Two Years on the Yangtze
As a Peace Corp volunteer, American author Peter Hessler has spent two years in a remote part of Sichuan province in China as an English teacher. River Town is a book about this fascinating experience.
The town of Fuling on the Yangtze river is far from the bustling Chinese costal cities. He found himself and fellow volunteer Adam the only Westerners in this place where few foreigners have set foot in. This started a long process of adaption. It was frustrating initially. The English speakers found that it is difficult to function well in a Chinese city and they have always drawn too much unnecessary attentions. But over time, with much persistence and determination, he has picked up Chinese language. This opens him up to many wonderful dialogs and relations with local people, like his college students, his Chinese language teachers, local families, the kafkaesque communist officials and even desperated woman pursuers.
To most people, Fuling is just an unremarkable place and the people are nothing out of ordinary. But to Hessler, this is a place he has called home and they are the people he knows. In his eyes they all become very interesting. Everyone has a story to tell if only you show interest in them. With good knowledge of Chinese history and politics and a great understanding of Confucius value, Hessler has the ability to look beyond Western prejudice and see things in Chinese's perspective. This does not mean he admires everything Chinese, but he is well aware of the different value system and all the trade off between them. Thoughout the book you will find many great insight on China and Chinese through this his observant eyes.
On the personal level, I find Hessler's experience very inspirational. To immerse in and to discover a foreign culture and to associate with people from all walk of life, it is a life live to the fullest.
2007.12.18 comments -