BRAWLEY — The Archer siblings taught English, arts, and engineering to youths for two weeks last month in the People’s Republic of China.
Anna Archer and her younger brother, Daniel, were invited by the family of her foreign exchange friend, Jolene Chuang, to visit them in Wenzhou, a city in the mountainous region of Zhejiang province that faces the eastern coast of the East China Sea. Anna met Chuang while they were both students at Biola University.
“We taught English, art and photography,” said Anna Archer, who graduated from Biola last year and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in elementary education, also at Biola. Anna had her students use their cell phones to teach and learn the principles of photography and for class exercises, Anna created a group chat where students shared photos of their favorite places within the camp area.
Language was a barrier but with determination, Anna and Daniel used body language and English to get the information across. According to Anna, many of the students have a basic understanding of the English language and were eager to practice conversing with the Archer siblings.
“We also taught them dances like line dancing and Mexican folk dances,” Anna said.
Anna’s brother, Daniel, taught engineering practices. He used readily available resources and materials. For class exercises, Daniel asked students to make bridges and catapults. The results and creativity surprised him.
“Some kids were good at figuring how to make it work. Others asked questions,” said Daniel, who graduated from Brawley Union High School in June and will continue his education at California Baptist University with a major in mechanical engineering.
According to Daniel, they taught 40 students, ages 11–14, one week; and another set of 40 students, ages 15–18, the second week. Anna and Daniel, the only non-Chinese counselors, were part of a team of camp counselors — a majority of whom studied at American colleges and universities and were therefore proficient in the English language. Anna expects they will be teachers and leaders in their community.
Anna and Daniel also had the opportunity to explore Wenzhou’s natural beauty. According to Anna, the area is lush with green vegetation fed by regular rainstorms. The overflow feeds the river where fish can be caught for dinner. When flooding occurs, some sections of the river became impassable.
Instead of rain jackets which amplify humidity, the locals use umbrellas to keep dry on rainy days and for shade during hot sunny days.
One place of interest they visited was a tower with glass floors atop a mountain. The siblings reached the tower by hiking along established narrow trails and by ascending steep stairs. Anna and Daniel showed photos of waterfalls, rivers, and bridges they’ve visited.
In terms of culinary experience, the Archers learned quickly how to use chopsticks in order to eat noodles and slurp soup. Fried rice and chow mien for breakfast on Sundays were a treat. Fish was served at almost every meal with taro ice cream for dessert.
Anna and Daniel brought home several Yuan denominations which had a foreign exchange of seven yuans to $1, chopsticks with koi decorations, postcards, decorative papers, and a printed poem.
The experience of visiting a different culture and overcoming the unfamiliar language was important for the future careers of the Archer siblings.
“It allowed me to understand people from a different background and perspectives,” Daniel said.
As for Anna, “I have a much more understanding of their culture. It was neat to experience a different way of living. I appreciated it a lot more.”