Do people in your host culture share PLU's stated commitment to educating for justice, health, sustainability and peace? How do they say these values addressed there? Are they addressed differently in the United States?
Greetings one and all. We are settled into the Backpacker's Ritz our final hostel and accommodation for our trip. We in the northern suburb of Johannesburg called Hyde Park. Sounds a little British and snotty to me (and it's shows).
Today was our first full day as we explored Joburg. We started our day by visiting Midrand High School. It is a government or public school located in between Johannesburg and Pretoria or now as it is called Tswane (pronounced Sewanee). Although public as we in the US generally know it the students have to pay R6000 for a year of tuition. That is roughly $1000. This by comparison to the all girls private school DSG (BTT Alma Mater) we visited in Grahamstown is very cheap. The tuition for DSG was about R30,000. At Midrand high school we were guided by Rohan Quince, a life-long friend of both Peter and Barbara. He is a teacher of English grades 8,9,10,11.
We came into the school and all got to sit in on their third period: Register. It reminded me of my high school's tutorial, or home room as other's might call it. I chatted with three grade 11s who were all extremely bright. Especially this delightful girl named Thasli who told me that she had been chosen along with 30 other students form 11 grade HOnors English who got the chance to go to South America this June (their winter) for 20 days. She told me about her time on the public speaking team and her interest in law. The school on the whole really impressed me considering we had told ahead of time that it wasn't very nice. They have a beautiful soccer field, rugby field, basketball and tennis courts. My favorite was the volleyball court which had been built as a swimming pool but promptly filled with sand and grass was planted because of the lack of interest in the swim programme. The students at the school resembled that of middle class students. The students were about 80% black and small white and Indian population. They talked about going to the mall, many had never been to the neighboring townships and most expected the funds and grade to go to university following their matriculation. It was an interesting perspective that I did not expect we would speak considering SA is often discussed as the epitome of a dual economy (a small middle class, if any).
The next school we visited, Ekiniswne High School, was also a grade 8-12 high school that was built just within a black township. Its capacity was 1200 students and had about 1850 students enrolled. We met with the Principal as the afternoon was beginning to get warm and we discussed issues ranging from their curriculum, economic barriers and our group's mission here in SA. Following that hour of question and answer, from each side, we broke off with all of the department heads (in our area of interest). I went with five other Lutes and Sabatha Masilela the head of the Life Orientation (LO) curriculum. We were given the opportunity to follow this incredible woman who acts as the school nurse, psychologist, social worker and of course a teacher. Moreover, we got to learn about this incredible approach to education.
The idea of LO is to have a consistent educational opportunity from grade 1 through matric that gives students the chance to learn about 1)physical awareness- sports opportunity, PE and healthy eating habits; 2)citizenship- which included constitutional rights and community organization; 3)Career planning and vocation.
I intend to learn more about this great programme and will fill you all in when I get home and draft legislation to get this in our schools.
What I was blown away with was the struggle they face when teaching sexual education. The problem Sabatha said was the lack of privacy in the township small shacks gives a forum for kids to see sex as a normal occurance all the time. The fact that in most of the native cultures it is taboo to discuss sex many students have become sexually active by grade 5. It is further complicated by the fact that so few know their rights and as Sabatha mentioned many of the students have been raped by the time they reach her in grade 8!
I could write a book on her. Her incredible love of children and motivation through Christ. I am however limited by technology and on the internet clock. I am sure I will discuss her powerful discussion again. She was amazing and the tears in my eyes displayed the impact she made upon us all.
I love you all!
So I have come to a conclusion well maybe it is more of a question. Why is it when you walk into a childrens book store or any book store for that matter in New Zealand you find books from every where in the world. And when you walk into a book store in the US there is only US books with a little tiny sections about other countries and books by their authors. Why is New Zealand ahead of the game and providing their children and young readers with the oppertunity to learn and grow with a variety of books and the US is only focused on the US. And why is it that within the classrooms there is only a handfull of multiclutural books (if you can call them that, and here in New Zealand there is a wide variety.
I have bought a varitey of books for my soon to be classroom so that I am more prepaired to help the children in my classrrom grow and learn and have the same oppertuniy as the children in New Zealand. I trully feel that the US has some catching up to on this matter.
Well just an update-I went bungy jumping today!! It was great. I dont think that I have ever screamed so loud in my life. It was such a rush and well worth the very long walk across the bridge. I know can say that I know how workers feel when they are tied to the bridge by a cable. I have lots of pic and videos for all to see. It will be nothing like what I went through but it will be a little window in. Missing you all back at home
Our group found a quote that fits the beautiful land of New Zealand when we were having a class session in Auckland.
" New Zealand is a country looking energetically inward, defining and redefining its own indentity, yet simultaneously longing to be recognized by the wider world"
What I have learned about New Zealand is they are proud of their country and value everyone in it. The country is very green, because they country works as a community to keep it clean. One of my favorite things about New Zealand is they always take breaks to have tea and coffee. It helps everyone relax, even us Americans! This has been a great experience so far! I am sad to be home in 3 days, but the journey never really comes to an end.
It was our first full day in Beijing and we wasted no time to cut to the heart of the capital. Our tour guide, Raymond, took us to the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City (pretty damn epic sounding). As we crept through the massive structure that was once the home of Ming and Qing dynasty emperors, I heard Raymond mention that the Forbidden City had exactly 9999 rooms. Apparently, the pronunciation of the number nine in Chinese is very close to "eternity" or something like that and it was the emperors number, no one else could use it. In addition, people will pay for telephone numbers or license plates which have the number 8 in them as its pronunciation pertains to luckiness and prosperity. The number four on the other hand has a pronunciation very similar to "die" and fourteen sounds like double "die", prompting people to pay for license plates and phone numbers without these digits and for builders to skip the 14th floor entirely when constructing a complex. The concept of fortune has incredibly deep roots here, stretching back to ancient folk religion and touching every aspect of Chinese society even at the corperate level. Feng Shui masters are hired to plan office buildings, potentially deflecting bad chi at competing companies. It astounds me how serious luck is taken here (I don't believe I've heard the word 'auspicious' so many times within 2 weeks). Even though I may not identify with such omens of prosperity, I am finding myself drawn to the ancient balance that has been set up here for 3000 years. Taoism relates to the balance of one with nature, to let things occur and feel ones place in a cosmic order and the cycles everything goes through. The ying-yang, you know, that black and white circle symbol that was meaninglessly smattered on everything across America in shiny sticker form in the 90s? Yeah, well thats the anciant symbol of the Tao, the balance. From the active vibrant spirit of the yang (white) lies the seed of the mysterious forboding yin (black). This idea of disaster lying in the heart of promise and hope emerging from the depths of confusion in an unending circle is one I believe every human being can understand and one that confirms and reassures many of my private thoughts. I find it strange that a culture that has always praised the whole, the infinite, can revolve around something I find so insightful of individual nature (especially while being so involved with superstition).
I havn't been able to load any of the pictures I've taken this trip due to file size and inability to understand any of the commands for the editing program they have on this computer, but when I get back there shall be a hurricane of digital images.
As we continued to walk through the Forbidden City, ancient China's holy seat of imperial power, we encountered a honest to god Starbucks. If thats not a good focus for a values blog in modern China, then I'll slap myself exactly 8 times (for prosperity). But you're just going to hope someone else wrote about that because I sure didn't.
We have been in Beijing now for 4 days. We have seen quite a bit, from the Forbidden City to the Opera. Beijing certainly has more people than Chengdu. However, Beijing doesn't seem to be as in a hurry. You don't here the honking horns constantly, you don't see the taxis weaving in and out of traffic as fast as they can just to get to the next destination, and we certainly aren't starred at as much. But what we do see is the the great desire to sell things, especially to the foriegners. As soon as you walk into a place, it's look here, buy this, etc. As we walk down the street we are constantly being asked to buy one thing or another. Most people we have encountered can speak enough english to get you to try and buy something. Beijing seems to be centered around the idea of making a profit... and i suppose that so far it has worked well for them. The difference between life in Chengdu and Beijing vary quite a bit. Everywhere you look in Beijing there is someone sweeping up garbage, whereas in Chengdu that necessarily isn't the case. However, it seems as though Beijing is becoming more and more modern. It reminds many of us of a big city in the states such as New York. With the Olympics coming to town in over 500 hundred days, much of the city is focused on getting dressed up for this large, great occassion. While Chengdu and Beijing are part of the same country, it's almost as if they are completely different. I guess it just goes to show that even a country like China can have great diversity in it's people and culture.
Today we visited the Auckland Museum which is featuring an exhibit entitled Vakamoana: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Exploration. The exhibit traces a journey that began 4000 years ago and portrays the human settlement of the Pacific Islands including New Zealand. The rest of the museum contains exhibits about the Pacific People (Polynesian, Maori, Pakeha) who settled New Zealand, the natural history of New Zealand, and the emergence of New Zealand as a nation. The Auckland Museum represents the pride of all New Zealanders in their country and their diverse cultures. We have seen so much evidence of the high regard and mutual respect of all citizens and find that something to admire very much.
At dusk, on the Rio Aguarico, there are women sitting on stools in the water, their skirts folded up, their laundry in wet heaps beside them. They pound it with paddles, and the soap makes swirls in the brown-green water. Children splash around in their underwear, push each other in, make a joyful racket. A man and his two boys scrub down with soap, jump
in deeper to rinse off. A flock of birds caws overhead to rest in the kings-grass on the bank. The shadows of the selva-jungle-make long arms into the water, hide a few boys in one-trunk canoes-kias-that look like they´re about to tip over with the slightest breeze. But they know what they´re doing. Everyone here does. This river--this is home.
It used to be more so--it used to be source of water, source of fish. But the fish have since died, and they drink rain or well or bottled water now. Lots of things are different now. In the space of 40 years, people like the Secoya, who were once jungle-dwelling nomads, now use solar panals and send delegations to Washington and the U.N.
Context: The past four days were spent village-hopping along the Aguarico. This meant a lot of things--transportation por rio, in a decently long wood or fiber glass conoes, motor powered (we get there faster-we can´t hear the birds) (although those kias made me bien nerviosa); sleeping on the floors in the home of the president of the Cofan community Dureno, and the office in the Secoya community of San Pablo; speaking with various leaders of the Cofans, the Secoya, the Siona, often times in both of ours second language; being followed by a parade of kids, on my way to the bathroom, or eating lunch.
It is hard to sum up what I have heard and seen. Each group has developed a different strategy with dealing with these changes. The Cofans want ´development´ as it means keeping what they have--land and language being the essentials. The Secoyas are a little more pragmatic, and are willing to adapt to make the newly encountered western world work for them, to
preserve culture and environment--eco-tourism will be their way out. And their close neighbors, the Siona--from the brief interview, these people seemed the most concerned for thier immediate survival--¨We want a road built so we can sell our corn and yucca.¨ All of these people are a part
of the lawsuit against Texaco. If nothing else, oil development has given these people a reason to organize, to start developing a plan for themselves. Vastly different from the first interview with Colonos.
Now, we are back in ´civilization´, the tired, dirty oil town of Shushufindi--and after getting heckled by a group of workers cleaning up a spill on the side of the road (uncomfortably close to a river, I might add), it is hard not to compare standards of civility. I sure appreciate a bed. But I never once felt harassed in the vilages.
We just got back from 5 days in the Tibetan country. There we experienced how others live. Here in Chengdu it seems that the most important thing is to get where you need to be and get there fast. Everywhere you look you see people working whether is be business men on their phones, taxi drivers weaving in and out of traffic, or people selling food on the streets. Everyone is trying to make money and make it count. After spending time in Kangding and Tagong we got a different look at what life is like for these Chinese and Tibetans. In Kangding, there is still the hustle and bustle of the days, but it doesn't seem nearly as rushed. And every evening the people of Kangding gather in the square to dance to music... one of the coolest things I have seen. There you drive through the country side and stop in little towns where everyone is out and about playing pool and talking. There is still work going on but it seems to me that relationships amongst the town folk is what is valued the most by these small villages. In these small villages I was able to see what life was like outside of the modernized fast moving world. These were villages centered around Buddhist temples and everywhere you looked you either saw a monk or a person coming to worship. The people of these villages are hard workers and don't lead the glamourous life that those in Chengdu do, but I certainly got the feeling that what they value most is family, hard, and the relationships with others. The difference between Chengdu and Kangding as well as Tagong, is only an 8 hour bus ride, but the values that are held seem to be drastically different. Once again reminding you just how different and diverse a country can be and how diverse China really is.
We visited a Children's Cultural Palace in Chengdu where we saw children as young as three playing music, dancing, painting, drawing, or practicing calligraphy. They appear to be learning some ancient Chinese arts. Our Chinese translator and guide, Melody, told us why a few of her friends send their child to the Palace. It seems most children are there for an interesting form of babysitting, or to enhance their college applications by knowing an art form. Few are sent to help keep traditional arts alive. Chengdu has joined the fast-paced life where getting into college and succeeding are the reasons for art. It seems to be the older generations who truly value the arts.
One thing that I learned on our tours of various temples and monastaries was that the preservation of the ancient structure is very different than our culture's. To the Chinese it is better to tear down and rebuild an ancient temple that is rotting than to try to hold on to what remains. In that way they maintain the presence of a structure but are able to make it out of new materials. For our group it seemed so destructive and wrong to build something new and still claim that it had the same value as the structure built hundreds of years ago. We place value in the age of a building and how long it has been able to withstand the elements, for them it is perhaps more the idea that the structure embodies that is important. This issue demonstrates a difference in our cultures and a difference in our culture's definitions of a structure's authenticity.