My Day as a TeacherPosted by Sonja Poe on 5/16/2018
The Chorus CompetitionPosted by Sofia Hrycyszyn on 5/16/2018
Being a Part of the Cultural FestivalPosted by Min Park on 5/16/2018
ScoutsPosted by Michelle Lee on 5/16/2018
Home Sweet HutongPosted by Jenny Huang on 5/16/2018
Differences in EducationPosted by Alex Kelsey-Ramos on 5/16/2018
Chorus CompetitionPosted by Ariella Hatch-Tuchman on 5/16/2018
The Cultural FestivalPosted by Sonja Poe on 5/16/2018
The Way We Treat ForeignersPosted by Sofia Hrycyszyn on 5/16/2018
Popcorn and 3D GlassesPosted by Min Park on 5/16/2018
StereotypesPosted by Alastair Poole on 4/24/2017
StereotypesPosted by Andrew Gundal on 4/24/2017
Halfway TherePosted by Courtney Chang on 4/24/2017
Air in BeijingPosted by Lucas Pratt on 4/24/2017
Stereotypes DRIVE Me Crazy!Posted by Grace Honig on 4/24/2017
Thoughts on Governmental Control of the InternetPosted by Jacob Kingsley on 4/24/2017
Are you an ABC?Posted by Marianne Yu on 4/24/2017
VeganPosted by Greg Brumberg on 4/24/2017
Getting Schooled in Chinese CulturePosted by Grace Honig on 4/24/2017
SchoolPosted by Lucas Pratt on 4/24/2017
Outbound Student Journals
Journals Spring 2016
Claire Mendelsohn Journal Entry #8
In the last journal entry I talked about the relationship between parents and children, specifically fathers and daughters. For this week I will be talking about Chinese sons and their relationships with their mothers. As a [DISCLAIMER], I am no expert on a Chinese son’s relationship with his parents because I do not have a male host sibling. I am merely passing on the stories I have been told by other exchange students. The same as before, in the interest of privacy I will not be mentioning names; instead I will give each person fake names and genders.
One polluted morning at the Beijing Jingshan School an American student mentioned seeing [Cheryl]’s exchange student host sibling on the subway ride to school. [Cheryl] started to explain the reason behind this occurrence. Now, [Cheryl] is always driven to school in a car, along with [her] host sibling. [Cheryl]’s host mother was nagging the host sibling when suddenly he opened the car door and left. (Don’t worry the car was stopped due to the massive amounts of traffic) [Jimmy] enter through classroom door and jumps into the conversation. [Jimmy] adds into the conversation that [his] host sibling did the same thing, but on a different occasion and day. [Jimmy] said it was because his host mother kept making fun of his host sibling’s singing. Eventually [Jimmy]’s host sibling opened the car door and just walked away. From then on [Cheryl] and [Jimmy] shared more stories of their host siblings and situations that Americans might consider rude. These other stories consisted ignoring one’s parents, throwing temper tantrums, etc. [Cheryl] said that if [her] host mom asks [her] host sibling if he had a nice day and in response [Cheryl]’s host sibling would rudely say, “Stop talking/shut up,” or just blatantly ignore the question. When [Jimmy]’s host mother jokingly teases [his] host sibling, he will yell and storm to his room, and will not come out for a while.
Just hearing about these instances is bad, but think about the mother’s perspective; that is even worse. I was never told about how the mothers had reacted to how their sons were acting, but I can imagine it being worry, sadness, and anger. Concerning the situation of one’s child just up and exiting the car would most usually cause a mix of the emotions worry and anger. Worrying because the parent would probably want to know if their child was safe and sound, and anger because their child has done something potentially dangerous. In the scenario of a mother being told to ‘stop talking’ or be ignored by her son would arouse the emotion of anger. Speaking for my own case, if my mother asks me questions about my day and I only give her one word answers she gets angry, so if a mother is getting straight up ignored when she asks her son a question I assume she would be furious. Lastly, if my child threw temper tantrums and locked himself in his room I would probably feel sad. I would reminisce of when my son was still a baby and let me take care of him and all the cute memories. That is if I were in the mother’s position.
Involving punishments for these rude actions I don’t know if any were given since I was only told about the son’s behavior. If I had to guess, I don’t think many consequences were given, and if so they weren’t too harsh. I think this ia because China has a strong cultural background of mothers spoiling their kids, especially their sons. Due to that sons grow with little respect for their moms.Emily Hogan May 6, 2016Journal Entry #8: Cultural Misunderstanding
As expected when traveling halfway across the globe, many things did not go as expected. Over time, I have learned that some things I perceived did not end up happening in the way I expected, and some ideas I thought would carry over the Pacific Ocean never found their way. One of the biggest examples of a cultural misunderstanding is my misunderstanding of the gender separation that exists in China.
This aspect of social life, for whatever reason, I did not expect to be any different in China than America. My first experience of gender separation in Beijing started on one of my first days of school at Jingshan in February. Everyone in the class was going out into the hallway and getting into two lines in preparation for the weekly flag ceremony. Nobody had told me what to do, so I tried my best to follow what everyone else was doing. I ended up following by host brother Kevin and stood behind him in line. Almost at once he turned around and told me, “Emily, you might want to go in that line.” It was not until this point that I realized there was a boys line and a girls line. After fixing my positioning, the class proceeded in walking to the ceremony.
Just the next day, my class was getting ready to go outside and run before school like my class does every Tuesday through Friday. I was surprised when the homeroom teacher announced that the boys will be running eight laps as a group, and directly behind the boys, the girls would only be running six. What surprised me more was that everyone was okay with it. In America I would imagine someone would say something, but here nobody said anything; this was completely normal. I would probably say this is the the event where I realized how incorrect my preconception of social life in China was. I was so used to the similar ways boys and girls were treated in America that I automatically assumed China would be the same. I felt myself yearning to run the two extra laps as I sit with the rest of the girls on the side of track while the boys continued their running. I wanted them to know that the other girls and I were just as capable of running eight laps as any of the boys.
During gym class, I found the capability of girls being questioned a second time. First of all, the girls were on the other side of the track from the boys, and we had a different teacher. (I later learned this separation starts around seventh grade.) Besides that, we even did different activities; when the boys worked on their strength by throwing medicine balls, and doing push ups and tricep dips, the girls merely did sit ups for 60 seconds. To say the least, I honestly think some of our push ups would be better than the boys’ anyway. Of course this would only be possible if we were given the chance to try in the first place.
Thinking it over, my misunderstanding of gender separation came from the ideas I was raised by in the United States, and it was wrong of me to assume these ideas would be just as relevant in China. It shows how ingrained the ideas of gender equality are in me that I did not expect it to be different anywhere else in the world. If I did not go to China for four months, I might never have completely realized the separation of boys and girls in Chinese society, and on the other hand I might not have understood the many cases where they are not separated in America. This just goes to show that new global experiences do not just teach you new things about the culture of another people, but it also teaches you about your own.
Michael Lee 5/5/16Discovering something about myself
Over the course of this exchange trip, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself. By simply taking part in this program, I have already stretched myself out of my comfort-zone. I came over with a group of people that greatly differ from me, and that has allowed me to push my comfort-zone even further. It has challenged me at times, and I could have never imagined some of the things that have unfolded during our time in China. However, when it comes to learning something about myself, there is something bigger for me than just trying new things. One of the motivators for my interest in this exchange was a desire to experience the culture that I was originally born into. Given that I am adopted from China, this trip has provided a valuable insight into the culture that could've raised me. With that in mind, on this trip, I was able to truly discover the difference between Chinese culture and myself.
The difference between Chinese culture and myself has always been something I thought I understood, but upon living in China, it has become even clearer for me. In short, I discovered how "American-ized" I am. Not in a bad way, but in the sense that I could never imagine myself living in China, despite it being my birthplace. There have been many aspects of China that have helped me realize this underlying difference. For starters, the censorship here is something that I can't tolerate. Growing up in America, I never had to worry about certain materials being censored by the government. Being in China, nearly everything I normally use in my life is blocked. YouTube, Google, Snapchat, Instagram, and so much of the internet is censored. Chinese television is maintained by the government. I rarely see any criticism of the government, which goes to show how censored the media is. On YouKu, despite having American programming, shows are edited for any content that could stir controversy. House of Cards even ended up being banned while I was in the middle of watching it. To sum up, the censorship is a part of China that I am not acclimated to, because I have been raised in an open-media culture. This helps support the difference between myself and Chinese culture.
Some of the things people say and do have also helped me to notice the difference between Chinese culture and myself. First, the ignorance in some of the things they say is quite shocking. For instance, weight and body image is something that I know a lot of people struggle with. I don't mind talking about it, but I understand that there are different ways to address it when it comes up. However, I have noticed that people here in China are very abrupt with comments regarding these sensitive topics. I once witnessed a situation in China, where a girl mentioned she felt fat. Her family then told her, with no sympathy, that she should just eat less. There was no comfort in their words, but rather, just a blunt answer. I have noticed this a lot throughout China, where a lot of people are much less considerate on how the other person feels. It seems to me that they feel that these issues are more cut-and-dry than they actually are. Secondly, some of the beliefs that people hold are very discriminatory. I remember telling a relative of my host student's family that my mother was retired. Although I know they didn't mean it harshly, they responded by saying that that is where she should be. Upon further inquiry, I realized that this person, who was male, believed that women are only good in the house and have no purpose elsewhere. I found this to be absurd, and I have noticed that comments like this tend to be common. Many people here still hold traditional values in many areas. This mindset is something that truly shocked me, and I could never imagine thinking that way. It further supports the difference between Chinese culture and myself.
I knew that coming on this exchange would allow me to see the culture that I was born into. I understood that this could have been my life today. However, I also understood that what I would experience in China would be different from what I am used to. Over three months have gone by, and I am even more knowledgeable in my "American-ized" lifestyle. Among the many things that I have learned, that is the biggest one. Even though I understood the differences between myself and Chinese culture, even before coming on this exchange, I have truly discovered the difference between myself and the culture I was born in.
Natalie Bohm Journal Entry 8
Hello and welcome back to Mythbusters: China Edition! It’s our eighth installment today, so keep an eye out in the next two weeks for the season finale! Let’s get started.
13. Tourist Areas Are Modern and Mechanized in China: MYTH. From April 23-29, our group traveled around the Shanghai area, including the Yellow Mountain and Suzhou in addition to the city itself. I was most excited for the Yellow Mountain: I love hiking, and after so many weeks in a city, I was really ready for the peace and quiet of the wilderness. In truth, I was actually a little worried that the popularity of the mountain as a tourist destination would mean lots of fancy gondolas, luxury hotels, and chrome railings. That is not what the Yellow Mountain is like, let me tell you. There are only a handful of cable cars on the whole mountain, and the one we were in was this little old box whose doors didn’t shut until we were 30 feet in the air. At the top, there were almost no people. There were no paved roads and no cars. Some hotels were nearby, but ours was an hour’s hike away. I was ecstatic.
Less fun were the prices of goods at the top of the mountain. In Beijing, a bottle of Nongfu Springs (cheapest bottled water) costs about 3 yuan. In our hotel, it cost almost three times that (which, by the way, is still less than what a bottle of Poland Springs costs in America). Why was everything so expensive, you may ask? It’s not to wring every last cent out of tourists. Rather, it’s because everything, every single object used and sold in the hotel, has to be carried by porters all the way up the mountain. We ran into some of these unsung heroes on our hike down, which in itself took two and a half hours and was steep and far enough to make your legs hurt at the bottom. It must take them six or so hours for a porter to get to the top of the Yellow Mountain, following the trail we did. They come equipped with two half-pipe bamboo rods, held over the shoulders with the rounded side down and two parcels hanging from either end, the other with a metal tip for sticking into the ground while being used as a walking stick, but which also doubles as a support the porters can use as a lever on their shoulders to shift the stress from their backs to their arms. Our guide told us these guys carry about 80 kilograms of materials up the mountain on one trip, which means they walk carefully and very, very slowly, and if you see one coming in the opposite direction as you, you’d better get out of the way for the safety of everybody on this stretch of trail. I don’t want to think about what 80 kilos of cucumbers could do to you if all unleashed at once from 10 feet up. Anyways, part of me couldn’t really believe that the Yellow Mountain still sustained itself using porters. They have a cable car, after all. But apparently the revenue generated by the ported goods doesn’t make up for the cable car’s expenses, so to this day, the great Yellow Mountain still runs on old-fashioned, backbreaking labor.
Sally Journal #8
It took me time to articulate the most important cultural difference between America and China. However, as I am closing in on the last couple weeks here I feel the need to give it a best shot and really get a hold on the most imperceptible yet most impactful cultural differences. To the naked eye, China and America appear to be polar opposites, but while that is easy to spot, it is hard to prove. The simple, “Its just different” doesn't even scratch the surface, and the truth has proved to be much more complicated.
Living with a host family for the past three months it is obviously the home life where I see the most differences. Here, the bond between parent and child is one formed out of respect and obedience. When a parent says something, the child listens and abides, that's the end of it. But. in america, the idea of teenage rebellion has been so deeply sown into our culture that it is almost the exact opposite. Americans hold the idea that teenagers become adults by separating from their parents while chinese teenagers look to their parents for advice to transition to adulthood.
This is closely related to the schism between how Americans and Chinese view ageing. Regardless of how we like to put it, in America, the elderly become a burden. We put them into elderly homes and the idea of a radical and crazy grandparent has wormed itself into almost everyone's life. However, In Chinese, age is a badge of honour. The older you are, the more you have experienced, and therefore, the more respect you deserved. This is something I have experienced first hand, witnessed the reverence in which Rebecca and her mother refer to their “nainai”, a figure of power and strength. While my parents think of their parents as lovely and incredible people but a worry all the same.
Another huge difference I have had my fair share of encounter with is the “chinese no”. I am someone who has been brought up on the concept that if you want something you need to go out and get it. Which unfortunately, has proven to be the opposite of how things operate in China. Recently, I met a lawyer who came to China from the United states and he said the most difficult thing is the diplomacy, the fact that nobody will tell you what they are thinking, or even argue with you, until the last second. There have been one too many time when I have realised that, even though I ended up going out to dinner with my friends, the phrase “but it is a long subways ride” and “but I don't want you to be tired in the morning” were simple no’s.
While there have been so many moments where, in the aftermath, I have thought to myself “DUH, how could you have been so dumb?!” It comes down to the face that China and America are not only physically on opposite sides of the world, they are literally opposites. I have realised how American I am in my time here and, while I have a deep admiration and appreciation for this country and its culture, I wouldn't want o be anything but American. Even if that makes me an “ugly american”, I am still inexplicably proud.
Sheil Mehta Parallel to another Experience
Coming to China was new in hundreds of ways. I have never been away from home this long before, I have never eaten pigs feet; I have never lived with a host brother. But one thing I noticed was that in some ways it was similar to an experience I have had before. That being the hospitality I was greeted and constantly treated to. The host family I live with is never happy until they know for sure that I am. They are constantly concerned with my wellbeing and making sure I like the food. They are compassionate and always trying to make sure I am comfortable. This seems to be a trend among the Chinese people; they love to make you feel at home
It made me think about another time I felt this way. And it was when I visited India. Because I am part of a huge Indian family, I get to see another brand of Asian culture. When I visited I was treated to the same mannerisms. Everyone wants you to eat MORE. Here I dare not skimp on a meal or they will assume I am sick and dying. Every plate finished is followed by a request to get more from the parents. The same happened in India, you would have to throw yourself over your empty plate in attempt to prevent the next serving from coming to you. Both cultures show a high level of caring for not only your wellbeing but also the fact that you are fed and happy with it. I learned pretty fast that in both cultures it is better to have a little left over on your plate when you finish, as a sign that you ate all you possibly could. Seeing that an empty plate simply meant room for more.
Both cultures go out of their way to make you comfortable. The experiences I have here cement the differences between eastern and western cultures. Yes you can obviously have very gracious hosts anywhere in the world. But there is something different here, how everyone will do anything to make you feel welcome. Apart from food I’ve had my host family put together whole vacations, buy specific items for the house, monitor the temperature and even fully inquire about my every day and how it went. All without prompting or suggestion that I needed it. The consideration shown is one I would not even expect from family members. And initially I would never have expected these things from a host family. Maybe just a place to stay and some meals to eat. But the way they try everything in their power to keep you happy makes me feel lucky. As if I’m with an extension of my real family.Ying Ying Rossi 5/5/16Journal Entry #8
Was the period of industrialization good or bad? Back in Newton, I had this as one of my essay prompts. Having someone pose a question like this made me really stop to think. Industrialism brought forth more job opportunities, new medical techniques, and an abundance of resources. Although, contrary to this, industrialization was paired with an increase in unfair labor and a decrease in the health of many people no matter what class. Plus, not to mention all the nasty chemicals that are now being released into the air every second. This essay I had wrote was targeted towards the industrialization of Europe specifically. However, being in the cities in China forced me to realize that the negative effects of factories as a result of materialism are global and follow you almost everywhere.
For those of you who haven't heard, we took a short trip to the Yellow Mountains, Shanghai, and Suzhou the other week. I had this pre-notion that Shanghai would be the best part. I was excited for the big city, skyscrapers, shopping, and the famous Bund. However, it was not quite all I had hoped for. Sure, the hotel we stayed in was super clean and everything, but it was all for a price. With the industrialization comes factories, and factories bring forth pollution, and lots of it. When we were at the Bund, the water was this unsettling murky shade of green-brown. Also, similar to Beijing, the air had a thin sheet of smog surrounding the city. In Beijing, and most other populous cities in China, the pollution reaches just over 100 on a good day. Although, it has been known to get up to the 300's every now and then. These are the days where the teachers cancel the morning run so we don't ruin our lungs. Now, take Boston for example. Our air stays at about 10-20, and we consider 50 to be horrible. To be perfectly honest, I love materialistic goods as much as the next person. I have my Apple products, Ugg boots, and LuluLemon leggings, and love them all very much. But when you stop to think about it, by buying novelty items and luxuries we don't need, we are all just encouraging the destruction of the planet. The products we see on the shelves of Target all have to come from somewhere, and factories in China are the most common origin.
Before going to Shanghai, we were at the Yellow Mountain for two days. The amenities were a bit rough. We had really bad wifi, rock hard beds, thin walls, and rooms that were not the cleanest. But I feel that the Yellow Mountains were definitely my favorite part of the trip. Everything was so serene and peaceful. Trees, plants, and wildlife were everywhere (my goal was to see a monkey). Furthermore, the hike down the mountain was the best thing in the whole world. It looked like one of those scenes that you only see in paintings, too perfect to be real. However, it was completely real. I was with only one other person for most of it, so we had some nice quiet bonding. We would walk and see not a single soul for hours. It was just us secluded in nature for almost a full two hours. We ate bananas and sat on a huge rock in the middle of a river. Also, the tour guide from the Yellow Mountains was far more chill than the one from Xi'an oh so long ago. We speculated that the business side of the big city caused our Xi'an friend to be rushing around all the time. Whereas we were able to take our time in the mountains because their goal was to be more one with nature.
Looking back on my contrasting experiences with Yellow Mountain and Shanghai, I realize that I much preferred the one where we just got to blend into the scenery, where we saw nature how it truly was, where the smog was replaced with actual fog. It's amazing to think, that at one point, the whole world was like this. Everything was just one big ecosystem without cars, buildings, or technology. Today, if you want to see animals, you go to the zoo. If you want nature, you take an hour hike over at Blue Hills or whatever it's called. We have no reasons to be in the wilderness because everything is completely modernized. All over the world, cities are modified to include all the new technology and gadgets that take away from truly experiencing the world around you. I went to Italy in 2011 and everywhere we went was urbanized. We started in Milan and worked our way around almost the whole country. Not one of these cities were ever anything even close to rural. Grape vineyards, olive groves, and panoramic mountain views were as close to nature as we got. Anywhere you went would be adapted to the current world, shiny new appliances and buildings everywhere. The pollution wasn’t really an issue, but the materialism was just as bad as it is in the US. Between our need for frivolous goods and the factories required to satisfy our desires, we are breaking down our environment bit by bit. I find it a shame that the world was so absolutely stunning, but we went and ruined it and are still currently wreaking even more havoc on the planet.
Claire Mendelsohn Journal Entry #7
Hello, and good morning/night. In this week’s journal entry I will be talking about the relationship between parents and children. Now of course not everything I say will be applicable to every single family. I can only speak of my own observations or the stories of other students. I also won’t be mentioning any names in the interest of privacy of personal life.
So something that I have noticed is that fathers and daughters are extremely close. When I first came to China I had noticed this, but I didn’t know if it was the absence of a father figure in my life that made it weird for me. So I asked a fellow exchange student to see what her thoughts were. She told me that she also found it a little strange, despite the fact that she was close with her father as well. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing alarming or in need of reporting going on. Fathers and daughters are simply close to each other. An example would be going to the movies every other weekend, or sharing inside jokes, or the father cleaning up the daughter’s mess, literally.
I think this might been seen as strange from a foreign perspective because in the United States, teenagers are given more freedom (at least in my case) and more chances to be independent. Also, generally, as teenagers we would rather spend more time with our friends rather than our family; although, that also ties into school structure. In China the majority of the day is spent it school classes, then right after students will go home to work on the enormous amounts of work given. In retrospect Chinese students are never really given the opportunity to be independent.Emily Hogan Journal Entry #7Learning Something About Yourself
Before going to China one of the things I was worried about was the food. In America I would not call myself a picky eater, but there are some common foods I do not particularly enjoy. This includes tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and even BBQ sauce. At the time my thought process was if I do not like these basic American foods how in the world will I be able to survive in China? Thankfully, despite my worries, not only was I able to find lots of food I liked in China, but I also learned that I’m an adventurous eater.
During my first week or so half way across the world, I was introduced to two new (and you could say interesting) foods. The first one being cow stomach. Now, I don’t know about you, but personally I found this both intimidating and somewhat alarming. Among all of the ingredients to my first Beijing hot pot meal was a plate of (pardon my description) thin floppy strips of meat; all were a cloudy grey, and some where (can I dare say) fuzzy. Thankfully, I took my first bite before I entirely knew what I was consuming. The result was unexpected. Despite the classic you should try new foods because you might end up liking it story, I did try it and actually liked it. My second exotic taste of food was a dish called Hong Shao Rou. Believe it or not, I knew about this famous dish before coming to China. Unlike most meat in the United States, I’ve learned meat in China is often cooked with lots of fat still on it, and this is the case for Hong Shao Rou. I know that you’re thinking; this girl is totally a picky eater. She’s complaining about fat on her meat. Honestly, just give me a break here. In case you were unaware, in this particular dish, the fat is just as thick if not thicker than the meat. (Now what do you say? Huh?) Personally I don’t find this particularly appetizing, so for that reason Hong Shao Rou truthfully is not one of my favorite dishes. However, it did taste different than other fatty meat; this almost melted in my mouth.
One of my later exotic foods was a popular Beijing soup called Chao Gan. I am warning you now because this was not a tasty one. My first exposure to Chao Gan was when the Newton and Jingshan exchange students went out to lunch together. My host brother got a bowl himself and a few of the other Jingshan students did too. The soup had a gelatin texture to it, but was gloppier than Jello, more sticky. Worse than the old rusted orange color was the duck innards. Never have I ever eaten that again. Nope, sorry. Once was enough for me.
All silliness and cliches aside, I am glad I tried these strange and foreign foods. As parents always tell their kids, you need to try new food because you just might like it. Opening yourself up to trying one new thing can go a long way. I firmly believe if I didn’t end up trying that cow stomach on one of my first days in Beijing, there is no way I would have tried so many others. It’s a chain reaction. Worst case scenario, you say, “ew! I don’t like that.” That’s it. At least you tried. Let’s face it; unless you try these sometimes disgusting foods you haven’t fully immersed yourself into the culture. But most importantly, it leaves you with a good story to tell.
Michael Lee Journal Entry #7Comparing and Contrasting Cultures
Cultures vary around the world. Some are more similar than others, but each country has a culture that is unique to it. When it comes to America and China, they are both physically and sometimes metaphorically, on opposite sides of the world. After spending three months in China, I have noticed many similarities and differences between the two countries.
Similarities between the two countries were harder to find than differences, but that doesn't mean there weren't any between China and America. One of the things I noticed was the similarities around family. My host family is not too different from my real family. In fact, I tend to see similar dynamics in how families function here. Everyone sits together for dinner, we talk with each other, sometimes there are arguments, but in the end it all works out. Occasionally, we'll all go out together and visit a park or do other activities. For holidays, the whole family will often celebrate together. I remember during Spring Festival, when I was with my host student's relatives, the general atmosphere resembled that of a Thanksgiving day with my own relatives. In short, how the family operates has qualities that can also be found in American families.
One other similarity I noticed was in regards to teen culture. The daily lives of teens here are not too different from those of America. During school, kids play basketball or other sports, they talk, relax, read, do homework, or other things. After school, kids can be found doing a variety of activities. They have homework just like any American student and stress about it like any other student. They enjoy watching movies, television shows, and going out on weekends. They have their own pop culture that they keep updated on, and of course, there is a large interest in video games. They are experimenting with themselves and trying to figure out who they are. They get involved with romance, and they have their own gossip. They live their lives and enjoy them like any other kid in the world. Overall, teens in China are quite similar to teens in America.
Differences were much easier to find than similarities, because Chinese culture is quite contrasting from American culture. One of the immediate things I noticed was how pushy Chinese people can be. Especially in regards to food, where even if you say that you are full, they will still persist and put more food on your plate. The same also applies with helping someone. In China, you have to be relentless in trying to provide someone assistance. While this persistence is a major part of Chinese culture, in America, people tend to be more direct. Although people do tend to be a bit stubborn when offered help, from my experience, it is not to the degree that Chinese people are. In America, I don't have to be as pushy as I do here in China, because, normally, the person is direct in their response, and I can take their word for it. Another difference I have noticed is the difference in parenting. Although parenting always varies between families, I feel that families here in China are much more lenient with their kids than American parents. There was an incident where my host student wouldn't put away his computer for dinner. His parents kept asking, but he refused to stop his game. So, his parents actually began hand-feeding him until he eventually finished his game. Most parents in America would have forcefully taken the computer away, or punished the child. I know that my mother would be extremely angry with me if I were to do what my host student did. However, there was no anger from the parents, and they let their argument fall so easily. This isn't just one incident either, because some of my friends have told me that their host parents tend to be submissive also. Overall, parenting in China seems to be quite passive, while American parents tend to be more assertive.
One final, but large, difference is the amount of mixed culture that exists in each country. America is often called a melting pot of cultures, and for good reason too. Upon coming to Beijing, it became clear to me that China is nowhere near a mixed-culture country. People in China are very quick to assume that I was raised in China, which would mean I could speak the language, and that I would know most aspects of their culture. This is not true, but Chinese people have a hard time believing it, even when I explain it to them. There are some that even deny the fact that I am American. In addition to this, Chinese people love to take photographs with visibly foreign people. This would mean someone who is white or black, and doesn't look Chinese. For comparison, people in America are not stopping Chinese people to take pictures with them. This is because America is home to many different cultures. There are people of many races, nationalities, and backgrounds, and we all interact with each other on a daily basis. Generally, people in China only interact with people of their own nationality and race. China is such a homogeneous country that it's easy for them to assume that I am just another Chinese person like they are. It's also why they are so enthusiastic about foreigners, because they rarely are around people of a different race, ethnicity, or culture. In conclusion, the lack of cultural diversity in China is extremely different from the wide-range of cultures in America.
These two countries have their similarities and differences, just like any other two countries would. Neither culture is right or wrong, and they both have their ups and downs. However, being able to understand the differences and similarities in another country's culture is really important. It shows that while we are all separate from each other, we are also all connected.
Natalie Bohm Journal Entry 7
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Mythbusters: China Edition! We’re coming up on the end of the season here, with only two more episodes left. But we’re not there yet, so let’s get straight to Myth(?) #12!
12. China’s Culture is very Westernized: MYTH. China is westernized. China’s culture, not so much. The times I feel this most aren’t even when I talk with Chinese people about the differences between China and America. No, it’s when people here look at me and don’t say anything.
When I was 14, I went to Switzerland for a month, a week of which was spent at a youth climbing camp in the mountains. My younger sister was the only American with me. We lived in a hut with 12 or so other Swiss kids, often in very close quarters. I remember at the time wishing that I could speak Swiss-German, but even more just wishing that the other kids would talk to me more, even if I couldn’t understand it. Not that that was a likely scenario; their English was all very good, but they didn’t use it frequently enough to make me feel like I was totally a part of the group. They did talk to me and my sister occasionally, maybe a few times per day, mostly to ask us whether or not we had [blank] in America. I remember feeling very isolated.
Whatever loneliness I dealt with in Switzerland, it’s got nothing on how I feel now. Switzerland, like America, has a culture that is generally accepting of foreigners. In fact, I realize now that Switzerland was so accepting of foreigners that the concept of being foreign was not a very important one in my life. In China, being foreign makes all the difference in the world. China is the Middle Kingdom, the center of the Asian universe for 4000 years, and that self-image gave Chinese culture a very special emphasis on the trait of being Chinese. The truth is, in ancient Chinese culture, at least the parts of it that have been passed down for thousands of years, if you’re not Chinese, then you don’t belong in China. At least, that is what I gather from the way I am treated by the general public here. Not even my classmates engage me in conversation; there is nothing I could have to say to interest them. I’ve stopped wearing my uniform on the subway home because the sight of a white person in a Chinese school uniform draws so many stares. Sometimes, adults come up to me and ask what I’m doing in China and other questions about my life, usually using a slightly condescending tone that I never picked up on in Switzerland. Now, of course there are exceptions, but the fact of the matter is that in many ways, China still holds onto its old, traditional worldview, and that worldview can be overtly racist at times. I have been screamed and swore at on the street. Never have I been so aware of my race; in America, I don’t have to worry about the color of my skin. In China, the shape of my eyes is an invitation to stare at me unashamedly, comment on my mastery of basic chopstick use, and otherwise hide no surprise that a wai guo ren, a foreigner, is capable of living in China and adapting to the culture of the Middle Kingdom.
Sally Jenks Journal #7
What I have realized is that there is a lot of confusion and ambiguity around both Chinese and American culture. This has led to some pretty uncomfortable miscommunications and conversations. I am used to the comfort of privacy; conversationally, some things are just off limits. Since I have been in China I have had a rude awakening pertaining to the sense that very few topics are truly private; and there is no such thing as TMI.
When I arrived, the first questions were straight to the point: what do you like to do for fun? What do you like to eat? What is your family like? However, within a few days the conversation turned more intimate than I'm used to with even my closest friends. Casually, after having a huge dinner I said “I’m SO full!” apparently this was viewed as an invitation to dig in. They responded with “well you better be careful, or you will get fat.”
Now, body image and weight are generally a topic adults steer clear of in America, especially around teenage girls. But I quickly learned that when it comes to eating habits or appearance China does not tiptoe around the subject. While this appears to be a simple cultural difference, it quickly became a large misunderstanding. After many conversations with my host sibling, I now know I have been misinterpreting my host parents exclamations of “WOW you ate so much! You must be so full!”. To them, they are saying “I'm so glad you liked the food I have prepared for you”, but to me it was “you should feel ashamed for raiding my kitchen”.
The blunt and offensive air is partially due to my own interpretation; but I have learned the way Chinese and Americans view body image is undeniably polarized. In America, the body positivity movement has gained nationwide attention, and “fat shaming” is just as abhorrent as racism. However, in China, everyone is allowed to have an opinion on everyone else's body, and it is unapologetic and factual.
Originally, I just believed I was being oversensitive, but after multiple other hushed confessions of what other students believed to be incredibly offensive remarks towards their respective eating habits or bodies, I know it is truly, a huge cultural misunderstanding. It also seems to be occurring on both ends of the spectrum, while one of my classmates complained her host family called her too skinny, another said she was told to eat less.
Regardless, the culture surrounding body image has been prevalent in almost every aspect of my time here. I will never forget the TV program in which the host went around an office and vertically held a 8.5x11 lined paper to various women’s waists to see if they passed this twisted test of being thinner than this piece of paper. While my jaw dropped to the ground my host family laughed as it was nothing. The effects of this program seemed clear as day when my host mother so casually discussed the things she thought had room for improvement on my host sister's body. The lack of inhibitions around weight became specifically pronounced when I became vegan, due to the passing of one of my closest friends. While I understand the shock this can have on some people, especially pertaining to the perceived heath repercussions, I made a point to explain exactly what I was doing and why I was doing it. Still, I overheard my host mother talking about the condition of my health on the phone with another mother and was then brought a loaf of bread the next day, compliments of the other concerned host mother. Even though she has been exceptionally accommodating with meals, I still hear about how I am getting too thin, or I am not going to get enough vitamins, and how all the other mothers are also concerned. While I know she just wants the best for me, the line between compassion and body shaming has become too blurred for my liking, and has proven to the the largest and most detrimental cultural understanding.
Sheil Mehta Journal Entry #7
There are many stereotypes that go hand in hand with America’s view on China. And the Chinese people seem to get grouped into these everywhere, from film and TV to everyday conversation. The one I will address here is a broad one. But it is one that stems from the vision of all Chinese kids having the same personalities. That they are the submissive studious math-loving clones that goes with their image in the US. But this myth of uniformity is, needless to say, far from the truth. How could it possibly be? In a population of 1.4 billion, even saying MOST Chinese are the same is impossible.
I've spent months in a school with people from all over Beijing. Beijing being one of the leading cities throughout China, I was exposed to the best of the best. Jingshan is a school in Beijing where the smartest and brightest are sent to study. Yet in no way are any two kids in this class the same. The stereotype wants to pin one personality onto the Chinese people. It is an unattractive one, consisting of un-athletic, small, awkward and quiet traits. This is wrong on many levels. From being with so many Chinese students you see the broad spectrum of people and personalities that make up any given class. The Chinese people are people like any other, so why is this myth of uniformity still around?
There are rules that are in place, placed both by the school and by the government in an attempt to fill this image. They require similar haircuts and they demand uniforms to keep the students focused on studying and away from the distractions that make us who we are. But if anything this is only further evidence that the Chinese are diverse. Because regardless of the barriers in place you can still find students expressing themselves in every way they can. Obviously there are kids that are good at math, or kids that focus on studying rather than socializing. But that is in no way a representation of the class as a whole. We have musicians and artists, who sit desks away from basketball players and soccer stars. The class has its fair share of romantics and relationship drama and every personality from my loud and outgoing host sibling Isaac to the right of me, to the quiet reserved nature of the girl who sits in front of me.
This myth seems like it should never even need to be addressed. What it implies seems so obviously untrue that I would hope that no one takes it seriously. This problem comes with almost all cultures; each one comes with its stereotypes and myths. But with China it seems to not be addressed or simply just accepted in the U.S. To say that Chinese people are all the same, or that they fit one character type, is to deny over a billion people their individuality and the possibility of really getting to know any one of them.
Ying Ying Rossi Journal Entry #7
America is commonly known as the melting pot of cultures; whereas China is extremely isolated in comparison. Newton, for example has a variety of different cultures and heritages. We are home to Nonantum, an area known for its Italian influence. We also have more people who are Jewish than many other places. Furthermore, if you'd like to immerse yourself in Chinese culture, you can head over to Chinatown and grab some authentic food. However, here in China, the situation is far different and there is much less intermingling of cultures. This dates back to the mid 1800's when McCarthy came from Britain to modernize and industrialize the East. China resisted change for as long as physically possible and eventually was worn down by force. The culture here is so closed off that seeing someone who is American, African, European, or anything else that isn't Chinese, is pretty surprising. As a result of an isolated culture, the distinctions between people are much finer and the locals are more aware of small facial details than most Americans are. It is also the reason why there was far more immersion with the Beijing students in Newton than vice versa.
Since I was born in Southern China, I am not actually Han which is the majority group of the nation. To any American, I look just as Chinese as any other Chinese person. However, if someone here takes a second to really look at my face, they start to believe that I'm not fully Chinese. Just the other night at a martial arts class, a man was telling me how I looked more like his Malaysian wife than a Chinese girl. Also, when the 7 of us Americans are together, the people working in restaurants and shops rarely look to me for translation, but instead to the other adoptee in the group who almost definitely is Han. In China, people can detect all the small differences between everyone because they all have many shared features, such as black hair, dark brown eyes, tanned skin, and small frames. That is why they notice that I am from a minority group. I have the hair, eyes, skin, and body type, but I have facial features that don’t match the look of the majority, the Han. Whereas on the other hand, to an American, I'm simply just Chinese because we see so much diversity, we group people based off of the obvious differences when it comes to personal appearance. So when someone in America sees me, they notice the dark hair and eyes, tanned skin, and my shortness and come to the conclusion that I am simply just another Chinese...nothing more, nothing less.
Furthermore, the gap between my host sister’s experience in Newton North and me at Jingshan is very wide. In Newton, there is so much diversity that Melody was able to blend in seamlessly. There were countless students who spoke fluent Chinese, some even who spoke it as their first language and English as their second, thus making her feel even more at home. It also assures that the Chinese exchange students become one of us instead of their own separate breed. Both the shared language between her and her peers and the fact that Newton North holds a variety of different races, prevented her and the rest of the Jingshan students from sticking out like a sore thumb. On the total opposite end of the spectrum are us Americans here in Beijing. Since every single person besides us are Chinese, we become alienated. Unpurposely I’m sure, but alienated nonetheless. Regardless to the fact that we don’t act in the same manner due to the environment we were raised in, our appearances are so different from what people here are used to, so they feel less comfortable to strike up a conversation with us.
What I find most interesting about that is the fact that this is not exclusively a China dilemma. There is isolation of heritages all over the world. Besides South Africa, you seldom hear of white people living anywhere else in Africa. In fact, America is one of the few places that people of African descent will live side-by-side with Caucasians. Plus, many European regions have their own distinct group of physical features as well. When the Austrians came to Jingshan from their school, they all had the same look. Each of them were tall, blonde, skinny, and sporty. Furthermore, Italians are known to have a large nose, and countries further north have much fairer skin, hair, and eyes. In American, we have no distinct look. The people are a mix of anything and everything. Often, people in America cannot even describe their race with only one ethnic group. It simply proves how multicultural America is compared to the other places in the world, which is China in this instance.
Claire Mendelsohn Journal Entry #6
For this week’s journal entry, I’m going to talk about females in Chinese and American society. So we’d like to think that females have come a long way since the past, which we have. We have gained rights which some in history would never believe or dream for women to have. Women have helped progress and advance in many professional fields that society thought was only for men, such as math, science, technology, etc. Despite our great step towards the future, we still have a long way to go.
It is in my personal opinion that China has a bigger step to take, regarding the treatment of females. I say this because, one night while talking with Emma (my host sibling), she told me about recent news of attacks against females. She told me that the videos are about the best men of the groom ‘challenging’ the bridesmaids. Emma told me that this was part of the Chinese custom. The best men would perform some prank on the bridesmaid. Originally this custom was for laughs, but unfortunately people took it far, as shown in the video. In the video, it displays four or five men lifting a bridesmaid and trying to throw her into the pool. Now, if everyone was consensual to this it would be okay, but the bridesmaid was clearly distressed and screaming for the men to stop. Right before throwing her in, another bridesmaid stepped in and defended her. Everyone else simply watched it happen or took pictures and videos. The worst ‘prank’ that Emma heard news of was the best man raping the bridesmaid. I was disgusted and angry that someone could actually twist a custom meant for fun into something so horrible.
Emma then showed me a video in which two actors, one female one male, pretended to be in an abusive relationship. They were in a highly populated place for eight hours; yet out of the hundreds people that walked by, only one person, stepped in to help. In America, there are similar videos to the one mentioned before. The responses of the passer byers were usually negative, and many people stopped to help. Comparing to the Chinese version, where everyone looked away, or took pictures or maybe even laughed. Now I am not saying that America has the perfected idea of feminism, we as well have quite a distance to go. There was a video that I had watched a long time ago with the same scenario, though this time there were two couples, and one couple was white and other was black. When the white woman was being abused many people raced to help her, yet when it was the black woman only one person stopped. So, as said before, America has yet to perfect the treatment of women. Though China is a step behind. Ignoring the situation is one thing (not a good thing), but taking videos and laughing? That is something that definitely needs to change. Not only in China, but the whole world.
People need to learn how to respect women, because we are fantastic and essential.Emily Hogan April 7, 2016Journal Entry #6: Disproving a Myth
Before coming to China, I was told by many different people what I should expect. I heard about the pollution; there is so much you have to wear a mask every day, and lots of times you can’t go outside. People also said all the kids do is study; that’s why they’re not good at sports. All the moms are “tiger moms”; extremely strict mothers who rarely let their kids socialize with friends, and are constantly watching over their child’s shoulder as they do homework. Sometimes they even give them extra work not assigned by the teacher. Also, another thing I heard was that China is all-modern. Now, all these are just things that people said. Some even come from bits of truth, but most if not all of them are stereotypes. The sad thing is, many people believe all of these without a second thought. After living in China for more than two months, I am here to clear some things up and disprove some common misconceptions.
First of all, there is no doubt that the pollution in China is bad. Yes, there have been days where the school doesn’t let kids outside for morning warm-ups, or to play basketball during recess, but days like that aren’t every day; wearing a mask helps. Secondly, not all mothers are “tiger moms”. In fact I would say my host mother is not one. Yes, she wants her son to succeed and to do well in school, but she doesn’t give him extra work or make him routinely practice a musical instrument. On the contrary, she has told me many times about all the homework my host brother has to do and how she feels sorry for him. Lastly, unfortunately, because all the homework kids get and weekend classes most take, little time is left for many extracurriculars like sports. This does not mean Chinese students are bad at sports. In fact during recess there are always groups of kids playing basketball and kicking the soccer ball around.
Lastly, I have heard from a few people that all of China - if not most of it - is an extremely modern place. Living in Beijing, I see tall buildings and skyscrapers almost every day. From subway rides multiple times a week, I can say that the train system is larger, safer and by far cleaner than in Boston. However, last weekend, I had an experience that did not follow suit of an “all modern China.” As part of a community service club, all of the Newton students went to visit an underprivileged school to make presentations about America. I was thinking this school was going to be at least an hour drive out of Beijing, but to my surprise, it was just on the end of subway line five. I didn’t even have to switch trains to get there. After only walking about ten minutes, we reached the school after going through a series of side streets. We encountered piles of trash a few feet high and thrown into a corner; there were people and small dogs searching through it. People rode bikes without seats. A man was burning garbage in an alley. Clothing of all sorts was hanging out to dry on the outside of one room houses. When we were walking down the street, I was surprised when I looked into what I thought was going to be a shop, but it turns out there was a woman sleeping in there on her bed with a small TV on and door wide open. This kind of poverty I witnessed is not something I would think to be in a modern city. Remember, this place was still reachable by the subway not even that far away from my own home.
People everywhere are exposed to myths about all different types of people and places. But when the truth isn’t found, myths can be isolating. They keep us from creating new experiences, making new friends, and learning new things. However, when the truths of these myths are found, we can learn and finally start to understand each other better.
Michael Lee 4/7/16Reaction to an Event
A couple weekends ago, a Jingshan student brought our group to a school for children of migrant workers. Located in the more rural area of Beijing, it was an intriguing visit. I had never been to an area like this, and I surely didn't expect it on this trip. However, I genuinely gained valuable insight from this visit. My reactions to this excursion can be described as a feeling of shock and gratefulness.
My feeling of shock came in two different ways. First, it came in the physical conditions which we saw. The living conditions in this area were poor. As we walked to the school, we had to navigate through old, worn-down alleys. Enormous piles of trash were found in the nooks of the alleys, and people lived in more compact apartments. Most only had one or two small rooms for their apartment. It was clear that this was a more underdeveloped area of Beijing. It was eye-opening to see that these were conditions that people actually lived in. I have seen photos and videos that depict similar situations, but to actually see it is quite different. So, it was shocking to see that this is a reality for so many people.
My second reaction of shock is related to the students at the school. We had known, prior to this visit, that this school is a fairly poor school. Upon arrival, it was even clearer. The school was a small campus with a ring of classrooms and, barely, a second floor. The classrooms were about half the size of Jingshan's classrooms, and the materials in it were limited. The most modern technology the school seemed to have was a portable, home projector that was shared throughout the school. A couple of students seemed to have a uniform, but not every kid did. I did not see a track or basketball court, or any other large facilities. In short, it was clear that this school was underpriviliged. Despite this disadvantage, the kids at the school were absolutely amazing. During our lessons, all the kids were attentive and engaged with what we were teaching. I will admit that this was quite surprising to me. They all had a drive to learn, which I found to be truly outstanding. When we visited the school, it appeared that we had arrived in the middle of a school festival. All around us, children were running around, laughing, and simply being a kid. They had good attitudes and an excitement for learning. These kids are at a disadvantage, yet, like any other kid in the world, they still manage to enjoy themselves and are driven to learn. It truly amazed and shocked me.
Finally, I had a reactionary feeling of gratefulness after this visit. It should be noted that I don't mean this in a selfish way, but as a reflection of myself. Given my status of being adopted from China, it occurred to me that this could have been my life. I was discussing this with another classmate, since we shared a similar situation. My biological family information was held confidential, so I don't know how or where I would have been raised. Despite that, it is possible that I could be living in a poverty-stricken area like the one we saw. In short, this visit made me react in an extremely appreciative way. I took time to really reflect on my life, and to really be thankful for what I have.
Overall, my reaction to this visit, a mix of shock and gratefulness, is both similar and different from what I expected. I was expecting to have some sort of appreciative reaction, and I also expected that I would be surprised by something. What I was not expecting was that I would feel as strong of a reaction as I did.
Natalie Bohm 4/7/16
Journal Entry 6: A Reaction
Aaaand welcome back to Mythbusters: China Edition! We’ve got Myth(?) #11 for you tonight, so let’s get right to it!
11. The Majesty of the Great Wall: FACT. However, that’s not all there is to it. Allow me to explain with a little story. At 7:00 am on Friday, March 25, I was on a bus with a whole bunch of other American tourists bound for the Great Wall. The reason we’d been granted special permission to miss school to go is that today marks the beginning of some trade deal/cultural exchange America and China has going called the Year of Tourism. Why the Year didn’t begin in January, like the international year, or even in February, with the Chinese New Year, I don’t know. I guess March 25 was just a convenient time to kick things off, and the event they chose to start with is today, complete with the self-explanatory name: One Thousand Americans on the Great Wall. That’s right, folks. For the first time since coming here, I spoke more English than Chinese today, because nearly everybody I interacted with was from the US. Considering that day was also spent at a grand Chinese cultural landmark, that language distribution is kind of ironic.
The section of the Great Wall that we went to is called Jinshan, and it’s one of the most beautiful sections of wall within driving distance from Beijing. It’s been well preserved, and the views from the top are rarely spoiled by office buildings or other marks of industry, something that cannot be said for many of the famous places I’ve been to in the city. The surrounding mountains are spectacular, rising so steeply from thin ribbons of valleys that they look like crinkled tissue paper that someone didn’t even bother trying to flatten out again. It was a great day for travel too; cloudless days are fairly common in Beijing, but only because I don’t count pollution as clouds. Today the sky was flat and almost as blue as it is in Boston (it never quite gets as blue as home, though, because even on the best days, there’s enough pollution to lighten the shade).
As much as I enjoyed climbing the massively uneven steps of the Great Wall, one of the most interesting parts of the day was the attention I received from the press. CCTV crews were all over the place, looking for Americans to interview, as well as reporters from smaller outlets and radio shows. I guess I got lucky and bumped into the right official-looking woman, because 20 minutes later I was answering questions in front of a TV camera in Chinese. I’d learn later that my interview was edited and broadcast later that day on national Chinese television. Woohoo! I’m famous!
In that interview, as well as the live radio one I did later, I said that I was honored and humbled by the scale of the Great Wall, and to an extent, that’s true. But what really got to me wasn’t how big the Wall is, nor how long ago it was built, but the amount of human suffering that went into its construction. Workers in the Qing Dynasty who died during its construction were mixed in with its filling and buried literally inside the structure. One of the defining aspects of modern society is how much more empathy humans have now. We don’t torture each other as much. We don’t force each other to labor until they die of exhaustion or hunger. That’s a big step, but what comes to mind is a Louis C. K. segment called “Of course… but maybe,” where he drew attention to the fact that most of what we consider to be humanity’s greatest achievements rely on slavery or deliberate exploitation of a group of people. The Great Wall wouldn’t be what it is without all the pain and suffering that went into its construction. And somehow, something feels wrong about attributing unmitigated glory the product of slave labor.
Sally Jenks Journal #6
I have been raised on the philosophy that being sedentary is unacceptable. I thought that to be content I always had to be doing something, and that the more energy it required the better it was. However, I now know that I need to chill. The concept that “slowing down” is really important always struck me as something for retired, boring, or lethargic people. I can safely say I was wrong. I have learned that the ability to recuperate and relax is a skill I will need at every stage in my life.
At home I spent a lot of time around very loud and outgoing people, which was exciting, but I never realised how exhausted it made me. I would spend weekdays and weekend night with my friends, who are all equally as loud and frenetic as I am. I would spend the rest of my time with my family, In which I am, frighteningly, not the source of most of the commotion. This always resulted in an inherent stream of noise and chaos, and I thought that was what it was like for everybody. I was very wrong.
Since coming to china, my life has simplified. There is a set group, comprised of people mostly different from those who I socialise with at home. I have found that it is so incredibly refreshing to have people who don’t come from an environment where they need to shout everything just to be heard. Given, there are a few who do, but it is still a much healthier balance than I am used to. While quiet does not always mean calm, the two have proven to be interchangeable as all the noise was one of the most predominant indication of the insanity of my life. It is completely impossible to take a step back when you are constantly engaged in continual shouting matches.
Due to the laid-back attitude here, there have been many more instances of “chill”, when things are not only more quiet, but slower paced. While we do tons of activities, the group always leans toward taking a “recovery” day after a specifically exhausting activity. This is also a completely foreign and surprisingly wonderful solution. I now appreciate the ability to hit reset by just taking a day to do nothing and just be alone.
This is made even sweeter by the fact that my host family is the most peaceful and functional family I have ever been in the presence of, and the time difference, which guarantees my separation from the ruckus continually going on at home. I can even plan my FaceTime calls at home to give myself time to mentally prepare for the insanity, and whether it is a call from my friends or my family I am totally depleted by the end. Which is ok because I am immediately reintroduced to the blissful silence of the apartment.
I am painfully aware that I will soon be reintroduced to the noise and activity of my life at home, If I make balance and peace a priority in my life, I will be able to find it.
Sheil Mehta 4/7
Reaction to a Scene
Isaac’s family and I woke early this Saturday. We ate a quick breakfast and then pulled on our biking clothes. Special fabric and padding made for the hours we were going to spend on the bikes. I stretched as we wheeled the bikes out of the parking lot and then we were off. As we reached our destination I rolled down the window and stuck my head out. Gazing around me I saw mountains. All around me were massive blue tinted mountains. And dotting the mountains sat little ancient architectural huts. Each one adding a little dot of color to the otherwise smoggy scene. In front of them were hundreds of kites, in reality it may have been dozens, but the amount felt like far too many. They came in all shapes and sizes, dragons flying through the air and giant streamers flapping in the wind. It was beautiful.
While on this ride through the outer ring of Beijing I was constantly reminded of the state China is in. As I rode I saw beautiful skyscrapers that seemed to disappear into the fog, next to street performers playing the Erhu and singing traditional songs. China is in a constant state of push and pull. While on one hand I am surrounded by the modern and powerful ‘new china’, all around me are hints to thousands of years of tradition. When my legs started to hurt from all the biking we were doing I requested we stop to eat. We pulled off into a little stonewall restaurant. The restaurant looked like someone had thrown tables into a cave and the ambiance was that of a motel. It seemed to have fallen out of a time before electricity. This struck me as odd seeing as we had just biked past a bank with an all glass exterior and what appeared to be a chandelier in the front lobby. How could two places be so close in distance yet so far in all other respects? I believe China still holds tightly to its culture. Despite extreme westernization and influence, China still shows its old temples and its traditional food. This is an important part of any culture. By both innovating and holding on to parts of your culture you can both advance while staying unique and individual. When in the big cities of U.S you rarely see evidence of the way things were hundreds of years ago because progress sweeps them away. It was fascinating to arrive into China and see the even split between its traditional style roofs, some still baring the tiles used in the age of dynasties, and its concrete jungle city scape.
And as I mounted the bike and began the trek back to the car I took a last long look at the mountain scape. Taking in the rows of apartments in the foreground. Behind them the kites blowing in the breeze and the temple dotted mountains that seemed to touch the sky. And I appreciated all the parts of this picture that made China the whole it is. Both the ‘old china’ mixed with the constantly growing ‘new china’.
Ying Ying Rossi 4/7/16
Discover Something About Yourself
It was a little over a year ago when I decided that I wanted to come to Beijing on the exchange program. As a freshman, I entered this program under the impression that my Chinese language would improve and that I would understand more of the traditions indigenous to China. Both of which did come true. However, on the other hand, I feel like I've gained so much more than that. Apart from the more cultural aspect of it, the people I’m here with have taught me so much about putting yourself out there without ever realizing it.
It's funny, really. I never thought very hard on it before I came to China. The American students I came here with are the people I spend almost all of my time with, all day everyday, whether it be talking, shopping, or just simply hanging around. These close connections I've made with six other students brought me out of my comfort circle that I've clung to. Originally, two of my best friends and I were going to all apply together with the hope that we would all get to experience it side-by-side. However, one ended up going to a private school and the other didn't get accepted. This news was definitely disappointing to me, but I now realize that this may have been for the best. I came onto the program only vaguely knowing the majority of the students who were heading to China in January with me. If I were to have had one of my close friends with me, I know that I wouldn't have branched out as much. I probably wouldn’t have invited Claire to my host family's house, shared a room with Emily in Xi'an, spent an afternoon with Michael at Wangfujing, go to Pizza Hut to work on a presentation with Sally, spar Sheil by the basketball court after P.E. class, or discuss quantum physics with Natalie on our way to Counter Strike. Without an old friend for my to cling to, it forced me to rely on people that I might not necessarily talk to if I were back in Newton. Surrounding myself in a new group of people showed me that being around a different crowd of people is more beneficial than daunting. Plus, the bonds that I’ve made with everyone are so strong and unbreakable. 10 years from now, I’ll look back on my sophomore year, remembering all my fond memories with everyone in Beijing.
Furthermore, everyone on this exchange have personalities that are a stark contrast from the people I surround myself with back at home. What I mean by this is that my friends tend to be pretty calm and chill, just loud enough to be heard. Now, without over stating, if you were to hear all of us exchange students when we are all in one room together, you will need a pair of earplugs...maybe even some noise canceling headphones. I am not kidding. Everyone can get very loud and opinionated, but in the best way of course. There have been many heated debates, even over as insignificant things like "the sun vs. 1,000 lions" and whether the original karate kid was better than the new one with Jayden Smith and Jackie Chan. This has given me the opportunity to raise my own opinion and put my own two cents in instead of sitting back and listening to everything unfold like I have gotten accustomed to. They have taught me the importance of communicating your view even if it doesn’t directly impact your near future.
Adding onto the idea of speaking up has become even further stressed by being in China. If you speak a second language, you would understand the difficulties of not knowing the right word for the message you’re trying to convey. It takes both determination and confidence to be able to stick with it and keep floundering until you figure out how to describe what you mean. Before arriving in Beijing, my first instinct to a situation where the language barrier becomes an issue, I would most likely have just convinced myself that it really wasn’t worth it and then walk away. However, now, I see the importance of the tenacity it takes to not run away when the situation gets more complex. Instead of letting it go and moving on, I would continue to take the challenge head on, whether it be bartering, shopping, or just a regular conversation.
It is findings like these, about stepping out of your comfort range, that I feel are equally as significant as discoveries about culture. However, the thing with more social situations is that it is universal, not applying to one specific region. Wherever I go in the world, voicing my opinion and learning how to adapt to new people in new areas are lessons that will stick with me no matter what.Claire Mendelsohn Journal Entry #5
It was just until recently, in fact today, that I discovered the most shocking difference between Chinese and American culture. This surprising difference was, the news. Yes, the news; where we learn about current events or the weather. One might think, what could be so different about news channels? Well, technically speaking there is not a whole ton that is different between American and Chinese news channels. The basic frame is just about the same; it is just the filming and content style that is vastly different. In America, when reporting about tragic incidents, it will show pictures of said victim and/or the scene of the incident. The reporter will then elaborate about the victim’s life and then the actual happening of the incident. So blatantly put, us Americans use words to explain to the public about the situation. For China, it is quite the opposite. Instead of using words, they use footage. Film taken from a nearby security camera; they will air the incident, gory details and all. One can imagine how shocked I was when I was eating dinner and noticed the TV was showing footage of horrible accidents. I was completely taken aback on how graphic the content was, specifically an accident involving blood being shown. In America, news channels do not normally show blood (at least I’ve never seen it being shown) or a person getting hurt. Considering the tremendous amount of censorship China has, (Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) why is blood and injury airing on national television? Someone else might understand this, but I myself do not. Although, looking from another perspective, I might. With only words it is difficult to imagine how serious and tragic an incident might be, while if you see it actually happen it becomes ‘realistic’ in a way. Only hearing the said incident talked about, it becomes ‘fake’ and ‘unrealistic’. We become desensitized to the actual tragedy and emotion of the situation, even if it’s only a little bit. If one sees it happen with their own eyes, they cannot be ignorant to the intense and horrible emotion that comes along with these incidents. Part of me wants to remain ignorant to the gut-wrenching feeling one gets when horrible things happen, but another part of me thinks I should understand the feelings of the victims. Even if it makes me horribly uncomfortable, I feel I should watch the incident play out, gory details and all, so I am not deprived of the sadness of the tragedies.Emily Hogan March 24, 2016Journal Entry #5: Comparing and Contrasting Cultures
There is no better way to fully understand a culture than to live it. Frankly, that is what I’ve been doing for almost two months now. Everywhere you go in China you are shown Chinese culture. From taking the bus to school in the morning to eating dinner with your family in the evenings. In fact, one of the biggest cultural differences I’ve noticed in China is around food. Both what you eat and how.
Whenever you go out to eat in the US, everyone sits at a rectangular table, gets a menu and everyone picks what they want to eat. Each person gets their own individual plate. However, in China it’s not quite the same. For starters, most of the time you are sitting at a round table. This makes it easier to converse and share food, but we’ll get to that later. In most cases, the middle of the table is a lazy susan where the tea pot and food are placed. Now, this is where sharing food comes in. When ordering at a restaurant in China, you order multiple small dishes to share. This way you can either pick and choose what you eat, or have a little bit of everything. With a lazy susan in the center of the table, sharing becomes a lot easier; dishes don’t have to be picked up and passed to people around the table. This same style of communal eating also happens at home. Each day, my host parents make about four or five small dishes. The four of us each have our own plate, and we use our chopsticks to take what we want and put it on our plates.
As expected, there is also a difference in the food we eat. From my experiences eating fish in China, there have always been bones in it. This means it is your job during the meal, to pick out the spiky bones before you dig in. This isn’t commonly the case for me when I eat fish in America. This is also the same for other meats. Now, I know there are many meats commonly eaten with bones in America like chicken wings and ribs, but in both the school lunches and home cooked meals, I find meat on the bone more common in China than in America. Additionally, I find that meat is rarely considered the main dish in China. For me, in America when I ask my parents what we will be having for dinner, they will say chicken, or beef or some other kind of meat, but in China, I’m commonly told we are having noodles, or rice for example. Additionally, when served rice, during dinner, for example, all of the other smaller dishes on the table are meant to complement the rice; where will be bean sprouts to put on it or bok choy or Chinese cabbage and chicken. However, in the States, each person is given some sort of meat and the smaller dishes like rice or vegetables are meant to go with the meat.
However, despite these difference, I have seen some similarities between the way my family eats dinner in America and the way my host family eats here in China. Although I know this isn’t common for many people in the US, every day, my whole family sits down and we all eat dinner together. The same thing happens to me in China. Each night my host brother and I clear the table with our homework and we all sit and eat dinner together. Despite our differences in the types of food and the way we eat it, at the end of the day we are all still a family.
Michael Lee 3/24/16Parallel
Despite the many differences between China and America, there are still parallels that can be made. Whether it's trying something new, or finding something in China that resembles an experience in America, there are many ways that parallels between the two countries can be made. For example, during Spring Festival, I helped my host family make dumplings. It reminded me of a time in second grade, when my class visited a Chinese culture center. We all got the opportunity to try making some dumplings, similar to how I made dumplings during Spring Festival. That was just one of the many parallels I have had while in China. However, one of the more notable parallels was between the Lama Temple and an experience with my grandmother.
At the Lama Temple, one of the ways visitors could engage with the culture was by burning incense sticks for prayer. Every visitor was given a small, complimentary box of incense sticks at the beginning of the temple. In specific areas of the temple, there were large, metal basins for the burning of the incense. Visitors would burn a couple of incense sticks, proceed to bow in front of the basin, then place the sticks inside the basin. From what I remember, this ritual was used as a way to pray for good fortune for family, friends, and life. Therefore, people often bowed three times, once for each category. There were many places to practice this custom, which allowed people to try it more than once.
My time at the Lama Temple reminded me of a correlation to an experience involving my grandmother. When I was younger, my siblings and I, for Chinese New Year, would visit our grandmother. Our grandmother, who is Cantonese, would lead us in a short ritual that she would do when she was younger. She would give my siblings and I three incense sticks each. In the pantry there would be a small table set up with candles, fruit, Chinese decorations, and an assortment of other items. There were incense already burning, and the whole room was covered in an array of red Chinese characters and pictures. We would all take turns bowing four times in front of the display, and then place our incense sticks in a vase on the table. My mother would even participate in this practice. This was always followed by a nice brunch. Similar to that of the Lama Temple, my grandmother explained that this custom was a way to wish for good fortune for all in the new year. Each bow represented a wish towards one of your siblings or parents. The idea of wishing good luck for your family falls in line with the bowing at the Lama Temple. Both want to hope for the well-being of people in your life. The burning of incense is also a shared trait among both experiences. I can't recall the significance of the incense at the Lama Temple, but I remember my grandmother saying how the incense smoke would rise up to our ancestors, who would then bring good fortune to us.
The parallel between the Lama Temple and my experience with my grandmother stood out as a prime example of correlations between America and China. Although it does carry a nostalgic feeling, I think this parallel also is a display of the culture mobility. It is amazing to observe how another country's traditions can be carried over to a different country, even if they are not completely identical. The way cultures mix and move around is quite fascinating, and finding parallels between countries is a great example of that.
Natalie Bohm 3/24/16
Journal Entry 5: Cultural Misunderstanding
Welcome back to Mythbusters: China Edition! This is it! As of this installment, we’ve officially debunked ten Myth(s)! Watch this space for more fact-digging and soul-searching in Beijing, China. And without further ado…
10. Chinese Culture Seems Super Polite to Americans: MYTH. I want to tell you all a story about cultural misunderstandings. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m very grateful for everything my host family does for me. On the whole, they have been very kind. But lately my host mother’s tone when speaking to me has been very cold, and I sensed some passive aggression on her part. At the time, I was not quite sure what I did to deserve this. I thought, should I wash my dishes? Every time I try she makes me leave them for her to do. Or maybe, I thought, I need to hurry up in the morning. We always get out the door on time, but I cut it close most days. I just knew that Aren’t you going to do X? look she kept giving me, and that it could come at totally random times. Maybe I’m not showering when she wants me to. Maybe I don’t keep my room clean enough. I did my best not to focus too much on the possibility that my host mother simply didn’t like me as a person, as that would be a much harder problem to fix that simply waking up earlier or cleaning my room. But as time went on, I became more and more convinced of this theory. I finally brought it up with my host sibling one day, and, quoting the way my host mother had looked at me and told me to hurry up in such a harsh tone that morning, asked her whether her mother really didn’t like me. I wish I had asked my sibling earlier, because I learned one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned here from that experience. The truth is, Chinese is not a language that lends its everyday use to politeness very well. In America, we’d say to our family: “Could you please pass the bread?” In China, a direct translation of that sentence, used at the dinner table, would seem awkwardly formal. From what my host sibling told me, I understood that I needed to stop translating directly into English in my head, because tone of voice does not translate well between English and Chinese. What may sound perfectly normal in Chinese can come off as rude in English, and in the case of my relationship with my host mother, I had nothing to worry about. And, my host sibling added, that’s a good thing. “That’s how she treats me,” my sibling said. Anyway, the moral of the story is: don’t expect to get preferential treatment in China, and though you may run into some cultural misunderstandings, it’s better if you get treated just like your Chinese siblings. That way you know the China you’re seeing is real.
Sally Jenks 4/24/16 Journal #5
If you had asked me two months ago how I would be feeling right now I would have told you a plethora of jumbled and conflicting emotions. I would have said homesick, anxious, out of place; but I would have also said excited, enlightened, and confident. I would have been wrong.
Its not that I don't get nervous when I get intrusive stares from strangers on the subway, or that I'm not excited by climbing the great wall; It is the overwhelming feeling of normalcy sedates these bolder emotions.
This sense of almost jaded calamity is brought on by many factors, a consistent routine, a well balanced group of students, and an exceptionally accommodating host family. But what I have discovered the largest force behind my potentially-misplaced sense of assimilation is my unlikely connection to home: ping pong.
I have just realised what a staple ping pong has been in my life. I had a ping pong table in my basement for most of my life and while it has began collecting dust in recent years, but there was a time when ping pong was a huge part of my day to day life. From the ages of nine to 13 the sound of ping pong balls constantly echoed through my house. My brother, who is four years younger than me, has always been extremely energetic; so to give him an outlet for all of his aggression and movement my mom would make him play ping pong. They played in the mornings before school, the afternoons, and many times right before bed. The sounds of my brother slamming the ball, as if it just personally offended him, rang though the house, followed by his anguished squeals as my mother would calmly return the ball until he whiffed, and it missed the table.
For a long time I was annoyed by this constant source of white noise, and I was over the moon when his schedule grew too full to support hours of ping pong. After the annoyance stopped, these memories fled my mind, and the table was folded up and pushed into a corner to be forgotten. I think it was because this memory was forgotten for so long that when I entered the Jingshan gym, and was greeted by the familiar sound of angry, speeding, ping pong balls, I was abruptly taken back to that untouched scene.
I think the more insignificant a memory seems, the more vibrant it can become. If it is something that has been folded up and pushed to the corners of your mind, when it returns to you, it is guaranteed to be authentic, untouched, because your brain has not thought to tamper with it. So this memory has become, in a sense something that has been able to anchor me to home more successfully than any length of FaceTime with my mom, or texting conversation with my best friend. This memory not only provides a crystal clear sensation of home, but also reminds me how much I, and everyone around my has grown and will continue to grow, (shown by the fact that my brother doesn't need to whack balls at people to be able to go to sleep or school anymore) an important thing to remember when I am feeling out of place or uninspired by my current position. It is incredible to me that such a small and specific thing can hold such power, but I choose not to question it because I never want that to change.
Sheil Journal Entry 5
Have you ever heard 50 kids chanting in unison? Everyone is reading the same text in a monotone. No one slips, and they are all at exactly the same pace. This is how most morning classes begin in Jingshan. In the beginning this was scary, almost dystopian. But I’ve come to get used to it. This and many other differences I’ve noticed about the two school systems. One being Newton North and the other is Beijing Jingshan.
In class behavior being one of the major differences. The teachers here have different expectations, paired with different behaviors that they deem inappropriate or acceptable for class. The strangest one was sleeping in class. I cannot begin to count the amount of times I have seen a sleeping kid, head down with no effort to hide it, in the middle of class. Even through whole 4o minute periods. Now classes are bigger granted. But not big enough that the teacher does not notice, It seems they don’t care. The teacher’s goal is simply to teach, so as long as the kid is not snoring, or distracting anyone else trying to learn. No one will be woken. This is a strange new concept to me. In North participation is usually up to 15% of the grade I receive. So seeing students take a 40-minute break seems crazy. I believe this reflects China’s general view towards knowledge and learning. It is your job to learn and everyone is responsible for his or her own success. Or in some cases, their failure. In the U.S the teacher has more of a responsibility to address individual students progress. And can be held responsible for a low grade or unresponsive classroom. Whereas at any given class in Jingshan, save for P.E, you can find at least two or three kids passed out. Head on the desk and arms folded into small makeshift pillows.
After the class ends, a bell will sound. Or rather the cascading little jingle that sounds throughout the school. To call it a bell doesn’t do it justice. A huge difference I notice is between classes. Not only do we not actually move from class to class. But we also have a solid 10 minutes while we wait for the next teacher to come in. I usually spend a portion of these remembering the mad rush to get to each class, and the two minutes given to do it back in North. The only downside to this system is that the time accumulates and ends up making the school day 2 hours longer than it would be in Newton. But unless you have a time consuming after school sport or theatre production, I prefer this sort of schedule. It gives students time to collect themselves and loosen up before their class. It means that students don’t have to be counting the minutes till lunch for their first break. I find I am more able to concentrate fully on classes when they are dispersed between breaks.
Overall, the school experience of Jingshan has its pros and its cons. Its strengths lay in its time management and understanding of students needs for air. While its faults lay in the disregard for the individual student and its factory approach to learning.Ying Ying Rossi 3/24/16
It's no secret that China has some drastically different customs and habits as we do at home. Back in America, we were all warned by multiple people of their passive-aggressive tendencies. In multiple situations, I had anticipated actions from my host family that would go along with this idea. However, I misinterpreted many of their actions as hints to do, or not do, something. While, in reality, they had no secret motives behind what they were doing.
Passive-aggressiveness can often come in the form of the famous “Chinese No”. Which is where someone would subtly suggest that an activity might not be the best idea, but then agrees to let you go by the end of the discussion. However, right before you need to leave, he or she would try to make up some excuse to make you stay. There was this one instance where I had thought that I was receiving a “Chinese No” from my host mom. It was about fifteen minutes before I was about to leave to hang out with my friends and she just starting to cook lunch. I began to worry about what was happening, whether or not I was about to be blind sided. However, with ten minutes left, my host mom called me over to the kitchen. She told me how she was super sorry that she lost track of time and how if I ate some food by myself quickly, I'd still be able to make it on time. So that is exactly what I did. I even made it to where my friends and I were meeting right on time. I had honestly, right there in that moment, thought that I was being "China-ed", and that I was getting a passive-aggressive message to stay at home. Although, the truth of the matter is that my host mom genuinely forgot that I had to leave early to go out. We're all only human and mess up every once in a while. Regardless of the track record in China for getting your way through a bit of manipulation, sometimes it is simply an honest mistake.
Furthermore, there was an experience where I thought they were trying to get me to eat, and enjoy, shrimp even though they know I don't like seafood. Just a day or two before, my friend was explaining me how her host parents were telling her that the Kungpow fish was really Kungpow chicken because she doesn't like eating fish much either. After taking a large crunch into a fish bone, it turns out that her host family was trying to convince her that she actually did like fish by having her eat it. So when I was assisting my host family in preparing dumplings and noticed that there was shrimp inside, I automatically jumped to the conclusion that they were probably attempting something similar with me. Like with the other experience, it turns out that my host family just forgot that I didn't like seafood. Thus leading them to give me a large bun when they realized what happened to make up for what I didn’t eat. I, again, had made assumptions according to the notion that Chinese people use passive-aggressive cues to make sure things go their way, and was ultimately incorrect in my predictions.
Through the almost “Chinese No” and shrimp incident both lead me to better understand no to look too much into the actions of those around me. I now realize that there are times where things happen differently from what is expected; however, this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily trying to send you a message. Sometimes things get mixed up and muddled around, but the original intent stays the same. I suppose that what I’m also trying to say here is that generalizations about a culture may only be helpful to a certain degree. With any group of people, background knowledge can be used as a crutch to guide those who are less informed. However, nothing and no one is perfect, so you cannot base everything you do on these facts since you will find many aberrations and inconsistencies wherever you may go.
Emily Hogan Journal Entry #4Learning Something New
One of the things my parents told me to do while I was in China was learn how to cook Chinese food. I’ll admit, it wasn’t completely serious, but at this point, I know how to make three things thanks to the help of my host mom. Back in America, I guess I could say I like to cook. I like making cookies (peanut butter in particular), and I like helping my mom or dad with dinner when I get the chance. Anyways, the food always tastes better when you make it yourself.
The first thing I learned how to make in China was dumplings when my whole family made them together on Chinese New Year. Let me tell you, these dumplings were completely from scratch. Starting early in the afternoon, my host mom was busy kneading dough and making the filling for our dumplings. When everything was prepared, I was taught the correct way to fold and fill dumplings. It’s an art, and not an easy one, mind you. First of all, you have to get the proper amount of filling. If you get too much it will break apart when cooked, but if you put too little, it will be one ugly dumpling with a lot of dough. Once your filling is accurate, you have to fold the dumpling in half. Then, with one gracious move you have to curve the dumpling (so the edges span the length of your thumb and pointer finger,) and squeeze to make sure no filling will ever come out. It’s not easy, but if you get it right that’s one good looking dumpling.
One of my favorite things my host mom makes is called Rou Bing. She calls them meat pies, but I would consider them a quesadilla without the cheese. The next time I knew she was making them, I asked her to teach me. Similar to the dumplings we made on New Years you need dough along with vegetable and meat filling to make Rou Bing. The first step is to roll out a big circle of dough and cut the radius. Then you fill up a quarter of the circle with filling. Next, you fold that quarter over so you have three quarters of a circle. After you fold that same piece over with another layer of filling, you should have a half circle. Then you flip it over a final time and get a thick yummy meat pie. (After you cook it that is.) Once it is done frying, you have Rou Bing with layers of dough with meat and vegetable filling. It doesn’t get better than that.
The final dish my host mom taught me how to make was Hu Ta Zi. This was the easiest one and the one I will be most likely to replicate back in America. This is partly because there are only three ingredients. When I started eating my breakfast in the morning, my host mom told be she was making a special lunch of Hu Ta Zi and wanted me to help her so I can learn how to make it for my family in Boston. We started off by shredding vegetables. We shredded multiple carrots and zucchini into a large metal bowl. Step two was to mix in four or so eggs. At this point it was too runny and flour needed to be added until it was the consistency of pancake mix. Then we poured it into a frying pan and cooked them pancake style. They come out delicious.
Learning how to make foods from a different culture doesn’t always sound important, but I think it is. I know many family friends that don’t cook a variety of foods from different cultures, and they’re missing out. Not only are they missing out on delicious foods that they never will have tried, but they aren’t taking an extra step to understand how people around the globe live their daily lives in a different or similar way than they do. Food is a big part of everyone’s life, and learning how to make different foods is a great way to learn about different people.
Michael Lee 3/10/16
When living in a different country, misunderstandings are bound to happen. Adjusting to a new culture is not an easy task. It takes time and, sometimes, a little trial and error. Before departing for China, we talked about some cultural aspects that we should be aware of. Topics, such as compliments and general manners, were included in the talk. The Chinese way of declining permission, often called the Chinese-no, is another subject that was talked about. In Chinese culture, people often don't explicitly say what they actually feel. We learned that they'll often try indirectly hinting at what their true thoughts are. It was nice to know this information ahead of time, but telling and experiencing are two very different things. While in China, one of the notable misunderstandings I had involved receiving a Chinese-no.
On one of the weekends, our exchange group had planned to go out in the early afternoon. The night before, my host family granted me permission to go with the group. Accounting for my commute, my host family had reccommended that I leave the house at noon. The next day, about a minute before noon, I was finishing preparing to go out. I was about to put my shoes on, but my host mother came over and told me that my host father was about to start cooking lunch. She then proceeded to sit me down at the table. Now, being on-time is an important thing for me. I don't enjoy being late, so I try my best to get to places a bit early. In America, I would normally politely decline and explain that there is a planned time. That would normally work for me back in Newton. However, in China, it's not that simple. I tried politely explaining my time constraints to my host family. They insisted that I sit down and eat lunch. However, I kept saying that I was going to be late. My host dad had started cooking and was getting some plates and bowls ready. At this point, it was already fifteen minutes past noon. I kept insisting that I needed to leave, or else I would be late. They would say that I still have time, and that it will be okay if you're a bit late. They told me to WeChat the group and let them know I would meet them a bit later. I persisted in saying that I needed to go. I even mentioned that we had had a late breakfast, and I was still full from that. Eventually, after a bit more talk, they allowed me to leave without having lunch.
Later, my host sibling told me that I had come off as a bit rude. Of course, now that I am putting it into words, it seems obvious. However, in the moment, I had misunderstood the signs that my host parents were giving me. In turn, I was unintentionally impolite to my host family. Since they had already given me permission the night before, I had assumed that I had gotten past the Chinese-no. Unfortunately, that was not the case. My host sibling explained to me that they had just wanted to make sure that I wouldn't go hungry. That is why they wanted me to leave a bit later. They were not declining me from going, but they were against the fact that I was leaving without lunch. From this misunderstanding, I learned to be more aware of the signs of a Chinese-no. In America, people tend to be more straightforward when declining permission to someone. If my mother doesn't want me going out, she'll explicitly tell me that I can't go out. However, in China, you often have to piece together how the person actually feels. My host parents were not direct in telling me what they had on their mind, and I misinterpreted the signs they were giving me. In short, the etiquette of declining someone permission is different between China and America.
Misunderstandings happen all the time between cultures. It would be unusual for a person to come to another country and act perfectly within the culture. Even in American culture, the culture I was raised in, I still make mistakes. Many people perceive misunderstandings as purely negative, and they fail to gain anything from it. It should be noted that misunderstandings should try to be avoided. However, when they do happen, misunderstandings provide valuable learning experiences and allow us to better understand a country's culture.
Natalie Bohm 4/8/16
And, as promised, we’re back with Mythbusters: China Edition! Remember: we go live from Beijing every two weeks, so stay tuned for more exciting mythbusting! I believe we’re on Myth(?) #9, so let’s get right to it.
9. Morning and Eye Exercises: FACT… mostly. The first class of the day at Jingshan school starts at 8:00 am, but most students arrive before 7:10 because, before attending that class, they have to do morning exercises. The only exception is Mondays, on which the whole school lines up in the “Multi-Function Hall” (a strange cross between an indoor volleyball court and a theatre) for the Flag Raising Ceremony. During this ceremony, which usually lasts a little over half an hour, younger students salute and older students watch on as the Chinese flag is raised to the ceiling, and then they all sing the Chinese national anthem and the Jingshan School Anthem. Some announcements are usually made by a few students and teachers, and then everyone deals with the logistical problem of getting the entire school out of that one room fast enough to get to class on time.
But back to the myth at hand: the morning exercises. Tuesday through Friday, we do file out of our classrooms and divide into two lines based on gender. In truth, the only morning exercises I’ve experienced have been the running of laps around the school, although I’m told that the stereotypical Zumba workout that Americans think Chinese schools do are also practiced at Jingshan. Now, that’s not to say that everyone enjoys or participates. Girls are required to run three laps around the school, as opposed to the four that boys run, and members of both genders frequently slow to a walk or drop out of line for a lap. As a wise Chinese host student once said, “You simply can’t make people run.” As far as I and anyone I’ve talked to is aware, there are no severe ramifications for not running. If you say that you’re hurt, there’s usually no demand for proof or encouragement to continue through the injury on the part of your homeroom teacher. I have to say, it’s kind of funny to me that of all school-related things, students show disrespect for morning exercises.
To be clear, eye exercises don’t get a lot of attention either. It is true that twice a day, once before lunch and once after, five minutes are devoted to the massaging of various parts of your face and head. You memorize the procedure pretty quickly: four counts of eight massaging first your earlobes (don’t ask me why – I don’t know), then your temples, then cheekbones, then the back of your neck, and finishing along the top of your head, all the while listening to calming, if slightly eerie, Chinese music. I have to say, it does little for your focus and can even give you a headache. I don’t know what the secret key to success that Chinese students have, but it isn’t eye exercises. Some students simply use the exercises as study time. Most others sort of halfheartedly put their hands in the vicinity that they should be for a given exercise, but don’t actually do any massaging.
In short, it is true that Chinese school do put their students through morning and eye exercises that look very funny to Americans. What those rumors don’t tell you, though, is that all the Chinese students think they’re just as useless as Americans do. In that sense, I think American and Chinese teenagers have something very important in common: skepticism. It’s a universal trait of young people to look critically at things they are made to do, and to decide – whether it’s true or not – that they are ridiculous.
Sally Jenks 3/10/15 Journal #4
Dispelling a stereotype
I was having a hard time deciding what to write about this week; so I was bouncing ideas off my host sister, Rebecca. We quickly gravitated to the topic of stereotypes and began to brainstorm a list: hardworking, super smart, not super tidy. However, from my experience all of these seem pretty accurate and Rebecca agreed as well. Just as we were going to move on from this discussion we both realized, in unison, we had forgotten potentially the largest stereotype: Chinese are bad drivers.
Initially this stereotype also felt spot on, but after giving it greater thought, I realized the opposite is true. Chinese people are not bad drivers at all. This statement appears incredibly counter intuitive to anyone who has gotten in a car in China because that car ride was probably enough to make even the most reckless american driver close their eyes, buckle their seatbelt, and pray their departure is quick and painless. Regardless of how many brushes with death I have experienced on the circuitous and tumultuous roads of Beijing, I am still here, with all my limbs. It is the skill of avoiding imminent head on collisions that make it clear that chinese drivers are not bad at all, they are supremely skilled.
Unfortunately, they use this skill for evil rather than good, turning the historic roads into a racetrack of anarchy. Each driver seems to view their skill as superior, and therefore, the thought of yielding or using a turning signal is preposterous. The goal is to get from point A to point B as fast as possible; so running a traffic light, cutting off anyone and anything, or making a U-turn on a one way road is inconsequential.
The mentality behind driving in China is the antithesis to that of America. While so many young and bright-eyed Americans are lectured on the importance of “defensive driving”, in drivers ed, it seems that chinese drivers are trained in the art of “offensive driving”. The concept behind this is simple, do not back down. As an observer I will list a multitude of situations of “offensive driving” in practice:
1.When merging, be sure never to yield, inch up next to your opponent and whoever values their bumper less will earn the five second head start on the highway.
2. When yielding, evaluate your opponent, is it a pedestrian, bike, rickshaw, smart car? Doesn't matter, if it is smaller than your vehicle the answer is accelerate, this is survival of the fittest, the inferior of the two will retreat, or be crushed.
3. When encountering tight spaces (including traffic jams and any tight squeeze in which you find yourself), keep going until your parking sensor has become one continuous beep/ shriek, use this jam to your advantage by cutting off any other cars you can squeeze by, accept that you will be honked at, embrace it, everyone else is just jealous they don’t have the same disregard for financial assets as you do. rejoice as you inch your way up an endless traffic jam, perpetuated by individuals trying to pull the same dirty trick as you.
Through this detailed guide to driving in China, it is clear that this is not a feat attempted by the faint of heart, or those lacking in skill. As someone constantly berated for “reckless driving”, I am quick to contest the general misconception that “bad” and “reckless” are the same. The more recklessly and selfishly one drives, then the more skill and awareness required to avoid an accident, which is a reckless driver’s worst nightmare because dealing with insurance and drama is more painful than actually waiting at red lights. Therefore It is clear that Chinese people are, in fact, far superior drivers. Ultimately, American’s have assigned this stereotype because they are simply afraid. Afraid to admit their inferiority, and afraid of the deathly and innate harmony between Chinese and car.
Sheil Mehta 3/7 Journal Entry #4
Discovering Something About Yourself
Being here was like a new start. Suddenly everything was different. From the air I breathed in, to the fish that looked up at me on my cafeteria tray. Suddenly people I didn’t know surrounded me and I was the new kid. I’ve never switched schools or had to move away from my friends, so the change was a new one. What I discovered, though, was this new blank canvas presented me with what exactly what I needed. I took my brush and promptly started to rearrange my life. While here I decided that I would work out every day, that I would eat healthier, and make an effort to change for the better. This was a task I had told myself I would conquer many times in the states, yet each fizzled out with distractions and lack of motivation. But something is different here. The Chinese students and their lifestyle were much healthier than that of American students. They are presented with almost an hour every day at lunch to just run and play sports on the wide courtyard. And every meal was cooked with less oil and more vegetables, rarely have I seen fried food at lunch or dinner and the amount of junk food served at lunch is close to none.
The other exchange students and I scouted out Jingshan’s massive gym facilities. They provided us with bikes, weights, mats, rowing machines and anything we needed. Immediately, we began our daily workouts. I found it much easier to commit with a group of friends all sharing the same goal, each one just as determined to leave the Middle Kingdom better than they arrived. I discovered that this trip was not only a place to learn, but also a place to change. I forced myself to eat healthier as well. I’m thankful for the massive shift, because I think without it I would never have taken the initiative.
Not only physical care but also linguistic. While here we took the chance to speak as much Chinese as possible, and the changes were evident. Forcing myself to use as much of the language as I could is slowly shaping my understanding of conversational mandarin. When everyone around you can speak and is willing to speak to you, your motivation is immediately boosted. The way the Chinese students take foreigners helps a lot. They love talking to us and are always happy to hear and correct our Chinese. The Environment is too supportive to not grow in.
But the people who help me the most are my host parents. They use little if any English and always try an engage me in as much conversation as possible. This new circumstance pushes me to work harder on everything from my vocabulary to my grammar. I am positive that if not for the situation I were in, I would never use or hear the amount of Chinese I do. I learned that it is easier to change when the environment around you supports you. By being in the new country I am wiling to make changes I never would have at home, and keep them sustained because everyday I am reminded that this new place is my chance.
Claire Mendelsohn Journal Entry #4
Hello to anyone who is reading this! I hope you have had a wonderful day, and if it hasn’t officially started yet I sincerely wish that it is great. Another day has come for me to tell about the differences I have discovered between American and Chinese culture. In this journal entry I will talk about family structures and dynamics.
To start things off I would like to say that pinpointing and defining an average American family is very hard. Due to the massive variety of races and cultures the melting pot is in fact large, bringing all of these traditions and family values together in this one country. The pot is so large that and so flavorful that one cannot simply answer what the average American family is like without giving it a second thought.
So, now in perspective, what exactly is the average family like? If thinking in only stereotypes, it is the loud, obese, white family who eats barbequed meat for every meal with the side of something fried. They eat this meal with the help of cola and beer, and talk about the spirit of America and how good it is to be ‘free’. But that is thinking stereotypically. If you were to be thinking more modernly and open mindedly, throw in the new acceptance of gay marriage and the LGBTQ community, and now not only do we have race and culture but sexual orientation and gender identity; like said before, it might take a little more time before answering.
As for China, in my own opinion, I can’t say it’s the same. Since China is such a homogenous country, family dynamics tend to be very similar and easier to define and describe. To my knowledge, the Chinese feel very strongly about tradition and passing it on generation from generation. Of course not every single family is like this; I’m sure there are many families, including mine, which could prove my thoughts wrong. It would be wrong to assume that every single family was exactly the same without hard evidence. Though, something I have seen very often is that a young child will spend a lot of time with, not their parents, but their grandparents. I know that in China that it isn’t unusual for grandparents to live in the same house as their grandchildren. I think it might be due to how expensive it is to buy or rent apartments because of the limited space. Also, on a news program that my host mother likes, they were talking about how China did not have enough doctors to take care of the elderly so it was left in the children’s hands. Factoring familial piety and financial cost, it isn’t out of the normal for the grandparents to be living in the house. As in American, the norm is for the grandparents living in an enclosed community, assisted living, or just on their own. I see it that Americans are used to their independence, so when we grown old and lose the ability to live independently we become stubborn and insist on living separately, one way or another. In China, the grandparents are in a way glad. They see it as their child repaying them for raising and nurturing them, so they can finally relax a little.
I could go on and on about this topic but this journal entry has already gotten a little long for my liking, so until next time.
Claire Mendelsohn Journal Entry #3
Now that I have officially started school I have come to the realization that Chinese and American schools are more different that I originally thought them to be. There are so many differences that if I were to try and write about all of them in depth, this journal entry would turn into, at the very least, a six page essay. Since this is only a journal entry, I will only talk about three.
The first difference I will talk about is morning routine. Oh boy. So, Jingshan doesn’t start until 7:15, which isn’t so bad. That’s only fifteen or thirty minutes earlier when compared the Newton North High School. That isn’t the actual problem; it’s getting to school. What could possibly be so bad? The traffic. Beijing traffic is absolutely horrible. It can turn a ten or fifteen minute drive into thirty or forty. It takes me forty-five to fifty minutes to get to school. So, doing the math I have to wake up at six in the morning, but don’t forget breakfast. So subtracting another twenty minutes from my sleep schedule, I am up at 5:40 AM, and my most favorite thing in the whole world is starting my day when it’s still completely dark outside (sarcasm). In America I could wake up five minutes before leaving the house and be at school in another five. I never realized how blessed I was.
I am not a fan of gym class. Not in America, and not in China. In America, you run around the track once and play games, pretty laid back. Besides the standard boundaries of, “include everyone” and “play fair and safe”, there aren’t a ton of rules or restrictions. In China, the boys and girls are separated by gender, and slowly jog laps around the track. The ladies jog three laps, and the guys run four. After running or jogging, the students have to line up, by gender, and learn how to march. So, it wasn’t as laid back as American gym classes, due to the strong gender separation and uniform marching, but it was a lot less physical effort. At least during the games played in American gym classes, I am constantly running around to avoid getting hit in the face by said ball. The point is that I think American and Chinese gym classes are two ends of a spectrum and can’t really be compared. Both, in perspective, are extreme and there should be an in-between. A class where there is structure and rules, so the students aren’t completely left on their own to decide, but they can still enjoy a game with friends and classmates.
The third difference that I will talk about is school lunch. There isn’t a whole lot to say really. American school lunches look putrid, but they taste better than Chinese lunches. I don’t think Chinese lunches are bad; they are just- disappointing. They look and smell absolutely wonderful and delicious. Generally when it reaches lunchtime I am starving. So when I smell all of this amazing looking Chinese food I get excited, very excited. Then all of my excitement is shattered by the first bite. It’s not bad, just bland. For something that looks and smells great, the taste is disappointingly bland. It’s the opposite for American school lunch, which looks disgusting and lowers your expectations. So when you take a bite of it, you are surprised by an acceptable flavor. These are a few of the many differences I found between Chinese and American Schools.
Natalie Bohm 2/24/16
Welcome back to Mythbusters: China Edition! We hope you’ve had a good Spring Festival. Let’s get right to it! We’ve got two new stereotypes for you today to address (this still sounds awkward), starting with Myth(?) #7.
7. Nobody in China Talks About China’s Political Ideology: MYTH. If you’re like me and are interested in different forms of government, China isn’t the most hospitable place to pursue your interests: no First Amendment rights are guaranteed here. However, there certainly are people around willing to talk about communism and China’s policies – imprisonment of journalists and lack of public involvement in the political process – that may seem questionable to Westerners. For instance, a student (who shall remain unnamed) had an extensive conversation with me about Tibet and whether or not China should grant it autonomy. I think these are conversations worth having, and they are a large part of why I wanted to come to China in the first place. Now don’t get me wrong: be careful. Freedom of speech is not guaranteed in China. But if you want to talk politics and you test the waters carefully enough, there’s nothing stopping you from an interesting conversation. Some Chinese young people even want to have these conversations with you, as I learned recently. A student came up to me today and asked me (in perfect English) what I thought about Chinese collectivism, with some follow-ups on my thoughts about the highly structured Chinese school day and content. To be honest, I don’t quite know what to think of that; it’s a question I didn’t think I would get asked in China. Next time - if there is a next time - I won’t get caught off guard like that. This particular encounter reminded me that censorship can? only extends so far, and even if the press is controlled by the CCP, no government can stop every political discussion from happening. Furthermore, it also reminded me that just because I can’t always say what I think about the ideological differences between the US and China, for fear of causing an international crisis, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be thinking hard about them.
8. Chinese School is Soul-Crushing: FACT. I mean, it’s not so terrible in the grand scheme of things; Beijing Jingshan School certainly provides a top-notch education. I’m just saying it’s a little stricter… a lot stricter than the Newton Public Schools. First of all, you’re expected to be there before 7:15, which for me means I have to wake up at 5:50 a.m. every day. If you’d asked me in America what a really rough school experience would be like, I would have told you “an extremely early start time” and stopped right there. But no, I’m in China now, which means it’s not just the bleary-eyed mornings (that you have to get use to); you also get to go out in the freezing cold for morning exercises, then come back in and take class after class in unchanging lecture style. Here your break for lunch is an hour long, which seems like a redeeming factor. Then you realize that not only can you not leave campus, but you are also required by school rules to purchase the school lunch and not bring your own from home unless you have a medical dietary restriction. The earliest school ends is 3:00; the latest is around 5:00. The American exchange students get to split the difference and get out at 4:00 every day. Oh, and by the way, you have to wear the same uniform every day (which you also have to purchase), and any embellishments - high heels, jewelry, makeup, hats, etc. - are forbidden. Boys must all get the same haircut, which happens to be a military-style buzz, and girls must either have short hair or tie it back. Intended or not, if that’s not systematic suppression of individual expression, then I don’t know what is.
That does it for us tonight, folks. We’ll be back two weeks from now with more exciting mythbusting!
Sally Jenks 2/25/16 Journal #3
After being in China for an entire month, I feel as though isolating one thing I have learned would be insufficient; so instead, I would like to make a list of the 5 things I have learned? that truly caught me off guard. The following list is entitled: 5 answers to questions I never even thought to ask. (These are the answers, not the questions.)
1. Fur is not a global hot commodity
Before coming to China I lived by the casual assumption that fur was either worn by the elderly Manhattan elite or mob wives. I believed that this display of opulence was globally recognized, but I could not have been more wrong. In China, everyone and their 6 month old daughter is adorned in some type of fur. Whether it is lining the hood of a parka or a full length mink, fur is inescapable. While this was an initial shock, I quickly remembered that China and America have polarizing approaches to environmental protection, and I highly doubt China has any organization parallel to PETA. This is a microcosm for the lack of awareness and impassivity, which explains the basis of China’s environmental crisis.
2. 90% of Chinese reality TV is dominated by the same five people.
The lack of diversity in Hollywood has become a hot topic in recent years, but it is nothing compared to Chinese primetime TV. Obviously, China is a much more homogenous nation, but with a billion people one would think it would be possible to create a different cast for each reality show. But no, every night at around 6 when my host family flips through the channels the shows change, yet the same 5 or 6 actors appear. They are all men, in their late 20’s and mid 30’s. on CCTV 4 they might be doing a game show, on CCTV 5 they could be judging a game show, and on CCTV 6 they are hosting a talk show. These men are everywhere, and they have taught me there is no upper limit to job security. China is not world renown for its entertainment industry; so, in this case, it seems like they have found an equation that works and stuck to it, rather than taking any creative risks.
3. Turn signals are a useless invention
Even though Boston drivers are notorious for forgetting this helpful device, Beijing drivers prove that giving any indication of direction is simply way too much information. Because of this I now know that every moment is precious, and life can be taken away a the blink of an eye. Also, nobody wears a seatbelt so every time a person enters a vehicle they put their lives in the hands of fate. Putting that much faith in the universe is truly a unique and beautiful ability and one I have not yet achieved.
4. There are a million ways to serve peanuts and disregard the “butter”
In America, I was prefaced on the lack of peanut butter in China, so I came prepared with a jar of Skippy. What I later found out was there is definitely no shortage of peanuts. In almost every dish peanuts make an appearance. They are the flaky center of a candy, they add some sweetness to Kung Pao Chicken, they congregate in a bowl as an appetizer, and I've even had them tossed in with cabbage. The lesson I learned from this is that one person’s way of doing something is usually not the only way, or even the best way, despite what that person may think. This shocking experience has taught me to become more open and experimental, and not alway hire the same 5 actors when I am directing a reality CCTV show.
5. The debate “which is stronger: a million lions or the sun” is inexhaustible
It seems like a silly question because everyone knows the sun is huge, but then again, you could be underestimating a million lions. This was a question my friend heard two boys ruminating over during the summer. I initially took it as a joke that two people could actually argue seriously over something as absurd as this question, but when I introduced it to the group on our recent trip to Xi’an, it turned into a heated argument that has still not fully been resolved.
**5B. Case in point: “No. This has never been a debate. It is the sun. Mass of a Lion = 190 kg, therefore the mass of 1,000,000 lions is 1.9 kg x 10^8. Mass of Sun = 2.0 kg x 10^30. This is a blowout by historic proportions.”- Matt
“But what if these lions are running? The high velocity and the lion’s exertion would generate more energy, mass isn't the only factor”-Sally
Ying Ying Rossi 2/25/16 Debunking a Myth
“Aw...Did you overachieverfail or did you Chinesefail?” Back in 7th grade, my friends and I would use these two terms to refer to how bad we scored on a test or essay. However, we never genuinely did poorly on exams. We simply used these terms to indicate what kind of grade we got. Naturally, according to the stereotype of the Smart Asian, Chinesefailing meant you got an A, which is actually a pretty decent grade. Whereas overachieverfailing included a B of some sort, so it was worse than a Chinesefail. Ranking the intellect (intellect or academic success as measured by scores?) of a Chinese student over that of an overachiever follows the notion that: all Chinese people are super studious, caring only about academics. On the contrary, since I’ve started attending Jingshan, I’ve seen multiple people that are as far from this stereotype as possible.
On my first day of school in China, I was surprised to learn that there were many students who were not very attentive during class. From my seat in the back row, there’s a fantastic view of all the students. I can see practically everyone. I watched as the guy in front of me streamed movies on his phone that was hidden in his desk. Minutes later, my gaze landed on a student who had fallen asleep against a window while the teacher was lecturing. Following that, I witnessed two girls having a conversation during a powerpoint. On the walk home, I questioned Melody on this subject. She informed me that if a student wasn’t pulling good grades, or simply found the lesson boring, they might read a book, zone out, or take a nap. I knew, even back in America, that not all Chinese students strived to attain knowledge. Regardless of this, I felt that at such a prestigious, government run school, the amount of slackers would be slim to none. On the contrary, the truth of the matter is that with any racial group, including Chinese, there will be both kids who love to learn, and kids who take it far less seriously.
Furthermore, the smart Chinese stereotype extends to adults as well. Most would assume that the vast majority of teachers in China center their focus solely on education and testing. However, in addition to having students for whom learning may not have necessarily been their first priority, there were also some teachers who put a larger focus on the students themselves. Just the other day, Melody introduced me to one of her teachers and his daughter. He was genuinely happy to see Melody, laughing with her when we noticed that his daughter, who was in elementary school, was taller than us. Another teacher from a class that I shadowed, went out of her way to talk to me when the rest of the class was busy. She commented on my braids, and then struck up a conversation about my Chinese appearance. In both of these experiences, I found the teachers to be more personable than expected. If one were to think about a teacher in China, he or she would most likely envision a strict old woman, yelling out commands and passing out tests. Meanwhile, this “push your academic boundaries until you break” attitude is just as frequent as here as it is in American schools. Here there are teachers, just like in any other school, that are very education oriented. – what do you mean by education based? Tests? However, there were also many who put sociability over, or at least on an even plane to, academics.
Education is a virtue that is relished by people of all cultures. China is no exception. There are countless people in this country who deeply value this privilege. Contrasting this, there are also many people who do not see learning the same in the same light. Awkward. These are the people who value social interactions more. These are the people who watch videos when they should be paying attention. These are the people who take a power nap when they feel don’t feel like being attentive. There are an array of different outlooks on academics; and therefore, it is not right to choose one to assign to a group of people since there is no one opinion that makes up the population.
Emily Hogan February 25, 2016
Journal Entry #3: Reaction to an Event
So far I’ve only spent a few days at the Jingshan School, but I still think the Flag Raising ceremony on my first day of school will be one of my biggest memories from school. This event was not just a first for me; it was the first flag raising ceremony of the new term welcoming students back to school after a well-deserved vacation (if you ask me). When we first entered the auditorium, we were standing against the wall closest to the doors, waiting curiously; ready to observe. In front of me were lines of students. As far as I could tell, there were two lines of students for each class and one “head student” representing the class. (I later learned this student is chosen by a collective decision of the whole class.) The “head student” was facing their classmates, while the two lines of students were facing the stage. Everyone was respectfully silent as later classes walked in through the door following suit. It was a very interesting sight to see over a hundred people standing in straight lines, hands to their sides and chin held up proud. However, next thing I knew I was stepping away from the radiators and forming my own line with my fellow American students. I never realized how fidgety and clumsy I was until I was forced to stand still and silent. This was especially difficult because I was trying my best to do what the other Jingshan students were doing. I must have looked weird twisting my head around trying to see what to do as everyone around me was standing still.
I was able to manage the formation well, but in the next part of the ceremony I was completely lost. After a short speech from a Jingshan high school student, we were all conducted in singing the Chinese National Anthem and the song for Jingshan school. Hopefully by the end of my stay I will be able to know a little bit of one of the songs from our future flag raising ceremonies, but I can’t make any promises. However, until that day, I have no idea how to sing either, so instead I was left staying in formation looking ahead. When everyone was singing, I could occasionally hear individual loud voices of some of the Jingshan teachers to my right. Let’s just say they weren’t always in tune.
I think this flag ceremony displayed one of the biggest differences between schools in China and schools in America. For example, although I’m a little sad to admit it, I don’t think Newton North High School would be able to pull this off. Even when we are sitting in chairs in the theater listening to a guest speaker or having a meeting with our housemaster, there are a good amount of students playing on their phones, listening to music or just plain not paying attention (Why does that happen at NNHS but not Jingshan?) Being used to this sort of situation back at home, during the flag raising ceremony I was pretty much in awe. For me this really drove home that people need to be the most respectful they can be when put in a new situation, especially when they’re not quite sure how to act. Follow the people around you. Stay calm and go with the flow.
Michael Lee 2/25/15 Stereotypes
Stereotypes have always been a large and unfortunate part of humanity. It is impossible to avoid them in our daily life. Everyone has experiences with stereotypes, whether it's promoting one or being the subject of one. China and Chinese people have numerous stereotypes that are put upon them. One of the most common stereotypes is that Chinese students are extremely studious. In multiple media forms, Chinese students are always shown to only be focusing on their schoolwork. It gives the image that a Chinese student's life revolves around their academic performance, and that every minute of their life is devoted to doing educational work. After spending a couple days in the Jingshan school, I have noticed that this stereotype is completely false. The students' work ethic at home and in the classroom prove that the stereotype of a Chinese student is simply wrong.
An obvious side effect of living with my host student is noticing his work habits at home. During their Spring Festival vacation, my host student was assigned a ton of homework in almost all of his classes. Now, already this appears to fit the stereotype of a constantly working student. However, my host student procrastinated on his homework nearly everyday. Back in Newton, I procrastinate constantly, and I know a lot of my friends do also. Everybody in the world has probably had experience with procrastination. However, many people assume that, in China, students are always working on their academics and never procrastinate or make time for enjoyment. On the contrary, my host student was constantly playing computer games, instead of working on his homework. Almost everyday during the Spring Festival, he would start his homework at around 8 pm and continue late into the night. There were a couple times when his friends came over to do homework as a group, but they spent more time playing games or chatting. The day before all this homework was due, my host student and his friends were out almost the whole day playing a tag game. He then came home and spent the rest of the night rushing to finish his homework. He didn't even finish and was still rushing to complete his homework in class. I noticed a large handful of kids were also finishing their homework in class, something seen in American students as well. This late night work habit also carried on into the regular school week. The work routine displayed by my host student at home shows that the stereotype of Chinese students only focusing on academics is completely absurd.
After spending just three days at Jingshan, I noticed even more activity in the classroom that further disproves the Chinese student stereotype. While I sat in on my host student's classes, I observed multiple students simply doodling or doing other work. It should be noted that all this activity was happening while the teacher was teaching. In America, these actions would result in some discontentment from the teacher. However, these Jingshan students constantly did it without any consequences. Some were also chatting with each other during the teacher's lesson. It was clear that the chat was for entertainment and not for educational clarification. However, I think the biggest shock was seeing how many students slept during the class. Based on the stereotype, these students should be giving complete attention to their teacher. They should be actively focused and participating in the class. In no way does a sleeping student promote the stereotype. In nearly every class, I could point out at least one, different student who was sleeping. These students were also met with no direct consequences. In America, teachers do not accept sleeping in their class, and many would be quick to hand out a punishment. However, that doesn't prevent American students from still dozing-off in class, similar to some of the Jingshan students. With these observations, it's clear that the in-class, work habits of the Jingshan students do not correlate with the Chinese student stereotype.
In conclusion, the stereotype that Chinese students are perfect, studious scholars is completely false. I have observed behavior in the Jingshan students that is seen in students all across the world. I have witnessed many students at Newton North who exhibit similar conduct and work habits. A lot of Chinese students have almost identical behavior as any other student in the world. I am not trying to demote the success or hard work of any students. My point is that the stereotype of Chinese students giving up their lives to academics is a wrong belief to have.
Sheil Mehta – 2/25/16
I’ve always taken it upon myself to defend the millennial generation when it came to the use of technology. People like to jump on and say we are absent minded, and that our phones obstruct our social ability. The older generations like to say that modern society has become detached, in the sense that we no longer talk to one another. In the U.S., it would have taken me all of three seconds to shoot this argument down. I would confidently proclaim that we are not using our phones as substitutes for social interaction, but instead to communicate more. That we use it to talk to loved ones in situations where it was never possible before. We hold conversations over texts that are just as meaningful as ones we speak. Simply adding another tool on the belt of social interaction.
But after spending a month in Beijing I started to notice something shockingly different. I was no longer able to defend or represent the same demographic. I remember vividly sitting at a dinner table lined with Isaac and his friends. I distinctly recall looking around, each person absent-mindedly eating while their phones were held up to their faces. Each one was playing some game, or texting another friend with pictures of the food that was fossilizing into the plates. I truly felt compelled to shout or wave my hands. Once in a while they would compare high scores or take a break to drink some water, but otherwise they seemed lost. It’s common here, and it seems almost dystopian at times, in the sense that meals can be silent and distant one-worded responses can constitute a conversation.
This is not to say that everyone is like this, or that it has ruined my experience in anyway. It is mainly a comment on the students my age. The kids my age are the ones who I notice this trait in most. I have a theory about this. To begin with, the culture of the school they go to. Because Jingshan takes in students from all over the large Beijing district, students are not as close to each other and in turn have less group social activities. This is contradictory to my social life in Newton where I can send a text and show up to a friend’s house within an hour any weekend. Because of this, I believe they have needed to find a way to entertain themselves, and without siblings that can be hard. I feel it is used as a crutch here, a way to be with people without the stress of actually finding the words to say to them. The theory was proved in my mind whilst waiting on the subway and finding almost everyone around me in his or her own bubble. They were secluded into the worlds their respective apps provided.
I believe this trip gave me an insight into what people fear the worst outcome to the technological boom is. And I also believe that from it I have begun to be more self aware of how I spend my time with others. Through seeing the collective introversion, I now stop myself when I feel the urge to check Instagram while someone is talking. Our ability to hold conversation is a part of what makes us human, and I’m glad that I was able to come to this realization before it was too late.Claire Mendelsohn Journal Entry #2
During the short time that I have lived here in China I have noticed quite a few cultural differences between the Chinese and Americans. Despite there being a numerous amount of differences, there are a specific three that really stand out to me. The first one is, toilets. It is a little difficult to not notice the difference between Chinese and American public restrooms. American public restrooms have your average (or at least what we westerners consider to be the average) sitting toilets. Each bathroom stall will have its own roll of toilet paper and each sink has its own soap dispenser. This is usually not the case for China. Chinese public bathrooms have toilets that are, in a way, just holes in the ground. It is not like China does not have sitting toilets, they do, but they are just uncommon. The stalls do not have toilet paper in them; or at least I have never seen it. On occasion there will be a roll of toilet paper when you first enter the bathroom, you'll just take the amount you need.* Although to be safe, rather than sorry, one should have a small pack of tissues handy. The same thing applies for hand soap. The bathroom doesn't always have hand soap, and if it does there are only one or two dispensers, one on each end of the line of sinks. It is suggested that you carry hand sanitizer unless you are okay with just water.
Another major cultural difference that I noticed while staying in China is when ordering food when eating out at a restaurant with a group of people.* In China, the norm is to order a bunch of food for the whole group to share. Generally, once the food is ordered, it will come out quickly; with not much wait time between dishes. Dish after dish will come out and be placed on the lazy Susan at center of the table. Once placed in the center, everyone can at least try each food. As for ordering food in America, it is a bit different. When going to eat out with a group of people in America, everyone usually orders a dish that they like and will probably eat on their own. They might share a bite with one another if they are feeling generous, or if they don't like it. In China, if the group is big enough, everyone will split the tab. At least that is what happens when I go out to eat with the other students. I am not sure about what the adults do. In America, after eating, usually one person will pick up the tab.
The third difference that stuck out to me was how adults dressed. In America, people in their thirties and forties are (expected?) to dress more sophisticatedly and more maturely than people who are in their teens and twenties. An unsaid fashion rule in America is that once you pass the age of ten or twelve you shouldn't wear 'cutesy' or 'childish' clothing. Here in China that rule is completely disregarded. I have seen women well into their late forties that wear pink flowers and bows in their hair; women who wear fluffy jackets with animal ears on the hood. There are elderly men that are wearing flat-rimmed hats with graphic tees. In China, age doesn't really matter; people just wear what they want. These were the most 'eye-catching' differences that I have noticed while living in China.
Ying Ying Rossi 2/11/16Parallels to Experiences
You can’t judge a book by its cover. I have heard this statement countless times before, and I’m sure you have as well. The reason why it is so necessary to say again for you right now is because it is highly applicable to people and societies. From at first glance, you notice all the differences between our lives and theirs. For example, how they have different customs and habits, alternate ways of life. However, if you were to take a closer look, you would also notice how remarkably similar everyone is. We all share innate characteristics when presented in social situations, no matter where we live.
Anywhere you go, children all have the same image as a carefree package of happiness. The day of New Year’s Eve, Liu Chenyu, the little girl from across the hall, came to visit. She was a nineyearold endless supply of energy, bouncing off the walls as soon as she stepped foot into the house. As Melody, her father, and I stuck various decorations on walls and doors, she would burst into random rooms like she owned the place, inspecting everything in reach. It was not that she was rude or nosy. She was simply, like all other children, curious. When the decorating was complete, she took Melody and me by the hand and dragged us over to her apartment. She gave us a tour of her house, showing us her room and desk, her drawings of fairies and princesses, and her basket of toys. Then, she pulled us to a separate room where we were to play various games with her. Her eagerness to both interact and make new friends is something I can say for children I know back in America, and is not limited to China.
I actually was shocked at the games we had played with her; they were all games that I already knew how to play from America. Being around Liu Chenyu made me feel as if I were still nine years old myself, back in Newton, having a playdate with a friend. Besides hide and go seek and rock paper scissors shoot, the childhood classics, there were two other games familiar to me. The one that I found most surprising was one that I had just recently learned over Christmas break. My cousins from New Jersey were playing it after dinner one night and taught it to us. I found it amazing that this little girl, and the rest of her generation, were playing the same games as my cousins back at home. Especially the fact that they know how to play a game that I had just recently learned, myself. I suppose that’s just how it works. Someone brings it from one country to another and starts playing it at their school. Then someone from that school teaches it to a friend who doesn’t know it; the cycle just keeps going around. Who knows where it really originated: China, America, or even some other country? Although, in a way, it doesn’t really matter. What’s really significant is that no matter where you are, socializing through games is a form of stimulation that everyone can relate to, and how through this, the games you play are passed all around the world.
Furthermore, the other night, Melody’s family took me to a section of Beijing where they used to live called Huai Rou. There, we had dinner at Melody’s old friend’s house. Just as if we were in America, when dinner was finished, the little kids sat on the couch to watch TV, the adults drank wine and laughed, and the three of us, Melody, her friend, and I, went to another room to hang out by ourselves. Although much of the conversation went soaring over my head, the bits and pieces that I picked up on, in addition to what Melody had translated for me, were similar to what I might sit down and talk to my friends about. They covered topics like schools, annoying teachers, cute boys, and good music. They got grossed out together about the subpar bathroom situation at Melody’s friend’s school, discussed TF Boys, a popular boy band here in China, and rocked out to Avril Lavigne. Additionally, I’m pretty sure I heard them ogling over some cute tall guy who plays basketball. In a way, it kind of made me miss being around my friends at home, where I could talk to them for hours about trivial things. In the end, no matter where we or what we look like, we are all similar, connected simply by our shared instincts when put in social situations.
Sheil - Journal Entry #2 - Comparing/contrasting cultures
I slipped out of bed with the jet lag still hiding in the bags under my eyes. Five hours of sleep was decent but I could’ve done with more. As I walked into the sitting area, I was met with the sights and sounds of my host family. Around me were the sounds of laughing and the clicking of chopsticks on bowls. The next sound I heard was an exclamation of fear, “Ni de touxie zai na er?” my host mother called. It Took me a second, but I realized she was asking about my slippers, the little brown and black flip-flops that were presented to me upon arrival, and why I wasn’t wearing them. What I had yet to understand was that she was genuinely worried. She truly believed that if I walked around on their floors barefoot I would catch a fever from exposure to the cold wood. Back home my family never wears shoes in the house, so this took a while to stick, but eventually I got into the habit. I noticed one by one that all around me were little cultural differences that I needed to adapt to.
The slippers weren’t the only things that came as a surprise to me. Along with them, I was draped in multiple coats daily to protect me from the cold whenever I ventured outside. I observed among not only my family, but others also, a distinct over-protection. It took me a while to get used to all the new precautions, but I accepted them knowing they were coming from a place of concern and care. Along with the clothing, water was a huge change. The very idea of what constitutes a refreshing beverage is challenged when you come back from a day of touring the city on foot in the sun and are given boiling water. Cold or iced water is not the drink of choice here, and within days I was craving it. There’s a distinct cultural difference in the way they could swear on the medicinal value and everyday necessity of boiling water.
I’ve since taken to accepting the ways and requests of my host family. I understand it must be a vital part of the exchange experience. What good is it living in China if I don’t live like the Chinese? Although I have yet to succumb to putting ketchup on my pizza, I feel I have almost completely embraced the lifestyle. I start each morning with dropping dumplings and glancing around to see if anyone saw me before I attempt to shovel it back in, and end it with a similar routine but with noodles. Yet, I never ask for a fork or knife, always stumbling around with my chopsticks in an effort to fully take part in their lifestyle. I think it’s important to learn about a culture’s nuances and differences, especially in our current state of affairs. Everywhere you look there is hate and racism, systemic aggression and lack of understanding life styles that don’t mirror their own. But by truly living and experiencing it I think we gain an understanding and empathy for other ways of life. Even the smallest things like the hot water have their place in a culture and by experiencing all the small changes you can learn to be more accepting of it as a whole. And that’s why I drank the strange tasting liquid presented to me when I was caught coughing, why I ate the traditional cow stomach despite my stomach’s request (it did end up tasting great), and its why every morning I stumble out of bed and slip on those black and brown slippers.
Michael Lee– Reflection #2
The first two weeks in China have proven to already be a valuable learning experience. We arrived as preparations began for the Spring Festival, 春节. The Spring Festival marks the beginning of the new lunar year and is a major part of Chinese culture. Although I have learned a bit about the Spring Festival in school, there is no better way to learn than to experience it yourself. Over the past week, I have learned many things in regards to the Spring Festival.
First, food has a major role in the Spring Festival. Some foods in American can often be associated with American holidays, and the same can be said for the Spring Festival. It would seem that a large staple in the Spring Festival are the dumplings. For about four days leading up to Spring Festival, my host family and I would prepare dumplings and bean paste buns. The night before Spring Festival, we spent a lot of time cooking multiple pans of dumplings. However, these dumplings were different, because inside three of them was a piece of candy. My host mother, who had placed the three candies, explained to me that it was part of the tradition. It is believed that people who find a candy are granted with good luck in the upcoming new year. So, not only did I learn how to prepare food, but I also learned about a cool Spring Festival tradition that resides in the food.
Secondly, I learned that fireworks and firecrackers have just as big of a role in the Spring Festival as the food. For about a week leading up to the Spring Festival, firecrackers and fireworks could be heard often. As Spring Festival got closer, they became more frequent. I got the chance to try out some of the firecrackers. I was safe of course and it became a lot of fun. There was such a wide variety of firecrackers and sparklers as well. Both children and adults were playing with and using them. Everywhere I would go, people would be setting off some sort of firecracker. The night before the Spring Festival, the streets were alive with the noise and lights of fireworks and firecrackers dancing in the dark. It was truly an awe-inspiring sight to watch and participate in another culture's celebration of such an important event. From it, I learned that these fireworks and firecrackers really are a large part of the Spring Festival culture.
Finally, I learned about the role of the family during the Spring Festival. I was lucky enough to spend the week and a half leading up to the Spring Festival in my host sibling's hometown, Baotou (包头). We stayed in his grandparents' apartment and his aunt and uncle would visit everyday. Everyone in the family would pitch in to help and were very sincere and kind to each other as well. Everyone would be cleaning, and nobody complained about it either. Everyday, almost everybody would be in the kitchen helping prepare the meals. When it came to decorations, there was no shortage on help there either. I got to help decorate the apartment and the scenery outside along with them. In the last few dinners leading up to the Spring Festival, everyone would go around and say a couple words of gratitude to everyone else at the table. Mine was a bit short, but I worked my best to still convey the same message. The rest of the family had much more to say, and it would seem like they had written pages of this and memorized it. It was endearing to see all this affection people had for each other. They were all cooperative and supportive of each other. Obviously, this isn't an abnormal thing, but it seemed to be magnified under the scope of the Spring Festival. Overall, I learned that the family is the driving force behind the Spring Festival. Many things would not have happened during the Spring Festival if it were not for family.
These were just a few things I learned from the Spring Festival. I look forward to learning more about Chinese culture as I continue my time here.Sally Jenks - Journal 2
This week my host family took me on a mini road trip to see various historic chinese sights. I initially thought this would be insignificant. In America my family has taken many road trips and while they are my favorite kind of vacation, i’m not easily impressed. So I was prepared to have a good time, but not for the culture shock that greeted me.
I was not affected by each destination, although I saw beautiful historic and preserved towns and temples, which gave a unique view into the mystical China depicted in Kung Fu Panda or Sagwa: the Chinese Siamese Cat, but rather what I saw in between.
As we left Beijing, I was immediately struck by the emptiness that replaced the high rise apartments and endless shops. The barren landscape scattered sparsely with naked trees clouded by heavy fog seemed almost apocalyptic. For four hours this eerie backdrop was interrupted only by crumbling stone villages and dirt roads. Then, just as quickly as we entered this no man’s land, we were through the gates of another city almost as bustling as Beijing.
I took this polarizing drive as an anomaly, not thinking much of it the first day. However, the moment we left the city in the opposite direction the next day, all signs of life disappeared again, replaced now by vast mountain ranges. And on the next day, the dirt roads went all the way into the center of the city, only to be replaced by a Nike store and about ten Pizza Huts.
The long drives gave me a lot of time to think about my contrasting surroundings and soon I realized that this contrast was not strange but fitting. China has made an astonishingly quick emergence as one of the most industrialized nations, but if 9th grade history taught me anything, it was that before the period of exponential growth, China’s isolationism resulted in recycling a way of life that was thousands of years old. This almost unnatural growth following almost unnatural stagnancy is naturally reflected in the landscape of China, showing both the incredibly advanced cities, and the untouched countryside.
My shock came from the misconception that so much of America has. We see China as such force, that we forget it is still a third world country. My understanding of China encapsulated only the part that concerned me and those around me, so it wasn't until this week that I was even aware of how much of the country remains untouched by even the twentieth century.
This road trip made me realize that it is not China incredible growth that makes it such a special place, but the fact that it is able to sustain two opposing and completely separate lifestyles. It is a true example of two extremes, as I sit in an modern apartment in a community of 300,000, and only two nights ago was I sleeping in a room in a traditional chinese village, which, with a few exceptions, remained virtually untouched for hundreds of years.
Emily Hogan - Journal Entry #2
Every Fourth of July, my family and I meet our friends at Dorchester Heights and watch the fireworks pop into color from a distance while all the kids run around the park playing “Man Hunt”. The fireworks are loud for sure, but not in the ear-splitting sort of way. They wheeze, whine, spit and sparkle before our eyes. To me, these are what fireworks are, so when I was told about all the fireworks I was going to see on Chinese New Year I thought I knew what I was getting into. But no.
I’ve recently become aware that I’ve never quite experienced fireworks until February 7, 2016. I’m guessing this is mainly because I’ve never been as close to a colorful ball of fire shooting into the air as I was on Lunar New Year’s Eve night. My host family lives within the second ring of Beijing in between tight hutongs, so we didn’t buy any fireworks or sparklers for ourselves. Starting hours before midnight, I could hear fireworks shooting up from the ground like gunshots. The sound echoed through the walls of our ground level house and shocked me; I jumped in my chair becoming wide-eyed and alert. After I realized this was a sound I was going to be hearing regularly for the next three or four day, I got used to it. The constant popping became a background noise to the TV showing a New Year’s special. Together my family and I watched skits, comedy acts and songs. All featuring famous Chinese and Korean stars. It almost felt like I was back in America watching the live viewing from Times Square on the last day of December. But not quite. I have to admit the Chinese New Year’s special is put together much better than than Times square. The audience is warm for one thing. They’re sitting indoors in red theater seats. Besides the comfort level difference, there was also more of a variety of performances. There were comedy acts, Beijing opera performances and of course famous singers and music artists.
Later on, at nine minutes until midnight my family took me outside so we could see the fireworks when the clock struck twelve. Even when I was outside the building, I think I heard more fireworks than I actually saw. We were standing in the courtyard around which the apartment buildings stand. In between the cracks of buildings I saw fireworks erupting into the air; they shouted and spit fire towards my face like fuming dragons. When I wasn’t busy taking a video I stuffed my fingers in my ears. To my right, directly in front of the gate and in the middle of the hutong was a firecracker going off like one I’d never seen before. It was shooting bullets of light into the sky. They didn’t even bud when they reached the sky. They were just there to make noise; to celebrate. Each time a bullet was released there was a flash of light that lit up the whole courtyard. It was so big you would have thought it was 12:00 in the afternoon not 12:00 at night. It was like the sky was taking a picture of us; wanting to save the moment until next year.
Natalie Bohm - Journal Entry 2/9/16
Aaaaand we’re back with Mythbusters: China Edition, live from Beijing! We got a busy program tonight folks, so let’s get right to it. We left off last week with Myth(?) #4, so let’s start today with Myth(?) #5.
5. All Laws in China are Strictly Enforced: MYTH. In public places, as far as I have seen, it is pretty hard to break a law, but private businesses are entirely different. Allow me to demonstrate. I attended a banquet in honor of the friendship of several printer companies, one of which my host father works at. All 30 of us – that is, some business executives and a few tag-alongs – got our own ballroom at a nice restaurant, and the first half an hour of it was pretty cool! There were weird candies on each table as appetizers, and even though my host sister, Lulu, and I were not involved in this event at all, we were given the gifts that everyone in the ballroom got. It was going great at first. But everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. It started as just one guy on the other side of our table. He was about three feet from a no-smoking sign, and I watched him glance at it, then pull out a box of cigarettes, and light one. No one else seemed to notice, not even Lulu, until I pointed it out to her. I could barely believe it. The sign says no smoking! That means you don’t smoke! What is wrong with this guy?! But as the meal went on, it became more and more evident to me that this was just how China works. I could see one of the waitresses watching the smoker, and despite by pleading glances at her, she did not even approach him. No one else around him seemed to be bothered. I, meanwhile, was starting to get a headache from the smoke. Five or so minutes after finishing a cigarette, he would light another. Thankfully, he stopped when the majority of the food came, but that was but brief respite. For two hours after everybody had finished eating, nearly every person at the table Lulu and I were sitting at was puffing on a cigarette. I get that this took place in a private party that somebody, no doubt, had paid a small fortune for, but all the same, I somehow feel that in America, the waitress whom I tried to nonverbally complain to would have intercepted the problem before it became too widespread. Turns out, this is a trend in China, even at restaurants where you aren’t paying an arm and a leg to get your own private room. People smoke where they want, regardless of any no-smoking signs, and nobody says anything about it.
6. The Squatty Potty: FACT. This one takes some getting used to, especially, I think, for girls. I’m going to be honest: it can look very unsanitary, and it probably is. In Chinese restrooms, that mystery liquid on the floor often really is pee, and you really do have to grit your teeth and let it touch the soles of your shoes. It’s been two weeks, and I’m fairly well acclimated at this point. If you’re reading this and wondering whether or not you should go to China, don’t let any squeamishness about this part of Chinese life factor into your decision. I say this for a few reasons: (1) Your house will have Western toilets; it’s only public bathrooms that have porcelain holes in the ground. (2) I think it’s fair to say that over half of the world’s population uses this kind of toilet. You can too. (3) Before coming to China, there were a lot of things I was squeamish about: bugs, eating strange things, unsanitary conditions, etc. Here, I’ve learned that a lot of those things are part of life outside the comfortable bubble of Newton, which is, after all, inside the still-pretty-decent bubble of America. I guess what I’m trying to say is, “expanding your horizons” isn’t just about sightseeing. It’s also about getting up close and personal with what the world looks like without the things didn’t even know you took for granted.
That does it for us tonight, but tune in two weeks from now for more myth debunking on Mythbusters: China!
Natalie Bohm 1/28/16
Before coming to China, I heard a lot about what China would be like, what I would have to live with, what I would have to live without, etc. Really, I had no way of confirming these rumors while in America. I have decided, therefore, to by run own personal Mythbusters segment. Installment 1: January 24-28 2016.
1. You Can’t Drink Tap Water in China: FACT (but it’s not as inconvenient as it seems). I thought, before coming here, that this would be very hard to get around, but really, everyone in Beijing is perfectly used to it. The thing is, they drink a lot of tea, which is made with boiled water. Cool water comes from bottles that my family keeps on the kitchen table. I’ve been brushing my teeth with bottled water, but my family uses tap water – it’s fine as long as you don’t swallow it. I suppose if you grow up with something like that, it’s not weird at all.
2. All Families Will Force-Feed Their Exchange Students: MYTH. “chi bao le” are the magic words to ending every meal. After saying them, I haven’t had anyone (except for my host grandmother, once) tell me to eat more.
3. Chinese Roads are Dangerous: FACT. I almost want to call this a myth because, simply put, it’s an understatement. Beijing’s roads are anarchy. The turn signal is almost universally ignored. People pull out in front of each other all the time. Red light? No problem. Just go straight through. And they don’t wear seat belts in the back! Before now, I’ve never appreciated the safety precautions taken in vehicles so much.
It’s interesting, though, to look at the cultural implications of this. Roads are entirely every-man-for-himself, and if you want to change lanes, you just stick the nose of your car into that lane as far as you can until someone slows down to let you in, usually to stop from crashing into you. Either Chinese drivers don’t find this behavior dangerous, or they simply value getting where they’re going over safety. This definitely seems to be the case with bicycles and rickshaws. They act as if they are cars themselves, as if a collision with a Nissan minivan is going to inflict the same amount of damage on the car as their tiny bike. Yet, unlike cars, they can also pretend to be pedestrians and ride on the sidewalk and down hutongs. Actually, scratch that. Cars pretend to be pedestrians here too. In the past few days I’ve seen maybe 25 cars parked on the sidewalk itself. Not on the curb. On the sidewalk. How they got there is beyond me, but hey, it proves one thing: the rules of the road in Beijing aren’t the laws set down by the government. They’re the laws of physics, dictating whether you can actually fit your vehicle into whatever crazy place you want to put it.
4. Moo Shu Pork: FACT(ish). My first dinner here my family took me out to eat chunbing, (lit. “spring pancakes”), which I think are the nugget of truth in the lie that is moo shu pork. And actually, it’s really good, and much more interesting than that crappy knock-off Chinese food. Chunbing is an event. You go a restaurant and order these very thin pancakes, and then order a bunch of dishes that you want to put in the pancakes. We got pork elbow (way more yum than I thought it would be), string beans with beef things (also yum), stir-fried bean sprouts (excellent), fresh cucumber and leek slivers with exactly the same sauce you get with moo shu pork (now I know that part’s authentic, at least), and scrambled eggs (so glad they ordered them so I could break the news that I don’t like eggs without being rude). All in all, first class meal.
That’s all for today, folks. Tune in later for the second installment of Mythbusters: China!
Emily Hogan Journal Entry #1
This is definitely not news to you, but that was one long plane ride. Honestly. Fourteen hours is a long time, but on top of that we were all very enthusiastic to see everyone. Two weeks has been long enough. When the JingShan students arrived at Logan they were greeted by posters, gifts and cheers. Along with all the parents taking videos and pictures. The same went for us when we arrived. I couldn’t help but smile.
When I got to my house, I met my host father. Unlike my host mother and brother, he doesn’t speak English. I thought this would make communicating difficult, and it does, but I need the extra motivation to practice using my Chinese. Also waiting to welcome me at the door, was a bowl of noodles fresh and steaming. My host mother told me that it was traditional for people to eat noodles on their first day arriving in China and to eat dumplings on their last day. This idea was new to me; back at home, we like to offer guests a nice, warm home cooked meal, but there isn’t anything special about what food should be their first and last.
What striked me the most at the beginning was the hospitality. Starting with my arrival at the airport, I was offered to sit in the front seat. Before coming to China I have been told many times about the hospitality and generosity of the hosts, but even at home an adult would never ask me to sit in the front seat and have them sit in the back. I would have expected this from someone around my age, but not from an adult. This hospitality furthered when I arrived at the home. My room was to be my host parents room. They were to sleep in my host brother’s room, and he was to sleep in a bed in the living room. I almost felt guilty; these people who barely knew me were willing to not only welcome me into their home, but also change up their normal lives to make sure I felt like I was a part of their family. The following day, my family tried to make me feel even more welcomed by cooking me “American food.” Alongside our chinese style noodles and vegetables my family cooked some french fries and chicken nuggets. They even went out their way to find ketchup. Unfortunately, I am one of those abnormal Americans who don’t like ketchup, so they now have an extra bottle in their cupboard.
My house is very close to downtown Beijing. In fact, my family doesn’t have a car because they rarely need to use one; there is a bus stop just a block away. Since I’ve been touring Beijing on foot, I’ve come to realize one major difference between the way people drive in Boston and Beijing. In Boston the cars stop for people, but in Beijing the people stop for cars. If you are trying to cross the street you need to look both ways multiple times. Cars and motorcycles won’t necessarily run you over, but they will honk at you until you move. Even if there are large groups of people, especially in a hutong, motorcycles will go at a slowish speed (depending on how crowded it is) and honking at people to get out of the way. I guess this is one reason why my host mother is always telling me to be safe when walking around Beijing.
When I signed up to be a part of this exchange it felt like something too tremendous to be real. As the months of preparation flew by, followed by the months with Rebecca, I remained in a state of denial. Not denial in a bad sense, but rather, the thought of actually living in china was so huge that my brain pushed it out. Even in the days leading up to the trip, when my friends asked incessantly when I was leaving and my mom de, I was unaffected. When it came time to actually leave, I felt more numb than anything because I was unsure what to expect.
It wasn't until we actually go off the plane that I processed the fact that I was actually in China and my uncertainty was replaced with excitement. As I met my host parents and drove home from the airport, I asked “那什么“ maybe a million times, overwhelmed by how different Beijing was from anything I've ever seen. However, my astonishment was curbed by the several near death experienced that occurred in the 30 minute drive from the airport to the apartment. I am currently up for nomination for the superlative “pedestrians worst nightmare”, so the fact that I felt unsafe on the Beijing streets is a clear indication of the level of frenzy.
As I walked into their apartment, I was greeted by a high level of organization, my own room, and, best of all, a toilet seat with 6 settings for “oscillating rear/front spray”. For me, as a real estate agent, the home is everything, so I was overjoyed to know I had accommodations almost superior to what I'm used to. The next largest thing for me was the food, so when I found that, with a few exceptions, salty veggies and carbs are basically a constant I knew everything would be ok.
I slept through almost the entire second day, and when I woke up we faced the task of getting both a sim card and registering at the police station. Both of these tasks were unexciting and the jet lag I still feel while writing this was ten times stronger. I don't even remember what happened the rest of that day, so clearly I wasn't that important anyway.
Because Ive never had jet lag, I was determined to believe it had a 24 hour expiration date. So when I ensued on my long day of walking and activities the day after, I had no concerns about making it though the day. However, after taking the subway for around 40 minutes, spending 2 hours walking around wangfujing street, and 30 minutes into skating around in, what Rebecca called, an iceboat, I could hear my bed beaconing to me.
But even though I spent my first couple days asleep or wanting to be, they gave me a newfound excitement for the next couple months. Everything I have done here has only made me want to explore and experience more.Michael Lee
My experience in China so far has been amazing. Arriving in a new country is never easy, and it is even harder to dive into a different culture. However, my transition into a new country has been smooth. I have had no issues so far and there have been many things that I expected and didn't expect. One of the first things that was not as expected was the air. In all honesty, I was expecting the air to be a lot more polluted than it has appeared in the past few days that I have been here. The sky has been blue and it has been sunny out everyday. This greatly contrasts between the impression I had of gray and musty weather in China. I don't know whether it will get worse further in our stay, however, as of now, the general, physical atmosphere has been different than I expected. The culture, on the other hand, is similar to what I was expecting. My host family is hospitable and cooperative with me. They are extremely nice and not a high stress family, which I greatly appreciate. I had known before to be careful with what I say I like and dislike. Even within the first few days, I clearly see the effects of this. Food items I say I like appear much more often in meals, and my host family tries their best to not include the foods I don't enjoy into every meal. So, the culture of trying to be hospitable and suiting the guest's liking is something that I have been quite impressed with. Regarding food, my initial impression is that it is not as different as I thought it would be. Of course, there are still many food items I am still trying, but there were a few food items I was quite familiar with. I am enjoying nearly all the food my host family is serving. Now, the driving culture of China is vastly different from American culture (or at least Massachusetts driving culture). My first impression of Chinese driving culture is that it is almost as if every person is on their own. People will cross the street when they want to, and drivers will often not bother to stop for pedestrians. By that, I mean if the driver sees you waiting to cross, they will most likely not stop. It is up to the pedestrian to be assertive in their crossing. Also, cars will often turn when they want to and sometimes even stop on the road. Even getting out of the airport, I saw many people on bikes and in cars who were simply "parked" in the middle of the road. Due to this, I also realized how often drivers honk their horn and why they do it so often. One last thing I noticed is the spaces that people live in. I'm not sure if it varies between families, but I know that in my host family's house many items are condensed together to conserve space. The largest way I noticed this was through the bathroom. In my host family's bathroom, there is the toilet, but then an open shower head above it and a bit to the right. There is no closed shower or tub. There is simply a small drain in the floor and you shower just out in the open of the bathroom. It is not a bad thing, but rather an interesting way of utilizing as much space as possible. These are just some of the larger impressions I had within my first few days of being in China. It is a new perspective for me, and I greatly appreciate and enjoy it.
Sheil Journal Entry #1
It seems like yesterday when I applied to be a part of the Jingshan Exchange. I remember clearly staring down the head of the interview table with a little cup of water, and around me eight people staring back. Then it was the news that I had been accepted and suddenly Isaac was here. The four months with Isaac flew by, filled with basketball games, trips to New York, and hearing him sing loudly from the shower. Finally it was time to get on the plane, and make the leap into China. It didn’t hit me till maybe six hours into the flight when I turned to Nathalie and said, “Wait... we’re going to china!” She responded with the same level of unbelieving excitement. The plane ride was not my favorite part of the trip, granted it was made much easier by surrounding friends who were willing to be interim mattresses aboard the fourteen hours in the sky. As we touched down I saw the Beijing cityscape unfold through the tinted plane windows, it was like someone had splatter painted a black canvas with a neon tipped brush. I remember seeing the small jumping sparks of what presumably was a firework show. I don’t know what they were celebrating but for us it was a welcome party into this new adventure.
Speaking of welcome parties, we were very much outdone when it came to the airport reception. Masses of parents and students all chanting in unison. I was immediately swept with gifts, pictures, hugs, hellos, and a speech by a Jingshan official. I recognized my host family almost immediately; they looked like Isaac, and made my way towards them. They were ecstatic to meet me; I didn’t realize anyone could be this happy to have some eat their food for four months. They took me to a Dim Sum place for dinner and the food was amazing. Each dish tasted exotic and new to me even though I had obviously eaten Chinese before. It was also there that I started to see the distinguishing differences between the U.S and China. The smell of the air was different; the sound of the traffic and even the toilets seemed new. Granted I had never had to squat over a toilet before.
At their home I set up camp in a spacious room provided to me and began to unpack the next day. I tried to fully integrate with them, wearing slippers around the house all the time and eating dinner around a circular table with a lazy Susan. And the hardest one of all was of course the language. Both parents were equipped with decent English, but as per my request little to none was used. This proved to be a challenge resulting in many miscommunications and exasperated returns to English. Though I have yet to give up, I constantly ask what words mean and try my best to convey my feelings through my broken but slowly advancing mandarin. It’s been an amazing four days so far. All filled with travel and fun paired with good food.Claire Mendelsohn
When I first stepped out of customs, the very first thing I heard was a loud,"什)么(shenme-what) the heck!" The immediate emtion that I felt was embarassment, I couldn't even lift my head to look at those who had screamed at the top of their lungs. I was then showered with hugs and greetings with familiar faces, as well as new. Exhausted and dazed from the thirteen hour flight, the first night seemed to fly by. Honestly, I barely even rememeber driving home or unpacking, but when the sun came up I was in an unknown bed with everything organized and put into place. One thing that I thought would be horrible was the traffic. I'm not saying that it isn't slow, but it's not as back as I expected it to be. I was expecting to be sitting in place for five to ten minutes but we move fairly faster than my expectation. There is a stereotype in which 'asians are bad drivers'. I don't remember who or when, but someone once told me, "I don't think they are bad drivers, they just have different road rules than we do." That is what pops into my head whenever we are in a scenario in which a person might consider Chinese or other asians 'bad drivers'. Something that I thought I would not get used to was the Chinese subways and the crowds of people traveling in it. Once again I was wrong. After a few times of traveling by subway I became used to the crowd. Trains that I once considered to be packed, I now see as busy-but-with-space. A lot of my previous views and expectations have changed since I have arrived in China and I have learned so many things. Although I have not been here for very long, so it might not mean much, everything so far has been absolutely fantastic. My host family has been super accommodating towards me. They always makes sure I have enough to eat, and cook and buy me delicious food. They will teach me new Chinese words and phrases, along with the differences in Chinese and American culture. The students have taken us out to popular streets where we can buy gifts and interesting snacks. The shops along the streets are very diverse. They could range from books stores to a shop with cheap trinkets to a store to make custom qipaos (traditional Chinese dresses. There are food vendors that are selling cotton candy the bigger than ones head, starfish on a stick, sugar shaped in animals, and so many other tasty and delectable things. The past two days I, myself, have gone on a shopping spree. During this shopping spree I have bought three books that are completely in Chinese(If I want to better my Chinese, how else will I do it), two shirts that were very reasonably priced, a fan, and a travelers notebook. Although I enjoyed the shopped part, what I enjoyed the most was the people who were with me and the memories we have created. Anyways, this whole experience has been great so far.
Ying Ying Rossi 1/28/16
When you think of China, you think of its massive distance from America. As a kid playing at the beach, in the sand, I would hear kids say they were going to “dig to China”. Eventhough it is physically impossible to do so, it still demonstrates how the country is on theopposite side of the world and how far it is from us. Regardless, upon my arrival in Beijing, I realized that it actually isn’t so far from home. My first impression of the big city is that it was more Western than I had originally thought. The airport looked as if it could have been anywherein the U.S., and even on the plane, the skyscrapers and bright lights matched the ones of major cities, like Boston. In addition, as we walked off the plane, the welcome that the Chinese students gave us was almost identical to the one we gave them less than five months ago. Bothincluded cameras, presents, introductions, and lots and lots of laughter and smiles. It felt reassuring to me to have some many aspects of home around me, even though Newton is over 7,000 miles from Beijing.
On the other hand, there was an array of things that were extremely different from what I predicted. When I took a shower at my host family’s house, I was surprised to see that there wasno wall dividing the bathing area from the rest of the bathroom. It was simply a standing showerwith a drain on the ground without any glass to prevent the rest of the room from getting wet.The whole time I was in the bathroom, I felt like I was doing something wrong, like I was getting too much water everywhere, even though it was fine. Furthermore, the towels here are very smallcompared to the towels at my home. I remember that there was one year I had decided to get my mom the biggest, fluffiest towel I could find. But the towels in my host family’s house would be roughly the size of hand towels in America. Maybe it has to do with people in China being more conservative than Americans...or maybe not. Maybe my host family is different from otherChinese families and just prefer small towels. Either way, it was aberration from my typicalthoughts on towels (not that I usually ponder over towels).
On the second day of being in Beijing, the exchange students, both American andChinese, went to the innermost ring of the city for hot pot and ice skating. To get there, Melodyand I took the subway. People have warned me before of the crowds during rushhour, but it feltso different to actually experience it. The train would get to the next stop and you would literallybe pushed away from whoever you were with, thrown against random people. I was alsosurprised about how inexpensive things are compared to America. I had bought cotton candy on the way home for only ¥10, which was incredible because the candy was massive. It was larger than my head and was about $1.66. I was in awe at how much you can get for so little.FIRST IMPRESSIONS 2013
The first thing I did when I got off the plane was hugging my former host sister. It was nice to see her back home safely. After that, I met my host family in person. I had Skyped my host brother before, but it was much better to see him and my host parents in person. I have not been able to see any family beyond my immediate family, but I am sure they will be a pleasure to be with. When I arrived at Beijing, I first felt overwhelmed. There where a lot people who were speaking a language I could barely understand very quickly. I was also afraid of whether or not I could survive in this country with only the knowledge I learned from school. These feelings were gone by the end of the car ride. My family was so engaging, and anything that l did not understand, my host brother helped translate. My family was definitely a great environment for me to expand my Chinese learning. Another fun experience was when my host father tried to teach me mahjong when he could only say safety and easy. That being said, I did learn the game and I actually won some money (fake gambling of course). Over all it has been a great experience so far.
My first impressions of Beijing developed mostly in the airport and during the ride to my host families' home. To me, everything seemed so large and vast. My host parents and Abby have also been very helpful, especially when is comes to helping me learn to speak Chinese. Their extended family was very welcoming as well. The first meal I ate in Beijing was dinner with Abby’s family, her uncle, and her maternal and paternal grandparents. Everyone was very warm towards me, especially Abby’s grandmother, who helped me learn the Chinese names of the foods we were eating. After this great first impression of Beijing, I am sure these will be a great four months!
A major view that many Americans share is the prevalence of the tiger mother. She is only concerned with how her child does and makes him or her study long and hard. I've discovered that there is some basis to this. The parents here do generally concern themselves with their kids more than those in America. I think that this is an unavoidable outcome of the environment. This parenting style has two main causes: the one child policy and the GaoKao. The one child policy means that you only have one chance to see your child able to reach success. This causes parents to focus all their attention on one child, rather than spreading it out amongst siblings. The GaoKao is the ominous test at the end of a child's education. It essentially is an all or nothing test that will determine the rest of your life. You need to do well on the GaoKao. This pushes parents even harder to get their kids to study because they only have one chance to get it right. So while the stereotype may exist to an extent, there are clear and obvious environmental causes for it.
Before I applied to the exchange program, I had developed some stereotypes about Chinese students. I thought all students in China studied constantly and strictly followed all school rules. In my mind, to be a Chinese student was to be the ideal student.This notion was quickly destroyed as I got older, and even more so after I began school in China. While Chinese students certainly have a lot of schoolwork, it doesn’t prevent them from spending time doing other things, like watching TV, playing basketball, or talking with friends online. While many students do also take extra classes over the weekend, they also find time for other interests and activities. For example, my host sister, Abby, has an SAT class every weekend; however, she also plays basketball and goes shopping with her mother. I also no longer think that every single Chinese student is a model student either. Despite rules stating that students are not to leave the campus while school is in session, I see countless students leave through the front gate to buy food from the nearby shops. During class, one of the students sitting next to me is often messing around with his phone or eating something while the teacher is talking. One of the misconceptions I had that changed only after I began school in China was the classroom environment would be incredibly strict. While the classroom environment tends to be stricter than it is in the United States, it is a bit more relaxed than I expected. I think the most relaxed class I have seen so far in the English class. The teacher is very friendly with the students, and he often interacts with the students, asking them questions about the material during class and letting them speak up more than they do in their other classes.
Every day I take the subway to and from school. In the morning, I go to school at five forty-five, so the subway is never really crowded. However, when I return home, there is so little room that I cannot even wear my backpack because it will not fit. I discovered something interesting about modern Chinese culture: there is very little spacial awareness. I have seen many actions that would seem “rude” in the United States. After time, however, I realized that these are just a causation of people not being conscious of their surroundings. While waiting in line for our train back to Beijing from Shanghai, the three “lines” to get our tickets checked merged into a mob of people when there was enough space. We had to force ourselves through the crowd in order to get to the check. Overall, I think that this is an inherent consequence of any big city. I was just so shocked by this because I have never lived in a city as big as Beijing. It is not as much a problem as simply a way of life. All of these actions seemed strange at first, but as the months go by, I find myself doing it too.
I had always assumed there would be some sort of cultural misunderstanding upon my arrival to China. I viewed it as an inevitable event, and one I would just have to get through when I came to it…The earliest I saw this was when I had just come back from my trip across China. Exhausted from travel, I had woken up late so lunch was my breakfast. They had prepared spicy beef, which tasted great, but also had the effect of causing my nose to run. After a couple of sniffles, and a grab for a tissue, my grandma got to inquisitions. "Miles, you have a cold!" "No, no" I stammered as I tried to explain "My nose is hot, this is hot." This of course did nothing but cause my grandma more grief. "Hot nose! You have a fever! Sheng Qi, Miles is sick!" I had no chance to counter such claims and I was whisked off to the bathroom and given a pill to make me feel better. The next thing I knew, I was in my room with strict orders to go back to sleep. I left a couple of times, mainly out of boredom, but I quickly saw myself back in bed. The next morning I was eager to emphasize that the pill and the sleep had done wonders, and that I felt great. They seemed content with this and I kept blowing my nose a secret from then on.
My host family has been great to me. They have done a wonderful job of keeping me safe and well fed. Sometimes, however, they do this job a little too well. At first I thought this was because they see me as a guest in their home, and as some one who isn’t used to being in Beijing. I soon found out that they often treat my host sister, Abby, the same way. I have never had a problem with it, but sometimes I find it interesting.
This started only a few days after I arrived in Beijing. While I was in my room organizing my things, Abby’s father came to my room and presented me with a down jacket. Later, I found out my host family actually bought the jacket for me as a gift. When I wore the Jacket I had brought from the US, my host father would pinch the jacket to test its thickness, and occasionally insisted that I wear even more layers.
Another thing they paid more attention to towards the beginning of my stay in China was my eating habits. I ate slightly more quickly than the rest of my host family, so when I stopped eating before they did, they assumed I hadn’t eaten as much. They would urge me to eat more, and whenever I told them I was full, they would tell I was too skinny and that I needed to eat more. After I started eating a little more slowly, they stopped saying anything about how much I ate altogether.
Despite how overprotective my host family was at first, it did not bother me in the slightest. I appreciate how kind they have been to me, and how much they have done to make me feel welcome in their home.
The biggest difference between my life in China and my life back home is how my parents treat me. Here in China, my parents do not give as much freedom as I would get back home. One of the first things my host family said to me was “chuan yi fu” (wear more clothes) because they thought it was too cold to be going outside in just a t-shirt and fleece. This initially took me by surprise because my parents back home would let me go out without wearing three layers of clothes, and if I was cold, I would learn to put on more clothes. Chinese parents teach by telling their kids what to do and what not to do, while most American parents tend to use consequences to teach their children. My parents in the U.S. give me a lot of freedom so it was a major culture shock when my host parents told me to wear more clothes.
There is another side to this coin: my host parents do a lot more for my host brother and me than they do at home. After our first meal home, I went with my host parents into the kitchen and started to clean, but they quick stopped my and told me not that they would do it. I tried many times to help them, but the most I could do was bring my plates to the kitchen. Another example is if my host brother or I want something that is not a necessity, they buy us it. Back in the U.S. my parents have me buy things with my own money that I earn from working. I know parents also buy thing for their kids in America, but having their kids earn their own money is a lot more common than in China. I think it contrasts with me so much because my parents brought me up to be independent, but I think in general American kids do a lot more work outside of school that the Chinese kids do.
I think that this could be because the schoolwork load is so great that the students cannot do too much else but work, and, therefore, the parents need to do a lot of the housework for them. The parents also need to stay on top of their children so they get the work done. In my opinion, these factors and the fact that the One Child Policy focuses all of the parents attention on their one kid, led to helicopter parenting.
Reconstruction, Renovation, and Rebuilding
There seems to be a habit amongst the Chinese to have all of their historic sites constantly under some sort of repair. Walking up to an area of certain significance, one is certain to find it guarded by green scaffolding and groups of cigarette-wielding laborers. The most famous Chinese sights like the Great Wall or the Forbidden City have been rebuilt or renovated countless times.
In a Western mind, rebuilding the Great Pyramids, or the Parthenon, or even Stonehenge seems odd. Why would we alter what has survived to us for thousands of years. The remains offer us a true glimpse into the past. But to an eastern mind, this view makes no sense. Why would we allow our famous temples and palaces to crumble and go to ruin when we can make them look as they did? What’s the point of looking at a bunch of rocks? The Westerner sees value in preserving the original substance, while the Easterner sees value in preserving the original look. Both views have their own way of honoring history.The Westerner finds worth in landmarks because they had the ability to survive until today. They believe rebuilding, or reconstructing, them would be a slight to their longevity and originality. The Chinese have a different point of view. They see their history does not last forever, and so they decide to keep everything new. They don’t see a point in having the original walls to the Forbidden City. They take worth in preservation of the original idea, the original material is less of an issue.
So is there a better way of doing things? Both viewpoints have their own merits, though I would’ve liked to get more pictures without the construction.
In most of the other journals, I have written about the differences I noticed between Beijing and Newton. Now that I look back, the things that struck me before seem much less significant. The subways do not seem so bad. I am starting to accept my parents’ wishes, no matter how unjustified. I watch what I do or say so I do not cause any misunderstandings. As I reread my journals, I learned that these three months have made me adapt to their culture, and all of the differences that I noticed earlier are not so prevalent anymore.
Whenever I ride the subway home from school, it is crowded. But now, I do not notice the people pushing or the packed cars. It just seems as if it is the normal part of my routine. Not only have I gotten used to the crowded subways, but I have started to enjoy it as well. The act of riding a subway has become positive: I become ecstatic when I get a seat, or I start to talk to the people around me. I also see a lot of interesting people in the subway. Once, even in a crowded subway train, people made room for a guitarist, who played music inside the car until his stop came. When I was able to overcome my initial culture shock about the crowds in the subway, I was able to truly experience what it was like to live in Beijing.
When I first arrived here, I was taken aback by how caring my host parents were. Back then I tried to negotiate the rules, for example wearing two layers instead of the three they wanted me to wear. As I read my journal and remembered that time, I realized that it just did not happen anymore. The arguments we had had changed into jokes or regular conversation. Now, instead of “you are wearing too little” or “your not eating enough,” it is “how was your day” or “what did you do today”. This made my time with my host parent a lot more enjoyable, and helped me improve my Chinese comprehension even more.I feel lucky to be able to participate in this exchange program because it is one of the few programs where you get to stay long enough to break through the culture barriers and truly live the Beijing experience. At first I was preoccupied with what I was eating or the crowded subways to really just enjoy living in China and take in the culture. Now after three months, I feel as if I have finally immersed myself in the Chinese culture.
Spring 2007Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 12/16/2014
Spring 2005Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 11/4/2014
Spring 2004Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 10/14/2014
Spring 2003Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 9/1/2014
Spring 2002Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 8/14/2014
Spring 2013Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 12/29/2014
Spring 2009Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 3/1/2011
Spring 2010Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 2/1/2011
Spring 2011Posted by Matthew Corcoran on 1/1/2011