Thursday, April 10, 2008

Culture clash: lesson 01

It’s like balsamic vinegar and olive oil

To do list (abridged)
-send Bennett email to Virginie
-write to Mei for txs
-write to mom for village’s name
-write to Isa for HK trip
-send email to Joanna and Michelle the blog from this young intern Chinese in Germany

I slept 3 hours this noon. I don’t work much (teaching ESL) these days so I can finish this issue of homônumos (no.04). Still, after the morning ESL class I was exhausted.

My fault. The word “clash” came for a visit in today’s class. We were talking about different lifestyles, and how even if we love our parents (for example) we might run into divergence of opinion. That’s a clash. I mention to reinforce the usefulness of “clash” that we also talk about “culture clash”…

A week not even after the Tibetan riots…

So here goes. A few of my (adult) girls are hitched with a foreigner. Incidentally this year they will marry and move abroad. Some are excited; some are freaked out at leaving home behind and facing a new (hostile) world. A few other students will go study in Los Angeles. Every day they ask me to reassure them as to the safety of the campus environment. They heard Chinese students get slaughtered. I had to teach them the world “loaded”. As in: high, or ready to shoot, or their uncle who’s bringing them over is loaded with cash. Another student was confused that her French (good boy) friend would want to leave his wife (her best friend, an American white girl) for a Chinese woman (his assistant) who is already married. I’ve enough material on the topic for a whole book on relationship dynamic differences. Anyways, those students are in for a major culture clash when they move abroad.

2 weeks ago I was teaching words like “tolerance”, “diplomacy”, “win-win”, and the art of discussion. We played real cases where even with extreme divergent opinions, a conversation can be enlightening, constructive, positive, violence free. But it’s an art.

It’s an art to be able to navigate in clashing cultures.
It’s an art to deflect narrow minded attacks
It’s an art to trace back 5000 years of history
It’s an art discoursing international trade.


Be tolerant towards my students. The world has never been in peace when there was only one winner. It’s like balsamic vinegar and olive oil. They don’t mix well in the glass jar. But on the salad, it taste divine.
Note: find the salad.

April 08 08, Beijing. Written from a swank little bistro in the maze of meishuguan hutongs. Caribou, held by a Chinese guy, serves healthy fusion infusion and mouth watering homemade duck liver pate.