I am not somewhere in Thailand so I did not wake up to a beautiful beach and its sea wave sound. I am no longer in my apartment in Hong Kong so I could just get up and meet my old friends for a brunch near the escalator. I am not around the French Alps so I could wake up to the freshest air of the earth.
On the contrary, I am sick from my second cold in Shanghai. There are tissues at my bed side and half tea left cold from last night. My eyes are heavy and my nose is blocked.
But I woke up to this letter in my inbox from a university instructor I work with,
‘To have met you and worked with you in year 2014 is the best experience in my career. I have learnt tremendously from it. Thank you for your whole-hearted help and never-ending patience. ‘
Out of curiosity I took the course Hadrian’s Wall. This wonderful course captures my imagination of Roman times in a British territory. It also asks – why this wall? I am sure resources could have been spent elsewhere so what does it tell us about the builders’ intentions and motivations.
Wall was meant to protect. But it was also built for other purposes such as separation. A Wall blocks the sight so that people live on one side do not see what is happening on the other side. A Wall prevents conversations and possibilities. It stops the trade of goods and ideas. It defines a boundary of thoughts and actions.
The Hadrian’s Wall. The Berlin Wall. The Great Fire Wall.
With a slight sense of guilty, I noticed this is probably my last blog in year 2014 after a long pause. Much more have had been done than written for my 2014. And I made it one of my 2015 goals: to write more and to write better.
I heard many public complaints about poor teaching quality (a large extent is claimed to be the existing measuring system which skews towards research not teaching). Miraculously all the instructors I work with devote themselves to teaching. Of course they have to multi-task. But they go extra miles to understand the people sitting in the classroom and to contemplate how they can teach (online) better.
The end of this year also witnesses the disappearance of Gmail out of our sight. Gradually even an Apple device such as iPhone or iPad does not receive Gmail. I heard one person’s response to the shut down of Google service as ‘It is for the stability of the society’. Day goes on, sun also rises. I came to learn for some people, internet freedom and society stability do not stand together. Whether this is a genuine belief or a planted seed, I have no means to identify.
The third thing I started quite a lot of thinking is the capacity to accept diversity. With a consensus driven upbringing, I found the word tolerance easy to say than do. This is a long way to go, for me and for people like me.
With so many thoughts wandering in my mind, I have summarised one sentence for my 2014. It has been beyond my expectation and it is exhilarating.
I have been longing to write a post about a very much phrased quality – 听话（listening to words). The English translation does not do its job remotely well. In English, one ‘listens to words’ that others say. He/she has the option to agree and the option not to. In Chinese linguistics, it means something different. It means listen to what is being said, to hear and interpret it subsequently and to agree with it and act accordingly.
I will save the trouble to make comments about the quality. There are situations such quality yields high productivity, there are also situations we see disastrous results in human history what unconditional obedience did.
Meanwhile, it does help me to understand why Chinese way of teaching is one dimensional – from the teacher to the students. If ‘listening to words’ is valued in the bigger cultural context, it will be equally valued in the classroom context. Why would you need feedback if all students need to do is ‘listening to words”?
I do not intend to evaluate the effects of such mentality and behaviour. All civilisation has a history and there must be a reason/motivation behind certain things and styles. I read one sentence today and will use it as my conclusion remark – ‘We must simply rest in ignorance’.