Ruth misses teaching. She has not subbed for 2 years now, and we both have regrets. We have traveled together for many years, but she has not seen the insides of many classrooms in our travels.
On one of our earlier trips we were in Aukland, New Zealand. The man and his wife running the attraction we were in invited us into a back room for tea. New Zealanders are unusually friendly. When they found out that Ruth was a career teacher, they asked her if she’d be interested in seeing some schools. Yes! They made arrangements for Ruth to visit a private male academy and a Maori school. The contrast amazed Ruth. She went from a uniform wearing, university oriented academy to a sit-on-the-floor-and-bang-on-a-native-drum environment with much younger students. She loved both experiences and had many interactions with students after that during travel, but we did not seek further opportunities for her to visit classrooms in diverse cultures. Too bad.
Ruth fascinated youngsters in China and Japan. In China some children she casually met asked to have their picture taken with Ruth on more than one occasion. She was happy to oblige. This happened in Japan too. I recall an especially vivid encounter Ruth had with some Japanese students at a Golden Temple in Kyoto. I had my own vivid encounter with students in Hiroshima. But the best one involving Ruth was in Hangzhou, China, an imperial city that Marco Polo really liked. Hangzhou is on West Lake, one of China’s most important and beautiful attractions. As we were walking around it, two young boys of high school age approached Ruth. Tired of young entrepreneurs trying to sell me watches everywhere I went, I wandered off and watched from a distance. I could see that Ruth was enchanted with these boys. When she pulled out her notebook, I went over to see what was going on. Ruth told me that the 2 students had asked if they could practice their English language skills with her and she agreed. One of them began telling her about West Lake and its importance. He asked if she would like to hear a poem about it. She gave him her notebook so he could write it, in Chinese. When he was done, she asked if he could translate it for her. Indeed he could. He took the notebook back and wrote the translation flawlessly. It began, “Rippling water shimmering on sunny days….” I’m certain we benefited more from this encounter than the students did.
Much more recently in Alice Springs, a city in the middle of Australia’s Northern Territory, we were looking for a library. We had some unscheduled time and hoped to track down an Australian film we had heard about called Paper Planes. We were very surprised that the library had a copy of it. We asked if we could view it. The librarian told us we could, but we had to wait our turn because the library had only one viewing venue and it was occupied. Some Aboriginal children were watching a TV show. Because they came in regularly to do this on hot afternoons, the gracious librarian asked them if we could see the requested film. They had never heard of Paper Planes but reluctantly agreed. Because they liked it as much as we did, it turned out to be a delight for both us and 8 Outback Aboriginal children. At one point, Ruth laughed at the film and looked over to see an Aboriginal girl laughing too. It was an unexpected bonding experience for all of us.