Mandarin and Chinese culture
Rice cooking demonstration, Maine,
of school principal
It is ten days since I returned to China after four months’ teaching experience in the Northeast region of America. Looking back on the days when I made preparations for my American J-1 visa, I think it is necessary to share my experience with those who attempt to go to America through the Cordell Hull Foundation (CHF) Exchange Teacher Program.
I would like to express my great gratitude to Marianne Mason, Executive Director of CHF, who helped me a lot. She called me in China to prepare me for my visa interview. The twelve-hour time difference was an obstacle. It took several attempts to get the dialing sequence and area codes right. Knowing that several Chinese teachers had run into difficulty being approved for J-1 visas solely because they did not understand the process very well, she explained - SLOWLY! - the purpose of the J-1 Exchange Teacher program and the concerns that the visa-issuing officer at the American Embassy might have. She suggested documents to bring to the visa interview so that I would be prepared to supply any proof requested to assure them that I would return to China.
The first step is to prepare all the materials necessary for the interview. What
is necessary for a visa interview? Different people can have different view. I
think two kinds of materials are very important. One is something that proves
that you can afford to live without becoming a burden on the government of the
United States. So you should prepare some income proof from your working unit or
a certificate of deposit from the bank. The other is something that can assure
the immigration official that you are sure to return to your motherland when
your visa expires. To support this, you must prepare some pictures or proofs of
your real estate, car, family photo, marriage certificate or something that
shows your kid or kids are at school in China. All these are very important
although it is possible that you may use just some of them because you are not
sure which will be needed.
On the day of interview, I got
to the US Embassy in Shanghai an hour ahead of schedule. I was well-dressed for
the interview. I thought this was not to show off my wealth but to show my
respect to the immigration official. In front the Embassy many people were
already waiting in line. When it was my turn to enter the Embassy, I got inside,
went through a safety check and came to the waiting hall. Because there were a
lot of people there waiting for the interview, people waited in line again. I
observed and found there are about ten windows for interview. Soon it was my
turn to see the immigration official. The following is the dialogue:
Me：Good afternoon, sir. These are my materials.
Officer: Thank you.
Me: (speaking very fast while he is reading the materials) I am going to stay in America for about four months. I am going to teach there. This is part of the agreement between my school and my sister school in America. I am going to go there to broaden my knowledge about the American culture and custom. I also want to enrich my skills and experience there. This is very important to my work when I come back to China four months later.
Officer: Ehen ... (very interested and friendly) You are going back four months later?
Me: Yes, my students are waiting for me. So I have to come back four months later ……
Me: My wife is also a teacher. She works in the same unit as mine. My daughter is a college student in Hangzhou.
Officer: So you work in the Zhejiang Normal University?
Me: Yes. I work there.
Officer: How many years have you been a teacher?
Me: I have been a teacher for twenty-three years.
Officer: Oh. (signing his name quickly)
Me: Do I pass?
Officer: Yes, of course. Congratulations!
Me: Thank you, sir! Thank you.
Officer: Cordell Hull is my hero ... Good luck to you!
All done! The rest of my
preparation was just to book my plane ticket and pack up all my luggage.
Many friends asked what impressed me most while I stayed in the States. My response was that so many things impressed me a lot but the behaviors that stood out were American people’s good habits of protecting the environment and their good manners in social activities.
It was wintertime when I reached the U.S. Northeast, where I was to work. Ice-fishing was a very popular outdoor activity. People stayed on the ice hunting for fish, usually for hours or even a whole day. It was unavoidable that they would produce some trash. However, when they left, they would collect all their trash, put it in a bag and carry it away. They did this willingly. If you look at the roadside, you can hardly find plastics bags or bottles, because people know it is not considerate to throw trash about.
Towards the end of April, the
ice in the lake in the northeast of the States melts and water opens. If you
look at the blue water of the lake, you can hardly find any trash left by human
being. See some pictures of me enjoying outdoor winter activities. My
gracious hosts made sure that I enjoyed many experiences of the local culture
American people’s good manners in social activities also impressed me very much. In the state of Maine, I took part in many activities, such as seeing films, watching plays, speaking at the club’s breakfast get-together. People came into the hall in line, clapped when it was necessary, laughed when it was proper. They always kept in mind ladies first and stayed quiet during presentations. I like that.
In all the world people speak one Chinese language. Slight differences exist in writing and speaking. Written Chinese can be divided into traditional Chinese, formed by old Chinese characters, and simplified Chinese, which is in modern Chinese characters. As to spoken Chinese, we have many spoken Chinese dialects, Cantonese being an example. Actually, different provinces have different dialects. However, they all speak Putonghua, meaning standard Chinese.
What I would like to say at the end of the article is THANK YOU to the Cordell Hull Foundation. I am sure that many more teachers will succeed in becoming an exchange teacher in the States as part of the CHF program, which encourages teacher exchanges with China.