It is always nice when family comes to China. Brandi and Rob were on a tour but we did snatch them away for a few hours.
It is always nice when family comes to China. Brandi and Rob were on a tour but we did snatch them away for a few hours.
Home buying and selling are examples of leadership activities. I teach leadership principles to three classes at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. We recently discussed the quote: “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” Students learned that leadership in the home is the highest priority. They learned that for most people, the single biggest financial decision they will make will involve buying a home.
In addition to teaching students a topic, I am tasked with giving them an experience in American culture. So, I devised a way for them to learn all of these leadership principles, practice making an important decision, learn additional vocabulary, experience the “American Dream,” and have fun–all at the same time.
I started by printing out home information sheets from Zillow. I chose the Atlanta area and filtered for homes in the $250K to $300K range. For each home, I determined an unmet need and wrote it on an instruction sheet for each pair of students. For instance, one sheet might say, “You own a beautiful home on Sheffield Way, but your mother is coming to live with you and you need a place for her.”
Students paired up while we learned how to navigate “ad speak” such as “w/frplc” (with fireplace), or “bsmnt” (basement). Students had a hard time, but with some coaching they caught on quickly. They learned some new vocabulary like: jack and jill bath, master suite, stucco, crown molding, HOA, HVAC, half bath, “as is,” and mother-in-law suite.
Once students understood the new vocabulary, each pair had to come up with a 1-minute commercial about the home they owned and why their fellow students should buy it. Their commercials were hilarious, especially since many of the terms were new to them. Many had seen some slick Chinese commercials on TV and tried to imitate that style in their speech. Their peers found this to be extremely entertaining. If a student wasn’t presenting a 1-minute commercial, he/she was busy listening to fellow students’ commercials to see which home best fit the unmet need they were looking to fill.
Once all commercials were finished, I turned them loose to buy and sell. Their only assignment was to sell their existing home and buy another home that fit their needs. They only had about 10 minutes for this open marketplace. The excitement level was amazing, and in the end most students were able to accomplish the objective. Once in a while, however, a pair of students would admit that they were homeless and unable to buy a new home. Or in some cases, some students owned two homes.
I would call this activity “joyful chaos.” Check out the short video and tell me what you think? Any suggestions for future classes? (By the way, I tried to make this as English as possible, but some students slip into Mandarin when excited. A few students who are learning Cantonese, will only speak to me in Cantonese)
We took advantage of a week off in October (National Week) to visit Inner Mongolia. We fell in love with these people. They are hard working and industrious. They can also somehow deal with the cold!
These rock shrines are everywhere.
Gratitude can be dangerous. Yes, you heard that correctly. Gratitude can be dangerous because it can cause movement or change in our circumstances. So if you want everything to stay the same, definitely stay away from gratitude.
It’s ironic. Take for instance the feeling of being stuck . . stuck in the same job, living in the same house, doing the same things, etc. When we talk to our inner selves about being stuck, we seldom use the word “gratitude.” Instead, we find ourselves saying words like, “mundane, ho-hum, dissatisfied, and grin-and-bear-it.”
Logic would seem to indicate a different result. If we are grateful for something, it would logically follow that we are satisfied with it, and less likely to make a change. But the opposite is actually true. In our yet-to-be published book with the working title, “Surviving by a Thread” by Chuck, Laraine, and Jeremy Chamberlain, we pay a great deal of attention to the characteristics of gratitude that help us survive and even find joy and abundance during turbulent times. The irony of gratitude is discussed in the book as follows:
Laraine thought of a different example. Leaning back on the sofa, she said, “Maybe you know people who say they are stuck in their jobs, in their homes, and in their relationships. Nothing ever changes. It never gets unbearable, but it also never gets much better. The reason people like this feel stuck is not because they enjoy their lives so much and are feeling so grateful for what they have . . .”
Chuck followed the thought. “No, they’re stuck because of fear that doing something different won’t make them happy.”
Looking at her son, Laraine asked, “Now can you imagine what would happen if these people could feel a deep appreciation for their lives? Do you think things would change or stay the same?”
Jeremy thought for a moment and said, “Hmm . . it’s almost counter-intuitive, but I think when we feel a deep appreciation for the way things are, a deep satisfaction about our lives and what’s happening, we aren’t likely to get stuck.”
“Kind of ironic, isn’t it?” Chuck realized out loud. “When we’re grateful for the way things are, we make progress in our lives and feel free to make changes. When we merely focus on making changes, we get stuck because we’re not grateful for the way things are.”
It takes some deep soul-searching to fully understand the role gratitude can play in finding joy and abundance, but it’s worth the effort.
Laraine decided to let Chuck come and teach one of her classes about football. “Real” football — you know, not the one the rest of the world plays! What better way to understand America than to participate in one of our most important sports? The goal was to help students to understand the game well enough they could take part in conversations with American citizens and have some degree of comfort about discussing football. We started in the classroom and then went outside. The students thought it was great fun.
A huddle is just a meeting where you laugh and try to figure out what’s happening in the game.
We had the opportunity to visit the monument for Genghis Khan. He was the founder of the great Mongol Empire, which compared to anything else in world history, was the most far-reaching contiguous empire.
We so much wanted to correct their signage.
Match each statement to the correct country below. Possible answers are Ecuador, Russia, China, United States, Kazakhstan, Chile, Greenland. No cheating! Don’t look at the answers below until you’ve given your best answers.
Answers: This is a trick quiz. China is the answer to all of the questions (though possibly not the only answer to question #4). I’ll bet you’re a bit surprised. Comment with your biggest surprise. The picture above is the Gobi Desert, which stretches across parts of China and Mongolia. The Gobi Desert is home to a large population of wild camels.
I recall my two-year volunteer church service in Hong Kong more than 42 years ago. My sweat and the excessive humidity soon rotted away my leather watch band, leaving me with no convenient way to tell time. Fortunately, my companion and I most often visited vibrant, mixed use residential areas where ground-level one-room shops, called “pou-taus,” were prevalent. Each of these pou-taus prominently displayed a clock on the back wall. Because we had scheduled numerous appointments, knowing the correct time became critical.
On one occasion, I asked my companion to poke his head in the doorway of the nearest pou-tau and tell me the time.
“It’s 6: 42,” he said over his shoulder.
“Good.” I smiled confidently. “We have plenty of time before our 7:00 appointment.”
A few minutes later, we walked by another pou-tau. Glancing up, I saw the time: 6:40.
“Oh no!” I yelled. “Something’s wrong! That can’t be right!”
Then it became a race from pou-tau to pou-tau. We soon realized that every shopkeeper had a different time on their clock. What had begun as a certainty that we had plenty of time became anxiety about being late. When we only had one source of information, we seemed quite confident in that information. Once we expanded our sources, our degree of confidence dropped dramatically, leaving us anxious.
From 1962 to 1981, “the most trusted man in America,” Walter Cronkite, signed off his television news segments with, ” . . And that’s the way it is,” and we believed him. We harbored no suspicions that Walter was withholding any important truths from us, or that he was skewing the facts to fit a political agenda. We enjoyed the certainty of his voice and the surety of its message.
We live today in a world rich with news sources. We can construct our perception of “reality” from information gleaned from several broadcast news stations, numerous cable news sources, so called “info-tainment” programs, newspapers, blogs, vlogs, tweets, social media sites, podcasts, and word of mouth. We don’t need to wait for the nightly news anymore. We can get it as fast as it can be fed to us, and the “feeding” is much more personalized. We can receive just the right kind of news, with the most appealing “slant,” sent directly to a device in our hands, with audio piped only to us through earbuds in our ears. And it isn’t just news. We basically have the world’s collective knowledge at our fingertips. We no longer need to wonder about anything! Because we fear uncertainty, we are relieved to believe we no longer need to be uncertain about anything. In the time it takes to wonder, we can pull up a massive volume of possible “answers” to our questions.
Sounds great, right? But what’s the cost?
Based on my experience with the clocks, one obvious cost in having so much data at our fingertips is an increase (yes, that’s right) increase in uncertainty. What are some other costs? In our yet-to-be-published book, Surviving by a Thread, we discuss benefits of uncertainty and outline some ways in which technology is creating a situation where, ironically, we are surrounded by data but ever-lacking understanding or wisdom.
From Chapter Six, “Embracing Uncertainty,” we read about another side-effect of attempting to eliminate uncertainty:
Chuck continued, “I’ve only recently gotten into the habit of using my smartphone to give me step by step verbal directions to wherever I’m going. Until now, I’ve been very proud of my ability to navigate, even in the most unfamiliar locations, even if it meant calculating directions based on shadows and the time of day. After a few weeks of ‘Okay Google,’ however, I’ve noticed that my internal direction finder is being supplanted by the soothing voice of . . . of whoever that woman is on Google. I no longer even look at landmarks or wonder what the shadows are telling me. I have turned into a bit of a robot. It scares me to the point I now limit the number of times I will ask Google for directions. And asking for directions is just one question we can ask of our technology. We can apparently remove uncertainty about nearly everything! Just ask Google!”
We quickly lose our capacities. We no longer have to remember phone numbers, thoughtfully plan out a route to a destination, communicate that route verbally to a friend, or exercise patience. We are willingly and gleefully stunting ourselves. The book also touches on the mental clutter and triviality that can take over our lives as we immerse ourselves in data:
Another benefit [of uncertainty] is in setting priorities. In the past, we made mental notes to look up an answer to a question. Half the time we forgot about the question, thus allowing our own faulty memories to act as a kind of filter allowing only the most important questions to survive. Now, we clutter our minds with the most trivial questions and easy answers. We distract ourselves with triviality.
Some surprising benefits of uncertainty are also found in the book:
. . Other benefits relate to our ability to think and to solve problems. When we’re left to wonder, we often form hypotheses, do diligent research and form reasoned arguments. Now, we simply accept what is so quickly served to us by a search engine. I foresee some problems with this as our children move into adulthood. . .
The solution is not to avoid technology, but to use it differently. The book offers some specific examples of how to use uncertainty and miraculous, adventure-producing technology in beneficial ways, especially with our children:
“Above all,” Chuck continued, “I think we should recognize that uncertainty is very much related to curiosity. Let’s make sure our children’s curiosity is rewarded not with quick, conversation-ending answers, but with stimulating journeys.”
We were not expecting the city of Tianjin to be so nice. The river winding through the city is lined with beautiful European-style buildings. You can walk along the waterfront for miles and we enjoyed a river cruise that evening.
The China Porcelain House or “China House” sits on an otherwise mundane-looking street in a residential area of Tianjin. It is made up of broken pieces of porcelain cemented together to form the structure of the house and everything in it.