Short Stories, May 2017


Coco has the best style out of all of my students; I sometimes wonder if she named herself after Coco Chanel but I never asked. Her hair is poofy when everyone else’s is pin-straight, her clothing is outlandish in color and texture, and her giggle is an octave or two higher than that of her peers. Coco is a welcome addition to my class when the rest of the kids pretend to be too cool to enjoy what I’m teaching.

One day she wore the craziest shirt littered with emojis and smiley faces…

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those happy faces!

The best part of her outfit was on her sleeve

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classic Coco


I do Hotpot with Harry on a regular basis to keep in touch with my students from last semester. This is always a fun event that runs late into Sunday evenings, because I get to talk to my students in Chinese and learn more about them and their lives.

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the spread for the latest party

We have an “English Only” policy while in class, which means the kids that speak really terrible English are generally silent throughout the semester. Even the kids with good English limit their responses and conversations to the topic discussed in the lesson plan.

This was especially true for William, I mean his English was from another planet. I almost assumed he was mute since he probably got tired of me asking “What did you say? Repeat please?” 10x after every word he said. But as it turns out, when speaking in Chinese he is the class clown- sarcastic, witty, conniving… he talked nonstop through the evening with rapid-fire responses to his friends. Who would have thought?!?

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William (center, waving)


To celebrate a belated Earth Day, I showed Planet Earth II to my classes. I love how my students (and myself, honestly) become lost in wonder and awe at scenes from a pristine rainforest, or a green island surrounded by turquoise waters, or Himalayan peaks covered in a crust of white snow and ice.

a gorgeous snow leopard

The kids cringe and scream at the sight of snakes chasing down baby iguanas for a quick meal, and mourn when a mother bird loses its unhatched egg to a hungry neighbor. We cheer and clap when a father Chinstrap Penguin survives a dangerous day at sea , battered and bruised by the stormy waves and jagged cliff, to return home to feed his chicks.

And then we play Pictionary: here is a hungry lioness striking a giraffe from the opening scene of Planet Earth II.



As with the previous semester, about three months into teaching I start to get bored with my natural hair, crinkles and all.

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Last time I dyed it a K-pop copper color, this time I went a bit farther and bleached it blond. (BTW, it hurts! My scalp felt like it was on fire. The bleach/ acid was eating away at the outermost layer of skin on the top of my head. I was raining dandruff for days after the dye job.)

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My hair is now a 奶奶灰 (granny gray) which is an increasingly popular color in china amongst millennials. I’m ready to pick up my pension check, thanks!

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time to retire! bye!!

**UPDATE: with my new hair, I’ve had several instances where people start waving at me and say “HELLO!!” very slowly.. then follow with”你是哪里的人?” (Where are you from??) Apparently, a change of hair color is all it takes to look like a “real” foreigner in Lanzhou. now i know!


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