National Geographic : 1981 Jun
section with 40, and a Russian one with 20. I was astonished at the fluency of the stu dents' English. They spoke with British ac cents picked up from language tapes made in England. (The language lab where they listened to the tapes was a work of genius, with banks of ancient reel-to-reel tape re corders connected by a maze of wires, switches, and contraptions made from emp ty tin cans.) The students spoke correctly, but like 19th-century books. "Do you really deem us diligent, Mrs. Booz? Why, we think it very boring to re main idle!" The classrooms where we were to teach up-to-date oral English looked like the old one-room schoolhouse, and they still do. Each desk, for two, has its bench attached to the desk behind, and all are lined up in straight rows facing the teacher, who stands on a small platform by the blackboard. Women sit beside women, and men sit beside men. When the teacher comes into the room, all the students stand up. "Good morning, comrades." "Good morning, teacher," they reply, in chorus. "Sit down, comrades." And class begins. Paddy and I brought new ways with us. We rearranged the furniture so the students could sit in a circle, and we tried to make our lessons informal, spontaneous, and fun. The formality of the students and their respectful distance from the teachers were hard on Paddy, their contemporary. Sports helped him break through the barrier. The rough-and-tumble of basketball on outdoor concrete courts, or a game of badminton or volleyball on the road after supper, went a long way toward opening up an easy, friend ly give-and-take. The ravages of the Cultural Revolution were visible everywhere. Buildings were run down, equipment obsolete or nonexistent, with state markets, I found the free markets' offerings fresher, more varied, and only a bit more expensive. We regularlyate on campus, but sometimes snacked at a nearby noodle shop (right), here joined by my daughter, Katherine, on a summer visit.