Archive for the 'village life' Category

stubbing your toe on Chinese materialism: happiness elusive no matter your lot

[Note: This is a modified version of an original article (“Rural life is changing, for the better and worse”) published in the Shanghai Star, a weekly expat rag owned by the China Daily. I feel this version more accurately expresses my thoughts on the matter. The original article only exists on web archives like google cache anyway. Flickr photos of the experience here. –JJW]

I didn’t expect to sit at the head table, but that’s what happens when you’re the first foreigner of non-Chinese descent to set foot in a Chinese village. My memories of this “Roots & Shoots wish School” groundbreaking would have been clearer had I not been asked to say a few unprepared words to the 200-plus students and their relatives as the “blond haired, blue eyed” American. I told the group that, as a volunteer with the Jane Goodall Institute, I was honored and excited to learn more about life in rural Anhui.

We were there as visitors, teachers, and—though none of us seemed aware of it at the time—part of the new grassroots of Chinese civil society. We were not there for our own re-education, but that’s what happened, at least to me.

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