Letters

Letters 09-29-2014

Benishek Doesn’t Understand

Congressman Benishek claims to understand the needs of families, yet he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause about 10 million people to lose their health insurance. He must think as long as families can hold fundraisers they don’t need insurance...

(Un)Truth In Advertising

Constant political candidate ads on TV are getting to be too much to bear 45 days before the election...

Rare Tuttle Rebuttal

Finally, I disagree with Stephen Tuttle. His “Cherry Bomb” column in the 8/4/14 issue totally dismayed me. I always love his wit and the slamming of the 1 percent. His use of fact and hyperbole highlights the truth; until “Cherry Bomb.” Oh man, Stephen...

Say No To Fluoride

Do you or your child’s teeth have white, yellow, orange, brown, stains, spots, streaks, cloudy splotches or pitting? If so, you may be among millions of Americans who now have a condition called dental fluorosis...

Questions Of Freedom

The administration’s “Affordable Health Care Act” has ordered religious orders to provide contraception and chemical abortions against the church’s God given beliefs and teachings … an interesting order, considering the First Amendment’s clear prohibitions...

Stop The Insults & Talk

I found it interesting that Ms. Minervini used the Northern Express to push the Safe Harbor agenda for a 90-bed homeless shelter in Traverse City with a tactic that is also being utilized by members of the city commission. Those of us who oppose the project are being labeled as uncompassionate citizens...

Roads and Republicans

Each time you hit a road crater while driving, thank the “nerd” and the Tea Party controlled Republican legislature.

Home · Articles · News · Features · China Mom: Sarah Johnson
. . . .

China Mom: Sarah Johnson

Erin Crowell - May 2nd, 2011
China mom: Sarah Johnson brings teaching experience and two daughters to the Middle Kingdom
By Erin Crowell
While Leelanau County resident Sarah Johnson has lived over 30 years in a
home that is “off-grid” (meaning self-sufficiency without reliance on a
public utility), the mother of three is finding a whole new meaning for
the term.
The Pathfinder School teacher is currently on a three-month sabbatical
teaching English in the very unwesternized portion of Central China in a
city called Yichang.
Although the city’s population swells at around 3.5 million, Johnson says
she’s never felt more disconnected to the rest of the world.
“A lot of things are blocked,” she says of internet sites such as Google
and news outlets like NPR. “But there are ways to circumnavigate,” she
adds, describing a way she can use one site to access another.

A FAMILY AFFAIR
Johnson approached Pathfinder headmaster Karl Sikkenga earlier this winter
about the opportunity to teach at Three Gorges University.
“Karl had mentioned a sabbatical program in the near future, but I don’t
think he was planning on doing it quite so soon,” Johnson laughs.
When she approached her family about the endeavor, Johnson says there were
mixed feelings.
“I just kind of blurted out that there was a teaching gig available and I
wanted to do it,” Johnson recalls. “‘Are you nuts?’ was the initial
reaction. My husband said, ‘well, if that’s what you want, do it.’”
With the support from her family, Johnson left at the end of February,
taking her youngest daughter Norah, 11, with her.
“She’s been a great travel partner,” Johnson says. “She’s very open and
curious, which is great. I think the trip has created a certain
flexibility that she didn’t have innately. She’s a very analytical kid,
looking at situations instead of getting emotional about them. She likes
to ask ‘why?’ and ‘what’s the tradition behind this?’”
Five weeks ago, second eldest daughter Flannery joined her mother and
sister, followed by Johnson’s husband, Bob Babich, three weeks later.

CULTURAL INFLUENCE
The cultural differences are always evident, and appear even in the
classroom.
“This is from a very limited perspective, as I’ve only been here for a few
months, but I have noticed the standards here are very different in terms
of curriculum. The teacher decides whatever they would like to teach for
the semester. Not everyone has the same experience.
“In the U.S., you take Comp 101 where you focus on argumentative and
descriptive writing. Here, they really push their middle and high school
students in anticipation of university. By the time they get here, kids
kind of kick back.”
Johnson says it’s not uncommon for only half the class to show up for an
exam.
Beyond the classroom, cultural differences happen everyday for Johnson and
her family.
“When we go downtown, we’re the only Western-looking people on the street.
People will giggle and take photos. By the end of the day, we’ll have
gathered a small parade,” she laughs.
Johnson says the experience has also opened her children’s eyes, a goal of
both parents.
“We’ve always been about shifting their paradigm,” she adds. “I think that
giving your kids the global perspective as far as how people live is a
really big gift. They see a lot of things here.”
For Flannery, a 16-year-old student at Leland High School, the experience
has allowed her to consider her own endeavors.
“Coming to China and seeing all the pollution, it makes me want to study
environmental issues,” she says.
When it comes to mom, Flannery says she is proud.
“She’s definitely an inspiration to me. I know she’s really glad she took
this opportunity and that is absolutely amazing when she can experience it
and all the challenges that come with it.”

To follow Sarah Johnson’s experience in China, visit her blog at
http://sarahjohnsonportfolio.webs.com.


 
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