“Do Chinese people fart?” This was one of the first questions my brother, Michael, asked when he met Tian for the first time in February 2007. He was then in fourth grade, and even though he had known Tian for only an hour, he was enraptured by her and everything China.
And the questions kept coming. Why did the Chinese change English? How did you learn Chinese without knowing English first? Why did they build the Great Wall? How can you not like cheese? From the time we started building a snow fort, through two cups of hot cocoa, to the minute my parents picked him up, I could see Michael growing up and his awareness of the world maturing.
Even after over two years, this conversation still stands out to me for a couple of key reasons:
- I was amazed by how quickly Michael felt comfortable delving into the unknown with Tian and amazed at how she deliberately helped affirm and guide his inquiry. Everyone who knows Tian as a teacher know this is one of her gifts with children.
- I was struck by how transparent and raw Michael allowed his questions to be. He really asked everything he could think to ask and wasn’t embarrassed or afraid to take risks, to be taught, to grow.
I learned something from this conversation, and not just that Chinese people do in fact fart (the secret is out). I also re-learned that there is so much to be gained in the sharing of cultures, not only for individuals but also for society as a whole.
This conversation also seemed like the perfect way to kick off this blog, through which I will be documenting and sharing my journey to China for the next 1-2 years. In this blog I intend to pose and explore as many questions as I can think of along the way – from the fun to serious, from the philosophical to the personal, from the raw to the refined.
Through it all, I am grateful to be joined by such a talented and encouraging teacher (and ai ren). I couldn’t ask for a better companion. And through it all, I hope to be as good of a student as Michael. I couldn’t ask for a better inspiration.
With that said, it’s on to China! “Zai China!”