I went through the hundreds and hundreds of photos I have taken here in China and these are my top 40. It was hard to narrow it down to these. Maybe the explanations will help. I wish I could have added all the pictures of all my students. And, so many more. But, I tried to find a good representation of my time here in China.
The kids…MY KIDS…are the reason I am here. It started off being about a job and the money. But, I soon realized that I love teaching these kids. I found a greater purpose than myself through them. Yes, I want to get paid well so I can travel, save some money, and live a comfortable life. But, it is so much more than that for me now. These kids have crawled into my heart. They are the future of China. And, I want to do everything I can to help them achieve the “China Dream” that is being promised to them.
I have been honored to have made some outstanding friendships here in China. Both foreigners and Chinese. J, the man cooking, is my best friend. Jack, The man in the white T-Shirt with balloons on them is my Chinese “brother”. Jim, the man behind Jack in picture with the rocks, is my best foreigner friend. He is a great travel buddy and sounding board for me. And, Panda is the man in the gray jacket. Panda is my newest friend. He works for our company and I had the honor of working with him in Beijing this past winter. I hope to work with him this summer at camp. He is a great young man with a heart of gold.
One of the best times I have in China is working at camps. They give me a great opportunity to get to know the kids as individuals, versus just a classroom. We develop very close bonds. So much so that we become part of each other’s families. In the past year, I have had nearly 200 kids in camp sessions. Of those 200 kids, I would have to say that nearly half of them have stayed in contact with me through QQ chat service. We talk all the time. Not just about our past. But, they rely on me to help them with personal issues that they can not talk to others about. They ask me to help with their homework and improve their English skills. And, they look for me to be their “uncle”, “father”, or “brother” as part of their extended family. In the three pictures I have chosen, they are from three camps I have done. In the previous pictures with my kids, there are group pictures from the camps too. The picture of the boys fighting is actually a picture staged for a photo scavenger hunt I did at summer camp. I chose this picture because it gives me hope that Chinese kids can find their creativity and imagination after it has been drilled out of them in preparation for exams. They study, study, study to pass exams only. I gave the class a list of idioms and other things. This picture was for “Make love, not war” I think. The picture of me talking with a student is from my winter camp. He is from Inner Mongolia. The connection I made with these kids was almost immediate. They welcomed me with very little need to warm up to me. We had a great two weeks. Plus, this picture symbolizes how well we can interact with one another. The water fight picture is just that. I helped my friend Jack with his summer camp for a few days. We had a cake fight on the last day. We were coated in cake icing. During cleaning up, one thing led to another, and a water fight broke out. It was great fun.
Then, there are the people I get to meet during my travels and walks. I chose only two of the many I have to symbolize the wonderful people I get to meet here. As I mentioned, I was trying to limit the number of top photos for this blog entry. The man on the rolling cart is disabled. There are many in China like him. Some just beg on the street hoping for people to drop a coin or two in the bucket. But, some will actually do something to try to earn your coin. Some will play musical instruments, some sing, some draw on sidewalks. These are the ones I try to help. Despite their limitations, they exceed in striving to do more than those limitations. The other picture is of two older gentlemen I met in Jack’s town. I love meeting the elderly in China. Their faces and bodies are hard and well worn from China’s past. Some try not to smile and keep their composure around me. But, I will have none of that. I get them to smile and laugh very quickly. And, then I have made a new friend…even if it is for a short time I get to meet them. The kids in the uniforms are students at a school for the deaf. When I first arrived, I took a trip to a mountain. They were there too. They saw me and were a bit nervous to approach me. When, a simple nod and a smile from me and we instantly became friends. This was the first real experience of the “rock star” treatment I get many times from Chinese people. It was great to meet them and share a moment of their life.
I added this to my favorites for several reasons. Chinese school discipline used to be corporal punishment with canes and very physical. Thankfully, China has moved away from that system. But, they still like to make children feel small and inferior. The degrade them and make them lose “face”. This is more of a mental abuse to me. I have been asked to do a seminar this past weekend for some Chinese teachers. I showed them this picture. And, I told them that if they insist on using fear and intimidation with students, they might as well quit their jobs and find work elsewhere. Once a child fears you or loses respect for you, you will have a hard time getting that child to trust you and learn from you. It seemed that most of the teachers understood what I am saying and I hope they never use this discipline again. I did give them alternate sources of discipline that are effective for classroom management.
Little boys are so darn cute here in China. Yes, the girls are adorable too. But they tend to be too shy for the camera. So, I usually get pictures of boys more easily. I chose the first picture because of the split pants children wear. It is easy for them to use the toilet ANYWHERE they need to. I have never been disgusted by them doing their business everywhere. I find is somewhat amusing and interesting really. I know many foreigners here think it is absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. But, this is the way it has been for centuries and centuries. It is China. Yes, maybe it will change one day. But, until then, I still find it amusing and interesting. The boy on the right is a boy I met on a bus during a trip someplace. I think he is one of the cutest kids I have ever seen here in China. We had so much fun for the few hours we were together on the bus.
I chose this picture to show how often we foreigners become part of an attraction of a tourist site. I can be sitting alone in a restaurant and a Chinese person will sit down and just begin to talk to me. People are always trying to take photos of me secretly. Or, they will just come right out and ask for a photo. As I travel at tourist sites, many times I become part of the attraction I am at. People will want pictures of me with their families or children. In this picture, this is a perfect example of what happens to foreigners here. My friend Jim and I were on vacation. We were at an amusement park. These are costumed characters at the park. Their job is to take pictures with the guests and entertain them. Well, they saw Jim and I and came over to us. They asked us for a picture with them. So, we became the attraction, of the attraction, at the attraction.
Of course, not picture collection would be complete without the scenic beauty of travels in China. The city is of Yantai. The boat trip is through a geopark north of Beijing. And, of course the famous Great Wall of China.
I have been honored to attend two wedding of friends here in China. And, I have been humbled by attending a funeral of someone I have never met. The first wedding I attended was very lavish and expensive. It was wonderful. The second wedding was a rural wedding. Very simple. Both weddings gave me new insight into relationships and weddings in China. The funeral is one experience I will never forget. They saw that I was interested in what was taking place. They asked me if I wanted to participate in the rituals and traditions of a Chinese funeral. I first objected to participating, feeling that I would be a distraction and an intrusion. But, the man I am shaking hands with was the widower. He honored me and gave me his blessing. I still tear up when I try to tell the whole story. A complete stranger, who just lost his wife and is grieving, invited me to participate in the funeral, just so I can have an experience of a lifetime. And, it was such a great experience. I have never seen this man again. I hope he will be blessed for the remainder of his days.
My picture taking skills and photo editing skills have improved greatly since I came here. With my blog and facebook needs, I learned how to do new things. The first picture is of a much larger picture I took in color. Through editing, I gave it the shading it has and I cropped the picture to give it more power and interest. I am really proud of this picture. And, the boy is from my summer camp. Now, I know teachers should not have favorites among the students. But, it can not be helped. This boy, and his friends, became some of my favorites. I love this picture. To this day, he calls me father. We see each other once in a while. He, and many of the students for the camp, live in the next town over from me. We get together every couple of months for lunch and catch up. I am greeted by a huge hug from every one of them and we depart with a hug and sometimes a teary eye.
Then there are the pictures of me. The weight loss transformation is the most obvious. But, I have changed. I have a new perspective on Asian life. Many of the stereotypes I had are dismissed. And, hopefully, I am changing some of my friends and family stereotypes on my blogs, journal entries, and Facebook.
You have no idea how difficult it was to narrow my collection and experiences down to 40 pictures. But, I hope you can appreciate what I have presented here. It has been a wonderful year. And, although I am never sure when God will move me, I hope to be able to provide even more stories, pictures and videos for many years to come.