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Monday, December 6, 2010

Caught in a Bubble

I teach English here in Shanghai. One of my classes is a Travel Club where we study a different country each week. This week we did New Zealand. I found a photo of a popular sport there called Zorbing. It looks like loads of fun! Apparently you can do this in Shanghai, but I'm still trying to find out where.

Anyhow, since it is such as unsual object, I decided to use it as a creativity exercise. The students were to imagine that this huge plastic ball was something else. To get them started, I gave them some ideas. I said that it could be a new mode of transportation that will eventually replace cars. Or it could be an alien spacecraft that has landed on earth. Or it could be a man caught in a soap bubble.

They laughed at the thought of driving one of these around the streets of Shanghai, & they enthusiastically began adding to the story about the aliens, but that last one simply confused them. They couldn't understand how someone could get caught in a soap bubble. It's just not possible in their minds. Bubble cars? Possible. Soap bubble traps? Not possible.

It made me think about how our cultural backgrounds play such a huge role in how we perceive our environment. I grew up with cartoons like the one here, in which one of the characters gets a little too close to the soap, & winds up flying through the air in a soap bubble. When they get too high the bubble always pops & they plummet to earth.

But here in China, I guess they've never seen cartoons like this. They've never been exposed to the idea of flying through the air in a soap bubble. So for them, it's just not possible.

So I left them to come up with more appropriate uses for the Zorbing ball. One group said it was a new medical treatment for heart disease - the rolling around helps with circulation. Another group decided it was protection against falling debris during an earthquake. A third group said that it was a vehicle to travel under the sea. All wonderfully creative ideas. Still, the soap bubble idea never caught on, & it leaves me to wonder what kinds of things I think are not possible because of my own cultural background.

What about you? What do you think is impossible?


Steve Skinner said...

That is a neat image! It looks like a lot of fun.

Nancy Lewis said...

I hear it causes terrible motion sickness, but I still want to try it :)

Anonymous said...

did they ever finished the book? And watched the movie?

Nancy Lewis said...

Hi My-Tien! Are you asking about the Book Club where we're reading Eat Pray Love? The students already watched the movie, but we haven't finished the book. We read about 20 pages each week, so it's a bit slow :)