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Sunday, May 09, 2004

Today I packed for Yunnan, but in doing this, I
realized that I had way too much stuff. I am going to
try and have to figure out how to put everything into
my back pack as I simply can not carry two bags with
me. Especially when I will be hiking in the deepest
gorge on the planet. I am so excited. The pictures
look so beautiful. My traveling companion and I are
going to be buying flu masks for Beijing since
everyone here is terrified of Sars. That is the first
thing out of everyone’s mouth when I speak to them.
They look at me and say, “Did you here that S.A.R.S.
is back. They then get a very terrified look in their
eyes for me which is a little unnerving. I am trying
to decide which medicines to take with me. It is
difficult to decide what is absolutely necessary.
Other than this, I did some hiking around the city and
shopping. I did manage to have several amazing
conversations today. The first was with the head of
the English department here. We mainly talked about
Money and how hard it was for teachers to survive.
They do make a very small amount, but it is about the
median income for the country. Both parents have to
work. I was shocked to hear that primary and secondary
education is not free to all students. Parents have to
pay a small amount for both Primary and Secondary
education. Then, they have to pay for almost all of
their college. There are very few scholarships, and
the ones that they get do not cover hardly any
expenses. Most people simply can not afford to go to
college. I was told that in the countryside, many
students will drop out of school when they are in
middle school since their parents can not afford it.
Therefore, many of them can not read or write. The
students who do graduate and pass their exams to move
forward can not always afford it. Some students will
come to college and then quit after a year as it is
too expensive. The families who do send their children
to college often expect that they need to do this so
that their children will be able to support them when
they get older. On another note, High School in China
is set up very interestingly. The students are tested
as to whether they would be better in the arts or
sciences, and they are separated based upon their
exams. If they go to an arts school, they only study
arts, history, math, and Chinese, no science. If they
go to a science high school, they only study math
science, and Chinese. No arts. After high school, they
then study for a year and take their exams to get into
college. If they pass, they go to one of the schools
that will admit them. If not, they study for a whole
year again. This is just to get into college. The exam
which they have to pass is based up whether they
studied the sciences or arts in senior middle school.
The students then work on their Bachelors Degree for
an average of five years plus the one year off they
took to study for the test to get into school. I could
not imagine that is too long. In another discussion
with some students, they all hoped that in the future
all education would be free, but they simply do not
believe that it will happen in the near future. They
say that China can not afford it. We also talked about
Health Care since they are all nursing students. As I
have heard many times before, most people simply can
not afford health care. If they get sick, they simply
grin and bare the pain. Most farmers never step foot
in a hospital. Most farmers barely make enough money
to feed their families. Many are barely subsisting.
When they are not working in the fields, the men will
go and hire out their labor to construction companies
and road crews and other jobs which require cheap hard
labor. They then go and work with their wives and
children in the fields. Many of them have small house
in which the entire family lives in one room. Grandma,
Grandpa, mom, dad, and children. It is the only thing
which they can afford to do, so things like health
care are luxury items which the majority of people do
not get to enjoy. This then led to the topic of
nursing homes and who will take care of China’s aging
population. This was a big issue. Many believe that it
will simply be too hard to support both their parents
and apartments in the city are too small of them to
move in together, but they also do not want to send
them to a nursing home. They were very torn on this
issue and are not sure what they will do in the
future. The environment was a big issue for my
students, but as last night, they also see it as a
lost cause. Industrialization is too important for
them as they need money for their programs. We talked
about most of the products of America are maid in
China. They are proud of that. They know that their
labor is cheaper than it is in America, but the
workers make a lot of money in Chinese standards, so
they simply do not care. Many Chinese people idolize
Americas economic development, but they also fear
America as they think that we are simply too
aggressive. They asked me how I felt about Iraq, and I
said that the war is wrong, and it does make us look
aggressive, but I was in support of our involvement in
Afghanistan as the leaders of that country were
extremist and knowingly harbored terrorist. This
thought that this was a good assessment. They then
asked me what I thought of Chinese. I said that I
admired them greatly. Some of the students have talked
online, and they want to know why most Americans hate
the Chinese and call them names like Chink which none
of them knew what it was. I said that because those
Americans are ignorant. They fear China because they
know nothing about it. They think that all Chinese
hate Americans when in reality it simply is not true.
It is actually just the opposite. They thought that
this was horrible, and I have to agree with them.
Somehow we then started talking about stereotypes.
This is when it got interesting. Chinese people hate
Japanese but love Koreans. This is mainly because the
Japanese invaded China in W.W.II They said unlike the
Germans who feel guilty for what happened to the Jews.
The Japanese do not feel any guilt over what happened
in China. Some of the students also said that they
thought that people in Hong Kong should be forced to
have to learn Mandrain. They could not believe that
people who are part of China would not learn to speak
proper Chinese. I tried to reason that it would not be
fare to do this. It would be like them asking the
Northern Chinese to do the same. They did not agree.
They thought that everyone should learn Mandrain. They
also said that many of the Ethnic groups should come
into the main fold of China. They believe that they
are too extreme and constantly threaten the Chinese
government because they do not consider themselves
Chinese. They are getting most of this information by
chatting online with people all around China. I was
very shocked to hear that they had this much freedom
to talk amongst each other. Most of the minorities in
China are looked down upon. Many do not believe that
they would marry a non Han person. Many fear that
there will be war over Tiawain. They all understand
that the people of Taiwaian believe that they are not
Chinese as they have talked with them online, but they
believe that they are and they should be part of
China. They believe that eventually they will vote for
their independence and this will cause a war between
China and the U.S. I do not think that it will, but I
could be wrong. The students had many concerns, but
they mainly hope that China can grow and become a
stronger country so that in the future they will be
able to afford many of the amenities that everyone
should have. Oh well, it is late. Must go.
Christopher

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