I’ve heard of Number 2 Middle School of Quzhou for its flourishing activities in international exchange programs for a long while. After I attended a gathering in Hangzhou in April 2009 in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the China-UK Gap Activities Project and heard a volunteer speak in Chinese and found out he once studied Chinese at the said middle school, I decided to pay a visit to the school.
To my surprise, I found that Kong Xiangkai, the 75th-generation descendent of Confucius and now director of the administration committee of the Confucius Temple and Residence in Quzhou, is an alumnus of the school.
With strong features of Confucianism, the Number 2 Middle School of Quzhou attracts foreigners. In the past 15 years, the school has received more than 80 groups of foreign visitors.
For the Number 2 Middle School of Quzhou, the exchange ties with the outside world were knotted in 1994. On 5 October 1994, an official delegation of Red Wing City visited Quzhou. The two cities signed an agreement and officially established friendship ties. In 1995, a teacher exchange program started. Since then, ten teachers from each side have taught in the twin cities, working for half a year or a year.
The teachers from Red Wing have had opportunities to get acquainted with Chinese culture and lifestyle and make friends. Their Chinese friends are most willing to give them gifts such as brush pens, calligraphy copybooks, arts and crafts, silk products. These foreign teachers also have got opportunities to learn how to write Chinese calligraphy, paint watercolors, dance jigs such as fan dance, practice fitness qigong, and cook food Chinese style.
The Chinese teachers at the school have learned a great deal through the program. They have got to know more about the English language as well as about foreign countries. The Chinese teachers who taught in Red Wing have returned to relate back home what they saw.
In order to give foreign teachers more opportunities to spread knowledge outside classrooms, the middle school organizes special forums for them to give special lectures on the world.
Pan Zhiqiang, a special-grade teacher of English and president of the middle school, mentioned a marriage. He was the first teacher from Quzhou who went to teach in Red Wing. A student there attended his classes and lectures. Upon graduation, the student joined the exchange program and came to teach at the middle school in Quzhou. The American young man fell in love with a local girl during his stay in Quzhou and the girl happened to be a student of Pan. The two later got married. Pan told me proudly he was happy to regard the marriage between a girl of Quzhou and a young man of Red Wing as a positive result of the sister-city relationship.
Alyssa Carlson was the seventh teacher from Red Wing City. She first taught English at the school for six months. During her stay, she formed strong ties with teachers and students. A year later she came back to teach for another year. She wrote two essays about her impressions of the city and her intention of coming back to the school and about her teaching. Cultural Dialogue published her essay titled “Living in the Heart of China”, which was published in the issue of April 2009 of Cultural Dialogue.
Two teachers from Red Wing were endowed with West Lake Friendship Award, a special honor granted by the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Government in appreciation of foreigners who make outstanding contributions to cultural exchanges.
Pan believes that it takes a long time for cultural exchanges to bear fruits. The marriage and the Red Wing teacher Alyssa Carlson are two examples. These people have contributed and will continue to contribute to cultural exchanges.□