Teach English?

Guiyang, China


Mr. Zhong & Sahand

My appointment was set for three days later, between 11:45~13:30. We were to meet in front of Mao's statue. I had to be there, but I planned to never show up.

As I wandered through People's Freedom square, trying to find the best angle from which to take a photo which would include both the Wal-Mart sign and Mao's imposing statue, it seemed that everyone's attention was torn between either me or the rally taking place in the square. Young men and women in military uniform were shouting and carrying banners, none of which I was able to read. As often happens in China, a man approached me and said, “Hello. Where are you from?”

I answered his greeting and told him I was from the country that brought him the store that has 'Everyday low prices.' His tanned, balding head reached only to my shoulder. His plaid button-up shirt was left undone from the navel up. With sandals as overworked as my own, he inched a little closer and nodded in agreement at nothing in particular. The few phrases he understood in English were soon worked through, as he asked me questions and shared my answers with random Chinese people who stopped to observe. Next, almost as if only to keep my company he demanded that I let him buy me lunch.

“No, no, no,” I said.

"I have money!" He exclaimed.

I told him that's not what I meant, but that I would pay. So he dragged me down to Wal-Mart and ordered two plates of inedible Chinese food. He paid. (I never thought Wal-Mart served deep-fried chicken beak and feet. Or at least it resembled chicken parts.)

He devoured his meal, I picked through mine, during which a fight broke out in the Wal-Mart seating area, a thunder shower rolled through, and he told me about Mao's party punishing him for not cooperating with the revolution.

He asked if I liked China.

“YES! It's great!” I lied.

“You will stay and teach English,” he declared.

“Ohhh, I'd like to, but I have to go to Beijing today.”

“No, problem we go together to English school.”

“My train leaves in one hour.” It would actually leave in six.

“Okay, follow me to school, very close.”

“I should be heading to the train station now.”

“Just around corner. You can have job.”

“I will go to Beijing today and when I come back I will call you, then we can go to the school."

“Have no phone, we go now, no problem.”

I was beginning to feel sick from going in circles, and there seemed to be no way around this, so I made an appointment to meet in front of Mao's statue around noon in three days after I returned from Beijing. He agreed.

I boarded my train later that day and never looked back. Sorry Mr. Zhong.


I traveled from Hong Kong to Beijing via land routes. I was cheated, robbed, loved and even ate some dog.

From the Photo gallery

Click here for the Beijing Life photo-set.