Tina is a Gao San (Senior) high school student at my school in Yunnan. She’s too busy this year preparing for college entrance exams, but was a regular at our English Corner last year. She’s quirky, curious, and way too smart for China’s education system.

This is a piece she wrote recently for our English Corner newspaper. The newspaper didn’t take off, unfortunately - students too busy studying. Instead, she’s permitted me to share this story here. It’s refreshing for me to read because it reminds me that no matter how hard I try to faciliate what my students learn, they’ll always be creating their own ideas. These ideas are often much more interesting and profound than what I intended for the class.


Part I. Two Americans and a Chinese Girl

By Tina

Damn it! I should have known it’s just a stupid lie! How could I just believe it like that?

I yelled at the top of my voice in my heart when the English teacher, Kyle Graycar, said his first word. Of course he is a real foreigner too! Gosh… What should I do now? …

I wanted to run away from the classroom, but it was too late.

So what’s wrong with me on Earth?

A few days ago, I heard that a Russian girl with her own Chinese translator came to our school. No teacher told me so, but I still believed it without any doubt and did some funny things. For example, when I saw this Russian girl, who had brown hair and blue eyes as a typical westerner, walking alone in the street, I even didn’t consider saying “hello” to her. The reason was very obvious: I guessed a Russian couldn’t understand English.

Never did I think of why a Russian instead of a foreigner whose mother language was English would come to our school. But it didn’t matter, because I thought I would never have the chance to get in touch with her. But I was wrong.

So it isn’t hard to imagine how angry and embarrassed I was when I heard Ali and Kyle’s English self-introduction. I thought Ali would speak Russian, and Kyle speak Chinese. I was so surprised that at that time all that I could hear was “Beeeeeeee—“

But because Ali and Kyle were American it became easier for us to talk with each other, and then a series of stories about us “Boring Guys” began.


These two foreigners are older than me, so there’s no doubt that they should know much more than me.

I always thought so until that disappointing thing happened by accident. Once upon a time, there were few students coming to English Corner, so we had time to talk about anything we wanted (Free Talk). I prepared a pretty perfect question: “What do you want to tell this world before you die?”


Ali: “Kyle was the one who killed me.”

Kyle: “Ali killed me.”


But why can’t you talk with me about life?!

So maybe Americans aren’t as perfect as I expected.

I kept attending their English Corner classes. Ok… there was some “useless” happiness there.

Why useless? I like considering things that are good for the whole earth so I had no time to feel happy. I thought I was a special girl, and these things such as how to be happy or where’s the most beautiful place in Chuxiong didn’t make sense at all.

This is what I used to consider: Who are we on earth? How do you realise the importance of yourself? How can we respond to nature and the world?

But sometimes the reason why I thought of so much wasn’t to know the answers. Instead, it was just to show others I’m thinking in these kind of meaningful ways (although they really made me confused about myself, I didn’t stop doing so).

I didn’t realise how crazy and bored I was. I just thought I could never understand American culture.