Long before Corona was anything more than a beer, my seventh and eight grade students started to pen-pal students in Fruitport, Michigan.
Their teacher is a longtime friend of mine and hopefully still will be after this project is over. We thought it would be an interesting adventure, vowing not to reveal our perilous college adventures. We were bummed that our students wouldn’t get envelopes plastered with weird stamps from another part of the world, just another email from a world overwhelmed with social media.
Things were going OK until somebody ate a bat in the distance province of Wuhan. Why did they eat bat? I don’t know. But is it any weirder than eating Malaysia’s Marmite Chicken ‘n Rice?
I haven’t dared to try either.
So, a few dystopian months later, it’s not my students in China who are on lock down, but those in Fruitport, Michigan.
My students, who have paid their pandemic penance, can do about anything they could do prior to mandated quarantine except enter a school building. That is still taboo. The Chinese government still has schools closed, all two hundred million students fighting for the same bandwidth.
So last night, our students didn’t write to each other from their desks. They joined the ZOOM band wagon for a meet and greet, from their bedrooms, homework hangouts and kitchens.
As expected, the students who never shut up in class–even if means getting a detention– would barely say a peep. Not even a P! They just stared, their jaws dropped, eyes blinking, their braces sparkling, a few hoodies pulled tight.
This is not how it goes in the TV commercials.
But after a few awkward moments of staring, the students found a few topics that sparked their interest. The first was cell phones. Then they talked about video games. Eyes began to sparkle. More mouths opened. Finally, the students stumbled on the one thing that unites modern society. The glue that reminds us we all have something in common, whether we are Asian or American, atheist or Christian, pessimist or optimist, eclectic epicurean or poster child for Chef Boy-ar-dee.
One student, created this video of her Starbucks hangout in Korea.
Hopefully, we will ZOOM again soon, this time with caffeinated conversation.