Stuart Beaton is back guest blogging from Tianjin, China. It’s funny because I just finished reading a memoir about the former Soviet Union. And now Stuart has written this post! He also has a fabulous author podcast site at http://rastous.podomatic.com. Here’s Stu:
Recently our apartment seems to have become a surrogate home for troubled Young Communist Ladies.
Rather than get on the first train back to their home town, a number of my best and brightest students decided that they’d rather stay in Tianjin for a few weeks. This might have been out of the mistaken belief that I would be bored, given that I wasn’t getting on the first plane out of China to wherever.
Or it might be because I can make pizza from scratch, I am just not sure.
Be that as it may, I’ve had two or three young ladies on the doorstep at 0900 each day in the last week and a bit, bar the couple of days Ellen had off.
I swear these lasses don’t get fed, watching them polish off eggs, bacon and toast, swirled down with cups of strong coffee. More precisely, I swear these lasses can’t feed themselves.
Handing one an egg, I asked her to break it into a little cup, so I could check it was ok, while I was trying to boil the kettle, thaw the bacon, and feed bread into the toaster.
Faced with this task, she looked at me, looked at the egg, looked at the cup, and looked at the other lass, who was looking back at all these items with the sort of intense stare often associated with diamond cutting, or brain surgery.
“You do know how to break an egg, don’t you?”
No, she didn’t. No one had ever shown her how to break an egg, so I had to quickly demonstrate a one handed break, so I could get it on.
Then a more traditional two handed break for the next one.
The next day I handed her another egg, the same cup, and asked her to break it two handedly into the cup.
Five minutes later, when I’d picked all the bits of shell out, I did the other one myself.
Chopping bacon was definitely out of the question.
Another day I took a couple of the Ladies out to “Kitchen Street”, so I could get a few things I needed.
As we walked past the stores selling row after row of gleaming crockery, cutlery and appliances, I was constantly asked what each thing did.
Telling them was fine, it’s the idea that they just have no concept of what anything does that worries me.
Perhaps the most telling thing came later that day, when we went from Kitchen Street to the relatively new “Galaxy Mall”. This is a temple to the Gods Of Luxury, boasting Prada, Gucci, Tiffany and Louis Vuitton outlets amongst its wide range of wallet emptying shops.
Toys-R-Us is a newcomer to Tianjin, and the girls were drawn to it like moths to a flame. I like toys, as anyone who’s seen my desk can affirm, so I’ve got no qualms being there, but they were amazed by the stuff that was in stock.
They played with everything around, going in and out of the “houses”, and putting together Lego models.
And it was right then that it dawned on me what was lacking most in these Young Communist Ladies.
A childhood that had room in it to play.
How can you live to be twenty years old, and not know how to crack an egg, been to a toy store, or seen a spring loaded ice cream scoop?
It’s where the rote learning system in place falls down – there’s no experimentation, no fiddling with things, no finding things out for themselves.
That just strangles creativity at birth.
So I’ve been letting them “play” with the pizza dough, watch me chop and cook things, and brew coffee….
After all, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood:
You got a message… I just want you to know that I had amazing time at your home (you know that). I enjoyed it so much.
I want to thank you for being so nice, feeding us with fantastic brunch and lunch, downloading and copying comics and films for me, taking us to Toys “R” Us, never getting bored by the shameless us although we did bothered you a lot ! (I should especially thank you for saving me money on fixing iPad) I’ve never met such a knowledgeable but childlike professor like you, nor have I met such a nice person like you, thank you for all you did.
Hope you can enjoy the rest of your holiday, say hello to Ellen ! (Finally you can some peaceful days…)
Now, if I can just get their English fixed!