I recently got back from a trip up to Inner Mongolia to visit some friends from my very first summer in China. It was refreshing to be in the North of China for many reasons. Among the main reasons were my friends themselves. It's amazing how after three years, we still had plenty to talk about and have grown in intimacy with each other. This group of friends are middle school and High School English teachers. I was there English teacher three years ago for a glorious 5 weeks during their summer vacation. Being with them again, reminded me of why I enjoyed them so much. I'll try to share little stories here on my blog as they come to mind. But let me start with a short story of Daniel (name change).
My friend Daniel, a 50 year old teacher whose family moved to Baotou from the south of China, perpetually brings a smile to my face. His English definitely is not perfect, but he speaks it so confidently and with ease, that I don't even notice some small grammar mistakes he might make. And, not only is he funny, but he's a very wise man.
Now, Mr. Daniel loves going to natural parks. He said that every Sunday, his wife and he will wake up at 5:00 to go to the particular park we were visiting. So, what activity should recommend for my time in Baotou but to visit the parks. This particular park was designed to look like the plains of Inner Mongolia. While we were walking in the park, Daniel told us that when his son was in the middle school, he was his teacher for one year. During that time, his son once called him "father" in class. The other students heard and started to laugh. Mr Daniel responded by saying to his son, "Shut up! You cannot call me father in school. You must call me teacher." It might not seem that funny in retelling the story, but if you could see the lethargic nature of which Mr. Daniel told this story, you would also laugh. I really can't even recall the story without smiling. After I laughed, Mr. David asked me, "Do you think this is a funny story?" Then, he probably said something like, "Now, please relax and have a seat under this tree.”
During a somewhat socially awkward lunch, with a mixing of about 7 people who didn’t know each other, the host and his son were talking in Chinese about tennis. I know very little about tennis no matter which language we are using. So, my student looked over at me and asked me if I had heard of "Andy Reddick" (I think). I said something like, “Isn’t he a tennis player?” (I was completely guessing.) They nodded that he was a tennis player and they seemed content with my knowledge of tennis; I guess I passed. Mr. Daniel, who was sitting right beside me and was not engaging in the tennis conversation either, said quietly to me, "Just now, I think that you are not that interested in tennis, am I right?" I agreed, and asked him how he could and tell. “You are very insightful into people’s feelings and interests,” I told him. He continued, "When this situation happens to me, I usually just listen without saying a word, and that way I can try to learn something.” He spoke these words almost as though he were reading it from Proverbs. Thank you for the reminder Mr. Daniel. An incredibly wise, man.