Today was the second day of orientation and was a much lighter schedule than yesterday. We had a few lectures and then went to the Old Shanghai Quarter for dinner. That part of Beijing is very European and very beautiful. Unfortunately I still don’t have the Internet working well enough to upload pictures so I don’t have any to share yet, but I promise they will be up as soon as possible.
Dinner was unknown and delicious like all meals and most of the evening was just spent hanging out with other CIEE participants. The best part about dinner was that I got to talk to one of the Chinese staff members, a 22 year old female, about education and dating in China. According to her, the strengths of the American education system are creativity, choice, and achievement. She is very impressed by the creativity and imagination of American teachers’ ways of presenting a concept in the classroom. She says that she would never be able to come up with it on her own. She also is impressed by the choice that is given to American students within their own education. For example, in the US students can pick one out of many options for an essay question on an exam whereas in China there is one question and one answer. She told me that she thinks that is much better than the Chinese memorization process. Finally, she was very touched and excited about how American students get to feel a sense of accomplishment with things they learn. She explained what she might by using the example of when American students take a class such as the violin or choir or art, at the end of the semester, the students get to show off what they have learned that semester. She thinks that this is a very important part of the American education system because it lets students be proud of their accomplishments rather than always feeling like they are striving to reach the next level of excellence without praise or acknowledgement of what they have already accomplished or learned.
We also got into a conversation about relationships and the one-child policy. As a 22 year old female, her parents are urging her to get married before she is too old (30) but she wants to wait a few years. She is also hopeful that the one-child policy will be lifted so that she can have 2 kids once she is married. I asked her why she wants 2 kids and she said because she never wants her kid to be lonely the way she was as an only child. The best memories from her childhood are when she got to have a sleepover with one of her friends because that meant she wasn’t lonely at night and if she has 2 kids, they will keep each other from being lonely. It’s an interesting perspective I hadn’t thought about before.
Because of the one-child policy, there are a tremendous number of men to women. This has created an interesting social phenomenon where the women, as the sole focus of multiple generations, are very highly educated and have very successful careers. This has not only put a strain on women wanting to accomplish non-familial goals conflicting with the assumption that women must be married before 30, but it has also established that only the most educated and most successful men and women get married. This leaves a huge part of the population that is less educated unmarried. Despite this, Chinese women still believe that they do not have the leeway to be very picky or have high standards.
Once we returned to the hotel, a group of us decided to go out and try and find a karaoke bar. Once we learned that many places that say “KTV” on the outside of the building could be using karaoke as a front for prostitution we decided to just go find a regular bar instead. After wandering around Shanghai for a bit, we finally found a bar and I ordered a mojito. After much anticipation and excitement, it turned out my mojito tasted like gasoline and was undrinkable. So we all wandered back to the hotel planning on turning in for the night, but we found a monkey!
A guy on a scooter had his pet monkey (aka his paycheck) with him and when he saw a group of laowai (foreigners) he came over to us and the monkey performed. I got to shake hands with a monkey! With some Pink Floyd playing in the background and people sitting on the steps of the hotel drinking beer and a Chinese man talking to us in Chinese about his life and the monkey doing flips, it was really quite a unique experience. China is great!
Have a good night,