by Melissa Robertson, Learning Technologies Support Specialist, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, VIU

melissa4This year International Women’s day will fall on Saturday March 8th. The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2014 is “Equality for Women is Progress for All”. The purpose of this day is to encourage advocacy for all women. The day calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and to be women who inspire positive change in any way we can. This year there were many celebrations and activities all over the world. More than 100 countries participated in different ways, and the day is even a holiday in some countries. For myself, there is one international women’s day I will never forget and I learned many things that day.

On March 8th, 2006, I was in China, and I was able to celebrate International Women’s day there. I had been sent to China by VIU (Malaspina at the time) as part of the Enhancing Rural Teacher Training Program (which was part of a CIDA funded program). I was out with one of my translators, when I discovered that I would have the day off for International Women’s Day. In China, the day is a holiday – that was the first shock for me. However, I didn’t really realize what the day would have in store for me.

My colleague and I (there were two of us from VIU), decided that we should celebrate together and that we should do something for those who had helped us along the way. One person in particular we wanted to treat like a queen, was our translater, Kiki, who really was more of a mother hen.  She had taught us so much – small details about customs and culture that we probably never would have picked up on our own. We made a plan and went off for the day with some of the other women that had helped make our trip so wonderful and made us feel at home.

We did the standard trip to get manicures and pedicures, and it was the first time I experience a foot-bath with live fish in it. Somewhere in my travels, I found an interesting little bookstore, and I managed to track down a book of Shakespearean Sonnets, that had both the English and the Chinese in it. We shared different sonnets, and laughed. I really did realize at that moment that laughter is truly a universal language. We also laughed at all the crazy designs we had on our nails when we were done.

The final event of the night was a trip to Hagen Daaz (yes Hagan Daaz in China). This is a memory that will stick with me forever. You see, while it was expensive for us to go to Hagen Daaz, the prices were far out of reach for the average Chinese budget so Kiki was thrilled to have the chance to go there. We shared many things that night, not just over-priced ice cream. We learned from each other, with each other and what made each woman unique. For me I know I will always remember the looks of wonder on the ladies faces as the enjoyed their first bite of Hagen Daz Dulce – de – leche ice cream. Each one taught us so much about how to live and be strong women, even in the face of adversity.