Headlines from Asia and America on WWII

August 15th marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. For decades around this date, Japanese prime ministers have offered declarations for what their government did to their neighbors back then. Over the course of the past few days, I have seen plenty of articles about Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement and how his words were received by a few countries, including America. Headlines seem to speak volumes about a country’s agenda and intentions. Or would it be the president’s? Here’s mine.

https://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Neil-Postman-honesty-business-excellence-politics-clarity-Meetville-Quotes-34914.jpg
https://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Neil-Postman-honesty-business-excellence-politics-clarity-Meetville-Quotes-34914.jpg

Truth be told, I’m not into politics. I have my reasons, but they will be saved for another time. I am however transparently into people and how they treat each other based off of past events, current situations, and future possibilities. As I’ve read news articles this week, I have been engrossed by how headlines and statements can be phrased differently based on which outlet is feeding the information.

Abe profound grief
CNN’s headline
Abe refrains
XinhuaNet is a top news source within China
US welcomes Abe statement
a Japanese newspaper on America’s responses

The list and pictures could go on while sources within the same borders contrast in their opinions. For example, what CNN says above seems to be the opposite of what the New York Times is trying to get across to their readers.

What I’d like to do is see this story from the angles of the Chinese, Japanese, and American.

Chinese

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying, Japan “needs to recognize and reflect on its history to win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community.” If trust still needs to be won, then the trust obviously isn’t there. I don’t know who she is speaking for as far as neighbors and community, but this statement is not to be taken lightly. China’s sources seem to be seeking an apology for the millions who were affected by WWII. I try to imagine the depth of this while feeling saddened that many of my students’ parents on WeChat are posting celebratory and deprecating comments about Japan. Is forgiveness an option? I dare ask since our English office of Chinese, Canadian, and American descent last year had moments of tension due to China/Japan relations being discussed. Each time, it seemed that the foreigners “don’t understand.” I want to. I seriously want to.

What are Chinese people expecting every year in the statements? A checklist of words, the LA Times surmises, that include “colonial rule,” “aggression,” and “apology” like the prime minister did back in 1995? Clear expectations from both sides would definitely help.

Japanese

From Prime Minister Abe’s speech, he echoes the apologies of the past but doesn’t see a need for more in the future. “Postwar generations now exceed 80% of Japan’s population.” This has me wondering how much of China’s population is postwar. Numbers anyone? From my American perspective, I’d be hinting at how repetitive apologies, over time, become meaningless. How does this differ in Asian culture? I’m all ears there. How long or much will it take to “win the trust”?

But wait a minute, how could people say this statement was “watered-down” or not enough? Maybe it’s because of how Japanese textbooks still discuss WWII and other events? (Side note: This is an issue that takes place worldwide. Just look at Texas’ recent controversy.) Is Japan’s long-term goal to alter future generations and their knowledge of WWII events? It is one thing to learn from one’s history so not to be doomed by it, but it’s a whole other ballgame to change history. As a teacher myself, I ask: How can my students learn from history if it’s modified to fit one’s agenda and show that mistakes of the past weren’t ours?

American

I haven’t personally experienced a time where millions of Americans have died from war. Therefore, I can only share something a black American coworker of mine shared last year. This was over a conversation at lunch when he, a Canadian, and I were discussing why the Chinese in our office took so much offense to our questions and opinions. He said, “If I could, I’d tell them how I could still be mad at white people because of what happened years ago.” We also came to a 9/11 point where the topic of radical Islam was approached. None of us were directly affected by either of these events, so we have been quick to forgive. We think those who have direct connections struggle much, much harder. Meanwhile, forgiveness and love should be the ultimate goals. Right?

I’m not surprised to see the Pew Research Center say that “Americans believe that Japan has atoned for its actions during WWII.” That’s probably where I (and probably my students) don’t sit well with some Chinese.

Nonetheless, I think it’s clear to see that every country has its history and its blind spots. While one group points their fingers at another, the phrase that “three fingers are pointing right back at you” becomes rather less cliché.

He is Special Needs

When first arriving in China to teach EFL, the first year and a half was quite the ride. It was during the Chinese New Year of 2012 that I realized where my heart lies. Children with special needs and the time I spend with them does something very rarely other acts can do for me. It gives me unspeakable peace and joy. Therefore, when I was asked by a Chinese colleague what my passion was, I told her I’d like to be with the children sitting on the side of the road here. Provide food for them. Show them they have purpose. Guide them in truth and love. One experience left an impression on me. I was blessed to visit a school only for children hard of hearing or with developmental disabilities (see below).

I had one particular student in my 3rd grade class who other students looked down upon and didn’t regard any of her comments and actions with respect. I took time with her in class and outside of it, even if English was her L2. It was with these thoughts in mind that my wife and I returned to America for the 2012-2013 school year.

handing out gift bags our school put together

The year back in the US was very informative and helpful. I ended up having a caseload of 25 students who had mild disabilities, and I enjoyed growing with them very much. While working as a Special Services teacher, I learned quite a bit about differentiation, how to advocate, and little ways to make change. All of these qualities are vital for any teacher, but when we moved back to China in 2013, I had no idea how much had changed with the school, particularly in its struggle with some students. The student I had before had improved greatly, and she is now allowed by her peers to be more involved in academic events. The athletic ones still not so much. I have a few students currently in 2nd and 5th grade who require more support in their individual ways, and I love that my classes have these needs.

On the rise as of lately is one boy I’ll call Jay. He possibly has no special need, and I say “possibly” because I haven’t observed him. His mother was told by the school she has to come and observe him daily. I say “no special need” because of my collaboration with other special education teachers via Twitter, email, blogs, etc. The reason why Jay may have a “special need”? He’s different from the other 99% of the school. That indeed is an overstatement, but you get the picture. Jay is in an education system which heavily relies on culture and tradition. Students are demanded to sit up straight, fix mistakes in any subject (Chinese, Math, English) by the tens and at times hundreds, not touch their pencils while teachers are talking, look down and grunt in agreement with whatever the teacher or admin say, and pass standardized tests that are one size fits all. I know, I know…students looking down and agreeing with authority is cultural. But what if culture and tradition don’t know much about children with special needs? Our Chinese elementary principal has told me thrice she doesn’t trust doctors who say our students have “sensory issues” or “no problem at all.”

Now our school leaders don’t know what to do. Thus they’ve decided to weed these students out before accepting them. Say what?! I know, I thought the same. Because of “not having the resources or the team,” future 1st graders have to attend a few subjects on a Saturday in a classroom setting to see how they do. From there, the admin and teachers observe to see from their perspective who may have a “special need” and can’t fit our bill.

people fear
This breaks my heart, but I understand why the school has done this. There are a myriad of reasons that would take more posts to delve into, but again, it breaks my heart. These students, children…are misunderstood. How would you feel? What would you do in my situation? Comments from teachers and parents alike would be great! I’m all ears.

Sports Day

Today was our Sports Day, and it’s one of my favorite days of the school year. It’s up there with the field trips that we take every semester to a park. But seriously…the day is filled with students marching, running, throwing, jumping, screaming, cheering, drinking, and eating. You name it, and it could very well be happening.

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Before the meet started, our principal shared how she was happy about the events to come, but she wasn’t too keen on the food the students brought to eat. I thanked her personally later, and she explained that this is a generational thing (according to her husband). When they were children, they didn’t have much food so Sports Day was an occasion they looked forward to because of the candy that was provided. Nowadays, students’ families don’t struggle so much for food, but they still bring the “junk food” as she called it publicly. Good for her!

The Ball Throw's Boundaries
The Ball Throw’s Boundaries

The day transitioned into the foreign teachers helping out with the Ball Throw. It’s the part of this that we always assist with. The students are sent in groups to us by gender from each class. Ergo we would have only several at a time, and my job was to guide them when to throw their three attempts. The others were uber-easy to manage, no matter the age ranging from 1st-5th grade. During this time, I was able to chat with students and give pointers on how to throw the ball according to the students’ comfortability and liking. We finished around 11:20am and headed off for lunch. For some reason, our cafeteria believes that baozi is a great meal for a day like this. Many of us teachers beg to differ especially since we have to run afterwards. Hence I brought a peanut butter sandwich and some almonds to eat. I wasn’t about to repeat what happened last year. 😉

When lunch finished, I went outside and watched many of our staff members including: cooks, maintenance men, dorm teachers, nurses, etc. doing an assortment of activities. Some were doing long jump. Others were throwing a heavy ball while a group of older cafeteria and finance staff were playing a favorite of mine. Basically, you roll a ball and try to skillfully get it to land on the zone that gives you 10, 9, 8, or 7 points. Why’s that a favorite? Because, as I shared with my colleagues, we get to see so many staff members laugh and make memories together. If they’re anything like the few of us FTs, jokes and stories will inevitably be told for years to come. It was during this time I decided to start warming up. About two hours after lunch would be when the teachers’ races would begin. That’s right! The glory days return! Or as a friend said today, it’s when we have fun. Exactly! Right…

The 100m dash came and went. Then came some more races and relays of former students of mine. If anything, this day reminds me of the camaraderie and good times my high school track team had. So it gives me joy to cheer on the students and push them physically and mentally to do their best. The race of the day came, I believe, when the 5th grade classes had their girls run the 4x100m relay. When the race has all three teams neck and neck, it can be quite invigorating. It was right before this that I aided the Ball Throw again and witnessed a 6th grade boy toss a ball over 150 feet. Yea, he won. Hands down. Then came the 200m dash. My legs were heavy for that one. 😀

The last event of the afternoon was the 6x200m relay. This consists of teams from all levels: elementary, middle, and high school. The high school usually has a team of students while the other two departments have teams of teachers and other staff create teams of their own. Those who wanted to run for elementary were up and ready while a few more needed to be pressured to join in on the “fun.” Several Chinese teachers didn’t take part in any event because they weren’t about to lose any face. It truly didn’t matter to me. What’s the harm in being embarrassed in front of your students? Of course it depends on your context, but this wasn’t anything to be worried the least bit about. We ended up in third place. Not bad.

Closing Ceremony
Closing Ceremony

Lastly came the closing ceremony where a class from each grade was awarded the winner by points. Another certificate was handed out for the classes with the best sportsmanship. The administrators made some final comments, and the time came for the PE staff and some students to help break down as the school headed in to prepare for going home. I talked with some teachers, broke down equipment, and congratulated students in their efforts and achievements from the day. It was definitely a sunny day filled with laughs, smiles, high-fives, encouragement, challenges, teamwork, and friendship.

Moments likes these are hard not to think about upon the return home. I was touched by the students who smiled so much at my acknowledgement. I consider now the ones who I high-fived though they didn’t get first place. My hope is that the students walked away from the field with stronger desires to do well in their physical fitness, eating habits, teamwork, character, and the list could go on.

Man! It would be nice to have this kind of event more than once a year.

Morning Street Sweepers

Street Sweepers getting out of their morning ride.
The “boss” explains the ropes to a rookie. Or so it seems.

I’ve seen these morning street sweepers at least several times now while waiting for the school bus in the morning. Not every day do they appear on our road, but I notice them each time. Chinese don’t take a second glance, but that’s probably because the workers here are expected to do their jobs. I’ve heard they’re paid quite low, which is sad if true since it can be quite back-bending. It must be enough to live on though I assume every one of them is close to retirement, if not retired already.

Having a Baby in a Chinese Hospital

My wife and I arrived home hours ago from the hospital with our firstborn, Caleb Steven Scott. At birth, he was 7.1 lbs. (3.22kg) and 20.1” (51cm). What an event! I never imagined in my life that my first child would be born in China, let alone another country. https://twitter.com/danielscott_5/status/519032561125691392 It all started Thursday night, 8pm Beijing time when my wife started to have contractions. They weren’t too bad or intense until the next afternoon. But when late morning came, we were informed by our ride that the highway (the best way to get there) was packed and would have traffic jams. My wife, Marta, wasn’t smiling anymore. Thus, our ride came to pick Marta, our doula (and her 5-month old), her friend and me up to go on to the hospital. It took over an hour to arrive there when a normal day would take forty-five minutes or less depending on who’s driving. 😉 When we reached the hospital at 11:30-11:45am, it took at least a half an hour for paperwork to be completed and for us to be given a place to stay the next three days—this was the normal amount of time that Chinese stay after the birth. The time was longer than normal since we forgot Marta’s medical history at our apartment. Now you’re thinking…what? Her medical history? Yep because Chinese hospitals don’t keep the records. You do, on paper. This brought one of our doula’s Chinese friends to the hospital to make a delivery. An amazing support team, and this is only the beginning!

Marta met with a nurse to check on certain things in her medical history.
This was our room in the Chinese hospital. Quite nice, except for the beds. Oh well…

In the room, the nurses got right to work on checking my wife’s health along with the baby’s heartbeat.

This was Caleb’s pulse when we arrived.

Marta was 1cm dilated. Did we come too early? Was this a mistake? Questions like these and others came to my mind at that time and the hours following since a couple hours later she was only 2cm. It’s gonna happen tomorrow. We’ve got some time. But wait, this is really happening! At times, I couldn’t contain my joy while I had to maintain my focus on coaching. Her water had broken. Sweet mother! This is definitely goin’ to happen the next 24 hours! Or else the health of the baby wouldn’t be too good. Time at this point seemed to go slower than normal. Marta was moved down to the “Labor Room” so that a team of 2-3 nurses could check the baby’s heartbeat more frequently. She started to feel more pain here so our doula and I rubbed her lower back every time like it was the end of the world. I maintained my focus, as the Bradley method instructs you to do.

Here’s one of the nurses checking Caleb’s heartbeat in the Labor Room. Their support was fantastic!

We moved back up to our hospital room, and time was still slow. I regained my strength at this time with what our doula’s friend brought for us, Whoppers from the Burger King across the road. Perfect! As a team of three, we stayed on track while the feelings were becoming more intense for Marta but each one was only 45 seconds or so. It felt like only a couple hours later that Marta turned out to be 7-8cm dilated. Time was speeding up, and the delivery was in sight!

I’m not a fan of selfies, but our doula suggested I do one. If only you could see my smile behind it.

Here is where my joy was allowed to be shown, as I could infer from my wife’s nonverbals. We went to the delivery room at 7:30pm on Friday, October 3, 2014. At 8:41, Caleb was born. I spare some details for the sake of privacy and respect while others are necessary, right? 😀

Caleb looking into his mother’s eyes.

During the time of our stay to the moment we left, the hospital took great care of us. They took out our trash twice a day. They checked on Marta and the baby (sometimes too often, haha). The nurses changed the sheets daily. We were given time and space for ourselves and for Caleb once he was born. The nurses never once looked at us differently or giggled about anything out of the baby norm. There were only two times when a nurse we hadn’t seen before came in with one of ours, and then walked out asking questions. Probably rookies to foreigners. Who knows. It didn’t bother us. The next steps were explained to us (though our Chinese friend informed us that nurses on two different floors spoke of two conflicting ideas). One may say, “They didn’t do the right things. They are uninformed in today’s methods. They did this or did that.” You are correct, to a degree. But in the end, we had foreign and Chinese friends stop by to check on us, bring food, translate, hold Caleb and pray over us as a new member had joined the family. Blessings just kept raining down on us. It helps to have a wife who knows so much Chinese, especially the medical lingo. My heart was heavily touched, and it didn’t help that I was finishing up Andrew Murray’s The Master’s Indwelling also. Not even the cold sores on my mouth can stand up to the joy I have looking to my right and seeing my wife take a nap with our little Caleb Steven Scott.