• Traveling

    Being a Highly Respectable Foreigner with Chinese Characteristics

    You like spicy food?  You know how use chopsticks?  You know Chinese President Hu Jintao? Of course I do.  Chinese people are so easy to impress.  Either their expectations are very low, or I just don’t fit the mold of a stereotypical American. A college mathematics student at a party told me that while hanging out in Beijing and Shanghai she was amazed at the ignorance of foreigners pouring into the country without knowing the current president or the role Deng Xiaoping (kind of pronounced  like “Dung show—rhymes with plow—ping”) played in the Reform and Opening of China.  Of course everybody knows Chairman Mao Zedong.  But to know that under…

  • Traveling

    Street Life

    There was a dirty two lane street just outside the gates.  Construction vehicles threw up plumes of exhaust and dust as they tore up the pavement and surrounding countryside.  Vehicles of all shapes and sizes sped to and fro.  People rode motorcycles, cars, trucks, and tricycle-like cars.  Some people seemed to have engineered their own personal motorized vehicle from remnants found in a junkyard.  Meanwhile, students filtering in from summer vacation weaved their way across the street to the bus stop and the market area just opposite of the university. This “market area” resembled a two-block section of a city that just sprouted out of the stony ground.  There were…

  • Traveling

    The Awakening

    It was Saturday evening and dusk was falling.  The thundering had stopped.  There were text messages from Sail asking how I was doing, “Was the apartment convenient for u now?”  And Vanno, a highschool senior and the son of a chemistry professor had called to see when it would be convenient for him to come over to practice English.  I had met Vanno the day before, and he made himself useful by helping out as translator and carrying bags.  He introduced himself as “very eager to learn oral English” from me.  Vanno prefaced his suggestions and advice with, “Is it convenient, if…” I tried texting Sail back but I couldn’t…

  • Traveling

    Of Fried Chicken Feet

    Second Thoughts Well… I’m here. “You must act like you are at home. Please tell me if you experience any inconvenience.” These were the words of Mr. Bob Chen—his words a constant refrain throughout our first hours together. Bob was a small, thin man wearing a short sleeve dress shirt tucked into slacks. He took my fully loaded backpack away from me—if he was a contortionist he would be able to fit inside it; pack being about half his weight. He was small, but I knew his heart was big. A couple days in country… How can I sum it all up? China was dirty, hot, loud, and bustling. The…

  • Prologue

    How It's All Gonna Be

    They call it the Middle Kingdom. Right now, I wait for paperwork.  It is the only thing holding me back.  I expect that everything will be in order by the middle of August, Year of the Ox.  Until then I dream.  Though not in China yet, anticipation, planning, and great expectations are all just as important to me as the actual experience of being there.  Right now, I think about the students I will teach at a university in Hunan province. The university says that I will teach literature.  They welcome me create my own curriculum and to supplement their text book with from my own library.  This is very…

  • Prologue

    Grandiose Visions of a Migrant Worker

    Born in the Year of the Dragon, the day Viking I landed on Mars, and about one year before the original Star Wars film hit the big screens, it is only natural that I would be forever restless, dreaming, and yearning to ramble beyond the borders of my country. I am just another migrant worker dreaming of a better life.  Just as one of my teachers had dreamed of a better life.  He went into the woods outside of Concord, Massachusetts.   He found something useful there.  Something inspirational.  His experiment at Walden Pond taught us how to advance confidently in the direction of our dreams.  So that is what I…