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China SST

SSTers arrive at service teaching locations

China SSTers are spending their first night in the towns that will be their homes for the next five weeks. They will be teaching English in three secondary schools, living with host families in each place. All three schools are hosting SSTers for the first time, so all sides are negotiating relationships and expectations anew. Given our encounters today, it is clear that all the schools are eager to have the Goshen folks teaching oral English. Having native English speakers in the classrooms is uncommon for schools in these places where foreigners are rare.

Sharing Music and Dance

On two recent afternoons the SSTers learned and shared music and dance with Professor Wang Xiao and her students from the College of Music. Ms. Wang introduced Chinese musical notation and explained the history of two popular folk songs, “Kangding Qingge” (Love Song of Kangding) and “Mo Li Hua” (Jasmine Flower), and taught them to the SSTers. Ms. Wang had arranged for some of her students and another music faculty member to perform traditional works for us, and then she invited Goshen students to sing and play in return.

Study with Chinese characteristics

Deng Xiaoping, China’s principal leader from 1978 to 1992, famously described his country’s distinctive economic blend of free-wheeling market forces and centralized controls as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Since then, people within China and those who visit have often tried to articulate the “Chinese characteristics” that mark various aspects of life here. During the study portion of SST – the first six weeks of the term – we’re been experiencing Chinese academic life and its distinctive characteristics. We’ve been learning on two levels: the material that teachers present to us directly and, indirectly, something of what it’s like to be a university student in this part of the world and how education functions here.

SST connections after 33 years

While in Chengdu an SSTer connected with someone his mother had met on China SST thirty-three years earlier! Lei Shenghua was an undergraduate student at Sichuan Normal University in 1981 when she became friends with that year’s SST group, and especially with a member of the group named Gail. The two friends reconnected in 2007 via the internet. When Ms. Lei learned that Gail’s son would be part of the 2014 China SST group she was determined to meet him.