Walk by Tommy Trojan, pass Mudd Hall, cross Exposition Boulevard and in front of you is the California Science Center, where the Space Shuttle Endeavour is on exhibit. This giant bird of a machine, the first to carry humans in a re-usable spacecraft, completed 25 successful space missions and was brought to Los Angeles from Florida, piggy-backed on top of a modified Boeing 747. From LAX, it was another mission to safely get the Endeavour to the Science Center: 265 trees had to be cut down (they will be replaced), 67 traffic lights were removed to accommodate the shuttle, more than a 1000 police officers and 200 fire-fighters had to assist the 12 miles route on surface-streets from the airport, and at times it could only move inch by inch making sure no structures were damaged. After two days, on October 14, 2013, it reached its retirement home here, in our backyard.
In the summer of 2013, I had a really exciting opportunity to teach English to university students in China. Never in my life had I expected myself to get in front of a large classroom of international students and be able to instruct English through various methods of teaching. Before the trip, I spent countless hours constructing fun yet engaging lesson plans, planning out skits and lectures, and preparing myself professionally to assume the role of an instructor.
When I arrived in China, I was able to share with the students that I was also of Chinese descent, thereby enabling myself to instantly build trust with the students. Throughout the course of the summer semester, I was able to notice the improvement of the students’ verbal and written English as they were able to respond more quickly, examine their English competencies more critically, and read their papers more analytically.
“Would you rather be buried or marinated?” he asked me. There were six of us sitting on couches in a room adorned with a world map and whiteboard next to the writing center in Taper Hall. I had been a conversation partner for four years at that point: long enough that I had learned to effectively facilitate a thought-provoking discussion among students of diverse backgrounds, but short enough that it had yet to become boring.
I suppressed my laughter and replied, “Definitely marinated,”launching into a light explanation of the difference between being marinated and cremated so they would understand why I would rather be slathered in barbecue sauce than reduced to basic chemical compounds. We then resumed our more sober conversation about death and mourning rituals in different countries, exchanging stories and information about our respective traditions with curiosity.