Chronicles of the Chinese Learning Woodcarvers

Friday, August 14, 2009


I am currently typing this on my flight back to the states. And in the new few weeks, I will do my best to process my experience. Anyway, I feel like much of my writing has been about my political endeavors, rather than the teaching that actually goes on. Hence, I am going to use some pictures to give some idea of the dynamics of the classroom, and essentially what I have been doing everyday for the past 7 weeks for 2 hours at night:


This is the classroom as it is being prepped for class. Usually during the day, workers using the roof as shade from the sun. At around 6 or so, they close up their work, and head out. Students then start trickling in as they finish up washing themselves and gathering their materials for class.


This is a view of the classroom from the side. As one can see, there are some workers under the roof working. This is what it usually looks like from the day. Sitting on the bench is the chairman and to his left on the floor is one of my students.


Here are my students working hard to understand what is going on. In their hands are the textbooks that I have created.


Here is a better shot of what the students are paying attention to. This lesson involves the important grammatical structure of 因为。。。所以。。。 (Kwa sababu... kwa hivyo... Because... therefore).

The Comedy:

The following pictures are taken when students were preparing for the comedy, to which some people of the Chinese Embassy attended. In total, we had 6 sections, and I will type up each skit and follow it with pictures:

Group #1 (Kikundi cha Kwanza):

Keflas: 先生,你好吗?你今天过地怎么样?请进!来看一看!(Sir, how are you? How are you today? Please come in, come take a look!)

Steven and Joseph: 我们有很多犀牛!(We have lots of rhinos!)

(Sebastian passing says "不要!" (I don't want it!), another group of Chinese speaking customers enters)

Kelfas: 欢迎光临!大家来看一看!(Welcome! Welcome! Everyone come take a look!)

Steven and Joseph: 我们有很多很大的犀牛!(We have lots of big rhinos!)

(Pius, Nampwahi, and Faustin pass saying "不要!" (don't want it). Lawrence enters as the final passerby-er)

Kelfas: 朋友!欢迎你来看一看我们的商品!(Friend! Welcome, take a look at my wares!)

Steven and Joseph: 我们有很多大的和很好的犀牛!(We have lots of big and great rhinos!)

Lawrence: 哎哟!你为什么一直叫,‘我有很多犀牛?’” (Aiyo! Why do you keep yelling, "I have lots of rhinos!)

Kelfas: 他们一直叫因为很多中国人很喜欢犀牛!(They keep yelling because lots of Chinese people like rhinos!)

Lawrence: 算了,我走了!(Forget it! I'm leaving!)


Here, storeowners Kelfas (red), Steven (orange), and Joseph (Blue) try futilely to invite a group of Chinese speaking customers, Pius (left), Nampwahi (right of Pius).


Here, Lawrence (left), wonders why Kelfas, Steven, and Joseph keep yelling "我们有很多犀牛!" (We have lots of rhinos!)

Group #2:

Njudi: 先生,欢迎,请进!(Sir, welcome, come in!)

Pius and Gerald: 谢谢!(Thank you!)

Njudi: 请问你们在找什么?(May I ask what you are looking for?)

Gerald: 我们在找犀牛。 你有没有犀牛?(We are looking for rhinos. Do you have rhinos?)

Njudi: 当然有!你在找大的还是小的犀牛呢?(Of course! Are you looking for a big or a little rhino?)

Gerald: 我们在找大的犀牛!(We are looking for big rhinos)

Njudi: 这个够大吗?(Is this big enough?)

Pius: 这个太小了。你有更大的吗?(This is too small! Do you have any bigger ones?)

Njudi: 当然有。这个够大吗?(Of course! Is this big enough?)

Pius: 这个还是太小。(This is still too small)

Njudi: 这个还是太小?真的吗?(This is still too small? Really?)

Pius: 真的!(Really!)

Njudi: 这个犀牛很大。 你觉得他够大吗?(This rhino is really big. Is it big enough?)

Pius: 当然不够!这些犀牛都那么小。开玩笑!(Of course not! All these rhinos are so small! Are you kidding me!?)

Njudi: 对不起。我没有更大的。(Sorry. I don't have any bigger ones)

Pius: 算了!我们走了!(Forget it! We're leaving!)

Njudi: 请再来!哎,今天生意真不好!(Please come again! Ai! Business really isn't good today)


Here is Raphael telling Njudi about the big rhino that he wants.


Pius is really unhappy with all the fact that Njudi only supplies small rhinos.

Group #3:

Gabriel: 诶! 朋友,请进,来看一看我的犀牛!(Hey! Friend! Come take a look at the rhinos!)

Nampwahi: 我门在找一个大的犀牛!(We are looking for one big rhino!)

Gabriel: 啊!大的犀牛。这个犀牛够大吗?(A big rhino? Is this rhino big enough?)

Nampwahi: 够大!这个要多少钱?(It is big enough. How much is this?)

Gabriel: 这个十万块!(This is 10,000 shillings!)

Sebastian: 十万块!不可能!太贵了!(10,000shillings!? It couldn't be. It's too expensive!)

Gabriel: 不贵!因为这个犀牛很好,所以要十万! (It's not expensive. Because this rhino is good, so it costs 10,000!)

Sebastian: 开玩笑!这个犀牛很不好!(You are kidding me! This rhino is not good!)

Gabriel: 那里很不好!这个犀牛质量特别高。你看,他的眼睛很漂亮。他的角很坚!(How is it not good? This rhino's quality is really high. Take a look, its' eyes are really pretty, its' horn is really sharp!

Sebastian: 可是我觉得这个犀牛很丑。(But I feel this rhino is ugly!)

Gabriel: 一点儿都不丑。这个犀牛又可爱,质量又很高!你为什么不喜欢它呢?(It's not ugly at all! This rhino is really cute, and its quality is high! Why do you not like it!?)

Sebastian: 因为他很丑!(Because it is ugly!)

Gabriel: 如果你觉得他很丑,那你为什么要买它呢?(If you think it is ugly, then why do you want to buy it?)

Sebastian and Nampwahi: 哎哟!算了,我走了!(Forget it! I'm leaving!)


Unfortunately, for a week or so, Gabriel was missing so I had to take over. This means that the camera work is not quite great, as the students have rarely used cameras in their lives, but they are sufficient. Here Sebastian is telling me about how ugly the rhino is .


Nampwahi a bit shocked as to just how ugly the rhino is.

Group #4:

Yohana: 欢迎光临。请问你在找犀牛吗?(Welcome! Welcome! Are you looking for rhinos?)

Mchingawa: 是的。你怎么知道的?(Yes. How did you know?)

Yohana: 因为我有先见之明?(Because I have the ability to predict the future)

Mchingawa: 哇!太厉害了!这个犀牛多贵?(Wow! That's incredible! How much is this rhino?)

Yohana: 因为你是我的朋友,所以这个只要五万块!(Because you are my friend, so this is only 50,000 shillings!)

Faustin: 五万块!开玩笑!太贵了!五百块好了!(50,000 shillings! You're kidding me! It's too expensive. 500 shillings!)

Yohana: 朋友,连小的犀牛都要一万块。这么大的犀牛怎么可能五百块?(My friend, even a small rhino costs 10,000 shillings. How in the world could a rhino as big as this cost 500 shillings?)

Faustin: 那一万块,好了?(Then 10,000?)

Yohana: 朋友。你开我玩笑吧!(My friend. You've got to be kidding me!)

Hashim: 两万块!(20,000)

Yohana: 还是太便宜了!四万,好了! (It's still too cheap. 40,000!)

Faustin: 四万!? 我只有两万!(40,000! I only have 20,000!)

Yohana: 啊!两万块!那你只能买这个小的犀牛!(Ah! 20,000? Then you can only buy this small rhino.)

Faustin: 哎哟!算了,我走了!(Aiyo! Forget it! I'm leaving!)

Yohana: 哎! 今天生意真不好! (Ai! Business sure is no good today!)


Yohana (right) greeting his customers Faustin, Hashim, and Mchingawa (from left to right).


And the customers leave after being upset with the dialogue!

Group #5:

Peter: 先生, 这个多少钱?(Sir! How much is this?)

Amiry: 这个八万八千八百八十八块!(This is 88888 shillings)

Peter: 哇!那么贵!(Wow! That expensive?!)

Amiry: 虽然比较贵,可是很划算!(Though it is a little expensive, but it's worth it!)

Peter: 为什么?(Why?)

Amiry: 你看。有五个八, 所以你会发发发发发!不是很好吗?(Take a look. There are 5 eights, so you will get rich rich rich rich rich *This is a cultural note. Chinese like the number eight because it sounds close to the word for "get rich". This is what is going on here.)

Peter: 哎哟, 还是太贵了!四万四千四百四十四块好了?(Aiyo! It's still too expensive. 44444, ok?)

Amiry: 绝对不可以!(Absolutely not!)

Peter: 为什么?(Why?)

Amiry: 因为不能让你死死死死死!(Because I cannot let you die die die die die! *This is another cultural note. Chinese do not like the number four because it sounds like the word for death.)

Felix: 你还懂点中国文化!(You know a bit about Chinese culture!)

Amiry: 是的,因为我有中文老师,也上中文课,所以我懂一点儿。(Yes. Because I have a Chinese teacher, and go to Chinese class, so I know a little.)

Mpende: 啊!是吗?你的中文非常好。你是一个很好的学生!(Ah! Is that so? Your Chinese is really good! You are a good student!)

Amiry: 对啊!欢迎你们来看一看!(Yes! Welcome you to come again!)

Mpende: 好的。我明天再来!(Ok. I will come again!)

Amiry: 明天见!(See you tomorrow!)


Here, Amiry (right) shows Felix (left) and Peter (middle) the importance of 8 in the Chinese language.


Peter, in response, shows Amiry what he thinks to be a fairer price.


Mpende (middle) and Felix (right) compliment Amiry (not shown) on his fantastic Chinese cultural knowledge.

Group 6:

This group had two versions of conversation. One was before Ms. Wu decided to stop teaching, and one after she decided to stop teaching. I will post them both, though the students' lines did not change much:

Vincent: 你们好。(Hey guys!)

Saimoni and Gissi: 你好。(Hey)

Saimoni: Vincent, 你在找什么?(Vincent, what are you looking for?)

Vincent: 我在找中文老师。(I am looking for a Chinese teacher)

Saimoni: 诶!我们已经有一个中文老师啊!(Ei! We already have a Chinese teacher!)

Vincent: 是的,可是他走了以后,谁会教我们呢?(Yes, but after he leaves, who will teach us?)

Gissi: 这个是一个问题。我们去找找看吧!(This is a problem. Let's go search!)

(Students walk around in search of a teacher. At this time, Ms. Wu would enter)

Vincent: 你是不是中国人?(Are you a Chinese person?)

Ms. Wu: 是的。(Yes)

Vincent: 我们在找中文老师。 你有兴趣吗?(We are looking for a Chinese teacher. Are you interested?)

Ms. Wu: 有。你们在那里学中文?(Yes. Where do you guys learn Chinese?)

Saimoni: 在 Mwenge. 你可以教我们中文吗?(At Mwenge. Can you teach us Chinese?)

Ms. Wu: 当然可以。(Of course I can!)

Saimoni: 可是我们很穷,所以我们没有钱。(But we are poor, so we don't have money)

Ms Wu: 没有问题!(No problem)

Vincent: 好极了!请问你的贵姓?(Great! What is your family name?)

Ms. Wu: 我姓吴。(My family name is Wu)

All the students: 欢迎吴老师!!!(Welcome Teacher Wu!)

After Ms. Wu decided that she was too busy. The first half prior to the search stayed the same. The second half changed. Instead of Ms. Wu entering, another student, Kashmiry, entered first.

Vincent: 你是不是中国人?(Are you a Chinese person?)

Kashmiry:: 不是!! (No!!)

(At this point, I enter the classroom as just another Chinese person)

Vincent: 我们在找中文老师。 你有兴趣吗?(We are looking for a Chinese teacher. Are you interested?)

Me: 你们在那里学中文?(Where do you guys learn Chinese?)

Saimoni: 在 Mwenge. 你可以教我们中文吗?(At Mwenge. Can you teach us Chinese?)

Me: 也许可以。(Maybe I can)

Saimoni: 可是我们很穷,所以我们没有钱。(But we are poor, so we don't have money)

Me: 哎,对不起,那这个我就做不到。(Sorry, then this I cannot do)

(I leave the stage)

All the students: 唉!我们该怎么办!?(Ai! What should we do now?)


Vincent (left), Saimoni (middle), Gissi (right) discuss what needs to be done after their Chinese teacher leaves.


Vincent and Gissi on the search for a new teacher. Nampwahi looking at them as if they're crazy.


At times, I felt like a drama coach, instructing the students on some appropriate hand and arm movements. This gesture in particular went with the line: 唉!我们该怎么办! (Ai! What should we do now!?)


Gissi gives his best impersonation of me.


And here is Amiry getting a little too into the acting.


Everybody now!


This was party night. We actually had a lot more drinks under the table, but the ones on the table were for the guests of honor, the embassy members. I didn't actually take pictures of the embassy members once they got here (I should have) so this is all I have to show for it for now.


Here is a photo taken on the last day of class. Quite a few of the students are absent, so it is far from complete, but still, it's a very good one!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


In an odd conversation, yesterday, I actually met Councilman Sun, who is the head of the cultural division at the woodcarvers' market. He happened to be looking at some carvings in the chairman's shop, and the chairman called me over to talk with him. I don't think he really cared much for my project (but he did know about, and was aware that two people from his department attended a presentation yesterday), and instead, he was really happy to find out that I was from America, because he'd be going there in a month or so to buy a new car to send back to China. I gave him my contact information, and it seemed like he would actually contact me when he gets to the US. Yeah, pretty weird, but maybe if I do him this favor, he'll be more likely to help out some woodcarvers in Tanzania. What a weird way to build a relationship.

Today I visited Ms. Wang at the embassy, mostly to say thanks and fairwell. It was particularly nice because I really had no goal in mind and we chatted about various topics from the woodcarvers' market, comparing US and China education systems, why I took Swahili, and many things that weren't directly related to the project at hand.. I felt that it was a very solid cultural exchange, and am thankful I got to talk to her in let's say a non-political setting. She did comment that she thought the students had learned quite a lot in a short amount of time, and in addition, that she was surprised that Ms. Wu had cancelled since Ms. Wang thought that it was a great opportunity for the Chinese people to connect with Tanzanians. The only thing that I ended up asking of her and the embassy to do was to continue printing my books for the students as I sent them to the embassy. As a gift to the embassy, I also gave her a Swahili-English dictionary. Just trying to end on a good note.

At today's class, I talked with the students about a method for them to continue learning their Chinese and not forget. Basically, my plan is as follows: I will continue recording sound bits in America of the dialogues that are in my textbook. I will then send them over the internet to one of the more well off students, who will then download it onto a USB drive. He has an MP3 player device that he can then connect to some speakers and play the sound bits. It is in this manner that students will be able to learn new material. Of course, they have covered a lot of stuff in class already that they have yet to mastered or have forgotten, and reviewing these will also be valuable. At the end, I emphasized that it was now up to them to learn the Chinese. They have a foundation, and there is no reason why they cannot continue to learn some new lessons and review everything which they have learned. Once they finish the book that I have created, I will write a second part, which I will ask the Chinese Embassy to print.

Another interesting idea came to me about a week earlier when one of my students told me that a Chinese customer tried to buy his Swahili-Chinese textbook. My student refused to sell out (which I was actually extremely proud of since it meant he valued his Chinese learning over a few thousand or ten thousand shillings). I figure if I can create a text that teaches Swahili to Chinese people, then I might be able to make some money of these books. Instead of myself making money, however, I can ship these texts to the woodcarvers, who can then sell them to Chinese people. I've decided that all the money from these sales would then go toward doing something for the Chinese class at the woodcarvers' market such as hiring a teacher, or fixing broken benches. I'm not sure how successful it will be, but it does not seem to be a bad idea. Something that's really appealing to me right now is that if I ever get the money, I'll try to build a better school for the woodcarvers, but that's a long-term goal.

I'll be leaving in two days, and I haven't really had much time to draw conclusions about the work I've done. When I get back to the states, I'll likely take a few days to let it sink in.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Yesterday, Friday, I was interviewed by an Mwananchi/The Citizen editor, who came with a photographer to take some pictures. The interview lasted about half an hour, but I think they were more interested in the reasons I took Swahili and came to this country, rather than the state of the Chinese school. After this, however, they also talked with the chairman, who I think gave a lot more specifics about the Chinese class. In addition, they were able to come attend an actual class, so I think they have a fairly good idea about some of the things that are going on. Unfortunately, I was told that the article would be published after I had left Tanzania (the reason I was given because it would take up a lot of space), so I may be unable to get a hard copy of it, but I will be able to read it on the internet, and might get one of my professors here to ship me a copy.

Friday night, as I was wrapping up class, I also received a call from Ms. Wang, telling me that they would indeed be coming. I was very excited and after I told the students, they were revved up as well. Upon returning to my host family, however, I received another call from Ms. Wang asking if I could move the time up so that more people from the embassy could go. I said I'd do my best and call her back tomorrow.

On Saturday morning, I headed over to the woodcarvers market, and while waiting for the chairman to arrive, I talked with one of my students,C. Mchingawa, who is an old man who still carves everyday. He told me that if necessary, the students would do the performance whenever the embassy would come. He said it was important to try to take hold of the opportunity to show off their Chinese. I decided to call again in the morning to ask for an ideal time, but soon I was told by Ms. Wang that a time change was no longer needed because not many people could go even if the time were changed. When the chairman arrived, we went to print out a report that I had typed on the Chinese class that we would give to the Chinese Embassy and any other media members that arrived. We also made some preparations to obtain 4 crates of sodas for the event at night.

In the afternoon, I received a call from the Mwananchi editor saying that he could not come because he had just been assigned to go to Morogoro. This was fine as he already had obtained the story the previous day, but I still feel it was a lost opportunity because people from the embassy would have been present. Now if the embassy showed up, and we had said that we would invite people from the media as well as the new teacher, it would look fairly bad.

In the end, only people from the embassy came, which was something good in itself. It was actually a pretty awkward experience, however. Upon arriving Ms. Wang and Mr. Cheng, another member of the embassy, drove their car onto the soccer field in which the school was located. The chairman greeted them, and they gave the chairman some gifts from the embassy, which included some DVDs and books. I then introduced the embassy members to the students, who then welcomed them in Chinese. Up to that point, things seemed to go ok, but then I had to give a speech of sorts to explain why we were gathered here, and since everyone knew different languages, I thought the best language to use would be English. Unfortunately, I have not spoken English for a really long time, and everything that I said, sounded really awkward to me. Anyway, after mumbling something about how we're excited that the embassy has come, that the Chinese community has done much for Tanzania, but a cultural aspect is sorely lacking, the students started their presentations.

I thought the presentations were fairly good. There were a few errors here and there, but that is to be expected. I do not believe the people from the embassy were that impressed, however. There were a few laughs here and there from Ms. Wang and Mr. Cheng, but overall, the atmosphere seemed pretty tense. Also, they asked me many questions during the presentations, which first of all, may have suggested they were disinterested, but the questions also pointed to a lack of absence from other media members and the teacher that I said we inivited. After the students finished the presentation, the chairman tried to get the embassy members to speak a few words, but they kindly declined, and soon they were off. Unfortunately, upon trying to leave, their car got stuck on an incline, and they asked us to bring them some boards. Unfortunately, all the stores were closed already so there were no boards to be found. Eventually, they went at a different angle down the slope and everything was ok. Anyway, I felt we did not exactly give off the best impression, and most of that is my fault for not doing more preparations. Either way, I'm glad they came and hopefully in some way, encouraged the students to continue learning.

I think another thing that went wrong was that we tried to write letters to the media members only. In fact, the only media member that turned up was one in which I personally wrote an e-mail to. If not for them, no one would be covering this story. My guess is not that other media outlets are not interested, but that the person sitting at the front desk never had time, or forgot to give the letter to one of the editors.

Anyway, I think I will call the embassy again on Monday to thank Ms. Wang, apologize for the car incident, and explain more clearly the teacher situation. Before leaving, I hope that the embassy agrees to print more books, if I send them through e-mail. Perhaps in return, I can also make Swahili books for Chinese learners. This way it will be a kind of mutual learning process, rather than a more one sided affair.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I have translated the dialogue that I posted on 7/31/09.

I got some terrible news yesterday, that Ms. Wu, the teacher I that once accepted to teach, can no longer do so. She has just been lined up to do five more programs over the next year or so, and hence, will be really busy. Honestly, I am very understanding to her situation, and am still very appreciative that she even thought about teaching the woodcarvers. What I am disappointed about though, is that I could not have been told earlier. With only less than 5 days left here in Tanzania, it is unlikely that I will be able to find another teacher in time.

Anyways, there is no time for me to sulk about the loss of a teacher here, as the small party I am planning will be taking place tomorrow. I have had to change one of the groups' skits, from welcoming the new teacher, to one in which the students are still continuing to seek a teacher, and in the end, are disappointed a new one cannot come. The last line ends with a somber, 哎,我们该怎么办? (Sigh! What should we do now?).

Things aren't really that depressing, and if the party were not tomorrow, I would restructure the latter half of the skit so that it would be much more optimistic, but in this way, the students in this skit group only have to add one additional line. Sometime later, I'll post all the skits that the students have done, so it'll be easier to understand.

My plan as of now is to stay at the woodcarvers market from 8 in the morning until 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday to try to talk to some more Chinese people about my project. It likely will not do much good, but it can't hurt to try. As for a backup plan, it may be possible for me to try to continue to send voice clips through the internet of the lessons to one of the more well off students (he is a businessmen and is professionally trained as a teacher), and then he can relay the lessons to the other students. Anyway, my goal as of now has shifted gears a bit from finding another teacher, to thinking of a way in which they can simply retain what they already have learned. Once I leave, I think many of the students may lose the desire to learn Chinese, but if they are really determined about it, it is entirely possible that they can continue to meet after work everyday in order to review the vast amount of Chinese which they have already learned. I've basically done all I can do, and now it is up to the students to take responsibility for retaining the Chinese language skills that they have acquired.

After I return to the US, I am going to try to get Princeton to start an internship where a student or two or three would do exactly what I have done this summer. The only requirements would be that they have sufficient Chinese skills to teach it (Mine are by no means, great), and that they have a willingness to learn the Swahili language. They will take courses at the University of Dar Es Salaam, and at night, would teach the woodcarvers. Hopefully, this ensures that at least every summer they will be able to continue learning Chinese. I think many students would be attracted to it, and it seems like Princeton, in the service of all nations, would readily try to eat up (hopefully the bureaucracy at Princeton University is not nearly as bad as it is here).

Despite the bad news, I do have a bit of good news as well. Earlier in the week, the chairman and I delivered letters to different newspapers and media groups, hoping that they'd turn out. One of the groups we missed, however, was the Mwananchi/The Citizen, because the chairman did not really know where their office was. This was a bit disappointing for me because it is the first paper I started reading here in Tanzania, and it was the one that my professor recommended I use as a means of learning Swahili. It also seems to be the paper that many professors on the University of Dar Es Salaam campus are reading. Anyway, this week, I took it upon myself to contact this paper through e-mail this Wednesday, and the following day, they responded asking to interview me as well as take a look at the Chinese class. The editor seemed really excited to hear about this story, and perhaps, even if the Chinese Embassy as well as the Chinese community do not show much interest in such a program, if the Tanzanian papers report favorably upon such teaching, it may change the minds of the Embassy. Any press is good press at this point, I think, and I really have not much to lose since I am leaving the country soon.

So an exciting few days ahead. I'll likely report again sometime Sunday/Monday after everything has settled a bit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I'm just counting down the days until small party will occur. I am preparing a small speech of sorts, and am doing my best not to put in small jabs at the Chinese embassy for not doing more earlier. Being diplomatic is difficult. I understand that the embassy may be busy with bigger and better things, but what I don't understand is why they cannot find a time to send just one person to take a look at a classroom where students are learning Chinese. Especially in the case where the media may be present, this seems like an invaluable opportunity for them to encourage Chinese learning. I've essentially laid the groundwork, and all they have to do is show up for an hour. Of course, I am extremely biased on this issue, and if someone could shed light, that'd be helpful.

If people from the embassy come, the chairman wants to request that the embassy donate a television and television stand, as well as tapes of that Communicate in Chinese program that is sometimes shown by CCTV, so that students will be able to watch on nights that a teacher cannot come. I think this is a horrendous idea, and really makes the woodcarvers look like their grasping for luxuries rather than trying to really learn Chinese. With that kind of money, it is easily possible to hire a teacher for 2 months or so, I believe. The chairman, however, seems infatuated with this idea, and though I have yet to confront him about it, I think I will soon.

A better idea, I think, would be to ask the Chinese Embassy to help renovate the current school, which is really nothing more than a school. This gives the embassy big publicity, since they will have built the actual school (and can place a huge sign in front of it, that say donated by the Chinese Embassy), and the woodcarvers get a much nicer facility for their learning. My only problem with this is that the chairman might try to hike up the price for students to attend, which is already a big issue. If I ever get enough money to make some kind of huge donation, I think the first place it would go would be to build a Chinese school at the Woodcarvers' market, and make sure that woodcarvers could go there for essentially free.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I finished the report by Friday evening, and after some great editing by my aunt, I sent it to Ms. Wang. She called me to let me know she received it on Saturday, and asked for me to clarify some things. She then told me she'd give the report to the leader who would then make a decision as to whether they can or cannot make it. So I am currently playing the waiting game again as to whether they will or will not come.

I think the embassy was just trying to wait it out and hoping that I would give up eventually. I've been pestering them for weeks about finding an available date and they've just kept telling me they've been busy and busier. Originally, I wanted to give them the flexibility to choose a day, but that turned out to be horrible. Then I limited their flexibility to one of two Saturdays to which there was no response, and then finally, this Saturday. I think that I've set out a date has made them realize that, "Oh wait, this kid is actually serious about us coming to look at his Chinese class. And he's trying to get the media involved? Uh-oh, we better change our plans."

Another thing that kind of irked me was that originally in my first letter to the embassy, I had asked for four things:

1) Printing of my books
2) Finding of a teacher to continue
3) Donation of some chalkboards, chalk, notebooks, and in the future, possibly restructuring the Woodcarver's school (a long-term goal to be certain)
4) Working together to throw a party for the students.

They did the first relatively hassle free, but number 2 and 4 I've had to do on my own. The other day in her phone call, Ms. Wang asked that if we still wanted them to throw a party since I was already organizing one, to which I responded "No, we don't need that anymore," but to which I really wanted to say, "Since you never were really serious about planning one, I had to go ahead and pay all the expenses." Anyway, I'm just really bothered that the embassy would not jump on this story and try its' best to present itself in a better light. There may be something I'm missing though...

On Saturday and Sunday, I was witness to some of the most hilarious buyer-seller conversations. On the weekend, there are always lots of Chinese people who visit and try to buy stuff (In fact, many of the Chinese make it a weekly event), and so this means tons of opportunities for students to interact with the Chinese customers. Here's how one of the conversations went down:

Student: 欢迎,请进。来看一看! (Welcome! Come and take a look!)

Chinese person: 我要五个犀牛。 一个犀牛一万五。(I want five rhinos. One rhino for 15,000)

Student: 一个犀牛一万五。不可能。一个犀牛三万。(One rhino for 15,000? That's not possible. One for 30,000)

Chinese person: (Starting to get mad). 我说,一个犀牛一万五。我买五个!(I said, one rhino for 15,000! I'm buying 5)

Student: 这个犀牛很好! (This rhino is really good!)

Chinese person: (Getting madder!) 哎呀!我说,一个犀牛一万五。我买五个!(Aiya! I said, one rhino for 15,000. I'm buying 5!)

Student: 朋友,这些犀牛特别好!(Friend, this rhino is super good!)

Chinese person: (Now absolutely fuming!) 哎哟。我知道了啊!一个犀牛一万五! 我买五个!!! (Aiyo! I know already! One rhino for 15,000. I'm buying 5!)

Student: 开玩笑!不可能 (You're kidding! It's not possible!)

(Chinese person leaves)

While it's sad that the student didn't make the sale, at least he had an opportunity to debate a little bit, and frustrate the Chinese person. Chinese people generally fall on two sides of the fence in terms of reaction. There is one group like the guy above who either seem to try to not to discuss in Chinese, and another groups that become really happy and amazed when they realize the woodcarvers know a bit of Chinese. At one point in one store, three of my students were all telling this one Chinese guy about how good the 犀牛 (rhino) was, by using stuff they learned like, "这个犀牛很大 (The rhino is big),所以比较贵 (so it is more expensive).,质量很高 (The quality is very high),这个犀牛的眼睛很漂亮 (The rhino's eyes are very pretty. This last one really made the Chinese guy start laughing). The one Chinese guy also tried leaving about 4 times, and each time he was called back with "来来来" (Come, come, come) or "先生,再来!(Sir, come again!)" It made me really proud to see them actually using the language, and reminded me, "Wow! This really is useful!"

Friday, July 31, 2009


It's neat that the party that we are planning for Chinese class will fall on 8/8. That's got to be good luck, right?

Anyway, today Focus and I journeyed into the city to attempt to deliver the rest of the letters. Focus thought it'd be wise to invite the public relations portions of the big cell phone companies Vodacom, Zain, and Tigo to this party as well. A number of local government officials and also the police office were among the other places that we needed to go. This is a long process, and before Focus got tired of walking (He is quite a big man, and quite old as well), we only had delivered four or so letters, and we have about 12 remaining. I guess we'll just have to go Monday. Nothing ever gets done in Tanzania with phone calls or emails, but if you visit someone and give them a letter, then that apparently means a lot. It'll be interesting to see how any people actually show up next Saturday.

In other news, I received a phone call from Ms. Wang, informing me that she wanted to write a report on the Chinese learning woodcarvers. When I asked who would be getting it, she told me not to worry about it... Anyway, needless to say, I started writing immediately and will try to get it back to her tomorrow. It's taken almost 6 weeks, but at least the embassy is finally doing something with the project. Ms. Wang was ambiguous of whether she would be coming next Saturday (though she did mention she got the letter from Focus), but at the very least, this report is something in the right direction. Ms. Wang specifically asked me to write down the woodcarvers' request for more blackboards, benches, chalk, and notebooks, which leads me to believe that perhaps they will be donating this stuff next Saturday. That would be one way to make themselves look good.