How our Kids Differ, Country to Country

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Are they really that different?

I’ve just read Riley and the Sleeping Dragon to my first batch of Australian school children.

I must admit, I was nervous. How would they react? Would they know where Tian’anmen Square is? Would they have heard of The Forbidden City? I was just about sure they’d never passed thought to the fish pond in Ritan Park. And what sort of connection could they possibly form to the metaphorical dragon that is the Great Wall of China?

Things started well. The kids at St Monica’s Primary in Canberra are polite, bright and so welcoming. They laughed at my weak jokes (good kids!) and were appropriately wide-eyed and attentive during the beginning of the story. They even knew about Tian’anmen Square.

When we got to Gu Gong, Hou Hai and the hutong alleyways, however, I noticed an ever so subtle yet quite distinct increase in blank-faced stares.

So I compensated. I told them that emperors and empresses sat on gold-dipped thrones in Gu Gong, I told them you can skate on the frozen surface Hou Hai lake in funny, rickety chairs, and I told them the courtyard houses are being smashed to bits to make way for high rise monstrosities.

Wide eyes. Interest piqued. Imagination firing and sending those children headlong into the hutong alleyway photograph in my book, to witness the bricks tumbling to the ground, first hand. Some of them even emerged with Beijing dust in their hair.

It was wonderful.

Then the questions began, and what struck me most about the questions was that they were exactly the same - identical, even - to the questions children asked me in Beijing. Whether the questions were from North American, European, Hispanic, Asian or local Chinese students, they were always similar – and these Aussie kids, with absolutely no exposure to expat life in China, asked exactly the same questions as their Beijing expat counterparts.


This made me realize that no matter where our kids are from or how they’re raised, they still have that curiosity inherent in all children, regardless of race or creed. They all have imaginations and musings steeped in the fundamental stuff of childhood – “where am I in relation to this story, how would I feel if I was in the story, what would it be like to write a story like this – and why does the Great Wall become the dragon?”

All one in the same.

I love that about us humans. We may look different on the outside, but – of course – on the inside our brains are all the same shade of grey. And after all, nothing is ever black or white, is it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing, Tania. Marie and Joseph are just finishing up their unit on China. They Skyped with one of their teacher's friends who is teaching English in China right now.

Patti S.

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