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That feeling when the Vice Principal asks you if you liked the game that she just made you play…

We were two teams of Duke students with lists of 20 tasks. We were to follow the students to each classroom and take a pictures with students in each class (i.e. 2 students with long hair in class 12, the class computer chair in class 3, 5 students with who like to read in class 10), check the box, and on to the next task. Rules: 1) We were only allowed to speak English with the students. 2) We had to go through the list in order–aka no economizing on our stair usage.

In group discussion, our first of these 8 weeks in Zhuhai, we opened by reading a Duke Engage Zhuhai 2011 final blog post by Rebecca Pham. This led to an important discussion about building connections with the kids. While all of us our Duke students, some of us look more foreign than others and so naturally, kids might be more interested in some students. This is my fourth visit to China. It is something that I anticipated. I understand that diversity is a beautiful and complicated thing. Everyone has a story but some stories are easier to understand depending on the time and space.

For me, this first week is about orienting my expectations. What kinds of English vocabulary should the students know by the end of these next months? What kinds of formations would be best for the dance they will do in their final performance? How will there be enough time to fit everything in?

But I’m reminded of our photo scavenger hunt. Con’s: We ran a lot. It was hot. I’m not any better at not getting lost in their gigantic school. But PRO’s!: I got to do all of that running and sweaty photo-taking with really wonderful people.

Long afternoon short. We decided to call an audible when we got stuck in one of the buildings. Then we were down a member and thought it best to call it quites when the other group finished while we were on task 14.

If the point of the activity was to introduce us to the layout of the school and its facilities, I definitely feel like we did come in second (or 5000th) place. But if the goal was to build a memory as a part of a learning adventure, I feel like any place is a good place while we are in Duke Engage at Zhuhai No. 9 School.

So before we get to the flashcards and the final poses, let me just notice where I am and say that I am so thankful. From what I have heard, there is a whole whirlwind of experiences ahead of us. I anticipate lots of ‘I handled that poorly’ moments, but ultimately nothing but success (whatever that will materialize to be).


Vice-principal: Did you like that activity?

Me: Yes, I enjoyed it very much! Thank you!

P.S. I drafted this with my very fluffy, very polka-doted, pink second-prize pen.