Posted by: sammerz | 08 August, 2011

China Trip 2011

The Trip

I just returned from a one-week trip to Gan Quan (甘泉), a county situated 3 hours north of Xi’an, or 30mins south of Yan’an in the Shaanxi Province.  Together with 14 others, we conducted an English Training Seminar to train local teachers who taught English to primary and secondary students.  In these rural parts, there isn’t much of a chance for students to speak English with their peers so it was a treat that these local teachers had the opportunity to mingle with foreigners.

The Team

The team comprised of 4 people from Hong Kong (me included), 6 from the United States and 5 who were lived in the Shaanxi province (3 of them were originally from the States).  Most of those in Gan Quan have never met a foreigner so it wasn’t unusual to get the frequent stares from the locals and it was an achievement we didn’t see any motor accidents either as drivers dangerously craned their necks!  I did blend in for a while, until I opened my mouth – to which I get even weirder stares!  Unfortunately, the Hong Kong team did not have any time to tour Xi’an… will need to come back with Steph next time!

The English Training Seminar

This was a 5-day course which began with an Opening Ceremony on the Monday.  60 participants (so named to avoid confusion as we were the teachers during the week) attended and were split into two groups.  While one attended a lecture, the other group was further broken into 5 lab (or tutorial) groups.  Each lab had two teachers and in these sessions, we taught the participants 2-3 activities.  The objective of these labs was to give the participants a wide range of ideas to incorporate into their teaching methods.  Of course, we were not there to replace their system of teaching, but to enable them to take good parts of both the Western and Traditional styles of teaching to boost the learning in their classrooms.  On the Wednesday night we held an English Corner where participants brought their families and students to meet and greet us foreigners.  About 100 showed up!  We had much fun meeting more locals and organised a few games.

The Food

Shaanxi tends to be a little drier than other provinces.  It is mostly barren and is situated approximately 3,000ft asl.  Mantau (bread buns) and noodles (potato starch and the glass types) rather than rice are the staple diet here.  They serve many variety of vegetables, fresh and preserved and they add large quantities of garlic and chilli too!  Shredded pork and chicken or diced sheep are also served with vegetables.  The locals pride themselves on their tofu (someone mentioned it could be the water) as well as their bran porridge (very similar to couscous).  On the Thursday night, one of the Americans and I decided to abandon the rest of the team to hunt for local food – we settled at a satay stall and enjoyed 110 marinated pork satays between us.  Man food: a welcome break from all the vegetables we’ve been eating!

The Highlights

For me personally, I loved hearing the stories from the local teachers as well as from the other team members.   It was interesting to know most of the locals get married around 23-24 and have a child shortly after.  Very young families!  They loved sharing about their personal lives.  Some shared about how they don’t feel confident or well-equipped to teach, perhaps a product of having no choice in what course they wanted to do or they did not know better when they had a choice.  Our primary purpose was to encourage them – after all, we need good teachers no matter what part of the globe we are.  As I kick-off my teaching career, this was a great insight to the Traditional teaching style where success is about the student’s grades more so than the teacher’s ability to teach.   I hope I can bring Steph on such a trip some day – just not sure if we’ll go back to the same place or another!

Some photos below (some are courtesy of the trip photographer, Rita – more on her photo sharesite)…

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  1. Finally an update on the blog!!

    The couscous-like porridge is probably millet, which is quite popular in the Yellow River region. In Chinese, we call rice “da mi” (the “big” rice) and millet “xiao mi” (the little rice). It’s more nutritious than rice with 20% of content being protein, much like wheat. Yes, you have to go back and try the “pao mo” and “shao zhi mien”… otherwise you haven’t really been to Xi’an!

    • Hey Caleb,

      Thank you!

      Hehe, in that case, when we can, why don’t the four of us spend a couple days in Xi’an – you can take us around? 🙂 Think it’ll be good for us to have a bit of a holiday!


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