Wednesday, June 24, 2009



Chinese students are vastly misled about the life of a foreigner. During the past month students have shown me what Chinese money looks like, asked me how I buy things in the grocery store (the easiest of all shopping experiences), and asked me why I was out alone when they saw me around town. I’ve been asked these types of questions all year, but it was surprising to me that they never stopped. The students really have no idea that I lead a semi-normal life in China, despite being an outsider. They must think that I’m ushered around by a translator all the time or have spent the entire year holed-up in my apartment. An entire year of this ignorant curiosity made me want to do something to help the students understand that I’m not just a foreigner, I’m a human too.

At the same time, I wanted to do something for the better students in my classes. These kids have been a source of information for me, helped translate the few times it was necessary, and have been very good students on the whole. I couldn’t just bring in gifts for a few students in the class; that would look horrendous. And I couldn’t host a party at school, as the students’ schedules are packed during the school day.

What to do, what to do? I’ve set them entry up in a way that, I imagine, leads you to discover the solution I came to: host a party at my apartment on the weekend for a select group of students.

This past Sunday, about 35 students came over to my apartment for a small party. Although 35 sounds like a lot, it was really hard to start with about 1000 students and narrow it down to only 40 – less than 5% of the students Kelly and I teach. We chose some of our best and most helpful students to come to the party and explained where they should meet us.

Kelly and I spent all day Sunday making over 40 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, three different kinds of Jell-O, and two kinds of cookies, cutting up a humongous watermelon and childproofing my apartment. Twenty minutes before the party was scheduled to start we went to the designated meeting place to find over 15 students already waiting for us. Once back at my place, the students took a few minutes to take a tour of the Zhuzhou Museum of Ashley. The rest of the party was spent eating American food and playing games (both spontaneous and planned). I think everyone had a good time, I know I did.

I’m really glad Kelly and I had the party. I hope the students enjoyed themselves and learned something about my life outside of school.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Great Packathon!


An image like this can only mean one thing, the great packathon as commenced. I've been collecting and sorting through all the things I hope to bring back to America all night and now I can only hope they'll all fit in my luggage. Some things that came with me won't be making the trip back and, naturally, a few things will be immigrating to the States in my bags. Cross your fingers that it all makes it safely, soundly, and, perhaps more importantly, underweight.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I just want to take a moment to apologize for my distinct lack of posts these past few weeks. Things in Zhuzhou are coming to an end, which means there are a million things to wrap up. To add insult to injury, not only am I running low on free time, but Blogger is still blocked, so I can't upload videos like I want to. I have a few really great videos of the students that I'll have to share with you once I'm back in non-blocked-internet-country.

Monday, June 15, 2009


In exactly one month, my plane should be touching down at BWI airport. Where did the time go?

What happens when you let 60 Junior 1s play with buckets of water?


Playing with Water

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zhuzhou in the News Again

He Jianma Pulls 9-Ton Bus

Zhuzhou was recently in the news again, though this time to note a much happier occasion. Zhuzhou resident, He Jianma, made his mark on history by pulling a 9-ton bus with his hair! While I was not present for the exciting event, a Guinness World representative was on hand to certify the new record.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

History Comes to Zhuzhou, Or Almost Did


Those of you who have seen Disney’s 2001 film, Pearl Harbor, may remember the America’s retaliation raid on Japan led by Lt. Col. Doolittle. Like the bulk of the movie, the depiction of this raid, which was executed on April 18, 1942 by 80 members of the US Air Force, is based heavily on the reality of the actual raid.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 21, 1941, the US government and military began to plan a retaliation attack to be carried out as soon as possible. The planning committee quickly discovered that it would be impossible for US planes to take off from the closest American landing strip and fly safely to the Japanese homeland. Plan B dictated that pilots be trained to fly B-25B bombers off of air craft carriers. This was a feat had never been attempted before and was planned to allow the planes to take off only 400 miles from the Japanese coast, much closer than the nearest air force base on land. After bombing several targets in Japan, the pilots would then fly on to China, with little remaining fuel they had.

On the scheduled day of the attack, everything was going according to plan until the USS Hornet, which was carrying 16 B-25B bombers 201 pilots and crew members got within 650 miles of Japan, 250 miles from the intended take off location. The ship and those escorting her were spotted by a Japanese picket boat, which radioed a warning to land. Rather than risk the entire mission, Lt. Col. Doolittle ordered planes take off immediately.

The operation went well and all the intended targets in Japan were successfully hit. However, because they were forced to take off 250 miles too soon, the air men were unable to reach their intended landing location and were forced to land in rice patties throughout the Chinese countryside. The Chinese people were very helpful to the lost US pilots and most were able to return to America unharmed. The mission was considered hugely successful, and although it did not do a substantial amount of damage to the Japanese targets, it boosted American morale greatly. Furthermore, the attack shocked the Japanese government and public and caused the Japanese military to recall several fighting units back to protect the homeland.

The real shame of the story is that the US Servicemen were unable to reach their planned landing site: Zhuzhou! American history almost made its mark in this city all those year ago.


I was happy to learn about the raid’s planned landing site from this article on, which is itself an interesting read. The article provides far more details of the Doolittle Raid from a pilots who survived the raid himself.