Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

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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