There are many things that I have experienced in my first one year of living in China that are not as I expected.
I was recently invited to be a judge of an afternoon- long English competition at a local women’s and children’s hospital.
Talk about uncharted waters.
While I was interested in the content of the program the main reason for going to such an event was to establish relationships.
Relationships are crucial here in China.
The competition consisted of 7 teams with 4 to 5 people on each team.
By far the majority of the contestants were women and all the speaking was done in English, of course.
There were four rounds with the highest scoring team winning the largest door prizes.
Soon after the program began the president of the hospital took a seat right next to me and he closely watched the proceedings.
As it turns out he was scrutinizing the contestants to see who would be the best ones to send to an upcoming international medical conference.
The first round was the introduction of team members and then a doctor-patient care skit.
One of the groups role-played a woman in labor and the doctor’s response to her.
The second round a charade-like “name that word” set.
The third round consisted of each team having one of their members give a five minute free speech about a random picture flashed up on the computer screen.
The fourth round involved one team asking another team a question and then the team questioned had to give an “off-the-cuff” answer to the question.
One question that I found intriguing was, “Is money the main purpose for living?”
Another was, “How do cars affect the environment?”
Some of the pictures described involved beautiful scenery held in the palm of a person’s hand.
Another picture was of a cigarette with the question of “How long will you live?”, while one was of a tiny newborn baby being held in the palm of an adult’s hand.
It was very enlightening to hear the answers to the above scenarios as these young health professionals delved into areas of socioeconomics, environmental stewardship, life’s purpose, and health issues.
It was a very enjoyable experience being an English “expert”…
It was also eye-opening for me on another level as I saw the intensity and passion that these young people have to learn English.
In the US you may find some language competitions on university campuses, but they certainly are not nearly as common as they are found here in China!
Since I am in the midst of Mandarin study it was very good for me to see the “other side” of the coin to see how diligent some people are to learn English.
May I have that same passion, perseverance and attention to detail as I continue my own journey into uncharted waters!