Letters from China: Fourth of July, UT Restaurant in Nanjing, and Chinese Names

Lola150Twenty-eight faculty, staff, and students have taken Big Orange Country to China through an English immersion summer camp—and the UT community can follow their adventures over the next two weeks. Team member Lola Alapo, public relations specialist in the Office of Communications and Marketing, is sending back reports about the group’s work and adventures.

China day 10
10:15 p.m. Monday, July 4

Happy birthday, America! We all wore red, white, and blue to class today. We’ve been talking about the Fourth of July for a few days so some of our Chinese students also showed up in red, white, and blue in honor of Independence Day. I gave my students a bunch of mango taffy to celebrate. (Not quite the festive holiday color but orange will do any day!)

Kayla Smith of the Thornton Center, far right, and her students present "This Land is Your Land" in celebration of Independence Day.

Kayla Smith of the Thornton Center, far right, and her students present “This Land is Your Land” in celebration of Independence Day.

Kayla Smith of the Thornton Center has been discussing American holidays with her students. In celebration of the Fourth of July, her students learned “This Land is Your Land” and sang it to all campers today. The presentation included pictures and maps of various states they had hand-drawn. Each student raised a map when their US state was named in the song. Very cool!

Today was a good opportunity for me to learn about Chinese holidays and festivals, particularly the lesser-known ones. My students gave me a list of five (Qing Ming Festival, Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Red Lantern Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival). I broke them into table groups and tasked them with researching the holiday–the meaning, food, activities, etc.—which they then presented to the class. I love that as my students are growing in their grasp of the English language, I’m also growing in my knowledge of Chinese culture (and a teeny bit of language).

Sign leading to Jimmy's restaurant.

Sign leading to Jimmy’s restaurant.

For dinner, the UT crew went to Jimmy’s, a UT-themed restaurant right here in Nanjing. The restaurant signage in the street—complete with a Power T (Go Vols!!)—was like a beacon of light directing us to this haven of delectable food.

We were all excited about the prospect of a good hamburger and pizza. The restaurant did not disappoint!!

Jimmy Bice, center, with Betty Tipton of the Center for International Education and Tyvi Small of the Haslam College of Business.

Jimmy Bice, center, with Betty Tipton of the Center for International Education and Tyvi Small of the Haslam College of Business.

Owner Jimmy Bice is a 2000 UT alumnus who has been living in Nanjing for sixteen years. After graduation (he studied economics with a minor in agricultural economics), he came here for a three-month vacation and met his wife. They have two young children.

Jimmy used to work as a cook at Barley’s in the Old City during his college days. So the pizza at his restaurant was similar in taste.

The UT crew takes a photo with Jimmy.

The UT crew takes a photo with Jimmy.

Most of us had the special: a double cheeseburger with bacon, fries and a special brew or slushy drink for 100 yuan (roughly $17).

Several times during the evening, our entire crew broke into a rendition of “Rocky Top.” That may have seemed obnoxious to other restaurant patrons. But hey, they were in Big Orange Country!

China day 11
8:47 p.m. Tuesday, July 5

We kicked off today with the two-minute debate exercise from last week but using a different set of questions: Are we too dependent on cellphones? Are social networking sites a waste of time? Should famous people be role models? Are Americans spoiled? Very neat to see how my students have been growing in their speaking skills and how they’re becoming more comfortable when presenting in front of the classroom.

This afternoon, I preceded our activity about names with a brief explanation of mine. I have five middle names in addition to my first and last names—all of which tell a part of my story, per the Yoruba culture into which I was born. (For example, one of my middle names means “Sunday” because that’s the day of the week I was born.)

I also asked my classroom assistants Rain and  Myrna to share their name stories. Then my students began their writing assignment: explain the meaning of/reason for their Chinese name; explain the reason for their English name if they have one; and then give me, Rain, or Myrna a Chinese name.

Bill, one of my students, gave me this Chinese name. It's "Lao Mo," which means hard worker or labor model.

Bill, one of my students, gave me this Chinese name. It’s “Lao Mo,” which means hard worker or labor model.

Their responses about their Chinese names gave me wonderful insight about their lives as well as the history of China. (Many were born during the one-child policy era and so were given names that indicated how beloved they are. The names also contained the hopes of their families.) Their responses about their English names gave me greater understanding about the English names of Chinese professors at UT. Some of my students’ English names were given by their very first English teachers. Other students chose their names based on something meaningful they had read or watched or a historical figure or celebrity role model. Others picked English names that sounded similar to their Chinese names.

Five of my students gave me Chinese names. The meanings include hard worker; kindness and love; beautiful woman; mother; and one which is an affectionate name for a girl. I now have the fun task of deciding which name I want to use.

China day 12
10:20 p.m. Wednesday, July 6

This morning, I gave a lecture about Tennessee-made foods and drinks. To drive home the lesson, I raffled off sweets made in the Volunteer State: Goo-Goo Clusters, chocolate bars from Knoxville Chocolate Company, Gatlinburg taffy, and all sorts of other deliciousness. To say my students loved this lecture would be an understatement.

I saw my cafeteria lady during lunch today. When I approached her counter, she gave me a warm smile and a Coca-Cola out of the fridge instead of one that had been sitting on the counter getting lukewarm. I hopeful that this means good things for our relationship.

LolaandRachel

Rachel Rui of the UT Department of Chemistry and I at dinner.

Tonight, I met up with Rachel Rui, the media contact for the UT Department of Chemistry. She is a Nanjing native and is here to visit her family for a few weeks. What a treat to see her sweet familiar face when I arrived at the mall. We walked around a bit and then settled on a restaurant. She ordered for us and pretty soon, out came fried dumplings, a whole fish, a duck and rice porridge, a pork and rice dish, and purple yams. I’m getting really good with chopsticks but the yams were a little unwieldy and I couldn’t pick them up. So I just stabbed them with my chopsticks. Ha! Rachel also showed me how to each a soupy dish with my chopsticks. Score!!