Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Man in China (4): An Old American Bringing Up The Rear

A Pleasant Scent from a Torturous Mountain


            A few weeks ago, I was invited by my friend Wu Jia for a leisurely hike into the mountains surrounding Shaanxi province. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Leisurely?

Jia: Yes. Nothing too strenuous (her English is excellent)

Me: I mean, my knees…my age…

Jia: Oh, stop. You’ll be fine, but if you have a walking stick or knee braces, you know…

Me: How far are we going?


Jia: Oh, maybe five, ten miles.

Perhaps it’s easy to see where this is going.

The Saturday of the hike, I met Jia outside the university gate and we walked to a bus stop where other hikers had gathered. There were about eighty of us. Organizers counted heads and queued us up to board two private buses. (By the way, I hate waiting in lines. However, it seems that most Chinese people wait patiently and don’t complain.) I looked at my fellow hikers. I saw huge, light-aluminum-framed back packs outfitted with camping stoves, hiking poles, and double water bottles, everything covered in rain gear. The hikers wore heavy, water-proofed boots and all-weather hiking pants with all-weather parkas, hats and scarves. They looked serious…and thin, and fit, and I was clearly twenty-five to thirty years older than the oldest one.

A few of them glanced my way. I felt self-conscious. I wore jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and running shoes. I carried a small back pack, enough to hold a change of clothes, one water bottle, an apple, and cashews for lunch. On the ride to the trail head—about fifty miles away—Jia translated instructions from two of the organizers. One organizer turned to Jia and told her that she and I were on the green team. Team? What team? There was to be a competition between teams of ten hiking up to the midpoint for some prizes and then first, second, and third prizes after the descent. All of it sponsored by Gortex (a company that makes water-resistant clothing). The leader of our team told Jia that he didn’t expect much from us because she was the only woman (other than one organizer) and I was, well…not exactly outfitted for this adventure.

We started at around a rather late 10 a.m., and approximately from 1500 feet. Our first goal was the midpoint, supposedly 5000 feet. Once on our way up the mountain, Jia and I were determined so we encouraged each other not to bring up the rear. The trail became hardened clay and stones while mist began to surround us, but it cleared at certain points—enough to stop for a moment and take a photo of a gorgeous mountain lake. Magpies flew in and out of tall brush, a crow cawed in the distance, and some sort of eagle (or buzzard?) circled far above our heads. Then the trail began to narrow and take on about a 4% grade. I looked back at the lake one more time and said to myself, “You know who would love this? Betty Sawin. Betty would like this very much.”

As we continued, Jia and I chatted about the scenery but also how we would show them that a woman and an old American can hang with the young men. I hitched up my backpack, Jia did the same with hers, and we quickened our pace as we sensed the grade beginning to increase. “You all right, Dana?” “Sure, Jia. How’s by you?” And we passed a few other hikers, leaving them behind. The trail became narrower and the scent of the air cleaner as we got higher in elevation. Then Jia and I realized we were pretty much alone as we came across an open area with brown corn stalks and planted vegetables—a clay and straw farm house sat next to the trail—an old woman worked her garden. I said hello and she smiled and waved. We took a few photos, and continued on.

The trail narrowed again and the grade seemed to increase more. I became somewhat winded, but knew I was fine.  We hiked another hour, with it getting just past noon.  That’s when Jia broke the news to me that she thought we had probably only hiked about five miles, weren’t yet at the midway point, and was told on the bus that the total hike would be close to twenty miles. I started to calculate.

After a bit longer, the trail opened up, became hardened clay, and we heard voices in the distance. Jia said we’d be stopping for lunch, which was good news. As the voices became clearer, Jia urged me onward, telling me we had to mark a time of arrival for the competition, so I went ahead. She was about twenty yards behind, when the leader of our team came down the trail and wanted me to hurry. I turned back toward Jia and she explained that we were the last two to arrive—that she would be the last one for our team—so I stopped. I figured it didn’t make any difference if I marked a few seconds of time before she did. I let her go ahead. She joined our team and then they all looked back at me, some of them pointing, some shaking their heads in dismay. I asked Jia what it meant. She explained that I let a woman beat me.  And I thought, “What would Betty Sawin say about that?”

This midway point was another farm house where an old woman and her son live. They were kind enough to allow eighty hikers to sit around their place, use their latrine (and it was a latrine) and clean up after us once we’d left. So I chose a concrete step to sit upon and rummaged through my back pack for lunch. I looked around and many of the other hikers removed their knee braces, collapsed their aluminum hiking poles, and set up butane camping stoves.  They cooked re-hydrated noodles with vegetables, boiled water for tea, and warmed their hands with the flames. While they ate their lunches with chopsticks, I cut up my apple and savored every cashew nut. A few of the more friendly members of our team gathered around me and asked questions. They wanted to practice their English, mostly. But one guy mentioned that I was last. I said I wasn’t last, but he insisted I was. Jia explained that he was ribbing me, yet they wanted us to step it up. We had come in third place for the midway point and it was unacceptable. I laughed. I mean, who gives a shit?

I finished my lunch and watched as others made more food and chatted; lunch is the biggest meal of the day in China. Yet, it was getting close to two o’clock in the afternoon.  I thought we were burning daylight, as a trail boss might say.

Me: When do you think we’ll get moving again?

Jia: After lunch.

Me: I know that, but we have about fifteen more miles. (Downhill, I’d hoped.)

Jia: Yeah, but some are still eating and others are taking a nap.

And as interesting, and eastern, and now-moment-ish, and endearing, and prevalent as that attitude is here in China, well, it can be rather frustrating for a western person. I wanted to know if the organizers and other hikers really thought we’d all be able to cover fifteen trail miles in less than three hours—before it got dark. So I asked Jia to ask a lead hiker.

Me: When will we start up again?

Leader: (through Jia) After lunch.

Me: Yes, I know that, but isn’t it getting a bit late?

Leader: (through Jia) You can go on ahead, if you would like.

Of course I didn’t know the trails or where we were headed. I said thank you, but realized that I had questioned his abilities in front of Jia. Perceived insult aside, I smiled, put my hands together in the Buddhist way and bowed with a nod of my head. After another fifteen or twenty minutes, everyone was packed up, napped up, and began to rise to their feet. More instructions were given. Jia and I got to the front of the crowd. As we started, she told me we had about another hour until we’d reach the midway point (I thought that was where we’d just had lunch, but no). Yet, I followed along.  What else could I do? The buses were going to meet us at the final destination, so going back down the way we came was not an option.

As the trail became narrower—many places not much wider than a game trail—the brush became thicker and the footing less sure. We rose in altitude, the grade increasing, and the mist thickened to the point of a light sprinkle of rain. My running shoes were clearly a liability and I often had to grab hold of tree branches to steady myself to climb over wet rocks and through the mud. But Jia and I were right there with everyone. No one was going to pass us (in fairness no one could pass anyone because it was a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other path). About forty-five minutes into our ascent, the train of hikers came to a halt. Looking up and ahead, the trail leaders were turning around. Word was passed down that even though we’d reached the midway point, there wasn’t enough time for us to make it down the mountain before it got dark. So we had to go back.

I was relieved because the trail we’d come up was often wider and drier and my knees were beginning to bother me. I thought that I’d about had enough anyway and even though this wasn’t exactly leisurely, I’d burned calories and had taken in some beautiful scenery. Plus, I felt a bit vindicated.

Instead of the path we’d already traveled (many feet had trodden black), the same leader who’d suggested I go on alone stood at a fork in the trail to direct us along a different way. I stopped for a second and said in English, “I don’t wanna say I told you so, but…I told you so.” He looked away, perhaps a bit embarrassed, which wasn’t really my intent.  After a hundred yards or so, it was clear we had entered a ravine. A creek flowed to our left and brush, granite, and trees seemed to shoot upward like a fortress wall on each side of us. Although we were clearly descending, we often had to jump down from boulders and ledges and hurdle fallen moss-covered logs. It was very slow going. The ravine and the trail became deeper and darker. In fact, the sun—what there had been of it—was nowhere. This trail was clearly more difficult, wetter, steeper, muddier, and full of thorny brush cutting our faces and hands as we moved through it.

And then I fell. I lost my footing on wet granite and fell. I tumbled and rolled and tried to grab anything I could.  I heard shouts of other hikers and a few reached out as I passed them. One guy grabbed my little back pack and I stopped only a few feet from a sheer drop of ten to fifteen feet. He said something to me that I didn’t understand. I whispered “xièxiè,” and then I sprang to my feet with arms in the air and shouted, “I’m all right! I’m all right!” in my best Mel Brooks voice.

We came to a dammed part of the creek, nothing big, just a small pond, and stepped along slippery rocks to the opposite side. It got darker and we got deeper. The creek moved faster, water tumbling over boulders and rocks and rotting logs. Someone ahead picked up the trail—which became narrower, with more thorny brush and thicker mud. But then the mud gave way to an expanse of green.  And as we hiked along, it became very apparent that the green was all peppermint. The mountain air came alive with the gorgeous scent of mint.  It was slippery, though, and much of it covered rocks and the mud underneath. My shoes were soaked and unstable and I fell…and then fell again…and fell some more.  Each time I did so, the man who had saved me from the previous nasty fall was right behind me, helping me to my feet and smiling as I said thank you. He wouldn’t leave my side.

I looked up ahead and most of the hikers were having some difficulty with the trail. Except, except that Jia was being helped over boulders and across the creek by another hiker holding her hand to make sure she was safe.  I called out to her. How much farther? She asked her helper.

“He’s not sure. Maybe another hour. Maybe more.”

And I groaned. I was not in good shape, really. My knees ached, my ass was bruised, my hands and face were bleeding from cuts suffered by the brush, and I was soaked in sweat and rain. Yet, I took a deep breath of the minty air and thought, “You know who would really love this?”

Soon, though, it was dark. No one said much. It was obvious that everyone—not just me—everyone was tired and wet and bleeding and looking forward to the comfort the bus would offer. So we trudged along. After a little while, the trail opened up to hard clay and as we rounded a bend it seemed we had emerged from the ravine. The sky became lighter, a bright three-quarter moon shone about thirty degrees above the horizon, and my spirits lifted.

My guardian angel, the young man who had saved me from my fall, came up beside me. Jia translated:

Young Man: How are you doing?

Me: Me? Oh, terrific. Never better.

Young Man: How’s your ass?

Me: Sore. But that’s not really what hurts.

Young Man: Oh? What have you hurt?

Me: My dignity, my friend, my dignity.

He laughed, clapped me on the shoulder, and told me it was the shoes. If I’d had proper shoes, he had no doubt I’d have fared much better. And at that moment, the world seemed right. After all the ribbing about being last in our group, after all the doubts of whether an American would be able to cut it, after my numerous falls and all the looks of frustration from those behind me because I had held up their progress, this one young man was smiling and warm and encouraging and genuine. “Besides,” he said, “you’re not as old as you think you are.” And he quickened his pace, moving ahead to be the last one to board the first bus.

I have yet to see him again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

November Activities

Congratulations to Mary Dockery, who had two poems nominated for a Pushcart Prize: "Your Name is a Shape Made in the Mouths of Magicians" (The Meadow) and "The Idea of Brad" (Redactions). Mary also participated in the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, where she published a poem a day for the entire month of November. People can read these poems here:

Claudine Evans was a speaker for the Runcie Club’s World Affairs Program in Saint Joseph. She presented two topics: Territorial Reform in France, and the WWI Battle of Verdun.  

Susan Martens gave a presentation titled "Story as Mapping/Mapping as Story in Place-Based Composing"  at the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English in Washington, D.C.
In conjunction with Prairie Lands Writing Project, Teacher Consultant  Maridella Carter (Blue Springs)  gave a presentation titled "Power, Politics, Social Justice: The Old and the Newat the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English in Washington, D.C. Teacher Consultant Terri McAvoy (SJSD, retired) presented a session titled "How Formative Assessment Can Provide Direction in Long-term Professional Development" at the Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project In Washington, D.C.

Jane Frick (MWSU, retired) and Tom Pankiewicz (MWSU, retired) also joined Carter, McAvoy, and PLWP Director Susan Martens in representing PLWP at the Annual Meeting, at a meeting for site leaders working on the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant-funded College Ready Writers Program, and at the New Site Directors Retreat.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

French Students Enjoy Banquet

Over 40 students of French and their guests gathered last Friday in the Presidential Dining Room to experience a six-course French meal. On the menu: olive cake, carrot salad, coq au vin (chicken stew) with egg noodles, green salad and vinaigrette, assortment of cheeses with bread. For dessert, talented students made delicious rochers à la noix de coco (coconut macaroons). Artistically inclined students decorated tables with elegant flower arrangements and provided beautiful, individual menus.

Everybody left with a smile on their face and a better knowledge of what dîner à la française entitles!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mary Stone Nominated

Mary Stone, EML alumna and Instructor of English, has learned that her poem "Your Name is a Shape Made in the Mouths of Magicians," published last spring  in The Meadow, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the journal.

The Pushcart Prizes have represented the best work found in small press literary magazines since 1976.

Congratulations, Mary!

Monday, November 10, 2014

October Accomplishments


Jeanie Crain Served as reviewer for new edition (2nd) of Reading Pop Culture: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Jeff Ousborne.Boston: St. Martin's, 2013.

Claudine Evans represented Missouri Western at the annual meeting of partners of the Missouri Foreign Language Consortium, at the Foreign language Association of Missouri (FLAM) Fall Conference in Kansas City, MO.

Susie Hennessy attended the Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she chaired a panel entitled “Evasive Maneuvers: Mothers on the Move.” She presented a paper in that panel: “A New You! Mother’s Day Out in Les Grands Magasins.”

Meredith Katchen attended the Thomas Watson Conference on Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville, KY.  He attended two Webinars: "Building an Academic Foundation: Strategies for Teaching Argument," conducted by Nancy Sommers, and  "How Literature Can Help Students Write Arguments," conducted by John Schilb.

Student/Community Involvement

Marianne Kunkel works with young writers
Marianne Kunkel and Susan Martens recently presented writing workshops to fifth and sixth grade students from the SJSD’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program.  Invited by Prairie Lands Teacher Consultant and GATE instructor Deb Ballin, Martens presented place-based writing workshops, while Kunkel presented a poetry-writing workshop. These workshops were students’ first stop during their writing field trips to MWSU.

PLWP hosted a meeting of the College Ready Writers Program’s Teaching Argument Writing Cadre at MWSU.  Eight teachers and administrators from CRWP partner schools in Braymer, Breckenridge, and Hamilton joined PLWP leaders and Teacher Consultants in a day-long series of series of sessions designed to help teachers support student learning in writing better arguments through the use of source citations.  PLWP presenters and facilitators included Jane Frick (MWSU, retired), Tom Pankiewicz (MWSU, retired), Kathy Miller (Weston), Maridella Carter (Blue Springs), Janet Jelavich (Maryville, retired), Amy Miller (MWSU), and Valorie Stokes (Platte County). 

The inaugural study abroad and exchange program photo contest took place to promote study abroad, as well as award the best photos and exhibit them. Participating students shared their experience through photography and encouraged others to plan their own adventures. The contest had three categories with these winners:
Nature and Architecture
1st Place: Vatican. Elliot Swope
2nd Place: London. Andy Garrison.
People and Culture
1st Place: Le Troubadour. Elizabeth Young.
2nd Place: Trafalgar Square. Elliot Swope.
Griffon Wings
1st Place: Waterfall. Jordan Blew.
2nd Place: Dr Ashley and students. Derin McQuiston.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

In Memoriam: Dr. Trish Donaher


Dr. Patricia Donaher, Professor of English, passed away on November 4, 2014 after a two-year struggle with cancer.
Dr. Donaher began her work at Missouri Western State College in 1995 as an adjunct instructor following her completion of the PhD in English at the University of Nebraska. After a year she secured a position as Lecturer. In 2001, Dr. Donaher was hired as an assistant professor of English and was promoted to Associate Professor and then Professor. She achieved that highest academic rank on the strength of her teaching, service, and scholarship, all of which were admired by her colleagues in the department, especially her teaching and advising. Dr. Donaher was a sought-after adviser, famous for her interest and support in her advisees’ academic and personal lives. Her office was rarely empty. In her time at Western, Dr. Donaher taught linguistics, composition, literature (including highly popular courses in popular literature and Harry Potter). All told, she taught over twenty different courses while at Western. She was a pioneer in online teaching at Western.


In recognition of her fine work in the department, Dr. Donaher was awarded the Jesse Lee Myers Excellence in Teaching award in 2006, was given sabbatical leave to work on her research (which included her 2010 book, Barbarians at the Gate: Studies in Language Attitudes), and was a certified teacher consultant for the National Writing Project. She was devoted to the Popular Culture Association in which she was area chair for language attitudes and popular linguistics. She often took her students to the annual Popular Culture Association meetings to present their work done in her courses.
Dr. Donaher will be remembered for her boundless energy and enthusiasm and positive disposition. It characterized her interactions at MWSU and never flagged, even during her illness. Her optimism and determination remain an inspiration.
At the Popular Culture Association with students

Teaching with Technology

On Wednesday, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m., a group of EML faculty gathered in Eder 216 to hear from our technology-savvy colleagues Kara Bollinger, Claudine Evans, and Susan Martens. Each presented forward-thinking ways to integrate technology into our EML courses.

Presenters  (l to r) Claudine Evans, Kara Bollinger, and Susan Martens

Kara shared how to facilitate student peer review on Moodle, as well as how to create Prezi presentations (an exciting alternative to PowerPoint presentations). Claudine shared a video assignment that her students, especially the creative ones, always enjoy: a French version of the American TV show What Not to Wear.
Students use technology from MWSU'sInstructional Media Center, or their own phones, to videotape each other discussing fashion dos and don'ts in French. Susan shared the value of class blogs, which she easily creates through WordPress. Students are required to post blog entries outside of class about a class-related topic, and reading each other's blog posts builds a sense of community among the students.

This event was organized by the department's Morale & Motivation Committee, whose members hope to offer a similar professional development session each semester. The committee thanks Kara, Claudine, and Susan for sharing their terrific technology-driven class activities!


A Look at Publishing

In an effort to gather together English majors who have declared the new creative writing and publishing emphasis, and to inform them of their exciting career opportunities, Drs. Bill Church and Marianne Kunkel kicked off a CWP career series on Wednesday, Oct. 22.
Once a semester, a professional from the creative writing and/or publishing industry will meet with interested students to discuss real-world job opportunities. This semester, we were excited to host Tharran and Barb Gaines, a husband-and-wife team who write and edit for a variety of trade magazines. They've become so successful, they're able to hire out their services through their own company, Gaines Communications. 
About ten students attended the hour-long event, which consisted of presentations by Tharran, then Barb, then a lively Q&A session. Their valuable advice to students included taking advantage of course offerings at MWSU, never burning bridges with coworkers, and getting early experience through internships and writing/editing content that may not directly relate to one's interests.

Monday, November 3, 2014

French Film to be Shown

The French film Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël) (2005) will be shown on Wednesday, November 5 at 6:30 PM in Hearnes 102. (PG13, 116 minutes)

On Christmas Eve in 1914, during World War I, the Germans, French, and Scottish fraternize and get to know the men who live on the opposite side of a brutal war, in what became a true lesson of humanity. (

Directed by Christian Carion, starring Diane Kruger, Benno Fürmann,Guillaume Canet.

In French, German and English, with English subtitles.
For more information, see the trailer.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

First Annual Study Away Photo Competition

The first photo competition for Study Away has been concluded. The competition, the brainchild of Dr. Miguel Rivera-Taupier, EML Foreign Language Coordinator, included contributions from students engaged in study away trips or who were part of exchange programs in the past year.

There were three categories: People and Culture, Nature and Architecture, and Griffons' Wings (for pictures that displayed MWSU colors or the school spirit abroad). Ten students participated in the contest and we expect to have even more next year.

The picture below received first prize in the Nature and Architecture category.

Elliot Swope says about the photo, taken inside the Vatican’s museum in Rome, that he "was attracted to this spot by the gilded golden handrails against the spiraling blue backdrop", which he finds synthetize the Vatican.

EML Gets All, Like, Socially Mediated

On the top right corner of the blog page you will now see links to EML's two newest forms of expression: Facebook and Twitter. The EML blog will continue to be used as a news source and an archive of EML events, and occasionally we'll use the blog in concert with Facebook and Twitter to alert you to important coming events, but Facebook and Twitter will be more reliable sources to alert you to immediate and breaking EML news. So go and "like" those things, as the kids say.

Note: you can subscribe to and follow the blog posts by signing up for that service on the right side just below the social media links. We encourage you to do that as well.

The way we see it, there's no way you can't know what we're up to now.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alumni Distinguished Professor Hennessy

Last night, Dr. Susie Hennessy, chairperson of EML and Professor of French, was recognized as Alumni Distinguished Professor at the Alumni Association banquet that makes up the Homecoming Weekend festivities.

Dr. Hennessy's former students and modern languages alumni Joshua Baldwin, Crystal Crawford, Donnie Hughes and Barbara Timothe joined modern language faculty members Claudine Evans and Eduardo Castilla-Ortiz in presenting the award during the ceremony. The St. Joseph News-Press
covered the event, reporting Dr. Hennessy as saying “I feel really humbled for being singled out for doing a job I love,” she said. Teaching French, she added, “is sharing what I love. The students are the ones that deserve the recognition.”

Dr. Hennessy joins EML faculty Dr. Elizabeth Sawin (1988), Dr. Isabel Sparks (1989), Dr. Jeanie Crain (1997), and Dr. Jane Frick (2011) as a recipient of this prestigious award.

Former students and modern languages faculty Claudine Evans and Eduardo Castilla-Ortiz pose with the award-winner

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Man in China (3): T-shirts, Rodeos, and Working on Sundays

The Familiar
            Family and friends still ask, “So, what’s it like?”—as if there’s an easy answer to that question. There really isn’t one. The differences and similarities of everyday living in China versus living in the west are grand and nuanced, weird yet strangely endearing for this American who has tried for years to understand what it is we do as humans—one who has attempted to put some of it into narratives short and long, with hope that he has gotten it right. Just saying that is limiting, though, so this entry will be a test of my skills (and I fully expect to fail, miserably) because there is just too much to capture in words.
            I’ll begin with the material. T-shirts are popular in Xi’an. A statement is made with the choice of T-shirt worn for the day and that is not unlike what we do in America, so this falls into the familiar. Young people here might choose fashion over statement because many of them, I think, don’t have a clue what the (mostly) English words mean. I have seen and been bewildered by: “Puppies are for potatoes” (great alliteration, but I’m not sure spuds are a minority that needs puppies to support them); “Valt Diznep” with an image of Tweety and Sylvester (just wrong on so many levels); “Madonna Louise” with an image of Lady Gaga (and I’m sure it was the Lady); and my favorite “Wǒ xǐhuān Paris” on the front, with “J'adore Beijing” on the back (I wanted this one). My numerous Kansas Racquetball Association T-shirts are met with similarly confused looks, so I guess I fit in.
            Another thing I’ve noticed is that there aren’t any POS cars in Xi’an. Oh, there are many old and decrepit three-wheeled electric motorbikes carrying payloads of vegetables or cardboard or packaged goods, but the automobiles here are relatively new, within the last ten years to brand spankin’ new. Unlike Americans, the Xi’anese don’t care much for Japanese cars because, they say, the interiors are made of cheap materials—so Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans are not in the majority. I’d rank the popularity range as Volkswagen, then Buick as a close second, then Ford, then Chevrolet, then BYD (Chinese made), then Peugeot and Citroën, then Skoda (Czech Republic). I haven’t seen any second-hand cars, which is really odd. There is no market for them, I suppose. Then again, it’s possible that the surge of middle-class buying power in the last ten years has created something of a new-car status among the forty year olds and younger. Anyway, you just won’t see a wheel-well-rusted-out-80s-model-Chevy-Caprice-with-one-bumper (and an emergency do-nut tire on the right rear side) traveling down the road. So Xi’an has that going for it.
            The people. The people are amazing. They’re friendly and warm, curious and kind. They love anything western and seem genuinely accepting of my difference. The warmth they exude when their eyes meet mine conveys a feeling of being welcomed into their world. On the other hand, I’m not used to being an oddity and don’t like being given unquestioned entry into the campus recreational facility when everyone else must show identification.  I head to the track every day for a two-to-three mile walk. The infield is decayed, old, and emits an unpleasant odor, yet there are three or four mini-soccer games going on while a hundred or more of us walk or run around it. Toddlers and pre-teens ride their trikes and bikes while mothers, fathers, and grandparents smile with pride at their cuteness. The love of family is clearly evident and the open affection that men have for their children is much different than what is found in the States.
            As for the students, well, I honestly cannot say that they are much different than MoWest’s. The system is different, though, and as English majors they take upwards of ten to eleven classes per semester. Plus, the fourth-year students have pressure to find work once they graduate and often don’t come to class. My students—the ones who do show up—mostly work hard and want to improve their English speaking and writing skills. I love them. But, the familiar?  Okay, I’ll try one. Here’s an email I got:Dear Dana Hi! I'm [student’s name here]. I'm sorry that i cannot attend your class. I got sudden deafness. Doctor told me that i have to stay in a quiet environment and have infusion. I will e-mail my homework to my classmate, then they will help me hand in my homework. I'm sorry” (Unedited, except for the student’s name.)  I finally got around to emailing him back, although it was three weeks later. My reply:  “Dear [student’s name], I’m sorry to hear that. However, this ain’t my first rodeo.* In America, the students often get something similar. It’s called Sudden Death Syndrome. When this happens, grandparents and step-grandparents who are alive sigh with relief and feign grief because it is not they who have passed. The students, like you, aren’t seen for three weeks, if at all. Get well. Dana.”
*My first rodeo was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, where I watched Sue Pirtle capture one of her eleven World Women’s Rodeo Championships. (A tip of the ol’ cowboy hat to Bill Church.)
            There is also the very unfamiliar. China has a national holiday around the beginning of October. My syllabus reflected class work and due dates with that first week in mind and I thought I had it all covered. Then, about a few days before the holiday, a student asked what we were going to do for Sunday. Sunday?  Yes, Sunday, they all replied. In order to have off for the Monday class, we had to make-up the lost time on Sunday. Actually, I was confused about a seemingly arbitrary decision that some days during the holiday had to be made up and others didn’t. I had to hold class on Sunday for the one to be missed on Monday, but wasn’t required to hold class on some other weekend date to make up for the one missed on Friday. My reaction was similar to Tina Fey/Liz Lemon’s “Whaaa….uuuck?”  In the end, the Sunday was changed to Saturday (that was supposed to be better) and I understood that it is just the way they do things. Okay, so…can anyone imagine the state requiring teachers in the U.S. to teach on a Sunday?  To work one extra day in order to have another day off?  Yeah, neither can I.
            A mixture of other observations, random and unrelated:  There are many magpies on campus. They act like magpies, shriek like magpies, fly like magpies, and look like magpies, except they have blue jay markings. They’re not black and white, like the ones found in Colorado and other states. They’re light blue with dark blue feathered heads and tail tips. Pretty. There are street sweepers here and I know that Kay and Zephaniah are very familiar with them. They’re weird, though. They spray water everywhere, all over the bushes and trees lining the roads, while loud speakers on the trucks play super annoying tunes to warn of their approach. The most popular tune is “It’s a Small World,” with “O Tannenbaum” a close second. The college campuses are very dark. I guess street lights waste too much energy, so there aren’t a lot of them. I got my first haircut last Saturday and it was done pretty well. My students asked where I went. I told them. They asked how much I paid. It was fifteen dollars. They gasped and said I was rich. I’m not. They told me that I shouldn’t tell anyone how much I paid because then everyone would think I’m rich (and a stupid foreigner for paying so much). They said the same thing about the Chinese smart phone I ended up buying. (Inexpensive, actually, when compared to an iPhone.) The main campus where I live has a big, long, labyrinthian building that has seen somewhat better days when the Soviets and Maoists got together to design and build it. I marvel at the lack of innovative architecture, darkness of its hallways, and distinct latrine-like odor hanging in the air as I walk through it.
            At the end of October I’m taking a day trip, which will be one of the first of many (I hope) trips around Shaanxi province and other provinces during my stay here. So, the next installment will be about that, my hike in the mountains this coming weekend, and a Chinese wedding. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

September Activities

Dr. Kaye Adkins attended the annual conference of the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (CPTSC) at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Dr. Adkins serves as the treasurer for CPTSC and participated in an Executive Committee meeting, the annual business meeting, and other activities of the organization in addition to attending conference sessions. She also participated in a pre-conference workshop offered by the Academic Special Interest Group of the Society for Technical Communication.

Ms. Claudine Evans participated in the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) meeting held in Kansas City, MO on Saturday, September 6th of 2014.

Dr. Elizabeth Latosi-Sawin delivered a paper at the international Under Western Skies Conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The title of her paper is "Real, Imagined, and Stories Wolves in Literature and Life."

The following teachers and administrators completed all requirements for the Invitational Summer Institute and received certification as PLWP Teacher Consultants:

Cara Simmons, 9th grade English-Language Arts, Winnetonka KC
Laura Janovec, 6th grade English/Language Arts, Cameron
Regan McKinley, 6th grade English/Language Arts, Cameron
Tina Baker, 5th grade English/Language Arts and Social Studies, Cameron
Jody Yuillle, 7-12th grade Family and Consumer Science, Breckenridge
Linda Gaines, 7-12 English/Language Arts, Breckenridge
Robin Rozell-Estenbaum, Special Education, Breckenridge
Dana Barnes, K-5 Reading, Plattsburg
Mitch Barnes, High School  Principal, Braymer
Terrance Sanders, 7-8th grade English/Language Arts, Braymer
Carol Brown, 6-7th English/Language Arts and Social Studies, Lathrop
Deb Ballin, 3-6th grade Gifted Education, SJSD
Amy Sheeley, 2nd grade, SJSD

On September 25, i3CRWP Project Manager Jane Frick (MWSU, retired) and Lead Facilitators Tom Pankiewicz (MWSU, retired) and Kathy Miller (Weston) facilitated a baseline writing scoring session with teachers and staff in the Braymer School District.

On September 26-27, PLWP Director Susan Martens co-facilitated the Missouri Writing Projects Network Leadership Retreat in Boonville.  PLWP attendees included Jody Yuille (Breckenridge), Amy Miller (MWSU), and Michele Irby (Orrick). 



EML Helps Paint Parkway Pink

Before the walk when all had energy
A dozen or so faculty and family members gathered on Saturday, October 4 to participate in the 6th Annual Paint the Parkway Pink fundraiser for breast cancer research. The departmental effort was to honor our colleague Dr. Trish Donaher who has been battling breast cancer for the past couple of years.

Ana, Rainbow, and Betty: the vanguard
The EMLers started the 3.5 mile walk at the St. Joseph Recreation Center and concluded at Hyde Park.  The day was cool and clear, and we hadn't many excuses for the slow pace we kept. Most of us claimed a desire to enjoy nature and each others' company, and that charlie horse had nothing to do with it, thank-you-very-much.

Note Meredith's Pink Feather
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more information, please follow this link to the American Cancer Society.
"Have you noticed that this is all uphill?"

Tom, Miguel, and Meredith: the rear guard

Some of the EML Striders at Hyde Park

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Banned Books Reading 2014

People gathered on September 24th under the protective cover of the night to read aloud books that have been challenged or banned in these United States. Here were the perps:

Ms. Long

Readers & Books
Ms. Madeline Marx, MWSU student chapter of the International Reading Association (IRA)
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Dr. Kay Siebler, Professor of English and Director of Composition, MWSU
Mr. Zephaniah Siebler, Fifth-Grader, Humboldt Elementary School
The Odd Squad by Michael Fry
Dr. Willenbrink
Dr. Bob Willenbrink, Founding Dean of the School of Fine Arts, MWSU
Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Ms. Kappy Hodges, St. Joseph School District Board of Education
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Ms. Christina Watkins, Reporter and Weekend Anchor, KQ2 News  
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Ms. Amy Miller, Prairie Lands Writing Project, MWSU 
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros   

Ms. Watkins
Ms. Dlo DuVall, Librarian, Bode Middle School, SJSD
Speak by Laurie Anderson

Ms. Hanna Long, MWSU student chapter of the National Council of Teachers of English (SNCTE)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Ms. Marx