May 21, 2002
Winnipeg, Man.- "It may come as a surprise to you that we've discovered
penguins in China," said Kathi Suderman in a report to Mennonite Church Witness.
Rod and Kathi Suderman are Witness workers in Bejing, China.
While they may not have real penguins where they are living, they use the
comparison to note the penguin-like characteristics in people. Last semester one
of Kathi's students wrote in her journal about a news item she'd read, in which
penguins in the South Atlantic were so entranced by planes flying overhead that
they literally couldn't take their eyes off of them and toppled backwards to keep
them in sight.
She then related this to the curiosity human beings possess, using the example
of she and a classmate getting on the wrong bus because they were so entranced
by a handsome young man that got on that particular bus.
After reading her journal entry, I was reminded of many of our own experiences
of being found a curiosity here in China.
Though I found the image of penguins toppling over to be quite humorous,
probably because they're so cute anyway, I haven't been as humored on the streets
of Beijing when people pass by me as I'm walking along the sidewalk and then turn
around to stare at me, the strange-looking foreigner.
Sometimes I've even been afraid they'd crash into something because they
were too busy looking at me to be looking where they were cycling! When I am bothered
by this attention, I remind myself that we ourselves are also guilty of penguin-like
curiosity, and that it's not always a bad thing, for that's how we learn about
Besides, the attention can't have been all that bad, as we have decided
to stay on in China for another four-year term.