May 30, 2011
May 29, 2011
at the foot massage place: Shen Kan (old friend), Cammie, me and Bu Wei (foot massage place owner):
May 28, 2011
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is one of my favorite books. I just love it.
So much so that I have a copy here in Chi.na that I have read to every class I have ever taught and every student I have ever tutored.
I thought today would be a good day to have Wang, my new 17 year old student read the book so we could chat about it. I thought he would like it because he is a "feeler." He is a music student at a special school for musically inclined kids in town, and he's a free thinker (his mom is my co-worker for the orphans and is the most revo.lut.iona.ry person I have ever/will ever meet).
About half way through our hour-long class I handed him the book and he started reading.
He read slowly and meticulously - pronouncing every world right except "crowns" and "gathered."
Until we reached the page where the little boy asks the tree for money and gathers all the tree's apples to sell in the city.
And he stopped reading. And began to shake a bit.
I looked over at him (we have class seated on my little 2-seater couch in my dorm) and wondered if he was embarrassed because his reading was poor, or if he couldn't read a word, or if he was sick. I got worried as the seconds passed...until I realized - he was on the verge of tears.
I put my arm around him, "are you ok?"
He began to sob. "I love this story," he managed to whisper out between blubbery gasps and tears.
And I let him cry. For a long time.
After a cup of water and several tissues, I asked him if he wanted to continue the story. I told him we could just sit if he wanted to, we didn't even need to talk. But he wanted to continue, so we did. He read and shook and let some tiny tears fall as he finished reading the story of the boy and the tree. A story about unconditional love.
He finished the book, looked over to me and said, "This is my mother." And he cried some more.
It was such.a.precious.moment.
I saw a little light bulb go off in his head and he flipped back to the page about the boy collecting apples, the page where his emotions were triggered. "This is me," he said pointing to the part abou the boy asking for money. He then went on to slowly re-tell the story to me, bit by bit explaining that it is only in the end of our lives that we realize what someone has given us, and then it's too late. To him, the cutting down of the tree to make a boat symbolized the death of the tree (even though in the book it doesn't die) and he took from that that only after a person dies does a young person really know what that person has given to them - because young people are immature and greedy and unaware what sacrifices their parents make for them.
It was the deepest rendition of the story I have ever been told.
We sat together for awhile past his class time. He didn't want to go outside looking like he had been crying because his dad was picking him up today and he's, "a man."
I told him it's ok to cry. It's powerful to cry. And to be honest with his emotions. He didn't know the world "honest" so we looked it up in my dictionary and he shook his head yes.
I had a strange moment of, there's a 17 year old Chi.nese boy sobbing on my couch. I felt my role as teacher blend with counselor and friend in those moments. He just needed a safe space, he didn't need anyone to talk. He was just living in the moment of love for his family. And it was beautiful.
After about 10 minutes of silence, he got up to leave. I gave him the book. It's his story. If a person is that moved by a lesson in love, they deserve to re-live it and share it with others, especially his mom.
I'm not sure how much english Wang learned in our hour together today, but I know we both learned something. He learned to allow himself to cry. And I got a first-hand glimpse of raw emotion - a rarity in this culture.
And we were both moved.
walk slow. xoxo.
May 27, 2011
May 26, 2011
Tomorrow there are some interviews at my work for doctors wishing to go to America for an international exchange program.
I was plucked from my happy place of neutralness and must sit on the panel of interviewers along with the hospital president, the chairperson for international relations, and a doctor from the international hospital in town.
So, in this week's English class I'm teaching them how to interview. There are so many differences between how Chin.ese people interview and how Americans interview. The aim is usually different, what the interviewer thinks is important is different, the types of questions are different, and the way the interviewee responds is also different.
Culture is a funny thing.
So in today's class we brainstormed a bunch of possible interview questions and I had them talk away - interviewing each other for over an hour. (I call this "endurance speaking practice").
One of the possible interview questions was, "what are you strengths and weaknesses?"
As the monkies were chit-chatting away, my favorite dentist pal called me over to ask, "how do I describe my strengths?"
me: "Well, you just tell things that you are good at. Are you patient with parents in the ward? Are you good at doing different things at once? Are you good at managing your time? Can you get along well with others?"
him: "I have no strengths."
me: "Everyone has strengths. It's impossible you don't have any strengths. What are things you think are you good at at work."
me: "I know you are a hard worker. Your work ethic can be a strength. I know you are a good father, that can be a strength."
him: "But if I say that it is not rude?"
me: *light bulb goes off* "So, if you are interviewing in Ch.ina and you are asked this question, what do you say?"
him: "You should say you have no strengths, then maybe some some other things. When I was interviewing for my job in 2004, I was asked this question and I said I have no strengths. I got the job."
me: "Don't do that in tomorrow's interview. Being humble does not mean downgrading yourself. You can be humble and say things you are good at. Everyone is good at something. We do not need to push our selves down. We should be happy with the talents we have and thankful for them in our lives."
him: "This is just Chine.se culture."
me: "That doesn't mean you have to do it. State your strengths, ready, go..."
him: "Well, actually, I am really good at incisions...."
I have never met a confident, satisfied, content Chin.ese person. And little encounters like this reinforce my understand as to why this is the case. I live in a culture that pushes its people down, not encourages them.
I asked them what are some interview questions they have been asked in the past and there were some standard ones and some whacked out ones. Most had to do with religious or political ideas. (So, if they fall outside of the "proper mindset" they are not chosen).
Sometimes I feel like I am a little fish swimming against a tidepool of whacked out negative ideas. And I have to shine a light on all the little fishes swimming past me in the stream of crazyness so they can see that there is another way.
I learn so much with these people. I love them. I want them to know their strengths and voice them. I want them to be proud of who they are.
We all should be.
Walk slow. xoxo.
May 25, 2011
You see, I have been officially offered (and accepted) a new job starting this Fall. I will be an Education Field Supervisor/Practicum Instructor/International Education Professor for Concordia University Irvine. (my master's almamatuer).
Comfort food at its finest. This was my dinner to compensate for my sad heart after work. I was the only customer in the noodle shop and had a captive audience of 3 little muslim kids watching my every bite. I looked up from one bite to see them all staring at me, mouths open. There I was, chopsticks full of noods shoving into my face. Classy. "Herro," I just said, mouth full of noodles.
May 24, 2011
My last semester oral Chin.ese teacher had her baby last week!
I still remember her pulling me aside after class one day to, "tell me her secret." We got to watch her little belly get bigger and bigger all semester and now the baby is here!
May 22, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 20, 2011
She was so concerned. It was such a tender moment around such violence. This is what I am looking for now...in the slight chaos that will be the next few weeks of my life...school choices, work choices, etc...I have to know that there will be tender moments - moments of surprise, small joys, and sweetness between people. I can't lose those moments amongst the storm.
May 16, 2011
May 15, 2011
May 14, 2011
Lord, help me. There's North Koreans singing in my dorm, random Chin.ese people calling me fat on the street, and a naked, smoking parade outside my window.