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September 15, 2006 - Guyuan, China

The Cold Hard Truth. Without the Edge

Guyuan Fruit Fare
Sometimes conversations end up far from where they started - quite unexpectedly. You start talking about bunnies and end up talking about Calvinists.

Sometimes these end up being the most interesting kind of conversation. An unlikely surprise.

Sometimes they end up poorly - a disagreement comes into play or the topic, although unexpected, is no more compelling than the original.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you end up caught quite unawares.

And that is what happened today.

The conversation was not a typical conversation. It was class, but I try to make it as conversational as possible.

Each student was writing a sentence about themselves and it was my task to answer them, true or false.

“My favorite sport is basketball,”

“I like English very much,”

Sometimes they turn the screws a bit,

“You look like Zinedine Zidane.”1

I sidestep - secretly wondering if I should like the kid or headbutt him,

“Remember, start with ‘I’ or ‘My’, the sentence is about you!”

And then, with utter candidness, it comes.

“I am very poor.”

Unawares. Dead in the water. I fumble with equating education to wealth. Not monetary wealth, but wealth of the mind. In the end, I thank the student. Trying to keep the kid from losing face I quickly ask for another volunteer.

Then I realize what happened.

Nobody laughed at the kid. Nobody snickered and pointed. There was more laughing when kids stood up and said they liked reading.

The frankness and accompanying lack of judgement was, is, refreshing. It was just the truth.

It was I that was squirming, reacting to the comment as though I was in the States.

Not in Kansas anymore.

There is judgement in many ways - I am certainly not suggesting that judgement is lacking here - but to see it not rear its head in this situation was phenomenal.

Bravo kids.

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» Footnotes
  1. Zinedine Zidane. I guess I do have a shaved head - too bad I’m not the headbutting sort. Have also been likened to Brad Pitt and Mr. Clean in the last two months.«

yes, you are a spitting image of mr clean. ha ha ha ha HA! i love those kids already.

fyi - site looks awesome!

- smo on a Monday
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