Friendship day – meaningful & heartfelt exchange!

Thought for the day:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela


Yesterday, Grace and I used the quote above to initiate discussion in our class of middle school English teachers. We framed the reflection around the idea of “opinion,” giving the teachers synonyms for opinion like point of view and perspective. The teachers had interesting thoughts, and they had no trouble seeing the connection between extending the kindness of using the “other’s” language and the genuine understanding that can follow. The conversation went deeper than we had anticipated, and I couldn’t help but relate Nelson Mandela’s words to my own time here in Kunming.Picture1

More than any other day with the teachers, yesterday felt like we were speaking each others’ languages, proverbially speaking. The result was meaningful and heartfelt exchange. Having built trust over the past several days in sharing the differences and similarities between Chinese and American cultures, the teachers were willing and able to take risks in our class. They boldly expressed their opinions on a variety of subjects, including the Chinese work ethic, loud Americans and tardiness, during a game of “Four Corners.” Later, in a debate on China’s one-child policy, the teachers fiercely defended their opinions, finding English words to express their emotions.Picture2

In the afternoon, I was humbled by the generosity the teachers extended to us during the “Friendship Afternoon.” They treated us to delicious and bountiful Yunnan cuisine. After, we all went boating in Green Lake Park. It was beautiful and there were lots of laughs.

Although the language of communication between the teachers and us is primarily English, we all share the common language of being teachers and being curious students of the world. We are able to communicate in this language as we build relationships and learn from each other.


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