Have I said yet how nice my students are? They have just returned after a month and a half long break and many have brought us presents. Of course this being China the gifts are not what you might expect. No paperweights or apple magnets with a little cute saying. No, they come bearing Chinese gifts.
One student brought us sesame snacks/candies that are local from her area, another student brought us 18 eggs laid by her grandmothers’ chicken. Another student brought a plastic bag filled with fried shrimp. Her father had fried them up in the morning!
One student took me out to eat. We have gone out to eat before and the first time she paid, despite my objections (“I’m your teacher,” I said. “I can’t let you pay.” “It is because you are my teacher that I must pay,” she said.) Before we even finished ordering she told me that she was going to pay. Again, we argued.
“No,” I said. “I asked you to lunch, therefore by Chinese rules I pay.”
“No, no,” she insisted. “My mother said that I should have invited you to my house over the holiday and I didn’t so I must buy the lunch.”
I was certainly unconventional logic, but I relented at that point. (We’ll go out again over the upcoming weeks and I’ll pay.)
What I like about these gifts is that the students are showing me a bit of their culture. It’s not just junky crap to kiss the teachers ass, but mementos from their life at home. Those eggs were laid in her family house, and the shrimp was cooked especially for me by her father. (Or maybe he cooked them especially for her, but she was thoughtful enough to give them to me, either way is very sweet.) It’s like they get to show off a piece of their family life and culture and I really appreciate the little glimpse.
This is one of the main advantages to going to a new country and staying for more than a few days. You not only get to see how the culture works, but you get to live in, and partake in it. You find yourself included in things and it makes the whole experience that much more amazing.
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