• Traveling

    A Journey to Hengshan Mountain

    We took the midnight express back to Chenzhou from Hengshan late Saturday night.  This meant getting dirty.  I once spent four years as a grunt.  Digging foxholes and wading through marshes was dirty work too.  I look back at this previous incarnation with nostalgia as I board a crowded train in which tickets were sold beyond seating capacity for people to stand or sit in the aisles.  The windows were sealed shut.  There was the sound of people hawking up snotty yellow mucous.  Chewed up sunflower seeds and cigarette butts scattered upon the floor.  Old men with rotten, nicotine stained teeth smoked in the thresholds between cars.  They came back…

  • 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.

  • 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!