Dajia hao! 大家好！My name is Jonas Crimm, and I’m excited to be one of your instructors for the Yangtze River course this summer! We are going to be spending time in some of my favorite places, and will (no doubt) have some amazing, unexpected, difficult, and straight-up weird experiences. Most of all, I’m excited to meet you all and travel with you through the heart of China!
A little about me: I grew up in Philadelphia – in my opinion, perhaps the most underappreciated city in the US – and had little awareness of in China as a kid. But near the end of high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou on a tour with a music group. On day one, I walked out the door of our hotel and into what seemed like a different world. I was instantly hooked – and I’ve been unable to shake an obsession with China’s languages, cultures, and street food ever since.
After graduating college (where I studied government and environmental studies), I moved to Qinghai Province, the remote province of northwestern China where we will be finishing our program, to teach English in a small town. I worked in a local high school in a pretty unique program called “ETP” – the English Training Program. ETP was an intensive English program for Tibetan-speaking students from the surrounding countryside. Most of the students farmed or herded yaks and sheep during vacation times; many lived in tents as they followed their flocks around the high grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau. As a teacher at this program, I learned an incredible amount about my students’ cultures, lives, and values, and formed many lasting friendships. I’m still in touch with many of my students (and their families) today.
After leaving China in 2013, I worked for a bilingual Chinese-English immersion school in San Francisco, where I planned and led programs, trips, and exchanges in China for middle school students and teachers. After a couple of years, I decided I wanted to get back into teaching full-time, so I went to grad school in education. For the past couple of years, I’ve been a history teacher in a public high school for recent immigrant students. Most of my students have arrived in the US within the past two years, most are fleeing from war or violence, and most speak little to no English when they arrive. Many have not spent much time in school. Yet these students – with their stories of migration, resilience, and power – are some truly inspiring people, and I truly love working with them.
I’m excited about this trip – and about spending time in China – for many reasons. I’m really passionate about social, racial, environmental and educational equity, and I found China, with its recent Communist history, a fertile place in which to learn more about how people work to make things more fair (or unfair) for all. While living in Qinghai, I became especially interested in issues surrounding China’s ethnic and racial minorities. We’re going to be spending time in regions dominated by a variety of ethnic groups, including Tibetans, Hui and Dongxiang Muslims, Tu, and others, and I look forward to learning together about their perspectives on today’s China.
A few more personal things about me – I have a life outside of China and teaching! I love spending time outdoors any way possible – on weekends, you can often find me hiking, biking, climbing, playing in snow, or relaxing somewhere beautiful with a book. I also run long-distance races and would love company on runs during our program! I’m love learning languages, playing music, and eating spicy food. I’m really excited to visit Chongqing to taste the most authentic Sichuan hotpot in the world! Also, I’m getting married right before the course begins!
This is my first program with Dragons, so I’ll have much to learn from the other instructors! We’re working hard to design a program that’s going to be (we hope) a truly meaningful experience for us all. But I’m still most excited for those amazing unexpected moments that so often occur in China – when something unanticipated happens that changes the way we see the world forever after.
You’re jumping into an experience that will at different times be challenging, exciting, confusing, intimidating, hilarious, frustrating, and mind-stretching. But know that when the going gets tough (as it surely will), we will all be there to support each other. Do your best to say “yes!” – to try new things and take advantage of new opportunities – you never know what amazing experience might be around the corner.
I can’t wait for the course to begin – and I’m so excited to meet you all! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or just want to talk!