Has been a new experience in inconsistency. The lectures for this week and the previous two weeks, which I intended to be for Halloween, haven’t come out as intended. First, I couldn’t find clothing for dressing up that didn’t have to be tailor made for me. Second, I couldn’t find pumpkins of proper size to be used as jack-0-lanterns without someone mistaking it for an orange stress ball. Yeah, they are that small. I was told I could find some, but I have gone with three different people to three different locals, and all proved fruitless.
Yeouch. Sorry bout that.
So instead, I moved ahead my plans for teaching my students a little something about North American music history. Okay fine, it’s basically the USA music history. But some of those artists were Canadian so I’m including them. I’m starting with Ragtime and ending with The British Invasion this week. Next week is disco through to modern music. It’s been pretty entertaining with my first two classes that I got to do this with. Some of them enjoyed me doing new, but a lot of them haven’t had a chance to develop a personal music taste. All the music here feels pretty homogenus and what little feels different isn’t Chinese or Asian for that matter. It seemed like they heard what was being played, but couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Especially jazz.
(Long talk below, not funny at all. Very serious discussion follows and me being introspective)
Which brings me to another thing: sheltered. I don’t think anyone except the foreign teachers here have any idea just how sheltered these kids are. I don’t call them adults(and they are only a year or less younger than me) because they have spent so much of their lives without exposure to so much that we take for granted back home. This isn’t entirely a censorship thing, because there are ways to get around censorship that are tactfully accepted by the government. I’m sure censorship is part of it, but a lot of my students seem to know little about their own culture and don’t seem to particularly care.
The students are fascinated by North American culture, because their own culture feels like it doesn’t have any substance to it. Compared to my experiences in college and uni, I’m not entirely sure these students even have a clue about their own culture. When I went to a temple a few weeks back, the student seemed out of place. I asked her if there was significance to the repetition of turtle and snake statues(but in more words and easier terms) and she didn’t know. When she went to ask the monk who was the caretaker of the temple he didn’t know either. And I’m not talking about a statue here or there, but central figures in a fountain that was right in front of the main entrance to the temple. Later, I asked my tourism class and I got two stories from three students that were fables regarding them. The rest of the class was clueless.
And as I’ve been going around the city there is something that has struck me what you see in the streets is like a facade for everyone. Behind these good looking streets with trees, shops, restaurants, and people are decrepit homes which no one looks after. And they are all over the place. The street level looks good, but they are just buildings hiding the dirty reality behind them. This is not to say that the people are in any way like this, but the Chinese mentality here is a focus on the outward appearance just for appearances.
I started thinking about this because I asked my students to design Halloween costumes and I gave them an example of what I wanted. I drew the headless horseman on the blackboard and made a list of his features. But when the students presented their costumes everything was focused on the head with the body essentially discarded. They gave the head deep detail, but when I asked them about the clothes none of them had a response. The head is the outward appearance that they think about but the body is ignored.
I’m going to have to think about this more. It makes me want to see the rest of the world and see if this is specifically Chinese condition or maybe something we all share. I will probably think about Richmond very differently now and look at it in a new light. Especially university students. I wonder if other people I know are really all that different from my students?
I’m sure Orwell would find this all as no surprise.