Friday, April 18, 2008

Views on a Friday

I'd like to share a story from my trip to Jiuzhaigou in the Tibetan region of Sichuan province. On our first day through the park, we spoke with college student who was home for the holiday. She was very honest with us about the villages in the area. She said that since 1986, the park opened, the village became increasingly wealthy. Most of the people were happy to use the money to send their children to the cities to get a better education. The only downside that she saw from the changes was that the government banned livestock (sheep and yak) in order to protect the area, thus completely shifting their means of living. She didn't see all of this as being government repression, but she did see some of the traditions of her people fading.

Today, one of my students asked about the whole problem between Western media and China. He's not the best spoken student I have (I'd probably place him in the middle of my 300), but he managed to get his point across. Unlike the nationalist comments I've read online or heard about from friends, this question was rather simple yet thoughtful.

He, more or less, asked, "Why do the newspapers in France and Germany hate China and the Olympics?" At first I responded that it was too complicated to answer it in a short time. After class I tried giving a small answer. "I think part of it is a cultural miscommunication on both sides," I said. He agreed. I then explained that part of the problem was that the Chinese government restricts journalists from doing their job the way they should. Therefore, many journalists will write negative stories and ignore the positive as a way of responding to the restrictions.

I'm not entirely sure if he understood that mentality, but he listened for the point of view and passed no judgment on the answer. I'm sure if I gave this answer to some students that they'd be upset and get defensive in some way. Having students like this one makes me feel much better about my job.

After this short exchange he asked if I was going to Beijing for the Olympics. I answered, "Hell, no." He thought it was because of the crowds, but I gave him other reasons why I don't like the city that much. He agreed with me. "I don't think Beijing people are friendly," he said, "I like western China much more." I told him I thought the places I've been in the west were also friendlier than Beijing--Sichuan and Xinjiang have had some of the nicest people I've met in China.


1 comment:

Gwen E. Kirby said...

i'm a foreign devil myself, although since i am teaching english in buenos aires, i think i am known as a yanqui. just wanted to say i enjoyed reading your blog. cultural questions/debates are my favorite part of being a teacher here, but they are certainly delicate territory. anyway, i'm enjoying your blog (which i found on the water cooler, blog forum site).