This June, a Gulf Islands Secondary teacher and two Grade 9 students joined a larger delegation from British Columbia on a trip to China. The delegation was made up of educators and students from SD48 – Sea to Sky, S67 – Okanagan Skaha, and of course, SD64 – Gulf Islands. Their trip took them to Foshan City in the province of Guangdong. The purpose was to meet and collaborate with educators of Chancheng Education Bureau with the goal of opening up future opportunities between the two provinces and districts.
1. Claerwen Sladen-Dew
In June 2017, I was given the opportunity to travel to Southern China to learn about their education, culture, and traditions as well as represent our school and the BC education program. While in China, our team was able to experience many traditional teachings, such as paper-cutting, wood engraving, and Chinese calligraphy. Additionally, we had the opportunity to learn traditional Chinese Kung Fu, as well as both the Lion Dance and Dragon Dance. I believe that due to our strong cultural differences, I was drawn to many aspects of their culture. An interesting highlight of this trip was the honour to see how incredibly devoted the schools were at teaching their students their many ancestral teachings and history.
Upon reflection of my experience in China, undoubtedly my favourite part of the trip was working with the Chinese students. Although there was a language barrier, it did not stop the students from patiently teaching us their important traditions and activities. As we travelled to each school, it became more apparent for the necessity of both school districts to connect as all parties could learn so much from each other. Sharing the ideas of a well-rounded student with a goal of lifelong learning has created the basis for our work and continuous communication across the globe. I am truly grateful for the experience our school district and the Chancheng school district has given me as I believe this trip has taught me more about the interconnectivity of our global community than any class could have ever provided.
2. Fraser Byers
From my perspective, it was a bit of a rollercoaster of an adventure, seeing as we only found out 1 ½ maybe 2 months in advance and it all seemed to come down to last minute in terms of planning and preparation. I remember talking with Claerwen as we boarded the Queen of Nanaimo at the start of the journey and us both realizing at that very moment that we were “Going to China”! The grandeur of the situation really didn’t sink in until then. Speaking of planning and preparation, it was quite the contrast once we arrived in Guangzhou. We had members of the company which organized the trip (who were fantastic!) waiting for us at the airport with a whole supply of water bottles and sandwiches. This trend of immense hospitality stayed prevalent everywhere we went, whether that was at the schools or at our homestays.
I had realized quite soon after we arrived in China that we were going to be shown the best and perhaps the fabricated beautiful. So for me, the most striking and most perspective-changing element of our trip were the two nights for which we were with our homestays. Our six students from the delegation got a real mix of encounters when it came to living with our Chinese counterparts. Some stayed with students whose parents were international ceramic company CEOs and others, like me, were partnered with a student whose parents worked graveyard hours in the local silk factory. The flat in which I stayed was small and showering consisted of standing in the squat toilet while pouring recycled water over my head with a ladle. Additionally, my life experience has not been cohabiting with cockroaches and rats. While perhaps less comfortable than I was at the hotel, I was fascinated and appreciative of being warmly welcomed by my host family. I was so gladdened to have not just seen, but also experienced the lifestyle that was the reality for many, if not most, living their lives in the city of Foshan.
I don’t think I can express the amount of gratitude I have for have being given this great opportunity and learning experience, along with the opportunity to represent my school. It really was an honor. I’d also like to thank all the people that made this trip possible. It really opened my eyes to many new things including the fascinating Chinese culture and ways of learning. It was a very special and unique week which will stay with me forever.
Thanks to Claerwen, Fraser and teacher Roland Kerr for sharing their experience.
Photos: Roland Kerr
Photo at GISS: John Cameron