Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Beijing 2012 - Day 2 (Metro tour)

I led our SJSU contingent on a "metro tour" today. That meant teaching them the basics and before inviting individual students to lead the group from station to station, transfer to transfer. Some looked a little anxious about this leadership opportunity, but the group worked together to navigate the system. At this point my oft-repeated mantra of 'responsible self reliance' was beginning to sink in. Students would sometimes look for me to guide them, but I forced them to collaborate on making their decisions without me (especially when I "lost" my map). We all laughed throughout the exercises, and they knew - particularly with a few discretely placed hints - that I wouldn't let them get too lost.

We explored the neighborhood around one particular station that I'd scouted earlier, using signs for a "hero chicken" and "creepy clown" as landmarks, until we found a remarkable collection of cultural revolution-era street art [I'm still not sure whether this stuff was authentic or newly-painted. Either way, here are the pix]. At that point I got us purposefully lost, challenging the students to use the grid system to get us back. That's when we spotted another creepy clown (a real one, this time) and some really cool architecture. The students seemed really excited. Many noticed how they'd never really studied the city like they had to for this exercise, especially when they had to select landmarks and analyze signs to orient themselves.

Once we made our way through a few alleys, we found the "hero chicken" sign again and gained some confidence, knowing that the metro was nearby. From there we returned to our home station. Even when I allowed us to depart via the "wrong" entrance, students quickly determined the necessary fix. At that point I offered some final advice and cut 'em loose. Of course by that time we all were so wiped out (especially with the jet lag) that most folks stayed near the hotel, which was perfectly OK with me. There will be plenty of time to explore this city of 20 million people in coming days...

Day 1 | Day 3

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