Many, many people have been working hard behind the scenes both in China and here in the U.S. to ensure that our guests enjoy as smooth a transition as possible into our school community. I extend my gratitude to everyone involved in the program: past, present and future.
We had a moment this summer when, due to a temporary visa issue, I wasn’t sure our guests would make it here. It caused me to reflect on the value of exchange programs, and to remember certain moments in my own overseas teaching experience when I learned first hand about the term “culture shock.”
I remember trying to direct a Nepali taxi driver to my correct street address, which had no name but I knew was located next to the goat field, and suddenly realizing that all of the Kathmandu Valley felt more or less like a goat field outside the city limits, and that I might not make it home. No GPS…
I remember feeling elated to find out that each teacher had been assigned a large, 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom house with a rooftop balcony, and then realizing that the beautiful house lacked heating and hot water, and only had electricity available 8 hours a day on a rotating schedule.
I remember feeling shocked when my driver opened the car door and wandered over to the sidewalk for a smoke, leaving me in the middle of heavy traffic, without traffic lanes, that included every form of transportation from large pollution spewing trucks to honking mopeds, cows and chickens.
Those were just a few of my more challenging moments.
Highlights included trekking through the Himalayas at 14,000 feet, dining with the princess of Nepal, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at the U.S. Ambassador’s house: and attending the U.S. Air Force Ball decked out in a full Indian style sari with my teacher friends.
Central to facing these joys and challenges were the relationships I formed with Nepali friends, and a strong
school community including families, students, teachers and administrators from around the world.
It is my hope that our visiting students from China will leave our country with new and lasting friendships from across our own school community, and that their experience here in the U.S. will be both enriching and life-transforming on many levels.