Encore post: Last Days in China, Part 2

In Part 1, Harriet described the xenophobic mood and the widespread discontent preceding the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, then the glorious day of April 27, when she followed the demonstrators from Beijing Normal University from the school through the square and beyond.

Harriet’s Story

Sometime in the next few days, the officials had a dialogue on TV with the previously recognized student organizations [set up by university officials]. Some of the questions put by these student leaders were pretty lame, but some were to the point. The answers were rather patronizing, but they were at least talking. The activists … Read More

Encore post: Last Days in China, Part 1

On May 15, I attended a virtual reading offered by the Autumn House Press in Pittsburgh. One of the readers was Michael Wang, who read a piece about the Tiananmen Square massacre. Since this is now June, the 32nd anniversary, I thought of reposting this piece from 2011. At the time of the bloody crackdown, I was teaching in Seoul and would come home from my night class to watch events unfold on CNN. Later that summer, I was at the photocopy machine in the linguistics department of the University of Pittsburgh, my alma mater, and a Chinese graduate … Read More

A Monk’s Tale, Re-posted for Difficult times

It is January, 1986. You are sitting on a porch near the meditation hall of a Buddhist monastery on Hong Kong’s outlying island of Lantao. It is February, 1986. Around you are grassy hills, and two islands lie light blue in the distance. It is difficult to imagine anything more peaceful. The man sitting beside you is a Chan [Zen] Buddhist monk, a soft-spoken Englishman with a strong Cockney accent. He is dressed in traditional monk’s garb, a long tunic with Chinese fasteners and baggy trousers pulled tight at the bottom. The sleeves aren’t long enough to cover the heavy Read More

Among the Uighurs in Xinjiang Province

In the spring of 1985, my friend Nichole wrote me, “I’m sitting in the square of this town selling shoes. Hundreds of people have come to look at me. Business is brisk.” When she returned we talked about her trip in my sitting room at Xiamen University. At the time, Nichole was a forty-something student of Chinese who spoke with a French accent.

It was common for foreign students to pack a bag or two and head out on their own, often to the minority areas. The government wanted foreign journalists and tourists to travel as part of a Read More

Escape from China

“Two American Teachers in China, Part 2” is Amy’s story about teaching art to little children at Peking University Experimental School in Jiaxing.  a small city outside of Shanghai. What follows here is the story of her departure from China. In the next post, she gets engaged in Bali and married in Thailand under the most romantic circumstances.

Amy and I talked on Skype while she was in Ohio and I was in the Philippines. Her voice was strained, she was clearly still congested, and she coughed frequently.

 Amy’s story

When we left off, I was talking about moving to … Read More