A quick hello …

Today is the first time I’ve been able to get online for more than two minutes since getting to Yinchuan. So here’s a quick update. Since July 15th I’ve been back in Ningxia province as a facilitator on the first United World College summer school to happen in China. We’ve got 32 participants from about 20 countries, six facilitators (of which two are the teachers “in charge”) and four film makers. I’m one of the ordinary facilitators.

The participants are about 2/3 from developed countries, mostly West European, and 1/3 from other parts of the world. The programme is packed, with breakfast at 7.30 each morning and check-in at 10.45. The focus is on workshops about leadership skills, but also loads of discussions, intercultural communication, and getting to experience China.

So far the highlight was spending four days in Guyuan municipality in southern Ningxia. We stayed in a village in the mountains in Jingyuan county, which has been part of a government programme of diversification to stop deforestation. The new industries are growing saplings to sell, tourism, and exporting workers to the city. It was a slightly bizarre scenario since there have only been a couple of foreigners there before and never a crazy group of 40 like this, completely taking over the new section of the village and sending all the children crazy. It’s a Muslim village with several mosques which the Muslims in our group were able to attend: they were also the only ones allowed to help preparing food. We were supposed to be working in the fields with the villagers, but this was called off due to the weather (it’s the rainy season at the moment) and so instead the participants taught english to the kids and we had a question and answer session with the local teacher about the history of the village.

Back in Yinchuan now, and the workshops have revolved around topics such as communication, meeting management, public speaking, and project management. There have also been daily cultural seminars and chinese classes, sports, and other activities. For example yesterday Niko and I took a group of 18 to sing karaoke at lunch time – it was crazy fun! There have also been the usual delights of organizing things in China, with constant change of schedule (for example we were shipped off for two days to randomly teach middle school teachers on their summer training course), and a very brief encounter with the big brass when a vice education minister of the central gov’t visited Yinchuan this morning. I have the rest of the day off, then tomorrow we’ll take the participants to the desert, and on Wednesday we leave for Beijing. It ends on Sunday. Been a very busy but fascinating few weeks. More later!

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