Sunday, December 8, 2013

Goal #3

Nimen hao!

Once a PCV, always a PCV:


My best,

Philip Razem
New Orleans, LA
www.razembehrmancharter.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I LOVE MY TEACHER! For Teacher Appreciation Week!

Nimen hao!

When you spend 2 years speaking a foreign language, parts of it NEVER leave you... Here is me shaking off the rust with some 1st grade students....

The Third Goal of the Peace Corps aims to help Americans understand the people and cultures of other countries.






















7 Grade...and all that jazz CLASS BLOG!  Click!

My best,

Philip Razem
New Orleans, LA

Monday, September 5, 2011

End of Peace Corps China?

Hao jiu bu jian!


End of PC China?

Yikes!

Razem

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

RIP Cannon Stamm, Peace Corps China

Peace Corps volunteer Cannon Stamm. Today, I mourn the loss of one of Chongqing's finest.  I never met Cannon, but I feel I know him from the life he lived and the world he worked so hard to see and experience.  Xiexie, pengyou. 


http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.media.press.view&news_id=1711 

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 8, 2011 – Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams is saddened to confirm the February 6 death of Peace Corps volunteer Cannon Stamm in Thailand. The preliminary cause of death is cardiopulmonary arrest. Cannon, 26, was serving as an English teacher with the Peace Corps program in China.

“Cannon was a dedicated volunteer and a committed English teacher working to strengthen our friendship with the people of China,” said Director Williams. “On behalf of the entire Peace Corps community, our thoughts are with Cannon’s family, friends, and fellow volunteers at this difficult time.”

Cannon is survived by family in New York. He arrived in China on July 1, 2010, for pre-service training and was sworn in as a volunteer on August 27, 2010. Cannon was an English teacher at Chongqing University of Technology and worked with students training to become middle school English teachers. He was scheduled to continue his Peace Corps service through the end of the school year in the summer of 2012.

His passing is mourned by the entire Peace Corps community, including his students and colleagues in Chongqing. He was committed to developing his students’ English comprehension by sharing his knowledge of American language, culture, and history. Cannon worked closely with his Chinese colleagues to exchange ideas and teaching methodologies. He understood that daily interaction with a native English speaker was integral to his students’ proficiency and confidence in English.

Cannon graduated summa cum laude from Boston University in 2008, with a dual concentration in finance and international management. Cannon was an experienced teacher of English as a second language and worked as an English tutor in Japan prior to his service with the Peace Corps.

In his 2010 Peace Corps aspiration statement, Cannon wrote that he was committed to approaching his assignment with an open mind and friendly demeanor, balanced with the knowledge that patience and determination were his best assets to navigate his role as a teacher. He was committed to public service and interested in learning the local language, Mandarin, and being a part of his local community.

There are 132 Americans serving as volunteers in China. Peace Corps volunteers are known as "U.S.-China Friendship Volunteers" to their students, colleagues, and communities. The program focuses on university English teaching. Volunteers are placed in Sichuan, Gansu, and Guizhou provinces, as well as the Chongqing municipality. More than 660 Americans have served as volunteers in China since the program opened in 1993.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Phil's Peace Corps "Readjustment" Road Trip, USA, 2010

你们好:
.

Why? And why now?

.
While in China, probably 18 months deep into my 2-year Peace Corps service, I walked by a street merchant on the campus of Southwest University in Chongqing Province, where I was teaching English language and literature. This man was selling jiade, or counterfeit, books and magazines to passing students, trying his best make a few extra yuan or, more likely, earn a living photocopying and rebinding great works of Chinese and English literature and selling them for a quarter of the retail price. There were enough English-language learners at Southwest University to sell these books, and with weak enforcement of copyright laws, passing police didn’t take a second look. Many of the books were entirely in English without Mandarin translations, and many from the selection the books at this specific stand, based on my assessment of students’ reading levels, were beyond most (if not all) of Chinese university students’ comprehensions; when learning to read English, it’s much more feasible to begin with, let’s say, Dr. Seuss, than Brontë’s Jane Eyre or Dickens’ Hard Times. Yet, I learned, Chinese actually bought and read these great works…with their English-Chinese dictionary within reach of course. Imagine that: reading Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, translating it line-by-line, all for an understanding of life, albeit a fictional portrayal of life over hundred years ago, outside of their China.

.

So I stopped and sorted through the books. There was Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat (incredibly popular in China), Joyce’s Ulysses (a book I still have trouble understanding), and a handful of Shakespearean tragedies. But there was also Thoreau’s Walden. While in graduate school, a highly respected professor at SUNY Fredonia told me that Walden wasn’t on par with the other works of its time, and maybe, for that reason, I had never encountered it in all my education. I kept putting it lower and lower on my “to read” list. The cover was stylish – circling lines wrapped around the title in both English and Chinese – and for 10 yuan ($1.25) it was mine.

.

When it wasn’t too cold or raining, I read Walden as I walked to and from my classrooms, about 20 minutes each way. In retrospect, I laugh. There was the most functioning chaos (which I now, 6 months deep into my Peace Corps “readjustment,” identify as being synonymous with “adventure”) occurring all around me – motorcycles whizzing inches away from me at 40mph, students laughing in a language I was falling in love with but barely understood, the smell of the lunch hours filling the air with chili peppers, trucks full of concrete spewing exhaust into the air with every tap of the gas pedal – and there I was, buried in a book written over 150 years ago:

.

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes,

and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

- Walden’s “Economy”

.
Walden’s sidekick was Kerouac’s On The Road. I found an old edition of the Beat Generation’s masterpiece on the Peace Corps Office’s “Free” shelf, mangled and yellowing. I studied On The Road in graduate school, and frankly, didn’t remember a thing about it except reading it felt like driving through sand: wheels ferociously spinning without getting anywhere. But in China, it was completely different. I finished reading On the Road during my Peace Corps “Summer Project” in Fengjie, Chongqing Province, a city partly flooded for the construction of the infamous Three Gorges Dam, requiring the relocation of millions of Chinese from family homes lived in for generations. This setting and book helped me successfully identify and remove (and possibly smash) the rose-colored glasses worn by many PCVs and myself during their first year of service, and, possibly for the first time, see the country I presently called “home” in its true colors. China, though littered with beautiful diamonds, was predominately an endless, polluted diamond mine with billions (billions!) of people scrapping and clawing for wealth. On the contrary, Kerouac’s America, projected by his characters’ wild-eyed, oblivious meanderings, seemed like a land where diamonds could be found in your morning cereal box. This was the curious moment when I stopped remembering America, and began dreaming about it.
.
These two books, stacked among many others read during my two years in China, fueled my desire to not only see America, but experience it, drive down its highways, feel its size, weigh its short but concentrated history against my 27 years. Everyday was an adventure in China. Imagine 750 straight days and nights of exhilarating adventure that thickens your skin, churns your insides, and accents your perceptions of everything. I thought, “Why can’t I keep this adventure rolling? Does it have to stop when I huijia, or return home?” I needed to see the country that I taught about, dreamed about, and at one point of my life, despised and only wanted to leave. But upon return from China, I couldn’t identify my feelings towards America as “nationalistic” or “patriotic” like I felt it necessary to cover my rear bumper with “Freedom isn’t free!” stickers, but more like the feeling of pulling one’s head out of a bucket of water. I felt for the first time America’s real, tangible “freedom” like the that first deep breath of oxygen. It gave me a high that many around me couldn’t feel or understand when I tried to explain it. It’s still unexplainable. I had learned what America isn’t while in China, and now, it was time to learn what America is before the memory of that oxygen depravation wore off. Thomas Wolfe said it best: “You can’t go home again.” I was coming home, and I wanted to make my one shot count!
.
But there is another reason why I did it. America is a real place. It is not Neverland, or Atlantis, or Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It is real. But for so many around the world, America is almost mythical – a place that exists through blockbuster Hollywood movies and heavily armed soldiers fighting for the preservation of a statue of a green woman holding a forever-burning torch. This is all America is (and will be) to billions of world citizens. For all those faces I saw in the Chinese classroom who watched and laughed at episodes of Friends and Gossip Girl, dreamed of graduating from an American university, and desperately wanted to scream at the top of their lungs for all the grievances they had with those in power but couldn’t in fear of the consequences, I saw America. My trip was proof, adding to the evidence of America’s existence. We are so fortunate. I am so fortunate. We are so fortunate to know America is real.
.
4 weeks, 8197 miles, 27 states, condensed to 3 minutes and 18 seconds:
.

video
.
Thank you,
.
Phil
蓝麦飞
.
P.s. Thanks:

Adam, Katie, Margo, Scott, Megan, Scotty D, Erin, Eric and family, Ryan, Cherry, Kara and Mom, Kris, Ashley and Mom, Jeff E., Tricia B., Pat D., the 235 friends who provided moral support on my the trip’s official Facebook page, my Mom and Dad, Corinne, all of Peace Corps China “12-14” and staff, all the great travelers I met in hostels in New Orleans, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Salt Lake City, the Teach NOLA program, and finally Tootsie, my family’s 14 y/o Dachshund, who passed away during this adventure at her home in Ontario, Canada. Tootsie, sick for the last few years, waited for me to return from China before peacefully checking out to her heaven, which is most certainly a land of table scraps and comfortable pillows for sleeping. Thanks to everyone I forgot to acknowledge here, as well. I am truly blessed to have so many people on this planet who love and care for me. I love you. 我爱你们.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Buffalo News My View

nimen hao!

Buffalo News My View article

Love from New Orleans,

Phil

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Peace Corps China Reading List

你们好:
.
Due to Blogger.com being shut down by the Chinese Firewall weeks before the 20th anniversary of the
1989 Tiananmen Massacre 天安门惨案, a few previously-written posts were never published. Now, months later and no longer living in China, I am posting those entries for preservation.
.
My favorite reads over the last 2 years, in no particular order:
.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez
:












This was my first book read exclusively in China, mostly in bed under a dying light bulb after a long day of studying Chinese during Peace Corps PST. Probably the slowest moving first half of any epic I've ever read, then BOOM, a nearly perfect finale! The last few pages shook me to the bone...
.
China Road
by Rob Gifford












Probably the best book about Modern China. Rob Gifford lived in China with his family for years and mastered the language, thus empowering him to go on his own odyssey across the country (Shanghai to Xinjiang) in taxis and buses, interviewing locals and investigating many of China's dirty little secrets. After several volunteers (and our country director) read this, it become the first selection for a Peace Corps Reading Group. A must-read for past, present, and future PCCVs.
.
Walden
by Henry David Thoreau












I bought this book from a street vendor on the Southwest University campus. It was clearly a pirated copy as the cover was solely in Chinese besides "Walden" and the paper quality was thin, rice paper with offset type. I read most of Thoreau's masterpiece after reading Jon Krakauer's Into The Wild, another inspiring book about taking the road less traveled. A printed version of Walden's chapter, Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, hung on a clothesline in my living room. It continues to be an literary refuge for me.
.
The Unheard by Josh Swiller












A copy of Swiller's The Unheard and the the next book, Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, were lent to me from Nikki, a fellow English major nerd/Chongqing PCV, when I just about had enough of spending my evenings before bed with a Chinese grammar book. Swiller is deaf and served in Zambia as a PCV in the late 90's. As I continue to read and review my journals from China, amazed with the chaotic things I experienced and the eccentric people I met, the time Swiller spent in Africa makes my service look like a weekend in Disneyland. Most importantly, Swiller was real and honest, and never held back when he was frustrated with Peace Corps' shortcomings in Africa; this book helped me provide Peace Corps China with the same constructive criticism.
.
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut












Speaking of relaxing getaways, I read Cat's Cradle while vacationing in Sanya, Hainan Province, escaping the chilly Chongqing winter during a Spring Festival holiday. I fell in love with Vonnegut's micro-chapter format, and the social and political setting described in this 1963 book never applied more to our 21st century world.
.
Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler












Peter Hessler: Peace Corps China Hall of Famer. Oracle Bones is funny, clever, academic, personal, and an overall great ride though the past, present, and future China. Makes that Rivertown book look like Everybody Poops.
.
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom












I taught a half dozen Shakespeare plays at Southwest University to graduate English Literature students, and with its English language library being a derelict collection of outdated literary rubbish with even worse access to true literary criticism, Dr. Bloom's collection of idolizing love letters to Shakespeare's genius fueled my weekly lectures. The chapters on Hamlet, The Tempest, and All's Well That Ends Well are sublime.
.
Selected Stories
by Lu Xun












I gave an assignment on Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery," and my students lead me to his immortal tale called "The Medicine." Lu Xun is prophetic and often called the George Orwell of China. A must read for any Sinophile searching for greater understanding of the Chinese ethos.
.
Red China Blues by Jan Wong












Comparable to Oracle Bones, Wong's Red China Blues opened my eyes to how much China has grown and changed in the last 30 years. She was an advocate of Maoism as a Canadian-Chinese college student was was given permission by the Mao ZeDong-led Communist government to study in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution. RCB follows her ideological evolution from Mao lover to shocked and angry observer of the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. I read RCB doing my last 2 months in China, and in my exit interview, I expressed regret that I didn't read it before I arrived in China in 2007. I learned so much. The best China memoir if one believes history repeats itself.
.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac












Freedom. I couldn't get through this book in America. When I read it in China, it made perfect sense. It is beautiful, and I can honesty say, "I get it."
.
You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe












The best book I read in China over my two years. I have reread excerpts many, many times...and will continue to for many years and I sort through the mess China left in my mind. I wrote about the lessons learned from this book in my journals more than any other piece of literature while in China, and concluded that no one should ever leave their motherland for an extended period of time without this book in their suitcase. I have over 75 dogeared pages in my copy.
.
And mentionable post-PC service reads:
.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami












One of the best books I read about running; I thought back to my 4-5 times a week runs in the smoggy land of Chongqing. I ran my fifth marathon about 3 months back from China, a sentimental feat for me since I could never run over 6 miles in China due to the air quality.
.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck












Like Lu Xun, this is essential Chinese reading. Wang Lung and O-Lan are archetypal Chinese figures, and Pearl S. Buck is arguably the most important foreigner to decipher the Chinese riddle. Her defense of The Good Earth when it was attacked as being an inaccurate portrayal of China is one of the wittiest rebuttals....ever! Verisimilitude drips from its pages.
.
Reading is great. What more can I say?
.
我需要看书. 你呢?
.
Love,
.
Phil
January 11, 2010