This Chinese expression is read: qiang da chu tou niao, literally meaning 'gun shoots the sticking-its-head-out bird'. I love this expression, because it helps understand so many of the difficulties I face in my work, and my personal life here. [I find it difficult to separate the two, given how/why we came here.] Hou Wanxia shared these words of wisdom with me when we were discussing the difficulties of doing something new, something different. In our four years of working together she has faced all kinds of discouraging and critical comments from colleagues who question her motives for cooperating with me, for taking part in this work, for trying to do something new. Never mind the fact that the work has been successful, beneficial and of little reward professionally. The fact is, she is sticking her head out from the crowd. She has had the courage, alongside me, to challenge some old ways and do more than required of her by the leaders. I have also been under fire by several people, who don't support what we're trying to do (improve education) and how we're trying to do it (through cooperation), and I've found this difficult over the years: two-facedness, back-stabbing, deliberate efforts to undermine our efforts etc etc.

So this Chinese saying really helps me. I realise how difficult it is for people to be a little bit different, to follow their own way, to express individual beliefs or desires, to separate from the flock, to stand out, to leave the comfort zone. While I don't like being shot at, and I'm sure Hou Wanxia doesn't either, it merely reinforces that we are doing something that challenges the norms and breaks away from what the majority are content to accept. How on earth is educational reform going to come about if everyone stays in the safety of the crowd, perched in a big tree, complaining about the conditions but too afraid to fly?

While pondering this I bumped into one of our Grade 3 art students, King. Knowing I've been busy these days he offered his services to help with the training. I asked if he'd like to present this expression in Chinese, and paint a picture. He was delighted and turned up today with the above art work, which is now on our office wall. Hou Wanxia was horrified that I wanted to display it, seeing it as a negative aspect of Chinese culture. I see it as reality, and understanding this helps me cope with the challenges I face as a result.

18/10/2009 04:59:08 am

Great analogy! Equivalent of the western "keep your head down"!


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