Thursday, November 27, 2008

Alrighty, I’m writing this from our hotel room in Siem Reap Cambodia listening to the new Kanye CD on my ipod (mediocre the first listen, getting better ever time I listen to it, check out the songs Paranoid, Heartbreak, and Street Lights if you want). Haven’t written in a while (as usual), but things are going pretty solid. I’m pretty sure my mom would have a heart attack if she saw how messy our room is. I mean, 3 dudes in one room usually makes that happen. Anyway, I guess I’ll start where I left off the last one, going to Sha Xi.


The bus ride to Sha Xi was pretty awesome, Noah and Zach and I watched Rambo. The whole thing turned really eventful though when we hit, or rather, were hit by a really drunk Chinese man on a bicycle while driving down the road to Sha Xi. After calling the cops and getting the guy blood tested to make sure he was biking under the influence we continued on to Sha Xi. We got to Sha Xi at around 9 at night and were greeted by our host families. My host parents didn’t speak any English and I can speak about 5 sentences in Mandarin and 0 words in Bai (the native language there) so communication was pretty tough. My first night the communication was limited to them pointing at me at making a motion that said very clearly “you are a freak of nature, do you play in the NBA?” I also think he might have told me that he has two children who go to a different school, but then again, maybe he didn’t. I did find out that my host dad is a butcher and that he slaughters a pig at my house every Friday, which I’ll get back to. Anyway, Sha Xi was a pretty damn cool town/village. Almost all the people there are of the Bai ethnic minority and they don’t usually speak Mandarin at their homes. The town itself was beautiful, there were a couple of times where I would just walk around the winding little alleyways trying to get myself lost so that I could have fun trying to find my way back to my house. I taught at the school for a day and observed classes for a day with Lily, which was interesting and really difficult, because the English level of the kids was much worse than in Kunming. I had a ball though, as usual, and the kids seemed pretty interested in us being there, although not that interested in the material.


The last day in Sha Xi started at 5 in the morning for me with the squealing of a pig being slaughtered right outside my door, which was nice. I was planning on going out there to watch Betsy (what I named her beforehand) become pork, but after the first scream I put my pillow over my head and hoped that I wouldn’t be scarred like Clarice was by the lambs being slaughtered in Silence of the Lambs. I eventually woke up and ventured out of my room when I was sure that the pig was already at the market. I walked to the market and met up with Renee, who took a great pic of me with the host parents and the dead pig which I’ll try to put up later. We walked around for a while then met up with the rest of TBB to go to some Buddhist temples in the hills surrounding Sha xi. The temples were pretty sweet but nothing worth going into detail about (if you want some details of it, check out the girls blogs, they probably spend a paragraph or so on them). Anyway, we got back to Sha Xi, and hung out and worked on media projects until the traditional Bai performances, which were sick. Here are some pics:


After the Bai dancers “taught” us a traditional dance, we felt forced to do a performance of our own. We went with the Macarena and a stunning rendition of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of that… or don’t want pictures of that on the internet…. whatever. Anyway, it was a blast and even though we were only there for a little while I loved my home stay parents there, even if she wasn’t the best cook and we weren’t really able to talk to each other.


We had a nice (less eventful) bus ride back to Kunming where we stayed for a night. Our media group was very on top of the game (check out the Google Earth project, soon to be on the TBB website), so Zach, Liz, Isabel and I decided to celebrate by going out dancing, which was an absolute blast. Zach and I bought matching shirts and I bought some Kanye glasses and we picked out some attire for the girls. Here are the pics:






I’m pretty sure there was only one song that they played the whole time in every club, but we danced hard to it. Some awesome media group bonding. The next day we left for Cambodia via Vietnam, which is where I’m at at the moment.


Cambodia has been awesome so far, very relaxing. We went to Ankor Wat for one day as a group then the next day we had an optional sunrise watch at the main temple, which was pretty spectacular. I’m not exactly a morning person (it’s 2:45 AM right now in fact) so instead of waking up at 4:45 I just stayed up until the sunrise, which worked out great. It ended up being Robin, Sandy, Emily, Liz, Renee, Becca, Ian, Lily, Katie C. and me who went. There were a surprising number of people there for it being 5 o’clock in the morning but it was nice, especially when I got into the temple and there were less people. The last couple days we have just been hanging out, getting cheap massages, shopping at the market, and eating a lot.


Thanksgiving was pretty cool for being in Cambodia. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday without a doubt: Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Gravy, Pumpkin Pie, Football, and Family. Does it get any better? No, it doesn’t. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much from this thanksgiving but it ended up being really fun. We ate at about 3 in the afternoon like we usually do in the Snyder household, and had tons of food. We substituted roasted Chicken for Turkey (there are no Turkey’s in southeast Asia). I ended up eating about 5-6 plates of chicken because most people didn’t finish theirs. Didn’t quite beat my record of last year going back for 14ths, but it was awesome. After eating and sharing our “what we give thanks for” and “I appreciate so-and-so because…” we played 2 games of “Celebrity” which is an awesome game that Beth taught us (game is a blast by the way). This also brought in the longtime thanksgiving tradition of over-competitiveness (most by me) that no family gathering is complete without. After that some of us went to get $7 massages for an hour and came back to the hotel. That’s where I’m at right now.


Anyway, sorry if this is a little incoherent, it’s pretty damn late here, but I wanted to get this bad boy up, so forgive my horrible typos. Thanks for reading and such, keep in touch all of you and for the parents who read this, your kids freaking rock, good work parenting.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Kunming Pt. III

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted, things have been pretty crazy and I don't really know where to start, so I'll just work backwards.
Tonight was our last night in Kunming, I have just about finished packing and saying goodbye to my family. For our last night we had a big banquet type thing with all the host families of all the kids which was a ball. It was great to finally see all the host relatives that I had heard good stories about. My host dad, Mr. Liu, throughout the evening tried to set me up with the various members of our group, continuously pointing out that he thought "Alexandra keeps looking over here." and that he thought "Katie would make a good wife because she is playing with that child so much" and that he "Suggests I invite Liz over for dinner some day." He really never ceases to make me laugh.

Yesterday, on sunday, he insisted that I go on a tour of the city with him and their family friend, who makes me call him Chris, who speaks english. The total time spent was 6 hours, 1 temple, 1 provincial museum, one Kunming museum, one house of someone who was first in the national exam 100 years ago, one old military academy, one 100 year old restaurant with traditional Yunnan rice noodles, one park by a huge lake, 2 ancient pagodas, 5 bronze statues, one large university campus, one exhausted David. I had a ball just posing for pictures with Mr. Liu who insisted we take a photo together at least a couple times at each locale. Here are some of those pictures.

So, needless to say it was a pretty exciting day, capped off by my final dinner alone with my host family. The dinner was really fun, my host grandparents came over and one of my host brother's cousins. Here are a couple pics.
I guess the next thing working backwards was English corner. English corner happens every thursday in Kunming at this place called Green Lake Park. Hundreds of Chinese kids, college students, and adults who want to practice their oral english come together to speak english. As a native english speaker as soon as you show up to the place where they meet, you are immediately surrounded by at least 10 chinese people wanting to practice their english. This past thursday I even had this adorable 7 year old chinese girl whose english was much better than many of the other people their. As soon as she sees me she immediately goes "Why are your eyebrows..... why are your eyebrows.... so.... so.... so..." she tried to find the word and I helped to fill in the blank: "Big?" "Yes, so... so... big!" To which i responded "ummm, genetics...?" She continued to question me "Why is your hair.... umm... umm... black!" What do you say to that? I didnt really get a chance to respond when she goes "All americans hair is yellow, why is your hair black?!" I tried to explain that not all american's are blonde but she still didnt believe me. Her next question was "Do you like...sleep?!"
"Yes, I love to sleep."
She looked at me dumbfounded and goes "Then why are you awake?!"
Once again, what do you say to that, you can't make this stuff up.
After English corner Liz, Zach, and I skyped with a Montesori Middle School in Newburyport, MA which was awesome. They are doing a model UN later this year and are representing China, and they asked great questions and were really fun to talk to.
Teaching has been really fun in Kunming and I'm excited to try out my teaching skills in Sha Xi, where we are heading tomorrow. Alexandra and I got better and better at teaching our lesson plans towards the end of our time in the middle school. One class on thursday was so good that at the end when the bell rang for the end of the class we asked the class if we were done (which we were) to which the responded by yelling "Noo, we can go more, we don't want it to end." We eventually had to get to our next class but when we left the entire class mobbed us to get us to sign their english text books.
I can't think of anything else at the moment, as I am pretty tired and will go straight to bed after this, but China has been really fun so far. Really fun and really different. One of the questions we were asked on the skype call was "What has stood out as culturally different in China." Zach and I looked at each other and at the same time said "everything..." I'm definitely going to miss my host mother's dumplings, and playing ping pong everyday. It's almost sad that we are leaving Kunming right now because I feel like I'm just starting to get used to all the differences in our cultures. Anyway, hopefully I'll update everyone again soon.
One Love,
P.S. Thanks for the comments, I love hearing from everyone

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kunming Pt. II

It has been two weeks in China and I can now say "Hello" "How are you" "That was delicious" and "I want 4 plates of dumplings"; just the essential phrases. It has been a pretty crazy week or so, but I'll try to do my best to remember everything.

A regular day for me starts by waking up at around 7, showering (a welcome addition to the routine after Bua), and eating breakfast with one or all of the members of my host family. Breakfast is usually something pretty substantial like a hearty portion of rice noodles and beef. I start walking to school at like 8 or so, the University (Kunming Nationalities University) is about a 20 minute walk away. We have chinese class every morning for an hour which basically consists of me trying to pronounce words that my mouth does not want to pronounce. After that we usually have a lecture or something in the morning, this morning was on China's economic growth, which was really interesting. We then work on media projects (if you havent checked out the media projects from Ecuador, go to and watch/listen/read them) or discuss readings from the book we are reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire which is an awesome philosophy on oppression and education. After that Zach, Noah, and I usually find some sort of dumpling place or fried rice stand and hang out until we start teaching.

I started teaching this past Friday with Alexandra. We taught classes again on monday and tuesday but the kids had exams the past three days, so we didnt teach. Trying to teach english has been interesting to say the least. Teaching 65 13 year old chinese kids has its challenges. We have been having them practice their english by talking to them about American culture and having them practice dialogues and quizzing them on what we teach them throughout the class. Some highlights include: All of the kids singing in unison "We Will Rock You" by Queen, One kid, after we explained Halloween, raised his hand and with a very serious look on his face said "This Holiday is bad." when asked why it was bad he stood up and said "Because it is so rude to go around and ask people for candy."

China has been really interesting, and also really challenging. The cultural and the language is so different from what I got used to even in Bua that every day there seems to be a new obstacle to overcome. Whether it is trying to explain to my host parents that I will not be home for dinner, something they dont really understand, or trying to get a cab to take you to where you want to go, there is always something. I'm having a blast though and I really love the teaching. I am also getting insanely good at ping pong; my host dad, Mr. Liu, insists that I play with him almost every day. Tomorrow Noah, Zach, and I are going with Zach's host brother to play Badminton (which is hugely popular here), and then playing basketball against him and his friends.