The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me. --Ayn Rand


Far, Far Away

The last three weeks were spent visiting some of the poorest areas foreigners are allowed to travel to in China. There were two main goals of this trip. One was to gain experience teaching children different subjects (I was responsible for math and art), and the other was to report to various teachers and principals our educational experience in the US.

Now that I'm back in the comfort of 24-hour hot water and fast internet, I really think that this program only succeeded on the most superficial level. And beside the time that was spent teaching and giving presentations, I loathed every minute of those grimy villages. Not, as I let everyone else believe, because it was dirty. Rather it was the lack of any sort of individual time, individual choice, or individual thought.

For more of my complaints, see the jump

First, though, I will give examples of why the program was a semi-disaster. When we taught students, it was an amazing experience. In general they were all extremely excited and enthusiastic about learning. However, we taught at 3 different schools for two days each. Although the impression we left was deep, the amount of knowledge gained was minimal. We didn't actually teach these children anything, so in that respect we failed.

When we began presenting we quickly realized that the Chinese teachers/principals were not very interested in our reports. This may be due to the fact that we gave our reports sitting down behind a computer reading a script (note that this is the standard way to present in China). After forcing these Chinese people--generally used to being told what to think--to ask questions, we found that almost none of them had to do with what we just reported on. They would ask me questions like, "What is your major? What do you plan to do now?" when my report was on my experience learning Spanish and Chinese and the specific reasons why my Chinese improved much more rapidly than my Spanish.

On top of that, Chinese people don't seem to understand how to turn off their cell phones.

Outside of these two activities we ate every meal with teachers/principals and we went to visit tourist attractions, etc etc. It sounds nice, but let me paint you a picture.

I am starving. At lunch there was only one vegetarian dish, which was a plate of cold peanuts. Between lunch and dinner I ate an ice-cream bar to stay full. Every meal has already been chosen by the tour-guide/hotel manager/school principal so that us students wouldn't be overwhelmed by choices. At dinner I find they ordered the exact same food as lunch. I have to sit through this three hour ordeal because it is considered rude to leave while people are eating. After dinner, I don't have time to buy more food because we have a meeting to discuss tomorrow's classes. I want to die.

This is just the way things are here. We are not given a choice in anything. Granted, the tour guide/principal would ask us how the food was. However, one of the teachers who accompanied us on the trip is a second cousin to Satan. She would answer, "Oh, don't mind them. They're just students. They don't have any problems. They loved the food!"

In the end I was mentally and physically exhausted, and this contributed to the early onset of culture shock. I was extremely unhappy and I'm just starting to get over that.

But, in grief there are always fantastic stories. Here are some pictures to help show that. The photo of me in the red "fruitcake" shirt was right before we left Beijing. Try and spot the demon teacher.


Anonymous 30 Year Old said...

I didn't realize your friend from HMC was with you on this program. That has to make it much more fun than being there by yourself.



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