After five flights, nearly forty-eight hours of travel, and a hectic connection at LAX, our group has finally made it to our second core country, China. This month in Kunming we'll be focusing on educational systems. Kunming is the capital city of Yunnan provence in the south of China, bordering Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Though it's a fairly large city, with a population of four million, it's not well known internationally or even necessarily within China. I actually stayed in Kunming last summer when I came to China with a program called Where There Be Dragons.
We're working in collaboration with our host-NGO, the Kunming Center for Cultural Learning & Development. They're helping to coordinate us with three local middle schools where we'll be teaching English. The TBB group is divided between a public school, a private school, and a half public / half private school in either pairs or singles. I'll be teaching solo at the half-and-half school, and classes will begin on Monday. In the meantime, we've been observing at the schools to see what the Chinese educational system is like and how English classes are generally taught.
We're living individually with homestay families -- pretty much everyone lives within a twenty minute walk of the TBB communal classroom, and all of our families are middle-class and live in high rise apartments. I'm living on a university campus where I think my host-parents are professors; most of what I think about my host family is based on inference, since no one speaks English, and my Mandarin is limited to "thank you". At meal times, my host mother calls in reinforcements - the English-speaking nephew.
The TBB group is also taking Mandarin lessons each morning, in small classes of five people. It's certainly a difficult language to get a foot in the door, what with the 2,000 + characters, the tonal differentiation, and the seemingly unphoenetic Pinyin anglecized words.
It's great to be back in China. I've seen places in Kunming that I recognize from my last trip, but I'm also living in a different neighborhood and seeing plenty of new things. With our Chinese classes, our TBB lectures, and teaching English, we'll have plenty to do and I suspect our time here will fly by.