When I first arrived at GDCP, my students were understandably anxious around me. I towered over them. There was a brief period where I thought I had been scammed, believing I had been sent to teach at a high school. The fact is, these children (I can think of them as nothing but) are small. The same cannot be said for the American in the room, however.
And I am not only tall; I am bearded. While in the north, I recall seeing a few without a naked chin, I have not had the same luxury here in the south. I actually stopped dead in my tracks, wide-eyed, when I thought I saw a man with a smooth cover of black working at a stall.
It turned out to be a face-mask. One wonders who would buy their food from a man with a cold, but I digress.
I believed my students were anxious because of my height and (by Chinese standards) grizzly facade. The truth was far more scandalous. There is a phenomenon in China—you lucky men who are reading this—where Chinese women are infatuated with foreigners. It is all the more poignant in the south. A friend who I discussed my students’ ardor with (forgive the early reveal) mentioned his disdain for the phenomenon, how despite all efforts to shame such women such a disgraceful trend had not died down.
As he put it, “even a complete loser from the United States can come to China and be a king.” To this I asked how I would fare, not being a complete loser from the Untied States.
He had no answer.
Now, it is my firm belief that with Chinese students conversation is the most vital aspect of their education. They will claim to have studied English for three years, six years, eight years all while appearing nigh illiterate. The Chinese curriculum pays almost no attention to conversational use.
As such, I took it upon myself to design lessons that were student-centered. And where else could I begin besides student introductions?
I would like to think that during each class period (during these introductions), I was called handsome (among other things) at least thirty times. That number is not so impressive when you consider I have over three hundred students, but it was still startling. Here I thought my students would react poorly to my ‘bestial’ appearance, but instead I was met with awestruck gasps whenever I finished a sentence, lauded with applause whenever I repeated a students name—yes, half a hundred students clapping enthusiastically for mispronouncing one of their classmates names.
I felt (and still feel) like a celebrity. There are thousands of students here, many whom have only heard of “John”. Often I will be met with a “hello” to which I naturally reply, “hello”. Whoever summoned the courage to speak with me will almost always break down into a fit of laughter and blushing (be they man or woman) before scampering off. The braver ones will ask if I am teacher before hurriedly making a similar flight.
While there is much more to say on the matter, dozens of stories to make you cringe and laugh (perhaps you have already noticed how many boys are in the first picture), I have have grown rather hungry and am in the mood for some noodles.