Nissa Mattson was the Grinnell Corps Macao fellow for 2007-2008.
Nissa Mattson's Reports
Report 1Nissa Mattson
Before I arrived in Macau I found the idea of living in such a densely populated city a bit intimidating. I knew it would be a big adjustment after living in rural Iowa. In fact I have come to find living on small crowded island has a lot of advantages. There are a multitude of stores, restaurants, bakeries, and 7-11s on every block. The island I live on, Taipa, is a largely residential area and seems to be inhabited mostly by dogs, babies, and teachers. In contrast the peninsula of Macau is home to primarily casinos and stores selling cell phones.
My job in Macau is a University oral English teacher; I teach two levels of English, level I and level II. My level I students are motivated and enthusiastic first years, who are surprisingly eager to improve their English. My level II students, on the other hand, are mostly second or third years who have failed the course at least once and are not eager to repeat the experience. It is not a surprise then that I get most of my satisfaction teaching level I students and most of my frustration comes from teaching level II. However, during the group presentations of a particular level II class I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the students in the class had really applied themselves and gave excellent presentations. I had given the class a lot of leeway in choosing how they wanted to do their presentations, the main requirement was that their presentation had to relate to a topic we covered in class. One group did an elaborate role play about traveling around the world, complete with wigs and cross dressing. Another group gave a presentation on the carnival of Venice; at the end of their presentation they passed out handmade masks and invited everyone in the class to participate in a mini carnival.
Another triumphant moment of teaching came when I was teaching a unit on men and women to my level I class. The concept of a strong woman was mentioned and at once all of my students started bursting out in laughter. At first I was a bit startled that they found the idea of a woman being strong improbably hilarious. In fact their reaction proved to be the perfect introduction to a discussion on gender. They participated eagerly and thoughtfully in the ensuing discussion; in the end I learned just as much if not more than they did from our conversation.
Unfortunately teaching has not been all carnivals and thoughtful discussions. The first month of teaching was especially difficult and while it has gotten easier, I still face challenges everyday. My level II students' reluctance to speak in class is probably the biggest challenge I face. The first week of class the silence of the students was rather unnerving. The reasons for this silence are various; it can be caused by apathy, timidity, or lack of English understanding. I can help the students work on timidity and lack of understanding; however, I have not been successful in combating apathy. I can try to motivate students, but in the end it depends on whether the student has any desire to learn.
What would a first quarterly report from Macau be without a quick mention of the food? The food is wide-ranging and delicious. One can get almost any type of food in Macau, from pizza to Nepalese food. However, the food of Macau really shines in the dishes that are a fusion of Portuguese and Chinese cuisine. Macau also boasts a wide variety of mouth-watering fruit. I am particularly enjoying living in Macau at the moment because cumquats have just come into season. This strange fruit has a sweet rind and a bitter inside and is usually eaten whole.
Macau is the ideal location for anyone who is interested in traveling. Hong Kong is only an hour long ferry ride away and one can actually walk across the border into China (after waiting in lines and going through border control). Traveling outside of Macau has made me realize how much I adore living here and how wonderfully unique Macau really is. The first thing I noticed on my initial foray into China is that Macau is definitely not real China. Macau is by far more western and more expensive than the mainland. At the same time Macau is not just a smaller version Hong Kong either. Macau is a distinct blend of the East, the West, and gambling.
I have been fortunate to meet many friendly and generous people while living abroad. Many people here are eager to get to know foreigners and quick to forge friendships. Recently while traveling from Changsha to Macau Becky and I were befriended by a group of Chinese tourists. We were all traveling in the same direction so they offered to give us a ride on their tour bus. Receiving this kind of generosity has not an isolated experience. Meeting so many wonderful people makes me grateful for living and working in this part of the world.
- Social Commitment
- Grinnell Corps
- Post-Graduate Service Opportunities
- Scholarships and Fellowships
- About Us