is simple, but
interesting. I’m staying in a city suburb of Beijing, China close to Peking
and I stroll out one evening into the small downtown area to see what
life there is to be observed. Of course, the usual street squatters
their watches, wallets, hair bows, and other wares out on a blanket in
them, peddling to the few Thursday evening passers by.
by Lara Callaway
all this, there rises a huge arc bearing the legend in blue lettering,
“International Beer Market.” Intrigued, I pass underneath the arc into
outdoor-pub area and walk past several counters advertising and serving
brews from all over the globe. Off in a corner an Indian man is
tandoori chicken, and across from him in another booth, sashimi is
The area is strewn with plastic tables and chairs, bustling with
activity and boasting and array of predominantly white faces. I’m
wondering if this is simply a foreign attraction in the downtown area.
familiar scene designed to attract tourists, like the ungodly amounts
pubs that I’ve seen scattered in distinctly non-Irish countries. I buy
a Tsingtao beer and approach a table,
relieved to have
found English speakers and hoping someone can shed some light on the
for me. Upon closer inspection however, I realize that everyone is
Chinese. I turn and listen to the table of presumably British girls
and they’re chatting away in Mandarin. Across, the table is full of
wearing jerseys that say “Greece,”
but I can hear distinctly Chinese words drifting across the table.
does anyone speak English…?” I try feebly. All six heads at the table I
timidly hovering behind turn to look at me.
They all give me a welcome shout and one kid pulls me into the seat
him. “We’ve got a newbie, boys! First night in town? Lemme guess-- America?
What school do they have you at? Why are you here so late? You can’t be
starting until the Spring…” His name was Bryan
and he was originally from Atlanta,
like everyone else at the table (an array of twenty-something year old
Canadians, Americans, Grecians, Australians, Brits, and Scotts)
had moved here within the past two
years to teach English at an elementary and high school level. The
International Beer Market, he explained, is a favorite hangout for him
and all of
these local “migrant workers,” as he jokingly called himself.
explanation and peering around, I was strongly reminded in a distorted
way of Nicole
Constable’s description in her article Made
to Order in Hong Kong of Filipina migrant workers spending their
together in the parks, bonding and allowing themselves to be immersed
own culture for some time, before returning back to the daily struggles
being a working-class minority in Hong Kong. Of course, Bryan and his
friends’ situation are vastly
different and in no way the plight these Filipina workers fight
of them could understand what I’d be doing in a suburb of Beijing
if it wasn’t what they were doing, and I couldn’t understand how so
were drawn in to teach in China.
Surely not the wages, or the quality of life, or even for the
of less fortunate children world-wide—most of them taught in higher-end
schooling systems. Their goal in coming to teach in China,
contrary to a usual migrant
worker’s necessities, is simply to have something exciting to do.
learning Vietnamese. Maybe once I get sick of China,
I’ll head over there and see what kind of job I can pick up,” Bryan remarked
asked. “So you came to China...
just so you could come to China,
because it’s different?”
graduated from UGA with a degree in English like thousands of others do
semester after semester. Who wants to stay and teach English to