Student Voices: Changing Perspectives
submitted by Carol Griffiths, China
Clement : Back to my wonderland
Wendy: The man who opened my mind
The students, authors of the texts, were all English Majors studying at Beijing Ti Yu Da Xue (Beijing Sports University) in China. At the time of writing, Clement was a Freshman, Alex a Sophomore, and Wendy a Junior.
Everything there still seems marvelous: the cloudless blue sky over my head, beautiful butterflies circling flowers in front of my eyes, the clear sound of the flowing brook in my ears. There was also an old pavilion at the top of a small green hill, from which you could often hear children’s happy singing and sweet laughter. I, a naughty boy at that time, always provoked the cows that were eating grass on our football field. Then I ran and ran with other naughty guys up the hill…
With the passing days, this beautiful place, which was in the sea of memory, became farther and farther away from me. Maybe I was afraid that one day it would disappear forever, so I decided to go back to visit my wonderland.
It was sunny on that day. When I walked on the familiar road, I tried hard to look for the shadow of the trees that were fewer than before. Then I suddenly realized that sunshine here was no longer lovely, probably because of the “green house” effect. After I finally found a tree, I sat under it for a rest. I looked around and saw a red butterfly dancing in the air. It reminded me that there were many different kinds of butterflies here of which I appreciated the blue ones best. How I wished to see them again!
I continued my visit. On my way to the football field, there came more questions. I found it strange that all the butterflies I saw were all dressed in red. And I comforted myself that maybe the color red was in fashion among butterflies at that time. But what’s more, I also couldn’t hear the soft melody played by the brook. Must it have become a path?
My disappointing visit still wasn’t over. When I got to the football field, I was greatly shocked by the scene in front of my eyes. There was a football on the grassland, but there were no boys playing. Besides me, the only other creatures I could find were cows. It seemed that they were in charge of this place. While I was thinking how it could happen, I saw a wooden board with some words on it that answered my question: “Welcome to Our Grazing Land!”
On my way back, I walked with some little boys, each of whom wore a pair of glasses with a big schoolbag on his back. I smiled to them but got only their bitter smiles in return.
In some movies, I remember, when the hero came back to his beautiful hometown after many years, he always said to himself: “What a beautiful place! There’s nothing changed…” But when I went back to my wonderland, I had nothing to say. The only thing I could do was to think about everything I saw over and over…
I have always wondered what I would be like if I had not “met” Trevor that summer. Trevor is an Australian guy I talked with in a chat room many years ago. Having no idea what his nickname – 666 - implied then, I replied to his greeting which led to a happy conversation. Trev is one of the smartest guys I have ever talked to. We enjoyed talking about science, history and a lot of fun stuff. Everything looked fine until one day Trev mentioned his son.
“Oh, stop! You, a future doc, are telling me you’re broke?!”
“Yeah. So many things I need to spend money for.”
“Food, my apartment, my car, my son, etc., you know.”
“Hang on a sec. I DID NOT know you have a son!”
He was like 25 years old then and his son was already 6 years old. Having a baby at the age of 19 did not sound cool to me at all. In my world, people were simply divided into two categories—the good and the bad. His existence did not completely fit my concept for either kind. I lived in my own ideal world, believing that my lifestyle was the perfect one. I was oblivious of how condescending I was until I was confronted.
We were talking about his life that day. I was trying to convince him that he deserved a better life. Trev kept silent while I was preaching yet I did not get the signal.
“Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who can judge who?” He threw the three sentences at me and became quiet again.
Looking at the words on the screen, I felt words failed me. His remarks were like bombs, hitting me and exploding inside my mind. Believe it or not, at that moment, I suddenly realized how ridiculous I was. By what standard should I judge others? And who am I to judge others?
Today, when I feel like being judgmental, I bring out Trevor’s words and ponder them. Those are like magic spells that keep my mind open and cool. No one wants to be judged and no one is justified in judging others. Do not impose yourself on others if you do not want to be treated the same way. This is something Trevor has taught me that dramatically changed my outlook and life.
Life is made up of so many “precious moments”: the first day you go to school, feeling nervous and disorientated; the first time you go on stage, walking with trembling legs; you fall in love with the boy next door, caring about nobody in the world but him; you win the most coveted award, falling asleep with a satisfied grin……or being inspired by your teacher when all the knowledge you have about one thing integrated to shed light on questions troubling you for so long. Today, what I would like to share with you is such an experience, which took place when I was desperately preparing myself for the Chinese University Entrance Examination.
With the exam approaching, our teachers were doing whatever they could to ensure our firm grasp of the required knowledge, and our physics teacher, Mr. Yang was offering a series of lectures on all kinds of forces. That lecture begun as normal with half of us exhausted from over night study and ready to sleep, the other half busy doing their chemistry, maths, or English assignments, when Mr. Yang entered the classroom without any notes.
“Today, we will cover the Centripetal Force, seeing how an item comes across a curved surface under different circumstances, he announced, drawing a semi-circle, which represents a curved surface, and a small square, which represents the item, on the blackboard.
Mr. Yang glanced at us with his appraising eyes: “Easy stuff, don’t you think! So, why not answer my questions first.” Mr. Yang cleared his throat and posed three or four questions: “What would the trajectory be if the force increased…… ”
I listened half-absent-mindedly, expecting to answer without much effort, only to find quite the reverse was true .I was unable to answer any of them. “Why I have never thought of that before?” I kept asking myself. My curiosity had been kindled. How come I had no idea of something I was so familiar with, of something I had had enough exercise on! To my comfort though, I was apparently not the only one who was not able to provide answers.
Mr. Yang turned around with a triumphant smile, and when he spoke again, his voice was the only sound. Nobody was scratching on maths assignments; nobody was small talking; nobody even moved. Everyone was motionlessly staring at the blackboard, absorbing each word, comprehending every line drawn on the board. The class room was immersed on a silence as if 56 of us were mute statues. People were quiet not because they know they were supposed to do so, but because they were concentrating.
Never had my brain worked as fast. Every thing I had learned over that year was like scattering building blocks and at that moment they converged, integrated, making a distinctive shape. 45 minutes flew away as if I had only had 10 seconds. I was desperately hoping that Mr. Yang would go temporarily deaf, so that he could not hear the ringing bell, or a mechanic would come in, informing us the bell rang at the wrong time, and we still had 30 minutes left. Of course, neither of that happened.
“That’s all for today. Hope you have enjoyed it. Remember there is always a new approach to things, as long as you are careful enough,” Mr. Yang said with a smile. I bet he felt good about that lecture too.
That is my “cherished moment”, and I feel lucky to have been able to experience it. Now I am a university student. With all those professors around me, I believe one day, I will experience that again. I am still waiting with hope.
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