Sunday, November 14, 2010

Similarities, but, yes, Differences

It's 10:00pm I am laying in bed wearing two pairs of pants, a fleece jacket, a ski hat, and still my teeth are chattering. What am I doing back in Faribault, MN, you ask? Not quite. Instead I have traveled across the world to discover that cold in Kunming, China feels just the same as cold in Minnesota. My future as a research scientist seems secure!

Cold houses aside I'm pleased to write that I  have traveled many miles since conquering the Inca Trail. From Quito to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Kunming the next leg in my Thinking Beyond Borders adventure is about to begin. I've only been here a week, but I already know that my horizons will be expanded here as much as they were in Ecuador.

While in Kunming our groups' focus will be on education. Specifically, the purpose, the role in development, and the oppression/ liberation affliated with one's access to institutions of learning.  To best understand the dynamics of the Chinese education system we will be teaching English and US culture to Chinese middle and high school students.  I have been assigned an 8th and 10th grade class. I begin my teaching experience on Monday and have several education games and bribes (candy) to get through any problem spots. My expectation, however, is Chinese students will behave much better than my classmates or sister did at ages 14 and 16. No fire alarms on cell phones, right Sam? :-)   

Beyond preparing for our time in the classroom we have been reading and attending lectures with frequency. Much of this has been focused on the Chinese language— the most difficult language to learn on this planet! Actually, I have found our lessons to be less linguistics and more karate with my tongue - trying to make it twist and turn like a gymnast on a high bar. One word may have 4 meanings and therefore the tone is essential. I'm afraid it is only a matter of time before I curse my host family by simply asking for a glass of water. 

Speaking of my host family, all this learning is put into practice during my homestay.  Practice makes permanent, right? Like my time in Los Naranjos, I am blessed to live with a wonderful family here in Kunming. The family includes the father, who works for the government; the mother who is a news reporter; and a 14 year-old daughter. My new sister is is an extremely diligent student who attends school 12 hrs a day, 6 days a week. Her commitment to learn and better herself is amazing.  

The apartment is taken care of with love and pride, which overcomes the material shortcomings of a shower head, a toilet, and heat. In Ecuador I learned that material possessions do not foster care, concern, and love for others. That lesson is echoed with my family in Kunming.

All in all, I am really enjoying my time experiencing a new and diverse culture. In only two weeks, I have eaten grasshoppers (fried of course), eel, squid, and pig's butt with nothing more than two wooden sticks. If this is any type of foreshadowing of what is to come, I'm in for an unbelievable time in China.

I will try my best to update my blog in the coming weeks. With that said, China has recently instituted a law banning foreigners from Internet cafes, making my access to Internet challenging. And when I have Internet access many sites are blocked, including my blog.

It seems that the food isn't the only difference between Faribault and Kunming.

Wo xiang nimen! ( I miss you all)

Maddie p