For background information on Chinese college students and their English writing, click here.

Topic: the city you’d like to visit most

Paris, the City Just Like Me

By Golf

Which is my favorite city? It is a good question and I have never thought of my favorite city outside China. Every person’s favorite thing is different from others. Everyone has its own favoite thing. In my opinion, the city I liked can reflect much information about the person himself.

After thinking about the question, I believe Paris is my most favorite city.

Next is the reason.

First, let me have an introduction. I am a quiet man and I am not outgoing. I like an environment where it is always silent and where there are not many people coming and going. I have not gone to Paris before. The only imagination about the city is from TV. In the TV I have known that there are not so many tall buildings in Paris, unlike the city New York. The tallest building in Paris is the great tower. No tall buildings means not many people there. The citizens don’t need to share buildings with others. They can possess their own house. The building isn’t tall, so the building is strong; even if there is an earthquake, people can escape from it as soon as possible. So there will not be many people die from earthquake.

Second, I like it because it has an excellent character. In history, during World War II, it had been occupied by the German Nazis. However, the people of France didn’t give up. They fought against German Nazis, eventually, they drived away the Nazis and gained their motherland later. It is the spirit of a great race. It is somewhat like China. During World War II, we also had been invaded by Japanese, but at last we defeated the Japanese and win our independence again. A people who have experienced a great disaster must have a better future, which is also suited to a country or race.

Third, I have heard many times that Paris is a romantic country. Love is an important part in life. A romantic environment must create many great love stories. If I have such a romantic story, maybe I am the happiest person in the world.

When I was a little guy, I have seen a movie about France. It described a fairy tale. A children’s heart is pure like the water. If I have the chance in the future to travel in Paris, I want to see the children in Paris to see their characters and their innocence.

Compared a city to a man, Paris is such a man who is gentle, silent, full of knowledge, merciful, quiet, courageous. I like such a man and I am such a man, so I like the city Paris. We have common language, common character, common aim of life and common pursuit of the world.

The man is Paris and the man is me.

For more information on my Chinese college students, click here.

Topic: where in the world would you like to travel most

Beautiful land, Tibet

The place that I would like to travel most is Tibet. We can get a lot of information in all kinds of media. It was introduced as a fabulous mysterious and beautiful land. These things directly promote me to visit that place. And recently a well-known accident broke out at there, a rebellion happened. I want to see the truth. This is the other reason I really want to be there. These reasons form Tibet to be my favorite place.

There are several scenes that attract me a lot, like the Potala Palace. The Potala Palace rises a further 170 meters and is the greatest monumental structure in all of Tibet. This is the most famous scene there, and that  is one of my favorite places. Early legends concerning the rocky hill tell of a sacred cave, considered to be the dwelling place of the Bohisattva Chenresi (Avilokiteshvara), that was used as a meditation retreat by Emperor Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century AD.

Just like the Potala Palace, Mt. Everest is so famous to the global world. It is the highest mountain in the world. Of course I will not climb the mountain, but around Mt. Everest is a natural protection zone. It has lots of interesting and beautiful things. And as we all know Beijing Olympic flame has touched the top of the mountain. So that is the other reason I want to be that place, to feel the atmosphere of miracle.

Samye Monastary is famous for all of us, too. It was the first Buddhist monastary built in Tibet, constructed in approsimately 775 AD under the patronage of King Trisong Detsen of Tibet who sought to revitalize Buddhism, which had declined since its introduction by King Songsten Gamp in the 7th century. The monastary is located in Dranang, Shannan Prefecture.

There are so many places I can go. Those are just three of them. Besides scenes, the truth of the accident also promotes me there.

Many western medias attack Chinese government that we don’t give enough human authority to Tibetans. These media described that Tibetans are living in a hard condition. And Chinese people are kept in the dark. Chinese media give me the impression that Chinese government has do their bestto make Tibet peaceful. When I saw these kind of report, I felt confused. I even cannot recognize who tells us the truth.

Going to Tibet is a good way for me to know about the truth, to feel the real condition directly. And so many attractive scenes will also let my travel more fantastic. How can I not go there?

I’m now back in the US of A and back in Chicago. The basic sequence of my life since China is this: I returned in July 2008; spent the summer mostly jobless in Michigan whilst living in my parents’ basement; got hitched in Zihuatanejo, Mexico; spent two weeks living in my husband’s boyhood room at my in laws’ house looking for a place to live; got married for real in a courthouse; got an apartment in Chicago; got a job at Trader Joe’s grocery store; got fired from Trader Joe’s; spent two unemployed weeks white knuckled, though wrote product descriptions of manufacturing goods for friend of friend; fantasized about getting a Link card; got hired at a university by some miracle; husband a substitute teacher, which is code for still unemployed. But looking. And trying hard. The economy has hit us both in the face with a Made in China baseball bat!

The essays I will post below were written by my students in China. I loved my students in China. I miss my students in China.

You might recall from here ,here here here and here that I was fighting with a Yahoo.com sports writer, jerk-o superem-o Dan Wetzel. He lambasted, with ignorant panache, even by American, loud mouthed sports media standards, the decision to hold the Olympics there. I had my class respond to his column, and I sent him ALL of their letters.  Why is this still relevant? Well, I’m still bitter that he PROMISED to write my class back, and didn’t! They’re crushed!

Also, I’m curious to contact my class again and see how life has changed since the Olympics. Do they still agree with what they wrote? Were the Olympics good for China? Or was it an economic vaccuum, like one student ominously warned. To me, it’s relevant because my city want s the Olympics. Or more accurately, our corrupt, often grumpy and pompous lifelong politico svengali, Mayor Richard M. Daley, a man obsessed with his legacy, wants the 2016 Olympics in Chicago. On one hand it’s exciting. On the other hand, I’m sure the usual schemers are licking their chops at rife opportunities for kickbacks, pay-to-play, and various other back door dealings that are this city’s MO. That rant is done. For now!

On to the essays!

Dear Mr. Wetzel,

My name is Yummy, and I am a Chinese citizen and student in Qinhuangdao, where Olympic soccer will be held. I recently read your column from Yahoo sports, “Fanning the Flame of Controversy.” I would like to respond to some of your points.

You said that “In less draconian concerns, pollution is said to be horrific, the food untrustworthy, and just recently, the Chinese began installing that cutting-edge technology known as the “sit toilet” at some venues after discovering that the rest of the world isn’t too keen on squatting over a hole in the ground to do their business.”

I am afraid you have some facts wrong; what you see is only on the surface. You know little about China and give those arguments. In my opinion, you are a little bit picky about China.

I can’t deny that there is pollution or other shortcomings in China. But can you proise in other countries, including your country, there is no pollution at all? Obviously you can’t, because pollution exists everywhere. In this situation, how can you judge China like that? Furthermore, have you ever paid attention on why China is so polluted?

If you have cared about it, you would have found that your country is one of the polluters. In order to get more profit from business, reduce the pollution in your country, you invest to build lots of industries in China. That is the truth; you buy products made here, and you, therefore, are an indirrect polluter. Don’t try to escape the responsibility.

I really can’t receive the way you made fun of China for installing the “sit toilet.” The way Chinese “do their business” is a habit, and you are not entitled to complain or criticize it. Because you use a knife and a fork for dinner, but we Chinese use chopsticks, you can’t say that is wrong and all Chinese should use knife and fork. That’s unimaginable. Anyhow, you should recognize that the main purpose we installed the “sit toilet” is because China is a hospitable nation, one that can’t bear our visitors to suffer any discomfort. Considering the visitors’ habits is the main reason why we installed the “sit toilet.” Otherwise we should not pay so many in this project; especially since our country is not a developed country.

So when you give some argument about China, please stand in Chinese shoes and think more about it. You will find that China is not as bad as you think. Even if China is still a developing country now, and there are still a lot of shortcomings, you can also see that we are trying our best to improve the situation, especially for the Olympic Games. It will prove the great powerful Chinese to the whole world,

Yours,

Yummy

Write my class back. You ripped apart their country and the decision to hold the Olympics there on Yahoo.com, a Web site that claims 20 times more readership than the Wall Street Journal. As a result, they took hours of time to write you thoughtful responses about it in their second language (OK, so I forced them). The Olympics are over. Now they’d like the response you promised. I’m sure stepping foot in this 5,000-year-old culture has given you some perspective. So write.

I sent a packet from China to Dan-dub’s office about two months ago. It cost 200 RMB! That’s $28 USD. That’s a lot when you’re raking in meager RMBs as a lowly teacher.

Here is the congenial note Danny W passed along APRIL 22, 2008:

I will be happy to read all of your students letters and respond to them as a group.

108 E. Fifth St.
Suite G
Royal Oak, MI 48067

Sincerely,
Dan Wetzel
National Columnist
Yahoo Sports

So, Dan Wetzel, do write them back. A new semester has begun, and they really want to know how you felt about their words. Thirty six Chinese students eagerly await your reply. You should have seen their faces light up when I told them you would respond. Amazing!

I took the wedding dress I had made in Beijing to a US tailor this week. This is the last time I trust sweat shop labor! I kid, I kid. My wedding dress looks suspiciously similar to this Vera Wang from spring 2008 collection (minus the silver dohicky and the fan thing in the front). Wait! I just realized my wedding is in the fall of 08. OMG it’s out of style!

Obvs kidding. Anyway, my mom and I rushed  the dress to our local tailor, a sassy Bolivian-American named Tancy. This followed an all out ma- freak out when I tried it on at home. I had known it wasn’t perfect. I admit, my love for the dress and my struggle and triumphs over the process of commissioning it in Beijing had blinded me to its faults. I was wearing lover’s goggles. Tancy, however, was not. She squinted at the seams of the lining. “Oh yeah, I’ve dealt with Chinese-made dresses before.” The seams were sloppy near the top, but it was a relatively easy fix, she said. Also, the Chinese tailor had sewn the v-neck shut at the bottom, and the seams on the boddice in the front were sloppily pleated. It was looking all kinds of matronly when I tried it on. I stood on a pedestool in front of her big mirror triad and held out my arms. Tancy undid the offending stitching, pushed the material here, stuck a pin there and we all breathed a sigh of relief. It was fixable. Two days later, after perusing bridal mags, which are full right now of various neoclassical, empire waist A-line styles, my ma and I rushed back to Tancy with a new idea. The dress was missing a certain…oomph. We told her we wanted to add We a band of some sort under the bodice. Tancy ran to the back of the store and came out with a thick, long satin ribbon. She pinned it under the bodice, made a knot at the back, and let the remaining fabric run down the back of the dress. I’ll post a pic when it is complete next month. My goggles are off…but I still love this dress.

My class still hasn’t heard from American sportswriter Dan Wetzel. For those unfamiliar, which is everyone, I had my class of Chinese sophomores respond to a Yahoo.com column called “Fanning the flame of controversy” that called the decision to hold the Olympics in China the “single dumbest decision in sports history.” The writer weighed in on everything from Tibet to the squat toilet, and his words almost made my class cry, they were so offended. So they wrote letters and I wrote a blog. He commented on my blog, providing his address and promising a response. I sent the letters from China to him about three weeks ago. They’re still waiting.

Meanwhile, below are two more of their letters and a window into the mindsets of 20-year-old Chinese college students. And, if you’re wondering why the letters are signed with sometimes goofy English names, it’s because the English majors all chose English names for class. I’ve taught, for example, Windows, Bunny (a guy), Kaka, Solar, etc. Lastly, you might notice that I cut out the beginning, because they pretty much all start with, “I am a student at… I recently read your column and…” Other than that they are unedited…except for spelling errors, which I really can’t stop myself from fixing.

1. Mr. Wetzel,

…I write to you because I don’t agree with many of your points, especially the points about Tibet. You said that Tibetan people have battled with China for its independence since the Yuan dynasty. But please look into Chinese history. Actually, in the Tang dynasty, Tibetan government and Tang government agreed that Tibetan people and Chinese people are in one family. Since Yuan dynasty, Tibet has become one province of Yuan dynasty. From then on, Tibet was always a part of China until the Chinese Civil War. Some people with the desire of making Tibet independent did some bad things to the union. But, Tibet has been part of China since 1959. Tibet is a poor district, but the Chinese government never ignored it. Tibetan people live in a better life than before. And under the help of Chinese government, all their social aspects have improved a lot. In your article you said there are not freedom in Tibet, and that they seek freedom for more than 50 years. How can you say so? You must know that the top leader of Tibet is always the Tibetan people. For instance, Zang students can get extra marks in the college entrance exams. In your article you said, “Now here comes the best and perhaps last chance for Tibet to make noise and regain (or gain, depending on your political perspective) independence.” You are calling the Tibetan people independent. You are doing something on purpose to harm our country. I don’t know what your aim is. But I advise you if you are a newsman, you had better write something objective. -Sunny

2. Mr. Dan Wetzel:

…I am writing this letter to show my opinions on your points which you wrote on the internet about “Chinese empty promises and “frightening totalitarianism.”

I do not agree with you on these points. First, I do not think China has given empty promises of progress. I think you can see although China is a developing country, it is improving and developing day by day at a fast velocity. For preparing for the Olympics, we have done something about the traffic, environment and safety of the athletes. Our government has issued many new politics to improve these aspects. For instance, about the traffic, we allow cars to drive by car number. So it is important that we choose the bus as our transport for the first choice. And we also have done something to improve our country’s environment. When you are in China, take a deep breath of the fresh air. Look at the flowers, grass and birds flying. You would know everything we have done, every promise we have achieved. And another point you mentioned was regarding “frightening totalitarianism.” You may think there is a frightening totalitarianism social system in China. It means that the social orders is controlled entirely by the political powers or reach by the state power, but the private space is compressed to be reduced to a minimum. It is not in line with China’s national conditions. Every Chinese has the right to participate in policy decision making with the government, especially on the livelihood aspect. And National People’s Congress for more people who come from various regions of the nation has the right to participate in the polictical decision making is the important manifestation. We also have the right to protect our privacy. And our country respects for the will of the people. So we live a happy and stable life.

For 2008, we are full of anticipation. We strongly believe that our country has the ability to hold a high-level Olympic Games, we welcome all people from the world to come to China to share the joy of the Olympic brings to us.

Sincerely,

Lemon

Coming home

June 30, 2008

I finally had Peking duck on our last night in Beijing. The duck was prepared five different ways: as a soup, melt-in-your-mouth fried skin, fatty pieces, savory slices and as a kind of duck stuffing, with onion and celery. To eat it, I wrapped the meat of choice in thin, pliable bread, added cucumber and green onion, wrapped it like an itty bitty burrito and then dipped it in either a salty brown sauce or sugar. The soup featured vegetables, a rich, flavorful broth and pieces of duck on the bone. Outside of the food I ate in Qingdao, this was the best culinary experience I’ve had in China. The restaurant was big and bright and busy-a local place known for reasonable prices but excellent food. We had Eric and two of his former students with us. It makes such a difference when you know someone who 1. speaks Chinese 2. knows the area. Back at the hostel, we played cards and drank Tsingdao beer with Eric, with whom we’d be traveling to Chicago the next day.

My 13-hour flight from Beijing to Chicago arced over the North Pole. Despite our ridiculous pile of luggage, the trip from the hostel to the airport was a breeze. The students from the night before met us again to help us get all of our crap on an airport shuttle. He was leaving after three years-and he had one small-ish duffle and a small carry-on. Mark and I had been there for only 10 months, and we each had two at-capacity bags and two stuffed carry-ons a piece. Lesson 1 learned from China: travel light.

The refurbished Beijing International Airport is spacious, clean and modern. We checked in, grabbed a yummy bowl of noodles and veggies and breezed through security with almost no waiting at all. The Chinese United worker didn’t care that Mark’s bag was 4 pounds overweight. Luckily, we just missed United Airline’s new policy on checked luggage. We weren’t charged ($15 for the first bag, $25 for the second) for checked bags because the school bought our tickets June 7th; United will start charging passengers for checking bags for all tickets bought after June 14th. Mark’s carry-on was dissected and search, and we both got a thorough wanding down. Even so, the security personnel were pleasant.

We got a rude awakening when we boarded the plane. When I took a half a second to decide between beef and chicken for dinner, the woman barked “Chicken or beef, miss?” an emphasis on “miss” in none too pleasant a tone. Their service industry burn out didn’t dampen our moods. We had switched seats so Eric could sit in our row. We-surprise, surprise!- played cards and watched some of the worst movies ever made. These included “Jumper,” and “Fool’s Gold.” And somehow, we discovered that you could drink free-yes, free-Tsingdao beer on the plane ride.

The only little snag came at the end. Our parents had been following our route online. Suddenly, the flight registered as “canceled.” And they wondered, “Why would a flight from Beijing just disappear out of the sky as a cancellation?” Naturally, both Mark’s parents and my parents came to the conclusion that we had plummeted to the earth. Not so. O’Hare had some storms, so we flew in a clover leaf pattern between Chicago and Rockford for about an hour. We were set to land and refuel in Rockford when we got clearance from air traffic control. Meanwhile, my ultra sensitive motion sickness had kicked in. I gripped the barf bag on our jiggly, nauseating ride and tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

We got through customs and headed to the carosel. I doubt that I’ll have any kind of “reverse” culture shock, but I could tell my eyes are much sharper to the habits of my countymen. I noticed something that I wouldn’t have before. And it was funny to me whereas it wouldn’t have been before I left for China. An announcement that our bags would be late due to lightning strikes on the runway was met with a chorus of groans and a corresponding dance of arms thrown into the air. Places of travel in China also have random, unexpected delays. And workers aren’t exactly upfront about the cause of the delay, let alone the length. I was on a bus with Chinese teachers that met a five-hour traffic jam once, and no reason was ever given. What did people do? They played cards and looked happy. Their carefree reaction shocked me. It was my first lesson about Chinese patience and endurance. A delay is a delay. And people wait. Placidly. With acceptance. Without throwing fits. They bust out the sunflower seeds and cards and settle in for yet another long wait. My biggest fit was at the Nanjing airport during the huge blizzard, the biggest in 50 years. We couldn’t seem to get on a plane, even though we had legitimate tickets. The snow storm had stopped, but I generated a storm of curse words in the two-hour, check-in line. People were pushing their luggage carts into our calves, cutting and breathing down our necks. We finally got to the front, where we argued with a worker, who spoke English but didn’t want to deal with us. Why? I still don’t know. He refused to print out our tickets; we had been transferred to this flight by another airline following the storm. I burst into tears. We had been stuck in Nanjing for three extra days, and I’d had it. One look into the stony face of a Chinese granny turned off my waterworks. I realized how futile these emotional fits were right then. I can’t imagine how funny I looked to the local people. In this nightmare travel situation, I was totally alone in my fit-throwing. But luckily, a worker from our original airline actually saw my dramatic tantrum, ran to us, jumped behind the counter, yelled at someone, and one minute later we had our tickets. We boarded the plan with just 10 minutes to spare.

The American fits yesterday at O’Hare recalled our many unexpected encounters and delays traveling in China. I guess, it was just kind of comical to see a mini-revolt launched over something so small, when I’ve been stuck many times in a sea of placid, emotionless, weary, travelers for almost a year. Lesson 2: Patience. I hope it sticks.

Mark and I were happy to get back, but it’s bittersweet. I didn’t cry about leaving China until we left Eric, who was checking his bags to get on a flight to Oklahoma City. We were leaving our last tie to the country. Our last tie to the intense experience of living in close conditions with a small group of expatriates who have seen and experienced the same things as you. So, it felt final, even though Mark and I would love to take a road trip to Oklahoma some time. And we want to visit China again at some point. Anyhow, he’s been a great neighbor and companion, luckily on who shares appreciation for the absurd and ridiculous, which, we found, is really important when it comes to our friends.

When we met Mark’s parents, I was all teary and emotional about leaving. And then, I was all teary and emotional about being back. I wanted to see his family. I wanted to see my family, which I would, later in the week. But I already missed China. On top of that I was still half motion sick and totally out of it from lack of sleep. Beijing left me with one final bad stomach case and a few complimentary hostel bug bites. In the near future I have a job to find, a wedding to plan and a marriage to look forward to. It is completely surreal to be back.