Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Learning vs. Experiencing

I have never been to Chinatown before, so for me, this walk was like experiencing a whole other country. (I caught myself almost asking if I can pay in American money!) The things I saw on this walk opened my eyes to a whole different world and culture.

Statue of Sun Yat-sen (Taken by Myself)
I feel so honored to have seen and learned about the statue and office of Sun Yat-sen. He came to San Francisco (Chinatown) to create an army and plot to fight against the political corruption within the Qing Dynasty. He played the leading role in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty and became the new leader of China. However, he did not become an emperor, but instead he became a president. He ended dynasties and was much like the “George Washington of China”. The amazing thing is that he was not always a political figure, but he actually started a career as a doctor. Many people don’t know this, but his office, where he planned the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, is right there in Chinatown. Residents don’t want it to become a tourist attraction because if that happens, their gambling halls would be shut down and disappear. Gambling is their part of their culture and their everyday life, so to protect that, people paint over the plaque that states where the office of Sun Yat-sen is. That just sums up how exclusive and honored I feel that I even know about this office of his.

The gambling doesn’t just happen in the gambling halls and alleys, but it happens almost anywhere, even in the park! It was very odd for me to see kids playing on the playground and then see their grandparents right there sitting on the bench gambling. I had to keep telling myself that this is their everyday life. Seeing this brought up a constant question in my mind: If this is how surprising and different culture is just about 100 miles away from me, then how surprising and different will things be 6,000 miles away from me? All I can say is that just hearing and learning about a different city or country, is a lot different from experiencing it for yourself.  

This Chinatown walk was truly amazing for me. I just can’t wait to go back and continue to explore it for myself. This walk also heightened my desire to visit Rome for myself. Even if I am not fortunate enough to receive this scholarship to visit Rome (which I really hope I am!), I am now positive that I would like to study abroad, or even just visit another country. I would much rather experience other cultures and daily lives of people completely different from me, than just learn about it in a classroom.

~Aurea Colston


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