Brandon’s Birthday

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A few weeks ago, my principal invited me to his nearby village to celebrate his son’s (also my student) birthday. Brandon his been a top student since day one, consistently scoring 90+ on exams. He is also an inquisitive student. Unlike most other students, he is fascinated by the often boring grammar rules in the English language. His father had clearly had a a significant impact on his outlook on learning.

Because he is always so studious in class, it was no nice to see him acting like a kid at his birthday party.

What do kids do at their birthday parties in rural China? They see who can find the ugliest piece of corn. This game lasted for about an hour. Johan won.


I got to know the water buffalo some more. Sometimes, when I pass them in my village, I feel like they are peering into my soul. Weird, I know. So, I decided to break down the walls.


Johan and I took a Christmas photo that we will hopefully be sending out to everyone.


Dinner was delicious–chilled cucumbers, cauliflowers, kidney beans, lotus root, shrimp, and more.


And what a better ending to a birthday than the birthday boy getting cake all over his face? I helped.


It was when we were just casually drinking beers with the family, not saying much at all, when I realized that I truly felt like a part of the community. The silence was what did it. Just like between me and my friends in the US, I know I am close to someone when there is no need to talk when we are together. There was no pressure from either side to ask forced, sometimes awkward questions. We were all just enjoying a beautiful, sunny day. Nothing about the scene seemed bizarre to me anymore.

I am used to the peanuts always being on the table, the routines for drinking rice wine, the head of the table always putting more pig fat in my bowl, the sunflower seeds being spit on the ground,etc.  I even get giddy when I see Chinese bacon on the table now.

During my time here, when I am not in class, this is a typical day for me. This is how I have fun. While I miss the US,  I love my family and my life here. I love my students. I love the challenges and successes of being a teacher.

The other night my principal told us if we stayed here for 4 years, we could become a sort of “vice-principal”. I laughed and told him I would love to. Many days, a goal like this seems like a great one.

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