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Today was officially our last day of teaching English class. It’s hard to imagine how fast time has gone, and it is a bittersweet feeling to see it end. I know that I probably wasn’t able to improve my students’ English a great amount, but I am still super proud of them all and I know I will miss them dearly.

Something interesting, but kind of sad, that I noticed while teaching these students, is that they enjoy being “savage” to each other. This sometimes went too far, I believe, and it could probably be labeled as extreme teasing or mild bullying. Right from the beginning of our classes, students weren’t scared to call each other fat or ugly. In these cases, I never knew what to do, as my Chinese wasn’t nearly good enough to comfort them (and we weren’t supposed to be speaking Chinese while teaching English class), and I just quickly moved on and tried to forget what had happened. They like to make fun of each other for looking like animals, as I witnessed today. While playing Heads Up/Charades to help the students learn about animals, words such as “pig” and “monkey” induced pointing at certain students. I feel bad that I didn’t know how to handle the situation, and all I could do was to quickly tell them to continue on with the game.

Aside from this, a great majority of my students were able to come out of their shells, and are now more confident with speaking English. I feel bad that I wasn’t able to learn a lot of their names, as many had no English names (there is no way I can remember so many Chinese names), and I really appreciate my students for working with me. Students that were terrified at the idea of speaking English (or rather any language) in front of me in the beginning, were more than happy to interact with me as we neared the end of our classes. I don’t know if this is a universal truth for all teachers, but I learned that I really appreciate the students that aren’t necessarily very good but try hard to speak and participate. Being willing to interact with me and try to improve, I believe, is probably the best way to learn a new language. You can’t just sit there, mouth shut, trying to learn a skill which requires you to move your mouth quite a bit.

This reminded me of something my mom used to tell me. Someone that is smart but doesn’t work hard will never be as successful as someone who isn’t smart but works very hard. No matter what you do, you need to put in effort to improve, and learning a new language pertains to this.

Something that many of our team members have noticed during our experience in China so far, is that Chinese people have so many misconceptions about America. The biggest one is that people from America are all white. When I tell people that I am from America, they begin to get confused because I look like them. I don’t think they understand the concept of being Asian-American, or just the simple fact that America is just a melting pot of many cultures and types of people. Today on the bus, I heard a student say, “In America, everyone has blue eyes.” What? After all this time having Duke students among them, he most likely still thought that everyone in America was white, had high nose bridges, and had blue eyes? I’ve grown used to having to explain that my parents immigrated to America, but I wish that these false impressions didn’t exist in their minds. I guess it just goes to demonstrate the power of the American media on foreign countries.

Something totally random that I wanted to talk about was car honking. In America, you honk your horn if someone is being an idiot or is pissing you off, while in China you use your car honk as a form of communication to signal your presence and such (also if someone is being an idiot). This little example reminded me of how I believe some things that Chinese people do are more correct that Americans, such as the air conditioning thing. I believe that if the Chinese culture of car honking were to be implemented in the states, there would be fewer accidents, and therefore, fewer vehicle-related injuries and deaths.

For a few last random notes about cool things that happened this past week, we visited the Zhuhai campus for Jilin University and were able to interact with people our age. After having to teach middle schoolers every day, it was certainly very invigorating being able to talk to other college students. After spending the day seeing their campus, playing golf, and eating dinner, I was able to meet some really nice students. I felt sad having to leave them, despite only having spent a day with them.

We went to Shanghai for a weekend and enjoyed the surprisingly beautiful and cool weather. Despite having to wait at the Zhuhai airport and having our flights cancelled and almost losing my phone (I had like three heart attacks), we luckily choose this past weekend to visit, and I was able to walk around outside in Shanghai without exhausting my already poor, exhausted sweat glands.

One of the main attractions of Shanghai is the Bund, and as we made our way there, along with thousands of other tourists on the crowded street, I had a sudden realization. A year ago, while me and my father had a 5 hour layover in the Shanghai airport, we took the subway into Shanghai and then walked alongside thousands of tourists towards the city skyline. I had been at the Bund a year earlier, and I hadn’t even known (thanks Dad). This time, however, I saw the city skyline at night, and it was absolutely stunning. A constant, refreshing breeze accompanied our sightseeing, and the night was pretty much perfect. With the help of our Duke friends Harrison and Jie, we were able to see so many great aspects of Shanghai, eat great food, and wonder at the modern-ness and beauty of the city.

Something random but interesting we constantly observed while entering the subway was how people treated the security guards. In order to enter the subway, security needed to scan your bags, and one guard beckoned for all those who were entering to put their bags on the conveyor belt so they could be scanned. No one listened. Person after person, the guard asked. Person after person simply ignored them and continued on. I realize that many people are busy, but for this security guard to put up with this norm was amusing but also heartbreaking. They already know that no one will want to scan their bag, and yet they must continue to ask.

On our last day in Shanghai, we woke up bright and early to go to Disneyland. It took about 1.5 hours to travel there, and another 1-2 hour to wait to get through security, get tickets, and enter the park. It rained the whole day and I changed my socks about 5 times, and the lines to get on the more popular rides had waiting times approaching 3-4 hours (RIP Soaring, sad face). Aside from these setbacks and a hotel issue, it turned out to be lots of fun. Caroline and Aditya, thanks for taking one for the team, and traveling all the way back to the hotel to sort out the issue. Aditya, you a good man. Until next time. Daniel out.