Monday, September 19, 2011
Where do I begin?
It's been five months since I've on this blog! Over the past months, I have been reorganizing my life and moving to D.C.
In the meantime, I went to China and Spain. It's a pretty long story, but I'm going to tell it in the order that it all happened, skipping parts of my life whenever I feel like it.
I couldn't write much about China before now. China was working on me and I needed to process that before writing any kind of story about it.
As a Horace Mann Teaching Excellence Winner for the NEA Foundation, I was invited to visit China with a group of 31 of my peers. We visited China in June, traveling from Beijing to Shanghai to Hong Kong.
China is very far away - not just because it's literally around the world and you have to hop over the planet to get there, but because my life had developed no cozy feeling about this nation or its people. Going to China changed my life because it broke down barriers that I didn't know were there - my own internal Great Wall.
Note to self: there are more in there, waiting to be uncovered. Do I dare find them? Can I keep up the bravery required of searching out inner rigidities?
Today, it helped me to share my experience of the trip with five fellow travelers at the NEA Executive Board meeting. We passionately told our stories the best way we could and I am sure that the group was moved and felt like they had also traveled some of the distance with us.
By telling the story, in the way we did, the story came back to me. I could see those colors, smell the scent in the streets, feel the people near me as they walked down busy streets. The world un-flattened itself and China, its schools, street vendors, skyscrapers and rickshaws came back to me with all of the force of a dream, remembered.
Yes, I went to China and now, I'll try to tell you the story of where I traveled and why this matters to me.
I've been in a classroom for 33 years and now, I've come to Washington D.C. to work as a Fellow in the Department of Education for one year. Every day, in the Department of Education, we do serious work in our cubicles and conference rooms as we discuss outcomes and project success. We talk to many people, both inside and outside of the solid buildings with their W, C and E conference rooms on every floor. It's good and important work.
But for now, I want to remember what it was like to be somewhere I never had dreamed of going before - a place that tested my limits and stretched my comfort zones - China, a land I fell in love with and a people who had me at Ni How.
The way this will go is that I'll share some of my pictures and I'll intersperse them with words. I'll do my best to help you see what I saw and feel what I felt. There are people who know more facts about China then I ever will and others who will take photographs so vibrant that you could step into a landscape.
But what I know how to do is to be honest about what it is I think I saw and what it meant to me, a lifelong teacher. I hope that doing this will matter to someone who might have been hesitant to venture forth on any kind of adventure to a new land. It's not easy crossing the Great Wall we build within.