Hello from China!
Did you know that Spark Decks co-founder Eva Jo Meyers is spending this year teaching at Yangtze Normal University in China? We caught up with Eva during her lunch break.
Spark Decks: What are you teaching?
Eva: I’m teaching three sections of “American Culture” to English Education majors. These are students who will go on to become English teachers when they graduate. The class is about schools and teaching in the US and is a lot of fun. For one of our projects we have become pen pals with a group of high school students in San Francisco to help us learn more about what schools are really like in America. I am also teaching two sections of “Speaking and Listening” to non-English majors who want to improve their ability to converse in English. We have covered several themes thus far this semester including weird American Festivals (do you know about Frozen Dead Guy Days?), regional cuisines (Gumbo! New England Clam Chowder! Cheese Steak!) and sports (lots of NBA fans here).
Spark Decks: What is your favorite part of living in China?
Eva: The food! YZNU is located in Chongqing municipality, which was formally part of Sichuan province. The specialty here is hotpot, and it is hot hot hot. Actually, everything is really spicy here. The area is also famous for its pickled mustard tuber, which is delicious and crunchy. I’m a big fan of pickled vegetables, and they put them into many of the dishes, so I’m very happy about that. They also eat a lot of (spicy) noodle soups. In fact, that’s what I had for breakfast!
Spark Decks: What has been the most challenging part of living in China?
Eva: The language. I only understand about 5% of what is going on around me at any given moment. I feel like I am walking in a bubble. I am learning Mandarin, but most people here speak the local dialect, which is hard for even Mandarin speakers to understand. I have a textbook and a tutor, so hopefully in a few more months I will be better able to communicate. For now, it is all about the dictionary app on my phone, which I use any time I am trying to find something at the grocery store, order at a restaurant, or figure out how to get someplace. It’s pretty hilarious actually. I’ve had full conversations with people just showing each other translated sentences on our phones!
Spark Decks: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Eva: My children are attending the local public school here, and it has given me a taste for what it must be like for so many of our students in the US who have recently arrived from other countries. The other day, school ended early, but we didn’t know because we can’t read Chinese, so when we went to pick them up, they were sitting there by themselves waiting for us. They don’t really like the food at school because it so different from what they are used to. And in the beginning they were having trouble making friends because they can barely speak Chinese. Of course, we can’t even start to help them with their homework. I think this move has been far more difficult for them than it has been for me. I’m thinking it might be useful to create a Spark Deck with activities designed to help recent immigrants adjust to school in a new country. If you have ideas, please let me know!