Where I Come From

A Chinese student, a talented English major from a university in Hunan, China, asked me to describe my hometown.  This is what I wrote: Smethport is very different from Chenzhou.  It is like a dream that I’m afraid will seem unreal or too abstract for you to realize.  Words alone are not enough to describe(…)

Going Back to China

I rolled through an intersection without stopping.  I pounded, tapped, blasted, and played the car horn like a motherfucking riot.  And wherever I went pedestrians and motorists alike trembled in fear.  America is a diverse country.  That was something I had missed while teaching in Hunan last year.  I had missed the Republicans, Democrats, conservatives,(…)

Teaching Nineteen Eighty-Four in Mao Country

Every Wednesday evening six Chinese girls came to my apartment.  By the middle of the Spring 2010 term at Xiangnan University in the home province of Uncle Mao and General Tso, I had come to depend on them to keep me happy.  They were junior English majors and picked English names like Tina, Victoria, Christie,(…)

Indochina Expedition 2010: Eve of Departure

My first semester in China as an English teacher was over.  I would leave at dawn for Vietnam on Monday, January 25, 2010.  Now it was time to go and see if I had what it takes to travel for real.  This would be the first time traveling alone in the developing world without a(…)

A Day in the Life of a Fake Teacher in the Real China

One day I found myself squealing like a pig in front of children.  I pushed my nose up, grunted, and oinked.  We were playing a simplified version of charades.  It was a Sunday afternoon in the bleak of January.  And this being China, it was bleaker than bleak.  The dean of my university had loaned(…)