Dear instructors and fellow teachers,
My name is Lu Li, a China-born New Yorker. I am a foodie, chef, language enthusiast and teacher, cultural explorer, a life-long learner, and a family-gal.
At age 21, I came to the U.S for graduate school to study Teaching English as a Second Language, aspiring to return to China after my study to teach English, one of the world’s most beautiful and powerful languages, to young students in China. Serendipity did its work when I was offered a position at my current school – Riverdale Country School, a K-12 private school located in the Bronx in New York, to found a Chinese language program. I took the challenge, and started building my life in the Big Apple. And that was 10 years ago (how time flies!). Through language education, leading trips to the Greater China and organizing other cultural exchange events, I have learned and grown tremendously.
In a recent interview, when I was asked about the biggest trial and then the greatest accomplishment in my life at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I gave the same answer to both questions – to learn to “adult” as an immigrant and to build a new life in this country. Like any great relationship or love story, I have had my ups and downs with myself, my personal life, career, New York City and America (btw, it is 美国 in Chinese, which literally means “beautiful country”). However, in retrospect, it is as if getting to a vista point after numerous days of strenuous hiking with inevitable falls, I looked back and saw the footprints I left behind and how far I have come, immense gratitude to life swells in my heart. As Pico Iyer put in “Why We Travel”, “never more than on the road are we shown how proportional our blessings are to the difficulty that precedes them.”
So why climate change education in Bolivia? In “Before the Flood” (2016), Leonardo DiCaprio traveled all over the world visiting both developed and developing countries to show the audience the effects of climate change, while he also interviewed individuals from every facet of society, who shouted out urgent calls and provided pragmatic views on what must be done now and in the future to combat climate or global warming. Sea level continues to rise, desserts continue to expand, Greenland and Arctic are melting more rapidly than ever, and there is a sharp increase in “sunny day” flooding in Miami and other coastal cities. We have all seen or even experienced first-handedly China’s “airpocalypse”, where cities in China are coated with industrial pollutions, and checking the PM 2.5 index has become people’s daily routine. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari elaborated extensively on how sapiens, wiped out other species on an extraordinarily massive scale. This is still happening, from the deforestation in Indonesia spurred by the palm oil industry, to the catastrophic bleaching of coral reefs in recently years on an unprecedented scale globally. We as a race is inseparable and interconnected on the issue of climate change. I am hoping to learn more about it from the lens of Bolivia, about what should and can be done, with another layer added to it – environmental inequality.
So why do we travel? There is an old Chinese saying goes, 读万卷书, 行万里路, one should read tens of thousands books, and travel tens of thousands miles. I would also like to add: to speak with tens of thousands of souls. In all honesty, I travel for food, scenery and landmarks, and shameless selfies. When traveling, my detailed-to-minute itinerary is always filled with a long checklist of food and places, something looks like: 10:00am, lining up at the Eiffel Tower; 11:30am, Laduree for one, no, two macarons… However, the most memorable story and legacy about these travels usually involves with, not food or landmarks, but with people and their narratives: the Tibetans outside of Buddhist temples at 5:00am in the morning, some with prayer wheels in their hands walking around the temples while reciting sutras; the LA Uber traveler who had a nearly perfect rating and who was one of the best drivers I had ever encountered, but was musing a new enterprise of “high-end marijuana tourism”, which is to arrange and tailor luxurious trips to customers to visit an assortment of weed labs in California; the Michigan Amish family I met and made friends with on the Pacific Railroad trip from Chicago to San Francisco, and the photo albums they brought with them showing their battery-powered house and their farm; the German Airbnb host in Lucerne, who gave my mom and me a 30-minute house tour with meticulous instructions, including how to clean the bathroom properly after taking showers, since he found “Chinese visitors often have troubles doing it well”. Not all of these are necessarily “fond” memories, but they offer perspectives and alternatives to life, they change a black-white world to 3-D, and they expand, challenge and enrich the ways I see and experience the world. And I am sure there are other souls that were touched by me, just as I was touched by them.
“Travel, at heart, is just a quick way to keeping our minds mobile and awake… it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.” And if, we can be equipped with this “traveler’s mindset” and incorporate it into our everyday life, then it will truly be a blessing – we will be more appreciative, mindful, receptive and thoughtful not just during those travels, but as life-long travelers and practitioners in our lives to better human beings.
I am so excited to meet all of you soon and to embark on this incredible learning journey with y’all!