As always it is a pleasure to encounter what one regards as part of life, only to discover that it is in fact the entirety. So it is that when you go to China you feel are experiencing something that is different, and there is always an expectation that the difference will lead to a conclusion that is significant. You could conclude on visiting a city, a town, a country that life there was something demonstrably different, and then again it is, and then again it isn’t. It is really the same dish just cooked with different ingredients.
The trip begins with the usual cup of coffee (double in a small cup), a scanning of the SCMP for the rugby results (just to assure me that it is a significant sport), and of course the world news to see what the Europeans are doing in an effort to remain both functional and united and different. I don’t know if it is just me, but there is a kind of comforting meanness in looking at the uncertainties and challenges in another country and saying ‘At least we are not there, dealing with that’. Same feeling I have sometimes looking at where we contracted in days gone by, though adding a ‘Thank God’ to underline how good it is to be cooking our own dishes.
My morning meander to the MTR on the way to Shenzhen, past the pathways that are too rutted to be make good music with the wheels on my bag, is always fun. There is something new to look at every day. Being Sheung Wan there is another business closing and another opening expressing the belief that life, like rugby, represents a competition between worthy opponents with an outcome that is good for the crowd (with a shade of Darwinian logic for the competitors in case they might think at times that the game is not worth the reward).
The MTR is wildly crowded, signaling that there are more people in Sheung Wan than there used to be, and more of them are French ‘C'est vrai, n'est-ce pas?’ It is endlessly cool to watch all those faces going somewhere with intensity and hustle and desire. Really who needs rugby? The MTR is enough. The travel to Shenzhen takes a couple of hours and I take the opportunity to catch up on the sleep which our company meeting and some general carousing have deprived me of.
The arrival is a pleasant surprise (as it always is) as the people I work with are warmly welcoming which, despite the weather, is the experience you want. We talk about the video we are making and the questions we have to review so we can have something resembling normal conversation about a lesson which one of the teachers has taught. It takes a little while for the teacher to realize that the interview cannot be scripted or what we are attempting to demonstrate (that classroom learning can include natural, meaning driven discourse) will appear as contradictory enough to diminish the merit of the lesson and the interview. The review and discussion around the questions takes all morning and lunch, and into the video we go at one o’clock. It is over in one take (other than a false start of a few seconds) and we wrap it up. I feel strangely tired and exit to find the hotel and food before I think on how the whole lesson, interview and explanatory slides could be something that is new and different, and of course it is, and it isn’t, but it is surprising what a different dish with the same ingredients can do.