Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Exchange Student Notes #2

(We are hosting an exchange student from China for this school year. Sally is her phony baloney American name)
  • Sally related a tale of being in the hall at school and having a girl walk up to her and tell her that she's "cute". Sandmich's first thought: "at least it wasn't a guy"
  • We went to a pioneer day type of thing at a local park and they had the typical 'ye old America' type of stuff of pressing apple cider, playing obscure instruments, churning butter, and making fabric of various kinds. In addition to those they had something there that I wouldn't have thought much of before without Sally in tow: hunters and trappers. The semi-role players had a couple tables set up with their recreations which included knives and several flint lock muskets. For the first time it stuck out at me that here were people (at least one of whom had made his own musket) that packed up their weapons, transported them here, and put them on display without giving a thought as to what the man would think (beyond the obvious safety regs). One of the people there was even kind enough to demonstrate his musket for the crowd. I had to wonder what a government would be worth if it carried an undying fear of a self organized group of citizens carrying a dozen muskets around; answer: not much. (I found out later that was the first time Sally had seen a firearm that wasn't a toy).
  • When we were down at the Asian market Sally said that she couldn't understand what the people in the grocery store were saying to one another. It was then that I noticed (after all these years) that the language they were speaking didn't sound like Chinese Mandarin* (that features lots of 'sh' type sounds). Out in the car she referred to them as being from 'Thailand' which I knew wasn't the case, but she later corrected herself when she saw an Asian father chasing his sons down the street and she said exclaimed "you sure have a lot of Taiwanese here" in the same tone of breath that someone else might say "you sure have a lot of negros here"**.
  • Along those lines I guess there was an awkward moment between Sally and Mrs. Sandmich at the local fish shop which has a world atlas on their wall. Sally asked why Taiwan was displayed as a separate country. Not being as much into international intrigue as yours truly, Mrs. Sandmich said "because it is". I advised that it might be best to avoid that subject.
  • This note is from the "don't eat your own poo" department. Sally went over her rigorous school life back in China(7 am-12 pm, lunch at home, 1 pm-5 pm, and then half days on Saturday followed by paid extra tutoring from the teachers). She said that everyone in China takes a lot of math and science and mildly wondered why it was different here. Me being me I said "because not everyone can do it", which got me a puzzled look. I went, in the vaguest possible way, into how groups in America are different and I got another puzzled look. I then decided to relate it more locally and used as an example some of the tribes in western China like those out towards Afghanistan or Tibet***, and how those people might not have the same amount on the ball as the rest of China. More puzzled looks. She then went in to say that they were poorly educated because of infrastructure and poverty issues, not because of any inherit group differences. I gave up at that point; I thought that insanity was strictly an American (and to a lessor extent, Soviet) invention.

*Wikipedia notes that the Taiwanese apparently have their own language in addition to Mandarin
**equally applicable to that part of town
***Based partly on what John Derbyshire related about how although it's okay to feel bad about the plight of the Tibetans we probably wouldn't want much to do with them besides.

1 comment:

John Craig said...

Great post. Very, very funny, especially the way you describe her comment about having a lot of Taiwanese around.