My first teaching job in China was in 1988.  Over the years and with continued visits to China, my contact with my students and their families deepened into lasting friendships.  During my last visit in May of 2007 and updating for 2008, I have written a personal portrait of several of them covering the tumultuous years of change in China during which their lives took divergent paths.  Looking at these particular Chinese students gives a broader picture of the choices and decisions made by the Chinese students of the 1980’s, who barely allowed themselves to dream of a fate different from their parents, and then surpassed their dreams with varying degrees of happiness and self-fulfillment.  The names are fictitious; the people are real.

WILLIAM AND BRENDA

     His persistence was what impressed me the most at the tourism school.  He wasn’t even my student, but still he often came to my room at the tourism school  to chat.  His English level was rock bottom, but he didn’t give up trying to understand me or be understood.  He was from the remote countryside, but had passed the exam to be in the hotel management class.  Having access to a good, free education turned many peasants’ lives around in the 1980’s.

     After graduation from the tourism school, he was sent to a luxury hotel in Hangzhou to make up rooms.  He was conscientious and very good at his job, and eventually began to train staff to be better at what they did.  He credited me with proving that one didn’t have to stick to any one job, so he eventually went out on his own as a freelance trainer.  It was rather daring at that time to give up the security of a government job.

     He married a girl from the tourism school, had a son, and continued to grow in expertise that attracted more customers to his hotel training.  He bought a more costly apartment in a modern complex surrounded by greenery.  But his two-bedroom home was crowded because his office was in his home.

     By 2007, his business had taken a giant leap.  He had acquired an office and ten employees to find hotels that wanted hotel management training.  His wife became the full time office manager.  He is invited to do workshops for hotel managers all over China.  Two popular books, a training video, and a series of DVDs have added to his credibility and training acumen.

  His dreams are getting bigger along with his business and his larger new home.  He is one of those who has thrived on China’s opening up to the world, enabling his initiative, teaching talent, and entrepreneurial ability to emerge.  And, as is easy to see in his training DVDs and workshops,  the animation and enthusiasm he brings to teaching transform him.

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