You don’t have to be in China for very long before you learn that dumplings are something everyone in China loves and there’s an art to making them. Every year around Christmas time is also the lunar solstice that means you are supposed to eat dumplings that day to bring prosperity for the coming year.
The staff and teachers are invited to the cafeteria to make hundreds of dumplings and then they cook them for lunch. The president of the university always pays a visit to say hello. Laraine had the privilege of visiting with him for a few minutes and have her picture with him. The students then put on a New Years program. Our very own Judy Batschi, a fellow BYU china teacher, performed a solo during the program.
There was also a Relief Society class to learn how to make dumplings. So everything is dumplings for a few weeks.
For the third year now, Laraine has taken the opportunity to have her students enjoy the experience of gratitude. She teaches them about the importance of gratitude in our life and how powerful it is to bless others lives. Everyone at the school agrees the cleaning ladies have the hardest job. They spend every day of their lives cleaning the bathrooms which are not the nicest smelling. The students are given little hearts and they then write a thank you note to the women. They enjoy taping the hearts to the work room next to the bathroom. The cool thing is these hearts stay up the whole year. One student said she had come to class feeling really down but after the activity she was feeling much better and realized how good it feels to express gratitude.
We also had the chance to enjoy Thanksgiving with a big feast of traditional food and even had the chance to invite Monica (a young girl Laraine tutors) and her mom Liu Ying to join us. On top of all that, we got a visit from Jeremy. He came from the U.S. to record our audiobook, and of course to spend time with us on Thanksgiving.
It is a great privilege to visit with teachers from other universities, also in the BYU Kennedy Center’s “China Teachers Program.” We visited a very quaint ancient city just a few hours train ride from Beijing. PingYao has a wall around its ancient town, and very fun architecture.
In addition, we saw the Great Wall from a new vantage point–Mutianyu, which is a very popular stop.
One of the university administrators asked us to “help out” at her daughter’s elementary school every month. They want us to share our “drama expertise” with the school’s drama class.
At this point you might ask yourself if Chuck and Laraine have much experience with drama. The answer is NO. But because we are Americans and Hollywood is in America, there is an assumption that we all must surely know how to act. Fortunately, we have drafted our fellow teacher, Judy Batschi, who DOES have drama experience to join us. We had a great experience our first time with the class.
Since we DO have experience with emotional literacy, we used that experience to help students learn how to show more emotion in their acting.
Along with some of our university colleagues, we were invited by our university to attend a special dinner for foreign experts who are living and working in China. We arrived in buses and, for our benefit, the entire highway was shut down on the way to the dinner, which was held at The Great Hall of the People adjacent to Tiananmen Square. Some 2,000 foreign experts were in attendance and treated to an amazing dinner and speech from Vice Premier Han Zheng. He praised foreign experts for assisting the country of China in reaching its current strength and status on the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party in China.
At our table was a couple from the Ukraine, a woman from Mexico City, a man from the UK, a man from Russia, another American man, and two Chinese hosts. We had a delightful time getting to know them. Unfortunately, cameras and cell phones were not allowed in the hall. We did get pictures of our group at the university and outside the hall.
Incidentally, after the dinner the entire crowd exited the doors to the front of the hall, while I (Chuck) slipped into a restroom at the rear of the hall, behind some heavy curtains. I was there for just a few moments when an entourage of young men in business suits wearing ear buds entered the restroom with the Vice Premier himself. I was surprised and could only think to say, “Hi” to him. Afterwards I exited, holding open the curtain for him as we walked out together. I remember thinking, “Why are these security men allowing me to be so close to the Vice Premier.” Then I remembered the worried looks on their faces. Obviously, this bathroom break was unplanned and worrisome to those whose job it was to keep him safe. I caught them off-guard.
While working with clients in a court-mandated anger management course, one of the surprising things we learned, (as some volunteered to share with us) was the fact that so many of them had experienced the same family characteristic– secrets! We were shocked to see this apparent connection between family secrets and dangerous anger.
We recently completed a 2-day trip from Beijing to Xi’an where we saw the 2,200 year-old terracotta warriors with our son, Jeremy, and his wife Rozana. We were amazed to learn the lengths to which China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang went in order to keep a big secret– that he had built an extensive underground world, a massive tomb mirroring his above-ground world.
How did he keep the site secret? He killed anyone who knew about it! Workers who brought the life-sized army, horses, chariots and weapons to the site were tragically buried alive with them. Thousands of concubines, those failing to produce children for the young emperor, were also buried alive and the entire site was buried many meters deep.
In 1974, farmers in the area were digging a well and came across some pieces of the buried army. Today, a massive archaeological effort is still underway, and apparently most of the site is still buried.
It makes one wonder: Who and what do we sacrifice in order to keep secrets? The motivation for most family secrets is “protection.” In our experience, when we try to protect those whose actions should not be condoned, we end up violating or betraying others. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic: when we bury our secrets we need to ask ourselves who is being buried alive with them.
Laraine took some very heavy bags full of ingredients and utensils to the new campus to teach her students how to make American food, such as deviled eggs and layered bean dip. They were amazed (lots of “ooh’s and “ah’s” and many had never seen a cheese grater. Check out her pics:
A group of us sat around one day and said, “Hey, where does China’s great wall end, anyway?” Next thing you know, we found the end–where the great wall hits the ocean. Check out these pics:
Our trip included fun in the sun and sand at the beach, waiting in a visitor’s waiting room to cool off after our long trek, colorful kites, antique doors, the Goddess of the Sea, various historical figures, and even a very tall city wall connecting to the Great Wall.
The Motley Crew outside our university excited to get on the bus and head out to see where the Great Wall ends. (L to R): Kevin, Joseph, Eli (child), Mike, Stacey, Ruth Ann, Laraine, Ryan, Harris, Sai, “Zhurki”, Luke (child), Chris, Chuck
Remembering that first class day in September when a new crop of leadership students at China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) looked up at me expectantly, I could almost see the questions forming behind those beautiful brown eyes.
“Who is this American, and what will we be doing in this ‘leadership’
class?” “Does he really think we need to learn about leadership—something so
far into our future?”
On that first day, I looked into their skeptical eyes and got
no response when I said, “Raise your hand if you think of yourself as a leader.”
Polling the class, I verified what I had already discovered about most students
in China: they think of leadership only in terms of positional power.
I then did something unexpected: I showed four short video
clips of orchestra conductors leading their orchestras. Each had a unique
style. One kept a steady metronome-like beat, showing no emotion on his face.
Another closed his eyes while swaying and waving his arms in oversized motions.
A third conductor did an exuberant little dance while gesturing with his arms.
The fourth was the most unusual. He did nothing with his body and, strangely,
kept his arms folded while simply raising his eyebrows occasionally and pursing
his lips. This brought some nervous laughter from the class.
As the music went silent, I looked around the room at puzzled
expressions. Breaking the silence, I said, “The true essence of leadership is simply
manifesting your most important values. Can you tell what the first conductor valued?”
Getting no response, I continued, “The first conductor
valued a regular, steady rhythm.” I then imitated this maestro’s robot-like
“What about the second conductor?” Again, no response. I closed
my eyes and made big motions with my arms. “Can you tell this conductor really
valued the emotions of his music?”
“What about the third conductor?” I asked. Finally, a timid
student piped up, “He likes to dance.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “He seems to value physical movement and
expression.” Several students nodded in agreement.
“How about the fourth conductor?” This brought snickers as
the students remembered the conductor who seemed to do nothing. “Can you tell
what he values?” All heads went down to their desks.
“It might be hard to recognize, but can you see that this
conductor valued the musicians’ individual and collective expression and
interpretation of the music—even without his involvement? He wants them to come
forth with their own expressions. But it doesn’t make him any less a leader,
As the school year progressed, students became less
skeptical, more engaged and more determined to be “values-expressing” leaders. They
joined me in exploring leadership through discussion and memorable activities.
We went through John C. Maxwell’s 5
Levels of Leadership, examining case studies, working in teams to make
critical decisions in simulated conditions, and even analyzing Deputy Barney
Fife’s humorous behavior as a “Level 1” leader in the old American sit-com, The
Andy Griffith Show. We worked through concepts in Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
(Kerry Patterson et al.) by creating simulated conflicts and allowing students
to practice newly learned techniques to resolve those conflicts. We used unusual,
right-hand/left-hand writing and drawing methods developed by Dr. Lucia
Cappachione (The Power of Your Other Hand,
etc.) to become more self-aware in order to more effectively lead others.
Students kept a leadership journal, starting with a list of
their most important values. As the year continued, some were able to share
from their journal and examine how well they had expressed those important
values with others in their class, in their teams, in their community and at
Finally, at the end of the year, we examined Fortune Magazine’s
list of the 50 top world leaders. Choosing the top twelve who happened to be leaders
in government, business, activism and philanthropy, we discussed what they all
had in common. Because the list included male and female, old and young (even a
16-year- old), rich and poor, employers and employees, etc., the common element
was obvious. Each leader had been successful in identifying a value within themselves
and moving heaven and earth to express and manifest that value. Students’
understanding of leadership and their roles in it had taken a huge jump forward
from the first day of class.
China Foreign Affairs University is the “cradle of diplomacy” for China. All Chinese diplomats must receive training at CFAU, and a large percentage of China’s diplomats have also received undergraduate or graduate degrees at CFAU. It feels good to know this powerful nation’s future is in the hands of those who have a better understanding and passion for leadership.
What might the world reap from the seeds sown in my “leadership crop” this year?