Sonia Carlson

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Sonia Carlson wants people to understand her culture.

To that end, she's teaching a class at the Brewery Arts Center offering a peek at the Chinese way of life, from language and calligraphy to music and games, like Chinese Hackeysack.

"I don't know what people will be interested in," she said. "So, I've included a little bit of everything."

Diminutive and soft-spoken with fawn-like brown eyes and a braid trailing past her waist, Carlson is originally from Zhang Zhou, a city in Fu Jian province.

She moved to America in 1987 to further her education and now holds a master's degree in education. Her 4-year-old daughter, Ingrid, and a part-time career as a substitute teacher fill her days.

Married to Bob Carlson, she is 46 and has lived in Douglas County for 14 years. During that time, she has introduced Americans to the various aspects of Chinese culture, volunteering to organize presentations for numerous schools and organizations.

In her class, Carlson teaches the Mandarin, the official language in China. The dialect is spoken by more people than any other language, yet most Chinese literature and language in the United States is the Cantonese dialect, which is not prevalent in modern China.

"Education is for the future. We should look beyond the present," she said. "In 10 years, a knowledge of Mandarin could be very beneficial."

As she talks, she demonstrates the traditional Chinese method used to make ink. Water goes into a depression in a small, rectangular stone, then mixed by grinding with an ink stick, the pigment comes from the combination of the three. Calligraphy requires good brush control, patience and attention to detail, according to Carlson.

She loves American culture and this country's many freedoms, but misses the China she left behind.

"American people are open and warm-hearted," she said. "They're so willing to help and I've learned so much from them. But America is very fast-paced and schedules are tight."

In China the pace was slower, the people gracious and warm when she was growing up, but things are changing. China's people are freer than they used to be and with that, the pace of life has increased.

The children of China are advanced in certain areas of study like math, but the educational system reroutes students to lesser schools if their grades are not good, according to Carlson.

"Education in America is for everyone," she said. "Students should treasure the opportunities they have here. In China, students have to fight and compete to get into good schools."

Carlson's next class will be from 10 a.m. to noon April 20 at the Brewery Arts Center and costs $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers. She is available for private lessons and plans on expanding her classes, based on interest. For information, call the arts center at 883-1976.


What: Classes in Chinese culture by Sonia Carlson

When: 10 a.m. to noon April 20

Where: Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St.

Cost: $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers

Information: 883-1976.


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