• Podcasts

    Understanding Thoreau

    In this literature class I help Chinese university students decipher passages in Thoreau’s essay, “Reading,” pointing out that it may take multiple visits to his works — a journey over a span of years — to gain more understanding. I also answer a student’s question into why Thoreau thought reading the classics, preferably in the original Greek and Roman, was so important.

  • Teaching

    Traditional Chinese Medicine & Elizabethan Theatre

    With 16 teaching hours per week and a four day weekend it seemed that I had an abundance of free time.  There were no office hours required, but I provided nine hours during evenings throughout the week for students wanting to talk about literature, culture, or life.  It had to be evenings because the studentry were in classes all day long, day after day.  But despite this I was practically on sabbatical. I had the free time to get literary, practice yoga, explore grimy Chenzhou, and plan my upcoming Tibet expedition.  I contacted the Xiangnan University medicine school faculty to meet with them for a tour of their facilities, and…

  • Teaching

    Teaching Thoreau in the Heartland of China

    I was teaching Thoreau in a time when the Chinese were migrating from the countryside into the cities. It was a new Industrial Age—but this one was taking place during the age of globalism, cell phones, and Hello Kitty. Experts estimated that a population greater than that of America’s total population would move into Chinese cities within the next 15-20 years.   There I was at the vanguard of this exodus where some of my students had left their families behind in the rice paddies.  These students were their family’s only hope. But for those now living and working in the cities, there was the heady pleasure of shopping. The…

  • Podcasts

    Thoreau: His Life and Times

    In this literature class I explore Thoreau by delving into his perspective on life and his motivation for choosing a spartan lifestyle, despite having a Harvard education. I am surprised by the brilliance of one Chinese student’s penetrating question about Thoreau — one that I had never heard before. The whole class works on an answer!

  • Traveling

    Dinner with the Yu Family

    One late summer evening before the sun went down, I was at dinner and had what appeared to be a glass of Chinese wine at an open air restaurant from across the campus.  Children surrounded me.  It was cooler now and all the neighborhood children were playing.  One by one they came by my table pretending to ignore me.  Once they realized that I didn’t bite, they made eye contact with me and squealed in surprise. A university student saw that congress had formed at my table and we were all chatting amiably.  I was trying to teach the children English and the children were trying to teach me Chinese. …

  • Podcasts

    Drama Week 1: Suspended Disbelief

    This is the first day of drama class. I enter the classroom posing as a doctor, wearing a white lab coat, surgical cap and stethoscope around my neck– all borrowed from a medical student at the university. For this mini-drama, I carry my Medical Terminology textbook and introduce myself as “Doctor Matt”.