Posted by: Lotus Light | August 31, 2010

Exploring a new world

Gardeners returning to the garden centre

This is the time of year many new teachers arrive in China.  Most come filled with expectations and a little trepidation.  How will they manage in a country where the language is so different?  What restrictions does the government place on them?  What will this new life be like?  They fear culture shock and dream of making a difference, of changing China.

It is a whole new world, and from long observation, this world rapidly divides people into 2 groups.  Those who love China and those who hate it.  For some the differences are insurmountable.  The ‘bad China days’ occur frequently.  They cannot adapt to a system that moves on with or without them.  For these people – there is only one solution.  Leave while the going is good.  Leave while you still have a couple of good memories.

For the others – those who love China – a whole new world opens up and is waiting to be explored.  Explorations don’t have to be long journeys.  The first explorations can be within the campus itself.  Finding the rhythm of university life is fascinating.  Where do the gardeners live, what are their patterns and roles?  Why do the security guards salute smartly as the university buses drive through the gate? Where do the cooks and waiters come from? What happens outside classes and the library?

Waking early to watch the taiqi classes, or the women with their sword dances is interesting.  Joining in the slow jog around the sports field gives a little entry into daily life.  Watching the old men with their kites or with diabalos whistling provides insight into lives we know little about.

The gardens within the campus have special roles.  Early morning is given over to individual or group taiqi, mid-morning to the grandparents looking after the babies and toddlers, afternoons to students reciting their studies and late evening to the lovers.

Every campus will have ‘hidden places’. Places where the buses and cars are repaired, places where the day’s groceries are delivered by 3 wheel bicycle.  There will be small restaurants offering food to hungry students and tiny shops selling student necessities – pens, paper, instant noodles, breakfast snacks. The shower block where students congregate winter and summer for their showers.  There will be lines of students collecting water in large thermoses to take back to their dorms for tea and foot washing before bed.

On a university campus young adults, intent on their future, mix easily with the elderly and babies.  We all share the same space and this sharing creates a greater understanding between the ages.

So many small differences that fascinate and excite.  To begin to enjoy this new world, wander around the campus, seeking out the small things.



  1. Interesting and philosophical.

  2. Interesting and philosophical.

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