Living in China as a foreigner part 3: My Students

Living  in China as a foreigner, particularly in a small town, was special in many ways but one that stands out is my students. I was teaching grades 7 and 8 in the only middle school in town and instead of having to deal with burgeoning rowdy teenagers I had the sweetest and most caring students ever. Admittedly, being the only foreigner living in China they knew and consequentially my celebrity status in town motivated them to want to pay attention to me in class. Yet, not only were they always happy to see me when I stepped into their classroom but also some of them went the extra length of wanting to meet me outside class. 

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The kindness of strangers in big cities in China

In my post about living in China as a foreigner part 2 I recalled a series of instances in which the kindness of strangers saved the day when I lived in a small town in China but if I’m honest my first encounter with the kindness of strangers in China was actually even before arriving in small town China.

You see, when I got the job in China I had a friend living in Guangzhou so I decided to arrive a week early and spend it with her before I moved on to Yangshuo (where I would spend a week attending “orientation” with the company that had  hired me before moving on to the small town where I had been posted). My friend lived immensely far from the airport and couldn’t pick me up so she sent me a detailed plan on how  to take a bus from the airport to a point in town where she would meet me.  It was complete with photographs of what I should see on my way, where I should get off, phonetic transcript of what the bus driver might ask me and how to respond to it! Following the steps was super easy and I was soon on the bus ticking off the photos of the places we drove past.  Then suddenly I knew something was wrong, I had ticked of the final picture before the stop were I was supposed to get of and meet her but I couldn’t see the bus stop. Had we driven past without me noticing? But the bus hadn’t stopped…

I was about to panic when the man sitting next to me -who had obviously been”reading” over my shoulder- asked to look at my paper and tried speaking to me. However, I spoke no mandarin and he spoke no English. Even so, he managed to tell me to calm down. The bus soon stopped and he got up, spoke with the driver and beckoned me to follow him. I saw them unload my suitcase from the bus but I had no idea where we were! Next thing I know the man grabbed my suitcase, beckoned me to follow and started running. I’m not sure why but I trusted him (not that I had any choice). We run for 3 blocks and then there was my friend waiting for me. What a relief! Turns out the road the bus normally took was closed so it had taken a detour. The passenger sitting next to me had gotten of at the wrong stop just to take me where I had to go. If thats not a brilliant example of how the kindness of strangers can change everything then nothing is.  


Armenia’s Velvet Revolution celebration and what to do when history happens around you.

Generally speaking historical moments are not something you can plan your schedule around. They are things that happen unexpectedly and end up being so important they change the face of history and thus get written down for future generations to learn about. In April Armenians successfully changed the political picture of their country by collectively taking to the streets protesting against the government in a movement that was so peaceful it has come to be known as the “Velvet Revolution”. Today, as I write this, Armenians are voting in an early parliamentary election because the acting Prime Minister is seeking a stronger mandate in order to continue with the reforms. Between today’s election and the velvet revolution in April they celebrated 100 days of freedom and I was there to witness it. 

Continue reading “Armenia’s Velvet Revolution celebration and what to do when history happens around you.”

Living in China as a foreigner Part 2: the kindness of strangers

Moving to a small town in China where I was the sole foreigner wasn’t all about being a celebrity , it was also about that incredibly alluring thing all travelers encounter on the road: the kindness of strangers. 

Continue reading “Living in China as a foreigner Part 2: the kindness of strangers”