So today was my 6th day of teaching in China, and I have 6 more before I come back to the States. This has already been an unbelievable experience. A few of my fellow teachers and I were talking earlier about how hard it is to put this whole thing into words. It's been amazing.
Obviously, I'm in China, half a world away, teaching students who have widely varying degrees of fluency in the only language that we have in common. It is a very foreign place in that respect, and it's easy to dwell on the differences between home and here.
However, the similarities are what's really been standing out to me lately. The students that I'm teaching are 12-13 years old, so American middle school age. They live in China, a place where I've always heard is huge, poor, dirty, communist, scary, etc. (think of what stereotypes you've seen or heard about this country.) But these students are attending a summer camp right now, where they are learning songs, performing skits, and making new friends. They are attending school with the aspirations of becoming teachers, doctors, engineers, or professional basketball players to name a few. They like to dress in fashionable clothes, listen to pop music, and eat at KFC and other fast food places - all things that their parents' and grandparents' genertions would disapprove of. Does any of that sound like children in America?
Many of the students have a good sense of humor and want to talk to me and make me laugh. They are friendly and generous and want to give me things as gifts so I will remember them. At their performances that they do every night, they run up to their American teachers and ask us to join them on the stage. They absolutely love trying to teach me new Chinese words and phrases and they get so excited when I correctly pronounce and use my new vocabulary.
It really is hard to put into words what this experience has shown me so far, or what kind of impact the students and I have had on each other. But I've definitely realized that we all have a lot more in common with each other than we have differences. I've realized that China is a pretty good, clean, smart, free place. I've learned that, while the language barrier can be tough at times, you can communicate with, laugh with, and learn from each other with even a very minimal understanding of each other's languages.
Maybe none of these things are earth-shattering revelations that I could have only realized from a 2-week trip to China, but they have been jumping out at me more and more since I've been in nanjing. The bottom line is that I've learned a lot about China, the language, about the people, and about the world in the last week or so, and I still have another week or so left. I know that more exciting things are still to come.
Sorry that this post was more philosophical than journal-ish, I'll try to make most of my future posts have a clearer, more tangible focus, ha ha. We did do some exciting things today, such as take a culture class on kung fu and attend the bonfire night at school which was quite the adventure! I'll write more about those on another day. And tomorrow is our 1 day off where we are going to be touring nanjing - its supposed to be pretty interesting. I'll keep you posted. Good night!