Now it’s finally time for the project to really take off! Our first week in China is all about facts, facts and more facts. It’s about discovering new views, exchanging information with our exchange partners and comparing the different cultures. This morning we had our first workshop on the topic “communication”.
Our very first workshop
For this workshop, the school invited a speaker to talk about the topic as well as the Chinese point of view. Her name was Mrs. Heaven. Now I don’t know if that’s her real name, because Chinese people like to use a made-up english name – but I think she gave herself the name. Anyway, we first started with a casual introduction round. You probably know how important teambuilding and team spirit are for such projects, right? Through the acquaintance session, we could, within the group, exchange a word with everyone and also learn something about the other person. After all, it’s important that everyone in the group feels comfortable. And that’s why we started with a lot of exercises to relax and warm up. As an example, I can tell you that we had to act out various given situations as still pictures. For this we had formed small groups and exchanged the very first ideas and conceptions.
It is difficult to show emotions in China!
Furthermore, Ms. Heaven told us how to express one’s opinion. It dawned on us then that the workshop would be more beneficial to the Chinese. After all, what is taken for granted in Western culture does not yet seem to be the norm among our Far Eastern friends. It does not seem to be normal to talk openly and honestly about one’s feelings and then also to stand by them. Chinese people rarely show emotions or try to hide them. For our exchange partners, everything was so new and unknown. It would never occur to them to show their emotions in public. The workshop went on for the whole morning, so at lunchtime we had a break with food. The director invited everyone and brought some delicacies that she had bought.
A little guided tour through Nanhuaxi
After the break, we were ready for the next adventure – a small tour of Nanhuaxi. Jessica, my exchange partner, acted as our tour guide. We started moving – that was the sign to get the cameras out =) Guangzhou has a modern as well as traditional district. And probably the most confusing thing I saw today was a public handicapped restroom. Why? There was actually a step in front of the toilet for wheelchair users and disabled people. Did I misinterpret the handicapped restroom sign? See for yourself. What’s your opinion on that?
Very close by was also a Buddhist temple, the Haizhuang Temple. I was able to see most of what was on the site, but to get into the temple directly…this turned out to be more challenging than I thought. Because in front of the entrances were fixed wooden boards that passed along the entire hall. But a nice employee and passerby hoisted me up and so I could look at the inside. I was a bit surprised by so much helpfulness, as I was prepared to be eyed as a wheelchair user in China. I am glad that my worries were proven wrong and that I was taught better. Because I actually fell into the trap “prejudice” here, it happens faster than you think!
Pay attention to your surroundings!
After visiting the temple, we went back to the hotel and looked for a place to have dinner. We saw a well-lit restaurant with loud music and thought it would be good. The biggest mistake ever! Unfortunately, no one understood English in this restaurant. We were given wrong food and on complaints we were brought the same food again. Wrong food and long waiting times made our collar burst. And so we decided to look elsewhere. I can only recommend to look at the tables of the other guests first. In retrospect, we noticed that hardly anyone was eating. There were mainly drinks being drunk. So always check your surroundings to avoid such situations. Can you see in the picture how annoyed my friends were? xD
Three things I learned this day:
1) Chinese people don’t show strong emotions in public, they rather hide it
2) Buddhism is a common religion
3) Check out the restaurant by observing the guests