Friday, February 13, 2009

At The White Swan

Those of you who have adopted children from China undoubtedly have fond memories of the White Swan Hotel on Guangzhou's Shamian Island. This is the hotel where families stay while waiting for clearance to head back to America with their precious new additions. We found it joyous to watch all of the photos being taken and to listen to all of the new parents exchange stories with one another.

As for us, no, we are not coming back to the United States as a fivesome, despite what many of you have thought all along. Rather, we were at the White Swan attending some Fulbright meetings, hopefully doing our little part to assist the newly arrived professors and their families get oriented to life and work in China.

My overall advice, kind of like my "half time" observations, can be boiled down to the following two insights...

First, as outsiders, our Chinese language abilities and our affinity for Chinese food largely drive our lives on a daily basis. Language and tastes, in other words, strongly affect who we interact with, how we get around town, where we eat our meals.

Second, our main classroom contributions come not in the teaching of substantive materials, but rather in the area of methodology. How does one construct an argument? What are the standards of evidence we use to evaluate descriptive or explanatory claims? These skills and modes of inquiry are, in my estimation, as important here in China as they are in the United States, as we all try to build societies that are fair and transparent.



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