By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Twenty-two Chinese teachers participating in the Global Classroom Alliance experienced a whole new world Thursday – Tarboro.
“It is our first time to be here to get to know about Tarboro. We love this area,” said Shijun Naour, director of alliance development. “We’ve heard a lot and always wanted to come visit.”
The middle and high school teachers’ first stop was the Blount-Bridgers House, a local art/ history museum. The teachers took pictures at every turn and listened with rapt attention as Carol Banks, house manager, gave them a tour of the house, revealing tidbits of information about 19th century life in Tarboro.
“The peaceful tranquility and the environment bring me back to years ago. I feel like I’m walking into the history,” said one of the teachers, Xiang Ping Xie, as translated by Naour. “This is a cultural experience.”
Naour was enthralled not only by the house itself, but also by the environment, including the gardens on the back lawn of the home.
“It’s like walking into the history and also it’s the modern environment – the flowers and the art,” Naour said. “People in Beijing, we don’t have gardens. It’s totally a concrete world. There are 20 million people in Beijing. We all live in condos and apartments.”
Walking through the historic house reminded Naour of a time when her grandparents’ had a house, in another generation.
Ming Xi Jia, a student translator, liked what he saw at the Blount-Bridgers House.
“It’s really beautiful. It reminds me a lot of the movies, British classic movies.”
The Tarboro is no comparison to Jia’s native Beijing.
“It’s a very sweet town. It’s a good environment, it’s quiet,” said Jia. “There are a lot of people in China.”
Banks enjoyed the interaction with the Chinese teachers Thursday morning.
“Fantastic hospitality … exchanging hospitalities, exchanging cultures. We can learn from one another,” Banks said. “They were so interested in everything.”
She described the visitors as “friendly, as if they’ve known me for a long time.” As with all visitors, Banks made an effort to make the Chinese guests feel comfortable, and they reciprocated, presenting her with a Chinese fan as a gift.
“It’s good for tourism and it’s good for international relations,” Banks said, of the visit.
The Chinese teachers’ visit to Tarboro continued in the afternoon with a tour of Edgecombe Community College.
“They were very happy to be here,” said Dr. Deborah Lamm, ECC president. “They said, ‘Oh, this is wonderful.’”
The teachers toured the college’s mobile simulation lab, advanced manufacturing lab, and cosmetology building, and discussed educational partnerships.
“Based on the discussions we had with the teachers, we are going to start working on a partnership in early childhood education,” Lamm said. She visited China with an alliance delegation in the fall of 2012, and a discussion of a customized training program with Shanghai University resulted from that trip.
“Global education is part of our mission. We try to raise the awareness and understanding of cultures unlike our own,” Lamm said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure our students get that global connection as part of their studies here.”
The connection between the Global Classroom Alliance and Tarboro dates back a few years, to the time when Naour met Diane LeFiles, current director of communications at North East Carolina Prep School (NECP). When the new school year begins at NECP, the alliance will have seven Chinese exchange students at the school.