Wednesday, June 02, 2010

From Rice Terraces To Silver Spring

This post falls into the category of "score one for Desi." You see, while spending time in the rice terraces of southwestern China, Desi became fixated on the idea of getting our hands on authentic hats, the traditional head gear that is actually worn by workers out in the paddies.

My response? Skepticism on a number of fronts. "Where are we going to find them?" "How are we going to get them back to Beijing, let alone the States?" "Why would we want them anyway?"

Desi's answer to that last question? "So we can wear them when we work out in the yard."

"That's never gonna happen," came my response.

Famous last words...


Monday, May 31, 2010

On Textbooks And Experiences

I recently had the chance to give a presentation on China to the 7th graders at Z's school. Since the kids had been studying China in their World Studies class, I took this as an opportunity to complement the "textbook" knowledge they had been accumulating with some knowledge drawn from our experiences "on the ground." And so I set out to put together a session on The People of China...stories of people we spent time with. What is it like to be a person who calls China home?

But first, I wanted to assess just what the gang already knew about the Middle Kingdom. Turns out, they had been well taught. Here are some emblematic comments I received when I asked for written feedback in advance of my talk...

I think life for people in China is chaotic because of all the people who live there, making transportation really hard.

They either live in crowded cities, major cities in the East or farms in middle and western parts.

Their life is pretty much controlled by the government.

Armed with this sense of what I was walking into, I designed a slide show that introduced students to a number of real Chinese people, along with what they eat, what they do for work and fun, and what their living environments and landscapes are like.

After an hour of this, I knew I had surprised and even shocked students in a number of regards, based on their gasps and laughs when different pictures came up on the screen. But what, in the end, left the deepest impressions on them? Well, here are some of the things that this great group of kids said to me in thank you notes...

You taught us about the Great Wall of China and how some parts were reduced to rubble.

I really found it interesting that the Great Wall was broken up and some places were becoming covered by trees.

I looked at Google Earth and didn't see the Great Wall from space.

Cool! We busted some commonly held myths about the Great Wall (like that it consists of a single, uninterrupted wall of guard towers and fortified walkways).

I learned that I should eat scorpion.

I will always remember to choose the scorpion over the silkworm.

I would still rather eat a silkworm.

Yes, I stood there and gave graphic descriptions of what it is like to eat scorpion and silkworm, as well as why, if given the choice, you should pick the scorpion every time.

My favorite part was when you explained about how it was like to live in the countryside of China. I still do want to know how you got into those homes?

After that, I felt like I knew a lot more about China than I would have learned from a history book.

I would really enjoy traveling to China one day after all the things you have told us.

Go kids, go!