Ten Lessons Learned, Midway Through a Year in China
1. To understand anything, rely on Chinese journalism in translation.
2. Banks are the object of protest. But life without them here (can you say “disintermediated”) isn’t great. In emergencies, there is no such thing as check, credit card, ATM. Find a place to hide a humongous wad on your person.
3. Shame a student and you will never see his or her face again. (Suppose that’s why they call it “Losing face.”)
4. Zithromax, Zithromax, Zithromax. Don’t leave town without a year’s supply x the number in your party.
5. No matter how fab my lectures and exercises, students prefer field trips to places they’ve only heard about: global media and international NGOs.
6. When ad libbing a public speech (or–with any luck–delivering a prepared one), you might get away with a lighthearted opener but ultimately, weighty and formal are expected.
7. Related: Give thanks, give tribute, give recognition.
8. What the young feel and believe most deeply–everything you most want to know–they can’t articulate. Fish can’t explain water.
9. Gradual (imperceptible?) change is praiseworthy; upheaval is scary.
10. A little repression is always to be expected.