For the past 20 years, every morning of every day, as soon as I wake up I always start my day by instinctively
pulling the curtains and opening the windows. I sometimes thought about why I do so, at first I thought it was because I needed fresh air to turn my brain on, but lately I realized what I really look for is a piece of sky. I truly need to know how the sky is doing to assess how I feel. I guess this is why I’ve been so happy since I moved to Sydney. Nothing beats a clear blue sky.
This morning when I “went for the window” I had a moment in which I felt lost, and then I remembered: you are in China! I could not see past 200 meters, and all I saw was gray. I did not understand if it was fog – or mist – or smog … I just felt cold and unfamiliar. Somehow uncomfortable but respectful and curious. I just knew this was going to be an intense day and I wasn’t wrong.
I rushed to class felling freezing and as soon as I got there I started to warm up. So many nice faces smiling at me, asking me many questions to which I wanted to answer. Their kindness stroke me immediately, as I started to fell less lost and more curious. As we were divided into groups my team members introduced themselves with their English names and as I talked to them about the project, their individual research, their expectations and goals, I found myself trying to remember their real names, the ones I could not pronounce properly. I felt frustrated – how can I not remember?
After a very interesting lecture by Professor Hu Wenhui on the urban design history of Dalian, Xanadu, Betty, Ulissys and Micheal (our team members) took Daniel and I out for lunch! What a delight! My first hotpot ever – so exciting! I had no idea of what we had ordered as I could not read a word on the menu, I did not know what to expect but as I watched the waitress display all the food on the table I was amazed by the smells, the colors, the textures – so beautiful and intriguing!
And then came the afternoon … our visit to the site.
During the drive there I was thinking about what to expect, I tried to picture it in my mind … but when we finally got there I understood that this was nothing I had ever seen before, this was nothing I had ever immagined. For a moment I thought I was about to experience the Apocalypse. All that devastated land and all those piles of rubbish left me speechless and furious. How could this happen? How is this OK? How can people live here? How can they accept this?
And at this moment my emotions went crazy. I felt sorry and lucky. I felt sad, I felt upset, I felt responsible, I felt appalled. I felt I needed to do something.
Still on the site I spoke to my new Chinese team mates and I asked them how they felt. They felt somewhat like me, just more positive. They clearly understand the magnitude of the issue and they know that with this project they have a chance to change things. They can actually do something about it. Back in class, we sat at a table to talk abut our first impressions and ideas. Communicating my feelings and at the same time wanting to be respectful was very important. We all agreed on one point: the mine we saw today is a huge scar for our planet, the people of Dalian and the Government. We need to change this.
Our diversities came out through the ideation process. Our culture, our personal background, our formal disciplinary training, are all elements that played a key role in the way in which we came up with ideas. What was obvious to me, wasn’t to them – and vice versa. This allowed us to open our minds and observe the situation from different perspectives. When this happened a deeper and greater understanding of the issue developed and all the different ideas we generated were able to feed into one another and resulted in a great initial concept.
I was very pleased with the quality of the interaction we were able to achieve today and I am very curious to see where this is going to lead us.