I am not a tourist, just a teacher. Actually, I’m a literature professor, currently employed by a university in Indiana USA and teaching for a Sino-US program at a university down in Ningbo, China. Maybe I will write about Ningbo later, but now I want to write about Anshan. But I don’t want to write this as a teacher of writing*.
Since I spent two years of my life teaching in Anshan, which is in northeast China, I had some experiences which I will never forget. I had never been out of my own country before — never — not even to Mexico or Canada, as much as I admire those two countries. So what did I do my first out — I travel to the opposite of the world to teach at a technological university, even though I am a humanities person? My new colleagues at the Anshan University of Science and Technology couldn’t figure out that one.
At a https://drivercompany.nl/driving-school-amsterdam-refresher-driving-lessons-amstelveen-diemen/ Christmas dinner thrown for all the laowai (foreigners) in Anshan, the mayor thanked me for coming there to teach for a salary that was comparatively low. I told him that I was there to educate the students, not to train them to pass exams. Preparing for exams and the amassing of points are important to Chinese students. He seemed to agree with that concept – but who knows what he really said, or what he really understood me to say, since our conversation went through a translator, the head of foreign affairs who was in charge of all the foreigners on our campus?
I later learned that the Chinese often don’t say what they really mean or feel anyway. Nor do they always print what you tell them, as I discovered when I was interviewed more than once by local newspaper reporters. They love giving toasts and love listening to glowing speeches — mainly those given by themselves. I once was given an award by the city for contributing to the economic growth, and to receive this I had to give a speech on television. I never quite figured out what I had done to deserve this recognition, since no one came to my classroom to watch me teach. The city big-wigs seemed to like my speech, but who knows what I really said when the translator finished with her version?
When I read one interview which even included my photo (the least flattering of the photos they had taken of me), I realized that they were revealing information that I had not given to them. The reporter included in the front page story the fact that I was a diabetic (type II), information that I had not supplied through our translator. I purposely did not supply that personal information because I had already discovered that many Chinese look down on people with ailments as being weak, just as they reportedly look down on people who were elderly. It became obvious in short order that one of the heads of the foreign affairs office had given out my personal information, something that is against the law in the US. We also don’t ask people to give out their ages in the US, something I had to explain repeatedly when I declined to reveal my age or how much money I made.
Many Chinese have a figure in their heads which tells them how much money one should be making at a particular age. If that particular figure does not correspond with how much one is making, that person is not considered a success in their eyes. Anyway, I was asked my age almost as often as I was asked by many parents the first time they met me if I would tutor their child privately. They wanted their child, as I was told, to go to a better university than those in Anshan.
This last sentence partially explains why I encountered many teachers without degrees – many Canadians and Aussies who made no bones about how much they liked to drink. This changed when the province of Laioning raised their standards for the university positions. Many young teachers had to return to their home countries while older teachers had to find a position in a middle school. An intelligent colleague and good friend from Canada, a distinguished scholar with an advanced degree from Columbia University, was dismayed when he discovered what he felt was a preference by a university in Anshan for a lesser-educated young male teacher who worked very little in the classroom and mainly showed DVD movies to his students. For more visit
I discovered that, throughout China, students majoring in English or linguistics were required to take English names. Some of them were quite imaginative like “Sea, Sky, Cloud, Magic, and Potter.” I also had students with even stranger names like “Sunny, Silence, Galahad, Ice, Secret” and Japanese-sounding names like Hotoe. I told some of them that if they went to a job interview with a western employer using such names, they would not be taken seriously. Some names were so ridiculous that I asked them to change them. Usually, they did. One girl’s name sounded like something one would find in a nude centerfold for a men’s magazine, so I asked her to change it without telling her why. One bright young man refused to give up his chosen name of Appleyard (a brand name), so I called him Applesauce or Apple-seed in front of class. He took the teasing quite well but never gave up his name. Later, he became one of my biggest fans and still writes to me today.