most-publicized-but-least-posted blog? So much has happened in my first 10 days here that I have wanted to post. But the pace has been challenging and I have focused instead on just trying to adjust: to the 12-hour time difference; to living in what is basically a small youth hostel on weekends, to dealing with feelings of powerlessness caused by being able to understand so little of what is said; to trying to prepare meaningful and appropriate-level English lessons for 2nd graders and 4th graders (a huge difference in age and English proficiency), and to the challenge of getting back and forth between the island (school) and the volunteer’s flat in Shanghai every Friday and Monday. I’m happy to say I have, so far, made the necessary adjustments. I still have a way to go before I’ll feel comfortable with my teaching – I’ll just assume I’ll get better with time. I can say unequivocally that the kids are absolutely delightful – they are genuinely happy to have me here – walking down the hallway requires responding to many, many “Hello, How are You!”s from beautiful, bright-eyed children. (Don’t worry Grace, they won’t let me bring one home 🙂

It also has been very helpful to have another volunteer here with me. Monica, a young Dutch woman nearing the end of her university studies in Holland, speaks Dutch, English (extremely well), and Cantonese. She also had a little Mandarin when she arrived and she has rapidly learned more – she can often order food for us in restaurants and she has limited Mandarin conversations with the other teachers here. We make the weekend commute together and are able to share ideas about teaching. She has 1st and 3rd graders (also a big disparity in abilities) and we both agree the first-graders are the most challenging of all the classes.

I must close for now as I need to teach English Corner in about a half hour. This is a less-formal class held at lunch-time and we often play a game – today I’m planning a round of pictionary/charades (combined) for the 4th graders. After that Monica and I pack and head for Shanghai – we hope to catch an early ferry so we can catch a taxi before rush hour – taxi ride takes about 40 minutes but is only about $15 split between two of us, well worth the price compared to a two-hour ride on the standing-room-only Metro. I will try to post some more detail this weekend, including photos and videos. Nothing is on the agenda except meeting my old friend Mary Ann Lee, whom I worked with at Bellcore/Telcordia years ago, and who now lives in Shanghai with her husband and two daughters. I hope to have just a little time to REST!

More later – zai jian!

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