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A Day at the American Scene Summer Camp

By | July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19
Today we started our career week unit. This goes better with our motto, “You are the builder of our dreams; you are the master of your destiny,” more directly than biomes or world cultures. We have been told that the Chinese parents are extremely interested in the career topic. As far as we understand, Chinese children usually have very little choice of careers. They often have a responsibility to their family to find the highest paying job, for example. At the same time, they take high-stakes tests at certain points during their schooling which determine whether they can continue on in certain educational tracks which limits their job choices.

One of our Chinese teachers, when asked how Chinese people decide on a career, said that the parents really decide, but they do discuss it with the child. So we are having our students take the Holland Codes Career Inventory, and it is unclear to me whether parents think this is great because there is a shift towards greater personal choice in this generation and this economic level (apparently our camp is kind of expensive), or if the parents think this is a great tool to more effectively guide their children on a career path. I am imagining scenarios lilke, “Remember that test you took when you were ten? It says you are supposed to be a _____! Of course you cannot change!” I’m not sure this will work as well cross-culturally as we hope.

I also am not sure how it will work well because what we are supposed to teach in a week would normally be done over a much longer period of time. And also, as the performance teacher (even though performance is language-based and pictures are critical for teaching second languages), I received a very small set of tremendously useful career pictures to have in the room—six pictures including explosives operative (the dynamite makes this one pretty clear), environmental analyst (a person looking at the dirt they are standing on—that should be easy to explain), and auto mechanic and a conductor. My family is full of excellent auto mechanics, but it seems like it may not be the first choice for striving parents who tend to be managers, doctors, and according to my students, “do computers.”

My roommate Patti, who is the performance teacher for the next level up, received mime and blacksmith in her small set of pictures.

I seem to be making a habit of getting involved in projects that have more vision than effective or even realistic implementation plans. Americorps and my semester in Czechoslovakia, among others, had similar issues. It is making me think that perhaps my next career can be as a professional troubleshooter. You run me through your venture and I will tell you what is wrong with it.

Of course, everyone says, but aren’t the children great! Of course they are cute and great and all. Here is a picture of me and A1, the youngest and least experienced English speakers of the group.

However, individual teachers making up for the dysfunctionalities of any educational system is not a viable long-term plan.

In other news, Ann and Susan and I went for a great walk after dinner. We wandered down a street we had never been down before. We saw groups of men playing cards on the sidewalk and lots of babies. We found the new police station and a lottery storefront. We had cookies at a bakery and found a pharmacy with many things labeled in English, but of course not the things anyone was looking for. We could have gotten ground up starfish or rattlesnake, if we’d wanted it, however.

Where the street dead-ended, there were many people gathered around the entrance to a building. We peered up a very steep flight of stairs into a bright, shiny stall-type mall building! We walked up to poke around. More clothing in the asymmetrical, layered, light-weight style that I am very enamored of here—we had to look more. I tried on a dress that was too small, which is usually the case here. Then I tried on a light jacket that fit! The tag said 128 yuan (about $20), so I reached for my wallet.
“No, no!” said the three store clerks. (Three store clerks in a store about the size of my bed, by the way.) One pulled out the calculator and typed in 100.

“Fine.” I said, pulling a 100 yuan note out of my wallet.

“No, no! Now you!” said one clerk, and pushed the calculator at me. I could not have it for that price. I needed to pay them less, apparently. I typed in 80. These people were too nice—I would have paid the higher price, and I didn’t feel good about trying for half price. Though I guess they could have bargained back up.

“Oh, OK.” 80 it was. It kind of sounded like they were disappointed we weren’t going to bargain more, but they all had the most friendly smiles. It was confusing to me.

I walked down the hallway to find Ann and Susan. They had tried to pay full price for a box of tea, so the clerk insisted they take a free tea steeper.

Puzzling, but fun. As we walked home, we paused at a corner to make sure we were going the right way. As we are becoming used to, an English-speaking person rushed up to us to see if could help in any way. This time it was a man who was not actually Chinese. He sounded like he was probably from France.

Susan was thinking that she will try to be more conscientious at home about helping lost tourists. They probably will be more difficult to identify, though. People are definitely reacting to our confused looks, but we are already sticking out pretty dramatically. Shenzhen is a rather new city, full of transplants from all over China, but it seems that everyone is terribly friendly.

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