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Speed Dating in an English Lesson

A few weeks ago I finished my first academic year of teaching Oral English at a university in the Middle Kingdom. There've been ups and downs, yadda, yadda, but it's been, overall, good. Even the work has been okay. Here's a short piece I wrote back in March about my favourite lesson.

This week, in the often frustrating battle to make my students speak English, I’ve been doing a speed dating exercise with my class…

Hot Lasagna? You can’t handle the hot lasagna!

Ah, it's Laowai Crackdown season again. Time to cringe as we watch the latest laowai misbehavior on viral video and self-righteously point out that we would never ever think of acting like that. Time to feel a bit indignant about getting stopped and asked for our passports outside the bar because he didn't stop anybody who looked Chinese even though there were some ABC's in the group and that's basically racial profi…

Killing me with kindness

They want to help. They really want to help. And whether you want it or not, they are going to help. It’s one of the best things about being in China, and one of the worst. There are always people around willing to lend a hand. And not just willing. They are determined.

When we went to the Longmen Grottoes last Friday, we did our usual thing of strolling out of the station and looking a bit lost. In the past this …

Kungfu

Fast Food in China: Beyond the Golden Arches

For many in China, “fast food” means McDonalds and KFC. To the average laowai, a visit to the nearest burger joint (or a phone call to the bicycle delivery man) is a periodic necessity for those craving a reminder of life back home and a break from their usual Chinese diet of rice and noodles. Even many Chinese consider fast food to be a uniquely foreign –- or specifically American –- phenomenon.

But Western fast …

Jack at McDonald’s

Jack finished his last class and coming out the door he lit his first cigarette of the day.

At his apartment door, Jack crushed his fourth cigarette and took the fifth inside. He checked his phone messages. Then he stepped back out and lit number six and headed to McDonald's.

Although Jack loved Mcdonald's coffee, he did not much care for McDonald's itself, or KFC for that matter. 5,000 years of continuous civ…

Love, with Chinese characteristics (a conversation)

"You need to understand," Walter said, lighting a cigarette. "Chinese love is real love."

"And American love isn't?" Nick said.

"Western love," Walter said, "is not real love. Not in the Chinese sense. It's not. Their love is deeper, truer."

"Yeah," Nick said, "I can see what you mean."

He could too. One night at dinner he had casually remarked that he had worn holes in a pair of socks. The next day his g…

The 7 Year Laowai: Part 8 – The Graveyard of all Ambition

Be sure to start at the beginning with "The 7-Year Laowai: Part 1 – Introduction", or see all posts in the series here.

After Tom, that was it for me. I decided not to "renew the contract". I applied for math-teaching jobs at international schools in many different cities, but come September, I was across Wuhan. In another university.

Teaching oral English.

I never cut down on my drinking. In this place, h…

The 7 Year Laowai: Part 7 – Safety

Be sure to start at the beginning with "The 7-Year Laowai: Part 1 – Introduction", or see all posts in the series here.

I had an English class once where this girl interrupted me to ask what I thought of Japan, and without waiting for an answer, proceeded to tell me that Japan had killed many Chinese people, that they hated China, they were jealous of China. Then she went into Korea. Korea "stole our culture". You…

The 7 Year Laowai: Part 6 – Concentration Camp

Be sure to start at the beginning with "The 7-Year Laowai: Part 1 – Introduction", or see all posts in the series here.

With Matt gone, nobody really did anything. They bitched. We all avoided Keith like the walking kindergarten plague he was...but none of us did anything. I won't say that I tried but had no support, but really, what were we to do? We were English teachers in China, lucky enough to have these jobs…

The 7-Year Laowai: Part 5 – Lego Blocks

Be sure to start at the beginning with "The 7-Year Laowai: Part 1 – Introduction", or see all posts in the series here.

Paul left in June, and that August brought us Keith. Within a year he had transformed our university into his own private playhouse.

Keith was at first unassuming. From somewhere in the Midwest, he said he had done career counseling, and after an early retirement, had decided to come see China…