Besides going to mountains this winter break, I had another accidental theme: Seeing my students. I’ve been teaching for so long, and with such a large number of students, that it just figures they are now spread all throughout China and I’d bump into them from time to time.
This trip I kept tripping over them everywhere I went. My first stop in Hong Kong is proof of that…
One of my “usual’s” that I have visited for years is Danlee. Danlee was a senior my first year of teaching and my time as her actual teacher was short. Just one semester. But I will never forget her class because of one incident. Let’s take the way back machine to 2009….
I was standing, teaching current events to her class. It was my first semester and as a natural introvert I didn’t quite know how to control a class. Her classmates, seniors who didn’t even need to come to class, much less listen, were gabbing away. I was too shy to ask them to be quiet, but with Danlee in class, I didn’t have to worry.
“Would you all STOP TALKING and listen to the teacher?!” She said bolting up and glaring at her classmates. They listened to her and remained quiet the rest of the semester.
After graduating college she went to Hong Kong for her masters and has lived and worked there ever since. She’s really busy, but we chat often and I don’t consider a trip to Hong Kong complete without seeing her.
I had another surprise in Hong Kong though. As I was on the train, looking at my Wechat Moments, I saw a former student had posted some mundane picture about going to the gym. But she had geotagged it, and it said “Hong Kong” so I immediately wrote to her and asked her if she was in Hong Kong. She was! And so was another of her classmate, both getting a master degree. So of course we made plans to meet.
They graduated in 2011 and we haven’t seen each other in years so we did a lot of gossiping.
Then there was Hangzhou, my last stop of my trip. Most of my former students are there and while I only had a two days, I called up a few of them and got to see some of my babies again.
These are the guys I used to write about constantly. The students I taught every semester for four years. The ones who are far beyond my students. They graduated a year and a half ago and it’s been a year since I have seen them last.
We ate dinner together, and then did KTV. One of the boys even sang REM’s “Losing my Religion,” a song I introduced to them in 2010 or 2011. (I couldn’t believed he still remembered it!) We had so much fun during KTV, singing funny songs, and songs that have meaning to us, and for the last few songs they just put on some cheesy k-pop an we all got up and danced and laughed and forgot about the years and distances between us.
Afterwards they all insisted in walking me back to my hostel, as they used to do on campus, and I reminded them of another time when we all walked together. It was my last year in Lin’an and I had been really sick. I was slowly getting my health back, but still weak and some of them would accompany me on my slow nightly walks.
One night, all my boys came to walk with me, eight in total and they were spread around me, a few in the front, a few next to me and a few behind. I thought nothing of it until we walked by a group of my freshman students whose jaws dropped and they gave a slow wave at me marveling at the handsome guys flanking me like a security detail.
So of course what did they do when I told them this story? They decided to flank me again and be my guards. Elaine, the sole girl that joined us, pretended to be a crazy stalker fan and they blocked her from seeing me.
Then we said our sad goodbyes and gave each other one last hug. They insisted at waiting at the bottom of the stairs while I went up. I would have called it silly, but during their 4 years they did the same thing, walking me to my building and refusing to leave the entrance until I walked out of sight. Little do they know it has always been hard for me to walk away from them like that.
I’ve always liked my job, but now with years under my belt I am reaping benefits I didn’t expect. Not only do I have a lot of new friends, but I get to see them grow up and change and deal with problems and tackle life. And I feel proud. I’m not their mom and had very little to do with their accomplishments, but I watch them and feel proud nevertheless. I know this is something every teacher must go through and it’s awesome. It’s just awesome.