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The experience of a Chinese sophomore who volunteered to teach in Cameroon [TRANSLATION]

The experience of a Chinese sophomore who volunteered to teach in Cameroon [TRANSLATION]

The experience of a 90s-generation Xiaoshan girl who volunteered to teach in Africa

90后萧山妹子非洲支教的日子

[Trans.: Xiaoshan is a district in Hangzhou, the capital of the Chinese province of Zhejiang]

Published August 11, 2013 on Sohu.com

By Xiang Yaqiong

“It was a new experience for me.” That was the evaluation Guo Xinyu, a 90s-generation university student, gave of her experience teaching in Cameroon after she returned from a volunteer trip to scorching-hot Africa.

Although Guo only taught there for a month, her trip was one that she would never forget.

Shocked by the crude construction of the school

Guo is a sophomore studying Spanish and intercultural communication at the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo campus. She is an simple and genuine young girl from Xiaoshan. Not long ago, she and a few companions went to Cameroon to take up volunteer teaching jobs. Before this trip, most of what Guo knew about Africa was from television.

Although Guo and her companions had prepared themselves mentally before they went on the trip, Guo was stunned by the crude conditions at the school they were to teach at when they arrived there.

The so-called “school” consisted of a few, shabby one-story buildings, and there were no blackboards in the classrooms. In addition, students from different grades went to class in the same rooms.

“Although the learning conditions were inadequate, the children there studied very hard and were fixated on their studies,” Guo said.

She also said that she used English to interact with the students because English and French are the official languages there. She also conveyed Chinese culture to the children by teaching them Chinese. According to Guo, the students there had an intense interest in Chinese culture.

Some people say it requires a lot of courage to volunteer to teach in Africa. There is no water to take baths with, so you can only clean yourself using a wet cloth. There is also a shortage of food, so people try to conserve what little food they have; when they are famished, they break off a small piece from a cracker and eat it to allay the hunger. However, these were not the most significant difficulties that Guo and her companions faced.

Guo Xinyu, a Chinese volunteer, teaching in Cameroon

Guo Xinyu, a Chinese volunteer, teaching in Cameroon. Photograph by Guo Xinyu.

She became homesick when she was ill

When volunteering as a teacher in foreign countries, the biggest fear is not a lack of food or clothing, but is instead getting sick. Illness was the most challenging, interminable and homesickness-inducing experience for Guo and her companions.

Guo suddenly got a fever on the fourth day after she arrived at the school where she was volunteering. What was worrying was that there were many people there who were sick with malaria, and the area was infested with mosquitoes. Guo was afraid that she had contracted malaria.

Soon afterwards, she was sent to the local hospital for treatment. “Those days when I was sick were when I missed home the most. This was also when I had second thoughts about the trip, and considered whether or not I should go back home,” Guo said.

She added, however, that the local people fortunately had had a lot of contact with Chinese people and gave them a lot of help. This made her feel welcome in a foreign land. In the end, Guo and her companions supported each other and persevered.

When this reporter asked her why she chose to volunteer in Africa rather than elsewhere, Guo said that she had resolved to go to Africa because she enjoyed helping the people there. She said she did not regret her decision to go there. It was not only a novel experience for her, but it was also a chance for her to disseminate Chinese culture and, in doing so, help the people of Africa learn more about China.

Chinese culture is welcomed in Africa

What struck Guo the most was the warm welcome the locals gave to Chinese people. Whenever the locals meet yellow-skinned people on the streets, they greet them warmly, even if they are strangers.

Guo also said that when she went to interact with the locals at the Confucius Institute there, she found that there were many Africans who were very proficient in Chinese and were eager to interact with her and her group.

“In the one-month period I was there, I discovered that life there is more easy-going that it is in many Chinese cities. And precisely because the standard of life there is not as high as it is in many parts of China, many people are content living with much less than Chinese people would consider comfortable,” Guo said.

Guo and her companions were attracted to Africa because of its simple and friendly nature, and they cherish the memories of their time there.

90后萧山妹子非洲支教的日子

  记者项亚琼

  “这是我人生一次全新的体验。”刚从非洲炽热土地上支教回来的90后大学生郭昕妤,这样评价她在非洲喀麦隆支教的那些日子。虽然支教时间只有1个月,但这次非洲之行让郭昕妤终生难忘。

  学校简陋超出想象

  就读于宁波诺丁汉大学国际文化交流与西班牙语专业的大二学生郭昕妤,是个淳朴的萧山妹子。不久前,她与同伴一起奔赴非洲喀麦隆支教。此行之前,郭昕妤对非洲的了解大多来自于电视。

  一路奔波,郭昕妤和同伴两人辗转到了支教的学校,虽然事先有一定的心理准备,可看到当地学校简陋的教学条件时,郭昕妤傻眼了……

  所谓的学校,只是几间破旧的平房,教室里甚至都找不到一块黑板,不同年级的孩子挤在一间屋子里上课。

  “条件虽然艰苦,不过那里的孩子们学习的认真劲,可以用痴迷来形容。”郭昕妤说,英语和法语是当地的官方语言,她除了用英语与当地的孩子交流外,还要为那里的孩子教授汉语,传播中国文化。当地的孩子,通过她的描述,对中国文化表现出了十分浓烈的兴趣。

  有人说去非洲支教,那需要足够的勇气。没有水洗澡,她们只能简单擦下身子;缺少食物,她们能省则省,实在饿了就抓点饼干充饥……然而,这些都还不是摆在郭昕妤她们面前的最大困难。

  生病的时候最想家

  在异国他乡支教,最怕的不是缺衣少食,而是生病。生病的时候,对于郭昕妤她们来说是最难熬的无尽的思乡之情。

  在到达支教学校的第4天,郭昕妤突然发起了高烧。而令人恐惧的是,在当地有不少疟疾病人,蚊虫又特别厉害,郭昕妤担心自己会感染上疟疾。

  随后,她被送入当地的医院进行救治。“生病的那段日子是最想家的时候,也是思想斗争最激烈的时候。是回国还是继续?”郭昕妤说,庆幸的是,她们在当地遇到了不少中国人,给予了她们许多帮助,让她在异乡感受到了温暖。靠着互相打气,她和同伴最终都坚持了下来。

  当记者问她为何要把支教地点选在非洲时?郭昕妤说,之前选择去非洲支教已做好了一些心理准备,能尽自己力量去帮助当地的人是件快乐的事。对于这次支教的决定她表示并不后悔,因为去非洲支教不仅是自己一次全新的人生体验,也把中国的文化传播了过去,让非洲人民更了解中国。

  中国文化在非洲受欢迎

  当地对于中国人的热情是郭昕妤印象最深的一道风景线。走在路上即便是陌生人,看到黄皮肤的她们,都会热情地打招呼。

  郭昕妤说,她去那里的孔子学院交流的时候,遇到了很多中文学得很顺的非洲人,积极地想跟她们交流。

  “1个月时间的接触,我发现当地的生活与国内很多城市相比,多了一份安逸与闲适,也正因为当地的条件不如中国的许多地方,当地人对于生存的要求并没有中国那么高。”郭昕妤说。

  一块热情淳朴的大陆,也正是这片土地如此吸引郭昕妤并让她们如此怀念的原因。

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About Tendai Musakwa

Tendai Musakwa is a Zimbabwean journalist and researcher. Currently based in Shanghai, Tendai regularly translates Chinese news articles and microblog posts for the China Africa Project.