Sunday, July 31, 2005

Blackout

A few days ago, I had just about finished typing up a HUGE post, and then the electricity for the whole neighbourhood went out. That was frustrating. Mind you, of course the net cafe's main computer was still on because of a BackUPS (gotta still record how long the customers used the computers and collect the revenue, you know!). So I can't remember what I wrote, really. I'll try to write as much as I can remember.

The electricity can be intermittent sometimes. Many days and nights I do not have any electricity at all. The most recent stretch lasted about three or four days. Then a lightning storm hit and half the town lost electricity. The town had it all up and running by midnight, and my room was running with it. :) It's really interesting going to the bathroom when you can't see your own hand in front of your face. The running water rarely cuts out anymore.

So the students graduated. We had our presentations, my class did their play, sang their song (This Land is My Land, with the lyrics changed to have Chinese and global locations), and got their attendance certificates. One of my students cried. Two of them gave speeches about their experience at the YC. Awww... English wasn't fun until they had me as a teacher? They'll remember my ten points about what it takes to be a successful person? Ahahaha, it was cute. We did have one small scare. Right before the presentations were to start, one of our kids still hadn't shown up. Then we received word that he had been bitten during lunch by a dog suspected of having rabies and was being rushed to Xichang (3 hour bus ride away) for treatment, because there were inadequate facilities in ZJ. So I gave my kids a pep talk about having to overcome difficult circumstances, think quickly on your feet, adapting to unexpected situations in life, and how we'd do this performance well for the bitten kid. Then half an hour after the ceremonies are underway, the kid shows up. Turns out he was swimming, and the bitten kid was in another class. So much relief. :) And the bitten kid is ok now.

The next day, we had debrief with the head of training, and some of the assistant directors. We talked about our own experiences, suggested how to improve the program so that future teams could be more effective, and received comments from the staff. That also was very touching. The head of training talked about the impressions of love we gave her, especially because her kid was in the Grade 1 & 2 class. Also, the little brother of one of the assistant directors was in my class. She talked about how he was so much more helpful around the house now, and how her relationship with him was so much better. He had told her about the things he had learned in class, and how much of his ways of thinking were changed. It has been my deep impression that as short-term volunteers, we can do little more than sow or water, and leave the rest up to the long-termers and daddy. Camp Lady thinks that much progress has been made with the leadership group here. I suppose there's always much debate about which is better in a closed area: making tents or incog? There are advantages and disadvantages to each. But you can access leadership circles much easier by making tents, while still having an impact on common folk.

Oh yeah, after graduation, a student invited my TA and I to have dinner with her family. But the parents had already had dinner, so they killed two chickens just for us. @@ Wow. We also got to try on some traditional Yi clothing. :D

We got to go to Xichang for the beginning of the Torch Festival the day before yesterday. We arrived back in ZJ yesterday. We got to ride this chairlift up a mountain and then slide down this long slide on a luge type of thing. It was crazy. :D Also, the next day, I ended up entering a Yi wrestling match. Soccer Gorilla would have entered, but he had diarrhea. I lost, but they gave me the traditional Yi vest. :D Also, they interviewed me for the evening news! Hehe. It was pretty funny when the announcer said I was from Canada, and there was this big roar from the crowd. It's 20 kuai to enter, but you get 1,000 kuai if you win the tournament. You challenge people on the podium for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. When there are no more challengers, the three duke it out to see who is #1. 2nd and 3rd place also win money. So I guess they guy really didn't want to lose his spot (I chose to challenge the #1 guy). I couldn't get the technique right, they say I was standing too high and not using my size advantage properly. Seemed like he could tell which way my momentum was going all the time and used it against me. You put on these belts, and then grab the opponent's belt. Then you have to try to throw your opponent to the ground. I lasted longer than I thought I would, but in the end, he tossed me around like a rag doll.

Shirts are easier to buy for my size in Xichang, but not that much easier.

We're back in ZJ, now we're just helping around at the YC during the Torch Festival. The staff have vacation right now, so we'll be helping with the cooking (learning Sichuan food). And other stuff that needs helping until we leave. Meanwhile, the TAs have gone back to Chengdu. We'll be seeing them again before we head back home.

Stuff I've eaten so far, that I wouldn't eat in Canada:
Pig ear
Live shrimp
Black bone chicken
Black bone chicken feet
Luofei fish (has to rank among the best fish I've ever had! and I live on the ocean!)
Luofei fish eyeballs

Coming up:
Rabbit head...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Still alive

Another bout of diarrhea, but minor this time. Let's list what everyone's been going through. bidetofevil had severe stomach troubles. Art Girl sprained both of her ankles on the stairs (fortunately, minor sprains, she's walking again now). A permanent fell on a stair and fractured her foot/ankle. She needs to go back to her home for surgery. She's also advanced in age. Ask daddy to receive and take care of her.

Classes end next week?? :( It's crazy. Last art class, one of my kids made me a long string of paper cranes. :D It's really nice. Today, we talked about character. We'll discuss more about it tomorrow. My class shrank from 17 to 13 kids! :( Three of the kids had to go back to their real school, while one of the kids went back to his hometown. We're making a presentation for the parents, it'll be a play. I'm having the kids write it all. I taught them the basic structure of plotlines and they're creating all of the story and dialogue. They've decided to do a treasure hunt that occurs after their high school graduation. The grandfather of one of the kids has told them about a treasure that he buried in Brazil. So they decide to build a boat, cross the ocean, and look for the treasure, which includes gold, silver, and Luofei fish. Luofei fish is a special kind of fish that only grows in Zhaojue hotsprings. It's a pretty wacky plot, but trust me, I didn't have any part in it!

Growing relationships with the kids has been very interesting. We're trying to focus on character development and how these kids can have hope for the future, but we have to be careful in how we talk with them. I felt kind of bad today. We had a spelling test and for every word they got wrong, I made them write it 10 times for homework. This one girl was eager and did it before class finished. Except, she mispelled one of her 10 (she spelled ecstatic to be "ecstatis"). So I made her write it another 10. And she did it again. So another 10. Again. Another 10. Finally ok. It felt kind of mean, but you want them to learn how to spell, don't you?

So during PE, the PE teachers decided to do the Human Knot. It was a good friendship and team-building exercise. This one kid was telling us about how he hadn't made any friends during the whole English camp. I'm trying to figure out how we can get these kids to bond even more.

Oh, we had a grammar test. I wrote 20 sentences incorrectly, and they had to correct the mistakes. Only one kid passed. :) (Did I mention how the highest score for the spelling test was 4/20?). I used the grammar test to gauge their progress, and we accordingly rearranged the teams. Our teams are now Blue Sky, Peace Team, Love Team, and Coke Team. Very interesting. We've done away with the point system because they all decided that being friends with each other was more important than competition. It makes me glad that their motivation in class is coming from something internal, rather than rewards now. We'll see if we can take it to the next level.

There's one girl who's totally out of everyone else's league. She's incredible. I want to give her an English book to help her advance, but they don't exactly sell English books here. I wonder how much it costs to mail her one from Canada.

You know, clothing is really cheap here. Unless you're my size. My teammates can find shirts for 15 kuai. Me? I have to go to a high-end store to even have a chance of finding something in my size. 120 kuai? Uh, no thank you. Found something for 40 kuai. Chee.

Asking for daddy for advice on how to help the kids advance. Difficult. Also, help on team health. That's always a priority. I think I may have finally learned what it means to trust and depend on him to provide for me. Hehe, but not quite. Still learning. But being here, and ironically for me, especially being in the "presidential suite," has been very eye-opening. I don't think I would have learned nearly enough if I were in the suite that the girls are using for reasons of pride. Isn't it ironic? I'll explain when I get back.

Ask daddy to send help for the girls. Their suite has a hole in the roof of the central room location, so when it rains, the rain floods the central area. Fortunately, it doesn't flood their individual bedrooms. However, their rooms are always moist because of the humidity. So their beds always feel wet, that kind of thing. Their shower area is tiny, it's pretty much the footspace around their toilet. They're keeping strong though. Depending on daddy to provide for their needs. Ask for help for them.

Boy, it's hard to get time to use Internet here. Till next time.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Things are different here...

What has been different? Well, in Canada, the trucks that play music are selling ice cream. Here, the trucks that play music are collecting garbage.

We went out for lunch yesterday, and took taxis to town. Except the driver didn't know where the restaurant was. We needed to go to a specific recommended restaurant because of our dietary needs (many of the team was experiencing diarrhea, though mine was probably the worst case). So we're driving along when the driver waves over another taxi and asks where this restaurant is. You know nobody knows when the driver of the other taxi and her passenger immediately and simultaneously point in opposite directions. When we finally found the place, the team decided that it wanted to eat somewhere else, so we went to one of the bigger restaurants. We gave them specific orders (hold the MSG, spice, oil, etc, we have diarrhea). They're answer was basically, "We don't know how to cook without this stuff." When the meat arrived at our table, it looked raw. We sent it back to get cooked. :)

Everything is SO cheap here! I can't bargain because what's the point? Rule of thumb I have is 6 kuai (yuan, RMB) is equal to 1 Canadian dollar. So I bought a bag today, it was 15 kuai. At the high-end restaurant we went to yesterday, it was 73 kuai for seven people, and we had leftovers. Tonight, we had dumplings, five are 1 kuai. Went with one of the soccer guys to another restaurant while we were waiting for the dumplings to cook, it was 3 kuai for an order. And this place PACKED the fried rice, it looked like a meal by itself. I'll have to try it, he can't stop raving about the fried rice. When the owners found out that he was here to teach soccer to kids, they got super friendly and dumped whatever he wanted into the fried rice and gave free soup too. I tasted the gailan, it tasted so fresh, almost as if it hadn't even been boiled. And their noodles smell great too. Yeah, I'll eat here soon. I can't eat as much anymore though because my stomach seems to have shrunk during the diarrhea recovery. Tomorrow, the YC home-ec class is cooking us spaghetti for lunch.

So we got ice cream bars tonight. We were told to just make sure that the wrappers were sealed properly, and it would be ok. Three ice cream bars with different pictures on the wrapping, but they all looked the same on the inside. Interesting. And they were 0.5 kuai. You buy a Chinese bun here, it's 1 kuai. A pen is 2 kuai. A brush broom for cleaning our bathrooms, 3 kuai. Wanna hear the luxury item? A package of 10 sanitary napkins, 9 kuai! Everything is so cheap here.... Running a restaurant here looks so nice. Imagine, just open up shop, cook food all day, talk with your regulars, relax. They're all basically street shops with garage-style doors, except for the high-end ones.

Oh, apparently, our room didn't have lice. We had dust mites. I'm told that if we had had lice, we would have undergone a de-licing process, so it couldn't have been lice. I swore I heard lice though.... Either way, my roommate and I have been moved to new rooms because of the mite problem. So now we each get our own suite. I feel really guilty... I get a living room and a double bed all for myself. My living room has couches and a glass table with chairs. The team calls it the "presidential suite." My roommate got the same deal. However, it is on the fourth floor. While there's a nice view, I'm amazed over how many times I have to make trips up and down. It gets tiring in the mountain air, but I guess it's good training. Forgot something? Go back upstairs. Need to go to the bathroom? Go back upstairs. Get my bowl? Go back upstairs. And much of the day, there isn't enough water pressure for the water to make it all the way to the fourth floor (I think the water pipes have all been fixed, I do get water sometimes). So if I wake up too late, I can't shower. But it's ok, everyone else in the same situation just goes to the outside water source and shampoos there. When in Rome. The first time I saw a long line of girls carrying tubs of water upstairs from the outside tap, it was easy enough to join them. The tubs of water are useful for if I need to flush and there isn't enough water pressure to do it.

OK, the important stuff. You peopl who teach for a living, how on earth do you do it? You people are made of tough stuff. Having to prepare lessons every single day, it's so time-consuming. I guess textbooks help a little, but still. And I'm not even seriously marking yet.

The kids are so cool. Artsy Girl (that's what I'll call the team member who doubles as English and art teacher) came into my class yesterday to teach art. They made postcards. And one of the kids made a postcard for me! :D It's so cute and inspiring too. "Hi Bobby! Don't worry about speaking us ok?" Hehehe. The class is divided into four groups: Superstars, Sun Team, Underwater Fish, and Moon Team. They work together to compete for points. Today we had a lesson on Chinese inventions and how they changed how things are done in the world. Then the teams had to make conversations about the inventions, and if they could recite their conversations by memory, they got 20 points. They worked so hard! It was great, we had a lot of fun. :D

Helping the kids to build confidence for themselves is really interesting. We're hoping to really build into these kids for the future, but there are so many more who can't participate because we're over-capacity. Well, I'm not. I only have 17 kids, but no more 13 to 15 year-olds are registering.... The day I got back from the hospital (I had to stay one more night as they were trying to get rid of the mites in my old room, before they finally decided to move me to another room), there were these two kids, not more than 8, wandering around. They played a bit with Music Girl (the team member who doubles as English and music teacher) in the music room because the class that was supposed to be there wasn't coming down. They were so cute (hey, they're all cute :D). After lunch, one of them came back and asked if it was possible to be in a class, because her parents really wanted her to attend the camp. Camp Lady (that's what I'll call our main contact here) had to say no because of the over-capacity issues. Camp Lady said she saw the girl starting to cry, and it's heart-breaking to think about this little girl that was so happy in the music room crying. The YC is the only place to provide things like this for the kids in this town, otherwise what do the kids do? Often the parents are gone during the day, or the family is broken, and there is no daycare infrastructure (neither public or private). She's a trooper though. She comes every day to help at the soccer camp, collecting pylons, fetching balls, that kind of thing. 8:30 am to 5 pm! The soccer guys teach her some English in return and play with her a bit. Much thanks daddy, that she could have a place here.

Things that I'd ask for you to notify daddy about. The team has been hitting its limits day after day, with many people breaking down. There is so much work. But we have this one team member who is 88 years old. She first started coming to Zhaojue many, many years ago. She is a huge inspiration to us all and constantly reminds us of why we can trust daddy to pull through. Wow, does she ever have stories! Ask for help on team unity and sanity. Also, ask for good health. Our team has been hitting physical limits too. Today was only the next hit: the soccer guys all got what looks like pretty severe sunburn. Ask for patience. Some of the teachers are getting thin patience with their kids. My class is the most behaved. The other classes, I'm not sure what I would do if I were teaching them. Ask for guidance. It's so hard to walk the path of someone making tents in a place like this. I guess I can see now why those who make tents are the only ones given real open access in places like this. It seems so complicated.

Looking forward to that spaghetti tomorrow! :D Until next time then!

Monday, July 11, 2005

From one to the next

Another teammate was brought to the hospital today. He's developed rashes all over his body and his knuckles especially hurt. They've determined that he's had lice biting him at the YC, and they're probably in his bed. This is actually good news, as the English team was worried that it was chicken pox (which didn't make any sense, since the guy had been vaccinated as a child). But lice would explain all the bites on my body, as this particular guy is my roommate. It's just that his reaction to the bites has been far worse than mine so far. We're going to do stuff to the room today to rid it of lice, or they'll move us to another room. But even if they move us to another room, it's apparently pretty hard to escape the lice. The nurses gave us a rundown of lice avoidance strategies. I remember my uncle telling us about when he was a kid back in Korea, he'd wake up every morning with bleeding lice bites all over his body. He didn't think anything of it back then, it was pretty normal. Today he looks back and thinks it's kind of gross. Hehe, I experienced that, and it's kind of interesting.

And I thought my diarrhea was bad. A nurse was telling us about the time when she had dysentery. There was this little girl who peeled a walnut and offered it to the nurse in the street. The girl obviously needed a good bath, but she was so cute, the nurse didn't want to hurt her feelings at all. So the nurse ended up with dysentery and an IV tube stuck in her for a while. This was when the nurse first arrived in the area a couple of years ago and didn't know any better.

While I was in the hospital, H.O.T. Fangirl (my TA) had to take care of the class all by herself. Some of the team came to visit Bidetofevil and I in the hospital (Bidetofevil is the other guy with a major case of diarrhea, I call him this name because he looks like Hanson Ho). H.O.T. Fangirl brought the notebooks of all the students. She had them all write an intro of themselves for me. Hehe, it was so cute. They all went something like this:
Hi, my name is ______. I just got an English name today, it is
______. I like _____ and _____ but I don't like _____. I have father
and mother and two sisters. My parents are _____, my sisters are
_____. I hope you get better. I like you!

Hehe, or something like that. Lots of variation. One common theme, so many of the students don't like soccer (or football, as the rest of the world calls it). Why is that? But judging from what was written, the kids did not follow any sort of template, they just wrote whatever was on their mind any way they could. So I think I have a good gauge on their English skills. Extremely broken grammar and vocabulary, but I should be able to work with it easily enough. And my Mandarin is slowly coming back. Far from perfect, mind you, but enough for me to catch the important phrases.

I should be able to go back tonight, and then I'll get to personally meet the students tomorrow. So things got switched around and my class is actually 7th to 9th graders (which is closer to their actual ages). Bidetofevil needs to stay at least one more night, and Roomie (I'll call my roommate Roomie, ok?) probably will as well. I'm told that two more team members are developing cases of diarrhea, so we might have to move them to the hospital.

And water is out again at the YC. Some pipes got damaged, so they're trying to fix them right now.

I had two dreams last night. The first was about my brother and I. The second was more normal for the dreams I usually have. I forget what was happening, but me and this guy end up going to this truck. Except it wasn't me in the dream, it was more like I was playing a role in a movie, and I was that character, not me. Get it? So anyway, we talk with the driver and say we need to get on the truck. And he's like, "Why, who are you guys anyway?" So I say, "Don't you know?? He's knows famous people!" And I point to my partner. And the truck driver asks, "Yeah? Who?" So I'm thinking quickly, and say, "Korean movie stars!" The truck driver looks at my partner curiously and asks, "Really?" So thinking fast again, I blurt out, "Yeah! James Kwan!" James Kwan is the name of a Chinese guy who was a co-worker of mine at a coop practicum with the PWGSC. I'm thinking, "This guy will never buy it." But the truck driver gets all excited and says, "Really?? How can I meet him??"

So it turns out that the truck has a go-kart in the back. We roll the go-kart down to the ground and get the guy to put on a yellow t-shirt that says on the front in black letters, "James Kwan!" and on the back, "Please come meet me!" Then we tell the guy to drive the go-kart down the street, and he'll meet James Kwan. So the guy drives away. Then my partner and I (I don't know what his name was) get into the truck and drive it away. For some reason we were all at the airport and the truck was in the area where you drop off people for departure. We end up driving the truck through a bus, through a maze of cars, and zoom to the end of the departure area, where we have this old 80s Honda Civic waiting. We hear sirens coming up, as the police are giving chase, so we hop out quickly. The Honda Civic is leaning up against (vertically leaning) a Christmas tree. My partner starts talking to a passer-by about the weather while I get the Civic to the ground and drive away down the ramp. For some reason, the deal was for my partner to take care of everyone following us.

The weird thing about the Civic is that I had to drive it while lying on my stomach, like in Batman Begins, when Batman turns the Batmobile into weapon mode. As I drove away through the city, I flipped on the radio and changed the frequencies until I came to CKWX News 1130. That's when someone at the news station was saying, "... probability of 1 in 30 million! He wants to buy one bus ticket and hope that it will bring him to his parents!" I looked up at that moment and saw a flying pirate ship. At the bow of the ship stood a pirate with a little boy beside him. The boy was holding a bus ticket and asked the pirate, "Do you really think we'll find my parents?" The pirate says, "Don't worry, we will!"

And then I woke up because Bidetofevil had to go to the bathroom.

How to Recover from Diarrhea

There seem to be two main schools of thought for treating diarrhea. One is to use medication to speed the process and attack the trouble points. The other is to flush the dietary tract out naturally. The nurses here prefer the latter method. Bidetofevil was asking for acupuncture, but they apparently only have that in Xichang.

1. Fast and have nothing but hot or warm water. Stay in bed and rest; sleep as much as possible. Going to the bathroom is a good thing. Since you will be going a long time without food, it is important to mix electrolytes into your water to get nutrients into your body. If you do not have access to electrolytes, salt and sugar will suffice. Avoid cold water.
2. After the fasting period has finished, commence eating hot or warm congee, and some steamed white bread (both western white bread and Asian steamed mantou will do). Anything with more substance or fibre are definite no-no's, as your gastral tract is not yet able to handle such dense foods. Food heavy in fibre can be especially abrasive and cause your gastral tract to have a relapse. The key is to flush out the system as smoothly and cleanly as possible. Congee and steamed white bread will do this quite nicely. Avoid cold food.
3. After your diarrhea has stopped, you can graduate to extremely light fibre foodstuffs. Examples include boiled liquid or soft tofu (liquid is obviously less fibre). High fibre foodstuffs like oats are still prohibited at this stage. The goal for this stage is to regain strength, as the condition and recovery process will sap your strength.
4. Check-up. Go home. Transition slowly back to normal life.

Throughout the process, moan and groan as necessary. Recovery time should be about 48 hours, but results may vary, depending on severity of diarrhea.

Class will be interesting tomorrow. Much thanks to daddy for his help.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Week 1 Update

Hello everyone,

I'm very sorry for not e-mailing. It has been difficult to find time to use a computer. I shall update here everything I can, hopefully twice a week from now on. I'll be a bit selective in what I post, as my computer functionality is limited. ;)

Tuesday:
Arrived in Shanghai. Hot, humid air! I gagged when I stepped out of the flight gate because I wasn't used to the humidity. But got on another plane only three hours later anyway. Arrived next in Chengdu, and met the team who is coaching soccer. We slept overnight in the airport hotel. Certainly not the first-class hotel though. :) No time at all to find a net cafe, so sorry.

Wednesday:
Woke up, went to the Bank of China to get some Chinese currency, and then went to the airport to get on our flight to Xichang, capital of the Liangshan prefecture (still inside the Sichuan province). Met up with the rest of the English teaching team on the Xichang flight (well, technically, after we all got off). Also got to meet some of the local volunteers. We had lunch in Xichang. Later, we went shopping for important stuff. I bought a flashlight (which doubles as a battery charger!) and a collared shirt to wear while teaching; other people bought a watch, some CDs (Jay Chow and Andy Lau I understand, but Avril Lavigne and Linkin Park out here? Interesting ^^), and food for our trip to Zhaojue. A big tub of KFC-style chicken did the trick, with lots of french fries. Oh, and I got to ride a bicycle-pulled rickshaw.

Zhaojue is in a mountainous region, and the only way to get there is by bus. Lucky for us. This other person was telling us that it took her 3.5 days to travel on horseback to the town (well, back then, it was only a fort). I've developed a theory about the power hierarchy on the mountain roads of Liangshan. It goes something like this (from most powerful to least):
  1. Cows
  2. Sheep/goats
  3. Dogs
  4. Ducks
  5. People
  6. Cars
  7. Trucks
Why ducks seem to have more power than people, I don't know. It just seems that way. The ducks will act like they own the road, though not more than the dogs. And the people here are fearless. You honk like crazy and they just stand there. Like who are you to honk, you're just a driver! So the drivers have no fear as well. They'll zig and zag through the tightest crowds of people, rather than avoid delays. Also, they'll overtake slower cars in the worst places (i.e. sharp mountain corners) and play chicken like it's nothing; they should be stunt drivers in action movies. One teammate commented on how different this area was from where she grew up (an adjacent Asian country). Here, the drivers seem to give people a really wide berth, whereas in her area, the drivers couldn't care less if they ran you over.

Arrived in Zhaojue, elevation of 2000 feet. Had a team meeting, messages off to daddy, went to bed.

Thursday:
Orientation. We got to meet the head administrator of the YC, who is from the Zhaojue County Government, as well as the head of training, and various other important people. 97% of the population around here is Yi. The Yi are a cool people, with their own language, own style of dress (even in this day and age), and own way of life. Most of the students at the YC are Yi. But when the students enter the school system, they have to learn Mandarin, since Mandarin is the standard language in China. It's like getting people in Canada to learn English (or French, if you're in Quebec). The YC does all kinds of training, besides our English and soccer stuff. For example, you can learn how to sew here in a two-month program; after you graduate, the YC will help you find a job. We got to see some of the clothes the students were capable of making by the time they graduate, it was very impressive. You can also learn about agriculture here, as much of the industry in the area is agricultural. Also, you can learn about business, and even get a loan from the YC to go start your own business after going through the program.

We spent the rest of the day preparing our lessons. We each have to do four to six lessons a day (usually six), five days a week, plus two on Saturday morning. My class will be 13 to 15 year-olds. The government is always looking for new ways to get kids in this area to stay in the school system. By the time kids enter middle school, the dropout rate is 50%. In junior high, the dropout rate is about 20%. Many of the children here will have trouble reading anything but the most basic of Chinse characters. This might explain why my sixth graders are teenagers. Thankfully, we all get local volunteers as partners for teaching the classes. This makes it a ton easier. My partner is currently an English major at her university. I'll call her H.O.T. Fangirl because she really likes kpop; H.O.T. was one of the first things out of her mouth.
My goodness, I can't believe how difficult it is to prepare this many lessons. No wonder the textbook publishing industry is so lucrative. To make all of your own curriculum, lessons, and exercises from scratch is way too time-consuming. Classes start on Monday.

In the evening, we got to eat with the YC administrators at a local hotpot restaurant. It was great. There's this one spice seed where if you bite it and then drink a bit of tea, flavour positively explodes all over your mouth. The hotpot was so hot that one of the soccer guys burned a hole into his tongue. Well, that might have been more the temperature, than the spice.
Went back to the YC, had team time, more messages off to daddy, to sleep.

Friday:
Whoops. I clogged the toilet that my roomate and I use. Well, we can get a plunger for it. Erm, the entire town's water system shut down? Hmm. With the conditions here, sanitation is a huge issue if the town has no running water. Mind you, the immune systems of the local people are much stronger than my own, but still, it's a concern. And besides, what about our toilet?

Spent the day preparing more lessons. It rained for the first time in months, so much to be thankful for. Though there is concern for the soccer team's ability to actually do anything on wet grass (especially since probably none of the local kids will have soccer cleats).

Well, the water's out, so how do I wash my bowl for lunch? Use the rain! Idiot. Then I found out that the YC has an underground water resevoir for these situations. There was a hose stretched all the way from outside to the canteen's kitchen. Stupid idiot.

The soccer team figured out a good way to get their toilets flushing. They just sat these tubs out in the rain and then poured the collected water into the toilet bowl; they concluded that pouring directly into the toilet bowl was better than pouring into the toilet tank, as the prior method provided a stronger force for the swirl.

Got to play soccer a bit with the soccer team after the field had dried a bit. That was fun. More team time in the evening, more updates to daddy, then the experience of a lifetime.

Saturday:

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I have never had such bad diarrhea in my life. Is it so hard to forget that the rain can be polluted sometimes? I went to the bathroom seven or eight times during the night. This wouldn't have been so bad, except our toilet was out. So I went to the communal one. That wouldn't have been so bad, except the town's water was out. And many of the students living at the YC used it. And it was squat. Now once or twice, ok. Seven or eight? This was... uncomfortable. But more uncomfortable was the headache and fever. I've never felt so sapped for strength in my life. Spent the entire day bedridden and couldn't move. I've never imagined that I could ever feel this weak. One of the team members let me sleep the day in his bed, since their toilet was still working (provided that you continued to collect rainwater).

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No idea what the other team members did, except that there was a presentation from a Yi on how to interact with Yi students and adapt to their culture. I'll have to catch up. The team decided to move me to the hospital for the night, in order to get me healthy ASAP for teaching English. Congee tasted so good....

Sunday:
Went to service. It was nice. Then the team member who let me sleep in his bed ended up joining me in the hospital. He got it pretty bad. Maybe I shouldn't have slept in his bed. I'm not outputting the bad stuff anymore, but my strength is still pretty gone. If I walk even a short distance, I become exhausted. The nurse said I could go back to the YC tomorrow, if everything turns out ok. A substitute teacher will take my place for one day, and then I'll take over on Tuesday. Thankfully, we do have some spare personnel available for a couple of days. There is a team that will be training some high school English teachers, but they are not starting their stuff until Wednesday. I'll update again soon, I hope. Take care. I think of Job and Matt Redman's song.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Going on a secret mission

I have to go save the world again from the nefarious Evil Gingerbreadman. I'll be gone until about August 9. Until then, keep tight. Sorry for not being able to post a quality blog post before I go.

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