Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Back to the future
This picture was taken in Sep 2004, Wei Dun village （维敦乡）of Guangdong province, China.
Sep 2004. In less than a month's time was the streaming exam for Howard. By nature of most parents, they would possibly lock their children up to prepare for the streaming exam. I called streaming a nuisance as it not only created unnecessary divides among the children at their premature age, it deprived children from learning and modelling from their academically stronger peers. The implication of social class would carry on throughout their adult lives. Some of the “upper class” brand the not so successful lot as stupid. But how to define success? In a pyramid social hierarchy, who is supporting who? The effect of streaming is detrimental!
I objected streaming since it was first introduced into the Singapore education system in the late 1970s. After more than 30 years of history, the ruler claimed that streaming had served its purpose in the past and now has to modify the system to move on in the new economy world. While the ruler has made streaming into a softer form now, the ruler also created gracious explanations to withdraw from the controversial debates in the last 30 years.
I have diverted too much. The subject is not about streaming.
In Sep 2004, I decided to take on a different education path. Instead of locking my children up to prepare for exam, I brought them to the village that their grandfather had grown, had tremendous memory with.
we boarded a ferry in Hong Kong, heading to He San （鹤山）and drove into the village the next day. The village had changed compared to my first visit in 1993. It was unrecognisable. In 1993, the village was still a village that we used to know through film shows and TV serials. Old, muddy and congested. Buffaloes cooled their bodies in the yellowish river, the air was damned and mixed with plant and animal smell. Experience in village was just a typical farmer's life.
In 2004, the village had been reconstructed with concrete and steel. We drove on proper roads funded by a group of Hong Kongers who had grown up here but migrated in the 1940s. I was told that my two uncles in Hong Kong were among those who contributed sustantial amount for the reconstruction effort.
We stopped at a local restaurant and spent $10 RMB for a sumptuous breakfast before proceeding to the old house（老屋）. This picture was taken by the river next to the restaurant.
The river was used for dragon boat race in every fifth month of the lunar calendar. At that time, dad was at the age of Howard. Stand by the river with Howard, the feeling was like time had wound back for 60 years. There are tremendous changes in China in the last 60 years. PLA liberalised the entire China in 1949, supporting North Korea war in 1957, banning immigration to the external world in 1959, culture revolution in 1966, death of Lin Biao, Zhou En Lai and Mo Zhe Dong （林彪，周恩来，毛泽东） in the mid 1970s, rose of Deng Xiao Ping （邓小平）in the 1980s to remake China into a world dominant economic power again. Now, Beijing 100 years' Olympic dream was just over. China history had never been bored.
By the way the river is still used for dragon boat race in every fifth month of the lunar calendar.
Dad was very excited. Same did my children. I was excited too. This ordinary picture has exceptional sentimental value for us. It witnesses the grow of my previous generation, the little effort for me to pull them together in the month of September four years ago, and the grow of my next generation.
I have no regret of trading the streaming exam preparation with exploring the traditional road and root. This trip was a life education. This exploration worth 1001 time than an exam.