Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 211 - Fireplace

Thought of the day: Recently, Jasmine's class sent a scrapbook to a Chinese class in Beijing.  In the scrapbook, every child wrote something about their lives, hobbies, pets or school and attached photos of themselves and also photos illustrating what they wrote about.  This week, they were very excited to receive a similar scrapbook back from China as the response.  As I translated the Chinese writings to English, I had the opportunity to go through the book in detail.  For me, it was very interesting to read what the Chinese kids had to say about their lives in their own words.  Their lives revolved around their families, pets, playgrounds, parks and their school.  Some of them listed hamburgers and ice creams as their favorite food.  They liked to raise pets and fly kites.  They played piano, soccer and ice hockey.  Really, their lives and hobbies didn't seem to be much different from Jasmine's classmates.  I did notice a few subtle things, though.  Many of these kids demonstrated remarkable self-confidence, which was probably a result of being raised as a single child, as most of them were, doted on by the parents and grandparents and cheered on by the teachers. Some of the kids had already travelled widely with their parents, but not a single kid mentioned hiking. When I grew up in China, "hiking" was considered a necessity that transported you from one scenic spot to another.  Now that the tour buses were readily available to take you anywhere, perhaps this mode of transportation was just forgotten. Nobody mentioned "skiing" either. Over time, I am sure that many of these "western" leisure activities like hiking, skiing, camping, backpacking, climbing, river rafting, etc, will be gaining and expanding their footholds in China.  Take an example: traveling.  When I was growing up in China, traveling was so cost and inconvenient that it was pretty uncommon.  Now people in China travel routinely - the rich frequently travel abroad and the "normal" people frequently travel domestically.  It's liberating and exhilarating to be able to travel so easily.  However, it does put a lot of stress on the culture and the environment.  Some ancient cities are completely transformed to accomodate tourism and lost much of its original charm in the process.  The effect of commercial tourism on many of the places I visited in the past years made me sad.  It's the same for introducing other leisure activities to the large population - a liberating lifestyle, a huge economic opportunity, and a risk to the nature and the environment.  No wonder today's China attracts the bold, curious, and ambitious - the opportunity and the challenge are abound.  It would be very interesting to see how China progresses in the future years as it will not only have a bearing on the Chinese economy and environment, it will have a global bearing as well.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine in front of the fireplace at Alfafa's. She was exhausted after a day of school and the after school activity - a strenuous hour of training in a swim team. I heard that the Chinese kids are often as busy as she is, if not more.  The academic pressure is building up in elementary school already in China - kids study hard so they can be accepted by a reputable middle school. Jasmine and her classmates are not under the same pressure. So it's not surprising that the Chinese kids are able to demonstrate excellent math in the scrapbook.

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