Ariel is one of two students who were selected by the Samoa Observer to travel to China last month joining a student group from the National University of Samoa. Ariel is a past prize winner in story competitions and a fortnightly columnist in the Newspapers in Education feature of our Monday edition. Her trip to China was funded by the Chinese Embassy in Samoa and her first report about her trip was published on the 18th of July. This is Part 2.
As promised, I shall continue to tell Hao’s tales to the Land of the Dragon.
Hao’s first impression of China was in the ambitious city of Guangzhou, one of the highest profiteers in this massive country.
As an islander from a country of small population and land mass, walking through Guangzhou was like transforming into an ant.
From towering sky scrapers that seems to pierce the graying sky (like the Canton tower!!) to the multitude of shops lined down every street, selling anything and everything- dumplings, bags, ramen noodles, designer clothes, secondhand clothes, phones, necklaces, scarves…did I mention there was a shop that was full of socks ONLY?
The other thing was… the sheer number of people…..so MANY!!.... Bustling around, carrying out their daily affairs. Some working, others my age just wandering around the jewellery shops.
If there is anything you notice about this substantial city is that the majority of the population is quite young, between the ages of 20-45. There were rarely any children or elderly people around.
I asked Daniel, our local guide to Guangzhou, why this is so. (Daniel himself is in his mid-fifties.) He explained that his family had always been in Guangzhou. However it was only until the 1970s that young couples and their infant children moved into the city as jobs opened up for the masses. These infant children grew up…. and are now the “bulk” of the Guangzhou population.
I had the privilege of meeting a handful of these youths, at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies and Languages. Here we met Judy, Kevin, Maya, and a few other students who are now taking economics, teaching and Chinese/English language studies as majors for their degrees (though, truth be told, I thought these people were teenagers just starting out Uni…… It turns out - they are in their late twenties… finishing off their MASTER’S degrees!!)
One of the activities we were required to do was discuss issues such as how the youths can contribute to further development of both our countries. We were split into groups, all of which had An equal ratio of Chinese to Samoan in them. We were given a time limit of 15 minutes to discuss ways in which youths can aid in the progress of our countries. What I found surprising is that the problems we have in Samoa – unemployment, lack of medical staff and lack of teachers – are also present in China!
In a country that was ten times bigger than us in size and economical success. It was difficult to process this information, but it informed Hao and I that the stereotypical belief “bigger is better” does not apply to all parties.
Regarding economics, we all agreed that China has been steadily rising in economic stature over the past few years because they have been able to prioritize parts of it’s countries strengths, and by budgeting (via the Government) sensible amounts to each industry, they have been able to boost their economy.
Not only that, they expanded their market to international boundaries, increasing their demand for goods. They suggested that, if youth in Samoa are keen on setting up their individual businesses, they should take their market out of Samoa as soon as possible.
However, other problems concerning the lack of jobs and much needed skills and expertise gave Hao and I a different insight. In China, the cause of these difficulties is their population size, and the small number of opportunities given to a chosen few.
The causes of the problems in Samoa are in my opinion, the lack of incentive and also the small window of chance given to us. It turned our conversation around from the youths’ decision as a whole, to a person’s individual choice on his or her life.
We concurred that if one truly does want to change their country for the better, they must first change themselves, and be committed to making one’s home a better place,,,, not only for yourself, but for the future generations as well. (It was funny suddenly going philosophically deep with a bunch of economic students, but the essence of what we talked about rang many truths as to “solving” our countries troubles).
Now, back in Samoa, I often wonder about what we discussed with people my age on the other side of the world.
Are our youth aware that they can make impossible changes in their lives if they simply choose to strive for the best, to break down walls blocking your potential? At first it may seem ridiculous, that a young person should try walking the steps of giants. It is not impossible, if you are determined to make home… better than it was before.