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“The culture of Chinese is very conservative.  There are no good places for intellectuals so many intellectuals leave for foreign countries such as America, England and so on.”

“We are always proud of our IQ but are ashame of our regulations and system.  Chinese have strong sense of protect ourselves.  It’s a limitation of one’s future.  But we have to.  Just like our government proclaims: survival is the first place, equality is the second.”

“We don’t follow religion but we do follow ancient philosophies of Confucius.”

“First I must say that I’m not a racist.  But for me, I can’t marry blacks or whites .  People should marry someone of their own race.  They can understand each other well.  Maybe the same beliefs can shorten the distance between the two souls.  I only love Chinese.  I even don’t like touching Koreans, Japanese or Hindu.  A Chinese man brings me a strong feeling of happiness or safety.  People comes from different country and have different customs.  Maybe love decreases the conflict. But with other problems around, for example the education of their children or the supporting of parents, their life can’t be terrific, I think.  I just want to have a Chinese husband.  He can understand the meaning of words that I’ve said.  Even different races can’t live a comfortable life of course that’s not an absolutely right thing.  Just imagine the basic food that they eat can’t be the same! What a terrible thing! In one word, I’m really not a racist, but I can’t accept marriage between two different races.”

and then you get these, from students older than yours truly:::

“I want to write a story about Bobby princess.  It is about two girls who work together to beat the evil.  It tells us friends should trust each other and help each other.”

“Yesterday I has been to Jinan City. Seeing so many pigens walking around people who were feeding them including the children and the elder.  I felt very comfortable when I saw they were not afraid of people and we could get along well with them.”


The University is preparing to turn on the heat.  The black dust and browning leaves catch the backwind of monstrous coal trucks delivering their goods.  In the distance, surrounded by cornfields and cotton, two ominous smoke stacks relieve themselves of their ashen waste.

The sky has been dark all day.  As I run, I remember what these days felt like in Gloucester.  This is the kind of day that would get my mind going, set me out to explore every coastline of Cape Ann that might suggest big waves and foamy spray.  It was salt air I breathed in then, not coal-dust.  But sadly, I am not in Kansas anymore.

The trucks unload their potential energy into a block of land sectioned off for just this purpose.  This block is about the size, if not bigger, of the building I teach in.  Running around the track, I can see the tips of small dark mountains rising over the walls; I wonder if this running is maybe counter-productive.

Nonetheless, I will welcome the heat when it comes.  I have spent the last two weeks nestled in my sleeping bag because it’s the only thing that will keep me warm enough to function.  My toes are perpetually cold.  I cook to stay warm, standing over a dysfunctional gas stove, gulping down hot soup hoping the warmth will reach my feet.

Now it is night.  It’s not much different than how the rest of today felt.  My students and I huddled in our down jackets in class today, and while their classmates recited their midterm speeches, we all gazed out onto a dismal, gray Qufu.  If the wind had been still, I would have been depressed, but since it decided to take down all the leaves today, there is excitement in the air.  Excitement enough so that I want to run through it, be part of it, let it suggest to me the blustery Gloucester days, let myself reminisce and let nostalgia take over if it means I can feel a little bit more alive, a little more awake and in tune with what little nature there is around me.

The small group of Korean students, who attend Qushida University, play soccer in the parking lot outside my window.  Recently, they have picked up baseball, and I worry that this time the ball will go through my window instead of bouncing off.

Though I have never experienced it personally, the other foreign teachers have complained about the Koreans cat-calling, how they kick the ball at us as we pass through to return home.  They are rich, and they are rude.

When Allie’s student, Kathy, and I were walking through the game again one evening, she whispered in her sweet broken English, “Oh! Those are Koreans.”  Allie asked how she felt about them.  Kathy replied that she didn’t like them, that most Chinese students stay clear of them, and when prompted why, she replied not because they were rude, but “because of history.”

For a country that tried to rid itself of history and start fresh, China is astoundingly dependent on the past.  One student told me he thought that all Japanese people were in fact Chinese.  A long time ago a Chinese Emperor sent a boat-load of three thousand Chinese boys and girls to Japan.  From these children descend what are now the modern-day population.

Be it Japan, Taiwan or Tibet, China uses history to defend that they were all once and therefore remain still a part of the People’s Republic, and therefore do not deserve or need the title of independence.  This is the same country that for decades burned any remnant of culture that did not fit into the puzzle of communist revolution.  They destroyed their heritage to recreate themselves but in so doing stirred up the past into a confusing fury.

Today, though it is shattered, that history remains.  But it is contrived and twisted into National pride.  Any story that cannot be braided into the thread of this pride is left out so that the puzzle has gaping holes.  They fill these holes with materialism they call progress.

Bottle Fed Coy

November 2009
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