So in 1996 our author Peter, and another volunteer names Peter were sent to China for a 2 year stint. They were the only 2 "waiguoren" (foreigners) in Fuling a relatively small town of 100,000 people. They were teaching at a college that would train the students to be teachers, usually in very small rural towns. Peter was sent to teach literature and poetry and he was worried that the students would have a hard time with things like iambic pentameter but they all caught on much faster than he expected.
I thought the most interesting things were the different cultural differences:
Many of the English students went by English names (but they called Adam and Peter by Chinese names, which is kind of funny). There was quite a variety of names, but they didn't always seem to mesh right. There were boys named Mo Money, Anfernee, and Lazy. Also many boys gave themselves girls names, like there was one boy named Brenda.They also could change them without warning, which made for some confusion.
The college took every opportunity to throw a banquet, especially if they were politically related. This always ended in everyone getting absolutely ripped. There would be toast after toast and everyone was in the bag at the end of these multi-hour celebrations.
Here's some rapid fire depressing stats: More than half of female suicides in the entire world take place in China. The suicide rate for women in China is 5 times higher than anywhere else in the world. China is the only country in the world where women are more likely to commit suicide than men. One of Peter's most promising students (though one of the most socially awkward) jumped off of a bridge.
Another thing that I thought was interesting was the noise. Horns honked constantly, people shouted at the men in the streets no matter where they went; I think that would drive me up a wall!
In general I liked this book. I thought it went a little too long. I was more interested in the day to day life than the things that the students were doing in class.I give it a low 3 out of 5.