C.I. class 12/1: architecture & building with bamboo

Dear C.I. class,

It was great to see everybody again!  

We started out our last class with a list of what we're thankful for, as a way to celebrate Thanksgiving!  

We also had to discuss the latest developments in the recent US election... sigh... 

And Jeff shared a presentation showing us how even one minute of hard exercise, three times a week, can improve our health.  I loved the way he introduced his topic, telling us that if our excuse for not exercising is that we have no time, then we need a new excuse!  :D  He explained the results new research by a Canadian university which found that "endurance training" (50 minutes, 3 times a week) and "interval training" (10 minutes, 3 times a week) both yielded a 20% improvement in health of the trainees.  Jeff, thanks for giving us good, specific information, and for inspiring us all to exercise even if we don't have much time! 

Last week we also had a good discussion of our last TED talk, "The walk from no to yes."  I enjoyed hearing so many of your ideas and thoughts on William Ury's talk.   Hopefully we can all apply his ideas in our lives, and discover more about the power of showing hospitality and kindness to strangers.

This week on 12/1 we'll be turning to a new topic:  architecture!  

And we'll be exploring an exciting new/ancient material:  bamboo!

Everybody, please watch this 10 min + TED talk;  we'll discuss it together in class: 

Elora Hardy:  Magical houses, made of bamboo

I know that I'm late in sending this email out, but if you've still got time after watching the above TED talk, and if you would like more information about building with bamboo, please check out one of these articles as well:  

Bamboo is the new steel


Leading architects are "turning the focus back on bamboo"

We'll talk about what we've learned about building with bamboo this Thursday, 12/1!

And we also need to plan a class outing, so please come with some ideas for destinations, dates, and/or activities!  :) 

AND PLEASE FEEL FREE TO MAKE A CLASS PRESENTATION!  We can learn so much from each other!  l hope that many more of you will take advantage of this great learning and sharing opportunity!  

I look forward to seeing you all again soon.  

Sincerely, AbbieC.I. class 12/1: architecture & building with bamboo

C.I. class October 2015: further links from Yuhsi and Jerry‏

Dear Class!

Yuhsi and Jerry have both sent me great links to share with our class!

Yuhsi was inspired by our discussion of beauty a couple of weeks ago to tell us about a woman who recycles old dolls, taking off their makeup and giving them different outfits, and making them, in many people's opinions, much more beautiful!  Yuhsi shares that link with us, and you'll be happy if you watch this video!  The transformation is amazing!  
Tree Change Dolls

And last class Jerry introduced us to a "game" which helps people understand how tough it is to travel from Syria to Europe.  We tried as a class together, and we didn't make it.  I tried at home this morning, and I did make it to Europe, but only by abandoning my principles and doing something that I'm not very proud of.  :(  
If you'd like to try for yourself, here's the link from Jerry: 
Syrian Journey:  Choose your own escape route 

After your journey, you can read a lot of people's true escape stories at the end of the page.  I recommend the story of the "special shoes."  

After I tried the above journey, I felt pretty sad, and I also wondered why people pay so much money to those heartless and opportunistic smugglers for such short and dangerous journeys, when so much less money would be more than enough to buy a plane ticket all the way to Sweden or Germany or even Canada or the USA.  

If you're curious about this, check out some excellent answers here:
Why don't Mediterranean boat refugees take the plane?
or here:
Why Boat Refugees Don't Fly (Hans Rosling)

Enjoy the links, everyone, and many thanks to Jerry and Yuhsi for sharing with us!

Sincerely, Abbie

C.I. class 10/15/15: Stories

Dear C.I. class!

I have to say that all my research into the "Refugee and Migrant Crisis" in order to find material for our class for the last couple of weeks has left me sleepless.  I am not sleepless because of working, but rather I am sleepless because of sadness!  

Even though I had a great time last class, and I was really happy to see everyone and I really enjoyed your comments and observations and presentations, I also left last class feeling pretty hopeless.  

As to the refugee and migrant situation that we've been discussing, the prevailing attitude of our class seems to be "we don't know what to do," and "there is nothing that can be done."  This is how I feel too, and this is an honest reaction, and this is a reflection of the whole world's attitude:  most governments seem to be pretty freaked out as well.  Nobody really knows what to do, and nobody seems to have the power to "fix" the huge problems that are causing all these other terrible problems, let alone help all the people who need help right now.  

It might be time to move on to another theme in our class, but I don't want to leave this topic on such a hopeless and helpless note.  So this week, we will take one more look at refugees and migrants from a different perspective; from the perspective of two stories!  

One story comes from a reporter who is in Europe following the migrants right now, and one story comes from a woman whose own home country has been torn apart since the 1970s.     

The stories come to you in the form of one article and one video!  

The article is short, and we will read it together in class.  It is by a reporter who has been on the road covering the journeys of migrants in Europe.  In class on Thursday, we'll discuss the images and observations that he gathered in this article.  You may want to preview it!:

Politeness and eloquence on the road to Europe

The video is 17 minutes long and is a talk by a person who returned to her home country even though it was dangerous to do so and even though she was living a good and safe life with her family in the US.  Why did she want to go back?  And what did she do when she arrived at a refugee camp of 7.5 million of her own people?  Watch her talk to find out!  We'll also be discussing her stories in our class:    

Sakena Yacoobi:  How I stopped the Taliban from shutting down my school

You will probably want to check out the transcript of this talk!!  You can find it here!:

I think we'll have lots to talk about, and I can't wait to see you all on 10/15!  And please feel free to share your own presentations and your own stories then as well!  :)  Please drop me an email if you'd like to present on 10/15!

Sincerely, Abbie

C.I. class 10/8: Refugees and Migrants

Dear C.I. class, 

Thanks for a very interesting class last week!  

We discussed the question:  "How do you define yourself?"  
Some of the answers we came up with were that we define ourselves by our: dreams, experiences, skills, careers, relationships, achievements, failures, possessions, ideals, attitudes, personalities, nationalities...  (and more!!).  

We also discussed what it would be like to lose many of the things that "define" you: your job, family, home, country; and we started a heated discussion of the current "refugee and migrant crisis."  

We have a lot more to talk about on that subject!  And we'll be discussing it next week!  Please try to get some sense of the numbers of people involved; there seems to be a wide variation in the numbers of refugees and migrants reported to be in need of and seeking refuge outside of their home countries.  

For your reference, the population of the European Union is at 508 million, if you consider the EU to be 28 countries, including Croatia.  

And according to google, in 2013, the population of Europe the continent was 742.5 people.  The population of the US in 2014 was 318.9 million. And the population of Taiwan is 23.37 million.   

There is a flood of information right now on the internet about refugees and migrants.  It's hard to know where to start, and it's hard to choose just one article for our class.  

So I'm again going to give you some sources; please read what you can to form an opinion; ask your own questions and try to find some answers.  Come to class armed with some ideas, some facts, and some clear sources for your facts, and we'll have a good discussion and hopefully find some good answers to this terrible crisis. 

Here are four interesting links for you this week!:  

The first is an article which "debunks" a few myths including the myth that "the majority of people are economic migrants":
 5 Major Myths of Europe's Refugee and Migrant Crisis Debunked

Irin is a very good source for thought-provoking articles; feel free to choose an article that interests you, and share what you've learned with our class!:
Global Migrant and Refugee Crisis

On the above page, I checked out a short photo series: 
Humans of Syria 
and an article about the Train of Hope, a group of volunteers in Vienna:
The right way to reinvent the wheel?

Here is a surprising video interview with Noujain Mustaffa, a 16-year-old refugee from Syria, who uses a wheelchair and speaks excellent English (learned from watching a soap opera!).  
Disabled Syrian teenager's journey across borders

I also found this photo series from back in June, showing what people went through just to get out of Syria.
Syrians Crash Though a Fence Between War and Refuge

Please feel free to research this crisis in Chinese or in English, however you like, and come to class ready to discuss possible solutions.  

See you all on Thursday, 10/8!  Take care!!

Sincerely, Abbie

C.I. class 9/17/15: Beauty

Hello current returning, and past, C.I. students!

I am excited about the start of our new semester!  Last night was a lot of fun!

To those of you who are returning:  Welcome back!!  I was so glad to see all of you, and so happy to see you welcoming the new students and sharing your encouragement and words of wisdom!  

To those of you past students who can't return to C.I. class this semester:  We'll miss you a lot!  Please keep in touch with me!  I'd love to hear from you!  (Also, please let me know if you want me to keep you on the mailing list for class emails...  I will be making the new email list soon, and if you write me this week to say you'd like to keep getting C.I. class emails, I'll keep you on it!).  

Here's our first TED talk of the semester; it's on our new subject, "Beauty," and we'll be discussing this talk next week on 9/17!:

Cameron Russell:  Looks aren't everything.  Believe me, I'm a model.  

More soon!  

Sincerely, Abbie

PS  If you know any of the new students, please let them know that I'll be writing to them as well as soon as I get their email addresses!  :)  

07-09 POTLUCK PARTY 2015

Dear CI class, this is Jonas writing to all of our new and old friends in CI class. 

Our new semester has started already since last week and I'd like to welcome all of the new faces this semester! I'm sure you can find some veterans here and they are all excellent, enthusiastic learners. Jerry, our class leader, has always put tons of effort to help us gather together and deal with our class affairs. Sometimes he would bring some aromatic coffee to share with all of us. If you're lucky, don't forget to bring your own mug! You might also be able to see Barrett, Jeff, Julie and Hans in class. They are all friendly, curious and passionate classmates! Furthermore, we're so lucky to have Abbie as our teacher who has always devoted herself to leading and helping us in our English learning. From time to time, she would sing us a song with her beautiful voice! 

The last class of CI class each semester has turned out to be our very special tradition - POTLUCK. Bring your homemade food or anything delicious from any shops to share. Have you seen Hans' fishball soup or smelled Jerry's coffee? If you just join us this semester, please bring your favorite dish when the time comes!

Coffee smells great and tastes even greater! Food looks tasty, doesn't it? We all look happy, don't we? What are you waiting for? Come join us in CI class. See you there then!