Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Part J - Teaching in China - from Jerilderie to Jiangsu

I don't live in Jerilderie, but it's a lovely sounding word, and along with Jindabine and Jan Juc, when I hear it, I know I'm home! 

Did you know Australia has its own Great Wall of China? It's a natural rock feature in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and whilst not on the scale of the man-made Chinese one, it's pretty impressive. 
The photos here are of similar rock formations in a nearby area.
It's dry country, harsh and unforgiving. Plants and trees thrive in their own way, but they're not lush - they've adapted to the climate extremes - the interior of Australia isn't always hot, and nights can be below freezing. Spindly leaves cling to often bare branches. Grasses tend to be dry, unfriendly, spiky, and tussocks, well separated from each other so they don't compete for elusive moisture, struggle from sandy soil which is strewn with vicious prickles.

In stark contrast, the people in Jiangsu province live in a rich fertile area. The massive plane is generously graced with hundreds of flowing rivers, and there are also many natural and manmade lakes and reservoirs. The canals we passed had barges and boats chugging purposefully along and seemed to be transporting goods downstream. There were ducks, geese, and kilometer after kilometer of mixed crop production, huge areas undercover, many more open to the elements. We drove for around 5 hours and even when we left the freeway to turn off to Xuzhou the abundant patchwork crops were still growing prolifically.
The 102,600square km province supports a population of around 80 million people, roughly 4 times that of Australia. This is rich land, and while agriculture is of less importance now than in the past, it still produces a wide variety of crops including rice, wheat, cotton, oil seed, fruit, and lush vegetables. Efforts are being made to produce more organic foods and I often saw watermelon in stalls so fresh that the leaves on the stems hadn't wilted. 
There was a constant heat haze when we were there, which seemed to stretch for hundreds of kilometres, making distant mountains indistinct and gauzy. And everywhere, there's construction - I've never seen so many cranes!

How is it possible to explain to people whose whole life experience is of rich land, reliable rainfall and abundant crops, that the bulk of Australia's vast interior has nothing remotely resembling what they live with. It's their norm, what they've grown up with. Until you've driven day after day through the nothingness that is Australia's interior, it's hard to comprehend.
A dry riverbed would be un-understandable to many people. This feature is called a river on the signs and maps ... surely rivers have water in them ... don't they?

I'd asked my students what kinds of things they wanted to learn about Australia, and geography and history were high on the list. Thank goodness I had lots of photos and a good general knowledge to be able to discuss the things they were interested in, including the Great Artesian Basin, rainfall, floods, drought, population hubs and animals, as well as the British acquisition of the country and the decimation of aboriginal people with white settlement. They kept asking questions and were genuinely interested. 

Why on earth hadn’t I thought of taking a map of Australia, a world map, and a globe? A piece of chalk and uncertain drawing of the country and landmarks had to suffice! 

My previous posts about Teaching in China were our ArrivalBanquets, Culture and Comfort Foods, DrivingExercise, Fabulous Food (revisited!), Games, History and Illness. The next one will be about Kenny!



Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. interesting that they were keen to learn - and teaching the things you mention to some English, American and Australians would be difficult enough ..

Now I know about Flinders from my visit to the Flinders Egyptology museum in London .. having seen and written about your southern shores -I know his father in law was even more travelled and knowledgeable than I'd realised ...

History and Geography now are my two delights in life .. cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Hilary, I find I'm far more interested in HIstory now than I ever was at school. I think travel makes it all come alive and you think of events that were happening at different parts of the world at similar times.