October 15, 2011
I recently earned my Advanced TESOL teacher certification. While I was excited, it is really just a step toward a goal. One of the things I have had to decide throughout the course, was where, ideally, I would like to teach English abroad. As Fortune would have it, I currently have two possible assignments: Tanzania, and Beijing, China. I have been trying to weigh the pros and cons of each, and I suppose this post is just me voicing my thoughts. Take it as you will.
First, Africa! It is the birthplace and origin of all of mankind. It is a vast continent that encompasses everything from snowy mountain, to sandy desert, to lush hill, to grassy plain. It s a land of animals, animals that run free and maze. It is a land of so many peoples, so many cultures, so much tradition and history. It is a land of great spirituality, with a different focus than the West has. In Africa are great spaces, great ideas, great contradictions. There are thousands of languages and just as many cultures. There is a vast cuisine. There is the wide sky, the cool nights, the trees, the lions, the rhinos, the elephants. There is a very open, warm, welcoming culture — people who would gladly take a stranger into their house without a thought. There are smiles, and humor, and dancing, and feasting, and celebrations. There are bright, varied colors that contrast with the Serengeti’s tan and green.
But China! To consider this vast, ancient civilization that has been in place since before most other countries even existed! There are dragons, and gods, and Buddha. There is a language that is as old as mankind, that is complex and rich and delicate. There, you find a smiling, shining, clever people who love food and puns. You find wide avenues flowing with bicycles; enormous open plazas with beautiful architecture; narrow back alleys with little shops and cafes here and there. China is a land of mountains: most people live on the outer rim because the middle is so mountainous. But even in the mountains are hidden farming villages. On the Wall, you can read Medieval inscriptions, while also looking down upon modern, thriving cities. And the Chinese are just as hospitable and kind as the Africans. They pride themselves in treating their guests.
How can I possibly choose? I am torn. I am just as eager to learn Swahili, as I am to learn Mandarin. I am just as keen to taste goat mat in peanut sauce, as I am to taste Beijing duck in Beijing. I am equally thrilled to learn the intricacies, the etiquette, the subtle mannerisms, of both cultures. So, for now, I will simply think.