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 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?
» Read more: The Last Time I Saw Anshan – You’re Always A Foreigner In China