Changzhou, China

This Is A Hot Town

In Observations on November 30, 2010 at 9:10 pm

One of the many materials available to Chinese students of English at our high school is a monthly publication called “The World of English” (Yingyu Shijie). The small periodical publishes English short stories side-by-side with their Chinese translations, and also provides footnotes written by a “reading guide” to help explain tough passages.

In the November, 2010 issue, the first story is Hemingway’s “The Killers,” in which two men hijack “Henry’s lunch-room” in an attempt to kill one of the restaurant’s regular patrons. In one passage, the killers try to order drinks:

“Got anything to drink?” Al asked.
“Silver beer, bevo[1], ginger-ale,” George said.
“I mean you got anything to drink[2]?”
“Just those I said.”
“This is a hot[3] town,” said the other. “What do they call it?”



In In Chinese on October 29, 2010 at 2:03 pm

The following is a speech I gave to my class of 50 Chinese students during the “class meeting” this week. The teacher had invited us to talk to our classmates about our experiences studying Chinese, with the hope that this would help them in their study of English.



Into the Countryside

In Diary on October 7, 2010 at 10:55 am

The fruit was so rare that my Chinese companions believed it to have a name only in their local dialect. Related to sugarcane, the indigenous plant was long and green, sweet and juicy, but it was significantly smaller than its popular cousin. We peeled the canes one by one, then chewed on them until they were dry, swallowing the sugary juice and spitting out the white residue. I breathed in the fresh air and looked out over the Taihu lake. This was the life.

Wait. Fresh air? In China? Yes – because we were no longer in the crowded industrial city of Changzhou, but in the remote Chinese countryside. The China most foreigners hear about is the urban one: news about the country’s pollution problems or its top-rate education, its petty crime or its rapid economic development, describes almost exclusively life in Chinese cities. In fact, fewer than 40% of China’s population lives in those cities; the rest of China lives out in the xiangxia, where the pace of life seems slower and people seem closer together.