What do dancers do when they visit the Great Wall of China?
On our final evening, Ms. Yingli arranged for us to attend a tea ceremony and farewell dinner with our Chinese student partners. The tea ceremony itself was mesmerizing. The woman who performed the demonstration flourished her hands over the pots and cups as she described the process of making and serving tea. The entire ceremony was in Chinese, so although I’m not sure of her explanations, her elegant, stylized hand movements turned tea into art.
We then had the opportunity to just hang out with our partners—something we haven’t had a lot of time to do on such a busy trip. I sat with a few other dance company members as we tried our best to answer our Chinese friends’ questions about U.S. politics, history, and culture. Their questions were difficult to answer as I was struck by the complexity of the events, phenomenon, and the social structure of our daily lives.
I wasn’t prepared to explain what it’s like to be an American and have to synthesize all of these aspects of my life that I take for granted. I also felt that I had to reorient the way that I think about these facets of my life so that they could be accessible to students who don’t know a ton about what the U.S. is really like and are not native English speakers. I was challenged by their poignant questions and the ways in which they related our various American experiences to their own diverse Chinese experiences. The parallels and dissimilarities made for a very interesting and insightful evening. I’m so thankful to have had the chance to sit down and both listen and talk to these thoughtful and receptive students.
— Amelia, first-year Ph.D. student, African American and African Diaspora Studies