The Halfway Point: 5 months in China
- Reflection: This marks the halfway point through my journey in China. I arrived in China on August 1, 2013 at approximately 5:00pm (China time)/ 5:00am (US time). I've observed many things during my time here just as anyone would expect. What stood out to me most about China was that it didn't come close to what I had envisioned in my head. I had it all wrong! I expected to see huge skyscrapers around every corner, nice houses with pretty landscapes, super high-tech communities and fashion freaks strutting every which-a-way. Boy was I wrong, wrong, WRONG! Pollution is a huge problem here. Which makes sense when you think about the export/import industry. Healthcare is a problem here as well. I interact with students on a daily basis and I can't count the amount of times I've seen children with their entire mouthes filled with rotted teeth. Cracked skin so damaged to the point that it is bleeding and a lot of coughing! A major shocker was when I witnessed many kids peeing in public walkways, stores and random sidewalks. It blew my mind, but now I just look and turn my head. I hold true to privacy when it comes to that for all ages, but I've accepted it as a cultural norm. The staring caused me to raise my eyebrows too but I remember that a lot of the people in this city are not from Shenzhen. They come from all over so they have never seen an African American in real life. It took some time for me to adjust to the picture taking too because you'd think these people could see exactly what you look like on tv. This is not the case however, but I assume many of them may not have televisions to begin with.
- Culture: The culture is definitely not what I imagined. Traditional dress is nonexistent, especially in Southeast China. No houses, not as many of those cool Chinese style building as I hoped for but I've seen a decent amount. I am glad that they do preserve those types of buildings... most of them have a lot of history behind them but there are a few used as tourist attractions. In rural Shenzhen, where I am currently living, it is about the same. The cities of Louhu and Futian have a decent amount of traffic flooding through its streets on a daily basis and skyscrapers! A lot of construction is happening every where. Seeing that Shenzhen is widely known as a trading zone and is home to citizens from all over China, it is imperative that they create a culture reflective of its people. The city is exactly where it needs to be. With a strong expat presence and many communities for young people, the city center is bound to bring in as many travelers as inHong Kong.... which brings me to another point of focus about south China.
- Hong Kong: As we know, Hong Kong does not consider themselves a part of China and I now see why. It is the best place to be for an American experiencing withdrawals. The energy is very much like New York and fashion is here! No awkward stares or communication barriers, nightlife, endless food from all over, and decent health ratings (meh). It is a huge melting pot! I loved everything about HK! Though I spent a short time here on my vacation I was able to jump right in and find out enough to want to return back more often. We will definitely become close friends this year!
- Teacher: This is the main reason I am here to begin with. I am an English teacher to about 200 students. I've taught students in Beijing and Shenzhen belonging to 2 different social classes, middle and upper class. The difference in their English varies tremendously, but the experience between the two are seamless. Nothing but good memories and life changing moments that will continue to improve my outlook on life. My students bring me so much joy. I sometimes find myself in a world of confusion trying to make every moment fulfilling and fun, but just when I feel like I'm crashing my students are right their to pick me up. No worries ever! They make my days go by with such ease. No matter how tired they are of having to learn English they always find special ways of letting me know that having fun together is exactly what they need to acquire a new language and that they appreciate our time together. It's what they enjoy most about our class. But what they never realize is that they really are retaining all of this new information. It's a great feeling seeing that I am able to help... that I am able to make a difference in my students lives, whether big or small. This was something I wanted to tackle after realizing students in China didn't experience the amount of fun in their classes as I did in America. The type of environment we've created in education has a profound effect on a student's level of interest in learning and their ability to interact with others. Many of my students shy away from class participation but a fun and welcoming environment will do the trick. Not to say that Chinese education practices are unrealistic because obviously they've worked well for some in more ways than one, but I am American. I want my students to get a feel for what it's like to learn in an American class setting. I try to recreate that experience as much as I can in all of my classes given the little resources that I have. So far it is working out for the most part, but next semester I plan to hit it dead on! We shall see next journal entry!