Monday, January 07, 2013

China with Kids

Imagine teaching English in China with your husband, living in a tiny unheated apartment where there is no running water at night. Some teaching days are eight hours long, four two-hour classes one right after the other.
Then add on three kids under five, one of whom is an adopted Chinese girl. None of you speak much Mandarin yet.
That describes the situation Aminta Arrington ( faced not long ago when when she chose to relocate with her family to teach at a university in a provincial Chinese city. She writes about it frankly and movingly in her book, Home is a Roof over a Pig. The title refers to the Chinese pictogram for home, and Arrington weaves information about the Chinese language throughout the work.
Reading it, I was reminded of another very good book by an American woman who taught English in China--it was called The Early Arrival of Dreams.
Arrington went in search of the "real" China, far from the big modern cities and found it. She doesn't gloss over the culture shock she and the rest of the family experienced, but clearly she relished most of the time she spent in the northern city of Tai'an. In fact, she and her entire family are still living in China, but now in Beijing.
This book is must reading if you are considering teaching or living in China, and certainly can be recommended as good armchair travel reading too. I was pleased to note that Arrington is a fellow graduate, quite a bit later, of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.


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