Y is for Yangtze

What happened when Carolyn V. Hamilton taught an English class on a Yangtze cruise.

In the city of Yichang, China, the ex and I boarded a five-star river cruise ship, the East King, reputed to be the best cruise ship on the Yangtze River. We were off to see the site of China’s controversial Three Gorges Dam project.

Flush with my new TEFL certificate from an international language school in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico I introduced myself to the captain as an English teacher and offered to teach an English workshop for the ship's crew.

The captain welcomed the idea, offered me a conference meeting room, easels, large tablets of paper, scotch tape, “what things you need.”

From 11:30 to 12:30 in the morning about 15 primary crew members, several in crisp uniforms, participated.

Yangtze river cruiseThese four young ladies from the evening show were among my students.


Two young men arrived at 11:05 and offered to help me post on the walls some large sheets of paper listing articles and possessives. These were the two areas I’d identified as generally unused by the crew when they spoke to us in English.

I was later told that the concepts of articles and possessives don’t exist in the same way in the Chinese language.

Yangtze river cruiseMy "assistant"

At 11:25, all my students sat erectly in place, pads and pencils in front of them, looking at me with expressions that said, “We’re ready.”

In the gift shop I’d bought a stuffed panda bear, which I introduced as my “assistant.”

Yangtze river cruise

I held “it” up and said, “First we have to decide if it is a boy or a girl.” We voted, and everyone agreed, he is a boy. Now we needed a name.

Each student gave me a boy name which I wrote on individual pieces of paper. I folded them once and threw them into the air, and they landed in a scatter on the floor. Then, as my students stared, perplexed, I crawled on the floor with my hand over my eyes and selected one at random.

The bear’s chosen name was a fine boy’s name, Dukun.

But the girls told me a Chinese mother calls her baby, "Bau Bau." We all agreed to call him, “Bau Bau.”

To introduce the concepts of articles and possessives, I had the students rise, move around the room and play games. In one game they used Bau Bau as a toss toy to decide which student would answer a forthcoming question.

After the class, two girls approached and thanked me. One said, “Your English class is more active than our regular English classes.”

That evening, the captain sent a complimentary bottle of wine to our table. My “class” is my fondest memory of my Yangtze River Cruise on the East King.

The cruise itself was educational—and disturbing.

Yangtze river cruiseMask artifacts already recovered from areas soon to be submerged.

The Three Gorges Project (TGP) is a massive hydroelectric project that will displace 1.25 million people, submerge archaeological sites, 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,352 villages.

The “good” part is that there will be flood control and power generation for expansive areas along the Yangtze River both above and below the dam.

Yangtze river cruiseThis ancient man-made access to the river will soon be gone forever.

The Three Gorges are limestone ridges through which the Yangtze River passes for 150 miles.

Yangtze river cruise

The longest of the gorges is Xiling Gorge, with steep, narrow cliffs.

We cruise past caves, tombs, and shrines that will soon be submerged.

Yangtze river cruiseThis slab of rock wall art has fortunately been removed and preserved in the Three Gorges Dam Museum in Chongqing.

The landscape and the people surrounding China's Yangtze River will change forever with the completion of the Three Gorges Dam.

Yangtze river cruiseAt the site of the Three Gorges Dam

This is world’s largest construction site. When completed, the massive Three Gorges Dam will be two miles wide, 650 feet high and create a reservoir the size of Singapore.

At the dam site’s shore walk, I paid $2.00 US for an ice cream bar.

Yangtze river cruise

Since this monumental construction project was not yet completed, we passed the dam site via a temporary channel dug out of the south bank.

Meanwhile on the East King the evening spectacular features entertainers like my four pretty students in traditional Chinese costumes telling ancient stories in music and dance.

Carolyn V. Hamilton

Last letter of the A to Z Blog Challenge: The last letter of the alphabet, Z, will be for Zozobra, the oldest and one of the wildest celebrations in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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